Sunday, December 14, 2014

Will you still be my friend when you discover I am a Catholic?

It seems people are ready to distance themselves from Catholics.  We seem no more popular than some politicians.  Why is this case?  Do they know the reason for their distrust?  Alternatively, is it the result of just old history? I have even heard Catholicism is not a Christian faith.

I will admit there have been times in history when some Catholics, be they individuals or a member of the faith’s hierarchy, lost Jesus’ message of love and peace.  However, “do not throw the baby out with the bath water,” as the saying goes.

I would like to take a moment to cover one of the major issues I have heard over the years.  Our Blessed Mother is often misunderstood. Many think that Catholics “worship” Mary.  This is far from the truth, and I would like to tell you of Mary’s story.  There is a reason why we ask for her intercession.

Mary was a child by today’s standards when the events that changed the world came to her. Imagine this happening to your young daughter, or sister.  As most accounts of Mary’s age put her in her mid-teens.

Mary had been living a devout life of obedience and prayer. She must have been her parent’s joy.  Do you wonder about her parents’ reaction to the glorious news?  How would you react to the news that your young child, whom you knew was a virgin, had become pregnant?  I am sure the explanations of receiving a visit by an angel telling her of God’s will must have been earth shattering.

Think of Mary for a few moments.  This woman, whom I would describe as the embodiment of amazing grace, was going to take on the role of the being the mother of our Savior.  The angel also tells her of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Elizabeth being beyond childbearing age accepted her condition with great love.  Mary, not concerned for herself, travels from Nazareth to Judea to help Elizabeth, always concerned for others rather than herself.  She returns three months later and her condition is evident.

This was an extremely dangerous time for Mary.  By laws of her time, she could be stoned for being pregnant outside of marriage.  Had Joseph not chosen the path he did, it would have happened.  However, he decided to marry her, as they were betrothed, and then quietly divorce her.  That was not to be the case, Joseph had a dream in which the angel tells him to take Mary as his wife.

If we jump ahead about 30 years, we find Mary and Jesus along with Peter and the apostles attending a wedding.  Mary discovers that the wine has run out.  She does not ask Jesus to perform a miracle.  She simply tells Him about the situation and then tells the servants to do whatever He tells them to do.  Many view this as Christ’s first miracle but I see it defining Mary’s role as intercessor for us to her Son. 

Do you see why Catholics pray to Mary?  As a Catholic, I know why I love the Queen of Heaven and Earth. We beseech her to ask her Son for His aid.  This amazing woman, who would see her son tortured beyond comprehension for our indiscretions, intercedes for us with her Son.  She loves us and does all she can to aid humanity. 

I trust this explanation of Mary’s role in our faith will help others understand her true role as our Heavenly Queen, Mother and our greatest intercessor.

A beautiful invocation in a Catholic prayer sums up these thoughts: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”

Have a Blessed and Safe Christmas Season,



Thursday, June 26, 2014


Is Jan a poet?

I have never really talked about my poetry.  Most likely, due to the fact, I have limited experience with this form of art.

For what it is worth, I would like to share one of them with you. I welcome your honest opinions on my attempt to mesmerize you with choreographed words.  Published years ago I still remember writing these words as I sat looking out the window in an insightful mood.

My Window
The morning sun kisses my window.
The day has begun.  Am I ready?
Can I meet the challenge?
With a prayer in my soul and
love in my heart,
I embrace the day with a smile.

The moonlight caresses my window.
The day is done.  I am pleased!
God has granted me the day and the
warmth of love.
I shall thank Him before I sleep.
With his favor, I shall see the sun kiss my window again.

I wonder now if I have the mystique that surrounds so many poets whose words to take flight.  Maybe I should stick to fiction composition and leave the poetry to the wordsmiths. 

All I can say in closing would be in the form of another graceful thought; however, it is not my inspiration.

A man can be just about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.
Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, February 18, 2014



Sometimes I struggle for a blog idea. Today's idea came when I walked out of the study into the kitchen to find Michael making bread. He makes fabulous breads. It gave me an idea, why not do a blog on breads.

Thinking about the variety of breads and doing a bit of research, I found what seemed like endless types of breads, and I would like to share a few with you.

Being Italian, one of my favorite types of bread is Ciabatta, which means slipper. The loaves are shaped to resemble a lady's slipper. It is crusty and with wonderful airy interior.

Focaccia, another Italian fare was in all likelihoods enjoyed by my dad. Prior to Dad's enlistment in the army, he had never heard of pizza. Focaccia was usually a round dimpled bread often topped with herbs and sometimes tomato slices. The bread was made using a high gluten flour. This was my dad's version of Pizza.

Pizza; might as well cover this delicacy that so many of us enjoy. The pizza was originated in Naples, Italy. It was a flat round bread topped generally with tomato sauce and cheese. Today's pizzas seem to have an endless array of toppings.

Matzo is known by many, and is the bread generally served during the Passover celebration. It is an unleavened bread made simply from flour and cold water. This is a bread of memory and tradition recalling the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt.

Still another favorite is Naan or Nan bread. There are several variations of this bread. I am partial to the Nan that utilizes milk. This makes a softer dough. This foodstuff is eaten in south and central Asia, as well as Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I would love to make this bread, but it is traditionally done in a tandoor oven. This type of oven is a cylindrical shape vessel usually heated by charcoal or wood fire. Temperatures of this oven style reach 900 degrees Fahrenheit and the bread is definitely something to savor.

Lagana is a Greek provision reserved for “Clean Monday”, the first Monday of lent. This azymes style bread (Jewish matzah-unleavened bread) became one of the factors in the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Catholic church.

The South Africans have a bread known as Potbrood, made by the Boer people. Boer means farmer in both the Dutch and Afrikkan languages. This style is made in a cast-iron pot, something we would today identify as a Dutch Oven. The pot is placed in a pit surrounded by hot coals.

Still another choice is Borodinsky a Russian sourdough rye bread; often with molasses added for sweetness. A legend behind this morsel goes back to the Napolonic Wars. Nuns developed the recipe to produce a dark bread served for solemn occasions. However, the first mention of this bread did not surface until the 1920s. Definitely, beyond the Napolonic War days.

Hush Puppies is a favorite in the American south. A cornbread batter, it can be baked or fried. I have only seen it fried. It seems to be an accompaniment for seafood.

In Sardinia Italy, we find the Pane carasau, an ancient flatbread. This flat crispy bread was a common part of the shepherd's meals of past times. When in a dry environment it can last up to a year. Thus, making it suitable for the long period of times that shepherds would work the flocks.

Biscuits are a worldwide bread form with variations of this baked good. In Europe, these are enjoyed as a crispy dry substance, while in North America, light and fluffy version are preferred. These breads can be done in a drop method or a rolled and cut form. Other versions are made to be savory or sweet and can even be made as chocolate treats.

The Irish as well as the Scots and Serbians have Soda Bread. This stable is made using bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk to create tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide to give the bread texture.

How many more breads can I list? Well, how much time do you have? The list seems to be endless.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Wealth and happiness have related to one another since the time of Plato. In his work “The Republic” written thousands of years ago, he attempts to parallel happiness to an untopianism society where the relationship of wealth and happiness related to the society ideals.
In Aristotelian, fundamental thinking is that happiness is not separate from a good life and virtue. It seems as though individual happiness and a good human foundation is the principal in Aristotelian thinking and they can be achieved only through a righteous life.
After considering both views, Aristotle’s ideas appear to be more organized compared to Plato and he explains the relationship in a better sense.
The Declaration of Independence deems us the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Maybe happiness is partially a journey and not just a destination?
I see happiness as a self-filling philosophy. Each morning we have the opportunity to make the decision to be happy. Granted we may have problems, health problems, family problems and the list continues in every realm. However, the decision to be happy is ours. No one can take that from us. We are in control of our own happiness.
It was never my belief that finances dictate happiness. My father was a perfect example of this idea. He had plenty of reason to be disheartened but never was in his life. His motto was “Laughter is the best medicine.” Given the opportunity to visit his home you would have found numerous VCR recordings of every funny movie he could find. He loved comedians from the 50s and 60s. Dad found his happiness in laughter.
I have tried to live by dad’s example. Over 18 years ago, we relocated to a new state. We did not where we would find the grocery stores, or even a church. At one point, I remember my mother asking if I was unhappy. The question perplexed me; I never thought to be unhappy.
Happiness has eluded so many for so long, isn’t it time we decided to be happy? Tomorrow morning as you wake, put a smile on your face. Do your very best to be happy. In a world controlled by technology, and jobs and the like, isn’t it nice to know you can control your own happiness. We may need to work on it, but we can do it. We can choose to be happy.
A joyful heart is the health of the body, but a depressed spirit dries up the bones.”
Proverbs: 17:22

By Jan O’Kane

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering Augie

I would like to post to my blog the story of Augie.  Although posted a few years ago, to me it is a story worth telling again.


 Augie's World War II Experience


Preparing a 19 year old for war takes more than boot camp and a backpack filled with K-rations, chocolate bars, and some cigarettes.  In the case of this one young American, Augie, he took the responsibilities with a kind heart, but how do you prepare someone to make the ultimate sacrifice or take a human life.

 The story opens in Nice, France.  It happened as Augie’s platoon was combing the hillsides for enemy soldiers, and they did encounter the enemy.  The German soldiers were captured and made to empty their pockets.  Augie noticed one soldier was just as young as he was and just as scared.  Always the gentle of heart, he put two fingers to his lips and made the international sign for a cigarette and the young soldier nodded yes.  As the young American tendered one of his Lucky Strikes to the captured soldier, German soldiers came over the hill and observing the scene before them, they opened fire.  Augie took a bullet and shrapnel in the leg and thigh.  He was on the ground unable to get up as the enemy overran Augie’s unit.  The enemy then marched the now captured US soldiers around a brick wall of a ruined structure and proceeding with the policy of “no prisoners”.  They returned to the one wounded American, as another enemy soldier put a gun to Augie's head, the young German Augie had tried to help protested and stopped the execution.  He gave the injured American some cigarettes, some water, and a bit of food as he and his troops left.

 Stranded on a battlefield alone Augie wondering, praying, slipping in and out of consciousness, Augie struggled to eat what the little food available and dress his wound with sulfur powder from his pack.  At one point, he woke to find a bull snorting over him.  After three days lying in a ditch, helpless, he heard voices.  They were speaking English so it was a good chance they were Americans, or at least allies.  He waited until they were closer and when he saw their American GI uniforms, he called for help.  By the grace of God, Augie was safe.

Days later Augie found himself on a medical ship for transport back to the United States.  He wanted to know where they were going but it was against the rules to reveal the destination.  That however did not stop him from asking.  As it happened the custodian in the ward had a favorite song.  As he mopped the floor and changed the beds, he constantly sang “Georgia on my mind”.  When the ship landed Augie realized the song was more than a favorite; it was a message for him.  They were now in Georgia.
 As he lay in the hospital bed Augie recalled his drill sergeant's advice, never to write home and tell their families you are sick. His logic was by the time the family got the letter you would be fine resulting in your family worrying.
Augie followed the advice he received in boot camp, and after three months, he believed it was safe to call home.  His sister Lizzie answered the phone he said, “Hi Liz” only to have her drop the phone and run off screaming.  His father Giuseppe picked up the phone to address the caller.  Augie said, “It’s me Pops” to which his father thought it was not funny for someone to call and claim to be his son.  So his response was “You son of a Batch”.  He could not pronounce a particular swear word; it always came out as “batch”.  Finally, his sister Anne got on the phone and found out that it was indeed Augie calling.  She told him to call back after she calmed the family.  Augie was unaware that the family had received a letter from the State of West Virginia Department of Assistance revealing that the office had “learned with regret that their son had given his life in the service of his country.”

Augie called the family again, and soon found the reason for the odd reaction he was unaware of the notification to his family.  Joy soon overtook the family they thanked God for Augie's safe return.  With their youngest child in a hospital in Georgia, Giuseppe and Angela made one of the few trips outside their adopted hometown of Triadelphia WV, to be with their son, the unit’s sole survivor.
 As Augie lay in a ward of wounded vets, he heard the door burst open a familiar voice came booming through the ward.  “Where isa my son?”  His father’s first reaction was to flip back the blankets and say, “You gotta you legs?”  Now assured that his son was safe and intact he wondered off in the ward to entertain the remaining injured troops.

Augie eventually returned to Triadelphia, greeted by family and friends.  Without the compassion, he displayed on the battlefield, I would not be here to tell you the story of my dad, Augie Montalbano. 
He was one of the truly wonderful men of his generation.

Happy Veterans Day!
With Love,
Jan Montalbano O'Kane

Friday, October 11, 2013

Grandma's Education

I believe I have had a blog before about my grandmother, how her sisters kidnapped her and ran her from one state to another.  She eventually married an older man, Nick Stan from Romania, but their marriage did not last.

Grandma married again to a man many times her junior.  Grandpa Will along with my two uncles, Uncle George and Uncle John, served in World War II.  I know my uncles were both in the Navy.  I am not certain about Grandpa Will; I suspect Army because I know he stormed the beaches in the Pacific.

Grandma never went to school long enough to learn to read or write.  However, the war made it imperative for her to write to her sons and husband.  She needed to learn what many of us take for granted and I seriously doubt there were avenues in her day for a woman in her mid-20s to learn how to read or write.

Grandma was smart just not educated.  I often wonder if she had gotten an education just what she would have been able to do in her life.  However, the circumstances of her life did not give her that opportunity.

Oh, did I mention my grandmother was a religious person?  She loved Jesus and knew the Bible stories by heart.  Grandma wanted an underwater baptism the same as Jesus.  She became a Baptist in order to experience submersion under water. 

I could tell you more and more about her because I heard her stories many times as a child.  However, it is not the reason I wanted to do this story.

As I said, she needed to communicate with her family serving in the war.  It was difficult to find a way for her, but she did not give up.  She was determined.

If you named one of the stories of Jesus, she could repeat it to you word by word, and this gave her an idea.  She would take her Bible and sit down, and recall a story to study.  Taking each word of the story, she would do her best to write out the word and learn the meaning by its use in the sentence.  She did this repeatedly until she could write out the entire story.  This helped her to learn how not only to write, but also to read.

Using this knowledge, she was able to stay in touch with her family.  She wrote to Grandpa Will, Uncle George, and Uncle John on a regular basis.  Without her connection to her family, she would have been scared and distraught. 

The point to this story is to understand that no matter how bleak our situation may be, if we are determined, we can learn.  If an uneducated woman with very little to her name can educate herself out of love for her family, then what type of excuse can we give for not achieving our goals.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Books by their covers

Many of you know that in addition to my blog, I also write other materials.  I interview various individuals for an on-line publication and am nearing the end of my first novel, with a few more waiting in the wings.
Today in this blog, I want to share with you some of my experiences of being a reader rather than a writer.
In grade school, I read every Nancy Drew mystery in the school library, and then moved on to the Hardy Boys.  During one summer I was so desperate for reading material, I read the encyclopedia.  Great way to learn, but no plot line to followJ.
Now older, I am still drawn to mysteries, thrillers, and adventure stories.  I find myself glued to these types of books.  Like many, I read for entertainment and escape from my somewhat mundane life.  However, I have a list of authors whose work I gobble up faster than a Thanksgiving turkey.  Jack DuBrul and his character, Mercer, satisfy my love for geology and adventure.  Clive Cussler’s work also fulfills the adventurous side of me.  Maybe I should mention I hate to travel, so in truth, there is no adventurous side of me in real life.  When I look at my library, I see additional collections of Jonathan Kellerman, James Rollins, Kathy Reichs, Robin Cook, and Tess Gerritsen.
Keep in mind that I grew up in the small coal mining town of Triadelphia WV, and next door to our house was one of the state police barracks.  These guys instilled in me an extreme respect for the police and the law.  Enter Tess Gerristsen with Rizzoli and Isles, and Jonathan Kellerman with Milo the cop and his friend Alex Delaware.  Iris Johansen and the Eve Duncan forensic thrillers is another favorite.  Crime or police stories have been among my favorite genre.
Okay, so you get my drift.  I have a steady diet of materials that I read.  Here comes my point, I recently discovered the work of Traci Hall, and it has been a thrilling discovery.  Her stories would not normally be a part of my typical reading diet.  I did however, read her book “Blood of Ra”, and enjoyed it so much that I followed up with her series “The Queen’s Guard”.  “The Queen’s Guard” has romance with a good dose of intrigue.
I have also found “All Gods of Eisernon” by Simon Lang.  Again, I was surprised to find myself enjoying this work as well.  I would call this book “otherworldly”.
To my amazement, I enjoy these books as much as my mysteries, thrillers, and adventure books.  So I guess the old adage is true…”Don’t judge a book by its cover”, and we should consider…“don’t judge a book by its title, genre or cover”.
May all your readings be filled with the magic of your yearnings.