Monday, July 6, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life...the creativity of Pilar Pobil


Just posted on Susan Henderson's wonderful blog, my response to her question, "Who is your hero?"

While there are many people that I admire, there is one who stands out.

While Dr. Paul Farmer is an amazing person (see book, Mountains Beyond Mountains) who came from a very humble beginning to evolve into a man who has influenced and helped to re-shape the direction of the World Health Organization; while he has changed the way that we look at and treat aids and tuberculosis in Haiti and in prisons in the former Soviet Union, he is not at the top of my short list of heroes.

While a friend and former employer, Linda Dolny, was able to re-direct her life from divorced English teacher to a business woman who owns and leads a national leadership training company; while she is able to assist leaders from major companies all over the U.S. and Canada through their leadership transformation, she is not at the top of my list.

While there are so many heroes that I see and read about in everyday life, while I am inspired by every singe one of these people, the person who sits at the top of my short list of heroes is an artist in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Pilar Pobil, a woman who grew up on the Spanish island of Mallorca, who experienced the death of her father at age 7, whose own mother discouraged her learning and education, who met an American man on vacation in Mallorca, who married this man and had children with him and a life with him in Salt Lake City, this woman is my hero.

Pilar has encountered obstacles of all kinds throughout her life, and she has overcome all of them through some form of creative expression. She has educated herself by learning from others and from her experiences. In her mid-40s, after her children were all in school, she took up pottery. When the instructor couldn't give her all the attention and help she needed for throwing pots, she used her class time to develop her own style of amazingly beautiful small-scale sculptures. She exhibited, sold and developed quite a following. When she needed to grow creatively, she moved on to painting. Today, Pilar Pobil is one of the best-known artists in Utah, painting large canvas paintings and anything else that she sees. Her home is filled with walls, tiles, closet doors, tables, luggage and shoes...all on exhibit as a Pilar original work of art!

The University of Utah has purchased and commissioned several important works by Pilar Pobil, and they encouraged her to write a book about the stories of her life, which they published as "My Kitchen Table: Sketches from My Life". Oh, this is no 'little old lady', this is a vibrant and independent woman who lives with purpose and balance in her inspiring life. I read about her, I contacted her, we met and are now friends. Her life inspires me to take action towards the dreams in my own life.
And for an interview with Pilar Pobil, have a look at this.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Grimm & Grimmer

A collection of tales in the traditional style of the Brothers Grimm, with a twist of the dark and warped.

Featuring a strange and grim tale from our friend, Aurelio O'Brien, author of the humorous sci-fi novel, Eve. Aurelio's story is called Agony & Ecstacy Jones.

The following is from the "Grimm & Grimmer" website, where you can learn more about the book or make a purchase.

Back when folk tales and fairy tales were told as lore and not written down, these stories had an immediacy and were experienced rather than documented and shelved on acid-yellowing sheets of paper.This was both good and bad. Good, because the tales gained impact when recounted by professional bards with brandy voices and spellbinding charm. Stories could be honed and improved, updated and adapted to each audience. Bad, because tales might be lost altogether.Enter the Brothers Grimm, who, back in the early 17th century, dedicated themselves to collecting and transcribing folklore to the printed page, and saving it for posterity.But their collection of tales have grown so familiar that some of us wished to play the part of a bard again, to juice up the tales, and offer fresh adaptations.

This is the concept behind a new collection of short stories, Grimm & Grimmer, now available from Mundania Press. I participated in this collection with a contemporary fairy tale of my own told in the style of the Brother's Grimm, Agony & Ecstasy Jones. It will be available on Amazon soon, but you can pre-order and purchase it directly from Mundania Press now, where it is available in either a trade paperback or eBook formats.

Here's a quick rundown of the contents:
  • Inspector Timber and The Three Pigs by Gary K. Wolf. Creator of Toontown and Roger Rabbit, tackles Fairytale Land in this Three Little Pigs satire.

  • Agony & Ecstasy Jones by Aurelio O’Brien. Explore the magic land of Suburbia, where happiness and conformity can be achieved through miracle potions called Paxil and Ritalin!

  • Most Wonderful Dream by Paul E. Martens. Stan Booth said he’d give anything to be a successful author, but such claims should never be made aloud; especially when an elf happens to be within hearing range.

  • Rapugnent by Adrienne Jones. When the most beautiful woman in all the lands casts down her golden locks for men to climb, there’s GOT to be a catch.

  • The Man and the Clone of The Man by Carlos Hernandez. Life’s not exactly been a fairy tale? Why not start over, and watch yourself succeed?

  • Once Upon a Time in Alphabet City by Joel Best. Pinocchio’s gunning Luckies and knocking back bourbon at the bar when the fairy with the blue hair steps in from the street wearing a sheer day-glo blouse and hotpants that leave little to the imagination.

  • Snow White by Chris Cox. There’s never a prince around when you need one. Sometimes a girl’s just gotta rely on a shotgun and a methadone clinic.

  • Hans L and Greta L by D. Richard Pearce. If you’re gonna try to ditch a couple of kids in the urban jungle, make sure their daddy’s not the local mob boss, and that they don’t leave a trail of cash to find their way home.

  • Fair ‘n Square by Jefre Schmitz. Rags to riches never happens overnight, unless perhaps there are magical forces involved. But if you’re fresh out of magic, a hearty helping of illegal sabotage works just as well.

  • Betrayal by Darwyn Jones. They say beauty is skin deep, but what about purity? In this tale, the less than prudent are looking a bit dusky these days.

  • Jack My Razorback by Jake Allen. If you’re going to curse yourself with a mutant offspring, then send it packing to live in the forest, you might want to clear out before it comes back with a chip on its spiny shoulder.

  • Already There by Mike E. Purfield. Even with a perfect new fairy tale bride at your side, you should never grow so content as to fall asleep behind the wheel. The New Jersey Parkway is a bad place to wake up dead. Especially if you take the wrong exit on your way to Heaven.

  • The Other Side of the Desert by Jessica Murray. The legendary Lilith comes forth in modern times, revealing the real story of Adam and Eve, and this dark tale is no Garden of Eden.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Favorite" is a Verb? by Barry Parham

"Favorite" is a Verb?
A look into social networking sites, and why they may cause you to pass out from ennui

This is an earlier story from our wickedly witty wordsmith friend, Barry Parham. If it weren't for music, I'd say that Barry's writing is my number one addiction. Really, his writing is either going to become your best antidote to the depressing news of our times, or it's going to become the fastest way to say, "Them's fightin' words, pal!". Check it out, just to see what it does for you.

Here's another,
Things I've Learned from Television
It wouldn't be called the 'boob tube' if we could find a word that rhymes with 'idiot'.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Poetry Reading at Domestic Abuse Shelter

Courtesy of Alice Shapiro,

It was too early. So my sister and I sat down on a concrete stoop outside the gray, 4-story building catching a few late-day rays and watching remnant rush-hour traffic. It was small-town peaceful. We exchanged small talk in hushed tones — I suppose to not disturb this idyllic scene, but it was certainly polar opposite to what was coming next. My first poetry reading for domestic abuse survivors at a local shelter was about to begin.

I had been briefed before the reading with a stack of documents describing the signs of domestic abuse. It was chilling. At 6:30 PM we went inside. Now I was staring at 10 beautiful faces, wondering what I could possibly say that would make any difference. Of course I was there to give back to my community, but also I wanted to gain speaking experience in front of an audience. Since I signed a confidentiality agreement, I cannot divulge what was discussed at the reading, something akin to faux doctor-client privilege. But I knew the ladies were energized, perhaps encouraged, because they laughed at a poem I read and asked for a copy. It was called “Crime” about a childhood shoplifting experience.

Although it is early in my reading career, I have come away from this first experience with a joy and a satisfaction that poetry is both worthy and powerful.
---------------------------------------------------------- This is a link to the center's website, if you'd care to visit and learn more about their efforts to assist domestic abuse survivors.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Naked Voice

Yet again, I find myself compelled to share with you more on Maura. I just finished listening to a few of the songs off Maura O'Connell's new CD, Naked With Friends, and I cannot keep the joy to myself!

Maura O'Connell, a brilliant singer, has always had a strong voice and a skilled delivery. I hope that she's standing tall and proud now, a recording dream fully realized and a new CD just released. "Naked With Friends", brings to the ears of a modern and high-tech world the simplicity and beauty of music from an earlier world, the beauty of singing without musical accompaniment. You'll hear songs accompanied by singing, which gives as much support and framing as any orchestra. Quite possibly, you may not believe your ears; you may even begin searching the credits for instrumentalists! Well, you'll find the instrumentalists, but their instrument of choice is their voice. Aha!!!

"In interviews over the years, I'm always being asked why I don't play an instrument to accompany myself," says Maura, "or why don't I write songs. I've gathered the consciousness that singing should be just fine, that it is a viable talent on its own." And so true it is on "Naked", with Maura's strong voice and a cast of similarly experienced, well-trained and award-winning voices to who sing along with or provide a lovely background of support for Maura on the entire CD.
Among the guest singers are Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Kate Rusby, Paul Brady, Mary Black, Jerry Douglas, Tim O'Brien, Darrell Scott, Aoife O'Donovan (Crooked Still), Sarah Dugas (The Duhks), Mairéad Mhaorigh, Moya Brennan, Liam Bradley, Declan O'Rourke, and O'Connell's sister, Áine Derrane.

"On this album," O'Connell says, "I just wanted to capture the feeling of joy that comes from people singing together." And what amazingly, unbelievably glorious singing it is! Take a listen for yourself on Maura's MySpace page and see if you don't agree. Listen to "Shipbuilding" and let me know if you miss any instruments, go ahead, I dare you.

Maura has said, "A lot of people think every singer is someone's puppet. That they are not fully invested in the song--that they are at the whim of a producer or songwriter or a band. Singing has been denigrated like that for too long." When a singer like Maura O'Connell has a beautiful voice; when a talented singer knows HOW to sing, being unbound by the adornments of instruments and such, there appears a sparkling light in the sound, that we cannot see at any other time.

There is an expression I discovered a few years back in reading about a nun, musician and mystic, the Abbess Hildegard von Bingen, who described herself as "a feather on the breath of God". Surely, Maura's voice has been guided along as a feather on the breath of God!

The Blacksmith from on Vimeo.

You can buy the CD from the shop at , from i-tunes or at, where you can read my review of Naked With Friends.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Georgia Poet, Alice Shapiro, Calls On Her Poetic Muse.

Although Alice Shapiro doesn’t find her greatest inspiration from him, Leonard Cohen’s poems and song lyrics have been and are meaningful and inspiring to her.

The title of Shapiro’s latest book (available June 2), a collection of poems, draws from the Canadian-born poet and songwriter’s work.

In Cohen’s poem, which was later reworked as lyrics for his famous song, Anthem, Cohen observes [that]

There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Shapiro found inspiration in these words, enough to name her new book of poems Cracked. Alice told us what “the light” referenced in Cohen’s poem means to her. “It’s so many things—hope, love, God and anything that reveals the truth, whether positive or negative.” For Alice, the inspiration managed to get in; this collection of poems is the truth that she is speaking and sharing with the rest of us.

So, what is it that a poet writes about today? In the last two years, Alice Shapiro has written about what she calls “timeless topics”, those things that we all experience, such as courage and endurance in the trials of life.

Today I moved. From room to room
chores completed, deeds done,
work gained its proper foothold.
The battle ‘tween flesh and spirit yielded
as I mused on prayers in the midst
of motion…

These lines, from Alice’s poem, Supplication, give us an example of the simple daily tasks that we’re all familiar with and the battles that we are faced with in our own lives.

And another of Alice’s poems from the new book and fresh off the presses gives us a glimpse into the struggles of a writer’s life.

Trista’s Lull
She moans, “You can’t force it”
but you can force it.
You can get down in the dirt,
push your fingers to make marks,
embark upon an effort,
climb up that ladder,
slide down that slide.
For when the rhythm jumps
out of its condensed container
you can visually flash on the soup
and eat it. Or write it.
Your choice: letting the longing
culminate into words, or action.
Work and dissipation,
or a pledge to paper,
silent venting which retains
humility, grace, honor.

Alice, who lives in Douglasville, Georgia, grew up in and lived most of her life in Long Island, New York. She began expressing herself through writing at an early age, when she would write cowboy poems for her siblings to act out in the back yard of their family home.

Following a career in art, Alice Shapiro returned to writing in 1985, studying under William Packard, founder of "The New York Quarterly" and professor at NYU. Her poetry credits include a chapbook, Seasons of the Heart with Scars Publications (2007), Silent Actor, New Verse News, The Smoking Poet and the anthologies Poetry Connoisseur (third prize winner), Antologia del Nuovo Mondo, and Thank You, Gorbachov!

She has also written two plays that were produced, In The Beginning and Four Voices. She is the recipient of the Bill C. Davis Drama Award for her play, Four Voices.

David Axelrod, the poet laureate of Suffolk, Long Island, has written the preface for Shapiro’s book, Cracked: Timeless Topics Of Nature, Courage and Endurance, and will be reading with her June 21 at the Douglasville Cultural Arts Center. The performance begins at 3:00 p.m. and is free and open to the general public.

And which poets’ work does this poet read? “Some of the poets I like to read,” says Alice, “are Wallace Stevens, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich and W. H. Auden, but my favorite is Gerard Manley Hopkins. He is so bold and musical! I also try to put music into my poems.” she adds and gives an example from his poem, He mightbe slow:

He mightbe slow and something feckless first,
Not feck at first, and here no harm,
But earnest, always earnest, there the charm

It has been said that it’s best to listen to the rhythm in a poem, sometimes, and just let the music of the words wash over you. In poetry, it is often the same as looking at an abstract painting. We should ask, how does this make me feel, and not always what does this mean. Naturally, we’d like to know, for Alice Shapiro, what is poetry? Alice likes to quote Plato, who said, “Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.”

“Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote a wonderful poem” Shapiro tells us, “describing many different facets of what poetry is in his "Americus, Book I" and simply titled III. One of his great lines is, ‘Poems are lifesavers when your boat capsizes.’ That pretty much sums up my writing in the new book,” she adds.

For your own life-saving copy of Alice Shapiro’s book, sign on to on June 2 or visit Shapiro’s website,, where you can pre-order a copy.
All poems, courtesy of Alice Shapiro, ©2009 All rights reserved.
Other related links:
Douglasville Cultural Arts Center,
David B. Axelrod, Poet Laureate, Suffolk, Long Island,
The New York Quarterly,
This post was previously published in Moonshine Journal of the Arts.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Maura O'Connell Sings Naked

Maura's New CD "Naked With Friends" to be released June 16
Maura O’Connell to Release Naked With Friends
A Cappella Disc Features Stellar Guest Vocalists

(NASHVILLE, TENN.) April 21, 2009 -- Long known as an expert interpretive singer, Maura O’Connell spent nearly two years working on a project she’s been wanting to do for a very long time. The result is Naked With Friends, O’Connell’s first a cappella album, which will be released by Sugar Hill Records June 16, 2009.

“The idea of doing a record like this has been with me a very long time, “O’Connell says. “I’m always being asked why I don’t play an instrument or why I don’t write songs. I’ve gathered the consciousness that singing should be just fine, that it is a viable talent on its own.”

The Grammy-nominated singer put on a producer’s hat for this project, co-producing with Gary Paczosa. As fans have come to expect, O’Connell has picked powerful songs that blur genre lines. Five traditional songs – in both English and Irish – are paired with works by the likes of Joan Armatrading, Darrell Scott, Cheryl Wheeler, Janis Ian and Holly Near. The County Clare native has been singing Armatrading’s “The Weakness in Me” since starting out in folk clubs years ago; Cheryl Wheeler’s “Arrow” has been a favorite for nearly two decades; and although she could not recall the title of “Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida,” the song’s first line and melody stuck with her since hearing it on the radio many years ago.

When it came time to add guest vocalists to the mix, O’Connell once again showed her diversity of style, inviting Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Paul Brady, Mary Black, Tim O’Brien, Darrell Scott, Sarah Dugas (The Duhks), Aoife O’Donovan (Crooked Still), Mairéad Ni Mhaorigh, Moya Brennan, Liam Bradley, Declan O’Rourke, the Settles Connection, Kate Rusby and O’Connell’s younger sister, Aine Derrane. Longtime collaborator and ace Dobro man Jerry Douglas is featured singing in Irish on “Mo Sheamuseen.”

“I’ve learned an awful lot making this record,” O’Connell says. “The experience has taught me so much about the value and the power of a great song. On its own, a good song has power, poetry and tragedy in it.”

Used with permission.

While the following video doesn't feature a song from the new cd, the beginning features Maura's gorgeous voice and magnificent singing... naked. Just a taste of the kind of singing we'll all be enjoying on the new release.

Mary Oliver's Newest Book--Poetry That Speaks To My Heart

FROM "Red Bird Explains Himself" by Mary Oliver
"...and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable
beauty of heaven
where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes,
and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart.”

Mary Oliver is a favourite poet of mine. She speaks of the beauty of nature, of love, of connections to things and people and of the fears and hopes of all mankind (humankind, womankind...take your pick).

I was first introduced to her work by a close friend, through the poem "The Journey". This was instantly one of my favourite poems--love at first sound. The problem for me was that this was my first, and as firsts seem to do, it set the standard for the rest of her work. Until Mary's newest book, "Red Bird", I had not found another poem to live up to the emotions and pull of the first of her poems that I'd fallen in love with.

Now I have a book filled with poems that meet the standard of my first Mary Oliver poem. I hope that you will seek out this new book and I trust that the poems will be as moving for you as they are for me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I have grown up in a Greek family and in the traditions of Greece and the Greek Orthodox Church. No matter that I have lived most of my life in Australia and the United States, the cultural traditions which are most meaningful to me have always been those of my family and of the country in which I was born and lived in until I was eight.

One of the most important holy days in the Greek Orthodox church calendar is Easter. There is fasting involved, there is study of the events leading up to Good Friday and the resurrection, there is a turning inward for reflection and there is tradition! There are the beautiful and spiritually uplifting services, prayers and preparations; then there are the traditional foods.

Each family has its own timing for when to bake the Easter breads and cookies, who will host the Easter dinner and who will dye the eggs red. The traditional Easter dinner will include a leg or shoulder of lamb dressed with garlic, oregano, olive oil and lots of fresh lemon juice. The lamb is roasted slowly, with the potatoes added at just the right time. In my family we add fresh artichokes too. This dish is the prize of the Easter table, great care and pride having been invested in the art of cooking the first meat dish since the fasting began.

While I can show you how to roast the lamb, I find that the intricacies of roasting and basting and turning the meat are difficult to pass on to others via words. I offer, instead, for your cooking and dining pleasure, a recipe for grilled leg of lamb that will give you the flavour of the traditional roasted dinner. Instead of roasting, we will use the more familiar method of grilling. Let me know how you do. If you are hungry for more, keep checking my book download page on for new books, featuring recipes and recipes with stories of how food is featured in our lives.

Process for Greek-style grilled lamb:
-Remove plastic cover and discard.
2-Cut off the netting (which is designed to keep the deboned lamb in place during roasting) and discard.
3-With a very sharp knife, cut the deboned leg of lamb into two or three slabs. The objective is to have evenly sized slabs, so that they grill evenly and in the same period of time.
4-Depending on the thickness of each slab, you will also have to cut horizontally through the slabs but not all the way through. This would be similar to slicing though a thick pork chop in preparation for stuffing; the difference here is that you will cut all the way through three of the edges, leaving the fourth. What you will end up with is a slab that is twice as big, but thinner.
5-On the fat side of each slab, slice away any imprinted fat. It is normal to have the fat imprinted with a food-safe dye—this is just text which useful to butchering and packaging at the pre-packaging end of processing the meat and means nothing to the cook.
6-Again, with a very sharp knife, cut through the fat in diagonal lines. This will allow the marinade to penetrate through to the meat and will also assist in cooking the fat a little faster and provide for more even cooking.
7-Combine all listed marinade ingredients using a whisk.
8-Season lamb on all sides with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, place in a large freezer bag, pour in the marinade and seal the bag. Massage the lamb, turning the bag periodically, so that the marinade coats all pieces evenly.
9-Place bag in the refrigerator for 8 hours or longer. I usually do this the night before I plan to grill the lamb and put it on the grill for dinner. This gives me anywhere from 16-20 hours. Be sure to check the bag a couple of times, massaging and turning the bag each time.

Despina’s Greek Grilling Marinade and Dressing Sauce:
There are many variations of this authentic and traditional marinade, the essentials being lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, dry oregano, salt and pepper. I make one batch for marinating and a second batch for dressing the sliced lamb.

1 t. dry oregano 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1/2 small yellow or red onion, finely chopped 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

When you’re ready to grill:
Remove the bag of marinating lamb from the refrigerator one hour prior to placing on the grill, to allow the meat to warm up a little. This will help the cooking process go a little faster.

Prepare your grill; when it’s very hot, place each slab of meat directly onto the grill, fat side down. You’ll cook this side longer than the other, to be sure that the fat cooks properly and gets a little crisp. Turn on the other side and cover the grill. This will slow down the cooking, but allow the meat to gather a little more of the smoky flavor. I recommend using a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest part of the slab for checking to see when the lamb is ready. We like ours medium rare to rare, so we want to be sure it’s rare when it comes off the grill and then we allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes, covered with foil. At this point, I slice each slab diagonally (sometimes referred to as across the grain) and place the lamb slices on a platter. I drizzle with the dressing and serve at once.

Two traditional Greek dishes that I find complementary to the grilled lamb are:

Greek Roasted Potatoes
2-3 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed well, skin on (you may substitute other potatoes, but Yukons have a really good flavor)
1 T. dry oregano or 1 cup fresh oregano, chopped
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to suit your taste
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed with the back of a knife and chopped finely
¼ cup lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup water

Cut potatoes lengthwise into quarters and, in a large roasting pan, toss with seasonings. Place in a pre-heated 400F oven on the bottom shelf. Depending on the size of the potatoes, cooking time will be from 1 hour to 1 hour and 30-40 minutes. You will toss the potatoes again once or twice during the cooking. You will know that they are done when a thin sharp knife inserted into the largest potato goes in and out easily and the potatoes have browned well and evenly. Each potato should be a little crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.

Greek Lettuce Slaw
Do not dress this salad until just before serving.
1 head iceberg lettuce (it’s the perfect flavor for this salad, with a sweet and refreshing taste, and it holds up well), sliced thinly. You want to approach this as if you were making a very coarse cabbage slaw.
1 medium yellow onion, peeled, cut in half and sliced very thin
Sea salt to taste
¼ cup white vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

If you want to be authentic, follow the Greek tradition of serving feta cheese and Kalamata olives on the side, along with slices of a crusty loaf of bread. Locally, our grocery stores offer a nice variety. I slice the loaf almost all the way through and place in a pre-heated 375F oven for 5-10 minutes to get the loaf properly crisped up. I live in a small southern town. If you live in a major metropolis and have access to fresh bread, go hog-wild and serve up your favourite rustic and super-crusty artisan loaf!

You can also follow the Greek Easter tradition of cracking red-dyed eggs.

Other Interesting Sites:

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE LEFTOVER LAMB? Serve the sliced meat in pita bread with chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce and a generous dollop or two of tsatsiki sauce.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

March 26 Wear Purple In Support of Epilepsy Awareness

As the person formerly known as a young girl with epilepsy, I am wearing purple tomorrow to show my support of epilepsy awareness. This is easy for me--purple is my favourite colour. Purple makes me happy, it is complimentary to my olive complexion and it makes people want to say things like, "Wow! You look really good in purple" or "That's a great colour for you".

Wearing purple is easy. Epilepsy is difficult.

My epilepsy announced itself during one of the hardest times that my parents ever had to endure. Theyd made the decision to migrate from Greece to Australia for the opportunities to work hard and make a better way of life for their young family--Gregory, Demetra and their two young girls, Despina and Antonia. Times were tough, even in a country filled with opportunities for all hard-working people. We had lived with relatives, lived in a house that we shared with a number of other families and we were now living in a two-room shack built on cinder blocks. It was great! It even had a tin roof.

While my sister and I experienced absolutely no hardship and felt loved and appreciated, our parents experienced difficulty after difficulty. The four of us slept in the same bed--the parents at one end and the two young sisters, ages 7 and 9, slept at the other end. It was in that bed that we all woke up to the new addition in our family. Despina was having an epileptic seizure, but the problem was...nobody knew what it was. We were all scared.

What probably lasted only a minute or less, felt like an eternity of not being able to coordinate what was in my brain with any part of my body. I felt as if I could not breathe. I could hear in my head the things that I was trying to say, but the words were never spoken--my mouth did not work, no matter how hard I worked to make it speak the thoughts in my head. It was not good.

I was taken to the family doctor who recommended a specialist; from that point on, every visit to the specialist was a special occasion for me. My mother, an accomplished seamstress, found a way to scavange enough fabric to make me a new dress--a party dress--and I'd get dressed up and head off to the specialist with her. It was special treatment from the special doctor and from my ever-so-special mother.

The new member of our family--this epilepsy, this spoiled rotten brat who demanded attention at the most inappropriate times--was with us for a long time. Each year EEGs (electro-encephalo-graphs)were conducted with probes glued to my head, there was medicine to control the "shorts" in my brain activity and there was the fear that my parents tried to hide. I, on the other hand, felt normal, average and as if this was nothing extraordinary. Isn't it wonderful to be a kid and take even the most difficult physical challenges in stride?

After a number of seizure-free years, I was weaned off the medicines and uneventfully slid into my new life as a person without epilepsy. It turns out that young girls with the hereditary form of epilepsy can often become seizure-free once their hormonal activity turns them into young women. Rha! Rha! for the "monthly curse"!!!

I've never felt sorry for myself. I'm telling my story so that others know it's okay, that children are resilient and that life goes on smoothly and normally, even with a difficult health challenge. Life really IS good.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Playing at Susan Henderson's

From, Susan Henderson's fun and lit-savvy blog. Thanks for letting me play in the park, Susan.

The question of the month has to do with which bookstores you visit or use, be it the big boys of the internet or the Indie stores. This was my post.

What is your bookstore buying habit? Feel free to comment here...or check out Susan's blog at

I'm at for the ease of it. I live in a small town with two "real" bookstores and one mall store. One of the bookstores doesn't have the variety I'd like, but the 2nd one is great with a wonderful staff. Neither of the two stores has the social ambience that I like, and I'm usually so busy that I hardly ever visit. The mall store...I cannot remember the last time I visited.

When I'm in Greenville, SC, (one hr. away) I love going to B&N. I'll take my time visiting and I usually spend way too much money. Going to Greenville is usually a multi-stop day, so it's a planned event and I never feel rushed or too busy to stop at B&N; it's also close to the wine store that we buy from, so it's convenient.

My favourite bookstore, however, is in Asheville, NC. It's called Malaprop's and they're also online. I LOVE Asheville downtown and Malaprop's is right there in the middle of all the other stuff that I love (good eats, weird-looking people, art galleries, coffee shops, primitive teak furniture mall, lots of live music venues, an Indian restaurant and a beer garden!!!), so there's a big pull. Asheville's about 2 hours away, so it's another of those planned visits. If I lived in Asheville, you'd be able to track me down at Malaprop's. They have lectures and discussions and author appearances going on all the time!

Usually, with, I'm buying used books (so I can afford more) or I'm looking for friends' books that I might not find at the local stores. There's also that convenience thing (again!), which means that I can look for or order a book at 3 in the morning, if that's when I'm in the mood or have the time.That's the good, the bad and the ugly of it. Convenience wins most of the time. :(

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Holding On to My Mayonnaise...what's THAT all about?

I found the title for my food-based memoir. It came to me this weekend, on the drive home from Atlanta.

See if you find this intriguing enough?

Holding On to My Mayonnaise

There is a clue hidden in this photograph. Stay tuned for more information. It has to do with cultural identity and cooking and people and love and death and all that stuff sandwiched in between.

Are you more confused now?

Are you more curious? I hope you will check back soon to see what it's all about.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Working on Jeffery Callaham's release of fine art giclee prints and postcards--a new series called "ALL ABOUT LOVE". Go to his site for more information...soooon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Poem For the Inauguration

"Praise song for the day" by Dr. Elizabeth Alexander.

This is a link to The New York Times posting of the poem.

Emotions are worn on the sleeves of all people who attended today's presidential inauguration. People were seen crying openly, some saying that they needed to share this day with a community; everyone has high hopes and expectations of a man who seems to be kind, caring, intelligent and ready to help heal his country--our country.

With such emotions and expectations in full bloom, it would be difficult for most people to follow the new president's speech with a meaningful and inspirational poem. Ms. Alexander stood bravely, took time to compose herself and did her best.

I was disappointed in the reading, but I imagine that she was working hard to fight back the emotions that we've all been feeling AND the emotions of having something to say about this particular day. Her delivery and voice did not have the POWER to deliver what we all expected. Certainly, many others have the voice and the presence that you don't learn, but inherit in a gene, to have read this with greater effect, but, brava, Ms. Alexander, for the courage to read! I could not have done it.

The poem? It reminds me of the introduction to James Agee's A Death in the Family, his essay, "Knoxville: Summer of 1915", which was also set to music and soprano voice by American composer, Samuel Barber. Barber's essay is an all-time favourite of mine and, with my ear, it reads like a poem, which is perhaps why it seemed appropriate to set to music. Ms. Alexander's poem brings Agee's essay to mind in that it speaks to the simple things in life, the every-day-taken-for-granted chores and activities, and the connection to one another that we feel in our daily doing of these tasks.

To my ear, "Praise song for the day" presents us with this simple stuff that we are all familiar with; simple words that we can all recognize; and a simple but moving message that we can all appreciate.

A great poem? No, I don't think so.

Appropriate for the day and for the way people all over our country feel? Yes, probably so.

See what you think. James Agee's essay and introduction for his book follows.

We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville Tennessee in the time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.

...It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds' hung havens, hangars. People go by; things go by. A horse, drawing a buggy, breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt: a loud auto: a quiet auto: people in pairs, not in a hurry, scuffling, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually, the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard, and starched milk, the image upon them of lovers and horsemen, squaring with clowns in hueless amber. A streetcar raising its iron moan; stopping; belling and starting, stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan and swimming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past, the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks; the iron whine rises on rising speed; still risen, faints; halts; the faint stinging bell; rises again, still fainter; fainting, lifting, lifts, faints foregone: forgotten. Now is the night one blue dew.
Now is the night one blue dew, my father has drained, he has coiled the hose.
Low in the length of lawns, a frailing of fire who breathes...

Parents on porches: rock and rock. From damp strings morning glories hang their ancient faces.
The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums.

On the rough wet grass of the back yard my father and mother have spread quilts. We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there.…They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine,...with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.

After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.