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 www.faithfilledfamily.com 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.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Do you have a fear of snakes?  Some people, like me, are fascinated, while others can’t deal with even seeing a snake on TV.  My dad was one who could not deal with the sight of a snake.  So much so that when he was visiting his son, he asked him to remove a large stuffed toy snake from the back of the couch.  Yes, dad was terrified of snakes.

He wasn’t always in such a state.  He told us, as a young boy, he found a dead snake on the railroad tracks.  Being an ornery young boy, he took the snake and cut it up into pieces then offered to collect coal for one of the ladies in the town.  Back in the day, when times were very hard many people, would walk the railroad tracks and collect coal that fell from the coal cars as they traveled through the town.  Since our town was a coal mining town, there were many trains and it wasn’t unusual for people to use this method to collect heating and cooking fuel for their homes. 

Oh!  Back to the story.  I tend to get distracted easily.  The lady was glad to have help collecting coal.  However, coal wasn’t the only thing dad put in the bucket.  He hid the snake in the container under the coal.  This of course, caused the woman to go screaming into the house when she found the snake while transferring the coal to the coal box.  I guess even dads can be boys with a mischievous streak.

I think dad’s opinion about snakes came several years later when he and a friend were walking on the tracks, something he never allowed us to do as kids, and they came upon a snake.  This one was alive and active.  Dad’s friend pushed him and he fell, like Indian Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, face to face with the serpent.  I believe that was when things changed for him.  Funny, Raiders of the Lost Ark was one of his favorite movies, but he could not watch the scenes with the snakes.

Let’s fast forward 35 years or more down the road.  My dad had moved into a house his brother owned.  The house was a simple house that met his needs.  Dad believed in living modestly.  After settling in place, he decided to clear away some of the items that had collected on the front porch.  One such item was a roll of carpet that was pulled out before dad moved into the house.

Dad struggled to get the roll of carpet upright so he could walk it off the porch.  His intention was to take it down to the curb for trash collection.  Holding the carpet roll up, he once again came face to face with a live snake that crawled out if the end of the roll.  Apparently, the snake thought the carpet roll was a nice place to take up home.

I never knew how the carpet ever got to the curb, because the last time dad saw the floor covering it was rolling down the hill and, dad was dashing back into the house.  Definitely, he was one of those people who could not handle seeing a serpent.  He laughed when he told us the story, but I’m sure he did not laugh the day it happened. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How did you learn to daydream?

I must apologize for being so amiss with my blog. 

I remember years ago, near Christmas the Sears catalog arrived in the mail.  This was an exciting time for us, well for me.  I know some of you are saying you never saw a Sears catalog.  Nonetheless, it did exist, with a special “wish list” catalog for the holidays.

Now our youthful years did not have an overabundance of things.  My dad had a saying he was famous for in our house.  “Do you want it, or do you need it?”  I am not saying we went without, but we had few extras.

I had a friend I would visit, who had a record player and 45 RPM records.  She had so many clothes she could not fit them in her closet.  Now those were definitely extras.

Okay, I have sidetracked myself again so back to the catalog.  Mom would give us a sheet of paper, and tell us to record the page number, the item description, and the item number.  She showed us where to find the item numbers.

Oh, I can remember trying to be so exacting so Mom and Dad would have no question as to the things I wanted.  There were so many things to choose.  I looked at clothes, toys, even a pet.  Yes, back then Sears sold pets in their catalogs.

The excitement was almost overwhelming.  I was going to get all those great things I picked out of the catalog. 

Mom would collect our sheets then say, “Wasn't that fun?”  What?  I am thinking, no kitchen set up, no record player, no puppy, no baby doll?  Keep in mind I was about six at the time.  I realized I wasn't going to get all the things I picked out.  My disappointment was as overwhelming as was my earlier excitement. 

Today, I do know now that Mom and Dad would look over each of our lists and they would buy a few of the smaller items for the holiday gift giving.  Not to mention, the process kept us busy and out of her hair for some time.

As a child, I thought it was such a cruel thing to do to us.  We were all excited and then we were crestfallen.  Okay, I will agree in my childish way it was exciting.  I had a brief time of imagining all the places I would put the record player, and the kitchen and dolls would go to the basement where a playroom was set up for us, but now I had to let it go.  An early lesson of you can't have everything you want.

Here I am all these years later still finding myself daydreaming.  In my reveries, I am able to think about what kind of house I would want to live in, what kind of modern gadgets I would put to use in my daily life.  Then it dawns on me, Mom taught us to dream and dream big.  She also taught us that not all of our daydreams came true.  Nonetheless, I hear her saying; “Wasn't that fun?”

Yes Mom, and to this day at the age of 61 I still find myself daydreaming.  It is a fun thing to do, and for a writer a valuable tool. 

There was no way Mom would have known she was also stirring the beginnings of a writer. 

Thanks Mom!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Nonnie, you broke your rule."

I am an accident going somewhere to happen.  I’ve had four concussions in life.  Makes you wonder how I ever survived to 61.
Have you ever hit the toe of your shoe in just the right way and it sends you flying forward?  I have and more than once.  This time I was in the garage talking with Stan, my youngest brother.  As I started to leave, I managed one of the nasty toe stops that causes you to go forward. 
I was wearing a specifically designed pair of shoes that day, with an upturned toe that somehow was supposed to promote toning.  I was hoping to lose weight by walking and the shoes aiding in my efforts.
As I tripped forward, I thought I could catch myself on the support post in the garage.  Unfortunately, I was not able to stop myself.
I regained conscious finding myself lying, face down on the garage floor.  I tried my best to sit up but was unable to do so without help.
My knee, throbbing like someone had hit it with a sledgehammer, made the effort near impossible.  My forehead must have been a real sight.  I split the skin on the left side from hairline to eyebrow.  Of course, no accident I am involved with would be complete without a concussion. 
Stan aided me in sitting upright.  Then he grabbed tissues off the shelf in the garage where we keep supplies.  He knew I needed ice for my head.  He did not want to leave me, so he got into the garage freezer and put a popsicles on my forehead.  Then he insisted I go to urgent care.  I asked him to just help me upstairs, and let me take a nap.  I hate going anywhere that involves medical attention.
He insisted that I go to urgent care but I continued to insist that I go upstairs and rest.  His final comment, “Either get in the truck, or I will call 911”. 
No way was I going by way of ambulance.  He had to help me to my feet.  That sledgehammer felt like it was still banging my knee, making it difficult to get me up into his truck.
As he drove me to the urgent care facility, he noticed my husband, Michael, pulling into a parking lot.  He followed him into the lot and explained what happened.  Now Michael is following us to the facility.
Did you know that they super glue wounds?  The glue effectively closed the wound, didn’t stop the headache, but at least I was not bleeding all over the place.
My knee was x-rayed, damage to soft tissue only.  That was a blessing.
To this day, I do not know what I hit.  As in my toboggan story, I closed my eyes.  Stan refuses to think back on the event.  Guess I will never know what I hit.  Apparently, it was something solid, possibly the concrete floor.  Your guess is as good as mine is in this case.
Among my young nieces and nephews, I have a rule.  It is a simple rule, “No more boo-boos.”  I guess Nonnie (as my great niece and nephew refer to me) does not follow the rule.  As Grace would say, “Nonnie, you broke your rule.” 
This is not a good look for anyone. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Its Time for Pie

It’s time for pie!

Years ago, during my high school days, I took home economics.  I had always loved cooking and baking.  Sewing was not my strong point, and still is not, but I loved working in the kitchen.

Nikki, my sister, has so many abilities but domestic engineer is not at the top of her list.  Nonetheless, as she drew nearer to her wedding date she chose to venture into the kitchen.  She decided to begin her domestic adventure by baking a double-crusted apple pie.

Now I knew my sister had never attempted to bake anything before this, so I asked if she wanted me to help.  Forget that idea.  She said she was very capable of baking a pie without any help from me. 

I left my sister to her own devices.  She peeled her apples added the other ingredients and giving them the proper time to allow all the flavors to mingle as she prepared the crusts.

She rolled out the crusts and cut them to fit the pie dish.  Then she piled her apple mixture into a large mound in the pie shell.  She placed it all in the oven and set the timer.

The house filled with the pleasant aroma of apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  I had to admit, it certainly did smell like a wonderful pastry.  I started to believe I was wrong.  My sister had a domestic side to her that I had not seen before.

The timer alerted us to the end of her efforts.  She removed from the oven a large pie piled with the delicious smelling apples.

Nikki was very proud of her efforts and brought the pie to me remaking “See I didn’t need your help”.  Well, I will admit it certainly did smell wonderful.  I just had one question.  “I thought you said you were baking a double crusted pie?”  She said, “I did.”  So I asked the obvious question, “Where is the second crust?”  With a sharp tone, she replied.  “It’s on the bottom, where do you think I would have put it.”  I smiled and said “silly me, I would have put one crust on the bottom and one on the top.”

My response stunned her.  She hadn’t thought about one on top and one on the bottom.  I am not sure where she got her recipe, but either the crust placements were not included in the directions or she missed that detail.

Here we are over four decades later and Nikki still makes apple pies.  She learned from her early lesson, and I must say she makes one heck of a delectable apple pie.  She still mounds the apples high in the pan, but now the second crust is on top, and yes, her crusts are wonderfully flaky too.  Now at family gatherings she proudly brings her apple pies.

Last year when I told her I added one of her stories to my blog, she asked which one.  I told her it was the seven red dresses story.  She laughed and said I thought you would write the double-crusted pie story.  I laughed and said I hadn’t considered that story since I would not want to embarrass her by putting it out there on the Internet for all to read.  She said “Why not?  I tell everyone my double crusted pie story.”

I am telling you this so that you know I would never write a story where someone could be hurt.  However, Nikki takes the story as a fond memory of our early years. 

As for me, I just wonder where the saying “easy as pie” started. 



Monday, January 28, 2013

Toboggan vehicle of danger!

I am not an adventurous person.  My courageous spirit resides in my writings and reading, definitely not personal experience.  The people who know me understand this story is way out of character for me to be so daring.

It was January 1976.  Wheeling had enjoyed a snowfall and Michael, my husband of three years, and his brother Kevin, decided we should go out with a toboggan that night to a local park with a particular hill famous for snow activity.  Kevin would bring his girlfriend.

Now the boys had used a toboggan before.  I was use to the red rider sled, and the hill I was accustomed to was about four feet in height.  It was actually the small mound from the railroad track down to our back yard.  Dad would never allow us on the track so  we only ventured to the rise that held the track

Michael and Kevin worked all day to ready the toboggan.  It was not defective; they were just busy greasing the sled to reach a maximum speed.  If you’ve seen the movie A Christmas Vacation, where Clark greases the disk sled, then you know what the guys were trying to accomplish.

I need to return to the story. 

We had dinner with Michael’s parents and then the four of us headed for the park.  Michael would be in the front position, on the toboggan, then me, then Kevin’s girlfriend and at the back sat Kevin.   Of course, since I was not use to this particular implement used for sledding, I was unaware that the front man locks into position with his legs crossed under the curl of the toboggan.  Apparently, the guys thought ahead.  It was going to be dark.  So they brought along a flashlight to use as a headlight.  Hmmm, bright idea.  Don’t you think?

We were next in line for our downhill run when I, in the second position, buried my head into Michael’s back and prayed.  I don’t mind telling you I was terrified.  We pushed off and started downhill.  Moments into the ride, I could feel Michael trying to throw me with his shoulder.  Then Kevin was trying to pull me off from the back.  Okay, they have definitely planned to terrify me. 

The truth was more terrifying.  Kevin and his girlfriend could see that we were in trouble and headed into the trees.  I just kept holding on tight, and could not see what was ahead of us.  Result; Kevin and his girlfriend rolled off the toboggan while Michael, locked in place, and I remained on the sled. 

One moment we were flying on the snow, the next moment I woke to find Kevin, who was a paramedic, checking me for broken bones.  He told me, as he set me up, I would see a lot of blood, but Michael was okay.

Kevin gently helped me sit up and I asked what happened.  He explained that we hit a tree.  All I saw was a bush.  I asked if that is what we hit he said no and pointed downhill about 15 feet.  “That is what you hit.”  It was a large tree and we didn’t even disturb the snow on its branches.  As I came to an upright position, I saw Michael.  The skin on the right side of his face was scrapped away, and he was trying to inhale.  He sounded horrible and I thought he was dying.

Stunned by the impact, I had no idea what happened, but it appeared our short married life was about to be over. It was terrifying to think I was part of his death.  However, Kevin reassured me that he was going to be just fine.

He was right, and soon some others came to our aid.  People helped him onto what was left of the toboggan, and transported him back up the hill. At the top of the hill, Michael was back to his regular self; joking, as people asked what they could get for him, he would tell them a beer.  I think he was trying to keep me calm as we waited for the ambulance. 

Kevin called his parents and told them what happened and that Michael was going to the hospital.  As we arrived at the hospital, Mom and Dad O’Kane were waiting for us.  Mom immediately grabbed Michael’s arm and said “Your face!  Your face!”  Michael retorted with “My arm!  My arm”!

On his way to x-ray Michael complained of his toe.  After x-rays, he asked if his arm was broken.  The technician said she could not tell him about his arm, only a doctor could.  However, his toe was fine!  The attending physician gave Michael something for the pain and said to come back the next morning so his arm could be set and cast.

Now you understand why I am not the adventurous type.  This story should cement the reason to any one asking.

Michael after the accident, oh yes, that is me in my skinny days.