Monday, March 19, 2018


 Seeing that the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee had concluded its so-called "investigation" of the Russian meddling in the 2016 election, my brother commented, "Wasn't exactly like Sam Watergate, was it?"  I sighed and said, "Yes, 'what did the President know and when did he know it?' are among some unforgettable moments."  He asked, "Where's a Sam Ervin, now that we need him?"

 I said, "That is very interesting as Sam Ervin was important in Watergate and he was also the Chairman of the committee which censured McCarthy."

He's too young to remember the Army-McCarthy hearings, but I  can recall my parents being engrossed by them. Those hearings, shown on our 12-inch black and white television, were the genesis of many arguments in my family.  Once I said that McCarthy was "awful" and my mother said to my father, "See, even a kid can tell it!" To this day, the speech by Joseph Welch, ending with the quote, "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" (see below) is still indelibly etched on my brain. [I will admit that I have resorted to that quote a number of times during arguments] There is a great documentary Point Of Order! about the Army-McCarthy hearings which I recommend. I fondly recall the young Senator Stuart Symington, challenging McCarthy.

Mother adored FDR; my father called him "Ole Peg Leg"; he loved General MacArthur, Mother detested him. Mother loved JFK; my father actually liked Nixon. In 1952, I remember my Grandmother Shirkey telling my mother that she would "watch the children" so that Mother could vote for "OUR Mr. Bricker" and General Eisenhower.  Mother told her that she would be going to vote for "OUR Mr. DiSalle" and Stevenson.  Granny said, "But he's one of those Italians (she pronounced it "Eye-talian")!" Unfortunately, Mr. Bricker won that race, but in 1958, Stephen Young, who became my all-time political hero, defeated Mr. Bricker.  I said that Granny would roll over in her grave to know that OUR Mr. Bricker was finally defeated. [Actually, John W. Bricker, was a very interesting political figure--from Mt. Sterling-- who was Governor, Senator, and Vice-Presidential candidate]

My father would claim that FDR knew about Pearl Harbor before the event. One day at school, a teacher also said that "some people" believed that. I immediately challenged the teacher, in the same way my mother did at home: "You have no proof of that;  that's a lie!" I was taken to Mr. Biddle's office and they called my mother at home and she told Mr. Biddle that he needed to correct the teacher because it was a lie.  When I went home, I said, that was my "finest hour", proudly quoting Churchill.  At that time, I didn't know the term "Pyrrhic Victory", but as I had that teacher's lasting animus, I later realized that my short-lived victory was indeed a Pyrrhic victory.

ARMY-MCCARTHY HEARINGS:  Exchange between legal counsel for the Army, Mr. Welch and Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) during the Army-McCarthy hearings.  This is credited as the moment where McCarthy began to lose his power and influence, as the hearings were telecast and people could view how McCarthy behaved.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


At a family event I admitted my "predilection" of  EAVESDROPPING;  of course I used a euphemism--"overheard conversations"--to describe my habit.  I mentioned that I had written a blog about it and would re-publish it for them.  This article is from 2016:


Last week I was eating alone at The Mediterranean Restaurant in Wilmington and--as in my wont--I was eavesdropping on the conversation of a group of men sitting at an adjacent table.  After the men had completed their "business-related" conversation, their topic turned to food.  When one of the men began to wax rhapsodic about a favorite grilled cheese sandwich, I felt I had found a kindred spirit and I interjected myself into the conversation by asking, "Do you know that April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day?"  Naturally, one asked how I would know such a fact and I told him that I have a daily reminder of events sent to my e-mail.  I said that a friend of mine and I were "grilled cheese connoisseurs" and that we had an ongoing quest to find--and rate--the best grilled cheese sandwich and we were going to celebrate on the 12th with our decision and notify the restaurant about our conclusion.

The four of us continued with the food-related conversation and then one of the men said that the best grilled cheese sandwich he had was in Monaco and then he said, "Monaco is a country."  Immediately offended that he would think that I didn't know that Monaco IS a country, I said, "Oh, we had that in book-learnin' when I went to school."  He realized his faux pas when one of the other men hooted at my response and said, "Gotcha, Ken!"  I continued, "Oh, gosh, I even know that Monte Carlo is the capital;  do you know what the natives are called?"  He was obviously embarrassed by his companion's laughter at his superciliousness and I said, "They're called Monogosques."

My brother lectures me often about my reaction to perceived slights but I have noticed that some people from other states think that we are ignoramuses. Recently, while seated next to a couple, I noticed a regional speech difference and I asked if they were from New York or New Jersey. They both stated that they were from New Jersey. In further conversation, the man said that he'd gone to college in New Jersey at the state university.  Knowing that New Jersey has only one state university, I said, "Oh, the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers." He was obviously surprised that I knew Rutgers University, let alone the name of the school's teams, as he asked, with a patronizing note,  "YOU know Rutgers?" I asked, incredulously, "WHY would you think that I wouldn't know the STATE University of New Jersey?" He said, "Most Ohioans we've met don't know it."  I said, "I would expect YOU to know that Ohio has a number of state universities so I would think that you would expect Ohioans to know YOUR state university." He could tell that I was irritated and he tried to mollify it by saying how Ohioans had been so "friendly", but being a poor sport, I actually said, "New Joisey" instead of New Jersey in my next sentence.

I was relating that story to my husband the next evening when a man in the next booth turned around and said, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation and I wanted to know if you'd heard that because of the terrible economic conditions they are going to combine Ohio University and Indiana University and move both of them to the state lines and they are going to call it I.O.U."  We all groaned at the joke and realizing he was a fellow eavesdropper, he and I shared some of our own "overheard conversations";  some of mine:

AT A LOCAL RESTAURANT: When smoking in restaurants was still legal, my husband and I were sitting in a local restaurant and Gerald lit a cigarette. Two older people were sitting at a table adjacent to ours and I heard the woman complain to the man about the cigarette smoke. I tapped Gerald on the hand and asked him to put out the cigarette. Later on, the woman was telling her husband that she wished that she could take a Lifesaving class. I leaned over and said, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation about the lifesaving and I wanted you to know that the American Red Cross offers those classes and here's the number of the local Red Cross office." She thanked me profusely and within a few seconds, she realized that if  I'd heard about the lifesaving class, then I had probably also heard her complaining about the cigarette. She said, "Honey, I didn't mean anything by saying that about the cigarettes." I told her it was OK as I was trying to get him to quit anyway.

AT A COLUMBUS RESTAURANT: We were sitting in a restaurant and the tables were very close. From the conversation, I could tell that the couple beside us were gay. During their conversation, one complained about the War Sui Gai and the other said that he wished that they had gone to Schmidt's in German Village. I leaned across and asked, "Did you ever eat Chinese-German food?" They looked at me as if I were crazy and I gave the punch line: "It's good, but an hour later you're hungry for power!" They laughed but one said, "That's terrible." I said, "I know it's not politically correct, but you're eating Chinese and discussing German;  how many Chinese-German jokes are there?" It was about a minute later when they called for their check as they obviously realized that if I'd heard the Chinese-German food conversation, then I'd probably heard the other--intimate--details they had been sharing.

AT MY DOCTOR'S OFFICE: I was sitting beside a woman in the doctor's office. She was busy talking to the man next to her, but it was no normal conversation. She was talking through clenched teeth and it became apparent that the two were having an affair and that the wife was having him followed so the doctor's office was the only safe place for them to meet to talk. She was giving him an ultimatum, "Either you leave her--OR........ "  He was giving the usual excuses which she didn't want to hear and then I became so UPSET because my name was called and I had to go into see the doctor--so I never learned the outcome of it.

The joys of eavesdropping.  Gerald doesn't mind my eavesdropping but he doesn't like for me to join the conversations!

Saturday, March 17, 2018


On Saint Patrick's Day, I wear something green, but my predominant color is ORANGE.  When people mention my lack of "THE WEARING OF THE GREEN", it provides me with the opportunity to talk about Irish history and that my family came from County Tyrone, NORTHERN Ireland, and that we are the ORANGEMEN (In a bit of chauvinism, I always choose Syracuse as my favorite team in March Madness, knowing that they are the "Orangemen" just like the devotion of some others of Irish descent who cheer the "Fighting Irish" of Notre Dame).  I am disheartened because people do not know the history of their forebears.  My brother asked, "Hell, why would you expect them to know Irish history when they probably don't know U.S. history?"

 I believe in a United Eire.  For years I had a bumper sticker on my car reading "26+6=1", but only one person outside my family "got" its meaning.  One person commented about my bad math.  My brother asked, "When people don't get it, does it diminish  your revolutionary fervor?

A woman of my acquaintance who attends a local evangelical church said that she was having a St. Patrick's Day party. I asked, "Isn't that against your religion?" She asked, "What do you mean?" I didn't even mention the probability that there would be the consumption of alcoholic beverages at such a gathering, but I did comment, "Well, Saint Patrick was Catholic and you are Protestant." She seemed offended and answered tersely, "I'm not a Protestant, but I'm Irish." I asked, "From which county in Northern Ireland did your family originate?" She said she didn't know and asked why would I say Northern Ireland.  I told her that Northern Ireland was mostly Protestant and that the Republic was mainly Catholic.  She reiterated that she was "not a Protestant." I said, "Your church, along with all the other sects, stem from the Protestant Reformation." She seemed stunned.  I asked, "Do you know the history of your church? It's an offshoot of another Protestant church." She said she did not know the history of her church and she was surprised that I did. I asked, with some incredulity, "You joined a church without knowing its history?"

On Facebook, on Saint Patrick's Day, I was amused to see numerous St. Patrick's Day messages and all were from non-Catholics. My brother said, "Everybody's Irish on St. Paddy's Day!" See the message from THE WISE GEEK:

The number of Americans who report having Irish ancestry is seven times larger than the total population of Ireland.

About 11%, or 35 million out of about 310 million, Americans claim Irish ancestry, according to 2011 US Census data. Ireland's total population is about 4.6 million citizens, which means that the US has more than 7 times more people of Irish heritage than Ireland. These numbers were split rather evenly between both men and women and across a fairly wide range of age groups and levels of education. The large number of Irish-Americans may be traced back to the country's wave of Irish immigration experienced in the mid 1800s.

Friday, March 16, 2018


When I was fifteen years old, an execrable lie was told about my family. I often speak of defining moments in life, but at that time when I was fifteen,I didn't know what a "defining moment" was, but today, I know that outside of my mother's womb, this was the most transformative event in my life. How I reacted to the malevolent lie caused me to be the person I am today. The heinous lie haunted me and my family for years and caused me much turmoil as a teenager because of the great impact it caused to my personal life. Because of the pernicious lie, I was subtly ostracized at school--I was never asked for a date--I was never invited to parties--never asked to visit others' homes--and by the time I understood the cause of the quiet, cruel, shunning, I realized that it had been going on for some time;  I had never been able to comprehend why I was being treated "differently";  not only did the iniquitous lie hurt me and my brothers, the malicious lie was later flung in the faces of my nieces and nephews as the lie continued down the generations. Whenever I heard of the children being hurt, I would tell my husband I was glad we never had children who would be able to be hurt.

When the lie was flung in my face, I reacted by physically, and brutally attacking the girl who said it to me. We were in the gymnasium at Bloomingburg School and I pushed her to the floor and I jumped on top of her body and I had my feet holding her legs down and my elbows were on her shoulders holding her torso down with my body and I was pounding her face with my fists; ironically, she was much taller and heavier than I was, but all she could do was pound on my back and pull my hair. I don't know how long I beat her, but Mr. Rudolph pulled me off her prostrate body and he pushed me down on the bleacher seats. Mr. Rudolph helped her up from the floor and she left the gym and went home. She did not return to school for a week.

Because I rode the bus, I had to remain at school the remainder of the day.  There were just two more classes left in the day. I went to my next class, still wearing my gym clothes (which was a definite no-no). Not one teacher and not one student spoke a word to me. My only friend Cammy was not at school that day. The news of the incident obviously spread quickly and between classes one of my brothers came to me; he didn't hug or try to comfort me, but he could tell I was close to crying and he said, "Shirkeys don't cry." That figurative ramrod up our backs that Mother instilled in all of us stiffened my resolve. On the ride home, no one on the school bus said a word.

The truly amazing thing is that I was never taken to the office--no discipline was ever enacted--nobody ever uttered a word to my face about the incident in the remaining two years of school.  I can imagine what would happen to a kid today.  My mind was roiling and I thought that I could NEVER go back to school again. 

When I tearfully related the event to my mother, she was enraged and she called the mother of the girl whom I had assaulted and the woman threatened to call the sheriff and my mother told her to do it, but nothing ever happened.  However, the woman told my mother the genesis of the lie. The mother of one of my sisters-in-law was the one who had originally told the lie more than a year previously. The lie had been swirling around all that time, but we had no knowledge of it. Her motive for telling the lie was revenge, because my brother had broken off his relationship with her daughter.  My brother and her daughter had reunited, married, and yet none of us knew of her mother's perfidy in telling the reprehensible lie.

My mother then called the mother of my sister-in-law who, of course, denied that she had told the lie. My mother told her that she knew it was she who did the deed and she never wanted to hear from her or her family ever again. Then my mother called my sister-in-law, but she was the one who was caught in the middle. Before this incident, my sister-in-law would bring her half-siblings to our home for Sunday dinners and my mother told her that those relatives would never be welcome in our home again. Her mother's name was never once mentioned in my mother's home in the presence of my sister-in-law. 

I told my mother that I would never go back to school again. She told me. "Oh, yes you will, and you'll look them straight in the eye and defy them to say anything." It was the Shirkeys against the whole damned world. 

As I reflected, I knew that, at the moment that I was pounding my fists into the girl's face, that I could kill another person, enjoy it, and have no remorse. I was already a devotee of Thoreau and Gandhi and believer in Dr. King's message and had followed the Montgomery bus boycott with admiration. I knew that I had to change, because I didn't want to be THAT violent person.  I often think that if I had followed the path of violence what could have happened to me.

Somebody called Cammy to tell her what had happened at school and she called me;  she was my rock, and I will always be grateful to her for her love, compassion, and understanding and the fact that I was still her friend despite the lie.

I also reflected on what had happened that day which caused the other girl to fling the insult in my face.  She was showing a "diamond" ring that her boyfriend had given to her and I made fun of it, suggesting that it was rhinestone.  It was because of my own arrogance and willingness to hurt the feelings of another that caused her to be mean and repeat the lie.

If I had not done that, I would probably have never heard the lie and would have wondered my whole life WHY I was treated the way I was in high school.  Because of that, I am glad that I DID hear the lie. Ignorance ISN'T bliss.

I did go to school the next day and Cammy was there. As usual we went to her Grandma's house for lunch and we discussed my revelation about myself that I had it within myself to kill somebody.  I resolved to change that behavior and I have never struck another person in my life.

Other than with Cammy and my husband, I have never spoken about this to anyone outside the family. 

Recently, I was reminded about that defining moment in my life because I was told a lie about the daughter of one of my friends.  I oftentimes wonder about the motives of people;  this was easy to understand as she intensely dislikes my friend and she was joyously repeating the trash about her daughter.  I am proud of myself that I reacted to it by saying that I didn't believe it.  I immediately began investigating the story and learned that although the story had a basis, my friend's daughter was not involved in any way.  I called the person who had told the lie to me and she said it was just "BUZZ";  her nonchalance about telling a LIE enraged me.  She asked if I'd ever played the game "buzz" when I was a kid;  it's where a group of people tell a story individually and how it ends up being totally different from the first time it's told.  I answered that we called that game "telephone",  and reiterated by saying, "This is no GAME, it's SLANDER!"  I asked her to please call the person who had told the lie to her and make sure she knew she was SPREADING a lie and ask her not to repeat it.  I demanded to know the name of the person who had told the lie.  She refused;  I shall never speak to the person again. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Today my brother came in and exclaimed, "They're b-a-a-c-k!" and I immediately knew that he meant that the BUZZARDS are here.  I said, "They're early!", knowing that the Annual Return Of The Buzzards in Hinckley, Ohio, is March 15.  I said, "It's probably because of global warming.", as the temperature is 49 degrees today.

Each year, when the buzzards are traveling to Hinckley, Ohio, a great number of them stop and rest in trees in our side yard.  My husband will run into the house and yell, "The buzzards are here!", grab his camera and go out to photograph the event.  We moved to our present home in May, 1984, and in March, 1985, we noticed approximately thirty buzzards roosting in the large trees on the east side of our property.  We are fascinated by their soaring, eerie beauty.

Several years ago, a woman came to our house and asked, "Can I come to your house when the buzzards come?" I asked, "How do you know about the buzzards?" She answered, "We were driving by one day and saw them in your trees and I told my daughter that I was going to ask you if we can come to your yard when they come again so we can see them up close." I asked, "How do you know they'll come again?" She answered, "We've seen them twice so I figure they come every year." I replied, "Of course you can come join us." She asked, "Why hasn't the newspaper ever covered this?" I said, "I think some of my neighbors would be upset if I publicized it."

She said, "We call your house the Buzzard House." She saw me wince at the reference and said, "Oh, every time we drive by, we talk about the buzzards!"

She said, "You should have a party!"

My brother, ever the wit, said, "Yeah, you could serve bird's nest soup!"

Monday, February 19, 2018


I am remembering my brother Ken Shirkey on his birthday today.  He would have been 80 years old.

You Are My Sunshine was one of the first songs he learned with my mother but as a toddler he had difficulty pronouncing the letter "s";  while singing You Are My Sunshine the word "mistaken" came out as "mittaken" so today I'll be singing "mittaken"!