Happy St Patrick’s Day

Mar 17 2019, 11:02 am in ,

 

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!

What’s your Irish History?

On my daddy’s side of the family, the O’Brien’s, my Irish history can be traced to the early 1800’s.  This family picture was taken about 1897 probably in Braidwood IL.   My grandpa was Moses O’Brien, the dashing young man on the left holding the toy gun.

 

An Irish story

The characters Gemma and Ben, my heroine and hero from Under Fire: The Admiral, shared an experience they had a few months ago while visiting Ireland.  

They were in the Irish countryside on a very dark, stormy night–really it was–in the middle of nowhere. They’d stopped at a local pub for dinner and were enjoying the food, pints, and conversation when the pub door slammed open. A soaking wet, obviously upset young man stood in the doorway. He rushed in babbling about a horrible experience.

He was settled into a chair and given a pint. The beer was half-gone before he could string words into sentences and answer the many questions. The young man explained he was backpacking through Ireland and on a deserted road when it began raining so hard he could hardly see a few feet ahead of him. Finally, a car came slowly towards him and stopped. Desperate for shelter and thinking he was being offered a ride, he got in and closed the door only to realize there was nobody behind the wheel. Even though the engine wasn’t on, the car once again started moving. Ireland’s many ghost stories rumbled through his brain and fear paralyzed him. That is until he looked at the road ahead and saw a curve looming. Gathering courage, he prepared to jump. Then, through the driver’s window, a ghostly hand appeared out of gloom. In terror, he watched as the hand turned the wheel, guiding the car around the curve.

The lights of the pub appeared and gathering strength, he jumped out of the car and ran for it.

A silence enveloped the pub when everybody realized he was crying.  

Once again the door slammed open, startling everyone, and two men walked in from the dark and stormy night. They too were soaked and out of breath. Looking around, and seeing the young man sobbing at the bar, one said to the other…

“Look ….there’s that fookin idiot that got in the car while we were pushing it!”

Rita

Women’s History Month

Mar 1 2019, 12:42 pm in ,

 

March is National Women’s History month.

I write about strong, extraordinary women. This month I’ll be posting about women I admire. Women who have moral courage and an ability to get beyond danger and do what is right because it needs to be done. Women from around the world who I think have made a difference.

In the meantime please check out the marvelous web page of The National Women’s History Museum http://www.nwhm.org/ and the Women throughout American History on the Library of Congress page  https://womenshistorymonth.gov/

And be prepared to spend some time on those pages. 🙂 

                                   Rita 

 

Lighthouse Christmas

Dec 16 2018, 12:00 am in ,

To welcome the Christmas Season I’m sharing photos of a few Lighthouses in their Christmas finery.

The St. Augustine Florida light. Photo by John Joseph.

Tree at the bottom of the light.

The St Augustine Florida Light Keepers house on with thousands of luminaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Santibel Light.

Tybee Island 

 

 

 

 

                      Marbel Head Ohio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montauk Light

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nubble Light

 

                                               Deer Isle Light

 

 

 

 

Aren’t these fantastic? 

    Merry Christmas to all.

Are You A Professional Victim?

Dec 14 2018, 8:48 am

THE PROFESSIONAL HOLIDAY VICTIM CHECK LIST.

You may be a professional victim if you:

Leave your car unlocked.

Carry every credit card known to man when you shop.   

At night park in an unlit area of the mall and walk to your car by yourself.

Walk to your car with ear buds in and music blaring.

Leave packages in your car where they can be seen.

Put packages in the trunk and don’t lock the car.   

Leave your purse and keys in an unlocked car. Even if it’s in your driveway.

Leave your home unlocked at any time.               

Leave your garage door open and the access door to you home unlocked.

Use your credit card on an unsecured web site.

Things you can do to protect yourself.

Carry only the CC you intend to use.  

Check your CC statement frequently.

Before using your debit card examine the card slider. Make sure a ‘skimmer’ has not been added. A skimmer is a device thieves place on the slider, most often at gas pumps and ATM machines. It captures ALL your info including the pin number. Within minutes thieves can make a new card, go to an ATM and make a withdrawal. 

Also when using the card any place, pharmacy, grocery, what have you, look around. See anyone close with a phone? They could be videoing you as you enter the pin number. They have a picture of the card and what keys you push. Harder and less frequent but it does happen.  If you feel uncomfortable hit credit instead of debit.      

Carry a purse with zipable compartments and zip them.

Use a purse that has a long strap and put it over your arm and head.  

If someone, man, woman or child, bumps into you immediately check your purse.

Don’t leave your purse unattended in a shopping cart.  If you must put your purse in the cart, loop the child safety strap through the handles.  Close it up. Makes it harder to grab and run. Don’t ever walk away from it.

Carry your keys in your pocket. If you purse is snatched they won’t be able to drive away in your car and be in and out of your house before you get there.

Don’t be afraid to ask store security to walk you to your car. Don’t ask them to help carry your packages.

Be alert and if you feel uneasy, there is a reason.  Listen to your inner warning system. Don’t hesitate to call Law Enforcement for help. 

IRS and Social Security will NOT call you about a problem. They will send an official letter. NEVER give any info out over the phone. IRS will never ask you to pay a supposed debt with gift card.

Be safe out there. This holiday season don’t drink and drive and please take care of your personal and financial safety.

Rita 

Furred and Feathered War Heroes

Nov 12 2018, 7:55 pm

War heroes come in many sizes shapes and species. Yeaph! Species. There are many animal war heroes. I believe we are most familiar with military working dogs (MWD) and K9 officers. Dogs have been in warfare since ancient times used as scouts, sentries and trackers. They sniff out explosive devises saving countless lives. They are assigned to safe guard generals and political personnel on visits outside the country. They’ve suffered severe trauma, lost limbs and been honored for their bravery with medals.

 

Layka, a Belgian Malinois, was shot four times at point-blank range by enemy forces in Afghanistan. Despite her injuries, she attacked and subdued the shooter, protecting her handler, and other members of the team. Photographer, Martin Schoeller, did an amazing photoshoot of Layka, the now three-legged dog, for National Geographic. I’d love to share his photos here but I don’t have permission. This is the link to his page to see this brave beautiful dog. 

                                       Sgt Stubby, a war hero from WWI

 He wandered into the training encampment of the Massachusetts of 102nd infantry in 1917. When the unit shipped out to France, Stubby was smuggled aboard ship. On the battle field, the dog alerted his friends to German attacks. He was wounded by a hand grenade, gassed several times, and once found and held a German spy by the seat of the pants until the troops could complete the capture.

When his master was wounded, Stubby accompanied him to the hospital and made rounds to cheer the troops. Sgt. Stubby survived the war and Gen. John Pershing, personally awarded him a gold medal for one of his many efforts. He became a highly decorated dog, among his medals a Purple Heart, and various veteran’s awards. Stubby returned home at the end of the war and became quite the celebrity. He was made a lifetime member of the American Legion, the YMCA, and the Red Cross. He lived at the Y and made recruiting tours for the Red Cross. Stubby passed on in 1926, he was preserved and displayed with his medals at the Smithsonian Institution.

 

Now let’s talk about some of the other animal heroes maybe not so well known like Staff Sergeant Reckless,USMC 

The Staff Sergeant was a beer-guzzling, American hero war horse who bravely transported ammunition and carried wounded Marines to safety under enemy fire in the Korean War

She served with the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, 1st Marine Division, was bought for $250 at a race track in Seoul during the war. The marines taught her to walk over trip wires, avoid incoming enemy fire and deliver huge packs of ammunition during battle.

During the five day Battle of Outpost Vegas in 1953 in one day she made 51 solo—that’s by herself— trips from the Ammunition Supply Point to the firing sites. Marine Corps history say this battle was particularly savage and Reckless was in the middle of it. Enemy soldiers could see her as she made her way across the deadly “no man’s land” rice paddies and up 45-degree mountain trails to the firing sites. “It’s difficult to describe the elation and the boost in morale that little white-faced mare gave Marines as she outfoxed the enemy—remember she was on her own—bringing vitally needed ammunition up the mountain,” Sgt. Maj. James E. Bobbitt recalled.

She carried 386 rounds of ammunition (over 9,000 pounds – almost FIVE TONS! — of ammunition), walked over 35 miles through open rice paddies and up steep mountains with enemy fire coming in at the rate of 500 rounds per minute. She would carry wounded soldiers down the mountain, unload them, get reloaded with ammo, and off she would go back up to the guns. She also provided a shield for several Marines who were trapped trying to make their way up to the front line. Wounded twice, she didn’t let that stop or slow her down.

Her heroics defined the word “Marine.” She was BELOVED by the Marines. They took care of her better than they took care of themselves – throwing their flak jackets over her to protect her when incoming was heavy, risking their own safety.

Her Military Decorations include two Purple Hearts, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with star, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.

There is a book about Sgt. Reckless. She has a face book page and she has a bronze statue. 

 

Okay I find this one really well, odd. But Wojtek the bear was bought and adopted by Polish soldiers making their way back east after they were released from a prison camp in Siberia in 1942.

When the unit re-entered the war the only way they could take Wojtek with them was to make him an official soldier. So he became Corporal Wojtek of the artillery supply unit. Wojtek fit in quite well—his favorite activities included wrestling, drinking beer, and Taking showers.

The 440-pound bear became an ammo carrier that ferried heavy artillery rounds to the guns and he was good at his job. His finest hour came during the Battle of Monte Cassino, when he loaded 100-pound boxes of artillery shells into trucks all day long, every day until the battle was won. The army honored Wojtek’s service by putting his image, carrying ammo, on the unit’s official badge. After the war, Wojtek was housed at the Edinburgh Zoo until his death in 1963.

 

Then there are our feathered heroes.

Quite a few carrier pigeons were honored for their service in war. Cher Ami, a messaging pigeon serving in the Argonne Forest with the 77th Infantry. Joe an American pigeon.

In WW1, Cher Ami, a messaging pigeon was serving in the Argonne Forest with the 77th Infantry Division when the battalion of 550 soldiers she was with was completely cut off by German forces. After four days of heavy fighting, friendly artillery decided the battalion must have surrendered already and began firing on them. Ouch! Remember this WW1 could get on the cell and tell them to knock that crap off. They had to use carrier pigeons. Three were sent out and quickly shot down. Cher Ami, with a hole in her chest and a nearly amputated leg, got back into the air and delivered her message. Wow! 194 soldiers made it out alive thanks to her actions.

Joe an American pigeon from Fort Monmouth, N.J. was in Italy. The British advanced on a town the Germans had abandoned and… that U.S. planes were about to strike.  Radio communications couldn’t reach the airfield 20 miles away to tell them the German were gone. Joe saved the day. He carried a message, covering the entire 20 miles in only 20 minutes. His message reached the airfield just as the bombers were taxiing for take off. With only five minutes to spare, the bombing run was canceled, saving the lives of at least 1000 British troops.

Joe retired to the Detroit Zoological Gardens until he died in 1961 at age 18. His body was mounted and displayed for years at Fort Monmouth, which closed in 2011.

 

A pig, Tirpritz, was carried on the German warship Dresden in 1914 as a food source. The Dresden was sunk in battle with the HMS Glasgow off the coast of South America. Tirpitz escaped the sinking ship and swam to the Glasgow. The crew brought him aboard and adopted him as a mascot, named him after German admiral Alfred von Tirpitz and he spent a year aboard. Tirpitz was eventually auctioned off as pork, but in his final act he raised £1785 for the British Red Cross. His mounted head is on display at the Imperial War Museum in London. Tirpitz’s trotters were made into handles for a carving set that traveled with the Glasgow in World War II, giving Tirpitz the dubious honor of serving aboard the ship in two wars.

 

 

Veterans. Memories. Unsung Heroes.

Nov 11 2018, 10:38 am

 

 

November 7 through November 11 was, and still is, a special time for me. The 7th is my wedding anniversary. The 10th is the Marine Corps Birthday and the 11th is Veteran’s day. Hubs—Ed—was a Marine. I haven’t been able to celebrate with him for 15 years. But, I remember. I remember while in the corps he was gone for more of our special days and holidays than he was home. I remember after one of his deployments to Vietnam we didn’t have turkey or ham for years because the only hot meals he received while there was one of those. The taste and smell brought back memories of things he said he would never tell me. I remember the time we were in Madrid for our anniversary. He and a friend, who both had consumed way to much adult beverages, convinced the little band in the bar where we were spending the evening to play a version of an anniversary song. They enjoined all the patrons to sing. He kissed me and said, for all the times I wasn’t there. It was so unlike him I cried. When our son was with the first Marines into Bagdad he said he hated him learning what war was really about.

To honor my husband, I remember all the men and women who serve honorably around the world every day. One thing I do is check the FB page, Seal of Honor. There I can see the faces and read the names of those who have served. See daddies meet their children for the first time. See parents putting flowers on the grave of their young sons who will never have sons of their own.

I not only think about the men and women serving, I think about their families. It’s true these days families are more in touch with those serving in combat zones and in faraway places. Service men and women Skype, call frequently, and tours are a few months at a time. But listen to me very carefully. The fear, pain, and loneliness the families feel every second, of very bit of the time their loved ones are away cannot be explained to anyone who has not experienced it. The thought the person you love can be killed in a firefight or step on an IED as you are drinking a cup of coffee is breath stealing. Or, as you breathe right now, another person takes his last breath for your freedom. To survive you shut something off. If you want to know what an unsung hero looks like look into the faces of a military family.

Please, while everyone is remembering our heroes, take time to remember and honor the silent heroes, the families. The families who serve also, albeit by default, but serve they do.

If you are so inclined join the families in a daily prayer to bring their loves ones home safe.

MC Birthday

Nov 10 2018, 10:46 am

Happy 243rd Birthday to the United States Marine Corps

Haunted Lighthouses – A Short Story

Oct 30 2018, 11:24 am

Haunted Lighthouse

From William Samuels’ Journal. 

Written on a plane headed to Kansas City.

     I love lighthouses. I grew up a block from the St. Augustine, Florida lighthouse. As a kid the grounds, with its old oaks were my playground. The light and the keeper’s house were basically abandoned after the Coast Guard automated the light.

     I’m not admitting to anything but…entering the structure was—cough—hypothetically possible. Hypothetically, I spent some rainy afternoons in the keeper’s house with a girlfriend or two, making out. Occasionally, of an evening, Clay, my best friend in high school, and I would entice our dates to climb in a window and go into the light. Not up to the top, just stay at the bottom where it was nice and private. I’ve only been to the top a handful of times. Not because it’s 219 steps to the top, but up past the first 50 or so steps I got a queasy, dizzy feeling. Like vertigo. Pretty sure it’s because of the heavy smoke smell permeating the walls. Accumulated from years of cigar and pipe smoking keepers. I also hear things, like phantom footsteps that kept me on the ground. One of the times I did go up to the top was with a girl. While we were up there she clocked my hard enough to cause a bloody nose. Why? She said I tried to push her over the iron stair railing. I didn’t lay a hand on her and I was pretty mad she said I did something like that.

     Anyhow, that’s how I got started with lighthouses.

     I went away to journalism school at the University of Missouri and believe it or not there aren’t any lights there. I was so used to the beam from the St. Augustine light sweeping past my window every minute and a half I had trouble sleeping. Tried setting a timer on a lamp to mimic the light. Roomie put an end to that real quick.

After graduation I worked for a couple of small newspapers and freelanced. I could see the internet was killing print media and in my spare time—which had become more than my working time—I began to write the great American novel. Quickly learned I’m no Stephen King. Writing is hard. One night at the corner pub I was telling a friend my sad tale of woe and he gave me the name of a client of his looking for a ghost writer. Well, hell. I gave it a try and found out I could do it and do it well. I live comfortably off my earnings. So do two ex-wives.

     I recently traveled to Michigan to work with a client on his auto-biography. I visit to gauge the tempo of a client’s speech and get a feel for where they live. Knowing some about a client makes the ghost writing easier. The client spent his childhood on the upper-peninsula, or thumb, as the locals call it. A nice guy, nothing earth shaking in his life. Some interesting stuff, like his grandfather came to Michigan from Boston on an orphan train. We bonded big time when he tells me about a nearby haunted lighthouse he and his friends hung out in. I’ll be honest, I never thought about lighthouses in Michigan. But, get this, Michigan has more than any other state. The rocky shores on four great lakes have a hundred and twenty. Florida has thirty. Yeah. We shared a few lighthouse stories and a lot of damn good whisky.

     My business concluded, on a whim I drove my rental to a few of the Michigan lights. I was greeted at each by enthusiastic volunteers who treated me to the stats, stories and secrets of their wards. These bastions are pretty damn amazing. Most, built in the late nineteenth century on inhospitable rocky islands and desolate land, are pounded year round with treacherous weather. Yet, they’re still standing.  Gotta tip my hat to those who built the towers without the heavy equipment we have today.  One thing is the same as the St Augustine light, they smell of cigar and pipe smoke. I mentioned this to the woman—an aging hippie type—showing me around. She stopped dead in her tracks and put her hand to her throat, breathing hard. Thought she was having an attack. Eyes big as Oreos and in a halting whisper she told me only special people could smell the smoke. Alrighty then.

    I made my way to the next house where a great guy and his wife show me around. At the top of the light the lady, in a hushed voice, says, “The windows are clean.” I thought she was responsible and asking for an atta girl so I told her she did a good job. Although I wasn’t sure how she’d managed to do the outside. The Mrs. politely informs me she didn’t clean the windows, the ghost did.  Okay. Moving on, I mention it’s too bad the smoke smell can’t be removed by cleaning. The couple give me a hard look. The Mr. chimes in that not everyone can smell the smoke from the light keeper’s cigars.

   As if I’ve given them a secret handshake into a paranormal club, tales of haunted lighthouses around the country pour from them. Strange lights, music playing, cries of women and sailors, heavy footsteps on the stairs. Cleaning ghosts, like the one here, who clean light windows and brass. Specters of women in flowing white gowns and men in pea coats.      

     On the ground, outside and after the hairs on my body returned to their proper positions I was slapped alongside the head with a book idea. Thoughts swirled in my mind and I wasn’t able to think of anything else. I’ve heard writers speak of getting ideas this way but this is a first time experience for me. I’m excited. Excited about writing for myself. I can hardly sit still. The woman in the seat next to me keeps giving me funny looks. I gave her a big smile and tell her I’m going to write a damn good book about a haunted lighthouse.

 

    Thanks for stopping by.  Rita

 

 

Ram Island Light. Hendrick’s Head Lighthouse. Haunted Lighthouse Series.

Oct 21 2018, 10:48 am

Ram Island Ledges are a series on stone break waters on Casco Bay, Maine. The ledge was the sight of frequent shipwrecks. As the result of a  steamship wreck in February 1900 Congress appropriated funds to build the Ram Island Light. The 90 foot high granite tower is   located near the entrance to Boothbay Harbor, Maine an went into operation January 1905. The region has a long history of warning and assisting mariners even before a lighthouse was finally constructed. One account from a sailor tell how his boat was being tossed about. Lightening turned the night to day and there, standing on the reef at Ram Island, waving her hands in warning was a lady all in white, as if full of electricity. He goes on to say if it weren’t for her he would have struck the ledge. He was never able to find the lady.  Another fisherman: “I was in danger of running into the rocks when I saw a burning boat near shore, about to smash on the rocks and in the boat was this woman, warning me away. I quickly changed direction. The next day I saw no trace of the burning boat or the mysterious woman.”

The light in now private property. It was sold in 2010 to Dr.Jeffery Florman  

 

The ghost of a beautiful young woman dressed in white walks the shores of the beach near Hendrick’s Head Lighthouse, Southport, Maine. 

Is she the ghost of a woman who was found drowned there one morning, or is it the mother of a shipwrecked baby? In 1871, a vessel went aground on the ledge about a half mile off shore during a March gale. The keeper had no way of getting out there, so he watched helplessly as the ship went under. Some of the debris washed ashore, and the keeper and his wife went to pick through it. The keeper spotted what looked like two feather mattresses bound together with rope. He called his wife over, and they hauled it in. Untying the rope, they found a wooden box wedged inside, which was making strange noises. Opening it, they found an infant girl. Apparently the mother had done the best she could to save the baby, and succeeded. The keeper and his wife rushed her to the house where they dried her, warmed her and fed her, and kept her as their own. But the real mother, filled with grief and longing, may be the ghost who walks the beach.

What do you think? Real or stories. I believe it. What I wonder is why haven’t these women recently been seen. No one to help or did their spirit get closure?     

 Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. Haunted Lighthouse Series.

Oct 11 2018, 9:27 am

     Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, is located on a hill overlooking the northern side of the entrance to Yaquina Bay, Oregon. The charming two-story clapboard structure was deserted a mere three years after its light was first lit in 1871 and it remained empty for fourteen years. In 1889 The Army Corps of Engineers used it to house one of their engineers and his family. That is, until it was heavily damaged in a hail storm and struck by lightning. It’s had spotty off and on use until it was privately purchased and relit in December 1996 as an aid to civilian navigation.

   Deserted and in disrepair, it has ever since been the scene for many a ghostly tale. The most famous being about Muriel Travenard, born at the end of the 18th century to a sea captain and his wife. Her mother died when she was young, and for a time she sailed with her father. When she was a teen he decided to leave his daughter behind with friends in Newport. Weeks lengthened into months, and the captain didn’t return. Muriel was unhappy but made friends with other teens, which helped to assuage her grief. Her group decided to explore the abandoned lighthouse. It was a mess, dilapidated, and not as much fun as they’d hoped, but they did find a strange iron plate in the floor on the second level. It was a door to a compartment that had a deep hole cut into it. They looked inside, but left the door open, and went off to explore the rest of the area. In the late afternoon, as they were preparing to leave, Muriel remembered she’d left her scarf inside and went back to get it. Her friends waited, but she didn’t return. Several went back in to look for her. After searching without success, one of the kids noticed a pool of blood on the floor, with a trail of drops leading to the iron plate, which was now—mysteriously— closed. The teens tried to open the door, but couldn’t. After coming back with help, a complete search of the lighthouse and grounds was made, and the plate was frozen in place and couldn’t be pried open.  Muriel, or her body, was never found, and a dark stain marks the floor where, what is believed to have been, her blood was found. No one knows what happened that fateful day. Over the years there are claims Muriel’s ghost has been seen  peering out of the lantern room or walking down the path behind the lighthouse.  

   Now here is where the story get a little wonky. It may or may not be true. All this falderal could have originated from Lischen Miller’s story, “The Haunted Lighthouse,” published in an 1899 issue of Pacific Monthly. A fictional account of a girl named Muriel Trevenard, who mysteriously disappeared in the lighthouse after returning to retrieve her handkerchief. 

Hmmm. So whatcha think? Fact or fiction? Did Ms. Miller hear the legend and write her story or, did the legend get legs from her story?

 

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