Monday, January 1, 2018

Editor's Corner

January 2018

 "New Year's Day. A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embraced, and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self-discovery. Today carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand. Only dreams give birth to change." 

--Sarah Ban Breathnach
Dreams. That sounds serendipitous. Try it for yourself and dream the change you need in your life. The world sees changes daily in weather patterns, shifts in populated areas, trends in food, reading material, and always something new in digital commerce. Don't be left behind. Dream.

Christmas found your editor traveling a bit, a nice change in routine, surroundings, and catching up with family - new babies, new faces in the family gathering. Visits are so good for a change.

Bud Lemire's poem "Looking Back on The Year" fits the subject - what changes were noted, while his "On The Fence" urges all not to miss out on life. His other poems this issue are "Always Be You," "The Light from The Other Side," "Sundog," and "D.A.T.A."

Bruce Clifford composed "Did She Ever Care" and "I Can't Get Over Losing You." Dayvid Clarkson wrote and arranged a beautiful pictorial tribute to Samantha, the daughter of our friend Minstrel Dave Sterenchock, "Daddy, Don't Cry for Me."

John I. Blair's poems for January are: "Early December Night," "I Bless The Sight," "Masked Face," "I Sail Alone Within My Skin," "Book Love Lost" and "A Panda in My Parlor." The latter was written to please one of his granddaughters who loves Panda's.

Dayvid Clarkson's column "Reflections of the Day," has another tribute, in memory of his mother. Moving words and thoughts, but an underlying, supportive strength marks it as restorative. "Introspective" (Thomas F. O'Neill's column) presents an interesting article by Jane Gargas, about a Kansas lady, who is now 106 years old.

Mattie Lennon, in his "Irish Eyes" passes on some info from a Kilgarvan man on the origin of some common words, in general usage but with interesting and rather surprising sources. The post office of Ireland also figures in his column this month.

Rod Cohenour in"Cooking With Rod," has a tasty recipe or four to make New Year's Day a feast day using traditional favorites. "Armchair Genealogy" by Melinda Cohenour is filled with hints on how to expedite your personal genealogy research by using Ancestry's DNA searches, and how to accomplish it.

LC Van Savage's column "Consider This," reminisces about the Chinese Cupboard in her childhood. Her article "Dear Lizzie:" recalls her real BFF. The other article is the annual numerology analysis graciously shared by Michael John Fierro, author of the book, "You Know Your Name...Look up Your Numbers" which is an excellent guide your editor finds not only entertaining but very useful.

Happy New Year! 
Yes it is you 
I'm looking at now
                                                       See you in February !!!
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2018 – An 1 /2 Universal Year – Lesson Taught/Lessons Learned?

      2018. An 11/2 Universal Year. 11 is the first Master Number. It represents the intuitive teacher and inspirational leader. The lessons can be easy. The lessons can be difficult. One thing is certain...the lessons will be learned. Just as in our personal lives, we are usually presented with numerous opportunities from which we can learn the lesson we need to learn. When we choose to ignore them, or when we do not even recognize them, they return. Each and every time they return, the lesson gets a little more dramatic, and possibly even, traumatic. If we continue to ignore these things, the moment will eventually arrive when we will have absolutely no choice but to pay attention as situations and/or conditions will become such that they will be impossible to ignore. We will be forced into taking steps to rectify and clear the situations and then create the tools or opportunities necessary to move forward in our lives. Life being what it is, it will continue to provide us learning experiences and lessons to be learned. The pattern will also play out the way I just mentioned. It is up to us to recognize things for what they are and to then act accordingly. So, as it is in our personal lives, it is in the macro world in which we reside. The big picture is the extension and expansion of our own, individual lives. As above, so below. As within, so with out. 2018 is going to be a year filled with a constant stream of BIG lessons. Things that have remained hidden. Things about which we do not speak. Things that are injustices and inequalities that have been ignored. It will be one, or all (I'm leaning in the direction of 'all') and they will all be writ large in our daily lives and discourses.

      One can usually begin to feel the effects of any given Personal approximately 4-6 weeks before the Year actually begins. With a Universal Year the same rule applies meaning that in mid-November or early December, the energy begins to exercise itself. You would have to have been living in an internet-free cave to not be aware of the paradigm-shifting activities that are taking place. As I like to say regarding a 9 Personal Year heading into a 1 Personal Year, “If you think it was bad before, be prepared for conditions to exacerbate.” Well, the world has been procrastinating and, at times, regressing in its behavior towards the major issues of the day. 2016, (a 9 Universal Year) was the year during which we should have diligently worked towards the goal of changing and rectifying the problems that are a part of our existence. Doing so would have given us a cleaner slate during 2017 (a 1 Universal Year) to move forward while embracing new solutions and better and fairer ways of handling that which ails us and our world. Sadly, there wasn't a lot of that going on. In its place, we've spent the year re-hashing old sore spots and because of that, we have moved backwards to a time that long ago served its purpose. This regression has led us to where we are. The issue(s) have come back with a vengeance. Corruption. Politics before all else. Sexism. Misogyny. Racism. Inequality. Inequity. All that was hidden has been, and will be revealed. Now is the time for the battle to begin. Now is the time to collectively decide the type of country and world in which we choose to live.

      And, so it is, that the energy and vibration of the 11/2 Universal Year comes into play. It is here to teach. It is here to illuminate our path. It is here to emphasize the dualities of the double-1s and the underlying 2 and by so doing, expose us to the concept of understanding and accepting the energy and meaning of the 'Two' in order to show us how to live in concert, with acceptance, and recognition of both sides of all situations. We must learn that it is the opposites that allow us to see clearly. One cannot see the light without having the contrast of darkness.

      On the positive side, 2018 can be a time of an increase in spiritual movements, and in matters of the metaphysical and the occult. This can be a year during which new developments and techniques are introduced in teaching. Of benefit to all, we may also see the rising up, or emergence of spiritual teachers who are here to assist us in our growth. In conjunction with this we may also see and experience an increase in the collective social conscience/consciousness coupled with a prevalence of altruistic behavior.

      2018 is certainly a year during which we must learn the lessons of both the inner and outer worlds. Inspiration and enlightenment from on high are potential conditions that may be revealed and experienced. It is incumbent upon us all to tune into the messages and signals that we receive and then find a way to incorporate these things into our everyday existence. Co-operation, tolerance, acceptance, and learning to work and live in harmony are all elements of the overarching energy of the year. In learning these lessons there is a call for balance and centering. We may very well experience pendulum swings from the material to the spiritual and back again. While this will be a year of increased idealism, it is important that we avoid nit-picking the small details of things and with those with whom we may disagree. Above all, good examples must be set, especially in the realm of increasing the level of dedication, and commitment to working with others. The citizens and leaders of the world must learn to incorporate the concept of service to others and we must commit ourselves to mastering ideas, ideals, concepts, and thoughts that, at their core, are dedicated to the betterment of our collective and individual existences. We may find answers and inspiration through the various expressions of the arts, be it art, music, movies, literature, and just plain, old conversations. The year can also bring about improvements in our psychological systems while we also experience new and exciting breakthroughs in the world of scientific developments and innovations. 2018 is also fertile ground for the introduction of great new inventions designed to improve our lives, environment, and overall well-being.

      In many ways, 2018 will be a testing period. Humankind will be faced with challenges that require thoughtful and compassionate responses and we must steer ourselves in new direction and in new and less divisive fashions. We should all be prepared for sudden events that will require quick decisions and decisive actions. We must behave in a manner that indicates our acknowledgment and acceptance that we are all brothers and sisters in one, gigantic family and while we may have our disagreements, it will behoove us all to find a way forward that improves life for everyone. In the course of taking action, we must guard against impulsiveness and we must learn to exercise far more patience and tolerance with people and conditions that may exist. This is a year during which we must find ways to get rid of our past mistaken thoughts and actions. Especially those that have helped create and solidify any and all negative circumstances. Now is the time to select the right combination of attitudes to create more favorable and desirable results moving forward.

      On the geo-political stage, more information may be revealed about any legal/illegal dealings regarding money. This may particularly play out with regard to Trump and the Russians and the tangled web that has been woven by the players involved. Obviously, dependent upon the words and actions of world leaders, the underlying energy of the 2 presents the opportunity for the peace-making component of the number to be brought into play. 2018 may certainly bring to a head issues for which there are two completely different and opposite viewpoints. Politically this could be the right/left political divide. It may also further bring to center stage the ongoing issues surrounding the relationships of the male and female energies. 2 is a feminine energy number and 2018 has great potential with regards to elevating the female archetype to a more prominent (and deserving) place in society, government, business, and all other aspects of life.

      In the world of the Tarot, 11 is the card of Justice. This card is a representation of teaching, education, and guidance. We must seek to find balance through justice as we weigh the meaning of present situations and conditions, and achieve balance by overcoming the errors of the past. The use of discrimination in our thoughts and deeds is highlighted. It is imperative that we individually and collectively work to eliminate the poisonous toxins in life.

      As with all numbers, the 11/2 also has negative attributes and conditions that are associated with it. We must be vigilant and guard against an increase in political, economic, and spiritual fanaticism. In our vigilance, we must guard against any complacency and smugness which may be present, or which increases in prevalence in powerful institutions. We must speak up against prejudices, inequalities, and inequities. 2018 has great potential to be a testing and challenging period and we must be diligent in making certain that the energy is channeled into positive ideas and things. There is great caution to guard against any existing negativity and, we must be hyper-alert in allowing these conditions to increase and/or exacerbate, for this will lead to even greater fears and doubts. It is our duty to hold all our leaders (political, religious, business, and cultural) accountable for their words and actions and we must be careful to not allow the casting of fears and doubts to become a pandemic that sweeps our nation and the world. We must be cautious in our assessment of others' motives and beware of any and all suspect motives in our international (and national) dealings. It is very important that we don't take things for granted and that we look beyond the face value of words. We must be aware of the possibility that we will be let down by our friends, allies, and our own political leaders. We must be especially mindful that others' activities are not prompted by things that we do or propagate. The worst case scenario indicates that it may be almost impossible to come to any agreements or decisions.
If not exercised as the 11 there is great danger of the worst of the 2 being in play.
That will give us a world of submissiveness and being taken advantage of for the enrichment of a few.

      In summary, 2018 is the second year in the current 9-year cycle. 2017 saw us suffer the consequences of not dealing with things in 2016 and previous years. Throughout the past year, the veil continued to be lifted and the dark, unseemly underbelly of life continued to be exposed. The 11/2 energy of this year will present us numerous and frequent opportunities to confront our weaknesses while we look for the leaders and ideas that will move us forward into a new and better world for everyone. Inspiration, ideals, and new ideas are all going to benefit from the fertile ground of the upcoming year. We must look for the individuals who are capable and committed to lifting up everyone. Of great caution, we must guard against those who will look to seize opportunities to make their points in violent or aggressive means thus becoming martyrs to their cause. With that being said, we must also be prepared to accept the fact that the more we ignore the important lessons we should be learning, the more dramatic and traumatic events may be to get our attention.

      Above all, 11 is a teacher. Ideally, our lessons will be somewhat benign and we will easily learn what we must learn. Yet, just as in our personal lives, when there is something to which we must direct our focus and attention to make changes and alterations to our behavior(s), the more we ignore the lessons, the greater the intensity and drama of that which takes place. I believe that everyone reading this who has enough self-awareness to see this pattern in their own life, or in the lives of those to whom they are close, can identify with this unfolding of events. Eventually, we are forced into taking action because we are left with no further options.

      For example, over the past years America has seen a seemingly never-ending string of mass shootings. The lesson has to do with guns, aggressiveness, and violence and how much we value each and every life. Without being political, a big portion of the conversation has to do with guns and their presence in our lives. Sadly, the very politics of this issue have paralyzed us from coming to a common sense agreement as to how we handle things and how we move forward while reducing the frequency and horror of these events. While saying this, I must share with you an enlightened awareness I received this year when it comes to the Master Numbers. I have always believed and taught (and I still do) that the Master Numbers are exalted positions of their lower number. I have always said that in some ways people with these numbers 'volunteered' to come back to this plane, at this time, to fulfill a specific purpose in the greater scheme of things. They came to Teach. Inspire. Build. Lead. Create. Nurture. To have a Master Number, and to have it exist in its optimal condition, it is imperative and necessary that one subjugate one's personal life to the greater good. (If someone has a Master Number and goes through life with a 'me first' attitude, in all probability their life will be one filled with hardships and obstacles. Things may never work out as expected and life can become quite burdensome.) While I was fully aware that all numbers have both positive and negative characteristics and attributes, I always viewed the Master Numbers as the potential 'bright lights'. And then something happened. Well, actually, multiple somethings happened. And kept happening.

Those somethings were the mass shootings that have become so common in America that we have become inured to their horribleness. Numerology is such a part of who I am, that I am hard-pressed to not do a chart on anyone in the news. Hell, I can't drive without doing license plates! But, I digress. In doing charts for the shooters in these horrific killings, I noticed that quite often there were Master Numbers involved. The more shootings, the more Master Numbers. After Las Vegas, it came to me that the presence of these numbers in these events indicated that these shooters were actually fulfilling their chosen role of being teachers. Granted, this is not the conventional way to teach but if one gives consideration to what is written in the first paragraph, one can see that we have not learned any lessons when it comes to guns and violence in America. We ignore it. We cloak it in patriotism. We says it's our right (which it is) but we are also guaranteed 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' and nothing can stop that quicker than a bullet. So, giving thought and consideration to these situations leads me to believe that 2018 has great potential to go either way in a dramatic and potentially life-changing way. We've had years to get things right. We haven't done as well as we could have, or should have. The conditions to which I referred previously are going to be front and center. In the theater of life we will all have orchestra seats and we will all bear witness to what unfolds. We can all be changed for the better. Or, the worse. I wish for the former. I fear for the latter.

      In conclusion, 2018 can be the year during which we break down the barriers and do away with the conditions that exist that make things as bad as they are. We must 'look to the heavens'. In reality, we must look within ourselves to find our way forward. We must do this individually and collectively. We must be vigilant in looking for the inspirations and teachers who are here to assist. We must gravitate towards a more loving, compassionate, and caring world. We must forsake those for whom their own self interests are their driving force. We must lift up and rise up out of the muck and find the way to light our paths. We must help those who need assistance. It starts with each one of us and must spread from one to another. We must recognize and identify the dualities that exist and we must make collective decisions as to which path will be the path for moving forward in a positive manner. We must also be prepared for things to worsen if we do not change course in so many ways. Personally, I believe that 2018 can, and should be, the Year of the Woman. The paradigms are shifting. Those who currently hold power realize their days are numbered and I am certain they will not leave the stage without a fight. Fight we must if our intentions are good and pure.


      The choice is yours. The effects belong to us all.
I wish each and every one of you the absolute best for the coming year. May you be inspired to do your best to improve your life and the lives of all with whom you have contact. Be steadfast. Be strong. Be brave. Be loving. Be caring.

Blessings of Love & Light
Michael John Fierro

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© 2017 Michael John Fierro. Redistribution with permission from the author.

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Irish Eyes


Hearse, Rehearse and Some Wonderful Reading

     I was recently at a funeral in Kerry. The deceased was an elderly woman who hadn’t ever married. I can’t vouch for the veracity of the following but one of the mourners told me she requested no male pallbearers. In her handwritten instructions for her memorial service, she wrote, “They wouldn't take me out while I was alive, I don't want them to take me out when I'm dead.”

     I don’t know if that is fact or fiction but . . .the undertaker did leave the keys in the ignition of the hearse outside the funeral parlour. A couple of “under-nines” were playing in the vicinity and when the coffin was placed in the hearse they keys were missing and could not be found. While we were waiting for a replacement to arrive from Tralee, a Kilgarvan man said to me “You could write a play about this.” I expressed a hope that he didn’t expect me to write a drama on the subject and he let me know that he meant that a play could be written about it.

     Being in the heart of amateur drama country when plays were mentioned we were soon talking about rehearsals. “Speaking about rehearsals and hearses, “ says the Kilgarvan man, “ do you know where the word hearse and rehearse come from?” When I answered in the negative he went on, “It comes from Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French herce ‘harrow, frame’, from Latin hirpex ‘a kind of large rake’. The earliest record of the word in English in the sense that we know it meant the latticework canopy placed over the coffin (whilst in church) of a distinguished person, and it probably arose from the late Middle English sense ‘triangular frame (shaped like the ancient harrow) for carrying candles at certain services’. The word, originally spelled herse, comes from the Latin hirpicem, which was a large rake. Eventually hearse came to mean the structure constructed over or around a coffin, and its modern sense, of a vehicle used during a funeral procession, pops up in the mid 17th century. The word rehearse is distantly related to hearse, for rehearse etymologically means 're-harrow,' or, metaphorically, to 'go over again.' It was not until the late 16th century that the word came to refer to practicing a play, scene or part in private before a public appearance." The Kilgarvan man was just starting to describe a line from A Midsummer Night’s Dream when the replacement hearse arrived from Tralee.

    And while I have you let me tell you about a wonderful book that I read over Christmas. Even in this age of texts, twitter and all mod con means of sending and receiving electronic epistles, Christmas sees pillar- boxes full to capacity and postal workers doing overtime. But how much do we know about the Irish Postal Service? I knew very little until I got a seasonal present of The Post Office in Ireland; An Illustrated History, by Stephen Ferguson, published by Irish Academic Press.

    Between the covers of this hardback tome of almost 500 pages we are taken step by step of the postal service in Ireland over the past 300 years. In the preface the author writes, “ . . . a great deal of historical material has been lost in Ireland.” However it is not evident in any of the 448 pages that any “post office material” has been lost. We Irish are storytellers and consequently communicators. Ferguson points out that one of the earliest known Irish letters was written by none other than Saint Patrick. In the field of communication Irish people have certainly punched above their weight. Limerick man, William O Shaughnessy set up the Indian Telegraph system and Robert Hart of Lisburn formed the Imperial Chinese Post Office. And Napper Tandy and the French proclaimed Independence from a remote Post Office in Donegal. We learn that the creation of a postal network in Ireland dates from 1638 with a regular system of dispatching and staging posts but the nuclease of a postal service existed on this island, in the previous century. But the Irish Post Office was not set up as a distinct entity from the British until 1784. Stephen Ferguson states, “The relationship between Ireland and Britain is woven through the history of the Irish Post Office.”

    Of course that doesn’t mean that the powers on the neighbouring trusted us. Oliver Cromwell’s Post Office act of 1657 stated that a single General Post Office was being established for the speedy conveying of letter but post in England, Scotland and Ireland and also, “ . . .to discover and prevent many dangerous and wicked designs, which have been, and are daily contrived against the Peace and welfare of the Commonwealth, the intelligence whereof cannot well be Communicated but by Letter of Escript.” Ferguson explains the important role played by the Post Office in government surveillance in more recent times. And actually names postmasters who, “Ensured that suspicious events and the correspondence of suspected people were kept under constant official notice.”

    An Indecent Literature Enquiry noted that, contraceptives in postal packets from England would be returned with a “warning of prosecution.”

    James Joyce’s Ulysses wasn’t ever banned if Ireland but . . . the fact that a copy of the masterpiece which was posted in Dublin, in 1923, six years before the Censorship of Publications Act, is still in the Royal Mail’s archive in London is a stark reminder of the power of postal censorship.

    Stephen Ferguson’s research unearthed some funny nuggets. For instance, when Post Cards first appeared in 1870 Zozimus Magazine published:
I likes these ha’p’ny postage cards,
And so, I prophesy, will most men;
The people’s pockets they regard,
And gives amusement to the postmen.
The envelopes , when people write,
Hides people’s secrets from their betters,
I take particular delight
In reading other people’s letters.

    Due to Post Office regulations colour post cards were not seen in Ireland until 1894, although the Post Office had taken on parcel delivery in 1883. This ****hardback also includes hundreds of illustrations, images, photographs and line drawings and Punch cartoons, many of them unpublished previously. For instance there is a picture of a Fenian stamp believed to have been prepared in Boston in anticipation of a successful rebellion in Ireland in the 1860s. It bears the words, Republic of Ireland. When the GPO staff were evicted from the from the GPO at the beginning of the 1916 Rising a temporary telegraph room was set up in the drawing room of the Great Northern Railway’s premises in Amiens Street. Amid all the turmoil of war there was a photographer there to record the historic occasion. The excellent image is reproduced on page 245.

    This is the first complete history of the Irish Post Office. I couldn’t do it justice in this short piece but please make purchasing it one of your New Year Resolutions. It is available in all good bookshops. Further information at
HAPPY 2018

    And before you go . . . Chris O 'Donoghue, in Dublin, is setting up a worldwide Patrick Kavanagh Association. He is planning to have groups all over the globe . If you are interested in setting up a group he can be contacted at ;

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Armchair Genealogy


DNA: More Mysteries to be Unraveled


      When last your author touched on the DNA issue, it was shortly after having received the initial test results in a column published October of 2016. At that time, my first listing of all matches totaled a bit over 400. Today that number of matches has increased significantly: 410 Shared Matches (these are the matches where the person whose test matches mine has a tree attached to the test and both their tree and mine reflect shared ancestors); and nearly 3,000 matches that indicate we are 4th cousins or closer but with no Shared Ancestors in our trees. As these Shared Matches surface, I routinely check the comparison charts and use the Add Note feature on that person’s profile to show how our trees indicate we are related. For the matches that merely reflect a relationship of 4th cousin or closer, I use the Search features to check for surnames, peruse the other person’s tree to attempt to determine where we may share ancestors and then use the Add Note feature to capture my findings. Ancestry also offers a Location search feature that may help to pin down relationships.

      One of the features Ancestry has provided is what they term the DNA Circles. That is, a report that compiles all the matches of others to persons in my tree whether or not their DNA is a match to mine. In my prior column I explained these DNA circles in this manner:

      “…not all members of the Circle have DNA linked to EVERY member of the circle; however, each member is SOMEHOW linked to other members of the Circle and – most importantly – each member’s DNA is linked to a family tree that shows direct descent from a Shared Surname Ancestor.

      …. In order to create a Circle of relationships, Ancestry requires that three things occur: (1) Circle members share DNA with other members of the Circle; (2) family tree evidence exists that the Circle member is a documented descendant of the key figure; and (3) each member of the Circle MUST share DNA with at least one other member of the Circle.”

      For a better understanding of how Ancestry’s DNA test results work you may refer to that prior column: The Mysteries of DNA and How it May Aid our Research

      The subject matter of this column is the feature offered by Ancestry they term New Ancestor Discoveries. Notices of these discoveries arise when my DNA matches to a number of others’ test results where they share a common ancestral lineage to a person whose profile is NOT listed in my tree. Thus, the possibility of exploring how I am (most likely) related to their Shared Ancestor. In October of 2016 I had received notification of three prospective ancestral lines: William S. Strawn (Straughan, Straughn) (1812-1870); John William England (1825-1911), and, as it turns out, his wife, Sarah Wilson Gold (1835-1908).

      In order to document my findings as I attempt to tie these prospective ancestors into our family tree, I shall devote a section to each. This is merely an introduction and an attempt to begin the compilation of facts and clues with ongoing research to possibly be revealed in future columns should the relationship be ultimately confirmed.

New Ancestor Discoveries:
      New Ancestor Discoveries are revealed if I share DNA with members of a DNA circle which means I might also be related to the ancestor the DNA Circle is built around even though that person does not yet appear in my tree. This may occur in one of three ways:
        I am, in fact, a direct descendant of the DNA Circle ancestor. Descendants of an ancestor often inherit pieces of DNA from that person and may share those strands with other descendants of the same ancestor. If enough matches have been discovered to create a DNA circle and my test matches several of those tested, I will receive notice of a New Ancestor Discovery.
        I may be related to others in the DNA Circle through marriage or a collateral line. For instance, the DNA Circle shared ancestor may be my 3rd Great-Aunt or maybe the ancestor was married to that 3rd Great-Aunt. In other words, the matches in the circle may occur because we have a DIFFERENT ancestor in common.
        I could be related to others in the DNA Circle through multiple common ancestors. This could occur when people are in rapidly growing or small populations. (For instance, where wagon trains travel over long distances from one location to found a new village and the children of one family may marry into other families on the same wagon train. As they establish a community, the children of other families may marry into the two initial families. This has been found true in more than one line in my tree.)
Thus, it appears prudent to first review the tree linked to the highest probability match in the DNA Circle to see if names and locations provide a clue; next, review the Shared Surnames listed for each of those to see if a collateral line may have produced this clue; and perhaps add the prospective person to my tree, collect the various hints available and begin researching the possibilities. Ultimately it is hoped the link may be clearly established.

John William England (1825-1911) and wife, Sarah Wilson Gold (1835-1908)
DNA evidence suggests that you're related to a group of Sarah Wilson Gold / John William England descendants. And because your DNA matches people in the group, there's a good chance you're also related to Sarah Wilson Gold and/or John William England.

      In the case of John William England’s DNA Circle, I am related to some members of the 5-member group calling themselves the “John William England Family Group” and these five members are shown to be DNA matched to virtually every other member of the DNA Circle, although I am only related to two other Circle members, an individual and some member of another family group consisting of 3 members. The DNA Circle membership totaling 20 consists of a total of eight (8) linked DNA matches. Of these 8 Circle members, there are 4 single person matches (including me) and 4 member groups (the 5 member group previously mentioned, two groups of 3 members each and a fourth group consisting of 6 members). My DNA matches only 4 of the 20 persons represented in this Circle.

Ancestry provides a bit of information compiled from other DNA Circle members’ trees:

      “When John William England was born on October 2, 1825, in Morgan, Tennessee, his father, Joseph, was 42 and his mother, Malinda, was 34. He married Sarah Wilson Gold on April 6, 1850, in Arkansas. They had 13 children in 21 years. He died on December 16, 1911, in Washington, Arkansas, having lived a long life of 86 years, and was buried there.”

      Until last month, I had no clue as to how John William England might be related. However, my research into Joshua Logan Younger revealed another researcher believes his mother was … Sarah ENGLAND (not KENNARD as has been accepted by most Younger researchers for decades). This researcher bases her belief on documentation that indicates Sarah Kennard was yet a minor when named in her father’s will at a time when Younger historians place her as the wife of John Younger father of Joshua Logan Younger. This certainly bears closer scrutiny. Although this researcher has a tree for her own England ancestors, she does not indicate this Sarah England Younger is related to that branch.

      Another possibility is the Elizabeth Bagshawe England who married into my Westcott family line. Elizabeth (b. 1604 d. 1684) married William England (b. 1612 d. 1683). She was also wed to one Hugh Parsons and their daughter Hannah Parsons married Henry Matteson and bore a son Thomas whose daughter Mary wed Thomas Joslyn after her first husband David Vaughan perished. The union with Thomas Joslyn produced William Joslin (b. 1701 d. 1771) known as William of Deerfield. This is our Joslin line. There are issues with the Matteson parentage in my tree so this line of inquiry will require extensive research.

      To further complicate matters, one should by all rights consider the shared surnames for the actual DNA matches to see if these lines actually provide a common link. In the England DNA Circle I match to 4 of the 20 named members. For purposes of protecting other persons’ privacy, I will not name the individuals. However, England Match 1 is an individual and the surnames we share in common are Davis and Gray, The Davis lines do not look promising as neither names nor locations match up. The Gray line is a possibility in that her Dorcas Gray (B: 1790 in Camden County, North Carolina and D: 1840 in Lincoln County, Missouri) while my Rebecca Jennie Gray (B. 1 Jan 1768 in Burke, Guilford County, North Carolina and D. 1851 in Clay Township, Wellington, Lafayette County, Missouri). Rebecca was my 4th Great Grandmother, married to Thomas Hopper, Sr.

      The other DNA matches in this Circle have so few profiles in their individual trees it would be pure speculation to attempt to locate a shared ancestor, collateral or direct.

      This fails to pursue the equally strong match to descendants of John William England’s wife Sarah Wilson Gold. Ancestry’s compiled biography for Sarah Wilson Gold is as follows:

      “When Sarah Wilson Gold was born on February 17, 1835, in Rutherford, North Carolina, her father, Sterling, was 41, and her mother, Cynthia, was 35. She married John William England and they had 13 children together. She also had two daughters from another relationship. She died on July 29, 1908, in Washington, Arkansas, at the age of 73, and was buried there.”

      For Sarah, there is a wealth of information compiled from 169 family trees that I shall peruse. One DNA Circle member’s tree shows our Shared Surnames to be as follows: Davenport, Harrison, Hill, Jones, Keller, Lewis, Lowe, Morgan and Russell. These will need to be checked for dates, locations and possible matches. One item I always love to find is a photograph, this one is of Sarah and her daughters although they are not named.

Sarah Wilson Gold England and Daughters

William S. Strawn (Straughn, Straughan) (1812-1870)
Ancestry’s bio for William Strawn:

      “When William S Strawn was born on January 12, 1812, in Giles, Tennessee, his father, Stephen, was 30 and his mother, Elizabeth, was 20. He was married three times and had six sons and three daughters. He died on January 31, 1870, in Lawrence, Missouri, at the age of 58, and was buried in Verona, Missouri.”

      In this case my DNA matches 7 of the 14 members in the Circle, 4 individuals and 3 members of a group. Examining the individual members produces some shared surnames but, thus far, no actual matches. However, one appears quite promising. My early scrutiny of William S. Strawn seems to indicate he is related as a descendant of a Browning on my maternal line. This individual’s tree and mine share these surnames: Browning, Bryant, Davenport, Davis, Evans, Lewis, Morgan, Sanders, Strother, Washburn, Wright. The Browning-Washburn connection is the probable match, although this particular individual has listed dates and locations of birth and death for his Nicholas Browning (m. Sarah Washburn) from those in my tree. I believe this may be reconciled by corresponding and comparing documentation.

      Another member’s tree reflects a relationship to Martin Davenport as does mine.

Lorenza Dow Funderburk (Von der Burg, Vonderburk, Von der Berg) (1855-1937)

      In this DNA Circle, my DNA matches 3 of the 10 members. This is reputedly an aristocratic German line, extending back to Adolf Lazarus Von der Berg, b. 1675 in Berg, Ahrweiler, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Adolf married the Princess Elizabeth Anna of Berg (b. 1680, d. 1722) whose father was Philip Weilhelm (b. 1654, Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany, d. 1690) and mother, the Duchess Elizabeth Amalie Magdalena (b. 1658, d. 6 Apr 1695). Although the tree is somewhat convoluted, these “facts” will need to be scrutinized carefully.

Philip Williams (1814-1888) and wife Eliza Moore (1821-1882)

      Here my DNA matches 5 of the 12 members of the Circle for both Philip and wife Eliza. Ancestry provides a compiled bio for each:

      “When Phillip Williams was born on April 6, 1814, in Bath, Kentucky, his father, Thomas, was 33 and his mother, Mary, was 27. He married Eliza Moore on March 16, 1837, in his hometown. They had 19 children in 24 years. He died on June 2, 1888, in his hometown at the age of 74.”

      “When Eliza Moore was born on December 9, 1821, in Bath, Kentucky, her father, Solomon, was 21, and her mother, Margaret, was 19. She married Phillip Williams and they had 19 children together. She also had one daughter from another relationship. She died on October 1, 1882, in her hometown at the age of 60.”

      With one of the DNA match members of these Circles, I share 29 other DNA matches. One is my sibling; however, most of the other 28 have attached their DNA tests to no family tree, thus providing no help in identifying the common thread. Very helpful tool even though, in this case, it did not help.

      The second match in this group shares the following surnames (but no matches) with me: Davis, Hill, Jones, Shippee, Wade, Wright, Young (maternal line), and Younger (paternal line).

      The third match seems to point to Lowe as the line that may connect us. Several of the Shared Matches where this person’s DNA and mine match to the same third parties, have Margaret Lowe (wife of our George Hempleman Alexander). This will be a good starting point for research of this potential ancestral line.

Future Research:

      This compilation of factoids should point the way for your author to delve into the backgrounds of these individuals and attempt to determine how we are related. It is always good to have a plan of action that helps to focus your efforts and pinpoint areas of research. It is always a fascinating trip!

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Reflections on the Day

December 16, 2017

      Tonight I release again. It has been two years since she passed. Happy to meet, sorry to part, Happy to meet again.
      In the ago time, I would have spent the last week designing an original card and agonizing over just the right words to scribe upon it. Words that would warm your heart, convey my love and offer my gratitude.
         But you are gone now.

      You raised six kids by yourself and they all turned out just fine. You beat cancer four times and paddled your ass off in a Dragon Boat. You volunteered your time for those going through chemo and the ‘Old Folks’ at the Senior Center.
         But you are gone now.

      You taught me, unconditional love. For every challenge I went through you were beside me and never judged. You taught me about serving others and I witnessed the many kindnesses you bestowed on others, never expecting anything in return.
         But you are gone now.

      We talked across the porch and you had a way of encouraging me to keep moving forward. When my art was rejected or writings declined you would always remind me that you have to receive a lot of no’s until you receive a yes. You always were over the top in your praise for my work.
         But you are gone now.

      You loved your Sunday Morning Preachers yet never forced your views on anyone. You had a very basic understanding of the Divine. We are all in God’s Hands and if it gets too much or you get overloaded just put it in ‘God’s Box’ and he will look after it.
         But you are gone now.

      The number of times I have gone to the back porch to ‘Hoy’ you and tell you about something I saw or heard that might interest you. The many times I have headed out in the car thinking, “Mom would have enjoyed this”. The numerous times ‘We’ cooked dinner.
         But you are gone now.

      There are so many things that I miss. The little things. Watching you act like a little child dressing up in costumes from your Tickle Trunk. Riding on the back of my Harley. Saying goodnight and I love you at the end of each day. I do miss you.
         But you are gone now.

      To my Elders; take care of this wonderful woman, make room for her about the fire, and listen well for she has much wisdom. Guide her further along her journey and know that she will always be a treasure to those left behind. Mother Earth, Father Sky, Grand Father Sun, and Grand Mother Moon I entrust my Mother to your care, I will hold you to your promises. Let the four directions protect and guard over her that she may travel with ease. Sleep well, dream deep dear Mother of mine.
         Humble bow David Bruce Clarkson

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Cooking with Rod


New Year Traditions – Cooking for Success

      Christmas is a recent memory and a New Year awaits. The New Year symbolizes a new start, new opportunities, new friends, maybe new family members and our hopes and desires for welcome joy, health, and prosperity. In that vein, folks have held to certain traditions through the years – maybe even through centuries. Traditional meals that are said to increase our luck as we focus our thoughts on what we would like to see bear fruit in the year to come.

      ‘Tis said our New Year’s meal should have a mix of foods to nourish our bellies while they nourish our thoughts. Back home in New Mexico, one dish that is traditional is Pork Posole. Most New Mexicans would not dare to welcome in a New Year without partaking of that dish. Now, my sweet wife and her family share a firm belief in the power of black-eyed peas. Many folks believe you should have a mix of foods that mirror wealth: peas or coin-shaped carrots to bring forth coinage, deep dark green for the long green bills, gold for (what else?) treasure, fertility-enhancing foods for the increased wealth of children, grandchildren or – if one is so blessed – great grandchildren. Thus, our table bears a mix of treats to meld these traditions. Typically a good pork dish, either a nice glazed ham or a well seasoned pork loin, devilled eggs for gold, a variety of black-eyed pea dishes to suit different tastes, fruits and cheeses, and ALWAYS a good pot of freshly made Posole. So this issue offers a few dishes to fulfill that menu. May the New Year bring you all the good things in life: love, joy, health, and prosperity.

      Bon appetit~!

New Mexico Pork Posole

      Those of you who follow my column may recognize this recipe, but it is well worth renewing it for this New Year’s 2018.

  • 2 lbs boneless pork loin or shoulder, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2-4 Tbsp vegetable oil (no olive oil for this recipe)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp chile powder
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cups chicken broth (or 32 oz carton)
  • 2 cans (29 oz) cooked hominy corn, drained
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 batch Salsa Roja (recipe below)
Toppings and Sides:
  • Finely chopped cabbage
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Thin red onion slices
  • Avocado slices
  • Lime wedges
  • Fried tortilla strips or tostadas
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Shredded cheddar or Mexican Mix cheese (Colby Jack, Monterey and Cheddar blend)
  • 2 dozen flour tortillas, warm
  • Sweet creamery butter
Season pork cubes with cumin and chile powder. Heat vegetable or canola oil over medium-high heat. (NOTE: I do not like to use olive oil for a Mexican soup because it imparts the wrong flavor.) Add seasoned pork and cook until browned on all sides, working in batches if needed to keep the pot from being too crowded. Keep heat on medium to prevent scorching but allow proper carmelization to begin. Watch carefully and turn often. Make sure all surfaces are browned.
Stir in water and chicken broth, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that might be clinging to the bottom of the pot. Add hominy corn and bay leaves.
Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce heat to low and let simmer, uncovered, until pork is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
Just before serving, stir in salsa Roja and simmer for 10-15 minutes to heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Once the Posole is ready, set out an array of small dishes with various toppings in the middle of the table. Serve the Posole piping hot in large bowls, and let everyone customize their bowls as they please.
Tradition calls for this to be served with warm flour tortillas and plenty of butter.
Salsa Roja
  • 1 (one) 14 oz. container frozen Bueno red chile concentrate
  • 2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (Mexican, if possible)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • Juice of 1 lime (or 1 Tbsp lime concentrate)
Set aside frozen Bueno concentrate and permit to begin defrosting.
Heat the oil in a small skillet set over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until onion is lightly golden, about 3-5 minutes. Add oregano and cumin, and continue cooking until spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the Bueno concentrate and onion mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Process until you have a smooth puree, adding lime juice as needed to create a smooth consistency.

Posole Rojo in Blue Bowl

* * * * *

Traditional Black-Eyed Peas

Family Recipe – M. Cohenour
      The tradition in the South of eating black-eyed peas is an old one, dating back to the Civil War and “Burnin’ Sherman’s” March to the Sea in late 1864. Gen. William T. Sherman began his Savannah Campaign 15 Nov 1864 at Atlanta, Georgia and ended 22 Dec 1864 at the port city of Savannah. Along the way Sherman’s troops slaughtered, raided, pillaged, and burned every inch of land. What they could not eat or loot or kill was set fire. When the bloody siege was finished, those Southerners who managed to survive emerged finding only their stores of black-eyed peas left to stave off starvation. The Yankee troops believed these legumes were the poorest form of livestock fodder and did not deign to even feed then to their horses. Thus, the lowly black-eyed pea became the symbol of Good Luck – the God-provided manna that preserved the lives of Southerners. 
  • 1 lb. bag dried black-eyed peas (or 2 15 oz. cans, undrained)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • Water sufficient to cover peas
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt (or Mrs. Dash for salt-free diets)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, de-string and slice fine
  • ¼ lb. ham, diced small (or good hambone to boil with peas and pick lean cooked ham to add back to dish after bone is removed)
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes diced
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, deseeded and minced (wear gloves or scrub hands afterward – do NOT touch eyes, nose or lips while preparing pepper)
  • ½ bunch cilantro (optional), strip leaves from stems and mince

      When using dried black-eyed peas, carefully pick through the peas to remove any debris or damaged peas. Rinse thoroughly, pouring peas through a colander and repeating the rinsing process until water runs clear. Add peas, onion, celery, and spices. Cover with water, put lid on pot and heat to boiling. As soon as the peas come to a rolling boil, lower heat and permit to simmer until crisp tender. Do not overcook. No one likes mushy peas. (If using canned peas, the process takes less time; however, the finished dish does not match up to the traditional dried method.)

      Add balance of ingredients now: ham, tomatoes, and jalapenos. Continue to simmer the pot of peas until jalapenos are tender. Add in cilantro a few minutes before serving or use as a garnish. Serve hot. Best served with fresh hot cornbread.

Traditional Black-eyed Peas

* * * * *

Texas Caviar (Black-eyed Pea Salsa)

M. Cohenour 2014
      This dish was originated by Helen Corbitt, the famous chef who made Neiman-Marcus’ Zodiac Room THE place to eat in Dallas. LBJ so loved her food styling he urged her to accompany him and Lady Bird to the White House but she declined. Stanley Marcus called her the “Balenciaga of Food.” My wife (who had the privilege of meeting Ms. Corbitt and has an early cookbook signed by her) has adapted the recipe with her own touches to achieve perfection – at least to my taste!
  • 4 cans black-eyed peas, well drained (or use freshly cooked or frozen)
  • 1 can (15 oz.) shoe peg corn, well drained
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, well drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch green onions, diced using both tops and bulbs
  • 1 med. Purple or sweet Vidalia onion, finely diced
  • 1 small bell pepper, red or green, finely diced
  • 1 large firm tomato, medium dice (or halve 1 pint cherry tomatoes)
  • 2 – 4 jalapenos, de-stemmed, deseeded and minced (wash hands thoroughly before touching eyes, nose or lips after processing the pepper)
  • 2 ripe avocados, cubed just before adding to retain freshness
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup corn oil (or olive oil)
  • 2 limes, zest first then reserve juice of both for dressing
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • In a large bowl combine well-drained black-eyed peas, corn, and black beans. Add most of the green onions (reserving a few of the tops for garnish), the finely diced onion and the bell pepper. Toss well.
  • Add diced tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes and jalapeno peppers. Toss well.
  • Prepare dressing: in separate small bowl combine all ingredients for dressing and whisk well.
  • Add dressing to the black-eyed pea mixture and toss well to coat all ingredients. Place in refrigerator for at least half an hour to permit blending of flavors.
  • Just before serving, carefully add in avocado and leaves of cilantro that have been minced. Toss very carefully to avoid mashing the avocado.
  • Put back in refrigerator for about 15 minutes or so to permit flavors to blend.
  • Serve with tostados, chips, or warm flour tortillas.
Texas Caviar with Avocado and Corn

* * * * *

Spicy Spinach Casserole
M. Cohenour 2014

      This dish brings forth the Green for that LONG GREEN we all wish to enhance our lives. My wife’s take on the dish prevents it from being boring. I love spinach, anyway, but was impressed with this new twist. Enjoy!
  • 2 packages frozen spinach, thawed, with all liquid squeezed out
  • 1 pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbsps milk
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced fine
  • 1 cup chunky salsa
  • 1 cup freshly prepared Pico de Gallo, reserve some for garnish
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese or Mexican blend, grated
  • Cilantro leaves, no stems, minced (for garnish)
  • Butter 8x11 casserole dish.
  • Place spinach in bowl, using two knives as necessary to chop into edible bite-sized portions. Add cream cheese after whisking with milk, spices, garlic and salsa. Toss well and put in casserole dish.
  • Add Pico de Gallo on top of spinach dish, reserving some for garnish.
  • Heat thoroughly in 350º oven for about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and add cheese to top of casserole.
  • Return to oven long enough to melt cheese.
  • Serve hot, garnishing with reserved Pico de Gallo and cilantro leaves, minced.

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The story below is about a woman that was born 106 years ago the same year my paternal Grandfather was born, unfortunately, my Grandfather passed away in 1982. 

Reading this article reminds me of the great stories my Grandfather told me about what the world was like in the bygone days of my Grandfather’s youth. 

It would also seem life was so much simpler during Ruth Fears childhood years as well. 

I would like to wish everyone a happy and joyous new year and many more to come.

* * * * * *

106-year-old Mabton woman recalls holidays from a different era

By Jane Gargas
Updated Dec 26, 2017

      There was no regular Christmas tree.
      Instead, they decorated a cedar branch with strips of tin foil. The stockings hanging along the wall weren’t red and velvety; they were worn every day by the children. Toys weren’t peeking out from those stockings, but each held a coveted orange inside. Flickering gas lamps, not electric ones, glowed through the house, while chicken and noodles simmered over a fire in the wood stove — Christmas in Kansas was a little different than Christmas in the Yakima Valley in 2017.
      But, then again, it was 1911.
      Ruth Fear of Mabton doesn’t remember anything about her first Christmas, but after all it was 106 years ago and she wasn’t quite three weeks old.
      “Santa brought me,” she jokes.
      But Ruth remembers so many other Christmases through the years, going back a century. She’s engaging and sharp, with an impish sense of humor, which has served her well during her 106 years.
      Ruth was one of 10 children born to Amos and Grace Neer in the town of La Fontaine in eastern Kansas.
      Their house wasn’t fancy, with three bedrooms, a kitchen, front room, and dining room. Like most homes at the time, there was no radio or telephone, let alone televisions or computers. A woodstove heated most of the house, but didn’t quite get to the bedrooms: “They were cold!” Ruth says emphatically.
      Christmas in the early 1900s was a hallowed and memorable time in Ruth’s home, filled with the sounds of children playing and wondrous smells coming from the kitchen. “Whatever Mama cooked, we thought she was the best because she was our Mama.”
      Since this was Kansas, there was always snow outside: “My Lord, there was lots of snow and cold.”
      But inside, there was great joy. Even though they couldn’t afford a Christmas tree, the cedar branch the boys hauled down from the hills was all they needed. The children cut strips of tin foil and covered the needles until they sparkled. “Us kids thought it was beautiful,” she recalls.
      On Christmas Eve, the children removed one of their socks and hung it by the stove. If they found an orange in it the next morning, they were thrilled. “That was really something,” Ruth says.
      One year Santa delighted Ruth with a china doll all her own. Stuffed with cotton, the delicate doll wore a dress made by her mother. Ruth still has the doll, although the name she gave her has long since faded into the past. She now wears a dress Ruth sewed for her. “I loved my doll.”

Ruth's China Doll

      Although Santa never left a lump of coal in her stocking — “I was a good girl” — one year an older brother filled her stocking with crumpled up newspaper. At the bottom, though, he left a penny, and that treat redeemed him.
      Times weren’t easy in Kansas in those days, Ruth points out: Money was scarce, winters were long and bitter and the family lost two sons, one to whooping cough and another to the Spanish flu, which devastated families around the world in 1918-19.
      Ruth is the last living member of her family. “They’re all gone but me.”
      But even during times when everyone was scraping by, there were plenty of happy experiences, too. Ruth particularly remembers how pleased she was to sing Christmas carols at school and in church. “I loved to sing.”
      During that time, she learned to play her mother’s organ, a purchase her grandparents made in the mid-1800s. Ruth’s older sister took lessons, then taught all her siblings how to play.
      Ruth still has that organ.
      As a young woman, Ruth was swept away by a young man named Wilson Fear. After they married, they moved to Oregon, near one of her brothers, to find work. Wilson did farm work and Ruth raised their two daughters.
      “It was a long way from home, and those were hard days,” she says, remembering how difficult it was to make a living during the Depression.
      She enjoys telling the story of a time when she bought gasoline for the car: She paid a dime and got a penny back. “Wasn’t I rich?” She laughs.
      Ruth and Wilson always managed to make Christmas a happy time for their girls. “We weren’t rich, but we had nice things and good times,” says daughter Roberta Neal.
      Roberta remembers well the Christmas her parents gave her a blackboard and chalk, just like the ones at school. Her father made it from a block of wood, which he painted. “My father said he only had 50 cents, and that’s what it cost to make.”
      In 1951, when Wilson obtained a job at Hanford, the Fear family moved to Zillah.
      They carried on Christmas traditions, some from Kansas, some new. Ruth baked Christmas cookies with her girls, but also became known for her rich chocolate cakes, made from scratch. Never in her life has she used a cake mix.

Ruth Fear, 106 years old

      Another “never” for Ruth has been pants. She has yet to put on a pair; she’s worn dresses every day of her life.
      But Ruth, whose first Christmas was in 1911, is on the cusp of entering a new era, a very digital one. That will happen when the entire family, all five generations, gathers on Christmas Eve, at the home of Ruth’s granddaughter Teri Trayan, where Ruth lives.
      Since Ruth loves music but can’t always hear it well, one of her gifts will be a device with Bluetooth technology that will amplify the songs and hymns she loves, which means she’ll be able to listen to them without missing a word.
      And with that, someone who started life at Christmas time just 11 years after the end of the 19th century will be propelled firmly into the 21st.

* * * * * *

    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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Consider This


The Chinese Cupboard

      The Chinese Cupboard was an enormous red metal box the size of a modern refrigerator and was fronted by two doors. Once opened, it revealed various sized wooden teak drawers, all having ornate brass pulls. There were teak shelves in there too, shiny and glowing, satin smooth. It stood upon a sturdy, shiny black stand and it became an item I would dearly love.

       It was owned by my 3rd set of grandparents, rather rigid and disagreeable people. They had rules no one had ever heard of, even Queen Victoria, and they expected them to be obeyed without question. Grandmother Rogers was of Scottish decent and, at least back then, it was no myth that Scots were frugal. For example, she saved every scrap of unconsumed food from people’s plates and would proudly make up a “casserole” or a “cake” from those fragments and demand they be eaten. Believe me, those creations tasted like they had been lying out on a road for an exceedingly long time.

      Grannie R. taught history in the NYC public schools. Back then, Mrs. Rogers was allowed to slap misbehaving kids with a ruler or anything she was holding, grab them by an ear and drag them to the principal’s office if they’d dared to misbehave in her classroom. This was permitted, and the students did not resist. They went along if they knew what was good for them, and at that point, nothing was. Back then, that sort of teacherly discipline was not abuse; it was considered proper procedure and would produce stellar adults.

      Grandmother Rogers was fierce. And lucky for her the principal was her husband, my step-grandfather Rogers, a one-eyed foul-tempered tyrant of the first order. That public school had zero discipline problems. Once a kid got shoved into Mr. Rogers’ office, one was not quite sure he or she would ever reappear. He showed no favoritism to me, and I certainly reciprocated.

      Going to visit those ogres with our parents was surely akin to an early form of child abuse. “Fun” was not in their lexicon but because it was pounded into us that it was “the proper thing to do,” so off we went to Rogers Hell. It would always be on a weekend or in the summer so as to not interfere with their school duties, and we dreaded going and often tried to fake lethal illnesses. Nothing worked. We had to go even though it certainly interfered with our weekends and summer days.

      One of dear old Grannie and Grampy’s R’s rules, and amongst their worst, was that everyone stayed at the dinner table until all were excused, and considering that older people really loved to sit and gossip and complain endlessly over cold coffee at the end of the meal, it was beyond hell for us kids. Those post-prandial confinements to our hard dinner chairs were gratuitous punishments no child should bear. Those wolverine step-grandparents would not release us no matter how sad, bored or uncomfortable we kids were. In fact, I was pretty sure they liked us to suffer.

      Ah, but I was saved. That huge red metal cabinet shoved into the corner of that claustrophobic dining-room prison was covered with intricately detailed Chinese paintings and stories. I would stare at it as those hours dragged, and I’d let my imagination move along with the things those ancient Chinese people were doing on the front of the Chinese Cupboard. They smiled and danced, they sold their products in the market place, kept birds and cats, traveled behind ox carts, they wore magnificently embroidered kimonos and the women’s feet were too tiny to discern. Adorable children with shiny black hair rolled down hills, laughed and played, and friendly wild animals gamboled joyfully in the background hills. Many women carried whisper-delicate parasols. Some of the men held shining snakes wrapped around their hands, many played games on boards. There were flowers and beautiful trees with singing birds displaying long colorful tail feathers in their branches, lengthy winding paths went toward simple, small homes. Pots of curious foods cooked and steamed on small fires and many of the Chinese people carried delicate musical instruments, harps and flutes. Grinning happy dragons with huge wings swept and tumbled through the clouds in the azure skies. Sweet, fat Chinese babies rolled and laughed in the grass.

      Chinese stories rose from the bottom of that Chinese Cupboard in swirls and wondrous colors. Mesmerized, I stared at them and began to actually hope the dinner would not end, at least for another hour. I no longer heard the din and drone of the grown-up’s tedious conversations. I was enchanted by that great red Chinese Cupboard. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen, and in memory, it remains thus.

      After those ornery grandparents with their unshatterable rules finally died, I wondered who would get the Cupboard and yes, I wished someone would give it to me, but alas, it went elsewhere. All I can do is hope it’s still standing proudly in some person’s home and stirring up a bored child’s imagination by showing the magical Chinese stories painted on the front of that mysterious, old Cupboard. I owe it much. How does one say thank you to a big red metal beautifully decorated Chinese Cupboard for saving me from the tortures of endless dining room table hours?

       谢 谢 That’s how!

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Book Love Lost

There was a time
When books were special to me.

Oh I still enjoy them well enough,
But now, when I have all the books

That I could ever want,
They no longer satisfy my needs.

I’ve lost something I once found so dear
I held them close like lovers.

I see them but no longer cherish them
Like I did when I was young,

Don’t caress their precious sides,
Inhale the perfume of their paper,

Fall asleep with one across my chest
Rising and falling with my breath.

Once I had to journey far to find them,
Ventured to the library downtown

Knowing I could only bring a few
Back to my room with me

And that for but a week or two.
Now I’m host to hundreds

Like an ink and paper harem
By my hearth. How could I think

My special love could last,
Think my special love could last?

©2017 John I. Blair, 11/25/2017

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Looking Back on The Year

Looking back on the year, as it ends
A new outlook on life, a new job, and new friends
Another brother left this world, in spirit he'll be
I'll cherish his life, and what he meant to me

 Capturing another year of every beautiful scene
Creatures, events, clouds, and everything in between
A love that found me, is deeper than most
An adventure on Skype, which I'll raise a toast

The struggle goes on for a dear friend of mine
She gets through each day, without crossing the line
My health took a downfall, but I got it under control
Fear was upon me, but courage made me whole

Another great year spent at the U.P. State Fair
A great friend, a great concert, a great time we could share
A jigsaw puzzle to work on for Michael and me
Pieces fit together, with friendship as the key

A new year begins, while one year ends
I thank God for his guidance, and for having so many friends
As I end this poem, with thoughts passing through
I will say these words, “Happy New Year To You”
©Dec 21, 2017 Bud Lemire
                        Author Note:
Each year of our life, is so very different from the one
before it. And each year that follows is so very unique.
Our lives change with each year. New friends, new
experiences, the unexpected, and so much more.

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Early December Night

As I look up at outlines on the sky
I see nothing left but berries
On the chinaberry tree next door.

The moon, so full a day ago,
Hides behind black clouds,
Leaving the yard dark.

It’s cold for Texas,
A freeze in the forecast,
Birds and squirrels tucked away.

Tomorrow I’ll be laying plans
For picking out the tender plants
And storing them for winter.

Tonight it’s me that’s seeking shelter,
Pursuing dreams of cozy nooks, good books,
Crackling fires reflected on the floor.

©2017 John I. Blair, 12/5/2017

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Sundog, a rainbow in the sky
Winter's beauty, seen to our eye
On the horizon, you just might see
Something magnificent, I'm sure you'll agree

 Parhelion is another word to use
Sundog is the word I'd choose
Who would have thought, on a Winter's day
That we'd see a rainbow, so special in every way

Two Sundogs make a halo, I bet that's a sight
I bet it shows up great, in the sun light
You don't often see it, but you never know
When a Sundog will most likely show

Sundog? I wonder if it could bark
High above, while I walk through the park
Take another picture, to show your friends
Because it'll disappear, because that is how time ends
Sundog, a rainbow in the sky
Winter's beauty, seen to our eye
©Dec 14, 2017 Bud Lemire
                        Author Note:
I saw a rainbow in the sky on one Winter's day.
I didn't realize it was called a sundog. I was
just happy to see it, no matter what season it was.
Beauty is one thing I look for in many things.

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I Bless The Sight

I bless the sight
Of bees, birds, squirrels
Bustling through their
Brief and busy lives

Without a thought of death
Among them,
Intent upon the day, the hour,
The moment they are in.

They’re a paradigm
Of mindfulness
With no breath wasted
Fretting for the future.

©2017 John I. Blair, 11/28/2017

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Daddy Don't Cry for Me

Daddy, Don't Cry for Me

©2017 Dayvid Clarkson

Dayvid's comment about the poem and pic: "Created and wrote this for a Friend who lost his beloved Daughter way too soon, (that is Samantha in the picture). Now I just have to get him to put the words to music."

Minstrel Dave Sterenchock's response: "It was a tragedy for my wife as well. Vesta and Sam had a wonderful friendship. It's been difficult for both of us."

Editor's Note: For larger view click here.

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Masked Face

Many nights this year
I’ve looked outside
And seen a masked face
Stare back from the yard.

She’s there again tonight,
Aware I’m watching,
Not asking who or what I am,
But focused on her task,

Ransacking feeders
I keep filled with seeds,
Fattening for winter cold,
Relying on my constancy.

I’m humbled by her faith,
Shamed to behavior
I might otherwise neglect
Through laziness or thrift.

Old wisdom says
It’s not the motivation
But the deed that matters.
So this is good;

Despite the mask
This girl is not a bandit;
She’s gifted me
A state of grace.

©2017 John I. Blair, 11/24/2017

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The Light from The Other Side

The Christmas lights were on, all along Ludington street
Candy canes hung on trees, residents wanted something sweet
It was very quiet, on this special holiday
The only people seen, was a man in a van that was gray
Inside the van, was a man who recently lost his wife
He had been considering, if he should take his life
He remembered life, the way it use to be
There were some things, he just couldn't see
Two Angels walked beside him, soon he would be aware
His life would have more meaning, somebody did care
A spirit of a woman, who had golden hair
Walking right beside him, but he was not aware
She held him tightly, and with a whisper in his ear
Said “You must go on enjoying life, it is precious here”
So caught up in his own sadness, he didn't hear what was said
The woman that he loved, was alive in spirit, not dead

Soon the light of love, would come shining through
As the golden haired spirit merged saying “I Love You”
All of a sudden he changed so quick
He felt her love, it had done the trick
“Baby, you must go on enjoying life, I'll always be around”
“I'll share in all the happiness, wherever you are found”
He felt her love, and words could be heard in his mind
He wondered, how he could have been so blind

“Baby, there are still some things that you need to do”
“Before the Journey you are on, is over and is through”
She put an image in his head
Of a woman with hair so red
She was holding a baby, with a smile on his face
“Baby this is your future, it will bring you to a wonderful place”
“I want you to be happy, until your journey is complete”
“Then when it is over, it will be our time to meet”
Along with all his fallen tears
He felt all his banished fears
It was going to be a better Christmas, than he would ever know
Because of the special message, from someone with a special soul
©Nov 29, 2017 Bud Lemire
                       Author Note:
I know at Christmas time, sadness can be felt for us who are missing
someone who is in Heaven. But know this, they join us in every occasion
and wouldn't miss the time to be with us. Even though we can't see them.
They are with us, and sharing their love with us.

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A Panda in My Parlor


(written by her request for my younger granddaughter,
who loves pandas)
Oh boy.

There is a panda in my parlor.
She does not choose to speak
(For pandas do not talk).

Instead she sits there staring,
Her eyes in spectacles,
Puzzling in her panda mind

What kind of beast am I,
No claws, no fur,
No joy for bamboo brunch;

Pondering perhaps
(With Christmas close at hand)
If I’d make an entertaining

Cuddly toy.

©2017 John I. Blair, 11/22/2017

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We are the Delta Area Transit Authority
We'll take you to where you want to be
Call us ahead, arrange the ride
Our staff, takes a lot of pride
We do our best, to get you there in time
Which means a lot, we have you in mind
786-1186, is the number to call
To bring you to Wal-Mart, Meijer, or the Mall

We'll take you to Gladstone, on the shuttle you'll go
We really don't like it, if you're a “No Show”
You may get our van, or maybe our bus
When seeking a ride, you can rely on us

Our goal is, to get you there
Our drivers, will drive you anywhere
Within Delta County, is where we abide
On The DATA, won't you come for a ride

We don't charge much, to get you anywhere
In fact, compared to others, it's a very low fare
We are the Delta Area Transit Authority
We'll take you to where you want to be
©Dec 14, 2017 Bud Lemire
                        Author Note:
I am very glad we have DATA in this area.
They have brought me many places, and
do a great job. The drivers are very
helpful, and will assist those in need.
The dispatchers are kind and polite
and listen. I recommend DATA to
anyone without a car, who needs to
be somewhere in Delta County.

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