Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012; here it comes ready or not!

Well, 2011 has slipped through our fingers. I would venture to say we all had some good moments and maybe one’s that were not so great. Only you can decide if it was a good year or not.

Now you must decide how you will approach 2012. Set your mind as to how to advance with the New Year. We are as happy as we chose to be, regardless of circumstance. Granted there are some of us that will face situations that are sorrowful and frightening; but it does not mean we can not look for the good things in life. Everywhere we look we should see the wonders of life. The tulips coming up in the spring, the budding of new life on trees, warm tender breezes on our face, these are the good things that we can enjoy.

Many of you will remember the terrible fires that occurred in San Diego area a few years back. Do you remember the young mother whose house burned to the ground? As she walked along with a news anchor she was asked how you start over after such a disaster. The young mother picked up a ladle then said, “I guess you start with a ladle”. She had reason to sit and cry, but did not do so, because she was ready to go forward.

For those of you who have followed my blog, and read of the accounts of my Dad may remember how remarkable he was in his life. He had injuries from the war that plagued him all his life. However he never complained. This gentle person always saw his glass as full.

There was a situation when he was doing poorly. My niece called him and asked if she could come over and fix him lunch. Dad agreed, and she went to his house and asked what he wanted. His request was simple; he wanted some chili from a can heated up and some toast and coffee. My niece sat with him as he ate, and he was so happy. He told her how lucky he was to have a granddaughter that was loving enough to come fix him lunch, and how good it was to have such fine food. I don’t know about you, but canned chili would not be my idea of “fine food“. Still he was a simple man who believed you should fulfill your needs not your wants.

This was only one instance in which he kept his glass full. Other events would have to been evident at the last week of his life. When asked by a nurse how he felt, his answer was “a little rough today”. Surely if he could see the glass half full on his worse days, we can see the same.

I try to follow suit in my life. I should see my glass as full. He gave me a great attitude to follow. He loved God, his family and life in general. This was a man whose life was worth emulating. Always ready to give, never asking in return and being happy with his station in life.

Dad continues to lead me by example as I look back on his life, as well as the young mother amid the destruction of the fire. Life is what you make of it, and we chose; is the glass full, half full or half empty.

Wishing Everyone a Happy, Safe and Prospers New Year, and hoping your glass remains full all year.

As always,


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How Far to Wheeling

I thought I would write about one of the funnies from my childhood. Well, not funny to everyone who fell into this trap.

I grew up in Triadelphia, WV a small town on the east side of Wheeling WV. It was a coal mining town and on hot muggy days you could see the coal dust hanging low over the valley to the east of town. It was a town with its own flavor and characters.

We lived next to a gas station. I won’t name the brand but…“you can trust your car to the man who wears the star“…OOPS! Dated myself there didn’t I?

Now our town was as dull as the flat head of a nail. When I was around 7 and not allowed to venture outside our yard, entertainment was to see how many different state license plates went by the house.  Another point dating me, the interstate highways had not been constructed yet. We saw tons of traffic on National Road that passed in front of our house. No wonder our house was so dusty; heavily traveled National Road in the front and the rail road behind the house. The railroad is now gone and one of the town wonders decided to buy the land and put mobile homes on that track of land behind all the houses.

The gas station next to our house would hire neighborhood guys to work the pumps. Remember full service at a gas station? We often talked with these guys and my sister ended up marrying one of them, but I’m off point. Anyway, by the time I was 14 I too would talk with the guys since they all lived within a shout of our house. One particular young guy just thought it was terrifically funny to give misdirections. Wheeling was west of Triadelphia, and you could easily walk to the outer edges of Wheeling. My friend would be happy to provide the full service that stations did back in the day and his service included giving directions. A traveler would ask “How far to Wheeling?” he would tell them they had already passed it.

He would tell them to go back out of the station, turn right, east not west, go to the first traffic light, turn right and go about “X” number of miles. Well, there were a few small towns between Triadelphia and the first traffic light. Yes, he sent them in the opposite direction.

In the evening after he was done sweeping the front of the station, he would stop by and tell us how many travelers he had given directions to that day or that week. I would ask him, “Aren’t you afraid they will come back this way and come looking for you.” He was never worried “By the time they know they went the wrong way, most likely they don’t stop again. If they do I will just I meant to say turn left.” I guess that is why I learned to read a map. I wasn’t going to take a chance of finding this type of a character in my travels.

Life might have been boring in our little town, but some of the residents had their own version of entertainment.

Happy Motoring and either have a map or a GPS!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Augie's World War II Experience

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

This happened as his platoon was combing the hillside in Nice France for enemy soldiers which, of course, they did encounter. Two German soldiers were captured and made to empty their pockets.  Augie noticed the one soldier was just as young as him and just as scared. Alw ays the gentle of heart, he put two fingers to his lips and made the international sign language for a cigarette and the young soldier nodded yes.  As the young American offered one of his “Lucky Strikes” opposing soldiers came over the hill and seeing the scene before them they opened fire.  Augie was hit in the thigh and was on the ground when they were overrun.  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 then returned to the one wounded American. When another enemy soldier put a gun to Augie's head the young soldier he had tried to help protested and stopped the execution.  He gave the injured American some cigarettes, some water and a bit of food then he and the troops left.

Stranded on the field alone, wondering, praying and slipping in and out of consciousness, Augie struggled to eat what little was left him 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 laying in a ditch, pretty much helpless, he heard voices.  They were speaking English so it was a good chance they were Americans.  However, he waited until they were closer and when he saw their uniforms he called for help.  Finally, by the grace of God, his kind action towards the young enemy soldier was repaid.

Days later Augie found himself on a medical ship for transport back to the 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 every chance he could.  As it so happened there was a custodian in his ward who had a favorite song.  As he mopped the floor and changed the beds he constantly sang “Georgia on my mind”. It was not until they made port that 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 Augie recalled his drill sergeant's advice who told the recruits never to write home and tell their families that they were sick. His logic was by the time the family got your letter you would be just fine and making your family worry for nothing.

Following the advise he received in boot camp, Augie decided after three months it was safe to call home.  When 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 say a certain swear word; it always came out as “batch”. Finally his sister Anne got on the phone and found out that it was indeed Augie who was calling.  She told him to call back after she calmed the family down. 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.”

Needless to say joy soon over took the family and 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 small town of Triadelphia WV to be with their son, the platoons sole survivor.

As Augie lay in a ward of wounded vets he heard the door burst open and a familiar voice came booming through the ward “Where isa my son?” Now his parents were with him. His father’s first reaction was to flip back blankets and say “You gotta you legs?” Once he was satisfied that his son was safe and whole he went off to entertain the remaining troops in the ward.

Augie eventually returned to Triadelphia, family and friends. Without the compassion he showed on the battlefield, I would not be here to tell you this story. My Dad, Augie Montalbano, was a wonderful man, and we have many stories of his love and compassion and some just plain orneriness as a child. 

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

Sunday, October 23, 2011


How much do you know about your hometown? Michael and I hail from Wheeling WV. Please note, not western Virginia; but “West Virginia.”

Wheeling is rich in history! I would like to share some of that history with you and I hope this will encourage you to research and share some of the interesting facts of your own hometown.

The year 1769, Ebenezer Zane staked claim to the land by way of “Tomahawk Right”. This meant that he stripped the bark off a tree and carved his initials into it. It took a nearly a year for him to return with his wife and family to establish the settlement of Zanesburg.

The early settlers had to deal with uprisings from the First Nations people. Even the name Wheeling was derived from the American Adena tribe meaning “place of the skull". A white settler was scalped and decapitated and the skull was posted on  stake near what is now known as 16th Street.

Wheeling’s Fort Henry was once known as Fort Finecastle but was renamed to honor Virginia Governor Patrick Henry. Do you remember his famous word referring to British rule; ”Give me Liberty or Give me Death.”

Stories of Wheeling’s early days were anything but boring. Attacks and raids made by the Shawnee, Wyandot and the Mingo tribes were not uncommon. During one of these raids in 1777, Major Sam McColloch led a small force of soldiers from Fort Vanmetre to Fort Henry. Unfortunately, the Major was separated from his group and found himself chased by Indians to the edge of a 300 foot cliff. In desperation the Major jumped with his horse off the cliff. The Major survived but his horse did not. Today a monument identifies the spot where the jump occurred.
In 1782, the last battle of the Revolutionary War was fought at Fort Henry. During this event the settlers realized they were running dangerously low on gunpowder. They decided to dispatch a soldier to collect additional supplies from the Zane homestead. However, young Betty Zane volunteered for the harrowing sprint to the cabin figuring the Indians and British would not expect her intentions. She made it to the cabin and after filling her apron with the much needed gunpowder she returned to the fort. Thus the settlers won against the native army and the British soldiers preserving the American control of Fort Henry.
In 1793 Ebenezer divided the settlement into plots renaming the settlement to Wheeling.

In 1811 the first federally funded highway was constructed. It started in Baltimore Maryland and by 1818 it reached Wheeling Virginia. It was extended to Illinois at a later date. This public artery was known as “The National Road.” Such an undertaking was a major feat for the young nation. Then in 1853, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad came through Wheeling linking it to Ohio. However, as the automobile became popular The National Road was once again heavily traveled, and continued until the Interstate Highways were built.

In 1863, as the Civil War broke out, parts of Virginia chose to support the Union. Virginia was part of the Confederacy, with Richmond being the capital. The portion that chose to stay with the Union became known as “West Virginia“ making it a state in it’s own rite.

Independence Hall in Wheeling was the first capital for the new state. However, due to the fact that the capital moved from Wheeling to Charleston more than once, it was referred to as the floating capital. Eventually Wheeling lost out to Charleston as the state’s capital in 1885. Wheeling grew and became a prime industrial center for the state due to the Ohio River which allowed for easy river transportation of goods.

Wheeling was populated by many different ethnic groups. There was a section known as “Little Italy”, and a great deal of immigrants from the eastern Europe, and a large contingent of Germans.

Block Brothers Tobacco Company was famous for Marsh Wheeling Stogies and its products have been highlighted in movies of old. In the book “Captain’s Courageous, it was a Marsh Wheeling Stogie that caused the young lad to become sick and fall off the ship while leaning over the rail.

Wheeling also saw the growth of industries such as steel, coal mining and in surrounding areas glass manufacturing and chemical plants. Wheeling grew to a key industrial center for the state until the down turn of these industries caused both an economic and population decline.

Wheeling Jesuit College now known as Wheeling Jesuit University, the only Catholic college in the state, West Liberty University aka West Liberty State College, Wheeling Community College and Bethany College a private institution, has given Wheeling a strong educational standing.

The city has been featured in various movies and TV series. You may remember Wheeling being mention in series such as The Waltons, Family Ties, and Northern Exposure since John Corbett, one of the stars of the series, is from Wheeling.

Still there are things that warrant a visit to Wheeling. Oglebay Park has a holiday light display that can rival many such displays, and golf courses that roll over hills like none other. A gambling casino has been opened on Wheeling Island the largest inhabited inland island in the US located in the middle of the Ohio River and the home to once beautiful mansions.

I hope this inspires some of you to learn more about your hometown. You just might be surprised how your hometown may have struggled to become what you now know as Home Sweet Home.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Laughter IS the best medicine

Do you love movies? I do. It’s a matter of inheritance.

My Dad’s father, Grandpa Guissippe went to the movie theatre every Saturday, even during the depression. He became so engrossed in the story he didn’t care what was happening around him. Later, when everyone met at my Great Aunt Rosa’s house, my Grandpa would not only tell everyone about the movie…he would act out each and every scene, playing the part of all the characters. Remember, there were no recording devices in those days. Heck, there wasn’t even TV back in his day. It was a real treat for his family to watch him tell the story. My Dad always said Grandpa was a comedian.

My Dad had four TVs all connected to VCR recording devices. He recorded various programs, some for me, some for my husband, some for his grandkids. He numbered each tape, all 254, and then entered the contents of each tape in a journal. When Dad passed in October of 2000 we had the sad responsibility of clearing out his house. No one seemed interested in his recordings but I desperately wanted them because to me they were Dad’s legacy. He recorded historical events such as the rededication of the Statue of Liberty and the opening ceremony of several Olympics. Plus he also recorded numerous sitcoms.  He continued his recordings until his last week at home before going into the hospital.

I have to tell you, I have no acting ability what so ever. That’s okay because my niece and her two children have inherited Grandpa’s ability for story telling. We have spent many a fantastic evening watching first my niece and now her children act out stories. These young ones keep you laughing until you fall over. My Dad and Grandpa would have loved knowing the performing ability continued into the next generations. To them laughter was the best medicine.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Biographies go on forever!

This week’s blog is designed to start many of you thinking and writing. Can you tell us what you know about your grandparent’s childhood?

I don’t know much about my grandparent’s childhoods, except my mother’s mother.

Grandma was born around 1906 and that is a guess. She was given the name FreLove. She was not happy with her given name as she would say her love was not free. So she had it changed to Freda.

She was one of 20 children. Yes, you read that right 20 children. Including four sets of twins. Her mother, my great grandmother, had been married five times, outliving four of her husbands. This probably would explains the many children.

Due to the economic times, my grandmother spent most of her childhood in an orphanage, foster home and on rare occasions at home with the family.

At the age of 17 her sisters did not want her to stay in the orphanage any longer. And took it upon themselves to change the situation. They basically kidnapped her. After they got her out they knew the authorities would be looking for them either in Ohio or West Virginia. So they tag teamed my grandmother. When they knew the authorities were coming to West Virginia, they took her to Ohio and visa versa.

Eventually, one of my great aunts asked a 32 year old man, from Romania, if he would marry my grandmother. His only question; is she pretty? Yes indeed, she was very pretty. So the 17 year old and the 32 year old were married.

This is the majority of what I know about my grandmother’s childhood.

I have no details about my grandfather’s early life; nothing of the year he arrived in this country; nothing about his childhood or family that could possibly still be alive in his motherland. Sadly I have no knowledge of family I may be missing.

The point I would like to make; we all have family. Some we have lost. However, if you are lucky enough to have your older generation still with you find out all you can about their lives and write it down. Should you be the older generation, start a journal telling of your parents, your childhood, your siblings and those who have passed. This is your family’s history to be saved and shared.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 11th

September 11, 2001

I want to take a moment to honor the victims and their families of that horrible day. Also to honor the military personnel and their families for the sacrifices they continue to make to this day.
The second honor goes to my Dad, Augie Montalbano.

Anyone knowing Augie saw him as gentle, compassionate, friendly, generous and any other trait you would assign to a saint.

Born September 11, 1925. He came into this world in an apartment located in Elm Grove, WV, above a restaurant known as Siebert's. His parents were immigrants from Sicily. He was not the first Augie born to Guissippe and Angela. The first child pass at a very young age so the next male child carried the same name.

This is only one of the many funny story that I want to share with you about him:

Dad loved organic gardening. He certainly did not use pesticides. He didn't have to, he had several kids to work his garden. He would give each a container and tell you to go out and remove the bean beetles from the plants. Now the problem. Since the jars were open, the beetles would fly out and back to the plants as fast as we could pull the little buggers off.  By the end of the row the beetles were back before we could reach the end of the  row.

As a gentle compassiona being, Dad would not allow us to kill the little buggers. It definitely kept us busy. We never complain about being bored, because we knew the beetle jars would be ready for us to work.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Labor Day

Labor Day, September 5, 2011

We have enjoyed this holiday for a long time. But gaining it's status as a National Holiday was not easily won.

Step back in time. It's 1894 and the labor movement is trying to gain recognition for the average worker. There are attempts to have the work day limited to eight hours. Previous attempts to celebrate this day set aside for the workers, resulted in troops being called in to disband the effort. This resulted in the death of several individuals. The then president Grover Cleveland tried to make the labor movement his top priority in the coming election. However, the wounds were still too fresh for him to overcome the fierce beginning of the labor movement.

The first state to recognize Labor Day was Oregon on Feb 21, 1887. By the end of the year four more states followed, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. By the end the 1894, 23 more states joined the band wagon. Finally on June 28, 1894 it was made a National Holiday.

So what will you be thinking of this Labor Day? Will you appreciate the efforts it took to bring about this celebration? Will the American worker be thought of as you celebrate. And as strange as it may seem, will you even think of the people who died trying to have a day to recognize the workers. Or will we think of it as just our last leisure day of the summer.

Yes, we live in the land of the free; but that is only because of the brave. Not all of the brave wear a military uniform. Although we support our troops; we must also be aware of others who fought to bring about things we take for granted in our current life.

Some towns will have a parade. I remember my hometown having a parade consisting of my cousin Sonny leading the parade by riding his motorcycle, the fire truck and the volunteers all aboard the truck and seeing my cousin Joyce sitting on the back seat of a convertible waving to the crowd as someone threw out penny candy. Never once in my life did I appreciate the meaning and effort it took to bring about Labor Day. To me it was the last of summer's fun, today I know and appreciate the efforts of those individuals so long ago brought us Labor Day.

Celebrate, remember and stay safe.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I have been thinking of what to write about this week in my blog. For me, writing is the key. I really don't like the type face of a standard blog. But alas, standard type face is the limit.

The following is a verse written by Max Ehrmann. It is called Desiderata. At first I worried about adding this to my blog, so I researched and made sure it was not an infringement on a copyright.  I would never abuse someone else's writing.

I have written this beautiful prose out in calligraphy and placed it in several places in my home. One in my library, where I do my writing, and again in the entrance to our office for our business.

In addition to my Catholic Christian values, I use these words as a life coach. So it is with thanks and appreciation that I acknowledge Mr Ehrmann as the writer of this soul searching work.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
Thank you Mr. Erhmann.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cursive Writing

When I was a young girl, just learning cursive writing, I fell in love with the written word.  I had a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Link, who was very helpful in nurturing my hand allowing me to discover how to release my thoughts.

Years later, I still find the need for the scripted word.  Seeing the ink create something using my hand, feeling the nib scratch the paper, the words flowing and allowing me to liberate my thoughts.
When upset, happy or just alone, I find myself with pen in my hand.  Sometimes just doodling, sometimes penning artwork, and sometimes I just let my thoughts fill a page.

Writing has always been a way of letting my thoughts run wild.  I can write out what I think.  Upset with someone, I can write out how I feel.  Cursive writing flows so much easier than the printed format, releasing so much more.  Here is where the pen is gentler than the sword...I can tear up, crumple, or burn my words without hurting a soul.  Once said words become part of my history, potentially hurting someone.

Now, to why I am distrubed.  Many, if not most, schools have decided it is no longer necessary to teach cursive writing.  Students are losing the ability and feel of the flowing word that eases their pain, increases their joy, and just lets them be themselves.

I do hope somewhere, somehow the idea of cursive writing will go on in the world.