CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

February 3, 2010

Will you wear red on February 5, 2010?

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

WILL YOU WEAR RED ON FEBRUARY 5, 2010?

INCREASE AWARENESS OF HEART DISEASE IN WOMEN

 

     In 1997, when my sister Jane was 42, she experienced a massive heart attack that left her wondering whether some of the life-saving technology is truly beneficial.

     While I was exploring my genealogy, I learned that my maternal family has a history of heart attacks. The most recent fatality was my mother, who died early on the morning of January 3, 1998.

     When I experienced what I thought might be signs of heart problems, I took this family history to my physician. It was obvious this knowledge helped cut corners on my treatment, in which I ended up with a heart stent.

     When people scoffingly ask why I, and others, do genealogy, my first response is: Do you know your medical history?

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      On September 24, 2009 the Pechin 5K Red Dress Run/Walk held in Dunbar, Pennsylvania, invited men to run in red dresses.

     This Friday the United States population will explode with red, making the unaware wonder if red is a new fashion fad.

     It isn’t. Friday, February 5, 2010, is (more…)

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January 31, 2010

Nauru: Wealth from Bird Guano (Poop)

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

NAURU: WEALTH FROM BIRD GUANO (Poop)

     It’s a joke.

     That’s what I thought when I read Joel Brinkley’s column on January 3, 2010. I thought he was writing satire about an imaginary country, Nauru, that became wealthy from bird poop.

     According to Brinkley, Nauru has known the best known the best of life, and the worst of life. Once it was once the second wealthiest nation on Earth, per capita. Today it’s among the poorest.

     Even though I thought he was joking, I went to the Internet to find out if a country named Nauru really existed.

     And I learned that Brinkley was not writing satire. There actually is a country named the Republic of Nauru. And it actually did make a fortune on bird poop. My research affirmed the statements in Brinkley’s column.

     Nauru is the smallest republic in the world, just eight square miles, and 80 percent of the territory is a forbidding, barren wasteland. Alone in the Pacific Ocean, on the equator northeast of Australia…*Brinkley wrote.

     The small, oval-shaped, western Pacific island is just 42 kilometers (26 mi.) south of the Equator. It is one of three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean–the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia.**

     And this tiny island nation did once boast the second-highest per capita GDP in the world, following Saudi Arabia. Its nominal per capita GDP exceeded (more…)

January 25, 2010

Update on the Rector and Export Post Office Suspensions

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

UPDATE ON THE RECTOR AND EXPORT POST OFFICE SUSPENSIONS

     NOTE: Below is the January 13, 2010, updated information on the Postal Regulatory Commission’s public inquiry, Docket No. P12010-1.

     Two Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, communities are experiencing a problem common to many communities across our country: the suspension of local United States Postal Services. Both the Rector Post Office and the Export Post Office were closed when their building landlords refused to renew the Postal Service lease.

     Rector’s post office was located in a front room of a private home on Rt. 381 for 107 ½ years before it closed on August 27, 2005. The current owner of the house, Ida Ankney Tenney, was unwilling to sign the required twenty-year lease. By signing the lease, the post office facility would remain on the premises even if the family decided to sell the home.

     Export’s Kennedy Avenue postal facility closed its doors on June 26, 2008, after the owner of the building in which it was located decided not to negotiate a new lease. Arthur Spagnol, who owned the building since 1962, claimed it was too expensive to make the renovations the Postal Service wanted.

     Betty Eichler, a retired postmaster involved with the national group, maintains that post offices can be closed only in the case of an emergency, such as a natural disaster.

     “It’s not right what they’re doing. The Postal Service, in order to get around the law, temporarily suspends an office,” Eichler said. “The people have no rights. There’s nobody they can appeal to. … All I want to do is make them do it the right way.”

     Export’s case has garnered national attention.

(To read the complete story, click on:

Post Office Closings in Rector and Export, Pennsylvania, Mirror a Larger Postal Service Problem

 Or https://carolyncholland.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/post-office-closings-in-rector-and-export-pennsylvania-mirror-a-larger-postal-service-problem/ )

      On November 9 the Postal Regulatory Commission in Washington initiated a (more…)

January 22, 2010

Earthquakes in Maine?

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

EARTHQUAKES IN MAINE?

     On January 12,2010, Haiti was hit with a devastating earthquake that measured 7.0 on the Richter Scale. It was followed by some one hundred aftershocks, the worst of which, registered 6.1 and occurred on January 21.          Amidst the reports of the tragedy, I pondered what earthquake risks existed where I currently live: Southwestern Pennsylvania. I have a faint recall of minor tremors occurring one time while living in Slippery Rock (between 1969-1982). In 1998, while living in New Castle, a 5.2 magnitude earthquake hit Western Pennsylvania*. Of this, I recall people telling of their china closets and windows rattling.    Between fall 2006 and spring 2007, a sequence of earthquakes took place near the town of Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island on the coast of Maine**. We were traveling along our typical coastal route between Newport, Rhode Island and Lamoine Beach, Maine. I was a little bit nervous about it, but we went anyway. Below is the journal entry I wrote about being there at that time. 

     October 10, 2006: from the Ellsworth Public Library, in Ellsworth, Maine.

     Although I really wanted to travel to Lamoine, Maine, this visit was filled with trepidation and apprehension.

     While in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a town we always visited during our New England travels because it was my childhood hometown, my husband and I heard rumblings on news reports about an earthquake on Mount Desert Island—the location of Bar Harbor. The island is just across the Narrows, the strip of water separating Mount Desert Island from Maine’s mainland. Lamoine Beach, our final destination, is on the eastern end of the Narrows, where it borders onto Frenchman Bay.

     I thought about the California folks who routinely experience earthquakes, then about the Maine people for whom the natural phenomenon is not common. It couldn’t have been anything to be concerned about. There were no news reports about further earthquake events that (more…)

January 1, 2010

Post Office Closings in Rector and Export, Pennsylvania, Mirror a Larger Postal Service Problem

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

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POST OFFICE CLOSINGS IN RECTOR AND EXPORT, PENNSYLVANIA,

MIRROR A LARGER POSTAL SERVICE PROBLEM

     Rector is a small rural community on the outskirts of Laughlintown, Pennsylvania, near the eastern border of Westmoreland County. Rt. 381, near Linn Run State Park, passes through the community that is about five miles south of the Lincoln Highway, Rt. 30. Its population is undetermined, since it is included in a regional count. However, it has just over one hundred post office boxes.

     Export is a community of less than 830 residents, not far from Monroeville, Pennsylvania. It is on Rt. 22 in Westmoreland County, on its northeastern edge.

     These two communities are experiencing a problem common to many communities across our country: the suspension of (more…)

September 13, 2009

From flax to linen: The Stahlstown (Pa.) Flax Scutching Festival

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

FROM FLAX TO LINEN: THE STAHLSTOWN (Pa.) FLAX SCUTCHING FESTIVAL

      The making of linen from the fiber flax plant is celebrated by the Stahlstown (PA) Flax Scutching Festival, held in September each year.

     “We actually make linen that day,” said Marilee Pletcher, publicity chairperson.  “We use flax from our own field but when necessary we purchase it from outside sources. The distributors grow their flax the same way we do.”

     When asked if flax is grown in western Pennsylvania, Kathie Plack, who lives in Herminie, said (more…)

September 11, 2009

Flax scutching in Pennsylvania & Europe

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

FLAX SCUTCHING IN PENNSYLVANIA & EUROPE

      When Stahlstown (PA) was a settled and respected stagecoach stop in the days of the early settlers, everything a family used was either grown or hunted in their own back yard. That included the raw materials necessary for fabric production, including sheep and flax. From these they made their mainstay fabrics, linen and wool—fabrics that covered their bodies and kept them warm in the cold winters.

     Linen, made from the fiber flax plant, is a fabric dating from pre-Biblical times. Seed was brought from Europe to America by the nation’s first immigrants. In time, easier to produce and care for cotton and synthetic fabrics replaced the linen threads that were woven into linen. It was a long tedious process that included seed broadcasting, plant harvesting, retting, and scutching.

     Following the invention of the cotton gin, cotton became the preferred fabric. When synthetic fabrics became available, linen took another hit. Although the European Union subsidizes flax farmers and processors, fiber flax has not been grown commercially in North America for more than forty years.

     To view photographs of growing flax, click on:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3907672591/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3907672513/in/photostream/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3907672481/in/photostream/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3908451126/in/photostream/

     The Stahlstown Flax Scutching Festival works to maintain the art of making the flax fibers necessary to linen production. In 2009 the festival will be 102 years old, celebrating flax scotching since 1907 (missing only 1908 and the war years, 1942-1947). (Official Festival website: http://flaxscutching.org/ )

     This year also marks the year that the European Cooperative Research Network on Flax and other Bast Plants has designated as the International Year of Natural Fibers. The network is a part of the European System of Cooperative Research Networks in Agriculture. Its fifty-two nation membership includes Canada and Mexico (but, notably, not the United States).

     If the European Cooperative network has its way, ancient times will not be so ancient. Producing linen from fiber flax plants may become as current today as it was (more…)

August 20, 2009

Vicious dog or man’s best friend?

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

VICIOUS DOG OR MAN’S BEST FRIEND?

      Often dog owners often have a less-than-realistic opinion of their pet’s personalities. An owner’s loyalty to their dog precludes any insight into its degree of viciousness.

     Bob Petrillo, a Jeanette (PA) dog owner, believes authorities “overreacted” when they shot and killed his pet. Rocky was a one hundred fifty pound Rottweiler. Police justified the shooting because, they claim, Rocky (more…)

August 9, 2009

Journalism Rules and Professionalism: I had neither!

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

JOURNALISM RULES AND PROFESSIONALISM

I Had Neither!

      In searching for a certain picture, I came across my first press pass (http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/?saved=1 ).

     Over the years that I have been a freelance newspaper photojournalist, my editors had to put up with a lot from me. I was definitely not always “professional.”

     I was working at the newspaper until closing time, and the editor asked me (for the tenth time) if I could be back the first thing in the morning to complete our work.

     “Yes,” I said. “I’ll roll out of bed and into the office.”

     The next morning, I put my work clothes on, but didn’t wash my face or comb my hair. I grabbed my papers, my floor-length, maroon, fluffy bathrobe and my matching slippers. When I arrived at the newspaper, I parked in the back. I put on the robe and replaced my shoes with my slippers before entering the back door of the office.

     As I entered, I feigned yawning, as I said, “I told you I would just roll out of bed and into the office.”

     During the time I worked at one newspaper, I was needed to help my daughter with her newborn baby, Jordan. I would pack my briefcase, camera case, bottles and diapers when I took an article in to be edited (I sat with the editors while they worked on improving my writing). I would spread a blanket out on the floor (Jordan was not crawling yet) and work with the editor. Often, I would have to take a few minutes break to prepare her bottle, change her diaper, or quiet her down.

     I remember being asked by one editor to cover a wrestling banquet that I was attending. “No,” I said, turning and leaving. Tossing over my shoulder, “I know nothing about wrestling.” Then I did a turnabout. “Yes, I can,” I told the editor. “My husband is a wrestler, and he can edit it for me.” Monte did, and laughed at my mistakes while he corrected them. The article went in great.

     A mother should know her son’s name, right? Well…she may…but she may not always use it. I almost caused the newspaper lawsuit when I submitted the name of a five year old, given to me by his mother. She, however, was divorced from the child’s father, and told me his last name was the same as hers was. She had remarried. Never did I expect that a mother would lie about her son’s name. I erred, breaking the rule about asking the child to give me his name.

     But then, the editors I worked with didn’t follow the rules either. I found that together we “broke” some of the rules of journalism. Below are a couple of these “rules.”

REMAIN FREE OF ASSOCIATIONS AND ACTIVITIES THAT MAY COMPROMISE INTEGRITY OR DAMAGE CREDIBILITY.

AVOID CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, REAL OR PERCEIVED.

     Obviously, this implies that the journalist should not write about the organizations  with which they are involved. However, Jamestown (PA) is a small, rural town. When I arrived on the scene, the long-term freelancer for the Greenville Record Argus newspaper was ready to pass the job on, and I became the recipient. I also received a grant from the Children’s Trust Fund based on the premise that healing an adult of their childhood abuse would break the intergenerational chain of abuse. After receiving word of the grant I approached the newspaper’s and informed him that the new program needed a picture in the newspaper. Community residents needed to know about the new program. Logically, it should be the head of the program (me) photographed with the director of the county’s Children and Youth agency. I fully expected him to say (more…)

June 18, 2009

Health care reform & Silver Sneakers

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

HEALTH CARE REFORM & SILVER SNEAKERS

A month ago I joined the Silver Sneakers program at the Ligonier (PA) YMCA. Since participating, I can feel the positive physical effects. Since national health care discussions place this Medicare Advantage program in jeopardy, Silver Sneakers members were asked to write a letter explaining why this program should not be eliminated to reduce governmental health care costs. Below is my letter. Please write one of your own and send it to your legislators.

A nation, a community, a family, are only as healthy as its people.

Thus, quality health care, including preventive and rehabilitative care, should be a major priority. Yet, escalating health care costs are threatening the health of the American people.

Persons who knowingly promote their ill-health should be required to take responsibility for the consequences. Conversely, persons who take responsibility to maintain/regain/improve their health, thereby decreasing the need for medical care, should not be penalized.

The Medicare Advantage funding of the Silver Sneakers health maintainance/rehabilitative exercise program, geared towards improving/developing the health of America’s senior citizens, is an example of preventative medicine.

Health care reform discussions include the Silver Sneakers program. This issue is likely to be part of the health care reform bill being drafted this summer. And it is likely the discussions and results of the discussions will be (more…)

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