Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Editor's Corner

January 2019

"Auld Lang Syne ”
youtube.com presentation by Susan Boyle
( Auld Lang Syne
9eme chanson de l'album "The Gift" de Susan Boyle.)
Auld Lang Syne 
performed by Susan Boyle

A New Year! The days to come will be what you make of them so get your best skills sharpened to carve your future the way you desire. Writing, composing should always be at or very near the top of the list for authors, and we look forward to helping you get your compositions published. One never knows how much someone's life may be bettered by simply seeing something inspirational or even simply encouraging so that when they read it the words go straight to their heart.

As the old year ends, we come to recognize that it is filled with "Yesterdays" which happens to be the title of the essay found in the articles prepared by Sharlynn Wamsley, her first appearance in our ezine. We look forward to more from her. Another author we always welcome is LC VanSavage who has besides her column, "Consider This," a story "Jack, Harry, and the Artist," and an article "The Top of My Grandmother's Dresser." We find ourselves recalling similar things from our own grandmother's dresser - a memory awakening.

Michael John Fierro who formerly did a column "By The Numbers" here graciously is sharing his forecast: "2019 – A 12/3 UNIVERSAL YEAR." Not to be missed. SusanD Dimitrakopoulos aka Spuds, submitted the autobiography of the late Billy Van who made us laugh (think Hilarious House of Frightenstein, Party Game, Sonny & Cher, and the Colt 45 guy). Susan, a professional photographer has been seen in pencilstubs before.

Marilyn Carnell also has both an article, "Aging in Place," and her column "Sifoddling Along" handles a self analysis without trepidation. Thomas F. O'Neill has returned to Suzhou, China, just in time to share some uTube scenes of the Christmas celebrations including fireworks in his column, "Introspective."

Mattie Lennon author of "Irish Eyes" discusses a different role for a well known politician in Ireland and then offers his friend's suggestion for New Year Resolutions you Will keep. Judith Knoll author of "On Trek" speaks of what Religion means and doesn't mean. "Cooking with Rod" by Rod Cohenour turns to with one of his spouse's attractive and delicious recipes, M’s Meatballs in Sweet N Hot Sauce.

Melinda Cohenour's "Armchair Genealogy" shares that through DNA, family members who link to her first husband's lineage, and thus to her two children and their descendants, have been located and an ongoing conversation has emerged. The story is fascinating and may lead you and others in your family to have their DNA submitted if it has not already been done.

One thing your editor cherishes is the opportunity to receive and publish the poetry our authors compose. Some months find them so busy that they have hardly taken pen to hand - or hands to computer. Nevertheless the poetry submissions for January have arrived and they are named below:
    Carrie E. Joslin, "Walking With Alice Anne,"
    Bruce Clifford "The Sparkle in Your Eyes;"
    John I. Blair's four are: "The Secret," "Looking for Brillance," "At November's End," and accompanied by the subject's pic (of Patio Cat) "There You Sit."
    Bud Lemire sent this trio: "The Christmas Bell," "The Enemy Within," and "What We Become."
            Judith Knoll has a poem this issue: "Our Healing Earth."

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December 7, '18, received this message from one of our early authors:
Fri 3:09 PM Hi, Mary - not sure if you saw already, but I have a new novel that was released last month. Hope all is going well with you and happy holidays!
Then Came Darkness a novel by D. H. Schleicher.
David HS

His "thrilling new Depression-era noir from Mabus Publishing" is available in trade paperback ($11.99 USD) and Kindle eBook ($4.99 USD) editions. His Blog can be found here:The Schleicher Spin

Cover Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Felix Besombes -- See Below.

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Delighted to see that our webmaster Mike Craner whose patience and expertise underline this ezine, was actually getting to have a vacation with family. Perhaps he will share some pics with us soon.

See you in February 2019 which is the first issue of the 22d volume of Pencil Stubs Online.

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


2019 – A 12/3 UNIVERSAL YEAR


Numerologically, the year 2019 is a 12/3 Universal Year (2+0+1+9 = 12 = 3). In numerology, THREE represents creation, creative self-expression, emotion, artistic talents and endeavors, and healing and the healing arts. The 12/3 Universal Year is a waiting period during which a change of view, reversals, or submissions may very well be part of the dynamic. The 12/3 is representative of strong individual principles. This is a year during which we must cultivate the courage of our convictions and power to gain followers in its progressive ideas. This energy engenders the ability to see the truth and to create reform where necessary. We can use this energy to convince and lead by righting the wrongs of people and policies. It is imperative that we learn the truth of our crusades while daring to believe in that which we believe.

2019 may turn out to be a pivotal year worldwide as the positives and negatives are quite diametrically opposed and dramatic, and the emotional quotient that will be at play may bring about situations of an extreme nature. On the positive side, 2019 can be fertile ground for an expansion in the world of arts, entertainment, and recreation. Properly used, this energy will be conducive for the production of artistic works that can have a beneficial effect on those who are exposed to them. The climate will encourage the expression of thoughts, ideas, and emotions and will also be a platform for social issues and interactions. The THREE, being the number of creation, may also be a driving force in a continuation of spiritual understanding that was begun in 2018, and ELEVEN Universal Year. This would be a good year to begin in earnest, the healing of the SELF and the planet on which we reside. 2019 can be the birth of something new. All such progress and ideas must begin with “we the people”, the individuals and the energy will be such, that progress and ideas may be carried forth into the collective. People will definitely be more inclined to search for answers.

In the tarot, the number TWELVE is The Hanged Man. The keyword for this card is reversal. The Hanged Man can be interpreted in two very different ways. All change is a small kind of death, as the old must die to create the new, and it may simply indicate upheaval or change in our future, perhaps beyond our control, but more likely a decision, for good or ill, from which we will not be able to turn back. The other interpretation is one of sacrifice, although whether this sacrifice is small or great may not be easily interpreted. Both interpretations imply permanence, and that we should give very careful thought to the decisions in our collective lives. The Hanged Man card reflects a particular need to suspend certain actions. As a result, this might indicate a certain period of indecision. This means that certain actions or decisions which need to be properly implemented are likely to be postponed even if there is an urgency to act at this particular moment. In fact, it would be ultimately the best if we are capable of stalling certain actions in order to ensure that we have more time to reflect on making critical decisions. This will ultimately be the best.

Astrologically, the number THREE is associated with the planet Jupiter. In Indian numerology and astrology, Jupiter is the remover of darkness and a teacher of righteousness, justice and self-illumination. We must continue to shed the darkness and move towards the light. The journey and the lifting of the veil begins with each of us as individuals. As within, so without. As above, so below.

Other conditions and events during 2019 should bring about new developments in the world of medicine and pharmaceuticals. I would anticipate a major breakthrough in the treatment, and/or elimination, of at least one major health affliction. This may also be a year in which words take on a new level of importance. We, the people, may find a new voice through which we can express our dissatisfaction and upsets with the powers that be. It may be a multitude of individuals or it may be the voice of a new leader, or leaders, who may galvanize people into action. Watch for a major talk or speech by a world leader that will have tremendous effect on all. There may also be new “words” regarding justice and law and order. On the positive side, this may be a new approach to the way crimes and criminals are handled (Something that took place within the last six weeks of 2018. As with all new Personal or Universal Years, the effects of the Year are usually first felt 4-6 weeks before the Year actually begins.) Negatively, it may portend new laws that may be more restrictive (especially in matters of speech and self-expression). This could lead to crackdowns on the voice of dissension around the globe. As people look to create more recreation and fun activities in their lives, we may see the introduction of some new, fun-based or recreational fad. There may also be a collective lifting of spirits through the spending of more money on fun and leisure activities. The inclination will be for people to enjoy life, and the fears and obstacles of the current economic situations may be dissipated through a collective desire to break loose and throw caution to the wind. Another possibility in the realm of politics is the potential rise of a third party and, we should remain especially vigilant regarding third-party interference in our affairs.

The negative side of the THREE Universal year is not pleasant and may create more imbalance, unfairness and dis-ease upon us and our planet. It may be quite dramatic as there may be a tendency towards extreme emotional reactions, and even overreactions, to events. Such activities could lead to more oppressive behavior and actions from those in power. Every action creates an equal reaction. With that in mind, caution must be exercised and be preceded by thoughtful contemplation. People must also be aware of a tendency to scatter energy. Attempting too much, too quickly will not produce anything that is worthwhile. Restlessness and recklessness are certainly conditions of which people are mindful. This applies not only to individuals, but governments as well. Such behaviors will create greater tensions between the parties involved. (Watch for this to manifest between countries in the global arena.) There may be an increase in the use of guns and weapons, and an escalation in brutality and aggressive or warlike behavior.

Even more importantly, people, institutions and governments must be aware of the fact that extreme actions and behaviors will create equally great and extreme results and reactions. Extravagance will lead to a dissipation of wealth and resources; an exhaustion of resources will lead to a wasteland; and risk will lead to more loss. The indication here would be that the lessons of the past two years have not been learned, and we will all suffer accordingly. The lesson here is to avoid excess. Be conservative and resourceful. The more that pleasure is pursued, the more likely the result will be less constructive outcomes. To illustrate this, think back to what the excesses of 1929 led to...the crash of 1929 and the world was plunged into its worst ever economic crisis. The situations of 1938 led to the outbreak of World War II. The peace that followed WWII (1947) led to the Atomic Age and the beginning of the Cold War. The tensions of the Cold War in 1956 led to an increase in the race for technological advantages and an escalation in the geo-political climate in the world. 1965 was the harbinger of social changes never before seen. 1974 saw a political scandal and tragedy of new proportions, and the world was never the same. 1983 saw dramatic situations in the economic climate. 1992 brought with it a new level of partisanship and divisiveness in the political arena. 2001 brought us the events of September 11, and a new level of government interference and the erosion of personal liberties and rights. A new dynamic was created. The common thread here is the fact that all of the years mentioned were THREE Universal years. Be mindful that more greed and wasteful extravagance will precede trouble. Watch for the dramatic event(s) in 2019 and know that another shift is upon us. It is this very energy which we must collectively work to change.

Through positive creation and actions and activities of an enlightened nature, the outcomes can be affected. We must use our voices and speak out against the injustices, excesses, and abuses of which we become aware. The ride may get bumpier, but the potential for a new and better world is always there for the creating. Be true to yourself. Use the creative energy of 2019, and make the changes which will benefit your immediate world, and the world as a whole.

I implore each of you to do your part. Raise your voices. Allow yourself to be heard. Participate where you can. The future belongs to all of us, not just to a bunch of rich and powerful people who are seeking to create a world in their own image.

Blessings of Love & Light
Michael John Fierro
Numerologist/Author/Lecturer/Life Coach

© 2018 Reprinting or publication available only with the permission of the author.

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

Armchair Genealogy

DNA – A Modern Miracle

      This month we celebrate the New Year with news of a thrilling find! Last year my grandson, Adam Bradshaw, agreed to submit his DNA to Ancestry. 

 Almost immediately after his test results were revealed, I was contacted by a close match (799 cMs across 28 segments per Ancestry) which translated to the equivalent of a first cousin. Soon after this match and I began texting, it became apparent she was not merely Adam’s first cousin – she was his AUNT!

      Our initial texts resulted in an exchange of not only information but a picture of her biological father – my first husband and the father of my two children. This story is heart-warming and spans not only a continent but a world-wide connection.

      DNA is a complex science. It lies at the epicenter of creation. It contains the very blueprint for every lifeform, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral. The unraveling of the codes contained in the DNA strands has taken millennia to discover and decades to comprehend. Many scientists have diverted their original scope of study to concentrate wholly on the mysteries of DNA. And with each new day, more of the secrets of creation are brought to light.

      In prior columns, your author has sought to grasp a bit of understanding of DNA while documenting that struggle for our readers as well. Our own journey to utilize DNA in genealogical research arose, primarily, as a means to break down brick walls in our direct lines of ancestry. For it has only been in recent decades that anyone other than royalty had the luxury of knowing and tracking their long lines of ancestors. It was essential to royal heirs to prove their “fitness” for reign; therefore, exhaustive measures were taken to use the priceless inks and parchments (or stones, in the case of the really ancient, such as the pharaohs) to document the pairings of those in power and the sequence of births of their offspring.

      Typically, in most civilizations, it was the eldest MALE descendant who inherited all: the right to rule, the real property, the treasure troves, the slaves, the beasts and pastures – everything. In those rare groups dedicated to a matriarchal rule, the only males granted power were those chosen by the ruling FEMALE of the tribe. Matriarchal societies were most common among the aboriginal or Tibetan tribes. In the modern world, only about six areas are known to adhere to a matrifocal or matriarchal government, where women rule and their female heirs are the only ones permitted to succeed to power. Those exist in (1) Mosuo, near the border of Tibet in the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces; (2) Minangkabau, of West Sumatra in Indonesia; (3) Akan, a group comprising the majority of peoples of Ghana; (4) Bribri, a very small group isolated in a region of Costa Rica; (5) Garo, near the Khasi of North-East India, in the state of Meghalaya, a group of Tibetan-Burmese peoples; and (6) the Nagovisi, an isolated island west of New Guinea called South Bougainville. Although the ruling power in these societies is handed down mother to daughter, woman to woman, the balance of power is maintained by the granting of ruling authority to specified men – usually in the realm of spiritual or military control.

      It is interesting to note that early Native American tribes on the American continents (North and South) probably adhered to that policy as a result of their ancients having crossed the Siberian ice thousands and thousands of years ago, then migrating ever southward to the very tip of Tierra del Fuego.

      Thus, the recordation of ancestry was reserved to those to whom the “divine” right to power required careful notation of their parentage. It was a tedious, costly process and required the ability to read and write – a rare commodity in ancient times.

      Thankfully, those days are behind us. Today, we have a plethora of means by which we can track our heritage. The Internet has been a God-send, offering access to scanned documents from – in some cases – centuries past. With the advent of printing and scanning technology, we now have access to millions and millions of documents that provide a peek into the lives our ancestors led. We can see who lived in their households, what age they were, in some cases even their month and year of birth, their occupation, prior military service, even the value of their personal and real property. Those clues about their lives were predicated upon the aspect of civilization deemed most important to the Census takers of that age – what the government needed to know about its populace. But those bits and pieces of data collected becomes our INFORMATION – the tool that paints the picture of our ancestors’ lives.

      And, now, we have DNA. It can track our long-lost cousins, our biological connections in those cases where adoptions obscured truths. For instance, after my new “step-daughter” contacted me, I immediately checked Adam’s DNA page on Ancestry. They offer a neat tool that helps to confirm, isolate, and identify groups of DNA-linked relatives. You click on the closest “cousinship” (cousins comprise the mass of relationships for all of us – the offspring of the siblings in each generation of our direct line ancestors are our cousins), and then select Matches. This brings up a secondary group that reveals how that close “cousin” is related to others whose DNA matches both your DNA and the just-revealed “cousin”. In some cases, the Matches will direct you to known relationships – a matter of confirmation of the profiles in your family tree. But, when you are seeking the mystery person, these Matches can lead you to clues that may reveal the previously unknown.

      In this case, our newly located relative – my new daughter – had done her homework as well and had located the biological paternal line for my first husband. The man whose DNA now appears in the strands shared by Adam, by my daughter Melissa, and now shown to be shared by our precious Anne. We have a name. We have DNA proof that this man was the donor whose parentage “begot” my first husband.

      The story is a complex one – one deserving of not just a column, but a book which I am prompted to write. For my first husband was a world traveler. A handsome and talented man with a gift for languages and a love of the exotic. His unfortunate personal story was one of “knowing” he was adopted but being told he was the biological child of a duo who were not even acquainted at the time of his birth. He sought the proof for all the years we were together and, I can only assume, in the years up to his recent death. An avid fan of Ancestry’s two television series (Long Lost Family and Who Do You Think You Are?), your author has seen over and over the anguish of those who feel they “somehow” don’t fit in with their adoptive families, even when those families offer complete love and nurture. It is an inherent need for humans to KNOW who they are, where they come from, who their parents and grandparents are, their history. That need was both an unsatisfied seeking for my first husband and his driving psychological impetus. Coupled with his seeking of love and belonging was the unsettling knowledge that his mother had not been honest with him. That, throughout his life, she had claimed a truth that was a lie: that she was his biological mother. It damaged his relationship not only with her, but with every woman with whom he sought love thereafter.

      From a time shortly after our marriage, knowledge of my first husband’s prior family revealed the existence of two darling little girls. As my journey into genealogy became not only an occasional seeking but a driving passion, my daughter Melissa and I began trying to find those two half-sisters. Eventually, through research online, we were able to make contact with the eldest of those two girls, Kathy Mae. She was thrilled and advised us she had been trying to find her sister, Melissa, ever since she learned of her existence – when she herself was but 18 years of age. Through Kathy, we were introduced to her younger sister, Diane. These two girls – now women – welcomed their sister with open arms. We lost Kathy Mae several years ago to colon cancer, sadly. But, Diane and Melissa continue to be loving siblings, exchanging phone calls, text messages to this day. Briefly, Melissa lived in Florida and she and Diane met. It was a shocking thing to them both, for they found themselves “looking into a mirror.” My grandson remarked he could not tell which one was speaking until he saw their mouths moving, for they sounded so much alike. I, too, experienced that when they called me and exchanged the phone several times, confusing me as to which one was speaking.

      Now, we have another sister, Anne, whose story is an amazing one. After she was born, her mother (a native Costa Rican wed to a Finnish native), moved to Finland, relocating a very young Anne to that country. Anne was brought up there, mastering a third language in the process. She is now wed to a man whose origins derive from neighboring Turkey. Together they have two adorable children, one boy and one girl. Once again, the dramatic comparison of their appearance beggars belief. My first look at Anne’s pics made me gasp, for they were eerily like seeing my own Melissa at that age!

      The puzzle in all this, is that Melissa and I were always told how much we favor. Now, three half-sisters by two different mothers also favor. It brings me to the conclusion that my first husband somehow had buried in his genetic “memory” a picture of his own biological mother – a woman he must have sought, found, and wed over and over, recreating her genetic appearance in his own daughters. For our readers’ benefit, I offer photographs of the sisters and myself (granted, a MUCH younger self) for your own comparison.

Top pics: Left - the late Kathy Bradshaw Kaumalatsos; Right - Kathy's sister Diane Christian;
Third pic - Anne Bulut half-sister to other three; Fourth pic - Melissa Bradshaw half-sister to other three; Fifth pic - Your author, Melinda.

1: Kathy; 2: Diane
3: Anne Bulut; 4t: Melissa
For comparison with the sisters, here is a much younger pic of myself

      Now, the blessing and the miracle comes full circle. Anne, her husband, and their two small children plan to visit us in this New Year. Travelling around the world to greet, hug, love, and enjoy full contact with her biological sister – her near-twin. A twin whose own daughter shares Anne’s birthday, but is two years younger. Imagine! A sister two years the senior of one’s own daughter. Amazing.

      To all my readers, Happy New Year! Use all that is available to you to research your own family – learn about your heritage. Remember, now you can do that from the comfort of your own home via Armchair Genealogy.

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

Cooking with Rod


Mi Amore Cooks –
Ms Meatballs in Sweet N Hot Sauce

      Happy New Year! It’s that time again, time to reflect on the past and anticipate the year ahead. The year 2018 – for many reasons - was certainly one most of us will be happy to put behind. Traditionally, we celebrate the birth of the New Year with a little get together with family and friends; celebrate with remembrances and good food. Let’s look forward to 2019!

      We like to offer a good baked ham; a few tasty side dishes (often the guests bring a favorite dish of their own to the table); a fruit, cheese, and cracker tray that’s as sweet to the eye as to the palate; a crudité and dip tray; and several tasty hot offerings for those (like yours truly) who are more carnivore than bunny – sliced Summer Sausage, Little Sizzlers wrapped in bacon, and a twist on the Swedish Meatball thing that my Sweet M has designed to tease the palate.

      Here is a recipe that will start 2019 with a positive step forward. It is adapted from M’s tasty basic meatloaf recipe, removing the usual veggies and spices that would compete with her Sweet N Hot Sauce.

      Bon appetit~!

M’s Meatballs in Sweet N Hot Sauce

Meatball mixture:
    4 lbs. ground beef, prefer lean
    1 cup 3 minute oats (to help absorb and hold in juices)
    1/2 cup catsup
    3 eggs
    1 tsp pepper
    ½ tsp garlic powder

Sweet n Hot Sauce:
  • 2 cans Cranberry sauce (the jellied variety)
  • 2 bottles (12 oz) Heinz Chili Sauce
  • 2 Tsp French’s yellow mustard (or Dijon, if you prefer)
  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • ½ tsp Chile powder (to your taste)
  • ½ tsp Cumin
  • Red chile pepper flakes (use a few, taste, and adjust to your taste)
  • Parsley flakes

Put all ingredients for meatball mixture into large mixing bowl. Use hands to mix together.

Spray 9”x13”x2” casserole dish or line with parchment. You can also use a cookie sheet that is deep enough the grease does not overflow. Form meatballs about 1 inch in diameter, place them about an inch apart. Bake at 350º - 375º for about 15 minutes to begin the cooking process and brown the meatballs. Remove from oven, turn and repeat. Drain away the grease and place the browned meatballs on a paper towel to further aid this process. (You don’t want the meatballs to add grease to the sauce.)

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the sauce ingredients, except for parsley flakes. Mix well, letting the cranberry sauce melt into the chile sauce. Taste test for heat. Add chile powder or pepper flakes as you deem best.

This is a good time to pull out the slow cooker. Put the meatballs into the cooker. Top with the sauce and set to Low. Let cook for 2.5 to 3 hours, checking from time to time to make sure the sauce is sufficient and the meatballs are not overcooking. Or, if you wish, use an oven proof casserole dish (you must cover the dish if you go this route.) Cooking times will vary with the individual oven, set to 275º or 300º. Check it from time to time, and lower the temperature to keep warm until ready to serve.

If your slow cooker is attractive, merely use it as your serving dish. Sprinkle a few pretty parsley flakes on top of the meatballs as both garnish and to enhance the flavor. Set a few plates nearby and provide a pretty glass or mug with long serving style picks for your guests to serve themselves.
(See pic below.)

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


Sifoddling Along

A Serious Essay

      There is a little hard nut inside me that doesn’t want to be explored. It is about the shape and size of a black walnut, with a hollow center that contains some secret knowledge about the real me. I don’t know why it is so hard to crack, nor do I know for sure what it contains. It would be better if it were softer.

      Sometimes it is further protected by a layer of fat that I build over it. It seems to have a bristly outer cover that further resists any efforts to open it. It hurts.

      Since early childhood I have felt there was a little secret inside me. When did I get it and allow it to grow? I don’t know. I want to blame my parents, but that isn’t fair. I suspect it had to do with being a “good girl” on the surface. It wasn’t acceptable to have a temper, to express anger. I was expected to be compliant, obedient and quiet. The anger of others terrified me. Still does. It is easy to cow me by being aggressive and threatening. I will hide, think later of all the things I could or should have done or said. I get sad and angry at myself for not standing up for what I believe. The resulting anxiety had to be held inside.

      Never courageous enough to rebel overtly, I chose to comfort and indulge myself as compensation for holding in feelings and not being honest about them. What would happen if I exposed those feelings to light? It is so scary, I can barely think about it. The little shell scrunches up and defies me to look and disarm it for once and for all.

      Logically, I know I haven’t been all that bad a person during my lifetime. Yes, there are things I regret, shaming behaviors, but I was the one hurt in the long run. Maybe the little nut is scar tissue that has grown tight and strong over the years. It might have begun as a splinter that needed to be blunted, but instead of creating a little pearl, like an irritated oyster, I created something that pokes at me and reminds me that I must not be good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, neat enough, strong enough. Never enough. Always lacking in some small way.

      Seeking perfection is a fool’s game. Have I spent my life caught up in something that can never be achieved? Why can’t I be satisfied with my achievements? I have done many good things; accomplished things; competed against worthy opponents and won. Yet when it came to stepping up and going for broke, I have often backed away rather than risk rejection; it makes no sense.


      I decided to explore how the nut has benefitted me. It is an inner core that refuses to be defeated. Nothing can get to it to destroy the essential me. It has given me courage and resilience to come back from many difficult experiences.

      I wrote a premise for my memoir: I am like a ripe southern peach that rolls through life; easily bruised and hurt, yet keeps going because there is a wild and wooly interior and at the core, a rock-hard pit that hides a small kernel of bitterness.

      I think that is an accurate analogy for my life. I use fat to cushion my falls (literally and figuratively) and the core is tough and has value. The kernel of bitterness is nurtured anger.

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

Irish Eyes


Stories and Songs from Two Famous Kerrymen

Michael Healy-Rae is one of our most colourful and hard-working politicians.

When his first book Time to Talk, which is neither political nor a memoir was published at the end of October he told a press reporter, “I can’t talk about it. But I can give you the number for someone who works for the publisher.”

Healy-Rae’s debut is available for €16.99 on pre-order from Amazon and in all good bookshops.

And his brother Deputy Danny Healy-Rae was kept in the dark about the book too. Another reporter phoned him to get his reaction only to be told, “I know nothing about it. Is this Michael my brother? I heard nothing to be honest.”

Michael eventually said, “I have filled this book with various incidents that occurred throughout my family’s lives- some humorous, some poignant, some heart-breaking- but each one of them is the God’s honest truth. I hope the stories in this book will entertain you and distract you from your troubles for a bit.”

This book certainly “does what it says on the tin.” Michael proves how the power of talk will make permanent human connections entertain us and help us through tough times. He follows in the true tradition of the great Kerry storytellers like Eamon Kelly and John B. Keane. This collection truly captures all emotions at the heart of rural Ireland.

We are introduced to almost all facets of rural life. From Brain Surgery carried out in a Kilgarvan pub to how his father, the famous Jackie, turned a hackney car into a make-shift hearse by carrying a coffin complete with corpse on its roof. And then he had six grandmothers!

When he was ten year old his mother took him and his sister to visit cousins. They stayed with his mother’s cousin, Claire whose husband Bob was a very rich businessman. Bob offered to keep Michael in New York, pay for his education and bring him to work in his company. Michaels reply was, “Thank you very much Bob, but I’ll go home with my mother.” What would have happened if he had taken up Bob's offer and remained in New York? "I could have ended up somewhere in side in the White House, instead of inside in the Dail."

And he doesn’t shy away from sharing with the reader the biggest regret of his life. It was a time he didn't talk when somebody needed him the most. After that, he vowed to never stop talking, listening and trying to really hear what people were saying. You won't find a boring line in the 249 pages of Time to Talk. The story of Patrick Sean, a neighbor, cutting the colourful politician's toenails with a sheep-shears is a tonic. Start your 2019 reading with Time to Talk.

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Fifty years ago Glenside published an LP, John B. Keane sings Songs from his Musicals & Plays. It consists of fourteen tracks of the famous John B. introducing and singing his own songs. These included the theme songs from Sive, Many Young Men of Twenty and twelve others. After half a century isn’t it time that somebody had it re-mastered and brought out on CD. Or . . . in this age of vinyl revival why not publish it once again as an LP?

* * * * *

A friend sent me a list of “New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep.” ( well, maybe he’s not a friend!)
  • Read less.
  • I want to gain weight.
  • Put on at least 30 pounds.
  • I will start buying lottery tickets at a luckier store.
  • Stop exercising. Waste of time.
  • Watch more TV. I've been missing some good stuff.
  • Watch less T.V. in standard definition Gain enough weight to get on The Biggest Loser.
  • Watch more movie remakes.
  • Start washing my hands after I use the restroom.
  • Procrastinate more.
  • I will do less laundry and use more deodorant.
  • I will become a vegan for a day and subsequently learn that it was a missed steak.
  • I will no longer waste my time relieving the past, instead I will spend it worrying about the future. Stop buying worthless junk on Ebay, because QVC has better specials.
  • Spend more time at work.
  • Stop bringing lunch from home: I should eat out more.

* * * * *


See you in February.

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Consider This


Good Luck Charms?

      Do you believe in good luck charms? Talismans(men?), amulets? I don’t know if I do. I mean I’d sure like to. I’d love to think the gizmo I wear around my neck or carry in my pocket or in my sock (gross) or in my purse would bring me great good luck.

      But I’m not so sure about ‘things’ bringing one good luck, and I guess that’s the problem. It’s the believing of it all that makes the whole deal work, right? If, for example, I were to believe the rock I found at the bottom of my lobster bisque would bring me good luck if I carried it about forever, then of course, it would. If I just chucked it at the waiter and did not believe it would bring me good luck, well then it probably would not. Right? Yeah.

       And I don’t have “good luck rituals” I perform before I embark on something scary,like getting up in front of 200 people to read my poems. (You know, the way certain famous pro baseball players go through a series of never changing, repeating, bizarre twitches, adjustments and touchings before they step up to the plate to strike out.) I know one guy who rubs the belly of a bronze elephant bookend before he makes a stock market transaction, and he’s been living in poverty and debt for his entire adult life. And yet another person I know kisses an ancient photo of his “sainted mother” in the dead (no kidding) center of her forehead, mutters a few same repeated words and then goes out and sells every car on the lot. Amazing.

      So where’s all this going? I’ll tell you.I’ve already discussed in this column the problem I have in over-packing and carrying stuff with me at all times. I’m sure it’s a big psychological issue, (but I don’t much care) and OK, my right shoulder does hang maybe four inches lower than my left because my right one is my purse shoulder strap shoulder. (You get all that?)And since I carry enough stuff in that purse to survive being lost on an uninhabited island for maybe a month until help arrives,I periodically have to go through it to see if I can lighten it up. (I never much can.)

      However, I can occasionally decrease my purse’s weight by about a pound if I scrape out all the accumulated loose change, and that’s what I did the other night. I tossed it all out on a table and went to get The Jar to load it all into. I scooped, and there in my hand, all alone, was an odd coin. I thought “Oh Canada!” and started to toss it, and looked again. This was not a Canadian coin; it was British. It was a six pence piece, thin as paper, extremely worn, nearly flat on both sides, but I could still see old Queen Victoria’s profile and when I squinted, I could see the numbers; 1897. I was holding a coin that is 121 years old!

       How on earth did it get here, to me? I am not a numismatist (unless you count The Jar,) and haven’t been able to remember all the places where I was recently handed change in various stores. And besides, considering I don’t shovel all that loose change out of my purse very often, there’s really no way I could retrace my purchase journeys and locate my change-giving givers.

      So there it is. I now own this wonderful old coin. I’m not sure if it’s of any value at all, but I don’t much care about that. I’ve decided it’s going to be my Good Luck Piece, forever. I shall drill a hole in it and wear it on a chain about my neck, and let’s see if my luck changes. (I don’t know from what, because my luck’s been runnin’ pretty good these days.)

      I wonder if the coin collectors out there are blanching over the hole-and-chain plan. Maybe, but I think I’ve read that if a coin is very worn, its value is lessened, right? Well, this one is as worn as a shell lost at sea for dozens of years and has that same, satiny feel. I stare at it and remember that my ancestors, at least the ones any of us will admit to,came from England, and I wonder if any of my British relatives maybe even held this tiny coin and bought something with it, maybe some bread for dinner, or candy for a child. I stare at this coin and wonder how it got here, into my purse. When and how did it cross the ocean? Why? Did it get here last month or years ago?

      But get to me it did, mysteriously, causing my imagination to really churn. Did it come via Canada?

      But no. I’ve decided I like the England to LC-Purse story much better, so have decided this old coin is to be my personal talisperson and will keep it with me forever, if not always around my neck then in my pocket, but never, ever in my sock.  I’ll let you know when I win the Lottery. Should be any day now.

      Contact LC at lcvs@comcast.net. Her book QUEENIE is in local bookstores or contact her directly. www.lcvansavage.com

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On Trek


Does it matter which Religion?

      It doesn't matter so much what religion you are..etc. God doesn't care about religions... He cares about people. Life. Animals. I have found that no matter what religion one is in,or if in no religion, miracles happen to people.

      When I was in a cult, I had miracles happen. When I got out of the cult, that in itself was a miracle. People and animals have BABIES..THAT is a miracle.

       I have had awesome experiences, and have read a lot from various sources. But the experiences that have happened to me..via dreams, visitations, real life. NO ONE can take them from me.

      Was having a bible study when in the cult. They served us coffee. It was sooooooooo strong. When we left the house to go to another bible study, I said "maybe we can get some gum or something." Our guts were brewing. Two stores in this itty bitty town in West Virginia. Both closed. Rats. We moved on to the next Bible study. I was going to ask for water.

      We pulled into the driveway and one of the kids, about 12, comes running out of the house..and says, "You want some gum?" There were no cell phones, I did not call ahead. But it was a lovely family we were working on converting. LOL.

      The point is, We are all connected. This gets me into, God is not one entity.

Judith 11/20/2018

      November 29

I had a dream last night.
I was traveling in the universe, and remembered that people had NDE's.
It didn't matter what they believed, or in whom they believed...
What they learned..all learned from the NDE's was to love.
PURE love. Since we are all energy...
Pure energy, then we need to focus on LOVE..
Find our inner love and let it shine.
It doesn't matter if you believe in a God or not..
You can still...still BE LOVE..
That is what the otherside is. Unconditional love.. It can be attained here.
I woke up a happy camper.

I was thinking today of my mom's mom--a happy soul who insisted her three grandchildren call her by her first name Lena and call her husband Hector. So here are three kids saying, "Lena, Lena." People turn their heads and say that is so disrespectful to say that. We called her Lena because Lena wanted that. Now, many years later, Lena is gone, and I think, "What lesson did I learn from this?" We truly don't know what is happening in someone else's world, and it was not right to yell at three kids who were being obedient little ones.

For this new year, I am going to continue to work on not judging people. After all, we are all connected!! BTW, when my twins were babies, my grandpa worked on my Jeremy to get him to say Hector. So, Jeremy's first word was Hector. He did it. It made an old man happy. I am happy and proud to be the only grand-daughter of Lena and Hector. I smile joyfully!!
Judith 12/31/2018

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      I returned to China for the Christmas and New Year’s celebration. I attached some photos and videos to share with you because here in China this time of year is an awesome season. The cities are all lit up with Christmas lights and they are so beautifully displayed that it brings out the Christmas spirit in me.

 The Chinese also enjoy celebrating this special season with the lighting of bonfires. Here at the Suzhou International Foreign Language School in Suzhou, China the students sing songs and dance around the large glowing fires.

      They also set off large firework displays in the night sky. It is an ancient tradition to celebrate the winter solstice and it goes back thousands of years. Now in modern times they celebrate the winter solstice on Christmas Day. It's one of their ways of coming together as an entire community to celebrate their abundance and to be thankful for having one another in their lives.

      That is just one of the reasons I find this season so special here.

Thomas F O'Neill's Christmas in Suzhou, China

www.utube link to Suzhou Christmas

Thomas F O'Neill celebrating Christmas at the Suzhou International Foreign Language School in Suzhou, China.

www.utube link to Christmas at the Suzhou International Foreign Language School
    Always with love from Suzhou, China
    Thomas F O’Neill
    Phone: (800) 272-6464
    WeChat - Thomas_F_ONeill
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Email: introspective7@hotmail.com
    Facebook: https:/www.facebook.com/thomasf.oneill.3

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Dog stories, and in particular, sad dog stories, are nothing new, but when a friend called to tell me of this one, I realized this story had a unique tenor.This is a tale of how both a new dog and new owner had to grieve together, to get through a wrenching separation.They still mourn, but finally, it's fading away.

The man is an artist of some renown who lives alone and who's always loved and owned dogs.However, he had not had a dog in his life for some time, and he had begun to feel the need to own another pet.But he wondered if he should bring a dog into his life at this point.Life for him was becoming busier every year and he had to travel since his commissions frequently called him away. He worried about leaving a dog home alone, knowing how they need and crave human companionship.

So he adopted a couple of cats as substitutes, knowing he could leave them alone for at least a day or two, but one died under the wheels of a passing car and the other ran away as cats are apt to do.Finally, he decided it was time for him to own another dog and he would make certain that this animal would never be left alone.He'd take this new dog on trips with him and he would keep him away from automobile tires by installing an in-ground electric fence around his home.

The artist found someone in an ad who was selling dogs of a mixed and interesting pedigree--Welsh Corgi and Border Collie. He called her. A dog was available. His name was Jack. And so the artist drove there, but that morning, the dog, unbeknownst to the woman, had been taken by her husband to the local shelter for annihilation.

The artist drove quickly to the shelter to save Jack, and found him there, frightened, cowering and shaking in the corner of the cold, cement-floored cage, waiting for his owner to come to save him, not knowing he'd been sent there with no plan for him to ever return home.

The artist took him immediately and loved him instantly, and the two became inseparable. Jack, who mostly resembled a Border Collie, but had the short, muscular bluntness of a Corgi, definitely had a strong personality and a need to be loved so intense he would jump into the artist's lap even while he drove, and into his bed while he slept.Jack was loved not only by the artist, but by everyone.

The artist could let Jack run freely around his property because of the in-ground electric fence.There was no danger he would be hit by those murderous cars.Jack was safe there.

The artist took him everywhere.One cold December day he stood outside his studio with Jack, heard his phone ring and went inside to answer it.When he was finished talking, he went outside to find Jack, but he was not thereThe artist called and called and soon Jack came running toward him, obedient and loving as he always was.He ran into the studio and went under a desk and looked there the way he'd looked when he’d been in the shelter--frightened, shaking and pulling away. And then the artist saw the blood coming from his beloved dog's mouth.

Jack could not be saved. The vet tried everything, but for reasons the artist would never know, the dog had jumped the fence and had been hit so hard by a speeding car outside the studio, his internal organs were irreparably destroyed.There was no hope.

The artist stayed with Jack to the end and then went home to grieve alone.

"Jack was killed by a car yesterday," he told his dog’s former owner on the phone the next day." He was the most wonderful dog, the best I ever owned. I want another, just like him. By any chance, are there any of Jack's brothers or sisters available?"

"No," the woman told him, "They've all been taken away." The artist hung up.

Later, she called him back. By a remarkable coincidence, she said she'd spoken to the owner of one of Jack’s brothers, one that had escaped the shelter and death, and it seemed the man had to move away and could not take the dog. The dog’s name was Harry and the man told him he was going to have the dog euthanized at the shelter. It was apparently too much trouble for him to try to find a new owner for Harry.

"Don't take him there!" the artist shouted. "I'll get there as fast as I can."And he drove quickly to the man's home.

Harry did not look exactly like Jack, but the muzzle, the expression, the movements were the same.Harry was brown where Jack had been black.He'd been poorly cared for, left alone for long periods and was matted and dirty. He was frightened.

"I'll take him," said the artist.

"Fifty bucks," said the owner, and as the artist handed the man the money, he wondered why the dog suddenly had such value when only hours before, he'd been marked for the gas chamber.

Harry came home with the artist, but kept his distance. The artist bathed him, made him comfortable, fed and loved him.

Harry was learning that he would no longer be left all alone, nor would he be mistreated. He stays in the back seat of the car when the artist drives, but he's moving into a brighter spot in his life now. Finally, he now will sleep on the artist’s bed, although in the night he gets down and sleeps next to the door, perhaps dreaming about his first home, and feeling the old fears. Even though his treatment at the hands of his former owner had not ever been good, Harry had actually loved him, the way dogs will unconditionally worship even those who abuse them.

The artist is still grieving for Jack, and Harry in his way still grieves for his former life—but now together they are both moving away from that and toward each other.

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There You Sit

There you sit,
Patient on a pile of leaves,
Waiting for me.

By now you’ve learned
I’ll be around
By and by,

A jar or two in hand
Of chow and treats,
Talking softly,

Trying in my clumsy style
To let you know
I’m not a threat.

Ours is a strange game,
You intent on being
Wild and free,

Me so drawn to help
I typically forget
You’re not tame.

So I make little nests
For you to snuggle in,
Then complain

You choose instead
A cold hard spot
For curling up.

You, finally convinced
After months of this dance
I’m somehow OK.

I’m one kind note
In your unfriendly world
On which you can depend,

No longer questioning my motive,
No longer primed
To run away,

No longer quite as wild
As you were born
To be.

©2018 John I. Blair, 12/30/2018
Photo of Patio Cat shown below.

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What We Become

Our parents teach us, the best that they can
With hopes that we, will follow the plan
It doesn't matter, where we come from
It's what we do with what we have, and what we become
It's what we want, it's what we need
That's measured out, in the life that we lead
To make each moment, count for something more
To me, I believe, that's what we're living for

Leaving an impression, for others to follow
To fill our roles, with a life we can swallow
The path we travel, on the journey we take
Will have challenges, with each choice we make

Within, we have the strength to prevail
It's our journey, so how can we fail
If we get stuck, and we're in doubt
We need to reaffirm, what life is about

I find helping others, is something I treasure
A life's gift, that is always a pleasure
You may want to sit, and do nothing at all
If that's the case, I hope you hear the call

When you are older, and are looking back
What was needed, what did you lack
We have so much that we could do, in our life's total sum
It's what we do with what we have, and what we become

© Dec 8, 2018 Bud Lemire
                      Author Note:
I truly believe, we have it in us to become what we truly wish to be.
We just have to strive for it. Even if we think we are going in the
wrong direction and realize it, we have the power to change it
and go in the right direction. Our life is ours to live, and mold
it into what we want. No matter where we are, or who we are.
Be someone that you can be proud of in yourself, because it is
all about What We Become.

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Walking With Alice Anne

Down a quiet city street, I used to wander,
     Taking Alice Anne for sun and air,
Pausing where the shrubs and trees grew thickest,
     Just to watch unfriendly fox squirrels playing there.

Walking very slowly down the sidewalk,
     Trying to match my steps with Alice Anne's,
Gathering flowers that grew along the pathway,
     To fill the little dimpled, waiting hands.

Stopping now and then to watch the workmen,
     As they mowed the grass and trimmed the trees,
Gazing at the graceful weeping willows'
     Slender branches as they shook and trembled in the breeze.

And, when at last the walk is ended,
     And Alice Anne is tired and sleepy too,
I tuck her in her crib beside the window,
     And listen while she laughs, and talks and coos.

©circa late 1940's Carrie E. Joslin

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Looking for Brilliance

Looking for brilliance
In my life
I see the sun

Shining on me
As it always has
When clouds have cleared.

But though the metaphor
Is comforting
(As is the warmth)

Something’s lacking –
Something I have sought
All my days.

I’m still hoping
For a mote of understanding
Floating in the light.

And it’s seldom there
Or never
Depending on my standards,

Depending on how hard
I may insist
That it be true,

Not just a hunch,
Not just a bit
Of undigested lunch.

©2018 John I. Blair, 12/29/2018

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Our Healing Earth

Everything we see and feel is healing energy:
Rays of sun come pouring in--a smile on every ray;
Heart shaped leaves upon a tree glisten every day;
Drops of rain that refresh like a cool mountain breeze;
Snowflakes that tickle us--pure, white, healing freeze;

Moon and stars shine beams of light
Throughout the night;
Flowers blossom and bloom, bringing love and peace,
Making our homes a beautiful sight;

Our children delight in all things good;
Animals abound in their kingdom- hood;
Be thankful each day for our healing venues;
It's time for us to make our world renew.

©December 5, 2018 Judith Kroll

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The Christmas Bell

All was silent, on this Christmas night
The tree was lit, with a colorful light
Ornaments hanging, from the tree
One was a bell, given to me
On this silent night, in this winter wonderland
That bell started ringing, not by a human hand
Mom gave it to me, and then she went
She said when it rings, it'll be Heaven sent

The family surrounded the tree, as it rang
It was Mom's favorite song, that they sang
They could almost hear her, singing along
This love they felt, was what made them strong

She always loved this time of year
They each felt her love, as it drew near
She loved each one so very much
One by one, they felt her Heavenly touch

They remembered the last words she said
Just before her body became dead
“When you stand around the Christmas Tree”
“If the bell should ring, you'll know it's me”
Mom was never one to pass up a family event
Each of them knew, that bell, was Heaven sent
© Dec 19, 2018 Bud Lemire
                        Author Note:
So often we think those who left this world are gone.
Yet they can be so very close, we can feel them. Just
remember their human bodies are gone, but their souls
within become amazing spirits that gather around the
ones they love. They try to tell us, but we have not
tuned them in. So they try whatever means they can
to remind us, that at Christmas time, they are with us.

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The Secret

We all share a secret
We aged ones
Whose hair is gray or gone,

Who pace our cage of care,
Leaning on a cane
Or shoving wheels along.

We look each other in the eyes
And see ourselves reflected there,
Just as sad, just as empty.

At this late stage
Our waiting souls
Are almost bare.

©2018 John I. Blair, 12/16/2018

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The Enemy Within

For some of us, the enemy lives within
We fight them off, but we can never win
Life's battle scars, has left us very sore
We want to relax, but all we do is roar
We bang the drum, we bang the wall
We crash the carts, right in the hall
We scare the people, that we are around
We're out of control, we keep losing ground

I fought for our country, in a mighty war
Now I fight demons, that keep coming through my door
I know you can't see them, yet they're real to me
You would understand, if you knew my history

They gave me medicine, to keep me in control
Yet all I want to do, is crawl out of this hole
Break free, of these enemies within
Part of me knows, I will never win

I never asked for this, I never did
I started off, as a normal kid
Along the way, something happened to me
The things you don't know, are the things that I see
© Dec 30, 2018 Bud Lemire
                         Author Note:
We never know everyone's story. How they came to
be who they are today. What they've been through
in their lifetime. Then one day we know more, and
understand their story a little better. Can we truly
say that under the same circumstances, that it could
have been us. Yes, if we had traveled their journey.
But we didn't and they did, and they have to live with
it. But we can take what we learned, and understand
a little better of where they are coming from, and what
they are going through.

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That Sparkle in your Eyes

Like any star in the sky
Like any single passerby
Like any reason to try
Like that sparkle in your eyes

Like any moment in time
Like any nickel and dime
Like any reason to cry
Like that sparkle in your eyes

It’s not as if nobody’s paying attention
It’s not as if you don’t have anyone who cares
It’s not as if you’ve gone through any self reinvention
It’s not as if you’re alone and running scared

Like any heart on your sleeve
Like any world of make believe
Like any lost memory left to retrieve
Like having the will to achieve

Like any star in the sky
Like any single passerby
Like any reason to die
Like that sparkle in your eyes

Like any moment in time
Like any poem and rhyme
Like any reason to define
Like that sparkle in your eyes

©11/29/18 Bruce Clifford

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Aging in Place


      “Aging in Place” - what a great concept. Implementing it is not so simple. Al, my husband and I have had our share of age-related health problems. I have had both knees replaced and Al has had a broken hip and recently a broken shoulder. The latter is what led us (and our children) to arrange for more assistance in order to avoid going back to the hospital or long term care.

      I hired a highly recommended firm that was “dedicated to the whole person” in hopes that they could help us with some tasks, run errands, assist in personal care, if needed, and be generally helpful and unobtrusive. The objectives were to keep us engaged in life and avoid nursing homes and hospitals.

      Pippa, the “educator” (read sales person) was enthusiastic and full of promises. I was going to have help that would relieve me of stress and both Al and I would have help that would be compatible and help re-ignite the missing “spark” in our lives. Much time was spent in explaining how it worked and finding the right person(s) to work with us. Her colleague Astrid, a Registered Nurse, assured me that the health care was going to be superb. Life would be great again. Al was coming home after six weeks in the hospital and rehab. The Case Manager Crystal, another R.N. was cheerful and practical. She and I agreed on an initial schedule of 4 hours in the morning and four hours in the evening to ease Al’s transition with assistance in morning and evening tasks. I was to be helped as time permitted. Al would get the same assistance and care he had got at the transitional care unit (TCU) and I would be free to take it easy and rest my wonky heart. It sounded like paradise.

      But stop. Remember the snake part of the story?

      First of all, it is difficult to have a stranger in your home. Try having seven strangers in a row. It is like Groundhog Day. The same introductions, explaining our needs, finding out a little about the caregiver’s background and what needed to be done in the next four hours. None of them had been briefed about our needs and circumstances (as I had been assured would be the case). All immediately rushed over to find our case manuals to read up on our history and medical conditions.

      Aide #1 was a young Somali woman named Farah. Since she wore a hijab, I guessed she was Muslim. That was fine with me, but it was during Ramadan and I felt I needed to inquire if she had any special needs. We barely got past “hello” when our cat, Busted, ambled in. Farah was terrified. I thought she was going to jump on the sofa and I might have to scrape her off the ceiling. I mildly observed that things weren’t working out too well and as this was our first experience with help, perhaps she might like to leave. “No, no! She insisted. She could cope. She had not been warned that we had a cat. If so, she would have declined the job. I explained that my husband was still in the transitional care unit in Shakopee, MN and that we were starting early in order to have things in good order before his expected release. I had many items that had not been adequately cleaned after the devastating flood we had experienced in Missouri six years before and I would appreciate help in getting our basement area in order. Three days before we moved into our home here in MN, Al fell and broke his hip. Needless to say, we were preoccupied during the move and our furniture and belongings were almost literally thrown in the door. This was a great opportunity to address a five year old problem.

      Aide #2 A middle aged woman from Kenya. She sashayed into the house with a cheerful demeanor. Tidy uniform, and a can-do attitude. She was some help, but her claim of owned a café back home in Kenya, was a little off as she cooked my scrambled eggs at a blistering high heat so they were lumpy and watery. She also had a habit (that I came to know as cultural)of washing out every dish or pan before using it. I started feeling like I must be lacking in cleanliness.

      Aide #3 Maria was sunny Latino with a very sweet personality and generally helpful. A good cook, but disappointing in some other task executions. She left a pan of dirty water in the middle of the floor, for example. I thought I could work with her if she had more training and supervision, but at the moment I didn’t want to be thinking for two.

      Aide #4 Al’s first day home. Hamilton, our first male aide arrived twenty minutes late at 5:20 pm. He also was from Kenya. I was feeling like a delegate to the United Nations. The idea was that he would prepare our dinner, work with me and then help Al to bed. Of course, Al was furious at what he perceived as an invasion of privacy and refused to talk with anyone. I went about my little routine of getting acquainted with our needs and a little about his background. He had earned a Masters of Public Health and when he heard that I also had a MPH, immediately asked me for a job reference. I allowed that we had just met and was in no position to evaluate his qualifications.

      I had gone shopping the night before and bought a rotisserie chicken, and ingredients for a simple chicken dish that looked good, a premade salad and strawberry shortcake. The tasks were to bone the chicken, dice some celery and measure and mix the other ingredients. It was frustrating to me as he announced he did not know how to cook American food and could I read the recipe to him. He also washed every dish before using it.

      Explaining cooking terms, locations of equipment was a trial to me. “It is in the top drawer to your left.” Meal preparation was not easily accomplished. It took him an hour to prep and assemble a mixture that had only five ingredients. Meanwhile, I sliced and sugared the berries and set the table. When our dinner was ready, it became clear that it was 7 pm and he had brought no food with him (as he was supposed to, I later learned). I didn’t know what else to do but invite him to join us in the meal. Al was not happy with a stranger eating with us, but it seemed rude to me to not offer food. In addition, now I was between him and Al’s ire. We ate in near silence and after clean up and some unpacking of boxes, I was happy to see him leave.

      Aide # 5. Michael arrived at 6:50 am. He was from Unganda and ten minutes early for two non-morning clients. He had a bit of an attitude. When I cautiously asked if he were Muslim (I was concerned about dietary laws and wanted to be polite.) His terse reply was “Have you ever met a Muslim named Michael?” I sheepishly said, “No, I guess I haven’t.” Al went to the bedroom to pout, so Michael and I retreated to the basement. I have some knock-down pine shelving units that I have moved all over the U.S. I had assembled some of them when we moved in, but there were two more units that I needed help putting together. It is a simple process (usually) that I once could do alone, but it is easier if two people work together. (One to hold up the supports and the other to insert and snap in the shelves.) I got constant complaints of “I am not a carpenter.”

      The last straw was a lecture on the evils of slavery .“ I can’t understand why there was slavery in the U.S.” v“Nor do I”, I said. "It is evil and wrong, but I and my ancestors had nothing to do with it.” I sent him home early.

      Aide # 6 At the sight of another new person at the door, Al went to the bedroom and slammed the door. I had planned a simple spaghetti dinner: a jar of Prego with added sautéed mushrooms, a salad, garlic butter , ciabatta and the leftover strawberries. I had started prepping dinner as I didn’t want to cope with a million questions about cooking and equipment locations. The water was boiling, the sauce simmering and the bread sliced and buttered. Lucy was a happy surprise. She was a funny chatterbox - a welcome relief. Since Al refused to eat, I invited her to join me. She had brought her own food, but said she would be foolish to turn down strawberry shortcake. I enjoyed her company and after dinner clean up, we went to the basement again to clean and sort.

      Aide #7 Caitlin arrived promptly the next morning. In our now ritual introductions, I learned that she was a refugee of Hurricane Katrina. Well, we had something in common to discuss – a water disaster. After getting downstairs, I explained that I needed to unpack more boxes, clean and sort. “I can’t lift more than 5# she announced flatly. So I ended up bringing in the boxes to go through while she half-heartedly washed some items. She did put the hooks in some curtains and hung them for me. Apparently, she had never done that before. A third curtain was threaded on a rod, but the matching one had to wait as she was unwilling to try to hang it for me.

      Aide #8 Mannu was another guy who would rather talk than work. Middle aged, everything seemed to be a great effort. We struggled along, but I sent him home a half hour early. I couldn’t stand any more.

      “Why keep trying ?” my friends and family said. The only reason I did was because Crystal was bending over backward to make it work. Unfortunately, she would get something fixed and someone else would either not follow through or would change things in a way that was not what I wanted.

      After eight different “helpers” I was getting sick from stress. I called Pippa. She quickly let me know that it was her job to “educate” and after that I should only call Crystal, the Case Manager. In other words, she was no longer a resource. Needless to say, I was pissed. I contacted Crystal and she again bent over backwards to help me get the kind and amount of care we needed. She came on her own time to dress an arm wound Al got when he fell a second time after getting home. We were clearly at high risk for injury and those falls got both of our attentions.

      But enough of troubles. There was a bright spot. We ordered meals from Seattle Sutton (the real name) that were great. All 21 meals for the week for both of us picked up or delivered twice a week. Being Scots-Irish, I opted to save $20/week and pick the fresh food up myself. It was perfect for us – well planned, and healthful with fresh fruits and vegetables along with freshly prepared foods. A five week cycle of menus to avoid boredom.

      As for help. I settled on one aide who was helpful and had initiative. She was available twice a week and that seems to be enough for our needs right now.

      (Names changed for privacy.)

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      I am the last of a long procession of days, gone from you forever.

      We have gone and cannot be retrieved any more than the same waters of the river repeat its journey a second time. We stream behind you, pouring into obscurity, and at last into the ocean of oblivion.

      We carry off your burdens of defeat, your triumphs, bitterness, and laughter.

      Yet as we go we each leave something in your mind and heart. If you know enough to put your feet upon us, you can rise rapidly, but when you let us ride over you, we strangle and smother you.

      As you grow older we absorb your thoughts. You turn to us more and more, and less toward tomorrow. Tomorrows come unnoticed, todays slip by unheeded. More and more you become a creature of yesterday.

      I am yesterday. Learn to look me in the face, to use me, and not be afraid of me. I am not your friend; I am your teacher and your judge.

      Todays alone are yours; and tomorrows hold your encouragement. .

      We stand at the door of the past, welcoming the single file of days that will pass through, watching tomorrows becoming todays as they enter among us. I wish you well.

      Collaboration between Shar and Anonymous

Author's Note: I did this to put in a calendar/journal I put together in 2006. Anonymous was printed in an Ideals magazine in 1956. It was cumbersome and confusing so I re-worked it. I liked the message.