Sunday, July 1, 2018

Editor's Corner


July 2018

"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things:
freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them."

--Mark Twain

One thing high in the list of values taught in the home of your editor's parents was Patriotism. When WWII began Daddy was not considered for the draft being an only son and having three daughters, yet he burned to do something in the efforts being made to win the fight against intolerance and imperialism. Mother, always his helpmate, burned right along with him and the decision to lend their skills in the Vancouver, Washington, shipyards was firm though not an easy one to make. Mother's brother Jackie Oakley Joslin had not been drafted yet, and chose to go with Daddy leaving Mother to finalize arrangements to rent our home to an officer from the Pyote Air Base, transfer our livestock (which was allowed within city limits at that time) to Grandmother's home in Royalty some 18 miles south of our home. Then trip plans had to be made and one of Grandmother's neighbors was from the Washington area and it was decided that he would accompany Mother and we three girls and do the driving. That fizzled out just north of town and before we got out of Texas as he confessed that his eyesight was not worthy of driving but he would be our navigator, so on we went to Washington state with Mother at the wheel.

Daddy, a pipe fitter, became a welding inspector as his own welding skills were superior and his knowledge vast and he was able to help the new welders be able to become skilled enough to work on the aircraft carriers that they were building...called baby flattops as they were smaller and faster than the older models. Uncle Jackie also worked on the ships as did Mother who became foreman of her own crew being a Journeyman Electrician and an expert with blueprints. She and her crew crawled within the bulkheads marking and installing the electrical circuits according to the blueprints they were provided. They worked until after the war was ended then came back to Monahans; however during that time, Uncle Jackie did get drafted so he was in the Army. They never regretted their part in helping the war effort and we girls were taught to appreciate military service. My own chance to exhibit Patriotism was a few years later, when we had a parade locally to celebrate VJ Day, and I rode on a float seated on an ice block throne that Daddy had enhanced by freezing red roses inside the arm blocks. He was by then the manager and co-owner of the Permian Ice Plant. My white formal did not keep me warm but our Texas summer and my enthusiastic heart did.

May your Fourth of July be celebrated happily, safely, and with Patriotic regard.

Melinda Cohenour's "Armchair Genealogy" pens a discourse on the many sources that can add to your family tree, with "Genealogy, Communications, and Science Or How Our Lives Have Changed!" citing word of mouth, family letters and notes onward to current DNA technology data.

Charlene Cowley admits to a fascination that nears obsession when it comes to the World Cup which she discusses in her column, "A Way with Words" and how watching it brought home a lesson she shares. Thomas F. O'Neill talks about some of the differences in Chinese and American cultures in his "Introspective."

"Cooking with Rod" by Rod Cohenour helps plan a way to celebrate the 4th of July with a great meal and still stay out of the heat. Judith Kroll aka Featherwind lauds the use of cameras and features one of her poems in "On Trek."

Mattie Lennon's "Irish Eyes" updates the Listowel Writers report and includes many pictures to illustrate his news. Dayvid Clarkson's "Reflections on the Day" treats us to another of his haiku's and his uplifting thoughts about how to enjoy each moment of being who and where we are in life.

If Pencil Stubs Online were a horse race, LC Van Savage's compositions would score her a Trifecta as she has poetry, story, and her column in this issue: "Falling Stars, Dying Stars," "The Catholic and The Agnostic," and "Consider This" filled with "Hats! Glorious Hats!"

Bruce Clifford's new occupation keeps him hopping but he managed to send in "Is It You or Is It Me," and "Perfect Day." Bud Lemire's poems, each accompanied by his own photographs, are "Snowy White Owl," "Play It Again, Jerry," "The Tree of Genealogy," and "Springtime in Da U.P."

John I. Blair submitted the following poems: "Blessed," "Consciousness," "Crepe Myrtle," "Moon and Evening Star," "On The Steps," and "The Choice." The Dayvid Clarkson poem is couched within a lovely photo suitable to the title "Arise Spirit of Mine."

The article is a tribute to Leo C. Helmer for all of the research he conducted and presented, concerning music and the people who perform, through his years with the eZine. He loved all kinds of music but undoubtedly Country Western struck a chord in his heart. The many links are to the stories he did, and each holds a wealth of information that he hoped to preserve as it seemed in danger of being lost forever. Because Art Greenhaw with The Light Crust Dough Boys named Helmer as a Lifetime Honorary Member of the long time musical group, this article carries the latest announcement for them. Please enjoy and use the links from "Leo Loved Music."

See you in August!!!

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


Armchair Genealogy

Genealogy, Communications, and Science

Or How Our Lives Have Changed!

      As another Fourth of July appears upon the horizon, your author has been engaged in a bit of nostalgia. The Fourth was once one of the primary celebrations among those of us in my core family – MomMay, DaddyJack, sisters Mary, Noralee, and Jacquie. Often there were parades with bands and floats and colorful costumes and fireworks. At home, there were always big meals featuring homegrown produce, favorite family recipes, and more fireworks. These celebrations were accompanied by lots of joyful conversation, more family members congregating along with friends and neighbors, many times featuring stories of other times, other celebrations, other meals. Such was the fabric that made up the patchwork of memories. Now, family members are spread miles apart – those that yet walk upon this earth - with so, so many having passed beyond the veil.

      And on this nostalgic note, I find myself pondering how very much times have changed. Back in those days of yore, I was a youngster far too involved in the NOW, the present, the excitement of sparklers, marvelous displays of fireworks loosed by the various hometown groups offering magnificent shooting stars and cascading trails of light against the starlit sky. The stories shared by the older family members about their lives and their parents, cousins, siblings provided merely a background white noise to the excitement of my own little world. On this day, looking forward to our next Independence Day events, I can only wish I had listened more closely, shown more appreciation for the wealth of knowledge being offered. And I yearn for my own children and grandchildren to surround me with their love and their youth – and, of course, for them to have an appreciation for the stories of our ancestors. Communication. The means by which oral traditions are handed down. The method by which generations from time immemorial have learned about life, about tradition, about recipes and songs and stories and courageous acts and heroes walking among us.

      This brings my thoughts back to how very much communication plays a role in genealogic research. My sisters and I were blessed by having been born in a family of folks to whom tradition and lore played a huge role. Although the ways in which maternal and paternal grandparents imparted their knowledge differed, both provided marvelous glimpses into our ancestral heritage and clues for pushing our research backward, ever backward, in time.

      As researchers, my sisters and I were blessed by a wealth of handwritten information from family historians who treasured the knowledge with which they had been endowed. Many of our stories were handed down to us because our grandmother, mother, and aunt on my Mother’s side were prolific letter writers. Especially my Grandmother Joslin who carried on multiple daily pen pal exchanges with dozens of family members scattered about the world as well as friends and neighbors whose lives had carried them away from the hometown. In the days before instant communication by Messenger on the Internet, even before the slightly more lasting communication via email, these letters comprised inquiries about the health of family members, celebrated new life (giving valuable information about date, place, and circumstance of births as well as names), imparted wonderful color about crops, weather, prices of goods and the personal impact of historical events.

Page One
      We were gifted with many a copied (handwritten copy or photocopy or retyped copy even) transcript of these family treasures. Our own digitized family tree evolved as a result of my sisters Mary and Jacquie reading to me (as I entered the data) from the three primary sources of family lines: The Bullard, Godwin, and Hopper maternal lines as compiled by their respective family historians. We first entered the names of our core family, then branched back using these photocopied materials and painstakingly entered dates and locations (where available) for births, marriages, and deaths. Only after we scoured the materials for these basic facts did we permit ourselves to delve into the STORIES that accompanied some of the profiles. Profiles in courage – absolutely – and the source for my own growing passion to KNOW about these people whose blood courses through my veins! For it was only with the introduction to the day-to-day lives of these ancestors that my interest was piqued. And the more I delved into the process of matching the stories with the facts the more my interest grew.

Page Two
      As the years passed, more and more of these family historians have joined our ancestors in their walk into eternity. More and more of their knowledge has been lost, and more and more I value what is left of their contributions. My maternal aunt, Linnie Jane Joslin Burks, was invested with her love of genealogy at an early age – thank Goodness! She engaged in a time-honored method of interviewing the elders of the family to capture their memories. Aunt Linnie Jane did not seek to guide their recollections, merely strove to jot down the very words they used to tell their stories of childhood memories or family lore that had been passed down by word of mouth to them. After her death a few years ago, her husband, Dr. Edgar H. Burks gathered all her treasure trove of letters, notes, relics, and boxed them with the intent of shipping them to your author for safekeeping. Somehow, that never happened. But, recently, a cousin posted copies of some of those treasures she had found in the local McDonald County, Missouri library. It is my hope and prayer that all those treasures were, likewise, donated for preservation and will be made available to researchers from now on.

      Thus, the first example comes to mind of how science and technology has impacted genealogical research: from personal interviews with elders where their memories were captured by hand on notebook paper or diary to the wonders of the Internet where such documents are made available to all by virtue of another advance in technology: the scanning machine that digitizes images and creates a virtual image! How incredibly marvelous!

Page Three
      The caution here is, as always, to appreciate the story, capture it, digest the story, but always check the facts if at all possible. For these memories are much like the old game of Gossip, where a circle of friends shares by whispered utterances the “same” story until, once all have had an opportunity to put their own spin on the knowledge they just gained, the last link in the circle recites his or her own version – often completely unrecognizable from the little tale first offered. This is illustrated for your author by the story handwritten below in the document shared recently on Facebook in one of the family history groups devoted to our Hopper line. The story related by this ancestor regarding events during the Civil War somehow conflated details related directly to me by my grandmother regarding the same incident. In the handwritten “memory” preserved in the library, Great Grandmother Malinda Hopper Bullard saved NOT the farm from being burned (as was the story told by her daughter, my grandmother, to me) but – only a sidesaddle. In the story related to me, Malinda did indeed ride sidesaddle, but that saddle played no part in her paying a “Yankee dime” and a tart response that saved the family farm from being burned as were most in that area. Memories – gossip – details lost or mixed up in the telling. Regardless, the memories are priceless.

Page Four
      In the same way technology has changed our lives and our research with regard to direct communication, it has also changed the way in which we preserve concrete (or marble, or granite, or…whatever material one’s ancestors headstones are made from) information gleaned from the final resting place for those beloved ancestors. As has been related in an older column, our Grandmother Carrie Bullard Joslin was an avid family historian and a generous sharing person. Her favorite little picnic hike involved carrying tracing paper and chalk as well as graphite leads and manilla paper to the graveyard, along with a tasty lunch. She would walk the graveyard, carefully preserving the headstones and markers (tracing paper and chalk for the bas relief, manila and graphite for the raised lettering), then spraying the tracings with preservative, rolling carefully into tubes and using wrapping paper rolls to transport them to the local library. There, these priceless bits of information would be carefully typed into listings for each cemetery or private burying place and stored for future historians’ research. Now, devoted researchers trek to the cemeteries and overgrown family plots with their GPS devices and smart phones equipped with digital cameras. They carefully notate the complete location information and share the disappearing data with the world through such websites as Find-A-Grave and its similar ilk.

      Another example of how science has affected our research methods lies in the proliferation of social media sites, which take the place of personal handwritten communiqu├ęs (termed “snail mail” by our youth). Facebook and Twitter and similar Internet gathering places offer space for individual pages or formation of special interest groups (such as that above where my Aunt’s handwritten pages were shared by another cousin on the Hopper group page). These gigantic social gathering places offer Search methods that permit one to locate a person, a page, or a group in their quest for family tree information.

      As exemplary evidence, your author has engaged in extensive research for many, many years to solve a few mysteries in our family line created by closed adoptions or even by family secrets. One such mystery involves my first husband who always believed he was not the biological child of his mother and the man who gave him his surname, but had been adopted as had been his younger sister. Through the wonders of DNA combined with the miracle of the Internet and social media, we recently discovered this to have been true. My grandson, a direct line descendant of my first husband, consented to provide his DNA sample. Shortly after the results were posted, I was contacted by a beautiful young woman who had been seeking her biological father. Their DNA match left no question but that my first husband was, indeed, her bio father. He was a magnificently handsome man with a troubled and painful past brought about by the family secrets that clothed his own identity in a cloth of tangled lies. Through his yearning for family, he endlessly sought that perfect family – a family perfection that could never be found. We are in contact with this lovely young lady – a woman who shares a striking resemblance to my daughter, her half-sister. We are blessed by this miracle! This young woman has also engaged in her own research and, through her contacts, we now have the name of the biological father of my first husband (who has, sadly, passed on before this information could be shared with him). We shall continue, in concert, to seek the biological mother and, thus, round out the essential family line that will provide future generations with truth rather than clouded mysteries for his descendants.

      Similarly, a search for the biological family of my granddaughter-in-law has succeeded in finding her full siblings, her biological maternal grandmother, and her biological father. In this instance, DNA from her test results coupled with extensive decade-long research via typical genealogical sources by your author provided a means to search from generations back down through the vital document trail found on After confirming our long-held belief as to the identity of her closest in age sibling, we were able to actually locate her through Facebook. The sisters have now been able to share (as sisters should) with photos of their children, facts of their lives, and their continuing love for one another. This link is proven by DNA, by memory, and by documentation. Amazing!

      Other mysteries remain to be solved. For your author, the two brick walls that comprise our greatest frustration are, maddeningly, connected to the direct lines of Carroll and Joslin! We shall continue to utilize all avenues available to us to chisel away and, hopefully, some day, break down those walls to provide our future generations with truth and light rather than mysteries and secrecy.

      As always, you are encouraged to keep on adding leaves and roots and branches to that Family Tree!

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

Cooking with Rod

Here we are, celebrating Independence Day again. This time of year the weather is normally HOT which makes it a bit difficult spending too much time outside. Still, you may hunger for hearty and healthy, satisfying meals. But, no grilling in this heat!

This meal takes you back in the cooled environment and is easy to prepare without an oven. (Whoever invented the electric skillet should wear a halo!)

It has all the elements one needs for a 4th of July meal: great beef, some corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and gravy, and for dessert - WATERMELON! Best of all, you don't have to crack a sweat to deliver an outstanding meal. And, guess what? That perfect gravy requires no stirring, no worry about lumps, and is perfectly seasoned. Here's how you do it.

                                                                          Bon appetit!

Savory Chopped Steak and Gravy

Serves 6 - 8:

  • 4 lbs ground sirloin (ground round or 93% lean ground beef) 
  • 1 lg. can Cream of Chicken Soup 
  • 1 sm can French Onion soup 
  • 1 sm can milk (just use the onion soup can to measure)
  • 2 Tbsp. Ground black pepper (or to taste) 
  • 2 Tbsp. Original Mrs. Dash (or to taste) 
  • 1 tsp. Garlic powder (or to taste) 
  • 1/4 cup Minced onions 


Press entire package of meat into large electric skillet. Season top side, using half of all listed, except minced onions. Brown thoroughly. Using standard spatula, cut meat into serving portions before turning. Season flip side with remaining spices, reserving minced onions.

 Whisk together Cream of Chicken soup, French Onion soup, milk, and minced onions.

Pour gravy mixture evenly over meat. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Allow to simmer about 25 minutes.

Delicious served over mashed potatoes or rice or noodles.

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A Way with Words


'Not another football article!'

As I write this month's column, I am fully aware in my mind that not everyone will be as excited and enthralled with the World Cup 2018 as I am! So I will begin with a promise, I promise to you my readers not to babble on too much about football per se and I promise that my column will have a point by the end of it so bear with me.

Now it is very safe to say that I am not sporty at all whatsoever! My main memories of PE (Physical Education) at school consist of me handing over many hand written letters with a badly forged signature explaining why I should be excused from PE yet again and me hiding out in the school library for the duration of the lesson until the bell rang. But give me a television and a football match, that I can do. I will happily sit there observing the game and giving my opinion on the players tactics and the manager’s poor management skills.

So the World Cup! (There, I’ve said it again, I'm sorry!) This has been the focus in our house over the last three weeks. I have every game highlighted in our TV guide so we don't miss a game and my World Cup Results Chart is proudly displayed on our fridge. I just love how so many people from so many different backgrounds and walks of life can all come together (most of the time in harmony) for one mutual love and understanding- this humble sport. We have all heard the famous account of the Christmas ceasefire during World War 1. How opposing sides came together and embraced in a game of football. I’m sure you'll all agree when I say it was a truly magical and momentous moment in history. This is the power of football.

So going back to one of the earlier matches in the competition, I remember watching Portugal play their first game in the group's (against Spain) and I was immediately struck by the confidence and the calm, well composed demeanour of Cristiano Ronaldo. For those of you who are not into this sport so much and didn’t see the game, Ronaldo scored as a result of being given a penalty in the fourth minute, he then went on to score again (from a free kick taken at the 20 yard line). Even though Portugal didn't win this match against Spain (they drew 3-3) Ronaldo scored a hat-trick (a total of three goals in one match).

This leads me nicely onto what I want to write about this month, as I watched that game and in particular Ronaldo, I couldn't quite work out how on earth he was able to keep his calm. I kept thinking how much pressure he must be feeling right now, with millions of people around the world all watching him and all expecting great spectacular things from him! In those seconds leading up to him taking the penalty and his free kick, I couldn't help but think about what may be on his mind. What possibly does one say to oneself under those circumstances? I personally don’t think I could handle that sort of pressure at all. Then I realised something … Cristiano Ronaldo believes in himself! He doesn't doubt even for a second his ability, he trusts in his own knowledge of the game and in his own incredible skills. There is no self-procrastination, no self criticism and absolutely no doubt at all! He trusts in what he can achieve and he truly believes and knows he can do it!

So what can we take from this? We don’t have to be fantastic football experts (or an expert of any sport for that matter) to learn a thing or two from this brilliant and very inspirational public figure. When he is under pressure and expectations are high he thrives. So why can't we? We simply need to start believing we can do it! And trust me, I am one of the world's biggest self-procrastinators, I find faults in almost everything I do and talk myself down and out of doing a lot of things. Purely because I don't believe in myself and I don't trust I can. Think how many penalties and free kicks Ronaldo would miss if he thought in this way. He certainly wouldn't be where he is today with a self-destructing attitude like that.

So let us all make a pact now in preparation for the next time you are asked to do something that scares or intimidates you, that we will believe in ourselves and trust in how truly incredible we really are! Let's all be like Let's all be like Ronaldo! For only then, when we believe and know in our souls exactly what we are capable of, we will finally be able to fulfill our true destinies and achieve our highest dreams possible. For when we love ourselves unconditionally (and we believe in who we are and what we do!) … that is when true miracles will start to occur.

Wishing you all a beautiful month ahead, filled with long, warm glorious days. Take care, until next time …

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

Consider This


Hats! Glorious Hats!

Among the thousands of clothing items out there, my favorites have always been hats. I simply love them. Alas, I look terrible in them and when I wear one, my well-meaning friends and family regard me with expressions of disbelief and horror and I realize I have again disgraced myself. I know their glances are not so well-meaning. But I love hats anyway and have been on a life-long search for one in which I’ll look great and won’t make people recoil. So far, no luck.

Hats have always been one of the ways people used to establish their own persona, and likewise to identify that of acquaintances in a crowd; People could always recognize who were the less wealthy and who were not, by their hats. Down through time and history, hats have marked who were the ones in charge, who were the worker bees, and who were not. It’s not like that today, because even kings and queens are seen sporting baseball caps, but back in the day, hats announced one’s identity and often even one’s occupation.

Were hats always worn for warmth? Frequently, but mostly, I think, they were a status symbol. Here in Maine, most of us care little for High Fashion head gear when the temps dive below zero and our nose hairs freeze into tiny spears. Hats, to those of the cold weather persuasion, are essential for life itself. But when the temps rise a bit, hats can display a bit more message. After all, we humans were not given gigantic boney head crests or colorful apices to flash about like a prehistoric reptile. Now, all we have up there is hair, so we have to put something on top to show we are better, richer, smarter and definitely taller. As time passed, we worked at wearing expensive headpieces, often bejeweled, to tell the world we were upper crust. After all, only the lowly working class wore working class hats so everyone would know their place in the caste system which we pretend we don’t have here in the US. It would have been unseemly if a shabby laborer’s hat were on the head of a big deal business mogul.

And so many hats in the last of the 1800s became large and fancy and were often adorned with feathers, so much so that bird species found themselves on the tottering edge of extinction. Many millions of birds had to die so that milady could have their long, beautiful tail feathers, wobbling and waving on her crazy hat. Sometimes even the entire bird, now taxidermed, would be wired to her chapeau, perched firmly amongst fake flowers and grapes. The more dead animals and birds, fake flowers, real feathers, veils, strings of pearls and other “jewels” and ribbons that a woman could pile onto her hat, the more she hoped it would proclaim she was a wealthy, upper mucky-muck.

And those huge platters-of-everything hats were a status symbol, and they were glorious! The old photos of them are wondrous to see. One wonders how female necks could support all that finery; and how did women anchor those creations to their heads? I’ll tell you—hat pins, a huge business back then, now gone the way of the buggy whip trade.

Regardless of temperature, precipitation and wind velocity, atop their heads were those huge, overly-decorated gaudy, amazing platters covered with anything and everything. Women seemed able to walk the streets in hurricanes, those enormous, gorgeous displays staying in place. They could because of those long, expensive hat pins and also because women back then grew their hair out, and out, and out—and then twisted it up on their heads in what was the Gibson Girl look---and so to that large nest they pinned those huge examples of au courant millinery. Milliners back then were always busy. Not so much anymore.

Today’s women would not think of wearing those gigantic, heavily laden hats as status symbols, but let’s be honest; we do like to flash a little Prada, Gucci, Coach, Chanel, and Versace if we are lucky enough to snag one of those labeled items from Goodwill.

Women back then---well, they were something else! They really did suffer for their beauty. But in those days, and maybe even in these days, grandmothers’ advice for their long-suffering granddaughters is that it “takes pains to have beauty.” Back in the 1800s, it surely did. Today’s women would never endure such idiocy. Beauty can actually be comfortable. So can status symbols.

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Irish Eyes


Listowel, Blessington and Further field


When I left you last month I was at the opening of Listowel Writers’ Week. I promised to fill you in this month. Well, the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year award, with a prize of €15,000 went to Paul Lynch for Grace. Adjudicators Jane Urquhart and Alex Preston chose it from a shortlist of five; Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends; Bernard MacLaverty’s Midwinter Break; Lisa Harding’s Harvesting; and Frank McGuinness’s The Woodcutter and His Family.

Charles Shafaieh, reviewing for The Irish Times, called it “haunting and poetic”. Grace, which was published in paperback by Oneworld on June 7th, was also shortlisted for the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the $5,000 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. It was June’s Irish Times Book Club selected title. It was selected as the best book of the year 2017 by The Guardian and Esquire. Nobody who has read it would disagree with Emma Donoghue who described it as, “ A shuddering well written, dead-real, hallucinatory trip across Famine Ireland.

The author’s powers of description are evident in every one of the 354 pages. The following is from the first page, ”What comes to meet them is a smacking cold as if it has lurked there just for them, an animal thing eager in the dawn, a morning that sits low and crude and grey. Not yet the true cold of winter though the trees huddle like men striped for punishment and the land is haggard just waiting.”

Paul Lynch is also the author of Red Sky in the Morning and Black Snow. He won France’s Prix Libr’a Nous for best foreign novel and was a finalist for the \Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger prize. He lives in Dublin with his wife and daughter.

* * * * *

John B. Keane Lifetime achievement award was presented to Dame Edna O Brien DBE, who once said “The vote means nothing to women. We should be armed.” You could hear a pin drop as the controversial author of more than 20 novels didn’t pull any punches in her acceptance speech. (see pic below courtesy of Jer Holland.)

Poet Gabriel Fitzmaurice launched his 42nd book of poetry, Smitten Soul. Kris Kristofferson had this to say , “Real stories told in real language, the poems of Gabriel Fitzmaurice have the simple reality and powerful magic of the true folk song . . . and the songs are haunting and beautiful.” The collection has 56 poems, mostly of a Spiritual nature and all with food for thought on the meaning of life is a wonderful work by this prolific and humblest of poets. This collection has been collected from a lifetime of writing and witnessing, "Progress from the spiritual poverty through the dark night of the senses to the celebration of a soul that has found rest.”

The cover artwork is from a collection of paintings by his wife Brenda. Smitten Soul is published by Salmon Poetry.

The Morning Walk brought us by many Listowel shopfronts which feature the work of Pat McAulliffe. It is no exaggeration to describe the late Pat as the father of ormamental plasterwork in Ireland. He was and it is not possible to turn a corner in Listowel or any north Kerry town without coming face to face with his works of genius.

Two of Clubs, The Good Father, Fruitcake, Ragman, My Left Nut, After Sarah Miles - Six plays that I attended during the festival; each one better than the next. I missed, through no fault of my own, two plays by John B. Keane, The Pure of Heart and Backwater. They were produced by Hy Breasal Theatre Company from County Kildare.

David Nihill is from Firhouse, County Dublin. Like 75% of the population he suffered from glossophobia, a fear of public speaking ( I once asked an after-dinner speaker for some advice, explaining that when I stood up to speak in public I didn’t know what to do with my hands. He said, “Did you ever think of putting them over your mouth?” ). David, when he went to America decided to try and do something about this fear. In his talk in Listowel he told us how he pretended to be an accomplished comedian called “Irish Dave" who just happened to be on tour in America for one full year. He crashed as many comedy clubs, festivals and shows as he could. In one year he went from being deathly afraid of public speaking to hosting a business conference, regularly performing stand-up comedy and winning storytelling competitions in front of packed houses. His Book “Do You Talk Funny?” will show us all how to do the same.

In Allo’s restaurant five visiting artists and Olive Stack each painted a portrait of the legendary Mickey MacConnell.

I’m attaching pics of two when it was a work in progress. Mickey was allowed to choose one to take home. It would be unfair to tell you which one he chose.

A long-standing tradition is ‘the healing and laying on of hands’ session which is held in John B. Keane’s on the Sunday of Writers Week’. Billy Keane says, “It started up as a hangover cure about 20 years ago. At that time the pubs weren’t allowed to open on Sunday afternoons, so it was done kind of surreptitiously in that we had to pull across the curtains. We were a bit like the ancient Christians hiding in the dark." It certainly isn’t held behind closed curtains now. It is the biggest open mic session in Ireland. Billy has witnessed , “ . . . people standing there with hands shaking, and then you hear five years later that they’ve won a poetry award. The whole idea is that everyone is equal and everyone gets a chance. Poetry is given a special place as it’s probably the purest form of expression.” Billy Keane later met Prince Charles in Killarney and the Duchess of Cornwall gave him her card. So don’t be surprised if the 2019 Listowel Writers’ Week is opened by Camilla. And maybe she will attend the Healing Session.

And in my hometown of Blessington the Ninette de Valois Festival of Dance is an exciting celebration of internationally renowned dancer, choreographer, poet and artist Dame Ninette de Valois who was born in Blessington in June 1898.This inaugural festival is a collaboration between Blessington & District Forum and Interpretive Artists Ireland and a seat is being unveiled in her honour.

See you in August.

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On Trek


Moment in Time


Why do I take a picture of a flower when the real flower is right in front of me? It could come back next year and I would see it again!

It is that moment in time we want to preserve. It belongs to US. We share our moment in time with others hoping their senses connect to the moment as well.

Sharing puts the visual in our mind's eye, triggers the memory bank to open wide and accept the visible view from the lens of our Camera and eyes,...the windows to our soul.

Sharing pictures we stay connected to other people, other cultures etc. The whole earth is shared with a click of a camera. A treasure at our fingertips. When a photo is circulated, wrap yourself in the magic, the lovely beauty from our brothers and sisters worldwide.

Enjoy the process, as each moment in time is so precious.
Judith 6/11/2018

Editor's Note: Pic at bottom of page is one of Judith's moments: her dog Rosie in the forest on her property.

I Once Lost Sight of Me

Riding with the seas of humanity
I found myself losing my identity.
Easy to do when you want to please others..
Then..I blamed the others who demanded from me
to be what they wanted me to be....

When the lights shined on me,
it became clear that I am responsible for ME.
I cannot make others happy,
each person must make themselves happy.

I will always love everyone I have come to know in this life,
and love all others as well,
because they are my brothers and sisters
thru universal birth of our “spiritual parents.”

I am ME, please, love me for ME,
as our spiritual parents do.
We are all curing like fine cheese/wine.
Worry Not.
Do what you choose/chose/ to do
no matter what others do.

Find the joy in all..
NOT the faults.
Each of us are learning
at our own pace.
©May 2018 Judith Kroll

Judith asks, "Can you find our little Rosie dog in our beautiful forest?"

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Reflections on the Day

“A Teacher does not guide the Student to think exactly as they do, but rather, escorts them to the place where the Student may explore their own path of intent. A Teacher simply exemplifies kindness, compassion, patience, and understanding. It is the responsibility of the Student to pursue their own vision quest.” 

Our good fortune is dependent upon the cooperation and contributions of others. Every aspect of our present well-being is due to hard work on the part of others. As we look around us at the buildings we live and work in, the roads we travel, the clothes we wear, or the food we eat, we have to acknowledge that all are provided by others. None of them would exist for us to enjoy and make use of were it not for the kindness of so many people unknown to us. Dayvid 6/1/18

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day.
Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.
Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion.
The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual's own reason and critical analysis. Dayvid 6/9/18

Everyone must decide whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
It always amazes me observing those who profess belief in the Divine as they throw away the teachings when self-interest takes over. The lessons learned appear to be in vain if they are not applied every moment of our journey. To regard your own selfishness as somehow justified or correct is to ignore your responsibility to the Divine.
Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires. Cognizant of our every action we live the lessons...Dayvid 6/5/18

You are not the you of yesterday. Nor should you think or be thought of as such. You are not the you of tomorrow. For tomorrow is for learning. You are now, live with righteous intent. - Dayvid 6/3/18

Haiku by Dayvid
Reflections . . .

June 7
A good day. I witnessed a number of milestones in different Friend’s lives, I spent time creating, I spent time in mindfulness and experienced an epic sunset. I am very grateful. Now it is time to return to the sacred circle. There I will listen to stories without end, the melody of the voices painting dreams with the colours of the wind. My Heart will be renewed and my Spirit will soar. Soon the street lights of the morning will come on and I will know it is time to return to the earthly abode. Rest with an open heart and an open mind. Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow, Dayvid.
June 5
At the end of the day, I reflect on the sheer wonder of this journey. The more time I spend on this path the more I understand how little I know. I cannot even begin to comprehend the infinite majesty that lies before me. It reminds me of the innocence of my youth when I also knew nothing. As a toddler I did not care what I wore, whether I was dirty or clean, what came out of my mouth, what the next hour would bring, or really the time of the day. Mayhaps it is time to unlearn everything I have been taught and start from that age of innocence. Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow, Dayvid
June 3
As I prepare to rejoin my dreamland quests I reflect on the unimaginable origins of what I perceive. We see ourselves as advanced yet in the future we will be hundreds of years old. I wonder if early life looked upon the stars with a heart yearning to understand the secrets. They had the similar emotions and were deep thinkers. All one has to do is reference the great Greek Philosophers. We are not so different in our quests. I will continue to live the questions eventually living into the answers. Simply remembering as I retire. Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow, Dayvid.
June 2
Swathes of clouds adorn the sky and I prepare once again to return to my dreams. Reflecting on the inadequacy of our language to fully convey our thoughts and feelings I wander towards the evening. I cannot put into words my ‘knowing’. Somehow I know I am on the right path. Knowing that I am eternal and have Elders guiding my way is part of my very soul. Once you get a glimpse, no matter how it happens, you can never ‘not know’ it again. It might take the rest of your life to integrate such a knowing, but you can never ‘not know’ again. It is truly an amazing journey. Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow Dayvid.
May 31
May you awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.
May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.
Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow Dayvid

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Many years ago, in ancient China, many people believed in the Buddhist concept of reincarnation and in the ancient belief of Karma – in other words ‘what you give is what you receive from one life to the next.’

There are now 1.4 billion people living in China but concepts about reincarnation and karma are no longer religiously held beliefs by most of the Chinese people.

However, many of the ancient beliefs and customs are still influencing how the Chinese people behave towards one another. I find that the majority in China are polite and courteous in their daily interactions. The concept of Karma may no longer be a religious concept, but it is still deeply rooted in the Chinese belief system. Buddhist concepts and the belief in Karma are more of a philosophical pursuit among the Chinese than a religious practice in today’s China.

The concept of reincarnation used to be a widely held belief. That people are reborn, and your life’s fate can be determined by the actions of your previous life. If you were a good person in a past life your present life will be better and for those whose life is burdensome it’s a direct result of bad karma. It was a common held belief that people are reincarnated in order to work through their karma and learn from past mistakes.

Most people living in China today no longer believe in Buddhism as a religion. However, if you were to ask a university student whether Reincarnation and karma are realities or myths many students would respond that it is a possibility and then engage you in a philosophical discussion.

Many of china’s ancient beliefs are philosophically discussed in Universities. It’s a way for the ancient traditions to be remembered and to keep the ancient Chinese culture alive in the modern world.

I find many of the ancient Chinese customs intriguing and discussing them more fully is a way of gaining a greater understanding of why many of today’s cultural differences between the west and the east exist. When we delve deep into the Chinese culture we gain a better understanding of our own culture and many of our misconceptions about China in general fade away toward a greater understanding of ourselves in relation to others.

Living and working in China for the past 9 years has made me a better person and I hope I can bring my personal experiences from living here back to the US for the betterment of others.

This is going to be my last column from China for at least a year because I won’t be back in China until the summer of 2019. But I will write about my personal experiences in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, and life at the University there.

I would also like to wish everyone a great summer wherever you may reside.
    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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Leo Loved Music

       The late Leo C. Helmer loved music of all kinds, especially holding a life long fondness however for country music which included Western Swing. Because of his avid interest in sharing that music and its history, including articles about The Light Crust Dough Boys, he was named an Honorary Lifetime Member of that organization.

Although he is gone, the valuable resource of his research and compilations of that genre remain as does The Light Crust Dough Boys organization headed up by Art Greenhaw. (See pic at bottom of page.)

Below is a list of links to Helmer's music articles in chronological order:

             Leo Helmer admitted he just couldn't resist the enjoyment of finding out about and writing about musical personalities. As he said, " And I even wrote about a guitar player who gives a lot of his time to charity and a group of cloggers who also spend a lot of their time entertaining those who can’t get out to be entertained. " August 2003: "Get Well"

             He also had a very informative article about the Whitehouse Harmony group who entertained at my class reunion. The group founder and leader Delbert White was the brother of one of my classmates Travis White. Both of these brothers are now deceased, but the picture filled article can be found here: November 2006: Don't Everyone Like Good Music?

            The picture at the bottom of the page is current news about The Light Crust Dough Boys.

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      How blessed
      To love so many,
      Hoping they love me.

      Love makes the world go round
      They say; scoping out the sky
      I see the world’s still spinning.

      With all our sins
      Giving love
      Still makes life worth living.

      ©2018 John I. Blair, 6/21/2018

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      Play It Again, Jerry

      He plays some great tunes, on the piano keys
      With his magic for music, and the greatest of ease
      Play it again, Jerry, I've got a request
      I know when you play, it is the best

       Tune up the piano, because of the weather
      Because what you play, it gives us so much pleasure
      With a smile on his face, he plays
      The piano keys move, and he swings and sways

      The Entertainer, he'll play for you
      He even plays the Accordion too
      Come on people, let's listen to Jerry
      The music he plays, will make you feel merry

      His sense of humor, brings a laugh from the crowd
      Many will smile, and laugh out loud
      That's not the name of the song!
      He knows that already, he's never wrong

      Thanks for the music Jerry, you struck the right key
      A song means a lot, when it is played for me
      You brought back some memories, with the song you played
      Look at my face, and you can see the smile it has made
      You got my soul a dancing, I just had to say
      Let's hear another song Jerry, let's hear you play
      ©June 13, 2018 Bud Lemire
                               Author Note:
      I first heard Jerry Beauchamp on the Accordion at North Woods
      Place. He's played many years on Mackinac Island. His ear for
      music has brought music to the ears of his audience. He plays
      music with a musical talent and so much zest. He tunes the piano
      so it plays the best, so he can give his best. Thank you my friend
      for playing the music we love to hear.

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      Crepe Myrtle

      Crepe myrtle flowers
      Drift down all summer,
      Spreading the ground
      With pink petals.

      Treading on them I think
      How wonder-filled the world
      That sheds such beauty,

      How dead we are
      Who will not see it.

      ©2018 John I. Blair, 6/17/2018

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      Arise Spirit of Mine

      ©2018 Dayvid B. Clarkson

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      On The Steps

      I sit on concrete steps
      Looking at the garden,
      Waiting for another gift.

      And here it comes,
      Floating down the path,
      A butterfly lighting on a flower.

      Then a bird selects a feeder
      And settles in to eat,
      Glancing at me for assurance.

      Bees hum around the sedums,
      A lizard dances on a branch,
      Clouds drift above the heat.

      The world is rich with gifts
      All beautifully wrapped
      In fur and feathers, air and sunshine.

      ©2018 John I. Blair, 6/26/2018

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      Snowy White Owl

      It was like any other day
      It happened on the fifth of May
      I was on the Aronson Island, to the shore
      Yet on this day, there so much more

       I spotted something, closer to shore
      A white head, yet I had to see more
      I grabbed my camera, and used the zoom
      Not too close, it needed the room

      A Snowy White Owl, what a sight to see
      It was looking around, and watching me
      Its head went almost, all the way around
      As it sat there staring, right there on the ground

      I tried to get closer, a different angel to get
      It took off in flight, but it was Seagulls it met
      Back to the shelter of trees it flew
      Not far from the lake, that was a pretty blue

      I took a video, and more pictures too
      A voice inside me said “Bud, it's looking at you”
      Since that day, it seemed easy to find
      On a boat, a building, and even a Shopko sign
      ©May 9, 2018 Bud Lemire                      
      Author Note:
      It was a special day for me when I saw the Snowy
      White Owl. I was just looking at Owls online, and
      thinking, “I would love to get a picture of an owl.”
      Well, someone was listening, because there it was,
      and I saw. They are amazing creatures, and look so
      unreal with they way look and move. I'm so happy
      I had the opportunity to see one and capture it with
      my camera in pictures and videos.

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      The Choice

      Long ago we made the choice
      To give our cats a finite world
      In trade for greater age.

      Day on day transpires for them
      Within the same few walls,
      Latched windows, bolted doors.

      They can see the flowers,
      The trees, birds, squirrels,
      Sky and clouds around,

      But will never touch or smell
      Or catch more than muffled sounds
      From this cushioned cage.

      Was this wise or selfish?
      Only the cats could judge
      And they have no voice.

      ©2018, John I. Blair, 6/19/2018

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      Springtime In Da U.P.

      Nothing is better, when you listen and hear
      Da birds of da U.P., singing their Springtime cheer
      Several are coming back, from their migration south
      Starting a new family, feeding the little ones by mouth

       The ice has melted, and buds are sprouting
      A great time to enjoy, a Springtime outing
      The little black flies, are flying everywhere
      In swarms, they always seem to take over the air

      Soon, the grass will be green
      Until then, yellow is seen
      I love to hear, the birds up in a tree
      Their songs, always mean so much to me

      Even the squirrels and chipmunks, are scurrying around
      And the rabbits, are hopping all over the ground
      The Geese and the Ducks, flying here and there
      Of course the Seagulls, can be found everywhere

      Buds in the trees, some leaves will be green
      A great time to enjoy, such a beautiful scene
      Springtime is great, when you're in da U.P.
      So much beauty, and so very much to see
      ©May 2, 2018 Bud Lemire
                             Author Note:
      Springtime in da U.P. Is indeed a wonderful time
      of the year. The the start of things changing from
      cold to warm. New families starting for the creatures
      we share this planet with. The ice is gone, and we see
      the blue water. We can shed our coats for something
      lighter to wear. Oh yes, I love Springtime in da U.P.

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      Consciousness is a big word
      For knowing there’s a me
      Or at the very least
      Accepting that illusion.

      Scarce a day goes by
      When I’m not surprised
      Contemplating my existence
      And the fact that it will end.

      What I can’t truly realize
      Is what that means
      Or the consequences
      For the world I love so much.

      ©2018 John I. Blair, 6/10/2018

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      The Tree Of Genealogy

      Once again, I'm deep into my family tree
      Gathering relatives, and what they mean to me
      Cousins, they seem to be everywhere
      I bet I even have some, who are unaware

       You have to have an interest, in your family history
      Willing to delve into, those who are a mystery
      If you aren't interested, distant cousins you'll not find
      Out of your reach, are those not on your mind

       I like to see their pictures, those relatives of mine
      And know that when I research, it is a special sign
      That their wishes, are to share all that I do
      With cousins and other relatives, so they would know too

      I tried a new method, adding their information to an index card
      It's easier to follow them, and it doesn't make it hard
      I can find missing information, any time at all
      Because many times, I come upon a brick wall

      Just when you think, that they are out of sight
      Information will appear, with a guiding light
      Just be a little patient, because when the time is right
      You'll soon find yourself, caught up in family delight

      Nothing is more interesting, than doing your family history
      Where did they come from, unravel the family mystery
      Nothing is more fun, than climbing the Tree of Genealogy
      Finding so many relatives, and how they're related to me
      ©April 18, 2018 Bud Lemire
                                Author Note:
      I started researching my ancestry in 1990. And have found
      out so much about my ancestors and other relatives. I even
      took a trip to Quebec in 2001, and met so many relatives, and
      walked the land my ancestors did. I've met many cousins, who
      have become very dear to my heart. It's been an amazing climb,
      and I think I shall enjoy it for many years to come.

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      Moon and Evening Star

      Once again tonight
      The moon and evening star
      Are sailing in the garden sky.

      Both glow between the leaves
      Of the trees in my dark yard,
      Illuminating patches of the path,

      Illuminating bits of leaf and flower,
      My pale bare skin,
      My midnight soul.

      ©2018 John I. Blair, 6/26/2018

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      Perfect Day

      It’s time to get away
      It’s time to go Up, Up and Away
      Captain Jack’s will never let your taste buds down
      When will you come around
      To a Perfect Day

       There’s so much going on in the day to day
      The news of the world often gets in the way
      We all need those days to relax at the Oasis Lagoon
      You could be here soon
      It's a Perfect Day

      It’s time to get away
      It’s time for some thrills at Splashaway Bay
      Thrill Waterpark will take your breath away
      Are you heading here today
      To a Perfect Day

      It’s time for that escape
      We are all here as Chill Island awaits
      As the Ship of the Seas sails you in
      The Coco Beach Club is where it begins
      Another Perfect Day

      It’s time to get away
      It’s time to go Up, Up and Away
      Glide on the Zip Line then head out to Spashaway Bay
      It’s never too late to set sail for this place
      We will see you soon
      For a Perfect Day
      ©2018 Bruce Clifford

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      Falling Stars, Dying Stars

      The family went camping, as they always did
      Each summer in August when he was a kid
      They went up to Maine to the ocean and such
      Where they'd roast corn and clams and eat way too much.
      At night they'd sit by the fire and sing
      And they'd all laugh and talk about everything.
      His name was Sam and he'd always remember
      Those happy Maine trips straight through to September.
      Sam and his brothers and sisters would play
      On the sand, in the ocean, day after day.
      Sam and his siblings would gather up shells,
      Sea glass from the beach, and breathe in the smells
      Of the blue diamond ocean which lay like a spread
      And laughed as the gulls looped and brayed overhead.
      His parents would rent a small boat with a sail
      From which they'd fly a huge kite with a tail
      They'd pack up and bring a grand picnic lunch
      Of chicken and salads and sweet cakes and punch
      They'd sail to an island and there they would stay,
      Exploring and eating; they'd nap and they'd play.
      Then back at the campsite they'd sit by the fire
      Again where they'd talk of what they'd aspire
      To do with their lives in the years that remained
      To them all. They knew in those summers they gained
      Important life lessons; they learned about love,
      The importance of family, trust and above
      All else they learned how family matters
      That without a family one's life could be tatters.
      But during those summers there was just one thing
      That worried Sam's folks, it was never-ending;
      It was on those Maine nights, so cool and so clear
      (And it constantly happened year after year,)
      When Sam's family at night stared up at the stars
      And tried to find Mercury, Venus or Mars
      The stars in the sky were thick and so near
      They'd all reach to grab them, but they'd reappear
      In great clouds of silver and sparkle and gold
      And Sam's family would gasp at the billionfold
      Of heavenly bodies for them to survey
      Lingeringly, longing to hold back the day.
      But Sam would just never look up at the sky
      And his family could never figure out why.
      They asked him, pleaded to tell them the reason
      Why Sam wouldn't look at the stars in that season
      Of beautiful summer, the nights were so fair
      The moon was pure silver, hung high in the air.
      "Why Sam?" his family would ask him each year
      "Why won't you count the stars with us, dear?"
      "Oh, please do not make me," Sam pleaded with them.
      "I have my reasons, but it's not a problem.
      "Just don't make me do it, and one day I'll tell
      "I promise I'll do that, then all will be well.
      "It's something I thought of some long time ago
      "And now I can't shake it, but you all should know
      "It's nothing I can't overcome if I try
      "And I try, I do, and I'd like to reply
      "To your questions of why I won't look at the stars
      "And try to find with you Pluto and Mars.
      "But I can't do it now, tho one day I shall
      "So please do not ask me. Oh please, be a pal!"
      So his family stopped asking. Time passed and then
      The kids were all grown. The trips came to an end.
      Years and years later when the family met
      For a holiday, they asked Sam his secret.
      He sat down and looked at them all with a smile
      And said, "Sure, I'll tell you. It's been a long while.
      "Now it sounds silly, but it sure wasn't then
      "It started way back, before I was ten
      "And I used to look at the sky every night
      "And try to count stars and I so loved the sight.
      "But it seemed every time I looked up there
      "In the beautiful night, that wondrous black air
      "A star would shoot past, seem to fall to the ground
      "The sight made me turn and run fast, homeward bound.
      "A shooting star always fell straight to the earth
      "And the sight of that hardly filled me with mirth.
      "I began to obsess that when I looked high
      "A star would immediately fall from the sky.
      "I was so frightened, so young and unwise
      "That each time, I thought, when I looked at those skies
      "A new star might die and I could not bear
      "For that to happen, so I had to forswear
      "I'd never again stare up at the night
      "And kill all the stars and kill the starlight.
      "I know I was young, but it seemed to be true
      "That each time I looked up into the blue
      "Of the night a great star would shoot into space
      "And die! There was no way that I could replace
      "That wonderful star. It was all my fault
      "That it died up there, way up in the vault.
      "So I wouldn't look up when all of you did
      "I'd turn on my stomach, my face down, and hid.
      "I know now I was just so young and so small
      "I know now that I couldn't cause stars to fall
      "So now my dear family, now I'm grown up
      "You finally know why I could not look up
      "At stars with you during our wonderful times
      "Together when camping in those summertimes."
      So finally they knew why their dear brother
      Turned his head down, there could be no other
      Thing he could do when they looked at the stars
      Trying to locate Mercury or Mars.
      He was scared that when he looked at the sky
      That he'd cause the stars way up there to die
      And he knew his dear family loved them all so
      That he kept his head down so the stars could still glow.
      ©2018 LC VanSavage

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      Is It Me Or Is It You

      Every second of every day
      Every word that got away
      Every minute in every sound
      Every thought of a common ground

      Every vision of every night
      Every dream locked up tight
      Every moment in every scent
      Every thought of days spent

      Is it me or is it you
      Are we fine or broken into two
      Is it me or is it you
      Are we safe with better things to do

      Every second of every dream
      Every song in its extreme
      Every sign in every town
      Every thought of a common ground

      Is it me or is it you
      Are we fine or broken into two
      Is it me or is it you
      Are we safe with better things to do

      Is it love or is it pain
      Or are we looking at each other to blame
      Is it me or is it you
      Are we living on an equal platitude

      Every second of every day
      Every heart that gets melted away
      Every rainbow and points of view
      Is it me or is it you
      Is it me or is it you

      ©6/1/18 Bruce Clifford

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      The Catholic And The Agnostic


            Mongo and I know a 40-ish year old couple who are deeply in love. I think the word “besotted” would work well here. We are delighted that after a few too many years they found one another and just flat-out fell in love and simply cannot keep their hands off each other. But love, as life too, can never go smoothly, and there was a problem.

            I recently asked the male member of that couple (Tom) why they didn’t seem to be getting as seriously committed as quickly as I would prefer, because it’s all about me, after all. He said, rather sadly, “Well, she (Abigail) wants a Catholic husband. And I can’t be that for her.”

            So I decided to tell Tom a story because as everyone knows, nothing boosts people’s spirits like an old broad telling her boring stories, especially to folks who are worried about something. Brace yourself; here it is.

      When Mongo and I were young in the late 1950s, and so far childless, we lived in Landstuhl Germany at the Landstuhl Army Medical Center. We made many friends there, some of whom we still know, and one young couple became our special friends. The young lady in question was a nurse on the base, and her beloved, a Lieutenant in the US Army, as was Mongo. They were just mad about each other and all they wanted was to spend eternity together, but alas, they could not because she was an extremely devout Roman Catholic and he a dedicated agnostic. Not an atheist, but an agnostic, a questioner, a skeptic. He knew he’d been given a good brain, and he intended to use it. He had appreciation for all religions, he respected and cared deeply for all people, no matter who or what they were, or what their beliefs were, but he was not a Catholic.

            The young woman, desperate to marry this man, knowing he could and would not join her church, went to the base priest hoping he could help, and this is what he said to her.

             “Tell me all about this young man of yours. Is he always kind to you? Yes. Is he respectful? Yes. Does he take drugs? No. Does he drink? No. Smoke? No. Has he been in prison? No. Does he observe the Golden Rule? Constantly. Do you feel you and he are equal partners in all things? Yes. Does he want children? Yes. Does he make you feel safe? Yes. Does he listen attentively to you at all times? Yes. Does he ever embarrass you? Never. Has he ever hit you? Never. Is he a forgiving man? Yes. Is he a good son to his parents? Yes. Kind to his siblings and relatives? Yes. Does he break the law? Never. Does he do good things for other people? Always. Is he good to all living things? Always. Is he honest? Always. Is he consistently supportive of you? Always. Is he judgmental? Never. Clean? Yes. Fun? Yes. Does he make you laugh? Yes. Do you feel safe and happy with, and protected by him? Always. Does he go to church with you? Every Sunday.

            She told me later that after all the questions were answered, the kindly priest leaned back in his chair, smiled and said, “Tell me my dear, what is your problem?” The young woman said she became speechless and did not know how to answer the good father’s unexpected question, so she sat silently, staring at him. The priest went on.

            “Don’t you think my dear child, that it’s better to marry a man with such solid values than to marry someone who may not have any of them? It appears to me that this young man you love so much practices all the finest spiritual standards and values on a day-to-day basis, that he is strongly moral, and while it would be nice if he had a church, maybe one day when he gets it all sorted out, he may join one. God did in fact give him a good mind and it’s his right to use it. But for now, don’t you think he might make a good, solid, faithful and adoring husband? A good father to your future children?”

            She apparently did because they had a lovely, sweet wedding soon after that, with the Good Father standing next to a Unitarian officiate, both smilingly performing the ceremony together. We get Christmas cards from that couple every year, with photos of all 11 of their grandchildren, and a couple of greats too.

             I told this story to our friends Tom and Abigail who wanted to be married even at their so-called advanced ages, and they listened, didn’t collapse with boredom, and didn’t even yawn, not even a single stifled one. Did they get what I was getting at? I’m pretty sure. Did it influence their decision? Apparently. They will marry next month. A local priest and a female Unitarian officiate will marry them. My work here is done.
      ©2018 LC VanSavage

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