Monday, May 24, 2010

Carla Zilbersmith

By LC Van Savage

I’d like to introduce you to someone. I never personally met her although I wish I had, but now suddenly, well, actually not so suddenly, it’s too late. She died a couple of days ago knowing for a long time that death was coming. She did not go out screaming and weeping; she went demanding that we laugh, advising us to live and love life, and that Global Warming is now our @#$&* problem. She left cussing (and cussing was one thing at which she was most adept) and she left cussing out her unearned disease, ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease. Her name was Carla Zilbersmith. No, not “was.” It still is. Always will be.

For those of us who have had the honor to watch the last part of Carla Zilbersmith’s life in a film called “Leave Them Laughing”, we marvel at her strong sense of self and her need to not let ALS win, although she was acutely aware that it always wins, and would win this time too. She was a Canadian/Californian stand-up comedienne who eventually could no longer stand up, a woman who saw her doom up close and personal, swore at it and with her young care-giver son at her side, Maclen Zilber, tackled it headlong, knowing she would not win but insisting she would exit laughing. And what a beautiful, kind, insightful and unreal kid Maclen is. We’ll be hearing more about him as the years pass. Count on it.

Carla was 46, divorced and was making a respectable name for herself in showbiz before she was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. She sang well, she told ribald jokes, and as her disease progressed, she became raunchier and funnier, determined that she would leave everyone she knew, and especially those she didn’t, laughing. Her film, “Leave Them Laughing” is billed as a musical comedy about dying, and it is.

It’s also an award-winning documentary, and you can see it at a special benefit screening. I’ll tell you how at the end of this column. Wherever it shows, it’s always SRO, and yes, there’s always a quest for funds to make final fixes to the film. About $100K is needed for a final audio mix, color corrections, clearances, music rights, etc. Filmmaking is expensive.

Carla has a father who loves her and while he laughs with her and clearly enjoys his daughter, one can see the pain in his face and eyes because he knows he is slowly losing her. One knows he wishes the Fates had given ALS to him and not to this beautiful daughter he adores, she with the thick mane of long, shining red hair and a huge, toothy smile who clearly adores him back.

Carla Zilbersmith graduated from college and went into stand-up comedy. In the film, she talks about her collection of unusual condoms and talks openly of her envy of Wilt Chamberlain saying she wishes she had his disease instead of hers so she could have sex with 20 thousand people and then die. Carla Zilbersmith is irreverent, hilarious and she loves sex. As she slowly dies, she is utterly adorable.

Carla Zilbersmith talks as she dies and dies more, about being able to be on her own. Her beloved son, who cares so dearly for her, knows he has to go to college, to separate from his mother and it rips at both of them. Can it happen? Yes, he can go. She cannot. Maclen is rejected from Berkeley to where he’d had his heart set. Listen to Carla Zilbersmith’s words to her son as they discuss this huge disappointment in her boy’s life. Both are strong people and although Carla Zilbersmith weakens every day, she keeps joking, cussing, laughing and being wise and a wiseass with her son. They laugh together all the time. Their connection is unlike many of us will ever witness or experience in our lifetimes.

This fine, beautifully edited film that Carla Zilbersmith insisted be made is never cloying, and never a pity-party. If we as viewers don’t get inspiration and yes even motivation or at the least a new outlook on our lives from Carla’s struggles and desire to teach us to laugh within our own struggles, then could be we’re just not paying attention.

Why do I constantly refer to Carla by her first and last name in this column? I don’t want you to forget her, as if anyone could. Hilarious, sometimes difficult to the eyes and senses, the film becomes slightly incongruous as one hears Louis Armstrong singing, “It’s A Wonderful World” in the background.

Carla Zilbersmith's world is clearly not so wonderful, at least to us although she insists it is to her. In one meaningful scene she watches thousands of coppery red monarch butterflies fly away from her, all glowing in the sunshine, all the color of Carla’s hair as they flutter up into the bright blue beyond, and we all know the mythic symbolism of butterflies flying.

This remarkable film won the prestigious jury prize at HOT DOCS in Toronto, and will win many more. It is being clamored for world-wide. Carla Zilbersmith met death with her dukes up and a huge laugh coming from her strangled throat. May is/was ALS Awareness Month; every 90 minutes someone dies of the disease. Carla Zilbersmith left us knowing more about it, but more so how to live with and die from ALS and most importantly how to exit laughing. This did not save her; but it gave lots to us.

Would you like to see this film? You can. You should. The benefit screening is at the Frontier Café and Cinema at Ft. Andross in Brunswick on June 2nd at 7 PM. Ticket cost is $15. Make your reservation by calling 725-5222. There will be donation envelopes available should you wish to contribute to help complete this film. The theater seats 85, so do hurry. It is wheelchair accessible, as Carla Zilbersmith would have insisted, of course. There will be Q&A after the movie with a representative from the ALS association. The Frontier Café is always generously supportive if Independent Films like this. Go to see it; you will not leave all weepy and sad. Carla Zilbersmith would not approve of anyone’s doing that, and even in death, you do not want to mess with this woman! Check out

Do you wonder why I keep saying her full name throughout this column? It is because I do not want you to forget her. When you see this film, you never will.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
Email LC at
See her on incredibleMAINE, MPBN,
10:30 AM Saturdays

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Editor's Corner

Editor's Corner

May/June 2010

" __I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself.__"
Marlene Dietrich

This will be an issue for both May and June as we are putting on our traveling shoes again if all goes as planned. It is certainly a large enough issue for two months with ten columns, three articles, and fifteen poems plus a couple more in the Tribute for your editor's mother. Although we lost her in March, we chose May for her tribute, the month of her birth as well as the day to honor Mothers. Memorial Day is also on the calendar so all in all it is perfect to have it now. We're sure she would approve. She always looked for the beauty in everything and everyone. Once upon a dewy morning, when we were weeding in the lawn, she called me over to her and had me place my head beside hers to gaze at a dandelion fully fluffed and ready to fly away. It was bedewed and each droplet showed a prism of rainbow colors--she was treating me to hundreds of rainbows in that one tiny puff of seeds. Nothing was too small to examine for its own beauty.

John I. Blair in "Always Looking" follows up on one of his more famous relatives, though he adds that it doesn't have to be Daniel Boone in your family tree for you to enjoy genealogy and the contacts it can bring you. Irish Eyes by Mattie Lennon relates his trip to Boston during which he had the opportunity to attend a play, "Trad."

Thomas F. O'Neill ("Introspective") includes some pics from China, and carries the reprint of an article done about him and a fellow Pennsylvanian teacher. LC Van Savage discusses Cookies in her column "Consider This," and implores changes in law concerning being out after dark and not wearing reflective clothing. A few ideas on it add up to her article, "There Oughtta Be A Law." Another article from Leo C. Helmer is updating us on what the Light Crust Doughboys are up to entertainment wise. Their colorful newsletter for May covers their history as told by Charles R. Townsend, but you can also learn about them in this article by Leo.

Gerard Meister's wry sense of humor has been revived in his column "Thinking Out Loud," still laughing here. Peg Jones in "Angel Whispers" shares some excerpts from her new book and some of the struggles she had becoming an author.

The Mail Bag contains some good news about another one of our authors, Anne Mitts, and you will also find a couple links to an interesting invention in printing. Leo C. Helmer whets your appetite with his brave bull version of Angelfood Cake in "Cookin' With Leo." "Eric Shackle's Column" alerts us to some current history in progress with follow up links available at his blogspot.

Bruce Clifford has seven poems for this combined issue as follows: "How Many Times," "I'm Lucky to Have You," "Now You're Here," "This Thing Called Fate," "Don't Lose That Smile," and "Always Thinking of You," and "Tug at My Heart."

John I. Blair's poetry begins with "Washing My Mother’s Hair," which is a pretty good Mother's Day type memory. Other poetry this issue is "A Hand Up," "A Visit By The Garden God," "Although The Moon Is Full," "Brooding," "Confession," "Crinoids," and "Hope."

To reiterate, thanks to Mike Craner, our webmaster, we also carry the ezine in a new 'blog' format at which allows comments again. We had to forego that priviledge at the eZine because of spamming abuse. 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.

Looking forward to seeing you in July!

Click on Mary E. Adair for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Keeping up with The Doughboys

By Leocthasme

The colorful new newsletter for the Light Crust Doughboys carries their history as written by Charles R. Townsend, Professor of History, West Texas A & M University reprinted from News from McWhorter-Greenhaw Music & Heritage Center.

(You can also learn about them in this article by Leo.)

Readers are also advised that Art & T-Byrd, Hall Of Fame Stage Shows on Saturdays has a date change and is now to be held May 22, 2010 and June 12, 2010.

105 S. Broad Street
Downtown Mesquite Square
Mesquite, Texas
$15 Per Person
RSVP 972-285-5441
Free Parking
Licensed Caterer

Art Greenhaw and Liz Lawless say "Thank you for your support and we look forward to giving you a tour of the Texas Gospel Music Museum and Hall of Fame, the Music Store and The Light Crust Doughboys walk down memory lane."
McWhorter-Greenhaw Music & Heritage Center

Info provided by Leo C. Helmer, honorary Lifetime member of the Light Crust Doughboys.

Angel Whispers

You can ignore an Angel's whisper, for so long. . .

By Peg Jones

I spent the first 48 years of my life thinking I had nothing to write. I had no interest in writing my thoughts down on paper or sharing them with anyone for that matter. I really believed I had no understanding of what it means to write from the heart and to share this with others. I have always had problems with the formatting of writing - meaning the grammar and punctuation and thinking that I cannot write. I did a lot of writing in my jobs, but it was information pertaining to my teaching jobs. However, to sit down and to actually express myself creatively, that was out of the question. I truly believed I had no talent to do any type of creative work.

From the summer of 2003 until about 2004, I had taken a few creative writing courses and found I enjoyed doing this. I took some face-to-face classes and really enjoyed learning the Amherst way of writing. I was starting to feel very confident about many different things in my life and found I wanted to write about them.

Friends of mine would say, "You know you should really consider writing a book."

“Yes I plan to write someday, just not sure what I am going to write about.” I would hem and I would haw about what I needed to write about... I forgot that I could ask for help from my angels, and I would conclude I could not write. Well time continued to pass me by and there was not even a start of a book....YET

I would hear from time to time in small whispers, “You need to write your book” …

I would yell back out of total frustration "I have no book to write about”…and end the conversation.

In the fall of 2009 my friends were speaking to me about the book and I would just say, ”I have no idea what or how I am going to write this book.” As if I was the only who would write the book I need to write. In November of 2009, someone who had just met me but was very tuned in with spirit, with her angels, and my angels too, said to me, “So Peg how is the book coming along?"

I was dumbfounded but a great many questions were answered for me during that conversation... I remember I heard 'do an outline of your book, TONIGHT.' Then I heard, ”You are going to write about your life with the angels and how everyone can hear their messages. This is going to be a book of your writings of blogs, prayers, poems and meditations. Being ordinary is no longer your path."

That night within an hour, I had the outline written and started on the preface and the first chapter. In this article, I thought I would tell you about the book and about this journey of getting to know our angels. In the first chapter I speak of my first memories of angels, begining like this...

“ I have known about the angels ever since I was a young child of six or seven years old. I remember my mother reading stories out of the Treasure Chest Magazine about our angels. She read stories about our guardian angels and stories about the angels that were not good or true angels. I loved hearing stories about our Guardian angels. I remember going to bed at night knowing that my guardian angel was with me always. I loved knowing I had my very own Guardian angel. I remember speaking to them as if they were friends and I felt that I saw them around me..."

Yes, I knew about the angels and how special they were from a very young age. Something changed though. I forgot about the angels after the age of 8 or 9 years old. I also didn’t believe they were real, yet I do remember some stories about my angels and the help I was given from them.

I also reflect on some angel stories while I was very young to stories as an adult in that chapter. Here is an angel story when I was very young…

“In thinking back on all of this, I realized that the angels were still with me and that they had been protecting me in many instances throughout my life. I did not think I could ask them for anything. I remember around this time I was watching "Touched by the Angels" TV show. I loved watching the show, seeing how loving these angels were to everyone they met. I remember at 7 years old, there was a blizzard outside and school was closed early that day. I was supposed to take the bus home, but I could not find my bus. I decided I had to walk home that day. Therefore, off I trekked through the snow, a mile of walking in a blizzard, on a very cold day. I had to cross a main road that was quite busy. I crossed it without a hitch. As I was walking down the long neighborhood street, on that very snowy cold day, I was feeling very much at peace. I did not really have a care in the world. I loved the walk home and never thought for a moment that anyone would be worried about me.

When I finally got home, my mother greeted me calmly, but I could tell she was frantic about my whereabouts. I told her I missed the bus and walked home because I knew the way home from school. She said, “But you are a young child and it was very dangerous being out in the storm.” I was totally oblivious to the danger of the walk home… I truly felt that I had friends with me. I remember talking aloud, as I was walking home on that cold stormy day. In looking back, I feel the angels kept me calm and they kept me safe that day. How wonderful is that?”

Another story I speak of was when I was a young adult and living on my own after living with eight brothers and sisters and my parents…

"I remember when I had left home after living with 11 people all my 22 years I found it hard to be living alone. Then I realized that I had never had the chance to be alone. I found this to be very difficult to handle, the fact that I was living alone and feeling very much alone. Suddenly I felt a presence with me. I felt it was my Guardian angel, now that I think about it. Somehow, I felt comforted, and I felt that I was not as alone as I thought I was. I now feel that she was there to introduce herself to me once again. Although, now I say my Guardian Angel came to me, at that time I felt it was God comforting me. Because of this close encounter, I have never had a hard time being along ever again. In fact, I relished the times I had alone time and have ever since felt that way. I was no longer afraid."

When I started the book in November of 2009, I spent my weekends writing the book and totally immersed in what I was doing. I would ask my angels for direction and I received what I needed to receive. This book has been a blessing because it has helped me to become fully focused on this project and totally trusting the angels in what they had in store for me while writing this book. I have loved every minute of this project.

In this book I do just what the angels had asked me to do and I am quite excited about this…It’s very easy to say woulda coulda shoulda asked the angels for help. Life is an eternal place of learning and sometimes it takes a lot of hands on experience to finally get the message…Just ask for help from your angels.

My book is about an ordinary woman who found her true self through the messages and love of her angels. My book will give you help in learning to hear your angel's messages and understanding it can be done anytime. You probably have heard messages from your angels and not realized this.

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

Blogtalk Radio/

Each Saturday night at 6pm EDT, 5PM CDT, 3PM PST, 11PM GM,

in connection with Believeinthe,

Peg hosts a radio show which is called

Angel Whispers.

Peg usually has a topic for the week and also she offers angel readings during the hour. Come early so you can be in line to call for a reading.

The Mail Bag

By Mail Bag

Good News about One of Our Authors,

Anne Mitts

"A dream came true today" says Anne:

I am so very grateful for this day. My morning started out with the sight of two pairs of Evening Grosbeaks, another first for me. They are so beautiful.

Shortly after I received a phone call from work and was told I have a new client so I will be getting my time back at work. I was scheduled to work at the senior group today and was able to meet my new client. We have so much in common and I am looking forward to working with her.

My daughter Bianca came to spend some time with me today which is always something I look forward to. We went for a nice walk with Matt and his girlfriend and when we got home the UPS truck pulled up. Matt went to get the package. I had oredered a book from Amazon and thought that this was it. I was so surprised to open this package and find that is contained my first copy of my children's book "The Candle". I knew it would be here soon but to actually see it brought tears to my eyes. This is such an accomplishment for me and so very important to my life. I have been writing for years and only shared my stories with my children and students and poems with a few close family members and friends. It wasn't easy for me to put myself out there but I knew if I didn't do it now I never would so I bit the bullet and now I have an actual book in my hands.

I am so grateful for my family and friends who encouraged me and stood by me through this. Publishing a book is time consuming and stressful but I made it through with the love of the people around me. Thank you!

Now it is time for me to do the foot work to get my book out to the public. Wish me luck.

If you would like to purchase a copy of my children's book "The Candle" follow this link "The Candle", the book.

Thank you all for being there for me with your prayers and kind words. Love and many Blessings Anne

Editor's Note: We are quite happy for Anne, and feel honored to have published the first version of "The Candle" in our October 2009 issue of Pencil Stubs Online. You can view it here."The Candle" in our ezine .

* * * * *

We stumbled upon this interesting invention while doing a search for Pencil Stubs Online... This is the development, i.e. brainchild of someone interested in bringing eco friendly methods into the writing and computer usage so many of us do on a near daily basis.

The following link will take you to the original article on it; the second is a much expanded and illustration enhanced explanation of the process and equipment. eco-friendly-printing-with-pencil-stubs

And here's the follow up report at eco-friendly-printing-Part 2.

We hope you find this info as interesting as we did.

--Your Editor at Pencil Stubs Online, an internationally recognized eZine and Blog in its 13th year of existence under the auspices of AMEA Publications & Services, which in no way is connected to nor endorses the aforementioned printer, so mentioned to call your attention to the technology.

Cookin' With Leo

Cinnamon, Apple, Angel Food Cake

By Leocthasme

Ok, this is May and May is the month of my birthday, and also Mary’s birthday, so I am going to get fancy here and make a cake. My favorite cake, that is, Angel Food Cake. I remember when I was a kid, my mom always remembered my birthday by making me an Angel Food Cake (always considered me a Little Angel), and that was an experience by itself. Back in those days things were not automatic, no oven automatic controls, no automatic shut off when things were done, no automatic nothin’ nohow. So when mom baked a cake everybody had to stay out of the kitchen, ‘Don’t walk in here the cake will fall.’ ‘Don’t run or jump around in the house, etc, etc, etc. the cake will fall. So the best place to go was somewhere outside and leave mom to her baking and dream of the outcome. So I am going to head for the patio and dream of those days and come up with a great recipe for an Angel Food Cake everybody will like.

Here is what you will need for the cake:

  • 12 egg whites, maybe 13 if they are small eggs
  • 1½ tspns Cream of Tarter
  • ¼ tspn Salt
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 tspn Vanilla Extract
  • ½ tspn Almond Extract
  • 11/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 1 cup cake flour

And this is for the Glaze:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ tspn ground Cinnamon
  • 2 tblspns Kahlua
  • 2 tblspns Tequila

Ok, here is how we do it:

In a mixing bowl beat the egg whites, Cream of Tartar, and salt until soft peaks form. Add sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth and glossy and stiff peaks form. Add extracts and beat on a low speed, if using mixer. Combine confectioner’s sugar and flour and gently fold into egg mixture. Pour mixture into an ungreased 10 tube pan. Bake on the lowest rack at 375° for 35 to 40 minutes until top is golden brown and cracks feel dry. Immediately invert cake in pan to cool completely. Loosen sides of cake from pan and remove.

For the glaze, melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon. Add the Kahlua and Tequila and mix well Drizzle Glaze over cake.

Enjoy Our Birthday an’ Take Care Now, Ya’ heah!

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

Consider This

Got Milk??

By LC Van Savage

When you reach into that big open jar of cookies in the supermarket high up on that shelf above the baked goods that you know perfectly well are for children only, or you purchase a tire-sized chocolate chip cookie and put it into an opaque paper bag and pretend you’re bringing it home to your spouse “who’s recovering from major surgery” when you jolly well know you’ll be stuffing it quickly into your mouth as you squeal out of the parking lot, when you do those things, do you ever think about the history of the cookies you’re sneaking? You don’t? Well then folks, this is your lucky day. I’m going to write about just that subject.

I’ll concede at the outset that I’m a hopeless cookie addict. I just simply cannot resist them. I see cookies, I make sure no one’s around, and I ram a stack into my pockets and soon into my mouth as soon as I find a dark corner into which I can skulk. I know you’ll admit that cookies always taste better in mid-skulk, right? Crumbs in my pockets are my badge of derring-do and I leave them there. Oh I’ll eat cookies in front of people, but usually just one so they won’t discover my terrible dependence. But enough of my problems. I’ll check the internet for a local CA meeting to get some help. Nah. There are some things for which one wants absolutely no help.

Cookies have a fascinating history. Today they come in all flavors and they’re covered with everything wonderful, but when they were first invented around the third century BC in Rome, they were pretty awful. Hard and unleavened, they were square, bland wafers and were twice-baked they say. How do we know this? Because this info was carved into a rock or two, you know, 3rd century BC recipes and things chiseled for the ages.

In case you haven’t already figured it out, “twice baked” in the lexicon of the day, was bis coctum. Say it fast. You’ll get the idea. Twice baking just about sucked every bit of moisture out of those coctums, so they had to be dipped into wine to make them go down more easily. Foated I’d think. In no way did those folks enjoy the big, fat, chewy concoctions all good Grannies make, and even some bakeries. And even some mothers.

The Brits liked them though, although I have no way of knowing how they got those nasty hard wafers away from the Romans. Maybe in a pocketed toga, but the Brits liked them (kind of makes one understand a bit about the history of British cuisine, right?) and they called them cracken because of the crackling sound made when broken into a cup of tea, or into the mouth or even when they broke the eater’s teeth. And I don’t have to tell you what the word cracken eventually became, do I?

Then came the craving for something sweet, a problem handed down the ages, but back then sweets were a little harder to come by and besides, those crackens had an eternal shelf life, and since Tupperware and Zip Locks hadn’t been yet invented, ye olde housewife back in the BC was very happy to have those crackens last. I mean baking back then was pretty labor intensive, so if Grannie baked up a batch of cracken cookums for the kids, I suspect she’d bake up a whole huge pile, since they kept well and she could be off the hook for a couple of months. These crackens also made handy, lethal emergency missiles to chuck at marauding---well, whatever it was that marauded back in the BC.

When I was a kid, I always thought that “cookie” was named “cookie” because of the cook—the man or woman in the kitchen cranking out dozens of them a day. But no. I’m wrong. Long long long ago, around the time of Hansel and Gretel and that all-candy and gingerbread house/trail of crumbs/weight gain/oven/cannibal/witch stuff, the Dutch people provided brides and grooms with cakes for their Big Day, and the cake was called “koekje.” OK, I can’t speak Dutch but that sure looks as if it’s pronounced “coke-jee” and it’s obvious even to me that down through the millennia, koekje gradually softened down to our very own beloved word “cookie.” How it turned from wedding cake to cookie is still one of life’s great mysteries, and even after years of exhaustive research it alas, remains a cold case situation.

Let’s do a short history here of 2 favorite cookies, one store boughten, one scratch. Let’s start with a little intel on the famous Oreo. When first introduced to the public by NaBisCo (National Biscuit Company) on April 2nd, 1912, just 13 days short of the night the Titanic met that iceberg, although there’s probably no connection and there’s no documentation that the mighty ship was carrying any Oreos, but anyway, back in 1912 the cookie was originally cone shaped and named Oreo, the Greek word for hill. One Mr. Green, an exec with Nabisco, was a Greek geekazoid and very into the classics so he thought Oreo would be a kind of cool and cerebral name. But shoving that cone into a glass of milk was probably a problem so the cookie was re-designed into the sandwich form it is today. It is still an enormously popular treat and a part of American culture and most kids have always known the delicate art of licking off the white cream filling, resticking the two chocolate cookies together and replacing them into the bag. And of course, when confronted, those same wise kids deny everything and insist that “the store made a mistake.” Ah, sweet memories.

Chocolate chip cookies. We have to talk about them. I mean come on, they’re the staff of life, right? Created by one Ruth Wakefield they were named for the Toll House Inn which she and her husband ran near Whitman, Mass. Sort of an early B&B, they served food to their guests. One evening in 1937 Ruth decided to make chocolate butter cookies, so she broke up one of the bars of semi-sweet chocolate that Andrew Nestle had given her. Perhaps he was a guest. There’s no documentation about that but anyway he gave it to her. She stirred the chips into the batter and baked the cookies but they didn’t come out all chocolate as she’d hoped; they came out all chocolate chip cookies and an American tradition was born. Is there anything on earth better than a pile of warm chocolate chip cookies from the oven served with a tumbler of ice cold milk? Nope.

So go on. Indulge yourself in cookies, all kinds, as many as you can cram down in one sitting. After all, life is short, and cramming cookies is a great and mighty tradition and a kind of patriotic obligation, wouldn’t you agree?

Email LC at
See her on “incredibleMAINE”
on Saturdays at 10:30 AM on MPBN.
Click on author's byline for bio.


By Thomas F. O'Neill

China Profoundly Changed Me

There are so many twists and turns on the path of life and we can never truly know with certainty where life will lead us. I never imagined that one day my life’s path would lead me to China and how my experiences here would profoundly change my life for the better.

I have been living and teaching here for approximately a year now and I have noticed changes in my personality. Positive changes, I am more relaxed, laid back, and I am enjoying the time I spend with my students. I am also learning a great deal about the Chinese culture. In many ways teaching here has become a learning experience for me.

I also discovered shortly after arriving here that there is a great misconception about China due to the western media. I say this because of the many questions thrown my way via emails, text messages, and phone calls from my friends in the States. That is one of the reasons why I enjoy writing about my experiences here because of the western media’s interest about the Chinese culture and their booming economic growth.

A few months ago I was interviewed by the Standard Speaker Newspaper about my working as a teacher in the beautiful city of Suzhou.

Here is the article written by Jill Whalen of the Standard Speaker …….

Work lures locals to China

By JILL WHALEN (Staff Writer)--
For Clint Ettinger, moving to China was both "terrifying and exhilarating."

It was a similar experience for Thomas F O'Neill, who couldn't read, write or speak even the simplest Chinese words when he arrived.

Despite the initial shock of a new country, both area men are calling China home. Unemployment rates are low and the economy is booming - reasons that beckoned them and other Americans to the faraway land. In fact, both O'Neill, Shenandoah, and Ettinger, Hazleton, had jobs in line before even setting foot in the Far East.

No prejudice

O'Neill was hired about a year ago by the Suzhou Foreign Language School after a Chinese student there cited something O'Neill had written about cultural diversity in her term paper. The school asked O'Neill if he'd be interested in teaching English for a few semesters.

O'Neill said he wanted to visit China after taking a college course on Asian history and studying philosophy with Chinese students while he was a seminarian in New Jersey in the 1980s.

"In the 1980s, however, it was extremely difficult for an American to enter China due to the Cold War. I have been to India, Malaysia, Ecuador and Australia as a volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity. I worked with Mother Teresa in India as a volunteer but I was unable to enter China," O'Neill said. The job offer came with a work visa that was later replaced with a residential visa.

"I did not know anyone in China when I arrived here," he said in an e-mail. "When I got off the plane I only had $27.38 in my pocket. I lived on that for two weeks until the school advanced me some money."

The language barrier was another problem - and one that opened O'Neill's eyes. "I understand the issues that many immigrants face when they come to America and our ancestors faced the same challenges. However, unlike our ancestors I never experienced prejudice or bigotry here considering the fact that I am a foreigner in this country," he said.

O'Neill, son of former Shenandoah (PA) mayor Tom O'Neill, is settling into his job teaching cultural diversity and conversational English.

"Their term papers are normally written about various cultures but my students want to learn everything they can about the American culture. I also found that what I am offering my students is part of myself. Our life experiences are part of the lessons of life. We can never lose who we are in the world and who we are can become the greatest gift to others," he said.

O'Neill lives in Suzhou, which is in Jiangsu province. He categorized it as a modern city with many ancient Buddhist temples and palaces - a place that is a favorite with tourists. He lives in an apartment paid for by the school, but said rent for a "nice" apartment in Suzhou would cost less than $300 a month.

Although O'Neill said 600 million people in China make less than the equivalent of $2 a day, about 365 million - more than the entire population in America - make more than $12,000 a year. He said $12,000 a year in U.S. dollars provides 81,600 Yuan, which is the equivalent of someone in the United States making approximately $93,000 a year.

Left: Swinging Chinese Girl

"With the one-child policy in effect here, a Chinese couple can raise a child and provide that child with boundless opportunities, the opportunities that many in the Pennsylvania coal region feel are beyond their reach," he said. In the coal region, O'Neill said many depend on welfare or disability checks, and college-aged students are moving away.

"China's economy is a complete contrast because it's booming," he said. The middle class is spending money, causing the economy to grow exponentially. In America, O'Neill sees the middle class shrinking and said people are afraid to spend money due to high unemployment and the uncertain job market.

O'Neill said food in China is very inexpensive, with a large meal at a restaurant costing less than $2. Broadband Internet service, though censored, runs about $100 annually, but "foreigners" like O'Neill are able to bypass the censored version.

A Sony Vaio laptop, which typically costs about $2,000 in the United States, was purchased by O'Neill in China for $765. A Chinese SIM calling card allows him to call the United States for about 10 cents per minute, while a U.S. SIM card for the same call would cost about $1.99 a minute, he explained.

"Everyone in China has to pay taxes. The government uses some of the taxes to subsidize all the various service providers like cellular companies, Internet providers, satellite companies, railways, gas stations, taxi services, airlines, et cetera. They do this to control the rate of inflation and to keep the price of the services low," he said.

O'Neill has met other Americans in China. Some say they moved because of the low cost of living, others say the economy is booming. He's also met retirees from America, and people who have found spouses in the country.

O'Neill's residential visa allows him to stay in China for as long as he wants. "I have no plans right now on moving back to the States but at the same time I would never give up my American citizenship. I will always be an American," he said.

As for China's view of the United States, O'Neill said the Chinese government is angry because President Barack Obama is threatening the country with trade sanctions.

"China is deliberately devaluing its currency by artificially keeping the Yuan below the global currency market," he said. "The low value of the Yuan gives China a trade advantage. They have the ability to export more low-priced goods."

In time, O'Neill predicts the country will become the richest superpower. "I tell my students it is a great time for them to be alive because they are going to witness extraordinary economic and technological changes in the world. I can't even imagine where China will be in just 10 years from now. Will I be here in 10 years? Only time will tell," he said. "If I am still here a decade from now I will still be referred as Tom the American foreign teacher and that is fine with me."

Right:China Resident

His 'greatest decision'

Ettinger has been living in China for about three years. During his first year, he lived in Yantai, in Shandong province. Now he's living in Hong Kong.

Like O'Neill, it was a job offer that landed Ettinger in China. Fresh out of college, he began working in the English department at Yantai University. Now he's working as an assistant lecturer in the English department at Hong Kong Shue Yan University.

"I did not know a single person," he said of his move to China. "The experience itself was both terrifying and exhilarating. It was like cutting the umbilical cord to a previous life and embarking on something completely strange and foreign. The experience has ended up being the single greatest decision I have made."

Ettinger said he knows many folks who believe Hong Kong is a part of Japan. "It was a British colony until 1997. It is now part of the 'One Country, Two Government' policy with China. While the mainland is Communist, Hong Kong is still 'democratic' and enjoys a very high degree of autonomy," he said.

That's why, he said, Hong Kong is so different from mainland China. "While in Hong Kong, I feel it is a mixture of many large cities - New York, San Francisco, London and Shanghai - with Hawaii weather. It is extremely safe here. And it is truly one of the most vibrant, entertaining and energetic cities ever," he said.

The differences are reflected in the cost of living in Hong Kong, which has its own currency. "Rents are extraordinarily high," and can range anywhere from $1,000 a month for a studio apartment to $5,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment, he said. "Apartments are selling for millions of dollars." A pair of pants might range from $20 to $150, while a Burger King value meal costs around $6, Ettinger said.

"Most things are comparable to New York City," he said. "The rents and real estate, however, are astronomical. I am very lucky as I live in a $2,000-a-month apartment, paid for by my university."

While costs are high, Ettinger said, job opportunities are plentiful. "There are definitely a multitude of jobs available, in many different sectors such as education, financial and business," Ettinger explained. "Mainland China itself is especially popular for Americans who want to start up companies or build factories. More and more foreigners are learning to speak Mandarin so they could come to China and make some money. Unemployment is also low here, especially in Hong Kong where the rate is only 4.7 percent."

Ettinger has met Americans who are living in Hong Kong. Many moved for banking jobs or teaching posts. "A lot are here because they too crave adventure and are enticed by Asia. Hong Kong is the financial hub of the East and is a very desirable place to be," he said.

Chinese people have differing opinions about the United States, Ettinger has learned. "The majority were anti-Bush and pro-Clinton. They liked the idea of Obama but were not impressed by his visit to the mainland," he said.

And, he said, most Chinese people believe the United States is the pre-eminent world power. "They are also fiercely proud of their culture and their rise on the world stage and they don't tolerate other countries meddling in their affairs. To this extent, they are very similar to the United States," he said.

While in China, Ettinger met a woman who recently became his wife. "She lives with me in Hong Kong and is a Mandarin teacher and private tutor," he said. "I met her in Yantai, and I loved her from the first moment I met her. We are very happy in our new roles as newlyweds."

Ettinger, son of Terry and Roseann Ettinger and a graduate of Hazleton Area High School, (PA), plans on staying in Hong Kong - at least for the time being. "If you live in HK for seven consecutive years, you could become a permanent citizen. It is something which has crossed my mind before but I am too free-spirited to think that far in advance," he said.
Published: March 29, 2010

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Below: Teacher and Students

Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

"Trad" after Eyjafjallajokull

As soon Eyjafjallajokull stopped spewing ash I headed for Dublin Airport.

So, I've spent a few busy but very enjoyable days in Boston.

I was on a fact-finding mission with three other committee members of the CIE Transport Gaels Gaelic football club. We were paving the way for a group of 107, from Ireland, who will be visiting Boston in October. We were suitably impressed. Bus tours, boat tours, shopping, sightseeing and negotiating prices for our forthcoming visit proved to be challenging, informative, entertaining and educational.

Stories from both sides of the Atlantic were exchanged. We gave the Bostonians anecdotes from Dublin Sligo, Kildare, Donegal and Wicklow.

The manager of a prestigious establishment on Tremont Street told us a funny story about his visit to Dublin.Let me give you a little background; Copperfaced Jack's is a well known nightclub in Dublin. A "slapper" in Dublin is a Young, or not so young, lady who is, shall we say "pelvic-focused.").

Copperfaced Jack's was recommended to the Bostonian where, he was told, "the slappers are good there." Thinking that he was being informed of a finger-food delicacy he asked one waitress and several security-men, "Where are the slappers"?

Myles nag Copaleen had a play, Fausty Kelly,running in the Abbey Theatre, In Dublin in the nineteen fifties when Patrick Kavanagh was writing theatre reviews for the Evening Press. Myles asked Kavanagh, "will you give my play a good review?" only to be told, " I will . . .I'm not that honest."

Well, I would be less than honest if I described Tir Na's production of Trad, in Boston, as anything less than brilliant. Trad, by Mark Doherty, is the story of a one-hundred year old man and his father. When the son confesses that he had a one-night-stand 70 years ago which resulted in a son, things take a turn, or several turns.

Billy Meleady (Left) and Colin Hamell in "Trad"

The producing Artistic Director Colin Hamell played the lead as a one armed one hundred year old who had a permanent stoop (difficult to maintain for anyone younger.) But Colin didn't "straighten up" for the full eighty minutes. Billy Meady played a very convincing part as the father which involved the very well executed fitting of an artificial leg. and Nancy Carroll played a duel part as a doddering female and a (slightly) less doddering Priest.

Scene from Trad

One critic described Trad as, "Bold, brilliant, funny with dialogue as rich and thought-provoking as it is frequently hilarious." Trad has been described as, "a fable about tradition in a mad place," and is not to be missed.

A line from Trad struck a cord with me for reasons that I won't go into here. The relationship between father and son was such that when the "Da" started to tell a story the son would interrupt and continue the tale that he had obviously heard hundreds of times. In the end the "Da" felt he had nothing more to live for, "You have all my stories now." It has been said that a story-teller can't afford the luxury of an ordinary life and the above line prompts the question when a storyteller has passed on all his stories what's left?

We visited the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton. . . which was an experience that would bring you back . . .if you weren't too far gone. The football pitch there is bigger than Croke Park. While we were there Dan Hallisey of "The Irish Rambler" radio show interviewed our PRO, John Cassidy who shared his encyclopedic knowledge of all things GAA with the listeners.

John was in much demand by the Boston media. Connell Gallagher, Editor, Irish Emigrant captured him on the Saturday night and as he was about to board a plane for Dublin "famous" Seamus Mulligan WROL 1950, phoned him and did a live phone,15 minute, interview with him.

We met Chris Cassidy, ace reporter with a Boston newspaper. Chris is John's cousin and journalism is in the blood ; their common ancestor, "Big John" was Editor of the Barnasmore Bugle in the latter years of the nineteenth century.

We're back on the old sod. Jet-lag is abating. See you in June.

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Tribute: Lena May Joslin Carroll

Lena May Joslin Carroll

By Mary E. Adair

This is a tribute to my mother who was born at midnight May 6 or May 7 of 1918. Both days are shown on her birth certificate because at the time there was apparently a type of 'daylight saving' time in existence which all residents of Missouri did not recognize. The non- daylight saving time would have shown 11 pm on the 6th but her birthday was always celebrated as May 7, 1918, although she never failed to mention it should be the 6th.

Her entire life was composed of such decisions setting them on the scale of yes/no, done/don't, go/stay, with a thread of understanding for the decision not chosen. She saw everyone's viewpoint but the one definite measuring stick for her life was her relationship with her God. Even the night that she received the proposal of marriage from my father who, having been denied the usage of the horse and buggy because of icy roads, had walked the distance into town from his grandparents farm where he resided during his school years and was at that time visiting with the proposal his main reason for being back in Missouri from Texas. With his romantic sense of timing, no other day was appropriate than Valentine's Day for his request. Thus he had arrived later than planned, thoroughly soaked, completely chilled, but ardently persistent and after receiving his "yes" was sent by my grandparents to bed down in the spare room for the night. His timing had been perfect because Grandfather Joslin was a mountain of a man who struck terror into the hearts of any of mother's would-be beaus, but he was currently nursing a broken ankle, which my father-to-be confidently figured he could out-run if necessary.

But on that night, mother penned the following:

Love is God's Gift

Love - love - what can it be
A sturdy bridge twix thee and me?
Or just a shady stair
Trembling in every breath of air?
Or could it be that God so great
Has sent His love to those who meet
And vow to always be the other's friend
And try to all his sorrows mend?
For God is there in every union
That's rooted in devout communion.
With vows to be true, each to the other
And God's help to be a good father and mother
For in God we Trust -
For love that time cannot rust!
A Marriage is made in Heaven they say,
Must yet be lived on this earth each day!
But with help from God up above,
And our hearts joined in true love,
Perhaps this life we both can live,
And keep that center of love alive
Thru all our daily pressures.
Thank you, God - Our thanks go to You!
And may we always be true to You.

©February 14, 1934 Lena May Joslin

Their marriage endured 62 years from their wedding date of June 10, 1934, until Daddy Jack passed away July 1, 1996. They shared their lives, their goals, their love for their families, and their work as well. Granted, Moma May had come to this marriage already somewhat spoiled because during those hard years before she was born, three little brothers had been lost in an epidemic that swept through most of Missouri reaping a harvest of babies, infants and youngsters. The cemetaries blossomed with new markers and the bouquets of flowers brought by mourners. Therefore, when mother came along, my grandparents were so frightened that something would happen to her, they hovered over her, tried to smother any individual effort on her part that might lead to dangers only a parent would imagine. Such behavior on their part not only spoiled her but led her to outrageous testing of their fidelity.

One Sunday morning after she had been dressed in the layers of clothing proper for young ladies of barely three, all pristinely white and hand stitched and embroidered, she proceeded to crawl into the pot-belly of the large living room furnace which had been removed from that position with the warm weather and placed at the corner of the kitchen garden so the ashes could be washed out to enrich the soil. Needless to say, the carbon and ashes adhered faithfully to mother and to her garb. Grandmother patiently cleaned her up, hurried to re-dress her and once more continued to her barbering of Grandfather so they could also get dressed for Church. Not once more but twice more, mother explored the stove, and the third time Grandmother spatted mother's sooty little behind, then dropped to her knees, crying and praying in fear that God would take mother away since she had actually struck her. She and grandfather both prayed fearfully all day, blaming themselves as bad parents for placing the temptation of the stove in her way. No wonder she grew up so spoiled.

But Daddy Jack, an only child, raised by his mother, grandmother and occasionally his two aunts, grew up believing all women were precious people and deserved to exist upon pedestals being worshipped by such as he. MomaMay didn't mind the worship, but she did mind being tied to a pedestal and soon taught him that she, who had grown into quite a tomboy, could out run, out swim, out shoot, and out talk him and most other people except perhaps her formidable mother-in-law, his own mother Nora Viola Alexander Carroll Fisher King. At least she convinced him she could be with him in any activity - side by side.

When the war broke out, mother's brother Jackie Oakley Joslin, just out of High School, was living with them and working with Daddy Jack. They went to Vancouver, Washington, to work in the Kaiser Ship Yards, found a place to stay at a race track Bagley Downs which had been creatively altered into rows and rows of duplex housing around the central recreation center and management building. Mother bundled us girls into the 1937 Chevrolet packed so full that we were lying on top of blankets with our pillows and coloring books almost level with the top of the front seat back. A neighbor, Henry Smith, who had "been to Oregon" and had kinfolk there, was to share the driving and go along as a guard for mother and us girls.

Before we got to the New Mexico line, Mr. Smith complained that his eyesight was failing badly, but "he knew every step of the way" so we all continued with mother driving and him 'navigating.'

Once there, Mother got us girls settled and cared for, mostly by either her, DaddyJack, or Uncle Jackie as they worked different shifts, for she too, had hired on like Rosie the boiler maker. Mother, who had learned to weld because she considered it a neat thing to know, also had learned how to handle wiring and other electronics so she signed for their electrician school while also working, and was soon certified as Journeyman Electrician. Daddy Jack was in the Pipe Fitters union, and was working at inspecting welds in the testing area. Jackie was also in that union and he was on board ship making connections where needed. I was in school but the two younger girls weren't and we all three stayed at the Rec Center where they did child care. They were there all day until one of the family was home to pick them up, and I was there for half of the day because the schools were doing two shifts daily to try to get all the influx of students schooled without building new schools. I went to school on the bus at noon and was bussed home around 7 pm because it was nearly an hour travel going and coming.

With mother's skill at blueprints she soon became the foreman of her crew picked with a total absence of bigotry from several ethnic backgrounds, all who exhibited the exacting abilities needed to put the wiring between bulkheads in the new 'baby' flattops being produced. The term referred to the smaller,quicker air craft carriers recently designed.

After the war mother never slowed down, but poured a lot of her energy into various hobbies, local organizations, and rearing four daughters. When Daddy became an iceman, Mother worked there too, doing the secretarial duties. She was a fine seamstress, and a creative homemaker. Over the years she let her artistic nature turn to painting and even a nominal amount of sculpture. She was a rockhound and president of the local group, so she and Daddy became lapidarists, accumulating and desiging and building various equipment to enhance their hobby.

When it was deemed time to enlarge the house, Mother did the blueprints, and was the electrician while Daddy was the building contractor, with only the concrete slab being sub-contracted at that time. Mother even laid the brick for the flowerbeds, and she and Daddy did the chimney. He did all the cabinetry in the house, and Mother did the finishing.

She was always ready to travel it seemed at the drop of a hat, but in fact was always jotting down lists of what was needed, detailed packing ideas, and maps to where she'd like to go. After Daddy passed away in 1996, she and Jacquelyn and I went to Canada, then later in 2000, the three of us persuaded Jacqui's daughter and my daughter to accompany us. Some of the pics in the screen show are from that trip.

Because of her abiding Faith in her God, she was a quiet example of belief to her family, though she was a joyful person and loved family gatherings. When she passed away March 3, 2010, one of her great grandsons and his wife wrote a poem in her memory. As she was a poet herself, she would have been very pleased to see another member of the family with such talent. Adam and Prisca have allowed me to publish it as a part of this tribute.

Great Grandmother

Great Grandmother O' so Great
We surely miss you as of late
Though we shed a mournful tear
The things you've shared remain so dear
You taught us how not to run
But how to make life more fun
You opened our hearts to the guiding light
That guides us through the stormy night.
You said you know just who saves us
So enjoy the gifts that God gave us
And be understanding of our fear
But rejoice knowing I'm up here.
Now you are with our father up above
Thus we can still feel your love.
Your legacy of truth still echoes under our roof
What is real will last forever and that is our proof
No matter how hard times may get
Your memory we will not forget
And so we express in a loving way
We hope to see you again one day.
You have shown a way to Paradise
And that is why Great Grandmother in the sky
We surely miss you as of late
Because your love is so Great
For Heaven's sake.
©March 2010 Adam Bradshaw and Prisca

Mother's services were held March 13 at Bluebonnet Hills Funeral Home, and she was laid to rest next to Daddy in the Bluebonnet Hills Memorial Park, Colleyville, Texas.

Below you will find the screen show with pics throughout Mother's life. The four generation pic of the elderly grandmother Bullard, Grandmother Joslin, Mother, and me (Mary Elizabeth) as the baby was timed fortuitously as Grandmother Bullard died not many months later. The picture of Mother in the Pecos River is historic as it shows what a mighty river it was in 1934 when she and Daddy returned to live in Texas after their marriage.

Always Looking –

It Doesn’t Have To Be Daniel Boone

By John I. Blair

I have mentioned before in this column – more than once – that I’m a bit proud to be descended from Daniel Boone, the legendary frontiersman. Of course this connection reflects no merit on me personally; but it has given me a flesh-and-blood link to history that makes it far more than dusty books and fading pictures.

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of reading a fine book about Boone – Boone, a Biography by Robert Morgan (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007). Morgan has worked hard, going back to many early sources and as much first-hand narrative as possible, to present Daniel Boone as a very real person, both talented and flawed. And I started right off by learning a few unexpected details. The house presented as Daniel’s birthplace is a well-built stone house in Pennsylvania, not a log cabin. He never wore a coonskin cap in his life. For a few years he ran a store (in what is now West Virginia). Far from being an enemy of the Indians he learned much of his skills directly from them when he was a boy and young man, admired them and their culture, and was even (briefly) adopted into the Shawnee Nation after being captured by a war party in the Spring of 1778.

Daniel Boone was a complicated man who both worked hard for many years to bring settlement and farms to the frontier and hated seeing the wilderness vanish. He was a loving family man, husband, and father of many children, who could be gone from his home for more than a year at a time on hunting and mapping expeditions. He was raised a Quaker by his Quaker parents, taught from earliest age to seek peaceful ways to settle disputes, whenever possible, but could be a fierce fighter in defense of himself and his people. He was a kind man, famous for his gentleness, and generosity to others, yet he owned slaves. He had title to thousands of acres of land at various times in his career, but wound up rooming with one of his sons in Missouri. He was the consummate frontiersman, yet served as elected representative in the Virginia legislature. He dwelled in some of the most dangerous places in the new country of America, constantly at risk from animals, weather, and hostile natives; but managed to live to be 86 and died in bed. And he’s been considered both a true American hero and a traitor, depending on whom you believe. (“Hero” has generally won out.)

Daniel Boone was certainly not the only larger-than-life frontiersman in American history – not even the only one in early Kentucky. Simon Kenton, for example, who once saved Daniel’s life, deserves to be just as famous; and there were many others. Yet somehow Daniel came to be the archetype (look it up) for the frontiersman hero. Unlike Boone, Kenton never got movies or television shows produced about him, and rarely appears in novels. Maybe it’s the name – the Biblical Daniel braved lions; the nursery rhyme Simon was Simple. More likely, as Robert Morgan suggests, there was just something about the man himself that made Boone a legend, even during his lifetime. He appears to have been a natural leader, a born diplomat, and a raconteur (look that one up too). And people tended to trust him, often with their lives. Moreover (like Simon Kenton, who also lived into old age), Boone was, through skill and luck, a survivor.

If you want to learn more about Daniel Boone, a wealth of materials exists. Besides Morgan’s book (readily available, because of its recent date and good reception, from any good bookseller – I got mine at Half Price Books in Arlington), I recommend the long-unpublished biography by Lyman Coleman Draper, finally issued as The Life of Daniel Boone, Stackpole Books 1998. More than 150 years ago Draper amassed an amazing collection of original source materials about the trans-Allegheny frontier, now held by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (which he directed for 32 years). Go to their web site at Wisconsin History to check for resources. Or directly to the Draper collection at Wisconsin History Draper collection

Some interesting websites related specifically to Daniel Boone include:

Boone Society

Fort Boonesborough Foundation

DanielBoone Homestead

Boone Home

And there are a host of others.

But don’t think you have to have a famous historical figure in your family tree in order to find a doorway to history there. Almost anyone or anything can open that door if you are curious enough. Just for a couple of examples (again from my own story, which is the one I know best): unlike any of my close kin, I was born in Wichita, Kansas, the first native Kansan in my family. Why was I born there? In 1941, my birth year, World War II was beginning. (I was born just 6 months before Pearl Harbor.) Wichita, “The Air Capital of the World” as it styled itself then, was the home of several small aircraft factories that could be rapidly expanded into critical war industries in a highly sheltered location deep inland from vulnerable coastlines. Thousands of people from that part of the Midwest and Southwest moved to Wichita in the very early 1940s to work in those industries. And that’s why I’m a Jayhawk in a family of Okies and Missourians. History; and I myself am the doorway.

My older brother, on the other hand, was born in Woodward, Oklahoma, in 1938. Why there? Because Dad, fresh out of college with a mechanical engineering degree in a country mired in the Great Depression, had found work with the WPA, building small projects such as schools and water systems in the drought-ravaged outreaches of western Oklahoma, which happened to be his home country. More history, this time with my brother’s birthplace leading the way. Each of these simple genealogical facts – where and when we were born – can be an entry point into learning about major events in the fairly recent American past. Instead of looking at old photos of B-29 Super Fortresses or Dust Bowl refugees as oddities in books, I see them as part of my personal history.

Or if your family are more recent arrivals (as many are in our growing nation of immigrants), look for the links to history in other countries. History is everywhere there are people. Learn about some of the major migrations to America and their causes: the Irish Potato Famine of the late 1840s; the unsuccessful political revolutions and subsequent repression of 1848 in Central Europe; famine in southern Sweden in the 1860s; dire poverty and social unrest in southern Italy toward the end of the 19th century; the revolution in Mexico in 1910. Look around; some of those people in the history books are your people. It doesn’t have to be Daniel Boone.
©2010 John I. Blair

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Washing My Mother’s Hair

(For Ruth Veale Percy Blair, 1909-2003)

Once, so many years ago,
My mother held me closely to her breast,
Nurturing me, giving me the mothering I needed.
I was a baby and did not understand her words
But I knew that I was loved.

As the years went by we gave up touching,
Content to love each other at a distance,
But now my mother has grown very old
And needs others’ help for many of her needs,

So I have come back to touching her again.
And now it’s I who hold her to my chest,
Cradling her familiar head to wash her hair,

Running my fingers gently over her scalp
And hoping in this small and homely way
I can myself let her know she is loved
In ways no words can tell.

© John I. Blair 1/7/2002, 2/11/2003

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A Visit By The Garden God

One evening late I walked abroad
Into the warm and humid dark
To set a sprinkler with the hope
Of keeping yard and lawn alive.

Where patio meets fertile dirt
I’d ranged a row of rustic pots,
Good terracotta, stuffed with flowers,
Crowded close so I could tend them.

With the thought of saving work,
I shifted several pots to spots
Where water from the sprinkler fell
So they could reap this benison.

Out from beneath, between, behind,
Where they’d been hiding, biding time,
Came scurrying and jostling
A host, a gecko congregation,

Blinking at the light, at me,
Unrehearsed for confrontation,
Fat and awkward from the insect
Manna gobbled every night,

Mated, sated, satisfied
By the blessings they’d been granted . . .
How unprepared they seemed to greet
A visit by the Garden God!

©2004 John I. Blair

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A Hand Up

(For Nefertiti)

My old gray cat no longer jumps
From floor to countertop
The way she did when young,
Effortless, graceful leaping,
An art form like ballet,
Where thought and motion merge.

Her timeworn body
No longer serves her well,
Stiff joints, weak muscles, so
Just climbing from the rug
Into an armchair
Requires some thought and time.

Thus I give her a hand up,
Discreetly so as not
To bring embarrassment
Before the others,
Smiling together at our little joke
That she might need my help.

©2005 John I. Blair

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Evil made the towers fall.
But evil needs
A lot of energy.

Venality suffice
For levees topped,

Polluted air
And poison toys,
Melting ice,

Bleeding manatees.
Our spokesmen
Smilingly excuse

Why millions lack
And people starve
Upon the streets.

When will we confess
The deeds of each
Affect us all?

©2007 John I. Blair

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It was a hot and dusty day
In central Kansas in the 50s
And Lake Santa Fe
Appeared like an ambitious puddle
In which the sailboats drifting by
Looked like bathtub toys.

We boys were in Geology.
Mr. Kaufman, tyrant teacher
As he seemed to us,
Had tasked us to retrieve
As many fossils from the limey soil
As we could find and pry.

Kansas was a sea of grass
And now a sea of wheat;
But 250 million years ago
A veritable sea extended here
And we walked upon a floor
Where tropic waters glimmered once.

Many possibilities exist
For residues of life
Within a Permian deposit;
So our hopes were high
As we clambered down the gulleys
Eroded from the earth below the spillway.

I think I was the first to spot them,
Tiny rings of chalky white
Embedded in the clay between the rocks
That lined the channel,
Washed there no doubt in floods
Off towering mountain slopes

That had vanished into peneplains
Long before the dinosaurs decamped.
We grubbed them out by handfuls;
Fodder for our term reports,
Oddities to fill some cardboard boxes
With little labels on the sides.

It was hard to spy in these
The gently waving arms,
The curving cups on snaky stems
That crowded colonies
Feeding on the rich debris
Of life in a primordial soup.

But our unique ability, and fate,
Is to do just that, to picture
The invisible, flesh out a form
That hasn’t been since time
Was only half begun, see
Our own end before it comes.

And our blessing, our reward –
Perceiving beauty, meaning,
In cold stone;
Courage in crumbling bones;
Lasting love in weak flesh
And God in a morning star.

©2010 John I. Blair

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Although The Moon Is Full

Although the moon is full,
In the elm top it looks small,
Like a dimming lightbulb
In a marquee near extinguishment
As the play approaches
Run’s end.

The first act featured
Randy, fertile youth,
Ripe with dreams, rushed
To quick if often
Ill-advised activity.

The second was the richest:
Yearning love
That was fulfilled,
Nest building, happy
Nurturing, coos and cradles,
Lullabies and laughter.

Act three brought storms,
Strife-filled tumult
Of a middle age,
Lost health, lost hopes,
Lost innocence.

But now finale:
A very quiet scene
With little movement;
Peace, it seems; content,
With hints of resolution –
And, perhaps, a sequel.

©2010 John I. Blair

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I’ve been brooding all my life
About the end of it
When what I need's
To breed my joy
At what lies near
In every hour of every day.

I have a wife so dear,
A son, grandchildren;
Each morning I can rise
And touch them, hold them,
Love them,

Enfold them
In my arms, still strong
Enough to make and do
And write these words of fondness.

I know my name;
I know theirs,
Remember all the years,

The dreams, the deeds;
Still sing my happy song.

What more could I desire?

©2010 John I. Blair

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Old, battle-worn as I am,
Still I can get a glow,
Hopped up by hope,
Intoxicated by belief
That something might
Go right this time.

You’d think I’d know

Life will not turn out
Quite as I have hoped;
I start late,
Overestimate resources,
Misread motivations,
Depend on frail friends,

Eat disappointment for dessert.

But I will not have myself
Be hopeless;
I won’t bawl, or mope forlorn,
A saddened cynic
With meager expectations
And zero optimism.

My hope will spring eternal;

And my argument,
My ratiocination:
Without hope
I’d be like the walking dead,
I’d be nothing,
I’d never have been born at all.

©2004 John I. Blair
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There Oughtta Be A Law!

By LC Van Savage

Do you think it’s true that before we citizens can get laws to change, some Big Tragedy has to happen? Seems that way to me. You know how it goes; one’s home town will finally put in a traffic light but only after there’s been a great big bloody accident, this after years of people begging for a traffic light. Stupid, right? But it’s the way of things.

So tell me please; when will there ever be a law passed forcing people who walk or run or bike on roadways, any roadways, at dusk or in the dark, to wear reflective materials? Not just white, but gaudy flame orange or bright caterpillar guts green, all shiny with reflective material. I am a most cautious driver and brag obnoxiously about never having had an accident—OK, that jerk ran into us last November but that was different—and that I keep up with the flow of traffic and don’t hotdog around roadways, tailgating, speeding and passing etc. I’m a good driver, a safe driver but I can’t count the times I’ve very nearly sent people to their Great Rewards because one evening when I had to drive somewhere, they decided to go Gothic, fashionable, Grunge, whatever, and wear black from tip to heels, and then decide take a little constitutional around the neighborhood or jump on board their bikes and wheel on out onto the highways. Want to know what reflective materials lots of folks think are just fine? One postage stamp sized stick-on on the back of each heel. Maybe a pair of dirty white sneakers. And that is it. Nothing on the backs of their bikes. And so that’s what we drivers may, or may not see as we’re driving to our destinations; just this tiny small reflection of something, if at all, and folks, it’s just not enough.

Motorcyclists by law have reflecting and regular lights on the backs of their machines, just as cars do, so the likelihood of our slamming them into saecula saeculorum is greatly reduced. But everyone else swathed in black, or even dark brown, navy blue, dark grey is on a collision course with deceasement, and I dislike the idea that I could be the deceaser.

What are you wearers of all dark clothing thinking as you go out in the night? Do you want to get hit by a vehicle with hopes you can clean up with a big lawsuit, presupposing you survive the collision? Do you people who deliberately dress like Bela Lugosi and head out for some good night air ever really care about how dangerous your actions are for yourselves or others? After all, if we hit and kill you, our lives are ended too.

So back to my original question; how come there’s no law forcing people to wear reflective material if they’re going to take a stroll or a ride or walk their dogs on a starless, moonless night swathed in dark clothing? Or even on a brightly lit night? We drivers just can’t see you, folks. Get with it! Lighten up!! Advertise the fact that you’re out there. Swing a flashlight. Hang a red tail light off your dog’s butt. Hang one off your own. Get creative.

And by the way, while all you jocks who love to run are running in a great, wide group of pals, day or night, do you think it might be possible that you run in single file far off to the side of the road? I know it’s fun to chat while you’re wrecking your knees and getting all trim and wearing wings on your heels, and I know it’s the sign of a mighty athlete to be able to converse easily with each other while running for miles and miles, but could you give the drivers behind you or coming toward you a little break and get into a single file? That way we’ll only pick off one or two of you instead of a whole flock, and that’s of course a good thing. Well, maybe a better thing, right?

And since I think I have your undivided, here’s another gripe; I understand and respect the fact that people have the right to walk across busy byways in the marked crosswalks and that it is our responsibility as drivers to stop as soon as one of your toes touches the asphalt. But because there are stripes painted across a boulevard does not give you pedestrians the right to just stroll out there without looking to the left and the right. Or to stroll out there chatting with your boy/girlfriends on your cell phones. Or to stroll out there reading your newspapers. Or to stroll out there deep, way deep in thought. When I’ve had to screech to a stop so abruptly all my coffee cups, candy wrappers and groceries go hurtling in the way that the science of physics say they will because you “have the right” to walk out in front of me without looking both ways, it pretty much ticks me off, and especially when then you turn and look at me and shout something obscene about your having the right of way, along with having the right to cross the street at the cross walk or any other @#$%^*!# place you choose. OK Pal, you do have those rights, but you don’t have the right to do that without checking on me first because if you don’t do that checking thing, then I do have the right to run you down like a rat, OK Pal?

And one other thing, and it’s usually women who do this. Please do NOT lure people standing on roadsides out into the traffic stream with your frantic do-gooder waving just to “be kind” and “just to help them across the street.” You’re helping them to the hospital. It is not your job to wave them out; it is their job to cross at the proper place and to look out for traffic. Do not slam on your brakes causing everyone behind you to slam on theirs just to entice walkers out because you want to do your one good deed for the day.

So there you have it; my pet peeves about issues which will probably never change. But it surely feels great to complain and fantasize that these things will change by virtue of my powerful (not) clouty (not) column. But hey, I’ll make you a deal; if you will all snap into a smart single file as my car approaches when you and your friends run in great clots together, if you will always wear lots of reflective clothing when you “go abroad of an evening” as they said in the old days, if you will not stop and wave people to their deaths by being helpful in traffic, and if you’ll stop, look, and listen before you wander into traffic at a crosswalk, then I swear I’ll never run you over, OK? Great. Good plan. Let’s take a pledge.

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10:30 AM Saturdays

Eric Shackle's Column

Eric Shackle's Column

By Eric Shackle

Bligh of the Bounty Voyage Re-enactment

Friday, April 16, 2010--
Will global warming affect Australian adventurer Don McIntyre's bid to re-enact Captain William Bligh's historic 3,700-mile voyage in an open boat, sailing from Tahiti all the way to Timor? The water will be warmer, and perhaps climate change will lead to perilous storms and huge waves.

McIntyre plans to set sail on April 28, in a replica of Bligh’s 25-foot-long, 5-foot-wide. boat built by Tongan craftsmen, following the journey across the Pacific from Ha’apai in the Kingdom of Tonga to Timor. He will begin his trip on the same day, at the same time and in the same place 221 years after Bligh's epic original mutiny journey.

McIntyre has had to make last-minute changes to his crew, because a key member of his fellow adventurers dropped out at the last minute. He has been replaced by a London university student with no sailing experience but with a burning ambition to join the expedition.

A few days ago, McIntyre said ”This trip has been a long time in the making. Flying into the Kingdom of Tonga and looking at the blue ocean, I realised it is really all happening now. We were then given the friendliest welcome that you could ever imagine. We knew certainly that we are among friends when we got here.”

McIntyre then joked that “a couple of weeks ago I had my own mutiny and lost two of my crew”, referring to the fact that two of the Talisker crew members pulled out last week citing medical reasons. Mike Perham, who holds the record as the world's Youngest Solo Circumnavigator, pulled out after having his appendix removed. Perham was replaced last week by 18 year old Christopher Wilde, of Warwick in the UK, who has no boating or sailing experience at all but simply blind passion.

It was in April 1789 that the famous ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ occurred just off the waters of the islands of Ha’apai in the Kingdom of Tonga. The story goes that, whilst in the Pacific, the Bounty crew were attracted to the idyllic life and were angered by the (alleged) cruelty of their commanding officer William Bligh. The mutiny was led by Fletcher Christian and some of his followers and they tried to get Bligh to sail the Bounty back to Tahiti because they terribly missed their Tahitian mistresses. Bligh did not agree with the mutineers and he insisted they continue sailing to Australia. McIntyre added here that “someone stole the Captain’s coconuts and that cause the Mutiny”.

Fletcher Christian and his followers then cast commanding officer William Bligh and Bligh’s loyal crew adrift in a boat near Tofua Island in Ha’apai in the Kingdom of Tonga. Whilst Fletcher and the mutineers sailed to Pitcairn Island and settled there, Bligh and his men sailed for 48 days and over an epic 4000 nautical miles from Ha’apai in the Kingdom of Tonga to Kupang in Timor in an overloaded boat (traditionally used to lift an anchor) with little food or water and no charts.

McIntyre and the Talisker Bounty Boat crew face the same deprivations as the original crew that were cast adrift in the middle of the Pacific. Using their replica 18th century traditional open timber whale boat, they will relive Bligh’s nightmare by attempting to sail the same voyage under similar conditions with the same amount of food and water. Bligh and his crew only had 150lb of ships biscuits, 16 two pound pieces of Pork, 6 quarts of Rum, 6 Bottles of wine and 28 gallons of water.

The crew told the Tonga Visitors Bureau that they will carry 70g muesli bar, 210g baked beans, 90g ship biscuit, 2 liter water, 100g nuts, 75g raisins, 170g beef, 90g ship biscuit per person for 25 days only. They hope to catch fish, gather a supply of fruit, vegetable and coconuts in Tonga (rather than catch and eat birds) and supplement their 28 gallons of water with rain water.

A thin Wilde, who is on a mission to eat as much as possible in the next week in order to bulk up for the mission, is certainly in the right country for that. Not only are Tongans known for their inimitable sense of hospitality and musical talent, they are also known for their girth and love of feasting. McIntyre himself noted he’s purposely put on weight but expects to “loose 16kg by the end of the voyage”, adding “we will look pretty different by the end of it”.

McIntyre explained that during their voyage, the crew will monitor their health by “taking blood samples every week and undergoing psych tests”. The latter causing laugher amongst the crew who will need to deal with emotions like fears and anger and use "self awareness and communication to create a stronger team and support each other throughout the difficult times, of which their certainly will be many”.

Will they survive on of the greatest open boat journeys in Maritime History? Their odds are far higher than if they were sufferers of a motor neurone disease. The Talisker Bounty Boat 2010 Expedition are making their journey to raise funds for the Sheffield Institute for Motor Neurone Disease.

McIntyre told the Tonga Visitors Bureau (Ministry of Tourism) that his crew plan to set up their a 25ft long, 7ft wide, open wooden vessel at Royal Sunset Resort (offshore from Tongatapu). They hope to have the boat, and their satellite blog that will record their positions automatically onto Google Earth every two hours and replicate Bligh’s meticulous Log, up and running as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Stuart Kershaw, the crew's expedition cameraman, will be steadfastly working on recording as much about Tonga and its people as possible for a 4-6 part documentary on the Talisker Bounty Boat Expedition. McIntyre expects the first episode to be about when preparations and one episode to start with his arrival in Tonga and finish as he sails away from the Island of Tofua, about five days after the Mutiny took place.

Posted by ERIC SHACKLE at 9:32 PM

Editor's Note: For follow up reports on this story including a link where each crew member of this historic voyage is shown with a profile, click "Life Begins at 80 Blogspot"

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Thinking Out Loud


By Gerard Meister

I go to the gym more often now because at 80 years of age you have to work harder to stay in shape, no matter what that shape is. In point of fact, I no longer even remember when I gave up hope of replacing Mickey Mantle in centerfield for the Yankees, but it wasn’t yesterday.

My usual routine is to start off on an excer-cycle. My gym has six of those contraptions in a row and more often than not a blow hard old codger works out similarly. The only difference being that he pontificates continuously on every subject under the sun as he pedals away. It seems as if there is nothing that the guy doesn’t know: the best brand of gasoline; the best cruise line; the best car to buy; the best restaurant for steak, fish, sushi, Chinese and Italian food; the best cardiologist, neurologist, endocrinologist and, I kid you not, gynecologist.

The guy really irked me to the point that I felt I had to find something, anything that would stump him, so maybe he would shut up once and for all. After much thought, I had a topic in mind and waited until a propitious moment for me to strike. He was pontificating on what was the best diet, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, etc., when I chimed in:

    “Say friend, I had heard that the acidophilus found in yogurt that comes from Mongolia, is superior to what we get in Yoplait or Dannon. You think it’s worth the extra expense shipping all the way from Ulan Bator?
    “Of course,” he said without batting an eye. Mongolian yogurt is 100% organic, no chance of any chemicals or additives fed to the goats there. That’s for sure.”
He had me there!

* * * * *

To me the most significant difference between working – I did for 48 years – and retirement is what to do with all your ties. For the entirety of my business life I never once went into the office without a tie and for the first twenty or so years I wore a vest, too. And I fought like a tiger when the office voted for “casual Fridays.” I hated it, but eventually succumbed, took off the vest and donned a blue blazer, but kept my beloved ties (or most of them, anyway) before we had a garage sale when we relocated to God’s country.

I kept six of my favorite ties, even though men in Boca Raton, Florida, wear a neck tie on only two occasions: to attend a friend’s funeral or in the other unfortunate circumstance, their own. Meeting my maker, I rationalized, is not an event which should proceed willy-nilly in a leisure suit or a Nehru jacket, so the ties hung quietly in the closet for twenty years, while the one vest that I took no longer fit and I threw it away. Then the question of what to do with my remaining ties suddenly sprung back to life. Austin, my fourteen year old grandson asked if I had any ties because he goes to Temple every Saturday and has only one tie.

As you can well imagine this warmed the cockles of my heart and I had him over laid out my six ties and told him to pick out any three, which he happily did. At dinner that evening my wife asked why I didn’t give him all the ties since I hadn’t worn one since 1989.

    “My dear,” I explained. “A house without a single tie is not a home!”

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