Thursday, February 1, 2018

Editor's Corner


February 2018


"“Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the senses.” -– Lao Tzu
Love. February is that shortest month made special by centering itself with that time to celebrate Love, to celebrate being loved, to celebrate loves you know and have known: Valentines Day. Remember who you love, why, when, how, and realize that time of loving can never be diminished by whomever or whenever you love again. Use the good that came of it to enrich your memories and do not let anything that was not good cloud your memories. You loved and were loved. Cherish that. You can even use the good memories to help yourself recognize beloved choices in life now and in the future. Love.

Some of our authors addressed love in various forms and fashions, for instance, Bud Lemire's poem "Running Bird" relates the simple love of caring and nurturing is showered upon humans, animals, fish or fowl. His "Chop Suey" recalls the way his mother showed her love on his birthdays. Other poems by Bud this issue are "Jigsaw Puzzle," "Hummingbird Moth," "Michael," "Paper Fortune Teller," and "Copy & Paste." The last one is about something Bud doesn't love.

Bruce Clifford's two poems are "Secrets in The Mist" and "The Fighting," both addressing difficulties in maintaining a loving relationship. John I. Blair sent us poems filled with "Memories," which is the title for one of them. "Anniversary," "Coping," "Primal Scream," "The Strip Pits," and "The Twohee and The Mockingbird." The latter is obviously about birds but not as obviously about how we as humans can be found acting the same.

Dayvid Clarkson's talents include photography, and one of his recent photo's can be found with the pleasant, thoughtful content of his column "Reflections of the Day." Thomas F. O'Neill's column "Introspective" mentions how people, no matter where they live, tend to form their beliefs and fears from those same opinions being a part of their 'growing up' process, expressed by figures of authority they accepted as children.

Mattie Lennon's "Irish Eyes" updates us about the current 'mystery' in Ireland which is actually about incidents in the past. All's well that ends well, but this tragedy seems to be ongoing.

Armchair Genealogy by Melinda Cohenour, sister of your editor, is using her column to point out that one of the benefits of checking your family tree is finding out the genetic health factors that pre-knowledge may allow one to avoid. As an example she has a tribute to our mother who lived such an exciting and active life, but had Alzheimers in her later years. This is another example of love for this issue's theme: love of family.

Rod Cohenour in"Cooking With Rod," romantic that he is, offers the recipe that he wants his wife to fix to celebrate their anniversary on Valentine's Day.

LC Van Savage's column "Consider This," confesses to a personal failing, which she cannot bring herself to quit. Her article "Aunt Jeannette" enumerates the reasons love is not a big part of the tale.

See you in March !!!

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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

A Tribute to a Remarkable Woman,
my Mother Lena May Joslin Carroll

Born: 7 May 1918, Pineville, McDonald County, Missouri
Died: 03 March, 2010, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma

      In the month in which the day of my birth is celebrated, it is often that my thoughts turn to the woman who brought me into the world, my sweet and wonderful mother, Lena May Joslin Carroll. As this is a column devoted to genealogy, it seems fitting that mention should be made of the incredible advances made in both tracking our family histories but also in locating new members of our “cousin-ship” – that broad plane that comprises the largest number of leaves on each of our trees. For every parent, grandparent and great grandparent back into the mists of time that we list on our tree, there are siblings and their offspring down through the ages that carry the imprint of the familial DNA. Having submitted my DNA to Ancestry a year or so ago, my cousin-ship has grown into the thousands of living cousins who are identified through the matching process of their DNA to my DNA. Much can be learned, discerned, or confirmed by the branch of science that explores the mysteries of DNA, including a controversial subject: the genetic predisposition for inherited diseases. One of those most discussed today is the horrific thief known as Alzheimers.

      My precious mother, Lena May Carroll, was stricken with Alzheimers and her loss of memory was first noticed about 1999 or so. Prior to that, we thought she had experienced a series of strokes that would leave her a bit confused for a day or a few minutes or so. Gradually, over the next couple of years it became painfully apparent that more than that was taking place. I cannot begin to tell you how agonizing it was to have my best friend, my confidante, my adviser, my adored mother retreat from us in her mind. She often did not recognize me, saying, "You cannot be my daughter. Melinda is not fat!" She would remember things from many, many years before - a poem, a conversation, a person she did not remember as having died years before. She never, NEVER ceased to mourn the loss of my father, who passed away in 1996. That was the one constant throughout all her days. She would ask, however, "When is Jack supposed to get home?" and bring about painful remembrances for me - and a concern as to how I should respond. I always chose NOT to remind her and bring forth a new and fresh bit of agony for her.

      There were moments, sometimes a whole day, when she was completely lucid. Blessed moments when I would greedily grab time with her to share love and conversation, times when her sparkling wit and massive knowledge of things both everyday and normal and complex would make my heart sing. Love, alone, however, did not bring about full communication. Yes, I always, always, tried to show her love. She had always been the most dear person to me, memories of her sweet attention and loving way of making my most hurtful wounds stop hurting, make my happy moments even more blessedly happy with her to share - but those times were increasingly fewer and fewer between. I lost my mother many years before her death. So sorry for that. I would give anything for science to find the cure that no one else should ever have to suffer the pain of that horrible, slow, losing.

        In closing, and as a further tribute to her, I offer the text of Mother’s obituary as published by the Fort Worth Star Telegram, March 11, 2010. (In 1952, our Daddy wanted a portrait of Mother before she became a grandmother the first time. This is the portrait chosen for the obituary.)

Lena Carroll (1918 - 2010)

   Lena May Joslin Carroll passed away peacefully at an Oklahoma City, Okla., hospital, Wednesday, March 3, 2010.

   Funeral: 3 p.m. Saturday, March 13, at Bluebonnet Hills, where she will be interred beside her beloved husband. Visitation: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday.

   Lena May was born May 7, 1918, in Pineville, Mo., to James Arthur and Carrie Edith Bullard Joslin and lived an extraordinary life. She was a poet, rockhound and lapidarist, coin and stamp collector, Sunday school teacher, leader of a number of benevolent organizations, gardener, artist, sculptress and essayist. She served her country as a journeyman electrician in the shipyards of Oregon during World War II. She was a member of the First Baptist Church of Monahans, and later the First Baptist Church of Guthrie, Okla., and was a 50-year member of both the O.E.S. and S.O.O.B.

   She was preceded in death by her husband of 62 years, John Edward Carroll; her daughters, Noralee Edith Crowson and Jacquelyn Earlene MacGibbon; four grandchildren; a great-grandchild; and her brother, Jack Oakley Joslin.

   Survivors: Her brother, Rex Edward Joslin; sister, Linnie Jane Burks; daughters, Mary Elizabeth Adair and Melinda Ellen Cohenour; eight grandchildren; 22 great-grandchildren; 13 great-great-grandchildren; numerous nieces and nephews; and many beloved friends.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      No amount of narrative could possibly convey the many facets of my mother. She was a force to be reckoned with, both strong and tender, firm in her faith, giving and loving in her humanity, fascinated by knowledge and dedicated to learning, a brilliant mind and a compassionate and benevolent person who never seemed to tire of the pursuit of beauty in nature. Her memory brings forth tender regard from all her many descendants. Instead, your author offers some photographs that help to portray her personality.

      The month of February is most noted for Valentine’s Day, the usual commemoration of devoted love. MomMay and DaddyJack became engaged on Valentine’s Day in 1934 and were married 10 June of that year. Their love was an everlasting love, they shared 62 years of marriage before DaddyJack’s passing in July of 1996. Even though Mother lost memories of so many other people and events, she never lost the memory of her lifetime love. She was blessed in many ways by the effects of Alzheimers, for she was always cheerfully “…just expecting Daddy to come home any time now.”

      Lena May Joslin's engagement portrait - taken after becoming engaged Valentine's Day 1934 and before her marriage 10 June of that year.

      River Lady. A young and vibrant Lena May, a newlywed of 16, DaddyJack took her photo as she waded the waters of the Pecos River. Summer of 1934.

      Mom thru Van Window as she left with her two oldest daughters and their daughters for a trip to Canada in 2001.

      In 2006, Mother traveled with me to a job assignment in Sarasota, FL. Hurricane Wanda forced our evacuation from Sarasota to Orlando. Then Wanda became fickle and hit Orlando instead. This photo was taken on our return trip. Wanda's flood waters are evident in the background.

      On the weekend of 7 May 2007, Mother shared her birthday at our home in Phoenix, with her first-born, Mary who was born the morning after Mother was 17.

      An exuberant Mother amongst the bougainvillea and oleander in our backyard in Phoenix in 2008.

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Cooking with Rod


Chicken a la Russkie

      February – the month for LOVE. And this month is very special to me and my sweet wife, for we recited our vows on Valentine’s Day in 1989 before her father, a lay minister, before traveling to Dallas to re-tie the knot before our pastor, Steve Leatherwood. On that particular Valentine’s Day, snow lay on the ground in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and since my sweet second Mom and Dad were engaged on Valentine’s Day in 1934, it sort of fit to make it a tradition. And this Valentine’s Day, I hope to entice that wife of mine to prepare a dish she introduced me to years ago.

      The story goes, this dish grew out of a recipe that was popular way back in the ‘60’s and early ‘70’s – the Russian Glazed Chicken. As usual, my Miss Melinda adapted that recipe to suit her tastes and in so doing managed to come up with a really tasty twist on the original. She has prepared this dish with a few other adaptations through the years and those suggestions are included as well.

      As we go toward this day of celebration of LOVE, and détente, it’s important to note that even though many things tend to divide or discourage folks, one of the two things that we all can agree upon and enjoy with one another are music and – of course – FOOD!

  Bon appetit!~

Chicken a la Russkie

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Ground pepper
  • 2 bottles Kraft Russian dressing
  • 1 Packet Onion Soup mix
  • 1 sweet yellow or white onion, sliced thick
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. corn or vegetable or olive oil
    1. Preheat oven to 350º.
    2. In small bowl, add hot water to packet of onion soup mix and whisk together. Let this begin to reconstitute as you prepare the chicken.
    3. In a skillet, heat cooking oil to sizzling. Wash and rinse chicken pieces, sprinkle with ground pepper and brown quickly on all sides in hot oil. Remove to plate with paper towels to drain off excess oil.
    4. Place chicken breasts in deep ovenproof casserole dish or stainless steel pot.
    5. Cover each chicken breast with thick slices of onion.
    6. Top the onion with drained and rinsed water chestnuts.
    7. In bowl with soup mix, add bottles of Russian dressing. Rinse each bottle with a small amount of water and add that as well.
    8. Top chicken breasts with the soup and dressing mixture.
    9. Bake, covered, for about 1-1/2 hours. At one hour mark, check to make sure chicken breasts are fully cooked (this may vary depending upon the thickness of the pieces). Increase cooking time by 15 minutes. Don’t let the dish get too dry.
    10. Plate chicken pieces over rice or noodles.
    11. Stir the onions, water chestnuts and pan juices to even out the mixture, then top chicken with the delicious sauce.
Excellent served with a crisp salad, a nice green vegetable and hot bread.

For the classic Russian Chicken: Only 1 bottle Russian dressing, 1 jar apricot jam, 1 package Onion soup mix and ½ cup water. Stir together, then pour over chicken pieces and bake – 350 for 1.5 to 2 hours. (Original recipe did not call for the chicken to be browned first.)

For Hawaiian Russian Chicken: Add pineapple chunks or rings to the recipe. If you wish, you can also add red, yellow and/or green Bell Pepper pieces. Make sure the peppers are submerged in the sauce to ensure they cook tender. Use the 2 bottles dressing and extra water to ensure you have plenty of sauce for your presentation.

For Holiday Russian Cranberry Chicken: Mix the Russian Dressing with cranberry sauce, toss in reconstituted dried craisins (dried cranberries). To this, if you wish to make it very festive, toss in pecan pieces.

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Reflections on the Day


      January 29 at 10:00pm: Reflecting this eve on a dream I had last night. I was following a myriad of forest trails looking for a destination that I could not find. I kept finding the next signpost but not the destination. It slowly dawned on me. The fact I knew which direction to follow was in and of itself wondrous.

      Mayhaps, like this journey, we do not know or fully understand the destination, but we do know the way.

      It is time we were content with the paths that we follow fully trusting we are on the right road. The old cliché came to mind; It is not the destination but the journey. Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow, Dayvid.

      Another evening of reflection: I live on a lake directly across from an airport, not close enough for the sound to be disturbing, but present when the few planes fly over. I enjoy watching the jets ascend into the sky against the evergreen covered mountains then head east.

      This evening at dusk, in a crisp clear sky, what I thought was another plane, was a formation of white Trumpeter Swans mimicking the jet’s silhouette. I was amazed. How my perception was so easily altered and how an enjoyable and favored moment was suddenly transformed into an amazing ‘aha’ moment.

      There are times when our journeys are difficult, sometimes these challenges seem insurmountable. Yet if we stay the course these wonderful ‘aha’ moments will soothe the soul, renew our hope, and give us the strength to continue on.

      Regardless of the burdens you carry lay them down this eve and rest. Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow, Dayvid

      A tidal pool at Roberts Memorial Park in Cedar BC. As above, so below. I have caught the moon during the day but rarely a full moon or almost full moon... (See Photo Below)

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Consider This


The Untouchables

         I did the unthinkable this past weekend, a thing I would not tolerate anyone else’s doing, even though I did (and do) it too.
         The thing I did (and I shamefully confess I’ve done before,) was to touch something that had a very clear, very prominent “Do Not Touch” sign on it. As a matter of fact, those same signs were all over the place. As a matter of fact, I didn’t care.
         Mongo and I (he’s truly innocent in all of this and, by the way, knows nothing of my flawed character---at least this flaw, although I’m pretty sure he’s reading this-- uh oh--) anyway, we went on a mini vacation this past weekend. On our way we stopped to visit a museum with an enormous collection of very old motor vehicles and planes, and it was there I again broke the rules.
         But before I broke them I looked carefully around to make sure no one was about, and to my relief, no one was. It was then put my hand out and touched the handle of a magnificent old car, an elegant Rolls Royce built in the early 1900s. And if I were to be truly honest, I guess it could be said I didn’t actually touch, I grasped. I wanted to touch a car that had been touched by maybe Jay Gatsby. (Yes of course, I know he was fictional, but not to me.) Or touched by perhaps Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Or any one of their crowd. I wanted to touch the handle of that remarkable machine so I could connect with all those dead folks who’d ridden in it, who’d had incredible lives, who’d lived through great, glorious swaths of American history, who’d lived a life I never could, but often wished in my fantasies, I had.
         I shouldn’t have touched that car. Sorry, but I’m not sorry. Because I touched the handle of that remarkable antique automobile, I know I touched a tangible piece of history, a thing “they” had touched. Now happily, “they” are part of me, and I of they.
         And there’s more. I once reached out and touched a ragged, collapsing one-horse buggy in a museum’s attic I’d been told Abraham Lincoln had ridden in, and I wondered if some of the atoms of this great man could still be clinging to it and would they now be intermixed with mine, and I decided the answer was yes. I once touched a painting by Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell, and hoped some of their artistic atoms were quickly stirred into mine and again, decided the answer was yes. I’ve put my hand on the sides of buildings built hundreds of years ago, knowing people who built them had touched them there also, and therefore were now connected forever with me. I touched a chair in which the great Thomas Jefferson had sat, a blanket George Washington had allegedly slept under, a table at which Benjamin Franklin had worked, and while I am not proud of these improprieties, when the temptation presented itself, I could not resist. If there is a twelve-step program for Touchers-of-the-Forbidden-Anonymous, (TOTFA) I will not join, so don’t suggest it. After all, I can quit whenever I want to. Oh yes, I can.
         I also have touch goals, too. I dearly want to touch a sphinx and the Great Wall of China and the piano Ira Gerschwinn played on and the wooden staff Margaret Mead walked with in the Museum of Natural History in New York City, and a covered wagon in which a pioneer family had traveled, and the sill of the window from which Ann Frank looked up at the stars and dreamed of a better world. I want to touch a tree that was a seedling around the time of Jesus’ birth. So many things to touch, so little time.
         I once touched the side of a very old stagecoach and felt bonded with the people who’d built or ridden in it, people traveling in the old west, who had dreams about young, wild America and how they’d fit into it or it to them. I’ve put my palm on the impossibly enormous legbone of a dinasaur and felt weirdly connected to her, too, and once I touched a necklace that had graced the neck of Marie Antoinette. Yes. It is beyond bad that I do this and truly I am ashamed. (Well, perhaps not altogether truly. Well, perhaps not altogether ashamed.)
         I had the great honor of meeting and interviewing a very, very old Senator Margaret Chase Smith just before she died, and got to shake her frail hand twice. And when I did that I knew I’d connected with more of this world’s movers and shakers than I could ever possibly know. Gandhi. FDR. JFK. Truman. Queens. Kings. Picasso. The peacemakers and warmakers. The world’s leaders and losers. Those who built the world and those who sought to destroy it. Inventors. Creators. Everyone famous in the world’s politics. In show business. Science. Literature. The arts. In space programs. Everyone everywhere. Imagine—Senator Smith’s touch connected me to the greats and famous of this world. I’m not at all sure she would agree with this fantasy of mine, but that’s my story, and you know how that cliché goes. So you see in my skewed world, some touching is good. For me, I mean. I know I should not do this, and I’m really trying to quit, but I am an incurable, hopeless addict. Pray for me.
          “What if everyone did what you did?” I’m scolded. “Who entitled you? How dare you? How utterly reprehensible! If everyone did this, pretty soon those things would vanish because you take away a microscopic piece when you touch them, to say nothing of the oils from your skin getting into those precious items, things that belong to the world, and not just to you, you self-centered @#$@%&! You have some nerve. What gall! I shall never speak to you again!”
          I know, I agree, and I seriously deserve this vituperation, this ostracization. I am a hopeless touchaholic and I know of no cure. I’m certain one day I shall be punished. There is quite likely a special place in hell for people like me where we are chained to the floor, surrounded by mountains of priceless, historic items with Do Not Touch signs hanging everywhere. And each time we reach to touch the objects of our desires, they move just a few inches out of reach, while a huge, prehistoric eagle tears at our livers.

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Irish Eyes


The Kerry Babies

“Murder cannot be hid long.” (Shakespeare.)

    Contrary to what the Bard said some murders can be hidden for decades. A murder investigation has been mounted last month into a killing which took place 34 years ago.

    Chief Superintendent Walter O ‘Sullivan says they are investigating the death, “. . . as if it happened today.”

    On Saturday 14th April 1984 a dead baby with 28 stab wounds and a broken neck was found on the beach of White Strand, County Kerry. A murder hunt got under way led by Superintendent J. P. Sullivan. On Thursday 26th April Detective Sergeant Gerry O ‘Carroll of the then “Murder Squad” arrived from Dublin.

     Almost every female of child-bearing age in the Cahersiveen area was treated as a suspect.

    Then it was established that Joanne Hayes from Drumcunning Lower, Abbeydorney, almost 40 miles away, had given birth but there was no baby as a result. Detective Superintended John Courtney and Detective P.J. Browne, both from the Murder Squad, (known as “The Heavy Gang” in Dublin), arrived in Kerry on 29th April. All three Murder Squad Gardaí were Kerry men. Courtney was from Anascaul, the native place of explorer Tom Crean and O ‘Carroll and Brown were both natives of Listowel; a market town in north Kerry famous for fiction-writers. Joanne Hayes along with three members of her family were taken to Tralee Garda station where Joanne Signed a confession that she had killed the “Cahirsiveen baby” and her family signed statements that they had witnessed the killing and driven 40 miles to dispose of the body. (Journalist Joe Joyce says, “The statements had the kind of flourish well known to those of us familiar at the time with confessions in Garda stations . . .”) The Hayes family could not have committed the crimes that they allegedly confessed to.

     Joanne had told the detectives that she did have a baby, that it died at birth and she had buried it on the family farm. She gave an exact location of where she put it. More than once she offered to accompany detectives to the scene. Was her offer(s) accepted? No. The Gardaí conducted a half-assed search and, of course, found nothing. Members of her family located the baby’s body exactly where she had said it was. Blood tests proved that she was not the mother of the “Caherciveen baby” but the Gardaí proceeded to charge her with the murder. (I can’t find any evidence that a file had been sent to the DPP.) When the case came to court the state announced that it was not proceeding.

    When it was established that Joanne Hayes was telling the truth about the death of her baby and the disposal of its body the Gardaí had to take a different track. They put forward the superfecundation theory whereby Joanne could have had twins be two different fathers.

     A subsequent internal garda enquiry failed and a public tribunal of enquiry, chaired by Mr. Justice Kevin Lynch, started in January 1985. It lasted 84 days, 109 witnesses were called and 61,000 questions were asked (One lawyer asked Joanne 2,216 personal questions). Ostensibly the tribunal was an examination of Garda behaviour during the interrogation of the Hayes family but turned out to be a concerted effort to humiliate, embarrass and devastate Joanne Hayes and her family. Professor Brendan Kennelly described it at the time as being like, “A medieval witch hunt.” Kerry’s Eye editor Ger Colleran says, “Everyone knew Joanne was innocent but if that was proved then a lot of very powerful and important people would be shown to have misbehaved badly. The system would have been rocked, and careers ruined. So there was only one option – to destroy her.”

    When the decent people of north Kerry, and further afield, decided to stage a peaceful protest Justice Lynch threatened to jail them if they disrupted the tribunal. The learned Dublin-born judge described them as “raucous, ignorant, urban dwellers” and Detective P.J. Browne knocked great fun out of describing Abbeydorney as “Babby-dorney.”

     In his report Justice Lynch accused the Hayes family of “barefaced lies and blatant perjury” but the Gardaí only “gilded the lily” and Detective Superintendent John Courtney simply, “elevated wishful thinking to the status of fact.” Justice Minister, Michael Noonan agreed with Justice Lynch’s report and likened his powers of deduction to those of Sherlock Holmes. However not all politicians felt that Justice Lynch had anything in common with the sleuth of Baker Street. Senator Mary Robinson who was to become President Of Ireland and later United Nations High Commissioner, asked how the Hayes family came to give signed confessions to the murder of a baby which, “ . . .for scientific reasons among others, they were not in a position to have carried out or to have any part in.” The Dáil committee on women’s rights described the questioning of Joanne as “insensitive, harrowing, horrific and shameful”.

    Kevin Lynch worked hard to protect the establishment and he was well rewarded for it. He became a Judge of the Supreme Court in 1996.

     Gerry O ‘Carroll, who was later promoted to Inspector, spent years calling for a DNA test which he claimed would prove that Joanne Hayes had twins. He knows now. In late 2017 a DNA test proved beyond all doubt that Joanne Hayes was not the mother of the “Cahersiveen baby.” And there is no match between the baby and anyone Whose DNA is held on the State’s DNA database.

     On January 16th Superintendent Flor Murphy offered a public apology on behalf of the Garda Siochana, to Joanne Hayes for the “stress and pain” she suffered as a result of being wrongly accused of killing the “Caversiveen baby.” He said, “I believed it was important to exonerate Joanne Hayes once and for all. A wrong had been visited on her and saying sorry was the right thing to do.” And Acting Garda Commissioner Donal O Cualain sent a letter of apology followed by a phone call to Joanne Hayes.

    On the same day Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wanted to, ". . . reiterate the apology the Gardaí made to Joanne Hayes and also to make that apology on behalf of the State as well". He went on to say that Ms Hayes was, "Very badly treated by our State and by our society.” Mr Varadkar said: "I can't offer compensation here now but it's something that I think we can discuss with her representatives in the period ahead."

     In recent days there have been numerous requests on social media to have Joanne Hayes’s book, My Story re-published. It was first published by Brandon Books in 1985. O'Brien Press has acquired the Brandon name and the rights for selected titles from its catalogue in 2012. The MD of O’ Brien press told me that Joanne Hayes' My Story was not one of these titles.

    The Garda’s serious crime review team (SCRT) have now launched a murder inquiry into the “Caherciveen baby’s” death and Superintendent Murphy has asked for the public’s help.

* * * * *

     When I was writing the above a paragraph in Ireland’s Own jumped out at me. I don’t think the author was thinking of the Kerry Babies when he wrote it but I believe it’s worth including, “A time comes when the damage done to us has to be acknowledged and realised. Who knows what surprises may come our way when we clear out the space for them. The arrival of February is an especially apt time to take stock in this way, the best kind of spring cleaning.”
See Picture Below (courtesy of Irish Examiner.)

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On Trek

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”-- Maya Angelou

      We all have stories, some might seem more exciting than others, but stories that are truthful and genuine carry their own special essence.

      I was privy to watch my youngest granddaughter's every move. I was walking with her, on the farm, and I devoted my time to experience her discoveries as we walked. She was two or three at the time. The sun was bright , the sky was blue, leaves were falling.

      She had her little hand in mine as we walked and chatted, then she decided to stop. She saw a little piece of a twig she liked. Her hand slipped out of mine as she bent down to examine this treasure.

      She picked up a few, discarded a few, until finally she found the perfect one to hold onto, to feel, to become one with. She caressed it, like it was an exquisite jewel. She put her hand back in mine once again, and we continued our trek.

      Pebbles all around us. She was in heaven once again. Her smile,contentment, and joy made time stand still for me. I was mesmerized.

      To catch the thrill of discovery via a child is an experience in itself. It is beauty in the moment, that captures purity at it's best. What an honor it was.

      Judith 2018


A smile comes from deep within
an act of kindness, love thru a tear
radiates from the soul
from what I hear.

The soul is you,
your spirit self
it motivates goodness,
healing and truth.

The beauty rises from within
surpassing the skin
your beauty shines so bright and clear,
it continues flowing immortally

It melds with the universe
for an eternity, benefiting ,
uplifting, nourishing ~
©January 2018 Judith Kroll

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Every semester I do a lesson on some silly things that many Americans believe in. But at the same time many people here in China believe in similar things - that seem to defy reality.
Here are a few examples:

Noah’s Ark
Upwards of 60% of Americans believe in the story of Noah’s Ark, word by word. Meaning that more than half of the people in the U.S. believes that a guy built an ark, put all of the world’s animals in it.
He then told the animals not to kill each other, fed them during the flood, and then put each animal in the specific climate in which they would prosper.

I grew up hearing stories about Bigfoot and many stories appeared on TV over the years as well. Bigfoot stories of sightings vary on some details though and on the type of "evidence." In 2008, two Georgia men claimed they had a body, and photos of the body. They also claimed to have DNA evidence of a Bigfoot.
A few days later, evidence surfaced that the DNA was that of an opossum and the body was really a frozen gorilla suit.

Many of my relatives are big believers in ghosts and they enjoy telling the ghost stories they heard growing up. However, your mommy and daddy might have told you there are no such things as ghosts.
But nearly half of Americans thinks otherwise.
The idea of ghosts as hopeful evidence of life after death goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, where it was commonly believed that death was merely a transition to some mysterious netherworld of another existence.

Aliens visiting Earth
I tell my students that most likely there are aliens on other planets due to the sheer vastness of our Universe. But I also believe that earth would be to far for them to travel too. And, on a sadder note if those aliens ever made it to the US Trump would have them deported.
With each passing year, the frequency of UFO sightings seems to keep increasing, as does the number of movies, television shows and video games featuring aliens.
In America, 77 percent of people "believe there are signs that aliens have visited Earth” even when science can prove otherwise.

Most people in America believe that mermaids are [not real] because they have never seen one.
On the other hand, there are people in America who do believe in Mermaids. They argue that most people have not seen giant squids but recently a giant squid was discovered and even filmed.
There have been reports going back for thousands of years of people seeing mermaids. I for one do not believe in Mermaids but if they do exist I would love to see one.

Fear of black cats
Many fears stem from the same human trait that causes us to believe in monsters and ghosts: When our brains can't explain something, we make stuff up. The same goes for the fear of black cats especially during Halloween.
I discovered that here in China the Chinese also have a fear of black cats but for many different reasons than the fear that Americans have of them. Cats have been a companion animal for humans for thousands of years, and they played all sorts of roles for us humans. In ancient Egypt, cats were loved; today, Americans collectively keep more than 81 million cats as pets.
So why keep a black cat out of your path? Most likely, this fear arises from old beliefs in witches and their animal familiars, which were often said to take the form of domestic animals like cats.

Find a penny, pick it up …
Find a penny, pick it up --- and all day long, you'll have good luck. This little ditty may arise because finding money is lucky in and of itself. But it might also be a spin-off of another old rhyme, "See a pin, pick it up -- and all day long you'll have good luck -- see a pin, let it lay -- and your luck will pass away."

The fear of breaking a mirror...
The Chinese like many Americans believe that if you break a mirror you will have seven years of bad luck. I once saw a man cry over a broken mirror which seemed odd and strange to me at the time. But when you travel as much as I have over the years you come across many strange beliefs. Not walking under a ladder comes to mind and not stepping on a crack in a sidewalk is also something many Americans fear.

Superstitious fears seem to be part of the human psyche but it doesn’t necessarily have to rule our way of life. The more we examine our own beliefs and superstitions the more aware we become of our culture and the cultural beliefs of others. It becomes a learning experience and these silly beliefs can also become great topics for discussion especially in my classes here in China.
    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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Primal Scream

When I was young
I was the second son, the smallest,
And found the only way
To handle fear, frustration, hurt
Was by screaming.

I got quite good at that,
Perhaps the loudest screamer
For blocks around;
And though I wasn’t proud
I didn’t give it up

Until I reached my teens
And my boy soprano voice
Transformed to baritone
And took a lot of time
In getting there.

The screaming had to stop;
And for sixty-seven years
I’ve coped with life
In less objectionable ways,
Eschewing decibels.

But now I’m old. Sweet reason
Starts to fail me when
My body falls apart
And each day becomes a trial
That tests my tolerance for pain.

I have begun to wonder
If my childish urge to scream
Was not the answer after all.

©2018 John I. Blair, 1/23/2018

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Jigsaw Puzzle

I'm looking for that one piece, it could be anywhere
I find a different one, that goes over there
I start with the border, and work the others into place
When I'm working alone, I goes at a very slow pace
As I get more into it, it starts picking up speed
I sort through the colored pieces, that will give me a good lead
A thousand piece puzzle, is a good one for me
It's a great challenge, and now and then I have company

I like a beautiful scene, with lots of details throughout
To me, that's what doing a jigsaw, is all about
To sit down, and have a peace of mind
As I look for that one piece, I hope I'll find

Sometimes you pick a piece, never knowing where it will go
Looking over the puzzle and the box, “Oh, now I know”
I hate it when there's pieces missing
But it's part of life, and I won't be hissing

Give me a jigsaw, one piece at a time
Passing it by, would be such a crime
Interlocking, is truly the best kind
Yet, some border pieces, are too hard to find
A jigsaw puzzle, is perfect for me
To relax, and enjoy, quite naturally
©Jan 10, 2018 Bud Lemire
                       Author Note:
During the Winter months, when I'm not
outside as much due to the cold weather.
I am working on a jigsaw, trying to piece
together the bigger picture. It is a challenge.
But with patience, and time, all will fall into place.
Sounds a bit like life, doesn't it?

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Although you’re gone
Memories remain
Everywhere you’ve been,

Cling to everything you’ve touched,
Reverberate in every mind
You interacted with.

So long as friends
Exist alive
Who knew you

We’ll keep you vivid,
Sharing your memory
With those who follow.

Ashes in a brass box
Are not you.

Your essence resides
In us alone.

©2018 John I. Blair, 1/23/2018

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The Hummingbird Moth

Right before my eyes, what did I see
It wasn't a Hummingbird, in front of me
I looked again, what could it be
It was a Hummingbird Moth, flying by me
It had a long tongue, tasting the nectar of each flower
I must have watched it, for over an hour
“What an amazing creature,” came to my mind
As I watched its long tongue, start to unwind

Curled up in flight, released in the next flower
As I kept watching, too fast went the hour
I took pictures, from every angle I could
So I could share them with others, as only I would

That long tongue, reminded me of a long straw
In my mind's eye, that is what I saw
It must come in handy, to have a tongue like that
But you'd have to watch your diet, so you wouldn't get fat

I gazed at the Hummingbird Moth, and inside my mind
“It seems in each day, there is so much we can find”
I felt drawn in to the moment, as I watched it fly
So many beautiful creatures, we can see with our eye
©Jan 04, 2018 Bud Lemire
                       Author Note:
I've only seen the Hummingbird Moth twice so far. But I
took many pictures each time. It was amazing to watch
and not scare it away as it went about its search for the
flower with the nectar that would satisfy its appetite.

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One way I cope
At getting through the day
Is having projects to anticipate.

Even if they’re trivial
Like topping off the gas tank
Or shopping for some food,

They gift me goals, reasons
To move onward
Instead of sitting here in darkness.

Giving up on groceries
Is giving up on hope, on love;
I’m not ready yet for that.

So I make a list,
Find a date, a time,
And set a course for market,

Confessing to myself
That lifting up a plastic sack or two
Is a modest kind of heroism.

©2018, John I. Blair, 1/15/2018

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Copy & Paste

Why should I copy and paste
To me, it's such a waste
It might be the latest trend
But it's not time I would spend
Use original words, and speak from the heart
Don't dribble off others, it smells like a fart
Nobody should have to copy and paste, it's a matter of will
These repetitious words, are like a bad tasting pill

I believe in the words, not the way that its done
These childish acts, are not for everyone
Drop the copy and paste part, write something new
Use your mind and heart, and that will do

Why does everyone feel, that if it says copy and paste
Then on their page, the same words must be placed
If someone jumped off a cliff, would you do that too
People will respect you, for being a original you

So do it right, by using your head
Don't act too quickly, go where you're lead
Exclude the words “Copy & Paste”
Then your words will be better embraced
©Jan 08, 2018 Bud Lemire
                       Author Note:
This is for all the people who have words on their
page, which end in a Copy & Paste this to your
wall. It's a Pet Peeve of mine. I prefer originality.
I prefer leaving the Copy & Paste to your Wall off.
If people like something enough, they will do that.
Next week, we'll talk about why “I need a hug, I
wonder if anyone reading this will give me a hug”
bothers me so much too.

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The Towhee and The Mockingbird

The towhee and the mockingbird
Are not inclined to share
The same expanse of rail

On my backyard deck.
First one and then the other
Gives an attack, a dare,

Evidenced by flapping wings
And pecking beak. I don’t know
Which one triumphed

If either did. The point
I think is inability
Of some to see

How easy it could be
To occupy this spacious world
If each would recognize
The others’ right to live.

©2017 John I. Blair, 12/16/2017

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I met him here at the Harbor Tower one day
After chatting with him, I knew he was okay
At the time he had a bicycle, that he would ride
It was a blue one, and I'd see him ride it outside
I'd always joke around with him, that was me
He even took time to show me his family tree
Raised in the Keweenaw Peninsula, he's been everywhere
He has a long gray beard, and a head of gray hair

I saw him working, on a jigsaw puzzle in the lobby
I thought to myself, he's picked up a wonderful hobby
I'd visit with him, and soon I was involved
We'd take turns throughout the day, until it was solved

When he got a vehicle, he'd ask if I wanted to go Wal-Mart
We'd end up there, or Meijer, and I'd have a cart
We went looking at Christmas Lights one night
I took pictures, and they were quite a sight

“Well Buddy Boy, it's time for me to move away”
“But if I'm coming down here, I'll call you that day”
“I might even send a jigsaw puzzle to you”
“If I see a good one, you'll know what to do”

Some people said he was a drifter
I always thought of him, as an uplifter
He was a friend to many, who are living here
A good man, to me he is a friend who is dear
©Jan 07, 2018 Bud Lemire
                       Author Note:
This is for a friend, Michael Kezele. Who became
my friend while he lived here at Harbor Tower.
Now he's moved on to Iron Mountain. But I don't
think I've seen the last of that man, and his smiling
face. But I'm sure he's making friends wherever he

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Two strangers, each one
Pausing in the other’s life
For fifty years,

Each one
Scarcely knowing
Who the other was;

But I’m confident
We were the experts
On the topic

In this world of strangers.

©2017, John I. Blair, 12/18/2017

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Running Bird

Her name was Running Bird, she couldn't fly
Rescued and given care, she would always try
A Gold Finch at birth, with all of her might
In this life, she put up a good fight
Then came a loud sound , she ran up a tree
Without her flight, it was the only way to flee
A woman at the window, watches with a smile
Not leaving her place, she's there for quite awhile

“I left my nest, so very long ago”
“She took me in, her caring I know”
“I wonder if the other birds knew”
“My courage came, all because of you”

“You gave me hope, despite my lack of flight”
“That in each day, I'd have your guiding light”
“I know, you'll be watching out for me”
“Your home is my comfort, when I think of thee”

Then Running Bird, ran up the tree high
The woman watched, as she began to fly
She flew by the window, but not for a final goodbye
“When I'm this way again, I'll stop in to say hi”
©Jan 18, 2018 Bud Lemire
                       Author Note:
This is dedicated to a special woman who has a wonderful
heart filled with love for the creatures of this world. She
loves me, and I love her. I am as blessed as “Running Bird”
to have this woman's love. People, caring for the other
creatures in this world, is a good way to show your appreciation
for those we share this world with. Every thing here on this
planet is precious. Thank you Vicki!

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The Strip Pits

Even as a five-year-old
I knew this was wrong –
Miles and miles of countryside
Ripped apart for coal
That lay too shallow
For tunnels to be practical.

But how practical was this?
Coal gone, sterile waste
Piled in endless mounds
Contaminated water festering
In brackish ponds.

Here and there a fragment
Could be seen of what was lost:
Sunny meadows, hayfields
Where the seam ran thin.

Greed had painted
Its rapaciousness
With the effigy of need
Just long enough
To make a carcass
Of the living land.

Since those days
Time’s slow love
Has healed some;
More is screened
With trees, vines.

What doesn’t show
Is the degree
To which we’re taught
By history.

©2018 John I. Blair, 1/25/2018

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Paper Fortune Teller

I remember as a kid, my sister would approach me
In her hands she held a paper Fortune Teller, “Pick a Number and you will see”
Once you picked a number, she'd open it up to see
Next was picking a color, and that choice was up to me
After the basic choices, there would be more
I kept wondering, what else could be in store
Every Paper Fortune Teller, was different than the last
It was meant to tell my future, not to tell me past

When it came to colors, I would usually pick blue
Always wondering if what was written, would come true
You could use different categories in this game
It was fun to see, if it would turn out the same

Online, there are directions on how to make them too
If you follow directions, that's all you have to do
Make one to suit your interests, then when you are done
You'll have had a great time, and a little bit of fun
I wonder, what will your future be
What is it, that the Fortune Teller will foresee
©Jan 24, 2018 Bud Lemire
                       Author Note:
Reminded me a bit of the 8-Ball that tells your future.
It was fun just to see what my sister wrote down.
I seem to recall making one too, and adding my own
future choices for others to try. It was enjoyable on
a rainy day. Or just any old day when not much
else was happening. Who else remembers these?

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The Fighting

Maybe I took too long to notice
Maybe I wasn’t able to see
I could have caught a glimpse in the distance
I would’ve if it was really meant to be

I thought about the motives and the reasons
I didn’t hide the necessary chimes
They never told me you were on the defensive
Making sure we never run out of time

Is the fighting ever worth it
Misunderstood is this perpetual lie
Is the fighting ever worth it
Doesn't matter how often I cry

I could have thought of this in an instant
It seems unclear, but does any of this feel good
Every moment of the day I am thinking
Those precious moments so misunderstood

Maybe I took too long to realize
Maybe I didn’t take the time to hear
I could have found the voice in the silence
I never would have made excuses for it to disappear

Is the fighting ever worth it
Misunderstood is this perpetual lie
Is the fighting ever worth it
Doesn’t matter how often I cry

©1/3/18 Bruce Clifford

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Chop Suey

There's a meal my Mom would fix for me
Water Chestnuts, bamboo chutes, what could it be
Chow Mein noodles, soybeans and poured over rice
Pork and Beef, and it sure was really nice

 Put a little Soy Sauce on it, and it will taste great
A special meal for me, that I always ate
Must be my Birthday, or a special day for me
I sure do love Chop Suey, no matter what day it be

Back then, I filled my plate
I was happy, because it sure was great
I still love Chop Suey, but don't eat it like before
I have it now and then, when I buy it at the store

Thinking back ro those days, are memories I cherish in my heart
The foods that Mom made, were a delightful work of art
She always did her best, delicious food for her family
She made each meal with love, and I knew that was the key
©Jan 24, 2018 Bud Lemire
                      Author Note:
Every time when my Birthday came, she would fix Chop Suey, and it
was such a special day because I loved it. Sometimes she would just
make it, because she knew I liked it. It was always a special day when
we had it. Pork and Beef, perfectly cooked. Chop Suey vegetables added.
Poured over rice and Chow Mein noodles. Add a touch of Soy Sauce, and
it was the best. Thank you Mom!

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Secrets in the Midst

There’s a limit to all of this
There’s an emotional tide I can’t resist
There’s a new plot with a whole new twist
There’s those secrets in the midst

She has no way out
There never was a sign of doubt
Up and down, inside out
All she ever wanted to do was shout

There’s a limit to what could be
There’s darkness as far as my eyes can see
There’s the willingness to be free
There’s those secrets between you and me

There’s a limit to all of this
There’s a sentimental dream of all I miss
There’s the journey between each kiss
There’s those secrets in the midst

©1/25/18 Bruce Clifford

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Aunt Jeannette

         Her name was Jeannette and woe unto anyone not spelling it with two Ns and two Ts. She would say that any other spelling of that name meant the woman was not a real Jeannette. She was the real one. And was she ever. Cranky, bossy, brilliant, annoying and fascinating. She was a living, breathing truckload of adjectives.
         My aunt Jeannette lived and lived and lived and was still alert and demanding at age 104, and when her crowds of grand and great grandchildren often gathered about her to ask what it was like to live “in the olden days” she put on her old crone face and told them she was far more interested in discussing the now and the future than she was in “blathering” about the past.
          “Go rent a documentary on the olden days,” she’d growl. “That’ll be far more interesting than my old memories, and besides, a documentary would be better because it would be set to music. I refuse to even hum. And whistle tunes for you? Absolutely not. Whistling girls and crowing hens/Always come to some bad end,” she’d grouse at her supplicants, in particular the girls. In particular me, because I always whistled tunes as I moved through my day. Made her crazy.
          But occasionally she’d lighten up and would tell us how things were “back then,” if we all begged properly, and politely. She once told us how it was to be a nurse in a hospital in Chicago to care for the returning soldiers of WW I while wearing starched petticoats and long hot skirts that dragged across the dirty floors, starched white caps and painful corsets that no one quite understood. Aunt Jeannette would tell them how those poor soldiers looked, mangled, smashed to pieces, faces missing parts, bodies missing parts, blinded and burned horribly by mustard gas, deafened from explosions, some soldiers so shattered by the experience they would never recover. We listened in silence, enrapt, horrified, not really comprehending, but fascinated anyway.
         We once asked her how she felt when she saw her first airplane flying above her.
          “I told you I don’t want to talk about that old stuff,” she griped, and then “Damned fools. We could get anywhere we wanted on a big safe train or a boat. Or a horse and buggy. Why on earth would anyone want to sit in a big loud tin can in the sky? When those things fall nothing can be done. The idiots inside are doomed and they knew it when they got into those machines; aeroplanes are instruments of the devil. I have no sympathy for those fools who crash, not a jot. And after all, if those fools really wanted to float around in the sky where they don’t belong, they should get into a basket underneath one of those big hot air balloons.”
         Would she ever take a plane to get somewhere? we asked. “Of course!” she replied. “But just because I’m old don’t try to force me to have some young buck strapped to my back so we can parachute together to the ground. What kind of fool does that?” Aunt Jeannette was nothing if not a perpetual contradiction of herself.
         And on the subject of cars. “You’re so old Aunt Jeannette,” we’d say to her, and she’d deliver The Glare that could shatter the hull of an aircraft carrier. “You must remember seeing your first car. Will you tell us about that? How did you feel? What was that like?” and again Aunt Jeannette would grouse that she had no interest in reliving the past, and only wanted to learn everything about the future. And again, she would relent.
          “Well,” said she. “As you know I lived in a very small town back then, in Illinois. Not more than 2000 people, but some idiots thought we should all own automobiles. I remember seeing my first one—big smelly and loud, open to the elements, scaring the bajeezuss out of the horses. No one wanted them. We all loved our horses. Good reliable animals. Faithful. Gave us manure for our farmlands. Took us wherever we wanted to go, rain or shine or blizzard. One of our horses, a big bay mare, my favorite, was actually called ‘Dobbinette’ and when she died, we buried her in the same place we buried all our horses; in the grape arbor. We had the best grapes in the state.”
          “Eeeuuuw,” said we in unison, mesmerized anyway.
         “Eventually our town had two automobiles owned by rich, show-offy people who owned farms many miles apart from each other. Sure enough one fine summer day, they had a head on collision right in the middle of town, directly on top of the town water pump. Smashed the pump and killed both drivers, damned fools,” said Aunt Jeannette, shaking her head. Frowning.
         As she aged, and aged, Aunt Jeannette became a little more user-friendly to us, her eager and fascinated young broods, and would talk a bit more about “the olden days.”
         “Aunt Jeannette” asked one of us on a fine day when the old lady was “taking the sun” in a big chair out on her lawn. “Can you tell us about the first time you ever ate potato chips? How did that feel?”
         “Look here, child,” she grumped. “Potato chips, if you ever bothered to look things up at a library and not on that stupid Goggle thing you all carry everywhere, were first invented in 1853. Furthermore young lady, for your information” (she pulled herself up straight and delivered The Glare with the same finesse as ever,) I therefore cannot recall when I first saw or ate them since we always ate them. I am NOT THAT OLD.” We all laughed. Aunt Jeannette did not.
         But finally she was that old, and at 105 she turned and shot The Glare at us one more time as we stood around her bed. She snarled, laughed, clapped her hands loudly, and quickly died. Aunt Jeannette, with two Ns and two Ts had abruptly left us. The pain of losing her? Never.

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