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Sunday, June 28, 2020

My Mum was a GI Bride from Northern Ireland by Patty Koontz

I'm happy to have my dear friend, Patty Koontz, with us to share the fascinating, romantic, and touching story of her Irish mother and American GI father. Portions of Patty's post and the wonderful images are part of an oral history project at the Northern Ireland War Memorial in Belfast, Ireland. Called The War and Me, the project features a collection of stories about GI Brides and the American presence in Northern Ireland during the Second World War. As their website says, most GI Brides have now sadly passed away, so it is often their children who tell their stories. This is Patty's.

Patty: My beloved Irish Mum, Evelyn Vance, married my father, Luther M. Taylor, an American Sergeant, during WWII. Evelyn was born January 20th, 1925 to her loving parents, Thomas Vance and Alice McMaster Vance, in a quaint home nestled in County Down, Northern Ireland. Little did they know, their daughter would endure a life of many challenges.  Her courage, strength, and the adventures she faced, changed not only her life, but those of many others for years to come.  Her story is her legacy.

My Mum was a beautiful lady, both inside and out. It made me smile how people always complimented her on her long, thick red hair. I can still hear her soft Irish brogue and see her brown eyes sparkle as she shared stories of her family and homeland. Her Grandfather, William McMaster, from Portrush, Ballymoney, was a fisherman who died at sea. Unfortunately, his body was never found, and his death had a huge impact on the entire family.  Mum’s grandmother was a dressmaker/seamstress to help support her children, although one child was sent to live with nearby relatives, during tough times.

Mum bore scars on the left side of her chin and neck from a childhood incident that left her trapped inside a fiery room. She rarely spoke of the accident and was self conscious about the scars.  Her hero, her father Thomas, rescued her from the blaze and saved her life. After losing all her beautiful hair, she was forced to wear a cap to school. Kids teased her about her cap until one day someone pulled it off.  She ran home in tears, but again, her father came to her rescue. With her family’s encouragement, she returned to school.

From the stories she shared, I believe my Mum was a wee bit of a tomboy.  She inherited her love for the ocean, (and how to swim with dolphins), her love for horses, dogs, and storytelling from her beloved Father and five uncles.

On January 22nd, 1942, (just two days after her 17th birthday), my Mum received her recruiting instructions to The Women’s British Army (WBA). She had enlisted in the ATS.  (The thought of her enlisting at that age is still hard for me to imagine). Even though her mother was not happy about this turn of events, Mum was determined to do her part to help the war effort. She served from 1942 to 1946 as a cook and assisted in the infirmary, attaining the rank of first lieutenant. The toughest thing she said she had to do was walk through a closed building filled with teargas, without a mask. She told me they were required to do this in case they ever encountered this situation. She also spoke about nightly blackouts, bombings in Northern Ireland, and food and clothes rations. A dear friend of hers was shot and killed during this rough time. Her best friend, Mary Flynn, served with Mum. They remained close and kept in touch until my Mum passed.

I love the story of how my parents met. During the war, occasional dances were held for the enlisted men and women. Mum and her friend decided to attend one evening, at a nearby recreation center/hall in Belfast. Due to the blackouts at night, the hall was also quite dark, but they enjoyed the music and opportunity for the break. Mum remembers starting to dance with a British lieutenant, and halfway through the song, she felt her arm slightly lifted. When the dance was over, my five-foot two-inch Mum (in heels), was escorted off the floor by a handsome six-foot four-inch American Sergeant. My father. Daddy always said it was love at first sight when he spotted her.

A few days later, my father was introduced to my Grandparents, and her five protective uncles.They welcomed him into the family, and from my understanding, they knew right away this was the man Mum would marry one day. They included my father in family meals and outings and treated him as their own son. Mum gave Daddy the grand tour of the legendary Antrim Coast, they walked the beach on Port Stewart Strand, (where I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to visit myself). 

I get goosebumps remembering how I walked through the beautiful places where my parents walked, hand-in-hand.  

I believe my Daddy enjoyed visiting the Mourne Mountains, as he loved the mountains that reminded him of home. My father often spoke of the kindness and hospitality the Irish people always showed him.

My parents soon married, on April 6th, 1945 at Cregagh Methodist Church in Belfast. Mary Flynn, Mum's best friend who later became a nun, was her Maid of Honor, and Charles Chapman was my Dad’s best man.  

I was told my parents walked beneath a row of raised, crossed swords, held by both British and American soldiers, forming a line facing each other.  

How I wish there was a photo of that. Unfortunately, the only photo I have of their wedding is of their beautiful cake. The good luck symbol of the black cat inside the horseshoe hung beneath the cake on the left side of the table. 

I believe my parents wore their uniforms on their wedding day. A wedding dress was never spoken of.

After my father returned to the states, they corresponded in writing letters and by telegram until my Mum could obtain passage to come to the United States. With help, she obtained her immigration records and departed from Southampton, England on the ship named the USAT Saturnia, arriving in New York on June 1, 1946, over a year after their wedding. She brought the handmade ship inside an old whiskey bottle, made by an elderly sea captain, that was given to her in memory of her grandfather who was lost at sea. My Mum said that she would never forget the first thing she spotted that welcomed her to the United States.The Statue of Liberty.That greeting made a huge impression on Mum.

My handsome father, Luther M. Taylor, was born June 7th, 19221, son of Bertie M. and Ethel Taylor of Carroll County Maryland. After enlisting as a Private, in the US Army on July 3rd, 1942, he soon found himself traveling by ship, to report to Ebrington Barracks, located in Derry, Northern Ireland. My father earned the rank of Sergeant and also fought in the Battle of the Bulge, one of the largest battles the US Army ever fought. He fell in love with not only my mother, but her family, uncles, the Irish people and the beautiful green countryside. He was sent to Holland for a short time, where he became fascinated with their windmills.

In 1984, Daddy built a windmill in my family’s back yard with colorful tulips enveloping his creation. His work of art was photographed and featured in the Carroll County Times newspaper, and in later years featured in the local “back in history of our town” paper section. 

My father, a tall, quiet man, worked hard all his life. He was a stone mason by trade and loved surprising my Mum by making wooden furniture.  His last project is that of an eight-foot-tall grandfather clock made out of cherry wood; at the bottom of the base, he engraved my Mum’s name, Evelyn, into a hand-carved shamrock. My parents continued to attend and enjoy dances at the local VFW for many years until their health worsened. My Daddy never spoke of the war. His family said he had changed when he came back to the states. He was wounded during the war and carried shrapnel in parts of his body.

Mum said my Daddy had seen too much, which haunted him until he died. He named his first-born son, (my brother), Robert, after his best friend who was killed in the war. My father only spoke of my Mum’s family, the fun he had with her uncles, and of the sincerity and hospitality he was given. Unfortunately, my father never returned to Ireland, but enjoyed working at home and in his community. One item he brought back with him from the war was a painting which hung in our family basement. Mum told us it was given to my father as a gift from a prisoner of war, in exchange for cigarettes my Daddy had given the man. 

Daddy’s love for his wife and children were his life. Sadly, he died on November 18th, 1986 from “old wounds” from the war. My father was happy spending time with Mum’s family in Ireland, and I sometimes wonder how their lives would have been if my Daddy had decided to live there.

A year after the birth of her first child, Mum was proud to pass her test and receive her US citizen papers on November 25th, 1949. She stood in front of a judge at the Circuit Court here in Westminster, Carroll County Maryland. Below is a copy of the handwritten letter she read to witnesses after receiving her papers. I truly believe she learned more about the history of this country from doing her own research, than I actually did from school. Her words brought tears to my eyes as I read the following, I’d like to share a few of her sentences that touched my heart:

“Freedom and What it Means. What a wonderful word, Freedom, do you know what it means?  We here in America can’t possibly know its meaning. Just think of the men and woman, yes and even children, who risk their lives each day for one little glimpse of freedom.  Something we all take for granted. We here in America are free to worship, have freedom of speech, and have the right to vote, for whom we want in office. Have you ever stopped to think of the men who died for this great country of ours, and also the men who risk their lives each day to keep us free. Let us use the privilege we’ve been blessed with and pray for peace and a better world to live in for all mankind. And remember our pledge, one nation, under God with Liberty and justice for all.” She also wrote a prayer below that for the ending.

Mum was a goodhearted person who did not have an easy life. She was only able to return to her beloved Ireland when her own Mother was sick and passed away. Mum was always homesick, (especially during the holidays), but refused to leave her children. She was thrilled when her sister Pat and niece Yvonne came to the states to visit several times. I remember how heartbroken she was when they left to head home, as she somehow knew this would be the last time she’d ever see her sister again. Mum always said she felt fortunate, as she had two countries to cherish. She carried the memories of her family and homeland in her heart until she passed from heart disease and kidney failure on November 28th, 1994. Her love of God, of her husband, her children and grandchildren are what kept my mother going.

During my beloved Mum's short life on this earth, her warm personality, compassion, and kindness touched the lives of many. She may be gone from this world, but her legacy and spirit lives on forever.

A final thought: Every year until my Mum died, we watched the famous Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in one of our favorite movies, The Quiet Man. My parents enjoyed these actors, as did I. Knowing the lovely actress was born in Dublin, a little over four years earlier than Mum, I always imagined what a wonderful thing it would have been if they had met. I never did mention this to my Mum. I know it wasn't meant to be, but I sometimes think, if only those four could have met, I’m sure they would have been great friends. Believing people would consider me foolish, I never voiced these thoughts, but the older I’ve become, the more I've found life’s too short not to share loving memories of my parents, which always help to brighten my day. I hope this brightens yours.

For Patty's piece on her mother at the Northern Ireland War Memorial, visit their website at:

A talented storyteller, artist, and craftswoman, Patty inherited her love of all things Celtic from her beloved Mum.  For more on Patty, visit her Amazon Author Page:
Her website at:
At Facebook

Thank you for stopping by. Please leave Patty a comment.

Posted by Beth Trissel

Wednesday, June 24, 2020


                              by Judy Ann Davis
My latest novella, Huckleberry Happiness, is being released today. It’s the historical story of a young woman, Emelia Stone, who runs a bakery and her best friend from childhood, Joe Sawicki, who owns an ice company with his brother. Amelia bakes pies from native Pennsylvania huckleberries and buys ice from Sawicki Ice Company. She wants to make a special huckleberry ice cream to enter in the Pennsylvania Railroad’s dessert contest.

Huckleberries are edible, small, round berries resembling blueberries. In fact, in some parts of the United States, huckleberries might be called blueberries and blueberries might be called huckleberries, although they’re not the same fruit.

The various species of huckleberries range in color from bright red to dark purple to blue. The purple and blue huckleberries taste sweeter. In addition to humans, many animals enjoy huckleberries, including bears, red foxes, opossum, skunks, squirrels, chipmunks and white-footed mice.

Huckleberry bushes are native to Pennsylvania and stay green all year. A patch, discovered near Losh Run, north of Harrisburg, has two plants that botanists determine are 13,000 years old, older than the Sequoia trees of the West. The gigantic patch sprang from the same plant thousands of years ago as the ice cover was melting. 

Huckleberries also grow wild in many different parts of the U.S. Perhaps this is why the huckleberry inspired many different phrases dating back to the 1800s.

Because huckleberries are small, the word “huckleberry" was often used as a nickname for something small, unimportant, or insignificant. Scholars believe this was the meaning Mark Twain had in mind when he named his Huckleberry Finn character. People at that time would have understood that “Huck" Finn's name was a clue that he was a small boy who was of a lower class than his companion, Tom Sawyer.


Emelia jabbed furiously at the mixture inside the bowl with her pastry cutter. How could her very own sister abandon her without an ounce of misgiving? Couldn’t she have waited until the end of the month and, at the very least, earned her pay before leaving the bakery?

Joe watched her work, his hands shoved in his pockets. “Are you trying to kill the lard…or is it the flour that has you so riled?” He peered over the rim of the bowl.

“Be careful,” she shot back and gave him a lethal glare that would stop a rattlesnake from making a fuss. “This place is armed with sharp knives.”


Monday, June 22, 2020

Fire is the story

by Rain Trueax

With a year like 2020, a person never knows what to expect next. Writing would be a good thing, if someone could let go of all that's going on and bury themselves in another world. I envy those who can do that and maybe I'll be able to eventually, but right now I find myself immersed in my life and what I read in the news, and finding it difficult to write on my fiction story, one I like the idea of writing, but just haven't had the right energy to give it. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Besides the virus, which has meant my husband and I not returning to the farm, leaving the cattle and sheep to our son's care, Tucson has been hit by one of its most destructive fires in years. It is burning large chunks of the Catalina Mountains, impacting our lives with smoke and concern for where it goes next. It all began with some early monsoon storms-- the night of June 5th, one particularly dangerous dry lighting storm. 

Saturday morning, June 6th, we were sitting in our backyard, talking. It was our son's birthday and his present was it was the day the shearer could do the sheep. Not much of a birthday present, but he seemed okay with it. It's more troubling to us not to be there for what's been our life for over 40 years. Unplanned as this at this time due to life changes and the pandemic, we felt disturbed and yet understanding. One generation lets go and another takes over. We were lucky we had a son who can take over.

That afternoon, the temperature was about 96ºF, perfect for the patio misting cooling system to make it pleasant enough to be outside. As we watched the birds, good for de-stressing (and who doesn't need that these days), we saw jets fly surprisingly low. We thought they were headed to the airport. Never had we seen ones so big so low. Two of them. We watched to see where they went but lost them. I remember how blue the sky was, so pure of color.  Often, it's that way above Pusch Ridge, the mountain range that is part of the Catalinas and not many miles, as a crow flies, from our house.

Later that afternoon, my husband saw the smoke. That's when we realized the plane we'd seen was a fire fighting jet and had been dropping fire retardant to try to put an inflammable barrier between the fires and homes in a development called La Reserve. We looked for information on it and found the fire, called the Bighorn, because this is part of their habitat was maybe 10 acres to begin but growing. 

When we took photos that night, our concern grew that this was going to be far bigger than taking out some scrub brush that would supposedly make the habitat better for the bighorn sheep. Supposedly, there wasn't much there for the fire to burn. No problem or so they said. To us, it didn't look that way as we saw how it spread.

Seeing the fire fighting plane reminded us how wonderful it was that there are those who are trained to help the rest of us. They give up their free time, face danger, and we count on them. I grew up in a time that was less true.

People, who have never been to Southern Arizona have no idea how important the mountains are to the terrain. Tucson is ringed by mountains as it sets in what once was a river valley, the Santa Cruz as well as others rivers flowing out of the mountains. The tallest of these is Mt. Lemmon at 9157 feet. 

When we first came to Tucson, we didn't know what to expect as we were from the Northwest. What we found was a lot more green than we expected as well as this mountain that was right above the city. The first time we drove up there, we found tall pines, fires, and other deciduous trees. It even had a ski resort as it gets quite a bit of snow up there during the winter. Mountain cabins and a lovely lake, cool when the desert was baking, and a total break from the cactus down below. 

That's what is at stake as the Catalinas are ablaze with canyons filled with oaks and willows, small and bigger streams. A treasure where Tucsonians love to hike and recreate... or did before the night the lightning bolt hit and when the fire wasn't taken seriously enough to begin. 

It doesn't just threaten the mountain but the ridges on the way up covered with saguaro cactus that provide habitat for birds as well as beauty. Often the birds make their homes in them. Where do they go now if they got out in time that and the javelina, bobcats, cougar, and my heart is breaking with all the damage this will do for years to come if it can ever be recovered.

After not being aggressive enough (in my opinion) in the beginning, crews were brought it along with more planes professionals who knew how to fight fires this big, but the fire continued to grow and threaten several directions at once. It is one fire and yet it is not. It got into several canyons along the Catalina Mountains and forced closures as well as some evacuations. 

The thing is, with the extreme heat and afternoon winds, they are limited in how they can fight the fire. They protected the observatory up there, but the cabins are still under evacuation orders. These rugged hills aren't easy for fire fighting; so much has to come from the air like the jet we had first seen and the helicopters with buckets of water.

I'd like to put this aside along with our cultural upheavals and the virus that is still very real. It's hard when it's so visible. When we thought the fire was heading up to the mountain, it turned and came back down to La Canada del Oro Wash, which happens to be the wash that is one house over from ours. They should be able to stop it from getting across Oracle Road, a six lane plus wide boulevard with businesses along it. Shoulds though haven't done much where it has come to this fire or really any fire as Arizona has several bad ones going right now.. 

As it stands, I am stuck staying inside to avoid the smoke, which would cause me sinus problems. A virus, a fire, smoke. What else is out there? Don't bother to tell me. I did see that Mercury is going retrograde...

Except, more is going on than the fire and the virus. For fun, try this for what Elle Marlow and a group of writers got together to create. If you want a break from bad news, read some romances-- guaranteed happy ending.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Cookie Jar Therapy For The Soul

Several years ago while working at a factory which stone-washed jeans, I formed the habit of reading a passage fry Bible upon rising each morning. If a verse jumped out at When I returned home that afternoon, I dropped the scrap of paper in the cookie jar. 

By the end of that first summer, I had accumulated nearly a hundred verses in the McCoy smiley-faced cookie jar. When it was full, I quit penning the verses. Instead, I shut my eyes, reached into the cookie jar, felt around for the right paper, and pulled it out. 

During the day between unloading and reloading industrial dryers, I set the timer, then pulled the paper from my pocket. Many times the verses inspired me.

But, I groaned each time I plucked out this verse. “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin," because the verse seemed to serve as a predictor of the day ahead. This one foretold getting crossways with my spouse or a co-worker.

When I heeded the warning to hold my tongue, I averted trouble. But when I spoke without considering the consequences, well... Let's not get into that.

On the bright side, when I plucked out the verse, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon You”, or “A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a sad countenance dries up the bones,” I knew it was going to be a good day.

Starting your day with meditation, prayer, and reading God's word, will bring joy, peace and calm to your spirit. 

Do you have a ritual that seems to be of little significance, but has become a source of emotional and spiritual support? Share in a comment below. We would love to hear from you.


Carrie struggles with a drunk and pushes him off the boardwalk. "He's not moving!" She squeals. Big Jim is a force to be reckoned with. In a panic, she hop the next train out of town.
Through a misunderstanding, Carrie lands at the Kramer ranch in Abilene, posing as a mail-order bride. Handsome rancher, Josh Kramer thinks he picked up domestic help for his aunt. But Aunt Em discloses to Carrie that she secretly ordered Josh a bride.
Will Carrie get out the web of deception with her heart still intact?

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Changing My Name to "Better Late Than Never" by Joan Reeves

Yep, I did it again. Got so caught up in all the other demands of my life that I didn't realize the 16th had creeped up on me.

Just call me Better Late Than Never Reeves.

I think I need a vacation. I'm sitting here with a glass of pinot noir, trying to calm down after  Windows tried to sabotage me.

While I was gone to the pharmacy, Windows did an update. When I got home, I was locked out of my computer!

My Relationship With Windows

Yes indeedy. I try to keep my hatred of Windows in check, but this just about made me go ballistic since I'm on a tight schedule to get edits completed on my current book. The proofreader needs to have it by next week.

Then a screen pops up to announce all the wonderful new things Windows will do, i.e.,  sync every app and communication device I have and ever expect to have so I can use them all with multiple Windows features that I will never use.

It won't let Windows load and open until I enter my email address and password. No problem, right?

Well, not exactly. The Windows password is in a computer file that I can't access because Windows won't open by blankety-blank computer!

Oops. I Goofed

Now, I keep a hard copy, but I had not updated it when I had to change the Windows password a month ago.

My bad.

But, I can enter my email, click Forgot Password, and they'll—guess what?—email me a Code to enter in the little box.

How can I get email if the *@%# Windows won't let my computer open???

By this point, I'm in DefCon 1, ready to launch missiles. I couldn't think of anything, but how much I hate technology and its constant updates slowing my computer, killing other apps, and generally making life miserable.

My husband, dear, sweet, calm man that he is, said, "Open your email on your laptop and get the code."

I stopped dead in my tracks. How dumb of me! I got the code, reset the password, Windows loaded, my desktop opened. I'm once again in business.

Moral of the Story

When you allow the annoyances of the day to stress you out, you can't see the simple solution for the emotional storm wailing around you. Take a deep breath. Calm down. Think logically. And get a glass of wine.

By the way, the next computer I buy will be a Mac.


Contribute to my Buy a Mac fund by buying a book!

Seriously, when I'm frazzled, I read funny romance novels.

If you're feeling that way, try Cinderella Blue, set in the summer heat.

Detective Andrea Luft—Andie to her friends—loves to say those three little words. Especially to bad guys who SO deserve it.

Andie is undercover to catch the thief stealing designer wedding gowns from San Antonio bridal boutiques.

She's about to make an arrest when Detective Bruce Benton barges onto the scene, and the suspect escapes.

As a reward for this screw-up, Benton and Andie are paired together as partners to close the case.

These two commitment-phobic cops have nothing in common except their tendency to annoy each other–unless you count the desire sizzling between them.

At a cop shop, a workplace romance can cause you to make careless mistakes that can be hazardous to your health—and your career!

"This book was so much fun! I loved the humor and the barbs our couple threw at each other. And then there is the electricity between them..." —NetGalley

A strong woman heroine...a heart-throbbing hero...lots of humor...that's Cinderella Blue, a Kindle Unlimited Exclusive.


Be first to know about Giveaways and New Books, sign up for Joan's FREE Newsletter and receive a free ebook when you confirm your subscription.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

A Hairy Dilemma by Bea Tifton

Me bald.

Since people have been at home, there have been many Facebook discussions about what people’s hair looks like now. People who swore they didn’t dye their hair have been outed, the hippy long hair look abounds with men, and as the states reopen there’s a stampede for the barber shops and hair salons. It made me think about my hair, something I’d usually rather not do.
My hair is baby fine. When I was an infant, I was bald as an egg. That was before these cute baby hairbands so my mother would scotch tape a ribbon to the top of my head. No, really. 
As I grew, my hair finally grew in, but it was so fine that my ears stuck out through it. Hairclips wouldn’t stay in. My mother said that when I was a little girl, there was a woman in our church with long, thick hair down to her rear. I loved it, and one day I said, “That’s how I want my hair to look when I grow up.” Mom said she just thought, “Oh, you poor child.”
Age 5. My ears peeking through

When I was six years old, I fell asleep with chewing gum in my mouth. When I woke up, it had migrated to my hair. Mom was thrilled. No ice or peanut butter in my hair for me. She panicked and cut it out.  Then, she tried to even it up. Finally, we went to a stylist, who did what she could. People mistook me for a boy for months. Even the family dog didn’t recognize me. 
Age 6 at Easter, just after spilling juice on my dress.
In early high school I got a perm to “Put more volume in my hair. “ Remember those old perms? The stinging, the smell, and the time it took to get them? And it fried one’s hair. No wonder it had more volume. It was like sticking my finger in a light socket. Annie was my favorite musical at one time. I came home after getting a perm and my poor father, thinking he was complimenting me, said, “You look just like Little Orphan Annie.” Not something a 15 year old girl wants to hear. 

Me during my albino phase
And at one time, in high school, I had what wasn’t intended to be, but looked suspiciously like a mullet. Notice that picture is NOT included. Thank heavens for being a teenager before social media.
The summer before I went to college, my mother and I dyed my hair blond. Then we went to a hair stylist to have it fixed. But the hair stylist wasn’t exactly a genius at color, either. It just got lighter and lighter until it was quite fake looking. It washed me out. A couple of years later when I dyed it back, a guy friend of mine asked me why I had dyed my hair brown instead of leaving my hair its natural blond. College boys, eh? Their power of perception is amazing. 
Now my hair is wavy, but not cute curly hair wavy. Just more like a series of cowlicks. My mother calls it “the Johnson wave” after her maternal side of the family. Once I used her hair stylist when my own was on maternity leave and the stylist started laughing. She finally said, “Man. It’s amazing. You have cowlicks in the same exact place as your mother.”
I think our hair looks just peachy

I still get my hair dyed reddish brown sometimes. I’m at the age where I don’t care if people know it’s not natural. I’m prematurely grey and right now I’m at that weird stage that is viewed as distinguished salt and pepper for men but is merely bleh for women. I had a chunk of it dyed blue, too, which was fun, but now I belong to a choir with more conservative requirements for hair color so I’ve had to let that go. The reddish brown is still okay, though. Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to call my hair styist…
Time for a touch up