Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Kerry Group; A Growing Force that Began in Ireland by Lawrence Norris

On  this blog, I have been writing about all-things Irish from an Irish American persepective.  This post is about a block-buster Irish Multi-National called Kerry Group. Kerry Group is one of the biggest companies originating out of Ireland

In 1972,  a state owned company, a group of small farmer co-operatives and a US company formed what is now known as Kerry to manufacture milk protein (casein) to the United States. Almost immediately, the company acquired other companies and organizations. 

From primarily a dairy company, Kerry expanded into meat products, specialty food products, food ingredients, and made a strong push into its future with a research and development focus. It was becoming a leading Irish Multinational. Through more acquisitions, Kerry’s growth and development created a leading global food ingredients corporation. Building its Global Technology and Innovation Centre in Beloit, Wisconsin, Kerry allows customer collaboration to develop innovative products that can be delivered quickly and differentiate offerings in the marketplace. The Center has been a model for new facilities that Kerry has built across the globe. Kerry has been shifting naturally to a more holistic provider of Taste and Nutrition to the global food, beverage and pharmaceutical markets to help serve consumers who want to live better, feel better and eat better.

In recent months, Kerry Group has purchased Geneden a small company whose technology focuses on probiotics and who holds many patents. It is thought that technology and know-how from companies such as Geneden can be used across many components of the Kerry Group operations. 

“Kerry Group sponsors the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award in its 22nd year. The €15,000 Award recognizes Ireland’s leading literary talent. Kerry Group’s involvement with Concern’s RAIN project supports farmers and helps preserve vibrant and economically viable rural communities. Kerry Group sponsors Kerry Group’s Rás Mumhan, the first major Stage Race of the Irish Cycle Racing season. The race covers over 500 km . 
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The Brown and White
Lawrence Norris is the author of the The Brown and Whitea fictionalized memoir that tells the story of Collin Callaghan's freshman year at a Chicago Catholic High School. Collin is a white boy who is living in turbulent times in a changing city. He clings to his neighborhood and his family as he heads out each day with his classmates on the Brown and White, the ancient school bus driven by free-spirited Willie. Memorable characters abound as this story unfolds. Collin's loveable family, especially his Irish Catholic policeman father and his Irish immigrant mother face life together. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mice and the Winter by Lawrence Norris

Mice come into the house from cold fall air

and haunt my kitchen until I set traps for them. 
My neighbor tells me they must make a home
out in the old pile of logs where the rabbits go.


But there's something spiritual in my wood pile
it holds relics of my old apple tree
and I can't bring myself to get rid of the logs
summer home of mice and hiding place for rabbits.

But like all dead things I hold onto,  it brings trouble, 
memories of mistakes I have made that sneak up
and cry out on these cloudy winter days
scolding me for what I failed to do in summer.

So on these cold mornings when nothing is warm
and even the squirrels won't come out of their nests,
I sometimes battle ghosts stuck in my head
like mice that come in from the cold, haunting my kitchen.

Copyright 2017, Sporting Chance Press

Norris is the author of the Brown and White, a fictionalized memoir published by Sporting Chance Press that is available through Amazon. The book is book about a young man's freshman year in the late 1960s in Chicago--changing neighborhoods and challenges--yet, a humorous and positive book. 

Another South Side Irish Adventure


Someone who knows about job searches had just told me that I needed to sharpen up my resume and get some kind of narrative going on my own personal talents.  I thought I might just take it to the next level and meet with my informal adviser, Willie the Bus Driver from my high school alma mater, Mount Carmel High School. I wanted Willie's thoughts. Willie's been dead for many years, but being Irish and supersitious, I never let death put a halt to good conversation. So I was game if Willie was.

Willie was a tough guy although tiny--his features were elfish like  Santa Claus. Instead of red, he dressed in grey like the Maytag repairman.  Unlike Santa, who has a magic dentist, Willie had few teeth. And he talked kind of funny, but he was our man. We loved Willie and knew there was wisdom in most everything he said.

So I walked over to 114th and Western in Chicago this morning and waited for the Brown and White bus. The bus was a long time coming.  It has been in some kind of other dimension. But it did come at last and Willie pulled the bus over and the huge old fashioned mechanical doors swung open. I hopped up the stairs just like the old days and showed Willie my old Carmel ID-shown above. He looked it over and looked at me and said: "how does I know it's you?" Before I could think of anything to say, Willie said, "Oh, forget it."

As I sat accross from Willie, it dawned on me that I was approaching Willie's age now, the age that the "old boy" had died. Once I got past that scary thought, he looked over at me and said, "so why does you want to see me, Norris."

"Well, Willie, you see I am having difficulty finding a new job and people tell me I have to really sell myself.  And it's just hard and I thought I would ask someone who could help me--maybe make up some bull. And I thought of you."

Willie looked at me and said, "I think yoos got yousself the wrong man, Norris.  I am no good at bull, but maybe I can help."

I wasn't sure I agreed with what Willie said, but I waited for the wisdom. Willie stopped talking for a few minutes and he lit up a smoke--a Marlboro long.

"Well, I'd drop the bull and tell them yoos went to Mount Carmel.  That has to help, duzntit?"

"I guess I could do that, I usually just put my colleges, Benedictine College and National Louis University on my resume, but who knows, maybe that might work," I said.

I started to wonder if I had overestimated Willie's wisdom. 

As the bus pulled up toward 107th Street, Willie said, "We're going to pick up your old pal Hannie. Maybe he has some ideas."

Jeez, I thought, this is getting kinda of complicated.  First I pull Willie out of retirement (and the grave) and now he has a guest for me. 

There with a couple of sweet rolls about the size of frisbies and a stryrofoam cups of hot coffee stood one of the south side's greatest politicians who never ran for public office, my old pal Hannie.  Hannie was a couple inches taller than Willie. Today,  he dressed a little like Buster Brown. I closed my eyes and shook my head and then looked again, but he was still dressed the same way--like a very old fashioned school boy.  Then I remembered, Hannie wore Buster Brown shoes.  Then it dawned on me that as usual whoever had control of things today was not me.  

The big mechanical door swung open and Hannie climbed up the stairs. In a second or two he was sitting across from me.  He handed one coffee and sweet roll to Willie and took the other for himself.  He had done the same every morning he took the brown and white in high school and it seemed natural today.

I looked at Hannie a little puzzled because I knew most of the neighborhood had changed. "Where'd you get the sweet rolls?"

"Wendt's diner, open today for this special occassion," exclaimed Hannie.

I looked across the steet and sure enough the restaurant and sign had reappeared after many years. And when I looked closely, I could see old man Wendt in his white shirt and apron. "He must be 110 at least," I said.

"No, he was younger when he died and thats where he stays," said Hannie.

Not sure how the age of the dead works out, I just kept quiet.

Willie looked at Hannie and thanked him for the treats. Then he said, "Hannie, your old Pal, Norris, here isn't having much luck finding a job and he wants to know if yoos have any ideas for him."

Hannie looked at me and said, "so that's the deal--wondered what this was all about.  You're looking for some connections."

"No, Hannie, I am just wondering what in the hell I am doing wrong, it's just not working."

"Well, my uncle was the president of the outside electricians, but he's dead. And you know my mom worked at city hall and she knew the first Daley, but she is long dead, too."

And then as Willie and I stared at each other, Hainnie went through a litany of dead people, a hundred names or more who could have helped me, but they were all gone. It was a good refresher course for our time back in the day on the South Side. 

"Well, Hannie, maybe you can ask all the dead for their prayers, that might be about best."

"OK, Norris, they can sure do that."

My mind wonered back to my dad who had some connections, but he told my brother and I that there would be no new policemen in the family. By the time I was in high school, not only were the cops poorly paid, but they were harassed by war demonstraters and villainized like never before. They got no respect and my dad wanted us to have some of that. 

Willie interupted, "well boys we are approaching 103rd Street and that means Dan Dollar will be there. Maybe Dollar will have some ideas."

Sure enough, the brown and white pulled up and there was Dollar, a little grey around the edges, but sporting his old buckskin coat with leather fringe. Dollar was our entertainment in high school, he did  immitations of teachers, movies stars, comedians and other notables. He was one of the coolist guys in high school--at least we thought so, but we weren't exactly in the "cool club."  Suddenly, I felt excited.  I knew Dad was a late-bloomer and had manuevered his way around the Chicago Public School system. If anyone would know the ropes to job hunting, it would be him.

The bus stopped and Willie opened the huge door. The stooped figure of Dan Dollar bound up the stairs and deposit himself on a seat.  About a second after we go the "how the hell are you, Dollar," out of our mouths, Dollar was doing his immitations of the top entertainers like he had done back in the day. I thought  he would be doing new stars of the day; Dan was always very contemporary. But instead he entertained with routines from the old Ed Sullivan Show including two of the wierdest acts by today's standards, Poppo Gigio and  Senor Wences. Not very cool, but for us very entertaining. As in school, Dan added a boy's high school twist to the humor and I am not sure if it would have passed decency standards. 

After some "oh Eddie's" and funky Spanish, we give Dollar some warm applause.  Dollar looked over at me and said, "so what do you need?"

I explained for him all the problems I had with job hunting. The dead ends, the frustations over all kinds of things involved in it and the idea that people were looking for long lists of talents that certainly no human being had. Dollar leaned back and looked at me and then over at Hainne and Willie.  "You know what he needs to win at the job game today, don't you?"

Hainnie shook his head.

Willie light up another cigarette and said nothing.

I looked at Dollar and exasperated, I said, "OK, what!"

Dollar looked at me and said, "Sharp elbows. You need to move in and clear everyone else out of the way."

"Sharp elbows," I said.  You mean we wake Willie from the dead, he brings this bus from another dimention, and we all come back to the school bus for a dose of wisdom and we get "sharp elbows?"

Dillon looks at me and says, "What do you expect from a guy who looks like the Maytag Repairman, another dressed as Buster Brown and an amateur comedian who looks like an aging rock star? If you wanted some genius ideas on a job, you should have had Bill Gates and Warren Buffet!" 

I looked at myself in my high school Brown and White coat and started to feel kind of foolish. For the rest of the trip to nowhere we sat by the windows and looked girl's legs in the cars below. Just like the old days, I thought.  

The Brown and White
Forty plus years in the making, The Brown and White is a fictionalized memoir that tells the story of Collin Callaghan's freshman year at a Chicago Catholic High School. Collin is a white boy who is living in turbulent times in a changing city. He clings to his neighborhood and his family as he heads out each day with his classmates on the Brown and White, the ancient school bus driven by free-spirited Willie. Memorable characters abound as this story unfolds. Collin's loveable family, especially his Irish Catholic policeman father and his Irish immigrant mother face life together. Collin and classmates blaze their own humorous and passionate trail through the late 1960s. A unique cast of terrific teachers are there to see the boys through. Laughs and life meet readers head on as they travel on the Brown and White.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Latest Resume

Virtue for Exemplary Lives

Patrick McCaskey
"Hope sustains and ecourages us. In many ways it is the virtue of those who lead exemplary lives--those who are active not passive."


From: Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout.


Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout is a personal chronicle of Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey that looks back at decades of spiritual enrichment and life lessons from athletes, coaches, religious and everyday people. McCaskey recalls the stories of those who worked hard to make the cut on and off the field plus people who left comfortable lives to serve the under-served in extraordinary ways.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Look of the Irish, Why not?


I think when you get older you tend to look at things through a kind of lense that opens up to what you value and love.  Maybe you've learned a few things as well and you appreciate what they call diversity today. But diversity is a much overused word. I think I tend to see people as not so much "diverse" or different from me, but really more similar although they are different. Some will think I am just fooling myself and don't get it, and maybe they are right. But in the past week when puzzling on things, I have said "I am not that bright" so I am going to keep to the simple notion that I am delivering here. 

The photo above is my grandson Ciaran. 

I have one of those blended families, so I have three grandchildren and I love them all. Of course, when you are a step-grandfather, like I am for two of my grandchildren, you want to make sure you don't step on anyone's toes and take credit for things maybe you shouldn't.  One of my step grandchildren, Jacob Liam,  lived with us for a year and he visits for a few days at a time now.  His long stay left an emotional impression on me that I can't really explain (remember I said that I am not that bright so I don't have to). But let me get back to Ciaran. 

As you can see by the photo, there is something soulful and poetic about Ciaran. And like his name, he speaks Irish to me. And by that I mean that he exudes grace and a sacred message for me that I interpret with an Irish heart. And for me, a sacred message is an Irish message because that's how I was raised.  As a young boy, I looked over at my Irish dad in church and saw him praying his rosary and Ciaran reminds me of my dad and his faith. The image of my father praying says everything to me



Cairan  is beautiful and I would not want to change a thing on him. He is my daughter's son and she is a beautiful woman with a lot of Irish.  But I have to be honest, Ciaran takes after his dad. And I don't think his dad is Irish at all--though he is an artistic and soulful man. But I have come to appreciate diversity as I have said. And yet, Ciaran looks Irish, because I am Irish and I love him and I see everything with Irish eyes, because I have two of those. 
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My Irish Catholic book is called The Brown and White

Monday, October 9, 2017

Saint Augustine and His Mother Saint Monica

Sports and Faith II 

The following passage is from Sports and Faith: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout by Patrick McCaskey, Copyright 2015, Sporting Chance Press.

Saint Monica is remembered as the mother of Saint Augustine.  Monica was an innocent and pious Catholic who was married to a Pagan named Patritius, who was likely a drinker as well as a carouser.  Monica had three children: sons Augustine and Navigius, and a daughter, Perpetua.  She wanted her children to be Baptized and brought up in the faith, but she was hindered by Patritius until he himself was converted.  Patritius died after his Baptism and left Monica a widow.
Monica spent many hours praying for her son Augustine’s conversion and salvation.   Saint Augustine would look back on his youth as a time of reckless immoral behavior. 
Augustine was promiscuous, lazy, and a reveler.  Augustine took up with a mistress with whom he had a son and lived for many years.   Saint Monica was a devout Christian and impressed those around her by her faith and prayer life.  Augustine’s mistress was not an acceptable wife and he hated to leave her, but he did.  He took his son Adeodatus (gift from God). Further consternation resulted from Augustine’s adoption of Manichaeism.  Manichaeism was a popular religion at the time that divided the world between good and evil principles with things material considered evil and things immaterial intrinsically good.  This dualistic theology was at best a heresy.  Monica was so disturbed by this turn in her son, that she originally barred the door to him. 

As Monica did all her life, she prayed and prayed and prayed.  She was assisted by  Saint Ambrose in converting Augustine.  Biographical information on Monica is sketchy at best, but it was suggested that she was at least temped by drink and managed to fight it off.  Her ability to avoid the destructive nature of vice as well as her incredible faith and untiring prayer life has made her a Patron Saint of Alcoholics.   Saint Monica example of the power of prayer has stood out for Christians over the centuries.

 Saint Augustine went on to give his wealth to the poor, his life to the priesthood, and his labors to the Catholic community of his time.  Bishop Augustine is considered one of the greatest Christian writers and a Doctor of the Church.

Alcoholism is a disease that is passed down over the generations.  Three generations of my family were alcoholics until my father put it on hold.  When he was fifteen, he had five beers while singing in a saloon one night.  His head was spinning.  He came home and said to his mother, “I’ll never drink again.”  I followed his example and have stayed away from it altogether.  I believe I am a better man for it. 

Saint Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit


Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.
—Saint Augustine