Friday, January 1, 2016

Editor's Corner

January 2016 - Happy New Year!

Volumn 18, Issue 11
“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.”
--Ashley Montagu

Spending Christmas Day and New Year's Day with family not seen often during the year, as everyone works and time off is rationed individually, makes the Season special. With four and five generations present plus lots of friends who are like family, one cannot but reflect on the happiness being shared. Lots of folks gathered to enjoy the meals and tree gifts embodies what this time of the year has always meant for your editor. Love and Joy and Cheer abound.

One article ("2016 Forecast" by Michael John Fierro) details the year ahead as his numerology defines possibilities for us. Last year Fierro did the column "By The Numbers" with each month explaining how you can seek out your own best path with the accuracy only numerology offers as your name and birthday is unique to you. All of that information is still available to you by clicking on his byline for this article. You will wish you had if you don't as everything about numerology is carefully discussed.

The other article ("Beauty in The Midst of Chaos") is by your editor's lovely great granddaughter Bethany Davies who finishes college in 2016 and has plans to walk down the aisle with her fiance Blake. She has a blog to share her thoughts, "Absolutely Beautiful" - which explains a lot about her attitude toward life.

"Any Town" and "Start A New Day" were sent in by Bruce Clifford. Bud Lemire shares "To Be Free," "Don't Laugh at Them," "The Gift of Christmas," and "The Best in A Happy New Year."
John I. Blair has penned three new poems, adding to the ones he has published before (Blair is our most prolific poet.) These are "21rst Century Druids," "PICC Line," and "The Age of Lonliness."

Phillip Hennessy has another poem that is now being used as song lyrics: "Don't Be Ordinary" which is done by Lilia Ricci. There is a link to hear it on youTube included with his lyrics.

"Armchair Genealogy" by Melinda (Carroll) Cohenour, continues her Native American research with the Iroquois and the research involved boggles the mind. One source has them arriving from Siberia, so are they native or immigrant?

With his column, "Introspective," Thomas F. O'Neill explains the way that Christmas is regarded and celebrated in Suzhou, China, where he teaches. Pennsylvania born O'Neill is a world traveler, and has found his niche in the education of youngsters in public schooling there in Suzhou, from where he continues to pursue his altruistic personality and lifestyle.

Mattie Lennon in "Irish Eyes" tells of Christmases Past with his own tale plus a memory by Liam MCauley. LC Van Savage uses her "Consider This" column to recognize and give a farewell to her ferry captain. Rod Cohenour, in his "Cooking with Rod" teams up with his wife this column to share a scrumptious Chicken-Poblano Tortilla Soup recipe they developed together. Judith Kroll brings us two of her insightful poems for her "On Trek" this new year.

Third and Fourth chapters of Clara Blair's novel "Emeralds for Emma" are included in the Story section as is the children's serialized "Adventures of Ollie-Dare." Chapter 9 by Rebecca Morris, is about the bear going for a balloon ride, another entertaining segment for kids of all ages.

Thanks again and Happy New Year to Mike Craner for his expertise and patience that allows this little ezine to continue its mission of encouraging writers, experienced and beginners, and to promote reading.

We begin Volume 19 with the February issue just in time for Valentine's Day!! Watch for us!

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



2016 is a 9 Universal Year. The final year in the current 9-year cycle, this year will be a culmination of all that has preceded this year in the cycle that had its beginnings in 2008. It would behoove us all to go back and review the events of 2008 (especially the 'seeds' that were planted in 2008) and the ensuing years to better understand that which must be dealt with and completed. This is the year in which we must institute a general 'house-cleaning' and let go of the old and that which has outlived its usefulness. 2016 will be a year in which resolving issues and letting go of the old are of paramount importance, for this is a year of completion. The 9 presents the 'great challenge' and will be a test of the full measure of us as a species and in the manner in which we handle our problems, resolve our differences, and take our correct place as the keepers and custodians of our home planet. 2016 will not be easy for it will stage situations that will require both strength and wisdom to meet. Selfishness and greed cannot be allowed to flourish. The 9 is a testing number and demands the natural removal from that which does not serve the higher and greatest good.

The 9 Universal Year requires a balancing of the forces that exist. Conditions and situations that are in arrears or out of balance must be resolved and the resolutions must be equitable for everyone. Events and conditions that are unfinished will block forward progress and will demand continuing attention until these things are resolved or removed. Resistance will be a constant factor until we collectively learn to meet all things with cheer, love, compassion and tolerance.

The overarching energies of the 9 are Universal love, brotherhood, compassion and tolerance. It is incumbent upon everyone to cultivate tolerance, understanding and love of everyone and all things that affect us all. This needs to be a year of increased benevolence and universal social conscience.

Love for mankind must be a guiding principle that imbues all that is acted upon. We must all have a view of the big picture while we work to eliminate the useless (especially those things and conditions that create separation and disparity). 2016 is a year during which we separate from our past mistakes, for if we continue to do what we've always done the results run a high probability of being far worse than that which we are already experiencing. 9 is the vibration of the idealist and one who thinks or operates using that principle as a guiding force. With that being said, we must learn to use greater pragmatism in our actions and greater consideration and thought must be used in decisions without an overabundance of idealism or emotion. Upon a foundation built using those principles, will idealism be better able to be a part of the solution and resultant environment.

2016 holds great potential to be a year of unfolding. This unfolding should include an increased interest in things of a spiritual, metaphysical, and universal (in all meanings of that word) nature as we need to move away from the crass materialism, narcissism, bigotry, xenophobia and hatred that is so prevalent in the world today. Replacing that energy must be one that says “We are all one. We are the family of WoMan. We are all in this together. We must act knowing that what affects one, affects all.” As we look towards moving forward, the qualities of positivity, selfless service, attainment, perfection and completion should all be included within the seeds for the new beginnings and the foundation for future growth beginning in 2017, the start of the next cycle. The time is here to become more open-minded and embrace the future with an energy of vast and limitless thinking and believing. 9 includes all the qualities and conditions of all the previous numbers from 1 to 8 and we must look to create a recipe for progress, sustainability, compassion and tolerance that includes all the best qualities of all the numbers.

On the world stage, the possibility exists for treaties to be signed that can help to end the seemingly endless war and strife that is suffocating the world. We may see a strengthening of alliances (on both sides of any conflict) as well as further independence granted to countries, and the various ethnicities of countries around the globe, as we collectively realize that we are all one and that our perceived differences are just that...perceived and the result of man's ego-driven and aggressive tendencies to dominate others. 2016 will create an environment that will test relationships of all kinds be they personal, domestic or international. Events of all kinds may take place quickly with many stops and starts as we continue on the path through changes, transitions and endings.

In the world of medicine we may see new developments of a beneficial nature in the areas of cures and surgical techniques. We may also see action in the world of legal developments with a greater focus being placed on laws that treat everyone more fairly and benevolently. The 9 demands tolerance and compassion and that which does not offer such benefit will be met with opposition. The less tolerant and compassionate that things become, the more likely we are to experience dramatic and reactionary behaviors in response.

On the negative side, the 9 Universal Year energy of 2016 can bring with it situations and conditions that create more intense levels of upset and dissatisfaction throughout the world. If people and nations continue to be too self-serving and concerned with their own personal or political needs rather than those of others and the greater good, then social issues and problems will exacerbate to conditions far worse than what we are currently experiencing. The negative 9 can bring about a rise in intolerance due to the development of the conservative element and all that entails, socially and politically. The seeds of that discontent have been sown in countries around the globe and we must all pay attention to this as we move through the year. In the United States, with our upcoming presidential election this will be something that must be monitored closely as the future of our nation could hang in the balance. During the year people and nations must guard against quick-tempered reactions, greediness, jealousy and selfishness as such behavior will bring about stronger than normal reactions. Social injustices and inequities may very well result in minorities becoming more restless and aggressive in their reactions. We may also experience a level of uncertainty and irregularity in the political and economic processes not seen in quite some time. The negative 9 energy of 2016 may also bring about a prevalence of cynicism as well as increases in, and development of criticism which could lead to further fracturing in the political and social elements of countries worldwide. At its worst, the negative 9 will engender idealism without practical foundation coupled with a complete disregard for any higher source(s) of knowledge, wisdom and guidance.

In looking back at previous 9 Universal Years*, we see constant themes of financial problems and crashes, social unrest, political upheavals, the raising of social consciousness, and a never-ending series of natural disasters and events that can dramatically alter lives and landscapes. Also at play in previous 9 Universal Years were technological advances that changed the way we live our lives. And, although terrorism and terrorist acts seem to be an almost everyday occurrence in today's world, previous 9 Years have also shown themselves to be times of unrest and extreme actions by those wishing to make themselves known while they make their point to the world. On the plus side, 1980 saw the Berlin Wall come down and with it the dismantling of the USSR. 1989 saw the beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa. 1998 brought about the Good Friday peace accord in Ireland and equal rights for gays in Denmark. A 9 Universal Year can certainly bring forth a full spectrum of events from the very worst to the absolute best and I doubt that 2016 will be anything other than that type of year. A year of extremes...from the best to the worst.

In conclusion, to this author, it feels as though the fabric our our world is being torn in two and we are experiencing the battle between the forces of light and darkness. In many ways, it has never felt more real as ideologies fight it out for the dominant position in governments here in the United States and in other places around the world. A word of caution in these troubled times: Watch for an increase in extreme politics and political parties based more upon demagoguery/ideology/fear/paranoia and less on workable, all-encompassing solutions. 2016 has great potential to be a turning point in our existence, the direction in which we turn will be determined by the collective voices of everyone speaking up against injustice, inequality, bigotry, xenophobia, and a never-ending war mindset. Will the idealism, compassion and tolerance of the 9 energy be the prevalent force? Or, will we succumb to the negative side of the 9 and indulge in selfishness, immorality, scorn, lack of forgiveness, and impracticality brought about by immense egos looking to shape the world in their image?

Will we reach for the ideals that can make us great? Will we allow everyone to feel as though they are a part of the family of man without prejudice? Will we collectively work towards lifting the veil on the darkness that surrounds us and show it for what it is...a mindset dominated by fear and paranoia?
9 is the number of every man. In order for the good and positive aspects of the 9 to be realized, it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to do our part in working towards creating a world that serves even the least among us. For what harms one, harms all. We can no longer pretend that even one person is not worthy of that which others enjoy. Through the realization and practice of being all-encompassing in all we do can we move towards creating a better world. The alternative is too ugly to give consideration.

2016 can be the beginning of the end of the way things are currently or, it will be the beginning of the end for all we hold dear. The 9 holds within its vibration the entire spectrum from the very best to the very worst. The choice is ours. Be certain your voice is heard. This may be the most important election in the history of the United States. And, other countries around the world will have their own reckonings to consider. One thing is certain, those things that do not serve the greater good and that are not ended or done away with, will become far greater problems moving forward.

I wish each and every one of you peace and love. May your lives be blessed with all that is good. May you rise above the pettiness of ego-driven human behavior and embrace the tolerance and compassion that is the 9. Happy New Year!
Blessings of Love & Light
Michael John Fierro
Numerologist/Author of “You Know Your Name...Look Up Your Numbers”

AUTHOR'S NOTE: The year 2016 has been hanging with a heavy energy upon me. We are at a crossroads in the United States and consequently, by extension so is the world. We must search within ourselves and our hearts and each of us must ask ourselves, “In what kind of world do I want to live?” Can we find in ourselves as individuals and collectively, the will and the means to turn away from the ugliness and darkness that permeates the planet? Are we capable of finding and holding the light? Time will only tell. The energy of the Universal 9 Year of 2016 tells us that in order to move forward into the next, and all succeeding cycles, we must rid ourselves of that which does not serve the greater good of everyone. There is part of the 9 energy that is associated with endings. Clearing the detritus of things that no longer work for or serve us, in order to make way for a new and better energy, is of paramount importance.

*Here is a list of important events that have taken place during previous 9 Universal Years: 2007 – The lead up to the crash of 2008 in the United States. Major worldwide weather and natural events. Introduction of the Tesla automobile. Uptick in mass shootings and terrorism worldwide. Government eavesdropping authorized by George W. Bush. Unrest and protests in various countries around the world.
1998 – Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland. Russian banking meltdown. SE Asia financial meltdown. Fires. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Tsunamis. The movement of the European Union toward the use of a single currency in Europe. Scattered terrorist attacks worldwide. Bin Laden issues fatwa.
1989 – Beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa. Japan stock market crash. Gay equality in Denmark. Berlin Wall comes down. The break-up of the USSR begins. Uprisings in Eastern Europe and China. Europe bans CFCs. US savings & loan crisis. USSR pulls out of Afghanistan. Exxon Valdez disaster.
1980 – Olympics boycott. Mt. St. Helen erupts. Iran-Iraq War. Severe heat wave in US kills 1100. Advances in technology. Reagan elected. Political upheavals in Africa. John Lennon is murdered in NYC.
1971 – Earthquakes and major storms. Beginning of the digital age. Communist China steps onto the world stage. Economic changes in Europe. Rise of social consciousness: Greenpeace forms; anti-Vietnam movement; desegregation through busing.
1962 – Cuban missile crisis. First American in space. Major shift in music, the rise of protest singers. Increased involvement by the United States in Vietnam. Mississippi race riots prompted by the murder of James Meredith. Many countries granted independence.

Blessings of Love & Light
Michael John Fierro

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Armchair Genealogy

Who were the Iroquois?

      Since my research of possible Cherokee ancestry uncovered the fact that the Cherokee were originally known as a tribe separated from their ancestral tribe, the Iroquois, my next undertaking was to research the Iroquois Indians.

      A recent article concerning newly discovered DNA linking both the native tribes of North and South America with a common ancestral thread sparked my interest. Those new findings also triggered much discussion among the scientific and archeological communities whose conclusions have yet to be solidified. For many years, it has been widely accepted that these native Americans, both South and North of the equator, were spawned by Siberian peoples that traversed the Bering Strait during a time of relatively easy travel, some 23,000 years ago. To quote from the article (‘Mysterious link emerges between Native Americans and people half a globe away’ published online by the (1)

      “They concluded that all Native Americans, ancient and modern, stem from a single source population in Siberia that split from other Asians around 23,000 years ago and moved into the now-drowned land of Beringia. After up to 8000 years in Beringia—a slightly shorter stop than some researchers have suggested (Science, 28 February 2014, p. 961)—they spread in a single wave into the Americas and then split into northern and southern branches about 13,000 years ago (see map, below).”

      Rather than involve ourselves in depth in an area of scientific and archologic complexity, I will attempt to sum up the article in a simplistic manner which may help us to derive the origins of the Iroquois tribes as well as that of their foes in North America. It seems the common DNA of modern tribes includes a connection to not only the Siberian peoples, but to those who populated the islands of Australia and Melanesia which are shown to be distantly contiguous to the Asian continent which housed the Siberian peoples. The argument now centers around not the known fact of their common ancestry, rather the dates and times of migration which would have led to insertion of this common genetic material. Did it occur prior to that initial migration over the Bering Strait? Or, did some Australo-Melanese group migrate by sea or land into the Americas and mingle their blood with that of the earlier arrivals? We will not worry about that issue here, but will include this fascinating commonality as part of this investigation into our possible Indian heritage. One thing seems for certain to this non-scientific personage, it had to have occurred early in their exploration and occupation of the Americas for it to be common to every Indian population of today who submitted their DNA for analysis.

      Now to delve into the social and political structure of the Iroquois Indians. First of all, the name “Iroquois” was a name given the tribe by their enemies, the Algonquin, which was “Iroqua” (Irinakhoiw), meaning “rattlesnakes”. The French added their Gallic suffix “-ois” turning the insult into the name: Iroquois. The Iroquois actually called themselves the “people of the long house” or Haudenosaunee.
SEE: Longhouse photo taken by Maggie Sypniewski in London, Ontario, Canada.

      The Iroquois were a matrilineal society. Land was held by the women, the longhouses built on that land were owned by the women and the men who fathered their children were invited in to that home to become part of her clan, but had responsibilities assigned to them by those women: primarily, hunting, fishing, building the longhouses, and providing the armed force to protect and preserve the existing community and to conquer enemy tribes in order to expand their territory and prestige. Some of these longhouses could become more than 200’ in length as the clan evolved and grew and could house up to 20 families.
(See Iroquoian Longhouse interior (artwork by Lewis Parker)

      The women of the clan were governed by a clan mother who had great power. She assigned duties and determined hierarchical prestige for both men and women of the clan. Each Iroquois tribe was comprised of three clans: wolf, bear and turtle, although their associated tribes, the Seneca and Huron had eight clans which included the additional hawk, deer, snipe, crane, and beaver. The work of the women was primarily to provide the sustenance for the clan. The three sisters, corn, bean and squash, provided the primary diet, augmented by the fish and game provided by the men. The women planted, nurtured and harvested the fields which were fertilized by the entrails and other remnants of the fish and game. The women also became expert in knowledge of the wild edible grasses, leaves, nuts, berries, barks and roots which could augment their diet or provide healing benefits. Because their agricultural diet was so limited, they exhausted the land over a number of years as well as the fish and game available to them which prompted a relocation of the tribe every 10-30 years.

      The clan mothers established a constitution and political structure that preceded any contact with European explorers. The complexity, logic, and success of their ruling method, therefore, was not influenced by their European contact but, in fact, contributed to the Europeans admiring and utilizing many aspects of that structure. The men of the tribe were chosen by the clan mothers to rule as sachems. Fifty men were awarded the title of sachem, known by some of the tribes as lords and by others as peace chiefs. These sachems ruled during times of peace, but during times of war, the power shifted to the war chiefs, who were also selected by the women. These war chiefs were selected on the basis of familial connection or birth, experience and ability but ruled only during times of war whereas the sachems generally served for life unless removed for misconduct or incompetence. In the council of sachems, a complicated method of assigned strength for voting was based on tribal prestige: “Onondaga 14; Cayuga 10; Oneida 9; Mohawk 9; and Seneca 8” (ibid, Sultzman). One could see the modern day electoral college and representation of states in today’s Congress and Senate mirroring that logic.
(See: Painting by Robert Griffing: “I Have Something to Say”)

      The Iroquois were, then, primarily farmers. But a more fierce warrior could not be found. They defeated enemy forces many times their number and size and, eventually, gained control of most of the Northeast of what would become the United States and the Eastern half of what is now Canada. The men of the tribe scraped off all body hair save and except for their signature scalplock, the Mohawk! They used shells from the oysters to perform their ritual exfoliation. The women of the tribe, however, wore their hair long and gained pride in the luxurious masses of dark, full hair.

      One of the darker sides of the Iroquois warlike habits included the ritualistic cannibalism of their defeated foes which has been shown by archeological means to have begun around 1400. I am sure this instilled fear and loathing among the Algonquin and Siouan, the Mahican and Lakota (Delaware) peoples as well.

      The Iroquois confederacy was made up, originally, of five associated tribes: the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca peoples. Later, a sixth tribe, the Tuscarora, was added and the Five Nations became known as the Six Nations. (See: Google Definition for Iroquois.) A direct quote from historian Lee Sultzman furnishes the greatest clarity as to the formation of the Iroquois League: (2)
The central authority of the Iroquois League was limited leaving each tribe free to pursue its own interests. By 1660, however, the Iroquois found it necessary to present a united front to Europeans, and the original freedom of its members had to be curtailed somewhat. In practice, the Mohawk and Oneida formed one faction in the council and the Seneca and Cayuga the other. The League's principal sachem (Tadodaho) was always an Onondaga, and as "keepers of the council fire" with 14 sachems (well out of proportion to their population), they represented compromise. This role was crucial since all decisions of the council had to be unanimous, one of the League's weaknesses. There was also a "pecking order" among members reflected by the eloquent ritual language of League debate. Mohawk, Onondaga, and Seneca were addressed as "elder brothers" or "uncles," while Oneida, Cayuga, and Tuscarora were "younger brothers" or "nephews."

      This hierarchical schism within an aligned tribal structure reflected the social structure which would set the Iroquois apart from other native American-Canadian tribes and which would provide both their greatest strength and ultimate weakness. Although they scrupulously pursued every remnant of the defeated tribe in an attempt to either win them over to association with their League by diplomacy or eradicated them, the tribes so absorbed were never granted equal status. The Iroquois believed themselves to be superior in intellect, power, and knowledge and treated absorbed peoples as secondary citizens thus creating segments of unrest and resentment.

      The story of the Iroquois would not be complete without reviewing what role they would play in the colonization of the land that would become the United States of America. When the French first explored the New World, they valued the furs which would bring wealth to them personally and prestige to the ruling class that supported their exploration. The story of the fur trade and the wars, diplomatic alliances, betrayals, and internal strife that it caused is historic. It is also much too complicated to relate in this article. The Iroquois were known not only for their fierce and powerful warriors, but for the sophistication and perfection of their diplomatic skills. Those many years negotiating among the various factions of the Five Nations tribes served their leaders well in their interaction with the French and later the British.

      Oh, yes. The British. For the ultimate diminishment of the Iroquois’ power and control would lie in their unfortunate alliance with the Redcoats during the American Revolution. After a series of betrayals by the French, who played the Algonquin and associated tribes against their perpetual foes, the Iroquois tribes, the decision was ultimately made to champion and assist the Brits in their war against the rebelling colony in the New World. This would lead to the ultimate defeat of the Brits and a distrust of the Iroquois that would not serve them well in the years following the establishment of the United States.

      Following the Revolutionary War, we would see the various factions of the Iroquois separated by failures of various attempted treaties, hostile internal strife, and distrust. Many of the tribe, beset by hostility on many sides and defeated by the outcome of their untimely and ill-ordained alignment with the British would lose trust in the League itself and in its leaders. Ultimately, segments of tribes would be relocated to reservations, relocate voluntarily to new frontiers and assimilate into other cultures.

      Today, the peoples inhabit reservations in Oklahoma, (Seneca-Cayuga), New York (Onondaga reservation), and in Wisconsin (the Oneida) but primarily in New York. Many returned to Canada where a large population of Mohawk reside on the St. Regis and Six Nations reserves in Ontario and in the Caughnawaga Reserve in Quebec. Many Cayuga are also located in the Six Nations Reserve. The Mohawk and Oneida who largely inhabit New York are fabled steelworkers, known for their daunting lack of fear for heights. A large gambling casino is also operated by them in Syracuse, New York. Most have been converted to the Christian faith, although a few remain followers of the ancient 18th century Seneca prophet Handsome Lake, who was strongly influenced by the Quakers. (3)

      What marvelous things we can discover from our armchairs! This is by no means a complete history of the Iroquois. I doubt any encyclopedia even could contain their history for it stretches back thousands and thousands of years into the depths of the Asian continent and, by the tiny bit of research revealed by the most modern of methods, DNA examination, proves some of the truths will remain mysterious and … hidden. For now, at least.
    (2), Iroquois History, by Lee Sultzman.
          A marvelous website has existed online for many years and contains much of the work of historian Lee Sultzman. The website was created as a means of pooling knowledge of the history of native American Indian tribes and was the brainchild of Sultzman to provide a place where peers could absorb the material presented, furnish comments or corrections and thereby further a common history of each of the 240 tribes to be represented at that site. Although there now exists a comment by Jordan S. Dill who is listed as the person owning and maintaining the site: “All visitors here should also note that the author of the Histories, Lee Sultzman, has not communciated with me for years. Accordingly, I can only assume that the Histories you see at this site are the only Histories you will ever see at this site. Bottom line? Expect no more.” Website:

Researched and compiled by author.
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Cooking with Rod

Chicken-Poblano Tortilla Soup

(By Rod and Melinda Cohenour – New Year 2015/2016)

     This is a variation of the Southwest version of classic Chicken soup. It is said the original Chicken Tortilla Soup is a cure-all for anything that ails you. Natives even endow it with almost magical qualities. Some say it was originally created by the Shamans or Medicine Women. To taste it will make you a believer.

     My wife and I have created our own version of the classic Chicken Tortilla Soup and the following recipe is filled with our personal twists on the original. The recipe takes a bit of effort but is well worth it!

     Winter time seems to be the perfect season for warm soups and stews. This one is one of my favorites and allows my wife and I to not only prepare it together, but also Enjoy It Together!

Happy New Year and Bon Appetit!

To prepare chicken and broth:
  • 4-5 chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 stalk celery, including leafy top, de-string and chop
  • 1 bell pepper, deseeded and cut in large dice
  • 2 cloves garlic – roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp poultry seasoning
  • 3 quarts water
    1. Place chicken and vegetables into large stewpot, season all with poultry seasoning. Add water and bring to a boil, lower heat and continue to simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes until chicken has cooked through and vegetables are soft.
    2. Remove from heat, permit to cool, remove chicken to cutting board and allow to cool.
    3. Remove vegetables from the liquid and set aside for later use.
    4. The liquid should be poured into a tall, narrow container and placed in the refrigerator to cool and permit fat to rise to the top. When broth has cooled and fat has solidified, remove the fat and set the container out to permit liquid to return to room temperature.
    5. Then, add the vegetables back to the broth and blend until smooth. Set aside. This process may require two to three steps depending on the size of your blender container. Your goal will be to have 2-3 quarts broth for soup preparation.
    6. Remove skin and bones from cooled chicken and cube. Set aside.
To prepare soup:
  • 2 lg Poblano peppers, char under broiler, when all sides are blistered with some brown and black spots, remove from pan, place in plastic bag and set aside while preparing the other vegetables. After other vegetables are chopped, remove the Poblano peppers from the bag and remove the outside skin. Flesh should be soft, so handle gently to cut into ½” to ¾” dice. Set aside.
  • 2 lg bell peppers, one red, one green, deseeded and medium dice (1/2” or so)
  • 1 lg onion, medium dice
  • 2 lg carrots, slice into ¼” dimes
  • 4 stalks celery, de-string and cut into ¼’ slices
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
Using large cookie sheet (or any flat oven-proof pan with a rim) spread diced vegetables over the pan, sprinkle with vegetable oil and lightly season with cumin and pepper. Gently toss by hand to make sure all surfaces of the vegetables are pretty evenly covered with oil, pepper and cumin. Place under broiler, about 6-8 inches from heat source. Broil until lightly browned, removing pan and tossing vegetables a couple of times over a 20-30 minute period. Remove from oven and set aside.

Additional ingredients and final preparation:
  • 2 packages Taco seasoning mix
  • 1 can drained whole kernel corn
  • 1 can drained black beans
  • Pkg Tortilla strips (lightly salted or No-Salt)
Optional garnishes:
  • Crisp, cold radish slices
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, no stems
  • Sour cream
  • Green onions, tops and bulbs, diced
  • Warm flour tortillas
  • Sweet creamery butter
  • Tortilla strips
    1. To large stewpot, add chicken, Poblano peppers and roasted vegetables. Add chicken broth and taco seasoning mix packets. Stir to ensure blended well. Add cans of drained corn and black beans.
    2. Heat soup over medium heat, do not bring back to a boil, but to a light simmer.
    3. When all has heated through, prepare individual bowls of soup:
To serve:

Place a handful of tortilla strips in a large soup bowl, ladle soup over the top. Sprinkle with grated cheese and a few leaves of fresh cilantro.

Serve with optional garnishes or select your own.

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Irish Eyes


    Whenever Christmas day falls on a Friday I am reminded of 1981, when my old neighbour Jimmy Norton was told, “Christmas Day falls on a Friday this year.” Jimmy replied, “I hope it’s not Friday the thirteenth.”

    Almost everybody has a favourite memory of a Christmas past. I just giving you here two samples; One written by my good self and the more well-expressed one written by a friend of mine Liam McCauley.


By Mattie Lennon.

    Can one ever really relive a memory or successfully re-capture a feeling? Yes, I think so, if only fleetingly and infrequently..

    It was Christmas morning 1952. I was being let by the hand to early Mass in Lacken. Why did my mother have me by the hand since, in the words of Patrick Kavanagh, I was “six Christmases of age”? It was partly because my mother considered me “wild”; although in later life I would always claim that I was an eejit but didn’t tick any of the boxes that would constitute “wild.”

    Rural electrification was just arriving in Lacken and the surrounding area but had not yet been switched on. Post- dawn it would be possible to see poles which had stood, complete with insulators, all summer, sentry-like across the countryside and now strung with high-tension cables. An ESB official, one Mr Heevy from Naas, had called to the school to complaing about the number of insulaters which had been the victim of stone-throwing. The schoolboys from the townland of Ballinastockan were the prime suspects. Not because they were more destructive than the rest of us but they were young marksmen with a stone or any small missile.

    If you stood close to an ESB pole and looked up it appeared to be falling, something to do with an illusion caused by the rolling clouds. The term opto-kinetic movement would have meant very little to a young mind. Not every house opted for the “’lectric light”. This was mainly out of economic necessity and the “cups” on the chimney became somewhat of a status symbol. The switching-on ceremony would be performed in The Parish Hall, Valleymount, in January 1953 but for now the valley’s illumination was confined to candles in windows. Conversation in the area was dominated by several fanciful theories and adult Mass-goers spoke of the well- dressed men in Ford vans who were travelling the district selling everything from irons, to kettles to Electric fires.

    An ESB official, on Mr Heevy from Naas, had called to the school to complain about the number of insulators which had been the victims of stone-throwing. The young schoolboys from the townland of Ballinastockan were the immediate suspects. Not because they were more destructive than the rest of but they were all young marksmen with a missile.

    A feeling came over me that morning. Would it ever be repeated? Yes. On Saturday 29th September 1979 I was living in Blanchardstown and working as a Bus Conductor in Conyngham Road Garage. Pope John Paul 11 was arriving that day and it meant an early start for many of us. As I drove down Knockmaroon Hill at 5AM, while the endless line of tail-lights ahead of me barely moved, it came back. That feeling. It was once again Christmas morning 1952.


By Liam MCauley.

    When most of us think about Christmas, I suppose a lot of our thoughts relate to rushing about, last Christmas cards to be posted, presents to be bought and preparations for festivities on the day itself. Of course the crib, amongst other things, reminds us of the real foundation of the festive season, around the Holy Family itself.

     All these combine to create our memories of the season; but of course many of these memories carry back to our own childhood, a time when all was right with the world. Before worldly worries played a part and favourite toys and a visitor in the night were the most immediate things in life.

    My own favourite memory goes back to the 1960’s, when we had one of the rare white Christmases we have in this temperate climate of ours.

    At that time, in South Donegal, there were not too many cars and it was customary for the four families in our locality to walk together for the half-mile journey to the chapel for midnight Mass.

    In the four families there was a total of nine children, making the journey, with the anticipation that Santa Clause would arrive while we were in the chapel.

    That particular morning was beautiful with a three of four-inch fall of virgin snow and the cool crisp air made the quietness even more pronounced. The bare branches of trees and shrubs tipped with snow and berries, the surrounding hills covered in the united colour of white.

    The quietness only lasted until, as a group, we children suddenly realised that, there, in the middle of the road was a trail of twin-toed hoof marks running along in front of us.

    There was only one thing could have made these footprints, Santa’s reindeer.

HAPPY 2016

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Consider This


      I was saddened to read of the passing of Captain Michael Hnatowicz. We’d taken so many happy journeys together, more than I can count actually, and he always made everyone’s trip comfortable, pleasant and safe. He’d had a good life and a very long one. Ninety two years! Long enough to have accomplished many important things along the way including serving in the U. S. Navy during WW II, from 1941 through 1945. He served in the South Pacific on a submarine called the USS Guavina and was honored that this sub’s primary job was to rescue American pilots who had been shot down. One of those rescues Capt. Hnatowicz proudly recalls, was a young aviator many people today call “41.”

      Sixty-three of this man’s ninety-two years were spent in marriage to Teresa Witkowski who was a student nurse when they met, and before he died he’d headed a big and happy family made up of eight children, twenty grandchildren, one great-granddaughter and a new great grandchild coming in March. Captain Hnatowicz’s loving family relates that he always said his family was as large as the last person walking in the door. He was beloved in return.

      I know I gazed up at the bridge as this captain sailed the ship we were on and I wonder if he ever looked down at me. I like to think he did. Many people got aboard for short and important journeys, often thousands. There were long slippery mahogany colored benches for his passengers and his shipping company actually hired men to shine the shoes of the business men aboard. These shoe shine men, wearing old and soiled navy blue caps with black brims carried their shoe shine kits with them and waited to be summoned to those wishing a shine and they’d kneel before them and polish their shoes for the princely sum of 25 cents. They even polished some women’s shoes too. The smell of that shoe polish was heady. It saddened me to read that years later one of those long-time grizzled old shoe shine men, in a hurry to disembark stepped over the heavy cable strung across the boat’s bow to keep the cars and people in place until the boat was firmly docked, and fell into the water where he died.

      In time snacks and hot dogs would be sold aboard this Captain’s ship, but for many years and for the grand sum of five cents people could sit outside, weather permitting, or in a section for non-smokers, and women even had their own section of the boat, no men allowed. There was no blaring music; just the sound of the rattle of newspapers, the wind, seagulls, and blasts of passing boats and of course the extra loud blasts of Captain’s horn as he approached the docks at White Hall Terminal in New York City and St. George terminal on Staten Island, both a part of the great state of New York. He never missed hitting his mark when he was docking although the big houseboat shaped vessel did bounce off the many lined-up groaning pilings before it connected with its dock. This captain was proud of his work and was extremely punctual with his pick-ups and deliveries.

      I often wondered if Captain Hnatowicz gazed at the magnificent green Statue of Liberty as he passed her while going back and forth in that old and historic harbor. I know she gazed at him. Or did he glance up at the iconic New York City skyline as he approached it? It likely never bored him. And it never bored me. I rode that Staten Island ferry since I was a newborn back in 1938 and was proud when I was finally allowed to ride on it by myself to meet people in “the city” and I rode it every morning after graduating from college to my job at Kenyon and Eckhardt Advertising, which back then was on Park Avenue. Subways were part of the journey too and all of it done in painfully pointed high heels, stockings with straight seams, girdles, hats and gloves. Women back then were nuts.

      So thank you Captain Hnatowicz, for shuttling me between Staten Island to New York City so many times, so safely and happily. Bon Voyage.

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   A question that many Americans ask me is 'do the Chinese celebrate Christmas in China?' The answer to that question is ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ Christmas is not an official holiday here, so most offices, schools and shops remain open.

   The Suzhou International Foreign Language School here in Suzhou, China (where I work as a teacher) gave all the foreign teachers Christmas day off. However, I enjoyed watching a Christmas show at our School on Christmas day. The students and teachers here sang Christmas songs and danced on stage.

   When I came to China I noticed that in mid-November big department stores put up Christmas decorations with Christmas trees, and twinkling lights. It’s also not uncommon to see store clerks wearing Santa outfits with traditional Santa hats. You will also hear Christmas music throughout the shopping malls to put you in that festive Christmas mood of shopping. However, you will see very few homes with Christmas lights strung outside or candles in the windows.

   On the other hand, most of the Malls, Banks, and restaurants have large Christmas displays, with a traditional Christmas tree all lit up. Waiters and waitresses in restaurants will often wait on you wearing Christmas outfits. I found that in many shopping Malls in China Children can have their picture taken with Santa and some department stores coordinate a home visit from a gift-bearing Santa.

   Chinese children do not write notes to Santa requesting gifts, but many children do enjoy a visit with Santa. Like in western countries, there are shopping sprees in the weeks leading up to Christmas but the Christmas shopping sprees here are nowhere near as frenzied as in America.

   There are also a growing number of people in China who enjoy celebrating Christmas Eve by eating a Christmas dinner with friends. Our School took out all the teachers in my department out for a Christmas Dinner at a restaurant on Christmas Eve. Many teachers performed at the restaurant by singing songs and dancing. I enjoyed singing the song, ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas,’ during our Christmas Dinner.

   Exchanging Christmas cards with close friends and family is becoming ever more popular in China as well. It’s not uncommon here to exchange small inexpensive gifts with friends and coworkers in the days leading up to Christmas.

   There are over 100 million Christians in China but the majority of the Chinese that enjoy the Christmas festivities overlook the Christmas’s religious roots. But that being said there are still a sizable minority that head to church for a Christmas service on Christmas day.

   Living here in Suzhou, China I can proudly say I didn’t participate in the mad frenzy of Black Friday like millions did in America and I suppose I never will.

   I’m one of those people who simply enjoys the sharing and to give thanks for the special people in my life. That truly makes this time of year special for me especially here in Suzhou, China.

   I surely have plenty to be thankful for because throughout my life people have gone out of their way to be kind to me and the people here in Suzhou are no exception.

   I once told my students in class when you care for others you are cared for and when you love others you are loved. This special season of giving should reveal our love for one another through kindness because loving kindness gives this special season its true meaning.

   I enjoyed playing Santa Claus at a local elementary School on Christmas day because here, like in America, parents and children alike take great joy in Santa’s arrival. I also enjoy seeing the young children’s faces light up at the sight of Santa the jolly old soul.

   The cities in China are still lit up with Christmas lights and they are so beautifully displayed that also brought out the Christmas spirit in me.

   The Chinese on Christmas day also enjoyed celebrating the special season with the lighting of bonfires. Some sang songs and danced around the large glowing fires. They set off large firework displays as well in the night sky. It is an ancient tradition that goes back thousands of years. It's one of their ways of coming together as an entire community to celebrate their abundance and to be thankful for having one another in their lives. That is just one of the reasons I find this season so special here.

   There was a time though when I felt the season of giving was simply a common courtesy in order to receive and provide our significant others with material gifts.

   I now understand more clearly that this special season is for heartfelt acts of gratitude for having people in our lives. When keeping the true spirit of giving close to our heart it enables us to give from the heart all year-round.

   The yuletide season should be a time when our love comes to call because that love gives this time of year its true meaning.

   What intrigues me about the Christmas season here in China is that the majority who celebrate this time of year are non-Christian. The Buddhists have embraced the season as a way of giving thanks.

   I have found over the years, though, that it's not the material gifts that count in life but rather it's the unrecognized, undetected and unremembered acts of loving kindness that are our greatest gifts and achievements in life.

   If we truly want to see a world of loving and joyous people we must be loving and joyous toward the people in our own lives. That potential is part of our humanity. When we reach out and touch others we touch part of the humanity that is within us. When we enhance the life of another in need we in turn enhance our own lives.

   Objects gift-wrapped in shiny paper can be forgotten over time but kindness whispered to those in need will echo endlessly throughout the community. Those small acts of kindness resonate with the giver and the receiver because they are gifts from the heart. Such priceless gifts can never be measured monetarily though because how can you put a price on love?

   From my heart to yours I would like to wish all of you a very merry and joyous holiday season.
    Always with love from Suzhou, China
    Thomas F O’Neill
    U.S. voice mail: (800) 272-6464
    China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:

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On Trek

By Judith Kroll 

A couple of poems, from the heart, staying On Trek.


Just A Little Faith

All I want is a little faith,
just enough to get me by.

 I’m not greedy Lord, not at all
just a little faith to get me by.

Help me make it thru this life,
and to have a day with a little less strife.

To smile more than I shed tears,
to help me rid my life of fears.

That night I prayed like never before,
it was like the universe opened her door.

Then a voice I heard within my soul,
“why do you limit what you can have,

A little faith is quite absurd.
Here is tons of faith just for you,
to make your world work for you.

The more you get the more you share,
Faith my friend, is everywhere.

You’re not greedy, not a bit, You ask we give,
and that is it..without limit..”

I changed my prayer that very night,
Oh Lord it's faith I need, you know,

I want to see the world glow,
a stunning limitless light show.

I smiled and thought, all this time,
I prayed for faith, and it was already mine,
shining its light waiting for me to find.

© 2015 Judith Kroll

We Will

We will sing the songs
of the trees, birds,
and waters of the earth.
We will fill the spaces
of our breaths with the smells
of lilacs, and roses.
Our friendship will grow
like the dawn of a new day,
the light slowly crosses the paths
of all that exists, and covers them
with love and warmth and hope.
Always hope.
Bask in the light with me
as we journey thru this together,
you me and others you choose,
and let the scroll
of your life unroll
page by page
to be fulfilled
with utmost joy,
laughter and love.
© 2015 Judith Kroll

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Don't Laugh At Them

Don't laugh at those who have less
You think you know better, but you don't know best
Who truly knows where their life had lead
Before you laugh at anyone, search the common sense in your head
Now tell me, if you were in their place
Would you like people laughing in your face
Remember, there are those with less and those with more
You learn to respect the rich, do the same for the poor

I've heard it told, when you get to Heaven's Gate
You will experience others pain, and all those who appreciate
Those you treated poorly, you will feel it all
You will feel how they felt, when you laughed at them in the Hall

Because your spirit needs to grow, and you didn't do it here
You'll have to guide your victim, by whispering in their ear
You'll need their forgiveness, to set things straight
So your soul can ascend, to its rightful state

Remember, before you laugh at anyone, you've not been in their shoes
You don't know their story, be compassionate when you choose
All actions you take, will come back to you
Use the love God gave, you'll know the right thing to do

©Dec 12, 2015 Bud Lemire
                        Author Note:
When you laugh at those with less, you are not seeing the whole
picture. You are not realizing that it could have been you in
their place. Being unkind to those with less, also makes you
look really bad to others as well. You don't know their life's
story, nor do you know the struggles they faced along their
journey to where they are now. Use compassion and be kind.
You will feel it in your heart and soul, because that is the better
choice to make. You will feel much better inside as well.

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Don't be Ordinary

You don't get paid to be Ordinary
It doesn't pay to do anything
except - being different,
makes you stand out from the Crowd

...and when people notice you know that YOU are really HERE

you're not - just a figment of your own imagination
you're not - just the result of what's happened around you
you're Really YOU...a character....a Personality

a Personality, with as much character as it takes
to make another Human Being smile, and be Happy
and how can we do that..?? - make another, Smile...??
...- by just BEING...

©2015 Song Recorded Phil Hennessy and -uploaded in HD at

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To Be Free

What I want is for you to be
Able to do what you want, to be free
No one telling you what to do
Just the person you are, being you
I don't believe anyone should be in control
When you are free to choose, it makes you whole
No one should be throwing things around
Nor hiding scared in your room without a sound

Being yourself is being true
All I want is you to be you
I don't like to know you're in a bad place
With a frown and tears upon your face

I want laughter and to see you smile
To enjoy your company for quite awhile
No one should be told to be silent
That's not the way a life should be spent

No one should always have to be on guard
In their own home, it's just too hard
What I want is for you to be
Able to do what you want, to be free
©Dec 8, 2015 Bud Lemire
                       Author Note:
Nobody should be a prisoner and a slave
in their own home. They should be free to
do what they want, and be who they wish to
be. Giving freely, and living freely. With the
one you are with, both should respect the other
. Nobody should be taken for granted and degraded.
Everyone is precious and has value. Everyone should
be free to be.......who they are and wish to be.

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Start a New Day

Start a new day
In a new way
I hear a song you once sang
I see all of the words you penned

On a new road
In a few notes
I hear your words in my head
They start over again

If we had it all completely
Wrapped up in bow so neatly
I still hear the words that you said
Every one ringing true in my head

If we kept all completely
In our own separate time so neatly
There would still be promises said
Now what’s on the road up ahead

Start a new night
In the moonlight
I see a lyric you once wrote
I think of a line and joke

If we had it all completely
Wrapped up in bow so neatly
I still hear the words that you said
Every one ringing true in my head

If we kept all completely
In our own separate time so neatly
There would still be promises said
Now what’s on the road up ahead

Start a new day
In its own way
I hear a song you once sang
Reminding me as the alarm clock rang

©12/15/15 Bruce Clifford

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The Best In A Happy New Year

As one year comes to an end, a new one will begin
I think of all my blessings, and I do so with a grin
Thoughts of what has passed, now becomes the old
Things that are yet to come, waiting to unfold
Each year comes, and there's so much in each one
A story in our lives, until that year is done
What will the new one, have in store for me
If it is as great as this one, I can't wait to see

Sunsets, sunrises, clouds up in the sky
Chipmunks, squirrels, and the birds that love to fly
Events and feelings, of the love I feel
Closer to my heart and soul, all that can be real

Like a Picture Book, captured with my eye
I make the most of each day, as it passes by
I snap a picture, and I can look back and see
To a time captured, replayed in my memory

I can look at any picture, and be right there and then
Like a long ago lifetime, yet I often remember when
I look forward to a new adventure, in the New Year
As the people who have passed, whisper in my ear
They guide me on my journey, to let me know they are there
They support me with their love, and they know I am aware

The love of a woman, who I love so very much
A gentle soul, with that special human touch
She completes me in all ways, with her divine light
She's always in my dreams, every single night

Wherever you may go, wherever you will be
Remember to love all creatures, that is the key
Dance to the music, listen closely and you'll hear
Me wishing you, the best in a Happy New Year

©Dec 13, 2015 Bud Lemire
                        Author Note:
Every year brings us so many great things and
experiences to look back on. As the years move
ahead, there is so much to look forward to. Many
times it's the unexpected happenings that just pop up
at any given moment, that makes each year special
The journey continues. I wonder what the new year
will bring this year.

Happy New Year!

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The Age Of Loneliness

The age of loneliness
Has come to pass –
Arrived too soon for me.

How soon would I really want
To talk just to myself
And to the cats?

I think of something witty,
Something wise;
And no one’s here to be impressed

Or laugh.

©2015 John I. Blair

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Any Town

Sandy Hook to San Bernardino
All the guns held to our heads
Charleston gone mad
Colorado Springs sad
All the guns held to our heads

Aurora, Oak Creek, Brookfield
Any town
Huntsville, Tucson, Manchester
The innocent are gunned down
In any town
In any town

It can happen without warning
Total strangers taken away
Families torn apart
While the children want to go outside to play

Chattanooga, Roseburg, it’s not fair
Look into their eyes to see the fear
In any town
In any town

These innocent souls in any town
Sandy Hook to San Bernardino
Coast to coast

©12/3/15 Bruce Clifford

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21rst Century Druids

Carrying our folding chairs
Past incense sticks along the trail
We stumbled in the cool dark.

With rituals from an iPad
The priestess opened gates
Of fire, of pool, of Yggdrasil.

Oblivious to passing cars
Out on the street,
To airplanes in the sky,

We uttered our responses
And offered sacrifice
Within the hallowed grove

Where leaves, twigs
Fell gently on our heads
Like blessings from the trees,

Sparks flew in golden showers
From oaken logs
Blazing in the brazier,

Cloud wisps blew north
Across a glowing moon,
Brushed by Gaia’s breath.

©2015 John I. Blair

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Beauty in the Midst of Chaos

Many, many apologies. I’m so terrible at staying with something. I love writing but I’m also a procrastinator and that leaves me with many unfinished projects and goals. Anyway, an update on my life. I just finished my junior year of college and its crazy to think that this time next year I will be a college graduate and possibly…..married. Blake and I have been talking alot more about our plans. Now I just have to get the ring! =D I wanted to share something I wrote with you all a couple of weeks back. I’ve found that since starting my journey to strengthen my relationship with God, I’ve slowed down a lot. I’ve always been a go-getter. When I have my mind set on something, that thing consumes my whole life. But recently, i’ve tried to focus on noticing things around me in the present instead of focusing on the future. This world and life is a hard one and it’s normally chaotic but stopping to “smell the flowers” isn’t as cliche as it sounds. You begin to appreciate the beauty of this world and you start to see underneath the chaos and darkness that seems to constantly surround us.
I love people and the wonderful stories they speak to me. I love searching for beauty around me. In each sunrise, and sunset. In spring, flowers and in the summer, barefeet and lightning. In color changing autumns, and frozen icicle winters. Each season is a gift from the Creator of it all. I’m an “old soul” you could say. I love vintage thrift store finds from clothing to furniture and everything in between. I love my family and my friends. My dog is like my child. They are my treasures. One of my major goals is to find beauty in the unexpected. In suffering, mourning, long days, and seemingly evil things. That is what keeps me going in this often chaotic life, along with good music, and plenty of yummy coffee.

I won’t ever stop searching for beauty now because it’s found everywhere! In the songs of the birds first thing in the morning, and in the simple presence of another human being. I find beauty in helping my community and caring for abused children. Beauty is found in resolved conflicts, forgiveness, tears, and laughter. It’s found in green grass and blue skies but also in rainy days and cloudy skies. It’s found in second chances, new love, old love, and long lost friends. It’s found in family dinners, board games, long walks, and naps. Beauty surrounds us. You just have to open your eyes. You have to take the time out of an ever filling schedule and just STOP.

I believe God is the maker of all things beautiful. He’s a master at turning dark to light. Evil to good. Negative to positive. And ugly to beautiful.

For me, it’s making an effort to notice these beautiful things. It could be that you’ve always seen birds but never appreciated them. Maybe someone is rude to you and you never even thought that there is something beautiful about that. But there is. We can smiles at that person. WE can be the change we wish to see. We can make a difference by being kind and loving to them. That’s beautiful to me. It’s knowing that life is full of brokenness, but even in that, there can be beauty. So much beauty can be found in broken hearts, broken plans, and broken relationships. By recognizing that there is beauty in these things, means we are seeking and looking for something deeper, something revealing, something new. God can use broken things and make them beautiful if we allow Him to.

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See pic below. Article used with author's permission. First appeared in her blog "Altogether Beautiful." 

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing. - Camille Pissarro


A tube trails through my skin
Directly to my heart;
And yet I rarely think about this—
One gets used to anything.

I’ve learned the word “infuse”
And once each day I do it,
Step by careful step, alone,
Accepting medicine that heals.

It feels like nothing special;
A tiny chill from saline flush,
Heparin to stop the clots,
And then the stuff flows in.

I don’t feel tough;
I don’t feel much except
How old I am, how wise
I’ve grown. How frail.

©2015 John I. Blair

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The Gift of Christmas

It's not always the gifts under the tree
That makes Christmas mean the most to me
It's the gathering of friends and family
And all the love that is shared, freely
It's the gift of fully feeling alive
The Journey taken, now when you arrive
The gift of love that you feel withr Soul Mate
Heartfelt blessings of everything you appreciate

The Angel at the top of the tree, watching over you
All the things in life that you have been through
The beauty in the sky when the sun sets and rises
Through the years, all the pleasant little surprises

All the colored lights all over the Christmas Tree
Reminding me that each soul has their own special beauty
Each of us being unique, each of us shine
Like the lights on the tree, we are the lights of the divine

Each day beholds a gift for each
You learn, experience, and teach
As you open the gifts from under the tree
Think of the greatest gift, The Gift To Be

©Dec 13, 2015 Bud Lemire
                        Author Note:
At Christmas time I always think of the people
who guided me in friendship and helped mold
me to be who I am today. They touched me with
their love, and made me proud to be happy as I
live this life I am living. We are truly miracles
here on Earth. Souls with such a wonderful
personality. When we help each other as we
travel down the journey of life, it makes me
appreciate people even more.
Merry Christmas to one and all.

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Emeralds for Emma - Chapters 3 and 4

Chapter Three

“I’d be very careful about getting this thing appraised,” said Jim Harwood as he turned the ring over and over in his palm. “It looks very old. Probably made in Europe. And high-karat gold, though I don’t recognize the marks inside the band.”

“I’m more worried about those journals and papers,” Emma replied. “If anyone asks about the ring…”

“Somebody will.”

“Anyone asks about the ring, I’ll just say I ordered it from one of those TV shopping channels – or got lucky at an online auction. Or just be coy and mysterious.”

Jim grinned. “You’ve never been the mysterious type, Emma. But I guess if you did start collecting jewelry, you’d go for something out of the ordinary, like this.”

“It’s just a ring,” she said. “Those journals and all those papers – those are mysterious.”

Especially one, she thought. A birth certificate. She thought at first it might be in Latin, but the word Vilnius stood out. That was the capital of Lithuania and sent her to her parents’ shelves of dictionaries. It was a birth certificate, for one Emeraude-Marie Tatiana von Willensky, born to Amanda and Robert Josef von Willensky on 16/05/84, her birthday. Her birth certificate. Emeraude-Marie Tatiana von Willensky? This carried a lot more baggage than Emma Marie Walters was used to.

But she wasn’t ready to share this with Jim just yet. She felt that it was a mystery her parents had intended her to solve by herself. She must read the old journal first. It must hold the key to all the rest. She was good with puzzles, she had a gift for languages, and she loved stories. This was part of her own story, she knew.

Emma placed the little box – now empty – back into the old envelope along with the journals and the stack of papers.

“I’ve got to get a bigger envelope, Uncle Jim. I’m going to take this stuff to Lawrence with me,” she said. “All those years of studying French are going to come in handy. I may minor in German. As for the Russian, who knows? KU is a big school.”

Jim shook his head and smiled. “Keep in touch, Emma. Trish will be in Wichita and I’ll keep an eye on things here. Your home will be here for you as long as you want it. Your folks left enough in trust for anything reasonable. Send me the bills and let me know how you’re doing.

“Hell of a lot of changes all at once for anybody, and you’re just eighteen. If you need me for anything, you know how to reach me. I’m glad there’s e-mail. Remember you have lots of friends here, people who watched you grow up….”

Emma walked him to the door, kissed him on the cheek and watched him drive away. There was a lot to be done in the next two weeks before she left for the University of Kansas and began a new chapter in her life. She had always thought she would be sharing this experience with her parents. Now, as Uncle Jim had noted, a hell of a lot had changed.

Chapter Four

The bus ride from Kansas City to Lawrence was the most tedious part of the trip from Emerson. Emma had driven to Lawrence with her parents the summer before her senior year and had fallen in love with the beautiful campus on the hill. Her flight itinerary had been so complicated that she wished she could have driven this time, too. A commuter flight from Emerson to Des Moines, a soporific layover before her connecting flight to Kansas City, then the wait for the bus – it would probably have been quicker to drive.

Too tired to be excited, she gazed wearily out the window until she saw the KU bell tower rising above the trees on the hill. She remembered how lovely the campus was and again felt eager to get there. She also felt a pang of loneliness and wished she could say, “Look, Mom, Dad, there it is!” But there were only strangers on the bus.

Finally in Lawrence, Emma took a cab to the boarding house where she and her parents had reserved a room the summer before. The old white clapboard house looked welcoming under the canopy of elms – survivors of the terrible blight that had decimated the majestic trees several decades earlier – and the landlady, wearing a calico apron over blue jeans, showed her to her room and assured her there was time for a nap before dinner.


It was more than a nap. When Emma finally awoke, sunlight filtering through the sheer white curtains on the eastern window told her she’d slept all night, so exhausted from her trip. She quickly showered, ran a comb through her auburn hair, changed the contact lenses in her green eyes, then pulled on some soft jeans and a red T-shirt emblazoned in white with the words “Think for yourself.”
It was almost 9 a.m. when she found Julie, the landlady, in the kitchen.

“Sorry I overslept,” Emma said. “Any chance of some late breakfast?”

“No problem,” Julie replied. “I just put on a fresh pot of coffee, there’s juice in the fridge, and I’ll be glad to whip up an omelet we can share.”

While Julie worked, Emma noticed that she was much younger than she’d expected. Julie didn’t look more than twenty-five, at most, and moved quickly and gracefully around the large kitchen. She was slender under her calico apron, and about Emma’s height – five three perhaps. She had sandy hair pulled back in a ponytail, and friendly blue eyes. She wore no makeup and had just a hint of freckles over her short, straight nose. She reminded Emma of Trish.

“So, what are you planning to study at KU?” Julie asked as she placed a plate of eggs and toast in front of Emma and sat down to join her.

“I’m going to major in French, and perhaps minor in German,” Emma replied between bites. “My folks were language professors at Fahs College in Iowa, and just living with them was a pretty broad liberal education. I’m looking forward to being part of a big university, where everyone doesn’t know my parents. These eggs are great!”

“I majored in English here, then dropped out of grad school to get my ‘Mrs.’ degree,” Julie said, a little subdued. “I think about going back someday to finish, but I’m not sure I ever will. My husband was in the reserves and died in one of those ‘training accidents.’ The whole grad school thing is too full of him.”

“God, that’s awful,” Emma blurted out through her eggs and toast. “I mean, I’m really sorry. Both my parents were killed in a plane crash this summer and I don’t think that it’s really sunk in yet. I’ve never been in a serious relationship, but this must have been terrible for you. Why do you stay here?”

“This is home,” Julie answered. “I grew up here and inherited this big old house. It’s been good therapy to turn it into a self-supporting business. I’m not pining, really – I’m readjusting in a familiar environment with simple day-to-day demands. Physical work keeps me from brooding, and I enjoy the company of the people who pass through here. If I do go back to the U, I’ll probably pursue a degree in Sociology or Counseling. Meanwhile, there’s my B, B & SH.”

“B, B & SH?” Emma inquired, spreading some preserves on her toast.

“Be careful, that’s made with local persimmons,” Julie cautioned her. “They can be a bit puckery – not everyone likes them. Bed, Breakfast and Study Hall. I’ll be glad to make you some more toast if you don’t like the ’simmons.”

“Oh, the preserves are fine. It must have taken a lot of sugar to make them set up. You should try the durian fruit candy an exchange student gave my parents one Chinese New Year! Talk about an acquired taste – even my dad couldn’t get that down….” Emma began to cough and cry at the same time.

The young women were both quiet for a while. “Damn,” said Julie softly. “Have you had any grief counseling, if you don’t mind my asking? I’m still going to weekly support meetings – sort of AA for people who’ve had loved ones die on them. You could come with me. There’s no paperwork, no big deal.”

“You know, that may be a good idea,” Emma sniffled. “Thanks, Julie. As soon as I get my class schedule settled, I’d like to go to a meeting with you.”

“We meet on Wednesday evenings at the Unitarian church,” Julie added.

“That was my next question,” Emma said. “And I got a twofer – I was raised Unitarian and want to check out the local congregation.”

“I didn’t know anyone was ever born into that denomination – all the folks I’ve met there had wandered in from other churches, like I did. I don’t go to regular services very often – they’re not like anything I grew up with. But the people are a fascinating and diverse lot. Somebody’s always finding something to argue about….” Julie blushed. “Sorry. Really, I mean….”

“You’re right, though,” Emma laughed. “Arguing, discussing, pushing our own envelopes and each other’s buttons – that’s how we are. Sometimes I’ve felt as if I’d materialized at some kind of Quaker dinner theater, but it’s a good way for lots of people. It’s a good way for me. Lots of questions and no easy answers – guaranteed.”

©Clara Blair

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
Watch for the next installment of this novel next month.


The Adventures of Ollie-Dare - Chapter 9

OLLIE-DARE Goes for A Ride

Ollie-Dare could feel the change in the air. Summer days were once again beginning to cool down, preparing them for the change of seasons. Fall would soon settle upon the Great Forest, and with it the preparing for winter snows. Ollie-Dare enjoyed this time of year for the cool breeze and the warm sun joined to give the forest a new look. Ollie-Dare had been reading one of his many books, and enjoying the noonday when something caught his eye.

A smile began to light his eyes, for in the distant sky he could see bright orange and yellow stripes just topping the meadow trees. It seems that Samual the balloonist was making good his word, and once again stopping to see his friends of the forest.

Ollie-Dare began walking toward the meadows. On the way, his friends Jimmy the Rabbit, Ace the Coon, and Banjo the fox joined him, for they too had seen the balloon. As they entered the meadow Samual was just landing and greetings could be heard. Much laughter filled the air as once again the forest had welcomed Samual.

They made their way back to Ollie-Dare's home were fresh tea would be brewing, and the group settle in to hear of Samual's travels. He told them he was now on his way home for the winter months ahead, and had decided to add The Forest as a stop over on his way. Samual also had some wonderful news for Jimmy. He had returned to ask Ollie-Dare if he would like a quick trip down the river and had invited Ollie-Dare's friends along.

Ace and Banjo were quick to respond with a 'No, Thank You,' but Jimmy was delighted. Samual saw the concern in Ollie-Dare's eyes, but insisted that the trip would be very safe for his little friend. Ollie-Dare agreed that Jimmy had been patient in always staying within the forest walls, and laughed with delight when Jimmy began to dance around in merriment. They made plans to leave the next day, and Ollie-Dare and Samual settled in for a quiet evening of trading stories.

The next morning Jimmy met Ollie-Dare and Samual at the meadow and they began loading up as Samual told them his plans. Samual was traveling several miles up north to buy new materials for his balloon that would be used over the winter months, and on he would stop along the way to let Ollie-Dare and Jimmy see some sights . The trip would take about four days, and he would return them upon starting south to his home. Soon the trio was all loaded and ready, and as the balloon began its flight as Ollie-Dare and Jimmy waved to their friends watching from beneath.

They were soaring finally, and Ollie-Dare was amazed at the beautiful view. For the forest was so green and the clouds in their soft forms seemed to reach right down and touch the top of the giant balloon. The river could be seen flowing swiftly on its way, and Ollie-Dare was in awe of the beauty before him. Jimmy was busy asking questions, and Samual, with a gentleness that belied his size, answered each question. As the balloon drifted onward, the Great Forest became smaller and smaller until it disappeared from sight.

They had traveled several hours when Samual began a descent so Ollie-Dare and Jimmy could see the boat docks of a small fishing village. There were many small boats, and a few rather large ones attached to the wooden walk way. People could be seen walking to and fro, and large nets hung from edges of the docks. A shop settled in the mist of all the activity, and resting behind the docks were houses and tall buildings. Children could be seen playing in an area that was filled with play ground equipment, and a large block building that Samual called a school. He explained that children attended this school each day and they were taught how to read, write, do math, and many other things they would need to carry on in life.

Ollie-Dare and Jimmy knew of school for they had a small one within the forest for all the small animals. But the scene before them was oddly strange, and full of wonder. Samual explained about the fishing village, and as they continued on, told funny stories of his visits there. They traveled for the rest of the day without seeing much more than mountains, and as dusk took over the sky they landed upon an open field to settle in for the night.

Early the next morning they once again began their journey, and Samual told them that for today they would travel untill they reached the city. Ollie-Dare made mental notes of all that he was seeing. They had passed over a huge waterfall unlike anything he had seen before. The water fell over giant rocks, and the sunlight glistened like stars as it shone upon the water. In some places small wooden structures were seen sticking up from the trees, and Samual explained that they were forest ranger towers. Ollie-Dare was very pleased at this for Samual had said they protected the forest from fires and other dangers. Majestic mountains seemed to be covered with unending forest, and fresh streams flowed into the river. All these things Ollie-Dare mentally stored, for this kind of beauty never leaves your memory.

Soon they began to once again descend, as night was just starting to darken the sky. Before them were thousands of tiny lights, and Samual told them that they were now entering the city. Ollie-Dare and Jimmy watched as the lights grew nearer and the city came into view. At the look of surprise in Ollie-Dare's and Jimmy's faces, Samual began laughing, for he had saved this day as a very special surprise for them both. The city was celebrating a state fair. Samual told Ollie-Dare and Jimmy about the state fair and explained the many sights they were seeing as they passed over, and with much excitement they thanked their friend for such a delightful surprise. As they landed many of the children came running and Samual and his guests laughed and talked to the children before starting their journey to the trade center. Ollie-Dare was so pleased that he had come and was glad that Jimmy was there also.

They made the trip up to the trade center were Samual bought materials and Ollie-Dare and Jimmy found small gifts for their friends back at The Great Forest. As they began walking back to the balloon, where they planned to spend the night, the trio stopped to enjoy the many sights of the fair. They saw rides that children were taking, and colorfull booths where games were played. They ate delightful caramel apples and watched an entertaining horse show, all under flashing lights with festive music.

All too soon morning came and once again the three prepared to lift off for the journey home. The city in the morning was quiet and Ollie-Dare and Jimmy watched the city grow smaller and smaller. The trip here was a delight but they both were ready to go home to tell of the many wonders they had seen on this adventure. As always Ollie-Dare missed his forest and the many things he needed to do there. Samual stopped the night in a beautiful place high on a mountain top, where Ollie-Dare had seen the waterfall. Here Ollie Dare wrote of the things he had seen, and once again started another chapter into his adventures.

Upon arriving home the next day, Samual stayed the night before beginning his journey south. The next morning, among wishes from all the forest creatures for a safe trip, Samual's balloon once again disappeared over the tree tops. Ollie-Dare, watching his friend leave, had hopes that Samual would come back again one day.

Jimmy was still going from place to place telling of his great adventure and enjoying the attention he was recieving. Ollie-Dare was glad to be home again. Reflecting on his new adventure, he finished writing his little chapter.

"And in ending my adventure with Samual and Jimmy," he wrote, "I am grateful that life has given me so many friends and so much to be thankful for. I see so much beauty and I wonder at the creation of it, and I wait patiently for the next adventure."
©2002 Rebecca Morris
Next month: Memories of Ollie-Dare

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