Thursday, October 19, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The German Girl

The German Girl The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Finally finished this book. Life kept getting in the way. I have to say this is one beautiful, thought-provoking book. As an avid reader of books (non-fiction and fiction) based during or surrounding the Holocaust, this book brought new information to me. I am grateful for the historical lessons, the beautiful narrative, and especially the addendum documentation of the ship's manifest and photographs, bringing it home in a truly palpable way, much like the ending of the film Schindler's List. I am so thankful to have yet a broader understanding of the times and the reality of what so many faced. Thank you, Armando Luca Correa, for this beautiful work.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 7, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer


I'm not sure what to say. This book was simply beautiful. It isn't filled with a lot of action. There isn't a riveting, page-turning, can't-put-it-down storyline. What you get is a beautiful story following an uncovered treasure, an unknown manuscript of music written by JS Bach and passed through several generations until it reaches the hands of the main character in present day. It is a simple, quiet journey full of beauty and splendor. I simply loved every moment of this quiet masterpiece. If you are a lover of classical music, you will find this book to be a treasure. I simply hated it to end and to return it to the library. I have already made a space on my shelf for the copy I will buy and re-read in the future. I will always remember the quiet beauty of this book.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

BOOK REVIEW - My Sister Live on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher



STARS: 5 out of 5

ok, let me see how to say this. When I started this book, I had high expectations. I try not to do that but I do sometimes. As I got going, I was loving the characters but I wasn't sure where the story was going to go. I knew part of how the character relationships would likely play out but one particular dynamic had me concerned that I wasn't going to enjoy the book. I was feeling a touch disappointed. I even put it down for a couple of busy days. But I picked it up again and continued.

Today, I finished the book. What I can tell you is that I am so very glad I continued. Aside from positively adoring 3 of the characters in the book, I truly fell in love with the book as a whole. While there are dynamics of a few of the characters that leave you feeling bothered, keeping my focus on the 3 I adored kept me going. Actually, that's not true. There is a 4th who also stole my heart.

But what I need to tell you is this. This book is light and jovial while heavy and intense all at the same time. But as you reach the climax, it becomes one of the single most beautiful books I've ever read. Nothing epic or world shattering. Just a deeply personal experience that changes how the main character views the world, his life, his family. A moment of clarity when he grows up. A single moment that was one of the hardest I have ever had to read but, as you get through it, you witness a level of growth and healing among several of the characters that changes the way they will face the world from that day forward...and it is simply beautiful.

I am so glad I continued as this book is going to my FAVES shelf. I will re-read it again (and probably again) now that I can (hopefully) make it through that section without putting the book down repeatedly to get through it. Because, as painful as it was, the beauty on the other side is worth every teary-eyed blur of the words on the page. And I feel stronger for having read it.

Read it. Take a deep breath before you hit chapter 20 (or before) but push to the other side. Your heart will feel fuller on the other side.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

BOOK REVIEW - The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott


I seem to be in the minority here but I have to say that I am absolutely in love with this book. I read and enjoyed The Return but it didn't stick with me like this one. When I started The Wonder of All Things, I was hopeful I would connect with it more deeply but was worried it wouldn't measure up to the last couple of books I'd just read (The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash, both of which I loved).

All I can say is I am so glad I picked this to read when I did. I am going through some difficult times and I needed to connect with a story...with characters...and that's exactly what happened with this wonderful book.

I am enamored with Ava and with Wash and am in awe and wonder at the beauty, depth, and simplicity of their deeply connected souls. The beauty of their relationship is at the very core of the story and it continues to unfold and blossom the deeper the story goes.

I finished the book with honest, flowing tears and clutched the book as I let the enormity of the beauty of it wash over me. I know not everyone will be affected the way I was...I suspect so many saw it from a different perspective...but I know I will never forget this book, this story, or these children. I thank you, Jason Mott, for one of the most beautiful stories I've read in a long long time. I am moving this directly to my fave books collection. I can't wait to re-read it...and yes, I'm still crying...

REVIEW - 5 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The journey begins with the first step...

For Christmas, my husband bought me an art set. We are bound by several things, including a passion for all forms of art -- music, film, sculpture, paintings, literature -- but we had been discussing our long lost impassioned hobbies. For me, it was drawing. A passion I gave up around the age of 17.

I had spent my life reading, painting, and drawing up until that point. I never was considered good and never had a "proper" art class in school. I resigned myself to the fact that I just didn't know how to draw well. I knew, through some art tests, that I had SOME talent but my assessment was that grade school level was all I could achieve. Our general art classes in school (not the ones the "real" art students enrolled in) were just project busy work (collages, etc.) but no real, true instruction. That was reserved for the classes with the "real" art students. So, I begrudgingly came to accept  that my skill would halt where it had hung for years and being a "real" artist was never in my scope. So, one day I finally put down the pencil and focused on my other artistic loves -- writing, photography, film, and literature.

Now, 30+ years later, I am suffering from a lifetime of "what if". What if I had never put it down. What if I had had "proper" lessons. What if I had an understanding then of how to improve my skill. What if YouTube had been around a lifetime ago.

Thanks to my husband, I dove back in. It didnt' happen immediately. He bought me the art kit but it sat, untouched for months and months and months, collecting dust and me wondering if I would ever be brave enough to give it another go.

Flash forward to June 2015. On June 8, we lost my mom. After years of suffering from congestive heart failure, it and age finally took their final toll and she left us to be with my dad. We buried them together, her cradling his urn in her arms, in a military service (he was a veteran). It was simple, small, and beautiful. In the aftermath, as often happens following the loss of parents, we begin to reassess our lives.

My hubby and I had already begun to simplify and downsize our lives and our home. We are looking to fill our days as simply as possible with those things we love. Turning off the TV, immersing ourselves in music, and tackling our passions and hobbies. As a result, I finally pulled out that Christmas gift - that art set - and decided the time has come.

That day was 10/17/2015. Since that day, I have begun my journey back to find myself. I've begun singing along to music (even though no one wants to hear THAT). I've been reading more. We've kept the TV off. We've delved into music artist catalogs we've only skimmed before. We've shared time with each other and with our fur-babies. We've simplified our lives and are reveling in how much more deeply fueled our souls feel.

I've spent days watching art videos on YouTube, trying to learn the things I never did so many years ago. I have found myself drawn to a handful of "teachers" through these videos and am mesmerized by their skills and talent. I have begun to absorb little things and am seeing improvements in my own work, I am certain is a result of what they are teaching me.

Heather LeBas has been the greatest influence on my journey so far. Her videos have inspired and excited me. I admire her skill and talent and strive to learn as much from her as I possibly can. She has reached out and we're talking and I hope to tap her brain as much as possible to learn what I can to further enhance my work and, more importantly, my enjoyment. I hope to expand to other areas (painting, etc.) one day but I am enjoying the journey, wherever it takes me. ...and I hope my mom and dad are seeing their not-so-little girl, so many years later, diving back into the deep end and swimming with a smile on my face.

(p.s. Ironic that I stopped drawing at the same age I quit competitive swimming, my other childhood love.) Hmmmmmm... now, if only I could find a pool to swim in regularly.... :)

Now to the art work...

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1678510622436084.1073741828.1678509492436197&type=3&uploaded=74

Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11...Never Forget

A moment of contemplation. Searching deeply within myself. Yes, I feel it again. Exactly how I felt that morning, that day, the days following. Do you feel it? It's still in there.
If you lived through it, you felt it. The unity. The embracing of others. Loving everyone EQUALLY regardless of race, orientation, creed, etc. JUST as we are supposed to.
Do you remember what that felt like? NONE of it mattered except we were alive...and healthy...and hurting...and determined. Take one minute to really feel that again today. Then promise yourself not to let that go going forward
Carry 9/11 with you EVERY SINGLE DAY. Let it be a part of you.‪#‎NeverForget‬ ‪#‎tears‬


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Together, In Love, Forever...


Last Monday (June 8, 2015), we lost our mom, Patricia Anne (Mescal) D'Avanzo, after a lengthy battle with congestive heart failure and resulting conditions. She was 81 years old and greatly loved by her large, extended family in Atlanta, Asheville, and scattered all over the eastern seaboard. Her services over the course of the past week were beautiful up to and until the burial service at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton yesterday (June 16, 2015). Accompanying her were the ashes of our father, Victor Nunzio D'Avanzo. As a veteran, the services included full military honors.

Despite knowing this was coming and hoping/praying her transition would come so as to relieve her suffering, I have been numb and still have yet to fully process the loss. Mostly, I'm exhausted.

I do want to take this time to do a few things...

1) I want to DEEPLY thank each and every person who extended their condolences, their support, and their love. Our family is strong. We lean on each other when times are tough. But we would have never made it through this, on our own or as a family, without all the love we received. Please know that your words, thoughts, flowers, visits, and hugs have made all the difference. We will surely need some time to process (I know I will) and will likely need to lean on many of you as we move forward through our grief. I hope you will accept our apologies for any selfishness now or in the near future as our hearts are going to need some time to strengthen.

2) I promised to post the eulogy I composed for her funeral for family and friends who could not attend. Please scroll down to read, if you would like. My focus was on celebrating her life and helping those who knew her on a limited level to get a fuller picture of the woman she was and the woman we all loved. I hope I've done her justice...

3) I also wanted to share the song listing from the music Terrell and I put together for the visitation service. Again, the focus was on celebrating her life and acknowledging her transition. This music represents our Irish/Celtic roots, some of her favorite songs/singers, and songs from some of her most beloved musicals. Again, scroll down (to bottom) for this listing.

I hope this all gives you a vision of the woman and an understanding of the love we all hold so deep and true for both her and our father. For those who loved our mom, I encourage you to read this and also to pick out a song or two. Pull them up on YouTube if you don't know them and give them a listen. I hope they will help you feel her presence when you hear them play.

Again, thank you all, from our entire family, for everything and every word. We love you all.



















EULOGY READING:

We are here today to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Patricia D'Avanzo -- Wife, Sister, friend, neighbor, cousin, aunt, Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, matriarch, role model...

Over a century ago, a young carpenter by the name of James Mescal set forth his plans to emigrate from Ireland to the US. As the story has been told, an unlikely hiccup in his plans -- thanks to an over-booked tailor -- changed his fate...and the fate of the entire Mescal and our D'Avanzo clan.

You see, James's original journey was targeted for the virgin voyage of a new luxury ocean liner, called, quite simply, the Titanic. But thanks to a delay in the tailoring of his suit, he was forced to reschedule his trip for a 1 month later, swapping his tickets for fare on the slightly lesser known Mauretania. Had it not been for that tailor back in Ireland, he would have never completed that original voyage... and none of us would be sitting here today.

Eventually, James Mescal emigrated from Ireland at the age of 28 (or, at least, that's what he listed in the ship's manifest, though we know better doing a little math), arriving at Ellis Island on the Mauretania on May 27 (which just happens to be my birthday), 1912.

Two years later, a beautiful Irish lass from Donegal by the name of Hannah Gallagher made the same journey on the SS Cameronia at the age of 18, arriving at Ellis Island on the afternoon of April 7, 1914.

The irony is that despite living only a couple of towns apart among the rolling hills of Ireland, James and Hannah had never met. Little did they know what their futures would hold as they embarked on their new lives in a new land...what impact they would have and the extensive legacy they would leave behind.

Thankfully, they met in New York, married, and began their lives together in Brooklyn…and in true Irish Catholic fashion, were quickly blessed with a large and growing family.

Flash forward to November 19, 1933. Their last little bundle of joy, Patricia Anne Mescal, was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York -- the last of seven children to join this Americanized Irish Brood. As a member of this large, loving Irish family, she learned much about life, love, and family.

Throughout the years, as she experienced the heartache of losing siblings during her younger (and later) years, she learned to treasure, first and foremost, the bond of family. Rather than being lost in the shuffle of such a busy and full household, as the baby, many years younger than her next oldest sibling, she thrived on the love and strength she found among such a deeply bonded Irish family.

Years later, as she began to venture into the world on her own, she began working at NYU. In January, 1955, she met a handsome young Italian student named Victor Nunzio D’Avanzo.  She may not have remembered their first meeting but five months later, he certainly caught her eye. They became friends and, a year and a half later, in April 1956, he worked up the nerve to finally ask her out – officially – for a date…to see the movie Carousel. Their shared love of music and film became a blueprint for so many wonderful experiences over the course of their lives ahead.

Vic entered the Army in 1957. The young couple put their plans on hold while he completed his tour, stationed in Germany and Italy, maintaining their romance from afar. Upon completion of his tour, he returned to his beloved Patricia and they married on February 21, 1960. They welcomed the first of their children, Anne Patricia, into the world in January, 1961. A son, John James, soon followed, followed by daughters Christine Marie (that’s me) and Mary Katherine.

Shortly after Mary’s birth, the family made the decision in 1969 to take advantage of Victor’s new employer’s transfer to good ol’ Atlanta – way down south – where they added to the last of their brood – the not-so-baby anymore, Joseph Victor. Despite the move, their New York/New Jersey roots (and their Brooklyn accents) remained strong.

As their family grew, Patricia chose to transition from working outside the home to a focus on working at home – as caretaker, mother, home maker. This is the Patricia we all grew to know. This is the Patricia I want to share with you.

Our mother, Pat, may have left a life of formal employment behind, but the woman we knew was a jack-of-all-trades. She was a relentless worker. She was a resilient woman with a determined focus and a dedication to faith and family that went unrivaled among so many of the families we’ve known over the years.

Despite the lack of a formal paycheck, Pat held down so many jobs…I dare any of us to rival.

Over the years, she never failed to serve as…okay, let’s start a list…

A chauffer – transporting her children…and friends of her children…to and from their long, long…did I mention LONG…list of activities. From catechism classes to babysitting ventures. To the library. To drill-team, wrestling, dance, swimming, baseball, softball, and other practices. To dances and dates and slumber parties. To football games, track meets, doctor’s appointments, and swim meets. It was a never ending cycle, in the hot Georgia sun or over iced-over roads in the dead of winter. Early in the morning or late into the evening. She was always there, ready to transport us and our friends to ensure we could enjoy our activities and arrive safely at our destination.

A school and community activist – She served for years as a member of the PTA. She sang in the church choir. She served as a neighborhood Block Parent for the entirety of our school careers. It was known, not only in our neighborhood, but among other students at the school, that this was a house they could come to if they were in need. If they felt unsafe. If they needed support. 

One telling story comes to mind...in high school, when I split up with a boyfriend (kids will be kids)…he came by the house a few days later with a large bouquet of flowers in his hands. Mom opened the door, assuming he was coming to talk to me…only to learn the flowers were for her. They proceeded to spend over an hour talking on the porch – giving him her full attention and helping to ease his mind…and his heart. I remember, too, several friends who have shared with me in recent years, a love for the warmth and welcoming heart of the home she built and how they wished they could’ve been a part of our family.

She also served as…

A laundress – With so many mouths to feed, to clothe, to supply, to manage, she spent countless hours and days managing load after load of laundry – a feat that boggles my mind to this day. Only once or twice did we end up with the dreaded pink underwear load, usually because one of us was clueless enough to open the washer and stuff a new, bright red sweater into a hot water load of whites without her knowledge…but she just moved on. Life is life. You take life’s small lemons and just move on. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

She served as…

A seamstress – She LOVED to sew. She spent years making clothes for us. School and team costumes, holiday dresses, even my dress for junior prom, among so many. Even more importantly, she taught us how to sew. She made it a thrill and helped us discover our own unique styles by helping us learn how to combine patterns until we found our perfect match. Ok, so they were fashions of the 70s…I never said she was a miracle worker!

She was a baker, a chef, a personal shopper – With 5 kids, all with different demands, I remember hours upon hours over the course of our lives picking out clothes and supplies for school, for special events. Cooking – dinners for such a large family, for neighborhood friends, for boyfriends and girlfriends, for bake sales, school events, and holiday parties. Food was a huge part of our lives. An event that brought us together…that allowed us to deepen the bonds of family while honoring our family heritage.

A nurse, doctor, nursemaid, and therapist – With a houseful of active kids, there was always someone getting hurt, sick, depressed. From injuries to illnesses to broken hearts, she was always there. In quiet stead, never visible a moment’s panic, always ready to heal, to nurse, to listen, to encourage.

A hairdresser – With such strong Irish and Italian genes, we were all bound to be a handful in the coifing department. COUNTLESS hours (and dollars) spent on haircuts and detangling products, she never gave up. The hours she spent on my hair alone, as you can imagine, must have aged her 20 years prematurely!

A peacekeeper – Needless to say, with such a large family, she became an expert in peace keeping and treaty negotiation. Teaching us always that, underlying even the deepest of quarrels, we are still family and family must continue to honor, respect, and love one another, no matter how deep the obstacle.

A historian – She was a lover of history, especially of Ireland and celtic lore. It was important and touched her soul deeply to know her family history. To know her family’s heritage. To stay connected to the roots that defined the family she so deeply loved.

She was also a film historian – One of her greatest loves, outside of her family, was film. She nurtured a love of film from her younger days that only grew as she grew older. Through her, we all learned the value and beauty of this amazing medium and, although our tastes may vary greatly, there are films that have bonded us together as a family and proved as markers for so many great memories and moments in our lives – from Jimmy Stewart to James Cagney to Clark Gable, to her beloved musicals --The Sound of Music to My Fair Lady, The Ten Commandments to the Wizard of Oz, Paint Your Wagon, South Pacific, Brigadoon, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and her most beloved and the film that changed the course of her life that night in 1956 - Carousel

She was a librarian – Above all else except her family and her faith, she had a love for books. She was a voracious reader. Whether delving into a fairytale, a novel, classic literature, or a biography (her favorite), she was never without a book. She engrained in us all a deep and impassioned love of reading that has not only held true but been passed down to the following generations. To this day, all of us harbor a love for those most treasured of happy places (besides the church) – a library or bookstore!

Lastly, she was a teacher – of life and of faith. For anyone who knew her, you knew she was centered, grounded, and made whole by her faith…and her marriage. A lifelong Catholic, her faith was always the center of her world. The center of her marriage. The center of her family. It was with the strength of her faith that she raised us all. Whether following in her footsteps as devout Catholics or seeking out our own paths of spirituality, she and our father taught us the importance of being true to ourselves, our beliefs, and to build our lives around a spiritual core, no matter where it lies. They taught us that a marriage needs a foundation, commitment, respect, compromise, and above all, deep, true, and unwavering love.

You will see many of us proudly wearing our treasured Claddagh rings. These rings not only remind us of her and represent our Irish heritage but reinforce and remind us of the tenants that defined both of our parents, their marriage, and our family – love, loyalty, and friendship. We hold them near and dear to our hearts.

Over the years, she and Victor welcomed her sons- and daughter-in-law into the family as my brother, Joe, so eloquently wrote, as true sons and daughters – Michelle D’Avanzo, Barnabus Gillmon, and newest (officially anyway) addition Terrell Huddleston.

They welcomed seven grandchildren – Theresa (and her amazing husband Richard) Conlan, Caroline Wuertz, Jaclyn D’Avanzo, Cassidy, Delaney, Keegan, and Kiley Gillmon – and most recently, last month, great-grandson Victor Conlan. Through him, she was able to fulfill her life-long dream, being here to welcome him into the world, even if from afar.

Throughout her life and especially after losing her husband, Victor, December 16, 2007, she found no more fulfilling a joy than when she was surrounded by her family…and it was in that way that she left us…peacefully last Monday. After a lengthy struggle, battling congestive heart failure, she remained optimistic, grounded in her faith, and staying true to her family…and we were all with her, surrounding her with love, either in person or by phone, as our father, Victor, joined us to guide her from this world.


I would like to take a moment to reflect with an old Irish Prayer…

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched,
unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed
together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near,
just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet
again.

She is at last, reunited with her husband and lifelong love…with her siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts, and uncles, parents, grandparents and all who have gone before her. I imagine, in my mind and in my heart, a huge celebration.  A mix of Italian and Irish rebel rousing rowdy enough to shake the rafters of even the toughest of clouds. Full of music, food, laughter…and hugs all around.

In the end, she was an amazing role model. I learned the strength of being a strong person from this woman. Of being a lady. Of being a wife. Of being a mother (even if, unlike many of my siblings, mine is only to the four-legged furry kind). Of being a sister, an aunt, a cousin. Of being a woman. Of finding yourself, of treasuring the simple things in life. Of making your life a mission of love, of faith, of strength, despite whatever obstacles you face. Of leaning on family when the road gets rough. Of knowing you are never alone when love binds you to someone – by blood or by choice. Of honoring and respecting that love..Every. Single. Day.

I know it is that love that will carry us forward. That love that will hold us together. No matter what hurdles we face in life. No matter how low or alone we may feel on a given day. I know that she is up there, in quiet steadfastness…praying for us, hoping for us, worrying for us, loving us, binding us together…and with that love in our hearts, she will NEVER be gone. We are still whole. We are still the family and the people she so unselfishly taught us to be. Through us, her legacy, her patience, her beauty, and her love will never fade and will continue through the generations to follow. In them, you can always recognize her – her strength, her resolve, her heart. That little Irish twinkle we all saw in the corner of her eye when she smiled…and it is through each of us that she lives on.



=================================

MUSIC LIST (Visitation):
01 - The Sound of Music - The Hills Are Alive
02 - Star of the County Down
03 - Celtic Song of Farewell
04 - Ireland's Waltz Everlasting
05 - Helen Jane Long - Expression
06 - Clint Eastwood - I Talk To The Trees (from Paint Your Wagon)
07 - Frank Sinatra - Moon River
08 - Johnny Mathis - Chances Are
09 - Rosemary Clooney – I’ll Be Seeing You
10 - Craig Armstrong - Glasgow Love Theme
11 - Billy Boyd - The Edge of Night: Pippin's Song (From The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King)
12 - Thomas Tallis - O Sacrum Convivium
13 - Vivaldi - The Four Seasons- Concerto II (Spring)- Largo
14 - Enya - May It Be
15 - Billy Boyd - The Last Goodbye (from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies)
16 - Ed Sheeran - The Parting Glass (from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)
17 - On My Own (from Les Miserables Movie Soundtrack)
18 - Waitin' for My Dearie - Brigadoon (Original Soundtrack) [1954]
19 - Till There Was You - Shirley Jones (The Music Man 1962 Film Soundtrack)
20 – Giorgio Tozzi - Some enchanted evening (from South Pacific)
21 - Nat King Cole - Unforgettable (1961 Version)
22 - Joanie Madden - Song of the Irish Whistle: The Immigrant
23 - Celtic Woman - Danny Boy
24 – Rowan Taheny – Kilkelly (from Irish Roses - Women of Celtic Song)
25 - Ed Sheeran - I See Fire
26 - Van Morrison - Into the Mystic
27 - Simon & Garfunkel- The Sound of Silence (Original Version from 1964)
28 - Loreena MckKnnitt - Down by the Sally Gardens
29 - Joanie Madden - The South Wind
30 - Petula Clark - How Are Things In Glocca Morra
31 – Judy Garland - Somewhere Over the Rainbow (from The Wizard of Oz)
32 - Gene Kelly - Almost like being in love (from Bridgadoon)
33 - The Irish Rovers - Fiddler's Green
34 - My Fair Lady Soundtrack - I Could Have Danced All Night
35 - Bing Crosby - Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That's An Irish Lullaby)
36 - The Irish Rovers - Bonnie Kellswater
37 – Jim Croce - Time In A Bottle
38 - Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge over troubled water
39 - John Denver - Fly Away
40 – Peter Paul & Mary - Wedding Song (There Is Love)
41 - Jim Croce - Photographs & Memories
42 - Helen Jane Long - Porcelain
42b - Helen Jane Long - Passes
43 – Leah - Between Two Worlds  (from Celtic Song)
44 - 'The Parting' (from Celtic Song)
45 - Gene Kelly - The Heather On The Hill (from Brigadoon)
46 – Christopher Plummer – Edelweiss (from The Sound of Music)
47 - Bali Hai (from South Pacific)
48 - Sabbath prayer (from Fiddler on the Roof)
49 - Harve Presnell - They Call the Wind Maria (from Paint Your Wagon)
50 – Somewhere (from West Side Story)
51 - Rosemary Clooney – Tenderly
52 - Bing Crosby - My Girl's An Irish Girl (Single Version)
53 - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - Over The Rainbow & What A Wonderful World
54 - Loch Lomond (from Irish Roses- Women of Celtic Song)
55 - Bing Crosby - Danny Boy (Single Version)
56 - When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
57 - Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Krauss - Slumber My Darling
58 - Luciano Pavarotti - Schubert - Ave Maria
59 - Mario Lanza - The Lords Prayer
60 - Scottish Bagpipes - Funeral Song (Amazing Grace)
61 - The Irish Rovers - The Unicorn


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

REFLECTIONS on the big 5-0



On the eve of the big 5-0, I find myself struggling. Torn between past memories, good and bad, and future hopes and dreams. Thoughts and dreams never realized and those still on the horizon. Friendships and relationships come and gone, those still intact, and those yet to develop. Life choices and life lessons behind me, with more yet to present themselves. So many guiding me to the person I am today.

I am nowhere near the person I thought I'd be. I struggle every day with doubts, fears, and sadness for the things I haven't done, the life I haven't lived. It is hard to remember every day to focus on dreams for the future...all the things I have yet to do, the life I have yet to live. Books I've yet to read, places I've yet to go, people I've yet to meet, animals whose lives I've yet to touch...or have yet to touch mine.

Though I am unhappy on many levels with where I am in my life, I AM happy with WHO I am. No matter how alone I feel at times, I know my heart. I know what matters to me. I work daily to avoid being bogged down by the unimportant things in life. As I grow older, every day, I realize more and more that it is the simple things I can change. It is only the simple things that truly matter. My passions are endless and I can find such pleasure in so many things, but the simplest are the truest to my heart.

Though the lists are dwindling with each passing day -- friends and family that mean the world to me; animals who will always be the truest measure of my heart; art, film, music, and literature which allow my imagination to run wild, the exporer in me to travel where my body cannot, my spirit to feel enriched with lives I haven't directly lived; but, most importantly, continuing to learn and grow and to share my heart and my soul with the most important person in my life, my husband, Terrell...and never forgetting, for a single day, to be thankful for this second chance...and all the chances and days ahead.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I remember... 9/11

I remember. Literally waking up to breaking news reports of the first plane. Feeling sucker punched watching the chaos begin surrounding my family's true home, where my parents were born and raised and most of us born.

I remember the phone call with my best friend...that lasted the entire day, holding our breaths as the day unfolded. I remember, watching together as the reports came in of the Pentagon. Of the crashed plane in a field. Watching live, as the second plane hit. Watching those towers burn, then fall, full of people born of all walks of life, just going about their regular days, living their respective lives, with all the trials, tribulations, joys, sorrows, hopes, dreams, families extinguished in a series of acts of pure hate.

I remember the tears as they return to my eyes so many years later. I will never forget the words of the broadcasters - Anderson, Diane, so many others - doing their best to maintain composure as we all witnessed our world forever change, feeling helpless to stop those lives from being lost.

I remember watching the footage of the joy spreading through the hate-infected masses in the home countries of those who attacked, reveling in the pride of the unexpected success of their hate-fueled task. I remember struggling as hate welled up inside me, struggling against its will not to become them.

On this day, for the rest of my life, I choose to remember...the lives and hearts and souls lost on that day. Each individual person, be they a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a husband, a fiancee, a wife, a child, a teen, a grandmother. No matter who they were, they were someone...who deserved to live, who deserved a life, who deserved to be loved.

I remember the image during a morning show in the days following. A picture someone took as they headed down the stairs of one of the towers, of a firefighter, ax in hand, running UP the stairs as everyone stepped aside to let him through. I remember they aired that picture on national news, determined to find his family. Someone who knew him. To ensure his family, friends, loved ones KNEW what an amazingly brave man he was on this horrific day, like so many others. It worked...and his face is forever seared into my memory. I used to remember his name, but I've lost that...and it hurts.

I choose to remember all the Responders who fought the war they saw raging in front of them, not without fear, but in spite of it. Running head first into the dangers they knew and dangers unknown, not because they wanted to be heroes, but because they WERE. They were men and women, just like us. Fallible. Weak. Broken. With families, friends, lives just like ours. They go to work every day knowing so many dangers they may face, but never expecting something like the horrors of that day. But they are made of a fiber so many of us lack or keep hidden. A resolve that can be rallied when most of us want to shrivel and hide.

Being Brooklyn born, despite all my years in Atlanta, I am still a New Yorker at heart. Our ties go back to family members who came to America from Ireland, Italy. It will forever be HOME to me, just as Atlanta is my HOME after that. 

So many people lost their lives in the respective cities that day...and so many of us lost our innocence. We were a collective that day...no matter where we were from...and for so many days after, as we tried to make sense of things. How hate can become SO powerful. We REFUSED to let it enter our hearts. DESPITE our differences, we were ONE. We were Americans. Black, white, hispanic, asian, Muslim, Christian, Pagan, Euro-centric, Appalachian bred, Canadian, Native. It didn't matter. We became united. A force of strength and pride and love, What happened to us? Where did it go? How can we have let the lessons of that day slip away to the point that we are at odds and each others' throats over political, religious, and social differences? Is that the legacy the losses of that day have left us?

For those who lived through and witnessed that horrific day and the weeks that followed, I challenge you to remember. Choose to remember the way you felt that day. The next day. The weeks after. Choose to remember...that we all are individuals. We share this world. Together....and, together, we can make it strong again. If we choose to remember...




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Heartache > RIP Robin Williams

"O Captain, my Captain."



so here are my thoughts...for those looking to understand. This is simply my perspective both as a person suffering from similar mental challenges and a student of Psychology. Read it at will. I'm no expert, but to me, it's tragically simple...

Robin Williams was a comedic genius. He was a force of nature. He was an amazingly kind soul trapped in a body with a mind that never stopped racing.

We all know Robin was bipolar. He's talked about it. His mania is what drove his art. His comedy was exalted by the sheer ravings of a brilliant mind too fast for most "normal" humans to process. He was simply the most manic person I've ever seen or known (and I've known a lot) to still be walking around functional. Most people with mania at his level find themselves hospitalized or worse. It's that mania that gave us the beautiful and glorious and often psychotic-sounding rantings that left us in stitches and in awe for so many decades. It is what drove his art and allowed him to not only excel at it, but impact us on such a profound and memorable level.

But...with any bipolar, the state of mania can only be balanced by an equal or, in my experience, greater level of depression. If the mania is a 90, you can rest assured the crash and depressions will be a -110+. It's a vicious cycle and a battle all bipolars know all too well. Medication is often the only solution to find some semblance of functional balance to the chemical chaos in your body and mind.

In Robin's case, here is the problem. His mania fueled his art. It defined it. Medications would have stifled it. As so many bipolars do, you're torn b/w medications that stifle your mind, creativity, and emotions to function and letting it go and naturally channeling it into something creative or productive. The latter is how he worked. However, no one can maintain that kind of control over a mania that intense (coupled w/a brian so brilliant) 24x7 for an extended period. The crashes, as he has said, are debilitating.

As with many bipolars, especially in the creative arts world, it becomes a dance. Prescription medications to find a functional balance coupled with self-medication to try to control the highs and lows. He needed to be manic to perform, to interview...to be the Robin Williams we all "knew" and loved so deeply. In his off time, he had to be Robin Williams, the man, not the performer. Being able to turn on and off despite the chaos that is happening chemically in your brain.

Add an addictive personality to an extreme bipolar and you are looking at a flame who'll burn far more brightly than most until it finally doesn't have enough fuel left.

My heart aches so deeply for his loss but even more so for his pain. For a man who brought SO much joy, comfort, love, warmth, beauty, and genuine kindness to so many, it hurts my soul to know the depth of the pain and loneliness he faced. We've all heard him talk about his struggles. I wish I could known him and hugged away all his pain. I wish someone had been there to get him through one more night of that dreaded sadness. But mostly, I pray that he is finally at peace and his mind and generous heart and soul are now  calm.

We will miss you, Robin Williams. You were an artist, a philantropist, a healer, and a poet. Thank you. For everything, but mostly for the love of life you shared.

"Genie - you're free now..."