Thursday, April 1, 2021

Editor's Corner

By Mary E. Adair

April 2021

"Our spring has come at last with the soft laughter of April suns and shadow of April showers."
- Byron Caldwell Smith.

Peeking at the next calendar page and behold! April slips into her place in history! One can only hope she comes with fewer surprises in the weather than her sister March thrust upon the world. Personally, this editor would love to see her family members, and having had the first Covid-19 vaccination and one to go in April, she thinks travel might be a bit closer than it was this time last year!

As we begin discussing the columns, we want to draw your attention to the newest one, "Woo Woo," authored by a long time acquaintance, Pauline Evanosky. She is no stranger to sharing her experiences, having produced an online publication for several years. Don't miss her bio where she explains a bit about herself and her gifts.

Melinda Cohenour, despite continuing, mostly weather related, relocation difficulties, offers a glimmer of hope that next month will see her posting her latest DNA and family tree research in "Armchair Genealogy."

Judy Kroll's column "On Trek" glows with a precious memory as only she can express. Mattie Lennon, "Irish Eyes," has news about the popularity of Shed Associations being formed for women now, and tells us how to learn more of and about the Irish language. A new report on Living Coffins sounds feasible although surprising.

Once again "Cooking with Rod" hosts a Guest Cook, since his moving plans hit a lot of snags. This issue features Ruben Olgin's popular dessert: a Cheesecake Pie. "View from My Back Steps" has John Blair discussing interesting details about one type of visitor to his garden area.

Marilyn Carnell, "Sifoddling Along," tells about her time with the industry that still presents as the prestigious "Betty Crocker" and what it involved. Thomas F. O'Neill in "Introspective" reveals his studies about Einstein, and how his genius beliefs still stand solid in today's events.

Phillip Hennessy has two poems for April, "The Letter" and "Little Things" with the latter already set to music. Many of his poems published with this eZine have been chosen as lyrics by various bands and individuals for their recordings.

Bud Lemire, one of the Covid-19 survivors is beginning to get back to his writing again. A prolific photographer, he illustrates many of his poems with his own work. "Getting Through It All" delves into some of the feelings from having the Virus. The poem titled "Boiled Eggs" is his nod to April Fools Day, while "I Love Packages" sounds like himself again.

Walt Perryman with that Cowboy Poetry vibe (and in fact performs often at Luckenbach, Texas) shares these poems: "Sometimes I Wonder," "Morning Thought on God’s Communication," and "Your Choice."

"We're Here Today" and "Faces, Names, and Books" represent Bruce Clifford's poetic endeavors for April. John Blair sent these two: "Moving Pots, Making Choices" and "Spring 2021."

Kudos to Mike Craner, Webmaster and co-founder of this eZine, who keeps this eZine functioning with his ingenuity and consideration. Thanks, Mike!

We will see you in May!

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


By Melinda Cohenour


Absent While Relocating Residence


The task of moving while Winter held sway was delayed until March which sadly did not offer much respite of intolerable weather conditions. However, the moving vans are working steadily during the final days of the month, and we expect to be reunited soon with our trusty computer and genealogical records to take up the uncovering of elusive documentation and tales that we actually delight in accomplishing.

Therefore, please check here in May as we give details in the search to solve the next ancestor mysteries.

Meanwhile here is the link : Melinda Cohenour Just click my name here for a complete clickable list to my previous columns.

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

View from My Back Steps

By John I. Blair


I have two possums that regularly visit my yard, looking for food and water and shelter. Possums have long fascinated me – such apparently “primitive” mammals and yet they have survived as a species for millions of years and appear to be doing just fine right now. I wonder, what’s their secret?

One possibility is that they benefit from having built-in “eternal optimism”. It’s hard to discourage a possum. That they even found my house (with its continual supply of the things they need – food, water, shelter from weather and predators) amazes me. I’m in the center of a city of 400,000 that in turn is in the center of a metro area of 7,000,000+. And it’s been nearly 70 years since this area was rural. Possums move very slowly. They appear to have only one speed – slow and lumbering. Crossing a street is done only at considerable risk (and the consequences are often visible in the neighborhood). Yet they persist.

Persistence seems to work very much in favor of the possum. The ones who come to my patio show up even in the daytime now, which is unusual for an animal that is supposed to be nocturnal. They’ve learned that there are no serious predators here and that I’m not dangerous. I often find one just outside my patio door, vacuuming up cat chow from the bowls I place there for my outdoor cats. Sometimes I have to open the door and “speak sharply” to the possum before it leaves, slowly. And then it comes back, after I close the door and leave.

My outdoor cats have come to an understanding with the possums (as they have with the raccoons). The cats stay out of the road. And the possums pretty much ignore them.

Fortunately cat chow is not all that possums eat. They have the reputation, well-earned, of being Nature’s cleanup crew, eating just about everything, including earthworms, ticks, baby rats, mice, and the sunflower seeds I put out for songbirds. And unlike squirrels, rats, and raccoons, apparently possums are less likely to find their way into attics (although they are very skilled at climbing).

And they multiply – that’s no doubt a major part of the answer to my puzzle. Opossums usually reproduce twice a year. Once mating is done, the male, called a jack, leaves and doesn't return. After a gestation of just 12 to 13 days, female opossums, called jills, give birth to up to 20 live young at a time. The babies, called joeys, are about the size of jelly beans when they are born. The mother has only 13 nipples, however, and only that many babies survive. First come, first served, after they have made it to the pouch where they spend the first part of their lives. Wasteful, but it has worked for millions of years.

In all the time I have been observing possums in my yard I’ve never seen a mother with young. But then the little ones would be hiding in their mother’s pouch. What I believe I am seeing right now is a male possum “courting” a female. It appears very clumsy and ineffective; and the times I’ve watched, she has rejected him, being apparently more interested in feeding than mating. We will see.

Part of this, I think (very unscientifically) is the male possum’s tail. Possums have remarkably long tails. Their tail can be as long as the rest of their body – up to a foot and a half on large males. And they’re capable of holding it out perfectly straight and horizontal behind their bodies, despite it having no bones (it’s all muscle). I have been wondering if that is a way of displaying on the male’s part. “Look what a big tail I have.” Kind of like “Look what a big nose I have.” Or whatever.

I will definitely continue my voyeurism with possums as the springtime progresses. And who knows? Maybe this year I’ll get to see babies!

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



Sifoddling Along

By Marilyn Carnell

A Brief Time with Betty Crocker

Sometime this year, Betty Crocker will be 100 years old. A fictional creature of many faces over the years, she was an enormous influence on my life.

When I was in high school, I won the “Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow” prize. It was a rather ornate pin (see below) awarded to the student with the highest score on a written test for knowledge of homemaking skills. I was pleased and put it on my letter sweater to show it off. Betty Crocker was as distant as the moon so far as I knew, but Betty and I were destined to meet.

In 1967 I finished the classwork for a Master of Public Health Nutrition degree. My long-term goal was to become a Registered Dietitian. (I finally completed the requirements and passed the exam in 1974.) A classmate told me that General Mills was looking for a nutritionist. I decided to apply. I remember vividly that I wore a neatly pressed white dress and immaculate white gloves. The gloves must have done the trick, as I got the job.

It was an interesting point in time. Women were new in the corporate workplace with the exception of secretaries and the home economists who developed recipes in the seven kitchens. Each kitchen was dedicated to a purpose or product line. There was a photography kitchen, a cake kitchen, a flour kitchen, and so on. It was fascinating to find that a minimum of 12 cakes was required for a product shoot. One for the cake, one for the cut slice. No air bubbles in either. There were stand-ins for arranging the lighting and positioning and the ones for the actual photograph. It was tedious, meticulous work. I was glad it wasn’t part of my job.

Marketing was reserved for males and they were graduates of Ivy League colleges and Stanford. I don’t recall any from a state school. They arrived prepared to do only two jobs – president or CEO. It was in informal policy to assign them to menial tasks like photocopying and delivering messages to bring them back to earth. Soon women began infiltrating the ranks and things began to change. One is now a Senator from Minnesota.

As it happened, my first task was a little unusual. The company was entertaining food editors from across the country at a fancy place in Chicago. The purpose was to introduce them to new products and, of course, have a positive view of them. My boss asked me to look up the ignition point of cotton balls. (400 degrees F.) This took a little time as it was long before the days of Google. It seems that models were hired to carry various products from table to table and an ordinary pie was too heavy. Thus, the pie was to be made with lightweight cotton and presented in a delicious-looking double crust.

The second assignment was very exciting. I was to go on the company plane and host a table at the dinner. It was quite an experience. I buckled in the small jet with a boxed cotton pie on my lap that I was to guard with my life to prevent damage. There was no room for it in the plane’s storage as those shelves were filled with liquor and wines for the dinner.

Ah, the dinner. Sadly, I don’t remember the many course menu, but a couple of things stood out. I was asked about one of the appetizer ingredients. It was something I had never seen in my life. I think it was an artichoke bottom, but no one had coached me about exotic ingredients, so I nodded and smiled and said “Yes, it is interesting”. One of the editors passed out with her head in a plate. I saw that she was in no danger and let her sleep. Another slurred her thanks to “The Admiral.” It was a shocking entrance to big city life for this hillbilly girl.

My orientation required that I go through the training procedures required for each home economist hired. The three-person Nutrition Department was located in the kitchen area and since part of my new job was to develop recipes for special diets, I needed to know how to do so properly. My boss was a brilliant woman who bore an uncanny resemblance to Betty Crocker portrait number 4. She was one of the most brilliant, organized, and disciplined people I ever met. I look back and think what a trial I was for her at times with some of my off-the-wall ideas. 

See portrait number 4 at bottom of page.

The Nutrition Department was created to protect the company from false claims in advertising and promotion. We reported to the Company Medical Department, not marketing to maintain our independence in judgment. A major part of my job was to research and write papers and pamphlets that emphasized the nutritional value of products and where they could be used in special diets as well as daily meals. To accomplish this mission, we took an exhibit booth to several medical and dietetic conventions each year. These travels were very educational for me. I will always be grateful for the opportunities I was given to learn and advance my professional career.

Part of the initial training was to bake cookies using each of the seven varieties of flour the company made. Determined to be efficient, I lined up the bowls and added ingredients to each. I had never seen self-rising flour, so I added leavening to each batch. The inevitable happened – my cookies blew up all over the oven. I was embarrassed and spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the oven.

Cooking in the kitchens was a sheer pleasure. In addition to having someone do the shopping for ingredients and storing them, a housekeeper was always available to wash the utensils and keep the kitchen tidy. If you needed a lot of measuring cups, there was always a clean one ready to use. The downside was that one side of each kitchen was open for two purposes - twice a day food tasting panels and frequent tours of the public led by smartly uniformed guides. The image of Betty Crocker as a professional, proper lady and cook was always in our minds. Once my hot pad slipped on a cookie sheet burning my fingers. I put the pan down carefully and dashed out the back door of the kitchen to nurse my wounds. Betty wouldn’t make such a stupid mistake.

I did develop recipes for dialysis patients who required a very low protein diet at the time. For many years, General Mills had manufactured a wheat starch product with the odd name of Paygel-P. It previously had two purposes – an ingredient in salad dressing and as a filler in oil well shafts. An enterprising doctor found that it might be useful in special diets and we had a working relationship with the Mayo Clinic and Emory University

Marilyn at the Betty Crocker lab
developing low protein recipes.

to develop foods that were more familiar than the gummy ones made with rice or potato starch. (photo).

I worked seven years at General Mills, but Betty and I parted daily company after three years. I became part of a venture team to establish a new business model and later became one of the first women to work in quality assurance; an area that previously had been staffed only by men. All of my jobs were rewarding, and I consider General Mills the best place I ever worked, but those stories are for another time.

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Woo Woo

By Pauline Evanosky

Something happened yesterday to me. Something psychic. This little story is a glimpse into what it is like to be a channel.

My life, of late, hasn’t been all that exciting or uplifting. My diabetes is catching up with me. I’ve been wrestling with a frozen shoulder which limits many ordinary movements, like reaching into a cupboard or turning a light on and off. My back aches, my hip hurts and my knee cries out at every other step. In short, I’m a mess. It is not pretty to get old and if you have managed to enter into that time in better shape than I am you might think of yourself as lucky.

Yesterday I rubbed my face. I do that a lot. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is habit. Perhaps it is to wake myself up, just remind myself that I am here. I did that yesterday and felt across my forehead bumps. Lots of bumps. I thought to myself, “Now what kind of rash do I have?” I was thinking I should get out the scrubber and address myself to, not only my forehead, but my cheeks, my chin. Everything was bumpy. Not angry pimple bumps. These were the bumps of a piece of sandpaper. There was something horrible happening and my already low thoughts began to take a nose dive.

Then, a voice in my head said, “It’s only dry.”

I answered back, “Who?” I knew it wasn’t my guide. I could tell. Seth doesn’t generally make comments like that. Although he could, I suppose. But, I knew it wasn’t him.

The person didn’t respond. Rather a name formed in my head. Elizabeth Taylor. I answered back, “Really? Really Elizabeth Taylor?” And, a voice said, “Who better?”

I looked in the mirror closely and danged if there wasn’t a fine, ever so fine white powder on my forehead. I thought to myself, “Well, I’ll be danged.” So, I put some cream on my face and a little bit later ran my hand experimentally across the skin of my face and realized it was smoother.

I said to her afterward, “Your son was Michael?” She said, “Michael Todd”.

I’ve been thinking to myself all morning that it should have been Michael Fisher. It turns out Elizabeth’s third husband was Michael Todd who already had a son, Mike Todd, Jr. from his first marriage. Elizabeth was married to Michael Todd, Sr. for one year from 1957 to 1958 when he died in a plane crash. Eddie Fisher was a good friend of Michael Todd’s and Michael had asked Eddie to join him on that flight to play gin saying the plane was safe. Elizabeth had a cold and did not fly that day. She married Eddie Fisher in 1959. Where Elizabeth’s son Michael comes from is her second marriage in 1952 to Michael Wilding. They had two sons together Michael and Christopher. They divorced in 1957.

What I got from reading bits and pieces of Elizabeth’s history on Wikipedia this morning was that in all of their love affairs and marriages life was tough for Hollywood types. Now? I believe they are all precious to one another.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
below: Portrait of Pauline, unmasked



Irish Eyes


By Mattie Lennon 


Dead Serious About The Irish Language And Live Coffins

The fact that you are reading this probably means that you are Irish, have Irish ancestry, or have a deep interest in the Emerald Isle. Perhaps you are fluent in our first national language or you are like me and have the Cupla Focal. On the other hand, you may want to learn Gaeilge. One way or the other Abair Arís É, By Kathleen Geraghty, is for you. Abair Arís É aims to help children and adults learn Irish in a step-by-step way. The book is accompanied by a CD and is a very user-friendly introduction to the Irish language.

Kathleen Geraghty lives and works in the Erris region of Co. Mayo. She is originally from Develane, a small village near Eachléim, located in the Mayo Gaeltacht, where Irish is spoken every day.

One of Kathleen Geraghty's paintings from her (hopefully) post-coved PowerPoint presentation in Irish explaining historical events.

She was born and raised with the Irish language, and from a very young age developed a great love of it. Throughout her working life, she worked on Summer camps which were all carried out through the medium of Irish. She also taught Irish classes to adults throughout the Winter months and gave one-to-one grinds for Leaving Cert pupils in preparation for their oral Irish exam. On completion of level 6 Early Childcare Course a couple of years ago She told me, “A few years ago whilst doing the adult Irish classes I decided to produce the book and CD as I found it would help people learn our lovely native tongue at their own pace and hopefully in a relaxed manner as they could listen to the lovely background music which I wanted to be relaxing for the learner. The book to date I have been told is very easy to follow and a great help for both adults and children. During Covid 19 I have started to write poetry also in Irish as I find it comes easier to me and I really enjoy it.”

Abair Arís É is available from, Kathleen Geraghty, Ballina Road, Belmullet, Co. Mayo.

Price (including Postage); €15.

* * * * *

In September 2020 (it seems a long time ago with lockdowns etc) I did a piece on home burials. Speaking of which; I was contacted by a Munster resident who is applying to their local a n home burials uthority, for permission to be buried in their garden, put me in touch with a Dutch firm which has created a biodegradable "living coffin" made of a fungus instead of wood that it says can convert a decomposing human body into key nutrients for plants. Loop company says its casket is made of mycelium, the underground root structure of mushrooms, and filled with a bed of moss to stimulate decomposition. "Mycelium is nature's biggest recycler," Bob Hendrikx, creator of the living coffin says. "It's continuously looking for food and transforming it into plant nutrition. “ It's used in Chernobyl to clean up the soil there from the nuclear disaster, Hendrikx said. The coffin is grown like a plant within the space of a week at the company's lab at the Delft University of Technology by mixing mycelium with wood chips in the mould of a coffin. Mycelium also devours toxins and turns them into nutrients. And the same thing happens in burial places.

After the mycelium has grown through the wood chips, the coffin is dried and has enough strength to carry a weight of up to 200 kilograms. I had a long phone conversation with Bob Hendrikx, inventor, architect and bio designer who strives to restore the parasitic relationship between humanity and its environment by exploring a living world. He believes in a world in which we work together with nature. A world in which our everyday objects become alive. Imagine living homes, self-healing T-shirts and bioluminescent streetlights. Bob has been chosen as human of the year 2020 by VICE Media. His ambition is to empower and inspire people towards a living future by turning science-fiction into reality. He is no stranger to Ireland. He even likes our weather. Perhaps it makes him feel at home! And he loves the Ring of Kerry. Space doesn’t allow me to even touch on his many achievements in his chosen field but you can find more on

The availability of the Living Coffin should prompt local authorities to be more accommodating with permission for home burials.

* * * * *

There were only 33 Women’s Sheds in Ireland in January 2020 when Minister for Rural Affairs, Michael Ring, allocated €500,000 for Mens’ and Women’s Sheds.

The Minister said,” I’ve no doubt that the emergence of Women’s Sheds can only be a good thing for community life in Ireland.” A Women’s Shed is of course an asset to any community and Blessington is no exception. Carmel Cashin, founder of Blessington Women’s Shed told me, The Blessington women’s shed was launched on March 8th as part of Blessington and District Forums International Wwomen’s Day celebrations. The Women’s Shed is the first in Wicklow and currently has 502 online members. We work very closely with the Sallins Women's Shed in Kildare which I founded last year.

Blessington Women's Shed was set up for women of all ages to reconnect with themselves and the wider community. Above all we want the shed to be a safe place where women can come together and take part in various projects. We hope to offer Women’s Wellness programs, up-cycling skills, upholstery, making blankets for our homeless, arts and crafts, flower arranging, crochet, and whatever the women decide they would like. This is a new project which gives women a sense of empowerment through peer education and friendship. We hope to improve mental health and wellbeing through social interaction. We will have to begin this journey virtually until such time as we can come together. We are currently seeking a community premises. We cannot believe how popular the shed is becoming and proves a real need for the Women in the area.”

Carmel says that the support they have received has been overwhelming and she has a special word of thanks to Andra Coogan and Susan Rossiter for all their help in getting it up and running.

The Blessington diaspora can get in touch with:

See you in May.

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

Cooking with Rod


Cooking with Rod

By Rod Cohenour

With Rod Cohenour still in the process of moving, we have a Guest Cook for this April 2021 issue. Ruben Olgin, husband of the Cohenour's niece Dottie is an excellent all-around cook for any menu item you could list, but his desserts are anticipated eagerly, especially during Holidays and family get-togethers. So here is one everyone looks forward to.


Ruben's Cheesecake Pie

Ruben says, "Here’s my own March 31, 2020 recipe for this."

  • 1- 8oz cream cheese
  • 1- cup of sugar
  • 1/4- teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/4- teaspoon of lemon extract
Mix these ingredients until soft
  • 1-8oz sour cream mix this into the above
  • 1-8oz of cool whip fold this in and this will fill
  • two Graham Cracker pie shells or one large graham cracker pie shell
  • Top it of with cherry pie filling or
  • I prefer blueberry pie filling
It’s ready to eat or you can cover it and refrigerate it for a couple of hours !!! It’s Delicious!

Photo: Ruben and Dottie Olgin

Appreciate Ruben Olgin for stepping in on short notice, and we will see you in May.

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

On Trek


By Judith Kroll

Miracles of a Lifetime

Watching my belly grow is awesome
No weight watchers for me
The warmth I feel vibrates thru every pore
I am in love forevermore.
How can you love what you cannot see?
I can because it is a part of me.
The soft flutters are ripples of love
My appetite grows as I grow, but no
weight watchers for me.
Pickles was my nickname, no shame,
I ate the jar before
reaching the check-out lane.
Fixing a room, looking at clothes, knitting a blanket in wait
I was ready for when He opened the proverbial gate.
What a miracle, a part of us, he is a shining light.
No more sleeping thru the night.
It is alright.
I worry now that all is, stays well.
Can I be a mother? Time will tell.
Just keep the love, and let it flow,
and watch the little light glow and grow.

©Mar 5, 2021 Judith Kroll

Author Note:

Miracles come in many ways,
the miracle of life is but one
cherish that experience,
that responsibility we choose,
a gift of our Lifetime,
Our little lights that shine.

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


By Thomas F. O'Neill

I recently read quite a few Facebook posts from an ultra-conservative with his approximate 5000 followers. One of his posts is worth mentioning here because he made a false claim that Albert Einstein was a creationist. A few years ago, I enjoyed reading the personal letters of Albert Einstein online. I would like to take the time in this column to write about some of the things Einstein wrote.

When I read some of his various writings, I find that there was a much deeper dimension to Einstein’s personality than his theories on Relativity. What intrigued me most about his letters was how spiritual he was. He wrote,
"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Albert Einstein died in 1955, and since his death, we have come a long way in our technological advancements and in our knowledge of the Universe. However, we have a long way to go as human beings in widening our circle of compassion.

Some have chosen to ignore our empirical understanding of the cosmos. I say this because, of today’s debate, between the Christian Fundamentalists who are still espousing the Intelligent Design theory, as the ultimate biblical truth - against the empirical evidence of Evolution. Some religious conservatives have also made claims that Einstein believed in the biblical creation story.

What I have found is that Einstein did believe in God and in an intelligent design within the universe. He did not however believe in the intelligent design theory that the Christian Fundamentalists want to be taught in the public school system.

Science should be an empirical method of discovery for students, not a religious conviction. To say that God created everything in the universe without a method of studying the claim is not science but rather an emotional and irrational stance against Science. It is one thing to believe in God, to devote one’s life to that belief, and to have blind faith in the assumption that God is the ultimate designer of our Universe, but where do you go from there and where is the scientific method of study?

In one of Einstein’s letters he wrote,
"The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge."

One of Einstein’s achievements was measuring the distance within our Universe by the speed of light. He discovered that light has a constant speed of approximately 186,282.397 miles per second. In view of this discovery, it can take Millions and in some cases Billions of light-years for the light of distant stars to reach the earth. The universe that we perceive is the universe of the past, not the present.

When we look at the sheer vastness of our Universe with the Billions of Suns and Planets it is a statistical certainty that we are not the only intelligent life in the Cosmos. When we measure the birth and evolution of the universe on a scale of a 24-hour period, humanity would have been born 10 seconds ago. Therefore, some intelligent life in far-off galaxies could have had an evolutionary head start in terms of Millions and in some cases Billions of years before life as we know it existed on earth.

Some scientists would also go as far as to say that in far-off galaxies intelligent life could have possibly evolved without a DNA structure, which is essential for intelligent life to exist on our planet. There could be intelligent life in distant galaxies that evolved far beyond our comprehension because of their lack of DNA and due to the vastness of the universe incapable or unwilling to visit our planet.

When you also consider how far evolved, we have become as human beings in only three and a half million years we can presuppose that some intelligent life in the universe evolved far beyond our comprehension. Some intelligent life could have possibly evolved into what some would describe as spiritual beings due to billions of years of evolution.

This is also where science, spirituality, and Philosophy are beginning to merge and complement each other in our pursuit of knowledge.

However, today’s Christian Fundamentalists would argue that it takes as much blind faith to believe in evolution as it does for the Godly people who believe in the biblical creation story.

I do not believe in the Judeo-Christian creation story nor do I believe entirely in the Darwinian evolution theory. I do however believe in evolution because of the scientific evidence that supports it. I do not see evolution as being contradictory to the Intelligent Design theory but rather evolution can be an intricate part of the Universes Intelligent Design.

Einstein also wrote in one of his letters,
“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds."

Today’s Scientists recognize intelligent patterns within nature. That is why we continue to rely on Science and continue to develop scientific methods to help us gain greater insights into understanding nature’s intelligent design.

Humanity is also pushing to better itself with each generation. It is within that desire for self-improvement that we have evolved to where we are today and will continue to evolve, socially, physically, consciously, and spiritually, for countless generations. With each new generation, humanity is gaining a deeper self-knowledge and becoming more self-aware of the essence of who we are as human beings.

The intelligent design of our own being is also a reflection of the intelligent design within all of nature. Empirical evidence has revealed to us that there is an evolutionary order to all life which some Scientists believe is an intricate part of nature’s intelligent design.

That being said, I also believe there are far deeper dimensions to life than meets the eye which is far beyond our human understanding. Perhaps, in the far distant future humanity will catch a glimpse of the true nature of life and our purpose of being.

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) 13405757231
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill

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


Sometimes I Wonder

By Walt Perryman 


Sometimes, I wonder what God has planned for me,
Then at times, I think it is whatever will be, will be.

Sometimes I don’t think I really know what I am doing,
I am like a coon dog on the wrong trail but still pursuing.

I know when I am doing something wrong from the start,
And do it anyway, because I did not ask God with my heart.

Today, I am going to ask God many times what I should do.
Listen with my heart and try to live the way he wants me to

Without God in my life I am sure to fail,
Like that coon dog following the wrong trail.

©December 2020 Walt Perryman

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I Love Packages


By Bud Lemire 


I love packages, when they come in the mail every week
They bring on a smile to my face, when the days seem bleak
I can order stuff on Amazon, WalMart, or eBay
Maybe there's a package for me, in the mail today

Informed mail told me, I'd have three packages coming on Tuesday
Only two arrived, I wonder if the other one ran away
Two came the next day, I unwrapped it to see
What it was inside, that was coming to me

Books, DVDs, and all the things I enjoy
CDs or something else, I'm like a little boy
The little things in life, mean the most to me
I treasure and take pleasure, with each package I see

Four packages today, and they all seemed to fit
I carry them to my apartment, and open them as I sit
It's like a gift, that is to me from me
Being happy with them, is one of life's key

They come from everywhere, and I also must say
Packages bounce to anywhere, which causes a delay
A smile is on my face, today a package will arrive
Some come right to my door, I feel so alive

©March 9, 2021 Bud Lemire

                         Author Note:

I do a lot of ordering, so I can get a lot of packages.
Of course, lately the mail has been slower, but still
when they do arrive it is nice to open them..

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Moving Pots, Making Choices


By John I. Blair 


This is the time
For moving wintered pots
To the warming patio,

Making up my mind
Which plants have died
And which still live.

After February’s freeze
The dead loom large
And make me sad.

I’ve always called
Deaths in the garden
“Planting opportunities.”

And that’s still right
But difficult to say
To now-black coneflowers.

Five years or more,
I’ve smelled the scent
Of this withered rosemary,

Watched caterpillars
Grow to swallowtails
On these crumbling fennel stalks.

Long ago we moved,
Leaving a lush garden, with
Only crabgrass where we went.

I said then “gardens aren’t forever,
They’re always for today.”
Now I need to find the truth in this,

To remember sunny springs
And vivid summer days, and dream
The gardens of tomorrow.

©2021, John I. Blair 3/27/2021

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Morning Thought on God’s Communication


By Walt Perryman 


There are many ways God talks to me and you,
A birth, a sunrise, a feeling, just to name a few.

God is so powerful; he is beyond our comprehension,
He talks to us all of the time, if we pay attention.

He communicates with our soul in some Heavenly way,
If we listen with our heart, we can feel what he has to say.

It is a little before sunrise, so before this new day starts,
Let us take a moment of silence and listen with our hearts.

Then we will be ready to go out in the world and face today,
But you may want to check in with your heart along the way.

©3/30/2021 Walt Perryman

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Boiled Eggs

By Bud Lemire 


Everyone boils eggs in their own way
If it works for them, then it's okay
Some add a bit of salt to the pan
Others just boil them, any way they can

People will boil them for fifteen minutes, some a half hour
Some even boil them, while they take a shower
Just don't forget they're there, that's the key code
Otherwise, your eggs, will pop and explode

They'll leave a sulfuric smell
Stinking up the kitchen from their shell
It's happened to me a couple of times I know
Now I make it a habit, to keep them on low

After they are boiled, you can let them sit
It all depends on, how you really like it
I like mine in cold water, and to set awhile
That is how I do it, that is just my style

Boiled eggs are good, so much you can make
Egg salad sandwiches, to picnic at the lake
A potato salad, for when you go camping in the summer
Without boiled eggs in your life, it would be a bummer

©Feb 4 2021 Bud Lemire

                    Author Note:

I know I may be cracked, but the yolk is on you.
Enjoy your boiled eggs anyway you want them.

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The Letter


By Phillip Hennessy 


I just wrote a Letter,
to say just how I feel
and now I read the words again,
it All becomes, so Real.

I don't feel any Better,
those thoughts are off my Mind
Because it Hurt so much to read,
My tears have made me Blind

I said that you're not Good enough,
for Anyone, to Love
you always Run, when times get Tough,
(and when Push comes to Shove).

All you had to Do, was Care,
and Love me, as I Am
it didn't matter Who was there,
this Life was all a Sham

So, as I read these Words again
a tear comes to my eye
Should I leave, or should I Stay
will This time be Goodbye?

I'm glad I read this letter
Before someone else could See
now, I'm feeling Better
for the Message, was for Me.

I Am good enough,
for someone to Love,
for someone Else, to Care
this letter made me realise
Love Starts Here,
(in Me)
not There.

©March 21, 2021 Phillip Hennessy

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Faces, Names and Books

By Bruce Clifford

Faces, names, and books
Casual dirty looks
Left out in the cold
You really are so bold

Living with broken dreams
Eyes too wise to see
Wide as the ocean blue
Memories of you

Lost in time
Lost in place
Lost in a world
Lost in space

Manic depressant
Receptive arrogance

Lost in time
Lost in place
Lost in a world
Lost in disgrace

Giving up
Giving in
Where to start
Where to begin

Faces, names, and books
We took and took and took
Left out in the cold
So I’ve been told

©3/10/2021 Bruce Clifford

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Spring 2021

By John I. Blair 


After bitter cold
And seeming endless nights
Spring has come again.

Goldfinches galore
On their journey north
Are flocking to my feeders.

Bluejays hop around
In the holly hedge
Questing for a nest site.

The ancient quince
Out by the garden shed
Sports crimson blooms.

Squirrels chase each other
Through the treetops,
Mating on their minds.

Cats yawn and stretch
On warm windowsills,
Blinking at the sunshine.

And I, at 80 years,
Still cherish thoughts
Of planting flowers once more.

©2021 John I. Blair, 3/20/2021

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Your Choice


By Walt Perryman 


Look in the mirror and who do you see?
Do you see the person you want to be?

Your worst enemy in life can be you,
You can also be your best friend too.

You can choose the one you want in life.
One brings happiness and the other strife.

Be careful on the choices that you do make,
Yours may not be the only heart you break.

Your opinion of you and your own self-worth,
Is your most important opinion upon this earth.

Look in the mirror which one will you see?
It depends on which one you choose to be.

©3/31/2021 Walt Perryman

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Getting Through It All


By Bud Lemire 


We will fight
With all our might
We shall prevail
And set sail
And not fail

Anchors away and light as a feather
We'll make it through any kind of weather
No matter how bad the storm
In any shape or form
We will conquer it all
And we will not fall

Strong of spirit, strong of mind
With our strength, we will find
We can endure what is thrown our way
And make it through from day to day

The human spirit can battle much
Guided by a supportive touch
And when things seem they are so bleak
Guiding strength will keep us from being weak

We may cry, but only for release
The strong winds may increase
We shall make it there, and survive
In triumph, when we arrive

©Mar 1, 2021 Bud Lemire

                     Author Note:

For those having a difficult time
in these Covid years.

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Little Things


By Phillip Hennessy 


It's the Little things, that make me Think of You
It's those Little things that make me Smile, too.

Just today, I found that piece of paper
You wrote upon, then ripped up, later
It was a note to Me, I could tell straight away,
There was no Mystery, I knew what you'd Say

You were Leaving again, said you wanted Space
You'd start over the Same, in another Place
It was those little things, that I couldn't Do
Those little things, that meant so much to You

You gave a piece of your Mind, so Sincere
The piece you left behind, made it totally Clear
It was those little things that Made You Fear
That the Best place for you was Out of Here

Those little things, that We liked to Do
Those little things, made me fall in Love with you
Those little things that Broke us apart
Those little things Shine bright in my Heart

And now that you're gone, all I can Say,
Is I wish you were here, with me, today
Wherever you are, each time I think of You
It's those little things, make me smile, for You.

©March 02, 2021 Phillip Hennessy

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We're Here Today

By Bruce Clifford

Going forward
Moving back
Drifting onward
Panic attack

Making noises
Senseless divide
Removing choices
Worlds collide

Lifting me up when things are down
Almost giving up from hanging around
Lifting me up and taking me down
When times are rough nobody comes around

Hearing distances
Emotional parades
Past resistances
Promises made

We’re here today
We’re here to stay
We’re here today
We’re here anyway

Going forward
Leaning back
Fleeting emotions
Oceans react

Creating spaces
Reflecting time
Pointless races
Nursery rhyme

Lifting me up when things are down
Almost giving up from hanging around
Lifting me up and taking me down
When times are rough nobody comes around

We’re here today
We’re here to stay
We’re here today
We’re here anyway

©3/2/2021 Bruce Clifford

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Monday, March 1, 2021

Editor's Corner

By Mary E. Adair

March 2021

“March, when days are getting long,
Let thy growing hours be strong
to set right some wintry wrong.”

― Caroline May.

Many people in the USA will likely be happy that February is a short month as weather-wise it really 'packed a wallop' this year. With record breaking sub-freezing, even sub-zero temps in some locales, shocking residents and thwarting travelers, it embittered many and will, no doubt, be a blight in the history books.

"View from My Back Steps" includes one "snow pic" and a personal record of how the weather affected John I. Blair's usual activities within his view. Marilyn Carnell presents a humorous tale of the hazards of politics in her column "Sifoddling Along."

Mattie Lennon, in "Irish Eyes" focuses on the holiday of the month built around legends about Saint Patrick, then moves quickly into the future to discus a new book by Richard Kearney. Judy Kroll's column "On Trek" gives her opinion on how we can use our words more effectvely for a kinder, gentler world.

Thomas F. O'Neill in "Introspective" delineates the way cultural dilemnas develop in various lifestyles, and how geography may play a part. Melinda Cohenour is still mired in relocation difficulties so we present her wearing a different hat, namely when she served as guest cook in "Cooking With Leo" a few years ago, as an alternative "Armchair Genealogy."

Once again "Cooking with Rod" yields to an Encore Presentation. This time the guest cook of Leo C. Helmer's column is yours truly with a spicy rendition for Brunch.

Bud Lemire composed "Never Assume" and a remembrance poem titled "Harold." Both have illustrations.

Walt Perryman hs four poems: "My Birthday," "Don't Google Your Meds," "Passwords," and "Why Do Grown-ups Cry?" John Blair stuck to one poem for the month, "Blizzard 2021."

"Searching for Answers," "Stand UpTall," and "Live Without," come to us from Bruce Clifford. Phillip Hennessy (see pic)sent his poem for March with the comment it came from personal mistakes in being 'overly generous' and hopes it will serve as good advice when "You Are Strong" is read.

Mike Craner, Webmaster and co-founder of this eZine, keeps this eZine functioning with his ingenuity and consideration. Thanks, Mike!

We will see you in April!

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

Armchair Genealogy: Encore Guest

By Melinda Cohenour

Because our Armchair Genealogy author is still detained during relocation, here she is in a different role when she served as Guest Cook in the December 2009 issue.

* * * * *

Sister in Law as Guest Cook on Cooking with Leo

Since I'm still a bit under the weather...plague take this rain, anyway! is my guest cook for the month. Melinda is the baby sister of editor, Mary E. Adair, and both she and husband Rod Cohenour are excellent cooks. Ain’t it great to have so much talent in one family? I guess I could take off more time and nobody would ever miss me… forget it. I ain’t ready to give it all up yet. Anyway speaking of talent, just make sure you read this special way to cook a Ham, no not me, a bone-in ham that is.

Rod bought a bone-in ham on sale. I baked it -- with a mustard, brown sugar, and pineapple marinade. We sliced it and ate a couple of meals. We had a very large leg bone remaining with lots of meaty ham left on it, but not where you could slice it.

I decided to try my hand at a new dish I'd never prepared, but had always thought sounded delicious -- a ham chowder. It turned out really lucious, so I thought I'd share my recipe with you. Of course, I cook for a houseful -- and we don't mind leftovers (it makes my cooking chore easier if I have a couple of meals ready to just heat and eat with fresh salad and fresh fruit added........) We just finished off the chowder tonight, with a large fresh fruit tray (strawberries, grapes, sliced oranges, cheddar and pepper Jack cheese cubes and some low carb crackers......)

Anyway -- new recipe is here. You can cut the recipe down for your households since most of you are cooking for only a couple (Pat is solo; Melissa and Erin; Mary and Leo, but Kim may be able to utilize the full recipe with the bunch that shows up at her house all the time! Ruben, you might like something a little different.......

Melinda’s Cheesy Ham Chowder

    Meaty ham bone
    Water to easily submerge bone

    4 Irish potatoes – peeled and sliced in ½ “ thick slices

    3 carrots – peeled and sliced in ½ “ slices
    3 spines celery – de-stringed, sliced lengthwise and finely chopped
    1 large Bermuda or Spanish onion, sliced and diced
    Pepper to taste
    Celery salt – scarce ¼ teaspoon for this quantity

    1 cup butter

    2 cups flour
    Pepper to taste
    4 cups milk
    Shredded cheese, preferably cheddar – Monterey Jack blend – full 8 oz bag for this quantity chowder.

    1 can corn, drained

    2 Tbsp dried parsley (less for fresh)

Prepare ham stock:

Simmer ham bone in water until tender and stock looks hearty. Remove ham bone, cool until capable of being safely handled. Remove ham from bone and cut in ¾ “ chunks. Stock should be poured into tall, narrow pitcher and refrigerated until fat rises to top and congeals. Remove fat.

Prepare chowder vegetables:

When stock has been de-fatted, pour into bottom of large Dutch oven and add sliced and chopped vegetables. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and cook until vegetables are crisp tender.

Prepare classic béchamel sauce:

When chowder vegetables are cooked, prepare cheese sauce. Place butter in sauce pan and melt. When butter is completely melted, whisk in flour, season with pepper and dash celery salt. Permit to cook 1 minute while stirring to prevent scorching. This prepares the roux and rids the flour mixture of its “raw” taste. Begin adding milk slowly, whisking while adding. Bring mixture back to boil, stirring constantly. Do not permit to scorch. When béchamel sauce has thickened, remove from heat, add cheese and whisk briskly. This creates a thickened cheese sauce.

Add the cheese sauce to the hot stock and vegetables. Add the cubed ham, can of drained corn and parsley, then taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Stir until liquid is evenly velvety.

Serve hot with crisp salad, hot bread and fresh fruit for dessert. Serves 12 easily. To prepare for four reduce ingredient list as appropriate.

©September 2006 Melinda Ellen Cohenour

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Encore Presentation: Cooking with Leo

Encore Presentation: Cooking with Leo

By Encore

(Encore Presentation)

Mary’s Weekend Breakfast

Although I do most of the cooking around here, on Sunday morning Mary usually takes over and puts her own ideas to work and does her own thing. Well that’s great because by Sunday I get up late and I usually run out of ideas. Not that bacon and eggs or sausage and eggs are new ideas, but when I do them sometimes they are. Do so try to make such uninteresting items the interest of the moment. But doing that 6 days a week tends to make you run out of ideas. But on Sunday Mary goes to it and makes something very special and here is one of her weekend specials. My Dear Sweet Italian Fairy Godmother nor Aztec Annie never bother her. I suppose they figure she knows more than they do anyway. Maybe so but in any event Sunday Breakfasts ala Mary are the best of the week.

Weekend Sunrise

Sunrise Quiche - Crust

    3 Corn Tortilla’s 6”
    1 wedge or square of left over Cornbread, may be jalapeno or green chile cornbread
    ½ stick of Butter

Sunrise Quiche – Filling

    1 or two strips Bacon
    3 extra lg or 4 lg eggs
    3 to 4 oz Swiss Cheese
    1 oz Mozzarella w/jalapeno String Cheese
    2 cups loosely torn Romaine Lettuce
    3 Tbpns Half and Half
    1 Tablespoon canned or fresh diced tomatoes, drained
    Garnish: 1 heaping Tablespoon Sour Cream

Serves two to four.

For Crust:

In food processor, add the 3 tortilla’s torn into 8th’s or smaller, pulse on high ‘til crumbed, add cold butter and pulse ‘til loose dough begins to come together. Press into 11” pie plate thinly and up the sides. (Set processor bowl aside, no need to wash before doing the filling.) Crumble the cold cornbread and press into the butter-tortilla mixture and up the sides to form a crust. Bake at 400º's ‘til edges begin to firm, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven, lower heat to 350º, and let crust cool slightly.

For Filling:

While crust is baking, put bacon strips in microwave on bacon cooker with paper towel on top, or microwave safe plate with paper towel below and on top of strips, for 2 minutes, adding another minute if slices are not crispy looking. Meanwhile, in same processor bowl, add Cubed cheeses and process ‘til finely shredded, in crumbs actually, then crumble and add in the cooked, cooled bacon and pulse ‘til crumbed. Add the torn Romaine to mixture in processor and pulse ‘til also in a crumb state, not ‘til wet.

Place all the cheese, bacon, romaine blend into pie shell, sprinkling to the edges in even layer.

In same processor bowl, (no need to wash) add eggs and half and half, and run on low ‘til blended. Pour carefully over the cheese mixture in shell. Place tomatoes in a narrow ring on top of mixture about 1/3 of distance from center to edges. (This is your ‘sun’ ring.) Bake 25 to 30 minutes in 350º oven until puffed and edges of crust are browned gently.

Remove from oven and serve with a dollop of Sour Cream (your ‘sun’) in center of Tomato ring. Cut in wedges and enjoy with your Sunrise Drink.

Sunrise Drink:

  • 2 jiggers Tequilla
  • 2 jiggers Jose Cuervo™ Margarita Mix
  • 4 jiggers Chardonnay Wine
  • 2 tsps Maraschino Cherry Juice
  • 7-Up or Canada Dry
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnishes: Thin Lime slices, maraschino cherries

Use 2 lg or 4 reg margarita glasses.

Split the liquid mixture between the glasses, with a couple ice cubes in each, add 7-Up or Canada Dry to fill. Garnish with a cherry and lime slice per glass. Top edges of glasses may be wet then dipped in sugar crystals if desired, before filling. Lavender sugar flakes are nice.

Ya’all Take Care Now, Ya’heah!

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Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

Getting in touch with touching
and Saint Patrick’s days of yore

Saint Patrick was a gentleman, he came from decent people,
In Dublin town he built a church and on it put a steeple
His father was a Callahan, his mother was a Grady,
His aunt was an O'Shaughnessy and uncle he was Brady.

So says Christy Moore.

At this time of year, my mind always flies back to the 5th century. And to my own native heath of West Wicklow. You see, according to one legend, our area was Christianised before Saint Patrick; we were converted by Palladius. (One local wag said that we were Christianised sometime B.C.)

Other historians claim that Palladius was repulsed by the inhabitants of Wicklow, where he landed. ... One way or the other it’s generally accepted that Naomh Padraig didn’t set foot in our neck of the woods.

But the late Jimmy Freeman of Ballyknockan, had a more down-to-earth explanation. He told me, and I quote, “Saint Patrick stood at Burgage an’ he come no farther. An’ he pointed his staff up at Lacken, Kylebeg an’ Ballinastockan an’ he sed ‘Let that be a den of thieves an’ robbers forever more’ .

I didn’t know what to make of it. I thought, perhaps, he was indulging in a bit of, good-natured, inter-Townland rivalry. Being well aware of the God-fearing and law-abiding nature of the inhabitants of the places in question it looked like our National Apostle was out beside it. Oh, sure enough, a Ballinastockan man was once fined sixpence for riding an unlit bicycle in Blessington during the hours of darkness. And it was rumoured that (before my time) a farmer on the Kylebeg/Lacken border was prosecuted under the 1910 Noxious Weeds Act, but nothing serious.

You see, as a community, we were always as honest as hard times would. But the inhabitants or more progressive areas used to say that we only knew that Christmas was over when we saw people wearing shamrock. We know that Saint Patrick is buried in Downpatrick, Having died at Nearby Saul in 561. March 17th is the supposed date of his death. We can’t check. RIP.IE doesn’t go back that far. He was born in 486 and journalist, Billy Keane, has done a lot of genealogical research but failed to find any evidence of an exact date for the saint’s birth. Consequently, Billy suggests that his feast day (Saint Patrick’s not Billy’s) should be moved to September.

Any date in September save 19th to 25th inclusive. Because that would clash with Listowel races. However, it looks like we will be stuck with the current date for the foreseeable future. Of course the nostalgia associated with our National holiday varies from person to person. As children, if we were abstaining from penny toffees and Fizz bags for Lent there was an exemption on Saint Patrick’s Day. Adults off the booze and /or the fags got a one-day reprieve. Retailers have always loved it. Even the most humble huckster’s emporiums look like Carroll’s souvenir shops there’s so much green. You see, psychologists have established that green is the easiest colour on human vision, projecting a relaxed image and environment; it indicates a friendly approach and prompts shoppers to buy.

For my own part my olfactory sense goes back ever the decades whenever my nostrils detect the exhaust fumes, however tentative, given off by a forty to one fuel mix. Immediately I am back on any Saint Patrick’s Day in the 1950s When Ireland’s top scramblers are negotiating rough terrain at Templeboden Bridge. Despite muck-splattered helmets and goggles, older spectators were able to point out to us some of the all-time greats. Harry Lynsdsney, Ernie Lyons and Stanley Woods, Harry Lambert et al. And, in my mind's ear, I can hear the frantic revving of Nortons, BSAs and Bultaco bikes as the aforementioned and competitors from all over this island would halt for a time-check. In 2001 in the bitter New York wind I marched up Fifth Avenue as part of the Saint Patrick’s Day parade. It was my first visit to the Big Apple. I still have the costume that I wore that day **** Saint Patrick’s name features in everything from Cathedrals to football clubs to middle names taken at Confirmation.

And . . . in 1757 the owners of Rowes Distillery, in Thomas Street, Dublin built the highest smock windmill in Europe on their 17-acre site, to power their distillery. The tower still stands to this day. Because of the shape of its dome it has been known to generations of Dubliners as “The Onion Tower” but its official name is Saint Patrick’s Tower but . . . did Saint Patrick turn back at Burgage? The jury is still out. Perhaps in the future through carbon dating, DNA of some other science yet unknown, Jimmy Freeman will be proved wrong . . . or right.

* * * * *

Sir Walter Scott referred to, “ . . . the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting.”

In the Ireland of my youth there wasn’t a great tradition of touching as a gesture of affection. A “Toucher” was a fellow who usually had his hand out for the price of a drink. Richard Kearney is an Irishman, who holds the Charles Seeling Chair of Philosophy at Boston College. He jokingly writes that people in Ireland to which I refer, “ Only touched when they were drunk ( south of the border) or trying to kill each order (north of the border .) Although he has a wonderful turn of phrase he is not joking in the 202 pages of his latest book, Touch, in which he agrees with Freud that, “No mortal is ever silent. If he does not speak with his mouth he stammers with his fingers.”

Because of social distancing, there is less touching, in Ireland than ever before. Strange as it might seem there are people on this island who haven’t shook hands with another human being for a year.

After twelve months of such deprivation it’s interesting to be reminded of what we are missing.

The author advises us to “get back in touch with touch." Kearney, a true philosopher gives us some frightening statistics about loneliness and points out how lack of touching leads to “excarnation.” His advice? “ . . .we have learned from Covid how much we miss touch “ . . .it is no accident that skin is our largest organ and that we are born and die naked. We need computers but we also need carnality.” Touch is a wonderful and informative pick-me-up in a world in turmoil.
A must-read.

See you in April

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Sifoddling Along

By Marilyn Carnell

Politics is a Hazardous Game

Politics has dominated our news this year. Sometimes drowning out information about the COVID pandemic. Thank heaven, for now, things have calmed down a little bit and I can sleep through the night most of the time. But it does remind me of some experiences my family has had in running for office. Someday, I may even write about my own experience as a public servant but after nearly 25 years it is still a sore subject.

This is a tale about my brother-in-law, Earl Spears running for Sheriff. It could only happen in a small, inbred town like Pineville, Missouri.

Earl was a good campaigner and was elected for three terms. I don’t recall the years of this event and don’t remember the name of this particular opponent, but it went like this:

My Mom and Dad lived in the north addition to Pineville, one block off Dog Hollow Road. The street didn’t have a name until about 1950 when it was named King Street to honor its origin from the King farm. Houses were hastily constructed in the 1920s and my parents bought a house and a few acres in the early 1930s.

What Earl’s opponent didn't know was how close and complex families were.

He first stopped at my Grandma Annie Epperson Carnell’s house to leave his card and pitch for her vote. My Mom was visiting her as she conveniently lived next door. Mom assured him that there were no votes for him at that house. He went across the street to meet another potential voter, hoping he had seen the last of my Mom.

Meanwhile, Mom went home to pick up some fresh tomatoes to share with family members. He knocked on their door and was met by my Mom who once again said she was not going to vote for him.

He proceeded up the east side of the street to the end, two blocks away uneventfully, but he may have been a little shaken. Working his way down the west side of the street, he got to my Aunt Ruth Taylor Clemons. Aunt Ruth was my great aunt on my paternal side. My Grandmother was Florence Mahala Clemons Carnell. He was once again greeted by my Mom who had stopped by for a minute.

Two doors down he was greeted by my Aunt Fannie Bunch Legore, Mom’s sister. Mom and Aunt Fannie were catching up on family news. Next door was the Campbell family and while he was talking with them, Mom passed him by and was visiting my Aunt Florence Carnell Laughlin, Daddy’s sister.

Apparently, he abandoned his efforts to gain support on the north side of town and worked his way to the southern end of Main Street – less than a mile from that nest of voters for Earl.

Of course, by then Mom had driven down to see another sister, Etta Bunch Lines and they were sitting in the yard drinking iced tea.

Mom said she thought he gave up on politics that day and probably still has nightmares about being haunted by a slim auburn-haired woman who vigorously opposed his candidacy.

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By Thomas F. O'Neill

The clash between Republicans and Democrats is culturally evident in the U.S. along with the war between conservatism and liberalism. Other nations around the globe view this dichotomy as a cultural phenomenon in America.

Being a liberal, conservative, or moderate reveals how we as individuals identify ourselves in society. In today's, political arena Democrats and Republicans also view their party affiliation in a fundamentally different way too. My students like to bring up these ideological differences in my classes because it is not something they experience on the Chinese mainland.

On a global scale, I like to explain to my students how Westerners and Asians see themselves in a fundamentally different way. I always understood that we Americans view ourselves as being individualistic, independent, and analytical, it’s due to our cultural history. The Asian cultures take a more holistic view of life, emphasizing interdependence which I find intriguing.

Each year, I conduct a word game for my Cultural Diversity students, where the students must pair off a series of words to reveal their cultural views and their relationship with society.

For instance, if the words are train, bus, and tracks, an American with an individualistic mindset would pair train and bus since they belong to the same category (modes of transportation). In contrast, a Chinese person with a culturally holistic mindset is more likely to pair train with tracks since they share a functional relationship.

China’s history has influenced its cultural perceptions and for thousands of years working the land led to their interdependence with nature. People of Asia, have a higher percentage of farmland devoted to rice paddies they think more holistically than your average American.

If you were to ask a Chinese person to draw a diagram of their social network, they would draw a circle emphasizing their friends and acquaintances. In contrast, most Americans would emphasize themselves concerning others due to our cultural perceptions and assumptions.

Unconsciously, Americans stress the importance of the self and westerners will self-inflate their importance more so than those from Asian cultures. On the most part, people born in China won’t inflate their self-worth but on average people born in western cultures do.

For thousands of years growing rice was a labor-intensive crop in Asian countries, dependent upon a complex infrastructure of dikes and canals. This influenced or created a culture that recognizes human interdependence. Most Asians would also view the importance of society over their individual needs.

In contrast, our American history of the frontiersman, hunting, fishing, and growing simple crops have shaped our perception of independence and the rugged- individualistic mindset.

The relationship between people and land helped shape our cultural assumptions, which are then passed down from generation to generation. This is certainly true when it comes to the contrast between the western and eastern cultures.

Our western influence, however, is beginning to have an impact on China and their perceptions about the west. It’s mostly due to the popularity of American films and western music. I am witnessing, among my students and Chinese teenagers in general. That they want to become like their counterparts in western countries.

There are regions mostly in the large cities of China that have populations that share many basic assumptions with westerners. Many others, though, are much closer in the mindset of people in other rice-cultivating countries such as Japan and Korea.

Cultural differences between the East and West, especially, as China’s influence expands, our relationship with the nation will only continue to grow. Many foreign exchange students are also bringing western ideals, and customs, back to China with the hope of bridging the differences through a growing cultural understanding.

A simpler way of understanding our cultural differences is to understand that Chinese society is all about the group, while Americans celebrate the individual. The United States is a meritocracy in which individuals can shine, while in China, any success is regarded as a success for the company, or the family, or the team. A Chinese person will consider how their actions may affect the group rather than looking out only for themselves.

One thing I noticed when I came to China is that the hierarchy is important to the Chinese and respect will be shown to those higher up in the structure. American companies tend to have much flatter structures, with workers at all levels having access to those at the top. In China, a worker low down the pay scale would not expect to have direct contact with their superiors. Everybody knows their place in the structure and abides by the rules that come with it. The company at times will reward the employees through a means of profit-sharing when the company does will everyone reaps the benefits.

I found that conversations with my students can often make westerners feel intruded upon. A conversation in China can feel direct to Americans. Even though Americans like to place people in the context toward the common ground, small talk about age, income, and marital status, all favored by the Chinese, can feel intrusive and overly personal to an American. Having said this, Chinese visitors to the United States can find the language and tone used in American workplaces rude and uncomfortable. Thinking before you speak is important to the Chinese, as is showing respect for those higher in the hierarchy. Communication style is indirect and Americans doing business with Chinese counterparts will need to learn to read between the lines.

Some of my students that traveled to America as exchange students bring up the differences in how the elderly are treated in the US. China treats its seniors differently than we in the West. Elders are held in greater respect and treated as such, both in business and socially. Many families live with several generations under one roof. Even the dead are honored. Americans, on the other hand, expect their offspring to be independent. The older generation can live hundreds of miles away from their children, and the isolation of older adults is a social issue. The American workplace can seem ageist to older people, too, as youth culture is celebrated. On the opposite end of the spectrum though some provinces in China have a mandatory retirement age that we westerners would find discriminatory not to mention illegal in America.

Many Americans I have worked with over the years have brought up the differences between the concept of friendship between Americans and Chinese coworkers. Chinese people are inclined to foster deeper friendships than we Americans are accustomed to. They may see Americans as initially gregarious but difficult to get to know on a deeper personal level. A friend in China is someone to whom you feel deeply obligated and for whom you will do favors when necessary. This translates into business, where the Chinese will try to forge relationships and connections, known as guanxi. Trust is essential before doing business. Colleagues tend to socialize together as part of relationship building and business entertainment is lavish. Americans, on the other hand, tend to keep work and personal life separate. I have attended lavash parties with Chinese people and it is their way of building trust while forging a deeper relationship.

When I first arrived in China, I noticed that Chinese urban areas lack personal space. Cities in China are densely populated, and crowded, especially when it comes to public transportation. Americans are more accustomed to physical space and will become territorial if they feel crowded, snapping at people who push in line and staking out little kingdoms for themselves, whether it’s their car, desk, or airplane seat. That being said, many major cities in China are, clean, especially, when it comes to restaurants. The streets, subways, and public transportation, in general, are also much cleaner than many cities in the US which China prides itself on. However, as everyone knows, air and water pollution are a huge problem for all inhabitants on the Chinese mainland.

I, like most westerners, see the ability to express oneself and to access information as a basic human right. When I came to China, I noticed how heavily censored the media is, especially, when it comes to the internet. Social media networks that Americans take for granted, like Instagram, YouTube and Facebook are not accessible in China, while many Western newspapers are blocked online. You must apply for a license to use a VPN Router that gives you access to everything that the Chinese government has censored. Getting a VPN was the first thing I did when I arrived here. In Chinese companies, information is shared on a need-to-know basis, rarely filtering down from the top, while American corporate culture is much more open, with considerable effort being made to embrace transparency.

I am completely open and honest with my students when I tell them that I find Chinese people to be much more polite than westerners. Unlike Americans’ Chinese people will avoid confrontation wherever possible to save face. Shouting at someone causes both parties to lose face and if a reputation is lost in business, a relationship can be permanently damaged. As such, Chinese executives will often avoid giving a straight answer to save the other person embarrassment. Americans, who tend to be very direct and literal, can find this confusing and frustrating. The worst thing you can do in negotiations with Chinese colleagues is to go out of your way to prove a point, regardless of the effect it has on others. But for Americans, the end result is more important than reputation or even relationships.

One aspect that is most apparent between our two cultures is that humility is revered in China and people tend to downplay their achievements. America is almost the exact opposite; in a meritocracy, you need to make the most of yourself and let people know about your successes. The Chinese can see this as crass and boastful, while in the United States, humility can be regarded as a sign of weakness. I found that in the teaching profession, especially, here in China it is best to let others recognize your abilities while you downplay your accomplishments. Westerners who boast about their accomplishments rarely succeed in their profession in China.

How business is conducted in China can at times lead to some frustration, for westerners. I find patience can take you quite far when it comes to business dealings. Business in the United States moves at a different pace from China. Americans focus on speed and efficiency and will hurry to get things done quickly. Time is money, and people are expected to turn up on time for meetings and to meet deadlines. The Chinese, on the other hand, can be slow decision-makers, preferring to build consensus and foster relationships before plunging into anything. Deadlines may only be met when the time is right, and the project is considered complete. Americans can find this attitude to punctuality frustrating and time-wasting, while in negotiations, the Chinese will take advantage of the American need for speed, playing a waiting game to secure a better deal for themselves. Some in the west would consider the Chinese way of doing business as quite deceptive but to them, it is business as usual, and it would be wise to read between the lines before committing yourself contractually.

I like to tell my students; I no longer view China as a developing nation because living in China has given me a unique perspective that China is on par with America as a developed country. It now has the largest domestic economy in the world and China is about to overtake the US in terms of its immense infrastructure.

I always do my best to help my students understand the importance of gaining a clearer understanding of the American way of life, and the cultural differences between our two nations; China’s rising power and influence in the world makes gaining that understanding a necessity not just for China but for America’s economic wellbeing.

Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
    U.S. voice mail: (800) 272-6464
    China Mobile: 011 (86) 13405757231
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill

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View from My Back Steps


By John I. Blair

March 2021

After decades of thinking we knew everything there was to know about Texas weather and all its vagaries, February 2021 taught us we were wrong – horribly wrong.

Starting Sunday, February 14 the strongest arctic air invasion to hit in the last century came blasting down from the north, dropping temperatures below zero Fahrenheit in little more than 24 hours. (Our normal lows here in winter are in the 20s.) Snow (a rarity here) swirled in misty tornados in the dark air, piling eventually to more than a foot on my patio, covering up flower pots, water basins, cat shelters, low shrubs. I huddled down under blankets on my bed. And then the power failed, along with my heating system. Eventually, my son managed to come to rescue me, taking me to his house where the power miraculously stayed functioning. I had left what I could in food and water for my housecats. Except for a couple of bowls of dry chow, the outdoor cats were on their own (which is where they had been much of their lives anyway). As for me, I was deeply grateful for family, hot food, and the use of a couch to sleep on. (See pic below of snow piled up behind car, license barely showing.)

Two days later I came back to a home with electricity and heat, but no water. Millions of Texans were in the same predicament, or worse – sometimes much worse. People died. Pets and farm animals died. Millions of small animals died. And the fallout in terms of property damage (from burst water lines), economic damage (from closed businesses and inability to go to work, auto wrecks – one in Fort Worth involving more than 100 cars and trucks), and political recriminations will be going on for years for why our power and water systems failed so disastrously.

Now, a week later, this being Texas, it’s sunny, warm, not a trace of snow. The water supply is back (and safe to drink). The surviving birds and squirrels are continuing as if nothing happened. All of my outdoor cats appear to have survived with little or no harm. Lots of plants are wilted, but most will recover. Nature is almost infinitely resilient. I’m not so sure about us humans though. Every time the lights blink, I flinch. I intend to start keeping a stockpile of jugs of water in the garage against another water supply failure. And maybe being a bit more frugal in my use of gas, electricity, water.

All disasters, of whatever type or magnitude, are potential learning opportunities (if you survive them). I am already thinking of what I can learn from this experience beyond keeping jugs of water in the garage and perhaps buying a pair of galoshes. My lessons could also include treasuring, even more than I always have, every bit of life. Treasuring my family and friends (I’ve taking to phoning people – especially those who live alone – every few days to check on them and just to make human contact). Being even more attentive to the moment-by-moment pleasures and treasures of being alive. For example, I’ve long enjoyed gardening, but haven’t the physical ability to kneel and dig any more, so I haven’t actually gardened in a couple of years. But two days ago I ordered a rolling, rotating garden stool so I can sit down on my patio and scoot around from flower pot to flower pot, tending plants, sniffing flowers and herbs, touching the soil with my bare fingers. Staying, literally, in contact with life.

I’ll conclude with this old poem (which I’ve shared before).


I cling to life when death

Surrounds this place

With reminders

That I can’t evade.

Why should I heed?

Death will find me

When my time is done

And needs no guide.

I don’t try to hide

But go on loving life,

Warming my old bones

Deep in its sweet embrace.

©2014 John I. Blair

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