Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Editor's Corner

March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.

Armchair Genealogy

What are the Ethics of Genealogical Research?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family HistoryLibrary, Salt Lake City, Utah

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

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

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Cooking With Rod

Quick and Easy Chicken Fajitas

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

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

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

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

    A couple of evening reflections

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

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

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

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

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

          Sleep well, dream deep my Friends.

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

          Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow,

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    Irish Eyes

    Septic Tanks, ®Pringles, And Con Houlihan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Urn Tower

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

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

    His Master's Ashes

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

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

    * * * * *

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

    The late Con Houlihan

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

    If you can find this book please buy it.


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    Consider This

    Extra Mayo, Please

          When you are a perfect person such as you and I, we can give ourselves permission to be driven meshugge over certain actions, words and things, and there are quite a few of those around to annoy us, are there not? So folks, since I do see a perfect person when I glance into a mirror, not, I feel free to allow myself to go moderately ballistic about the commonplace pronunciation of “sandwich.”

           People! I’m begging you. It is not SAMWITCH, nor is it SAMITCH. Please stop saying that. The thing you eat that has stuff in between slices of bread is called a SANDWICH. Sand, like that stuff on a beach you sit on that’s attached to the edge of an ocean. Witch, like that green squawking lady who melted at the end of The Wizard of Oz. SAND wich. Repeat. SAND wich.

          OK, now that we have all that organized, let’s talk about the history of that culinary gem. I’ve done some research, but research as you already know, is done by humans, many of whom are flawed. Not all, as we’ve already noted, but some. So research must be looked at with a jaundiced eye, and by the way, is that a yellow eye or what? I’ll research that later. So let’s see what the researchers say about the invention of the sandwich.

           The Hawaiian Islands used to be called the Sandwich Islands, apparently named for the fourth earl of Sandwich who was also the British first lord of the Admiralty for the duration of the American Revolution which I’m pretty sure we won. His birth name was John Montagu and he had a hugely serious gambling problem. He was also a serious bad boy, involved in graft, bribery and mismanagement of most everything in which he was involved. And, shocker alert, he had a mistress too.

          Remember the explorer Captain James Cook? Montagu and Cook were pals and it was Cook who named the Hawaiian archipelago after that crazy gambling fool, his buddy Montagu. Don’t ask me why. In 1762, when Montagu was 44 years old, he one day started to gamble and never stopped for a full 24 hours. Naturally he got hungry but as compulsive addictive folks do, he was loathe to stop gambling thinking the next one would definitely be the mother lode, so he ordered sliced meats and cheeses between pieces of bread be served to him constantly so he could eat with one hand and continue gambling with the other. It only stands to reason that these original fast-food items be named after him; sandwiches. Well, actually it doesn’t, but that’s what happened. I’d have thought they’d be named “Montagus” but no, they were “sandwiches” from then on. There’s no record of John Montagu’s being able to quit gambling and besides, doing that would not have afforded him immortality as the alleged creator of the sandwich. And think about it; wouldn’t it have sounded weird if you offered your kids a PBJ Montagu?

          Actually, I think way, way before this Montagu gambling marathon, the Romans may have partaken of such snacks, but that’s for someone else to sort out.

          The Egyptians lay claim to inventing bread around 2600 BC and the Germans centuries later discovered how to make rye bread so strong and hard and awful it was called ”pumpernickel” and yes it was used in the making of sandwiches. Still is. Would you be interested in learning the translation of that name? It’s a little gross but a lot funny so here goes. Sorry if I offend. “Pumper” means to break wind. Nickel meant “the devil.” Thus, the German’s hard, dark sour rye bread was considered so impossible to digest there were those who insisted this bread could even make Satan break wind. Nasty.

          There’s nothing like a little bread humor to brighten one’s day, am I right? You’re welcome.

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    On Trek

    The Sun

    The sun quietly beams to earth rays of warmth everyday.
    It puts the gleam in the streams, the perk in the flowers and trees.
    Children jump and play in the rays of the sun, the animals roll, relax and enjoy the light of love.

    When we don't have sun our spirits fall, only for a little while
    As the sun is forever, casting it's image on all the earth, shadows and shade pops into visible mode. A welcome

    The morning sun rises and helps us stretch and yawn, opening the dawn. Starts our day, eyes open- birds sing -flowers shed their blankets of petals to the invisible healing of the universal light.

    Thankful we are for the sunshine, balm of the Universe
    A sunset on the horizon-prisms of eternal light fan the expanse and dazzle all who would notice.
    A sparkle, a twinkle, a splash here and there of all the beauty of the day..gathered in a bring tranquility to all. Thank you Sun.
    © Dec. 2016 Judith Kroll

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    Brad Terry and Giving Tuesday

          Honestly, I had never heard of that but I have now and it’s an absolutely great idea. I’ll react on all first Tuesdays after Thanksgiving Days from now on. Today is Friday but Giving Tuesday made me think of many things, and one of them is a man named Brad Terry. He gives all the time, on Tuesdays and every other day. If you live in this area and have attended any functions that are enhanced by background music, then it’s quite likely you’ve heard Brad Terry playing his magical Clarinet.

    Clarinetist Terry

           It’s tempting to call him “Young Man with a Horn” from the famous 1950 film although I’m not entirely sure a clarinet is called a horn. No, it’s a woodwind played with a reed. Is that a horn? No matter. And Brad Terry isn’t exactly “young” in the true sense of the word and yet his conversation, the sparkle in his eyes, his remarkable smile, his extraordinary handsomeness, kindness, and gift of listening and caring all blend to make him appear far younger than he actually is, and rumor has it he hovers around 80. Personally, I think he’s fibbing.

           I so wish I had a great gift of description because I’d try to explain about the sounds coming from Brad Terry’s horn or woodwind or whatever. It is raspy and growly, sexy, throaty and oh, so musical. Transporting. He doesn’t poke the instrument into the air as Benny Goodman and others did while they played. Brad actually met Mr. Goodman and took three lessons from him when he was a young boy. (I am advised that pointing one’s instrument into the air while playing looks great in the old movies but doesn’t change the sound a bit.)

          Brad Terry is a self-taught clarinetist although it is very hard to believe that a man who can make his instrument sing like that could possibly have taught himself, but he has. And his generosity with his music is astonishing. I have heard him playing background music at many functions, and I know he either did it for nothing or for very little recompense.

           For example, Brad Terry frequently plays background music for local performances and because of him, the performances become even more alive and colorful. He selects music from his huge repertoire—I mean the one in his head---and matches it to the performances, often selecting the great old songs composed by the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael—well, you know who I mean. The really good music.

           Brad has led a most interesting life and I’d like to tell you about it here but there’s so much and his life is so varied and interesting that it would be better if you read it for yourself. Claiming he’s not a good writer, he disproves that with a wonderful, big book he’s written about his life, and it’s called “I FeeL More Like I do Now Than I Did Yesterday.” If you read this book you’ll maybe be able to figure out the meaning of those words. Brad has met and even played with our country’s great music makers and it’s not that he’s a musical name dropper---he just likes to talk about the music he made with those people and you will love reading about those fascinating experiences.

           Brad Terry’s life has not been totally involved with music but luckily for us, most of it has. Music is the glue that holds Terry together with the many hats he’s worn; survivor, multiple school attendances, camp director, Army, 9 year old latch key kid in London, 20 trips to Poland since 1991 to play with the young and talented Polish musicians there. You can read about him on Google, Yahoo, UTube, Spotify and Wikipedia. He’s everywhere.

           Brad Terry’s remarkable autobiography can be had by contacting him at But you should know when you begin reading that although not planned that way, what’s really great about this book is that you can flip it open to any chapter and read about this man’s remarkable life from any point, but it goes well in any direction. You will enjoy it immensely, I promise! This clarinet genius gives of himself in a myriad of ways, on Tuesdays and every other day of every year. This guy’s a trip!

    (Pic below is more recent one of Brad Terry.)

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           I wrote a column last year about the cultural differences between countries, especially, when it comes to humor. In many instances, it can be quite difficult to understand Chinese jokes here in China, and something essential, like a punchline, can become lost in the translation. When I moved to China, I quickly noticed that American humor is also very difficult for the Chinese people to understand.

          The reason being, humor is dependent on one’s culture and language and it doesn’t translate well into other cultures and languages.

          When a western comedian attempts to tell a joke that relies upon a play on words most in a Chinese audience would fail to understand the punchline. The same can be said for Chinese humor on a western audience.

          I learned after living in China that Chinese characters can be read left to right, or right to left, or even top to bottom, so this becomes the basis for a Mandarin Chinese joke. The Chinese see the humor instantly because Chinese humor is language based and embedded in their culture. On the other hand, most westerners find themselves having to explain their jokes to a Chinese person with great difficulty.
      There is usually no need to explain western jokes to an American audience. We either get it or not. If the joke needs an explanation, then it is considered a failure.
      I became interested in stand-up comedy at a comedy club here in Suzhou, China called – ‘Kung Fu Komedy.’ The audience is a mixture of Chinese natives and foreigners from various countries. I found telling stories there with twists and angles makes for good laughs.
     I have also found that it’s not too difficult to make a Chinese audience laugh because my humor relates to their culture. The same can be said for many Chinese stand-up comedians addressing western audiences. For instance, their jokes about Donald Trump go over big here and Trump jokes get the loudest laughs in China’s comedy clubs.
      Younger generations here in China are beginning to warm-up to stand-up styles of comedy, albeit with a Chinese twist. As the number of super-rich increase in China, the more the jokes become easier for westerners to understand.
      A Chinese comedian got a big laugh at the Kung-Fu Komedy club with this joke:
          Chinese son: “Dad, I have a problem. I just came to America, but I can't seem to fit in. I am the only kid in my class who drives a Benz to school. My classmates take the train.” Chinese father: “It's okay, I just transferred five hundred million to your account. Go buy a train.”
    Jokes such as this are using the second generation of super-rich as the basis of their humor. It seems that the children of extremely wealthy parents, whose behavior, is coming under increased public criticism, is becoming a goldmine for comedians.

        More westerners are now traveling to China to earn a living in stand-up and many of them are becoming extremely popular in the Chinese comedy clubs.
      Most of China’s stand-up comedians are not afraid to make fun out of everything. Including, China as a global economic power. China’s global influence is no longer off limits for the new generation of comedians.
          A few weeks ago, a Chinese comedian here in Suzhou, China told this joke to a western audience:
          “I am really confused about why a poor guy lends money to the rich. We should just divide the money amongst ourselves. But on a second thought, each of us would only get a couple of dollars... because the population is so big.”
      The joke got a big laugh because it is easily understood in any culture.
          As I mentioned - humor is culturally dependent on language and cultural cues and, even if you possess the necessary language skills to communicate to your cultural audience. They still might not find your jokes funny. You must know how to use the certain codes, and nuances found in the culture.
      On the other hand, today’s comedians are fortunate, because of universal concepts, such as modern technology, human stupidity, and the super-rich. We can access these universal concepts as a comedic foundation. Universal concepts give everybody, an understanding of a good joke, no matter their cultural background.
      I find that humor is the easiest way, to bridge the cultural divide, because after-all laughter is a universal language for uniting human understanding.
      Always with love from Suzhou, China
      Thomas F O’Neill
      WeChat - Thomas_F_ONeill
      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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    It's Never Too Late

    A change is in the air
    I know I’ve seen this clear
    Facing light and making time
    Never falling behind

    Shadows in the mist
    Lovers who can’t resist
    Separating answers from the sea
    Not knowing what will be

    It’s never too late
    But you found me this way
    It’s never too late
    Never knowing what to say
    Not waiting for that day

    Taking things in stride
    Rolling with the tide
    Climbing the edges of a hill
    Hearts open and ready to spill

    It’s never too late
    But you found me this way
    It’s never too late
    Never knowing what to say
    Not waiting for that day

    ©2/22/2017: Bruce Clifford

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    Driving The Streets of Camargo In My Mind

    It’s been 40 years since I was there
    But computers put me on the streets
    And roads as they exist yet,
    Frozen in the hot sun.

    What I recognize is not
    What I remember; memory’s
    Created by the brain, flush
    With feelings.

    An old wall of rough stones,
    Shabby on the screen,
    Resonates with dreams of teetering on top
    And leaping gaps for gates.

    A shattered block of building wrecks,
    Vacant lots and weeds,
    Glows with ghosts of businesses
    Filled with food and friendly talk.

    The shuttered church,
    Still neatly kept, but silent,
    Hums with Sunday schools and dinners,
    Funerals and weddings, long ago.

    And the houses, the ones I know,
    Almost come alive again,
    Repopulated by the family I love
    And never will forget.

    ©10/3/2016 John I. Blair

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    Making The Difference

    How many times have you awakened on your bed
    Wondering what difference you made, if you were dead
    What would they say
    If they found you this way
    Would you make a difference, to people you know
    Would the presence you made, help others to grow
    The kindness you gave, would it be passed around
    While your body would lay buried, in the underground

    Would the time you shared, be in their memory
    To give them strength, upon their life's journey
    Or would it be forgotten, as time moved along
    Like an out of print record, no more on that song

    I'd like to think each life, is valued by those
    Whose spirits intermingle, while the soul grows
    Whether happiness found, or lost in pain
    So much from life, is what we gain

    Sharing a life, brief as it may be
    Teaches us more, than any eye can see
    We learn about life, and the roles we play
    When we should go, or when we should stay

    The difference you make, could change someone you know
    Making someone feel better, by words you let flow
    The next time you wonder
    Let there be thunder
    Let the rain pour
    Yet never ignore
    What your life is for
    Touch the many, and touching more
    ©April 10, 2006 Bud Lemire
                             Author Note:
    Your life touches us so much more than
    you'll ever realize. You do make a difference
    every day of your life, as it touches others in
    an amazing way. Remember this always.

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    Growing Old

    Growing old isn't the easiest thing
    We worry about health and what it will bring
    As our bodies age, our health starts to fail
    The pain we endure, is like a hammer on nail
    It's harder to endure what we once did
    Let's face it, we're no longer a kid
    Muscles are aching, arthritis sets in
    It's a fighting battle, that we'll never win

    We must cherish each moment, without the pain
    Smile when the sun shines, get through the rain
    Walk a little slower, look all around
    Be careful we don't find ourselves, on the ground

    We must see the Doctor more often, for check ups each year
    Wait for the results, to see what will appear
    It's always better, when the results are okay
    It's like an apple a day, keeps the Doctor away

    Sometimes our health, has to do with our heart
    It just doesn't beat right, and we're falling apart
    Our heart is important, it helps us to live
    With the heart of our soul, we learn to give

    So much can hurt us as we're growing old
    But love will keep us, from getting so cold
    Everyone we know, at sometime will grow older too
    It something us humans, always have to go through
    ©June 25, 2012 Bud Lemire
                            Author Note:
    Every day we get older. It's just something that happens.
    But it is just a number, for inside, our soul, remains so very
    young. For it's our body that withers in time.

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    Nothing Interesting

    Nothing interesting going on outdoors
    I said to Butch, who sprawled beside me
    On the tiled floor, looking at the lawn.

    Nothing but the clouds racing by
    Across the pure sky
    While trees waved in the breeze;

    Flowers brightened all the dawn
    With petals, blue and white and red;
    Birds lighted on the feeder pole,

    Taking turns eating seeds;
    And butterflies, humming bees, sipped
    Nectar from the flowers aforesaid.

    Nope. Nothing interesting going on
    To keep you and me from being bored
    My Lady Butch. She yawned.

    ©2016 John I. Blair, 10/15/2016

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    The Color Of Life's Music

    Music is to your ears, what color is to your eyes
    It can be your lows, it can be your highs
    It can make you happy, it can make you sad
    It can turn you off, or even make you mad

     Colors have different meanings, to those who take in the view
    Sometimes it's the combination, the brightness, or the hue
    It can be the sun, shining down on the Earth
    Or it can be a miracle, of a woman giving birth

    It can be a smile, a stranger gives to you
    Making you feel in your heart, so brand new
    It can be a friend, taking time to find out how you are
    Or it can be a twinkling, of the brightest shining star

    Music can be a calming cool, or a burning fire
    Bringing you to a relaxing state, or sets off your deepest desire
    Music can be, a rainbow of all colors there
    It can the greatest love, in everything we share

    Music can be any color, that you wish it to be
    I know for one thing, it sure is beautiful to me
    It is the brightest colors, that I've ever seen
    Taking in the music and colors, as I walk in between
    ©Feb 4, 2003 Bud Lemire
                         Author Note:
    Music can touch your heart just like the beauty of the
    colors that we see on a beautiful sunny day. All the
    colors just flying past you as you feel each and every
    one of them. A Rainbow of colors in the greats of all
    Symphonies. So very magical to take it all in.

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    Needing People

    As I hear the song
    People who need people
    Are the lucky ones.

    If that’s the case
    Then in this world
    I am the luckiest.

    I spend my days at home
    With cats as mates;
    They don’t talk much.

    And talk is what I need,
    So badly
    I’ll start a conversation

    With the yardman, the librarian,
    The checker at the store,
    The woman next to me in line.

    My motivation
    For going out
    Is not the things; it’s people.

    I’ll yank weeds, sell books,
    Stare at modern art,
    Dine in restless rooms

    Just for the people –
    People I can chat with
    Till their eyes glaze

    . Because, sadly,
    I’m not sufficient company
    For myself.

    ©2016 John I. Blair, 10/27/2016

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    The Swinger

    She was just swinging, alone there in the park
    I rode my bike by, as it was pretty dark
    It made me wonder, as I saw her there
    Just how many people, swing from everywhere

     I use to swing, when I was just a kid
    I'd like to think as children, everybody did
    It gives you a good feeling, swinging on the swings
    A breeze that hits your body, that each new motion brings

    Exhilaration, caught up in the swing
    Moving to and fro, loving everything
    Such a great feeling, as I swing about
    Makes me feel so happy, I just want to shout

    As the days went by, I didn't see her there
    The days got cooler, so she didn't need that air
    I wondered what she did, when she didn't swing
    What gave her a good feeling, what made her sing

    Then one night it was dark, as I was riding by
    There she was in a jacket, and she was swinging high
    I'm not sure why, it affected me like it did
    Maybe it's because I knew, what it was like to be a kid
    ©Sept 1, 2010 Bud Lemire
                          Author Note:
    The Swing set was over at the Franklin School, which is
    now a church. This girl would be over there, swinging.
    I am guessing she must live across the street somewhere.
    She sure enjoyed swinging, and she was there often.
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    If Trees Sleep

    If trees sleep at night
    When I still wake
    I wonder if they dream.

    What form
    Would tree dreams take?
    Sunshine, breezes, rain,

    Or might they dream of us?
    If so, for my heart’s sake,
    I hope they’re happy dreams.

    ©2016 John I. Blair, 10/27/2016

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    Autumn Bulbs

    In early autumn
    Aided by a young friend
    I planted spider lily bulbs
    By the corner of my church.

    He labored with a pickaxe
    To dig the hole, coping
    With some scattered chunks
    Of concrete from an old repair
    Once the hole was there
    I knelt carefully
    To place the bulbs inside,
    Spaced apart for room to grow.

    Three weeks later
    And still no leaves appear
    On these flowers that photosynthesize
    In wintertime to bloom next year.

    I don’t despair; gardening
    Of all pursuits takes a maximum
    Of patience, waiting, trust,
    Remembrance of what’s been before.

    I know they’ll sprout in time,
    Greet the morning sun,
    Regenerate their roots
    Beneath the crusty soil,

    And come September rains
    Send beauty skyward,
    Looking like a miracle,
    But looking more like hope.

    ©2016 John I. Blair, 11/1/2016

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    I Lost My Marbles

    The day I lost my marbles, I remember it well
    I will share the memories, in these words that I will tell
    I had my half sizer out, ready to take a shot
    To make it in the hole, but I missed a lot
    I knelt down, to try to shoot again
    I shot, and I saw the smile upon my friend
    My half sizer went in , the hole that was so deep
    All that was in that hole, was all mine to keep
    I felt so dirty, yet I felt so happy too
    Until my friend took out a full sizer, that was colored blue
    I knew this would be a challenge, if I only I could beat
    I would try my very best, not to give in to defeat

    My friend's luck was changing, and I was losing
    The movement of the fingers, can be pretty amusing
    You have to know the right angles, to make it work out right
    With the right amount of power, with the hole in sight
    For some reason, I had trouble with my aim
    I knew it wouldn't be long, until I lost the game

    We took turns flicking our fingers, and mine almost went in
    I was lucky yesterday, but today I wasn't going to win
    I need all my best peeries, and then I knew
    I'd have to use my boulders, and my steelies too
    I took one final shot, and aimed it at the hole
    Watching it carefully, to see where it would roll

    I had fun playing, as I looked at my empty can
    That day I lost my marbles, I took it like a man
    As I sat there on the ground, in the old schoolyard
    I realized life would be easy, and life would be hard
    All we can do, is to try our best in everything we do
    Sometimes we will miss, and sometimes our aim is true
         ©2002 Bud Lemire
                   Author Note:
    My friend Mike Derusha comes to mind when I think of
    playing Marbles at the Washington Schoolyard. Although
    I played marbles with many, my memory remembers him
    the most when we had played. It was fun time to play, and
    I remember those times with a smile on my face.

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    Nothing compares to a steaming mug of tea.
    Like a blanket on a cold day, it warms me.
    I have a cup before going to sleep at night.
    It even helps me on those days when I’m struggling to find that great story to write.
    Tea is my drink of choice.
    The whistling kettle makes me think of a singer who has a high pitched voice.
    ©2017 Barbara Irvin

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    It's Not A Blessing

    It’s not a blessing when the timelines aren’t kept
    If it’s something that matters, then I’m really not over this yet
    To know the meaning of the stardust through the trees
    It’s quite deceiving when the answers are received

    It’s always for tomorrow or maybe from yesterday
    Hollow and indigo, the dream standing in the way
    The moment things went astray

    It’s not a blessing when the fountains are overrun
    When you try to to reason with the radiation from the sun
    Catching that moment when everything becomes clear
    It’s a strange sensation when there are so many things to fear

    It’s always for tomorrow or maybe from yesterday
    Peace signs and troubadours are catching every phrase
    These visions swaying in gamma rays

    It’s not a blessing when the quiet turns to noise
    There’s never a second when you’re without the girls and boys
    To know the meaning of spacing and the breeze
    It’s quite deceiving when the answers are received

    ©2/4/17: Bruce Clifford

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    Following The Trail

    Following the trail of our ancestor
    Looking for information that will lead to more
    Walking down every path that we find
    Knowing in spirit, that they won't mind
    In fact, we know they are near
    All things in time, become clear
    We know the route they had taken
    A journey to the past, when we awaken

    We know the places, where we should go
    And it touches a place, deep in our soul
    Getting in touch with Cousins everywhere
    The information, that we're willing to share

    Sharing information, comparing each note
    Making sure no errors, in each one we wrote
    Putting the picture to the name
    Resemblances can often be the same

    I love to find people, who are on their own trail
    Off on the sea, of their genealogical sail
    Looking for information, that will lead to more
    Following the trail, of ancestors who came before
    ©June 20, 2013 Bud Lemire
                            Author Note:
    I've been climbing my Family Tree since 1990.
    In that time, I have found many relatives, and it
    has been great enjoyment in all that I have found.

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    Uncomfortably Numb (Again)

    Of this crumby ailment
    (Trophy of the surgery
    That saved my life
    One Halloween)
    Include recurring numbness
    Of fingers, lips and nose
    And confusion of the brain.

    As a kid
    When I did stupid things,
    Dad would call me
    I think, I hope,
    He never meant it literally.
    Yet here I am, truly numb
    In skull and other parts.

    I was told, and once believed,
    This numbness soon would pass,
    And learned every day
    How sweet it really is
    To feel the roughness
    Of my cats’ tongues,
    A kettle’s heat,
    A hug, a kiss.

    Years later, reconciled a bit
    To knowing this will be
    A part of life for me
    So long as I am here,
    I still appreciate that lesson.

    ©2008, 2016 John I. Blair, 10/4/2016

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    Author's Note:
    This has appeared before in Pencil Stubs, but is sadly once more appropriate and updated three times now. This very serious ailment has been constant for me since surgery nine years ago brought it on. And just two weeks ago it hospitalized me for 10 days. This time I was told it could have killed me if not caught in time. One of those diseases that can be made “better” but from which you never get well. John