In the Simplest Terms, or the Life of Brian (Johnson)


It was John Hughes movie night with Nick a couple of months back. I couldn’t believe he was about to graduate high school and had never seen some of the beloved coming of age movies. We picked up National Lampoon’s Vacation with Rusty, Anthony Michael Hall, and then segued into The Breakfast Club where we saw him a bit grown. John Hughes really did tell some great high school stories. Who can forget the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal?

I was transported to my own high school experiences, about 5 years before this movie was released.  I didn’t need a Zimbio quiz to find out which character I was, it was very evident. 1978. My friends and I were heading to Burnet Park for Senior Skip Day, but instead of the beer my friends procured at the corner store up near the park, or the pot (I never did know where it came from), I bought my 2 cans of root beer in a paper bag and walked into the woods for a day of goofing off. Nerd? Goody Two-shoes? You betcha.

High school in the late 70’s was a good life. I was on the ‘smart’ track in school and was friendly with the other kids in those classes, but my friends were from the inner city neighborhood I lived in, and we were loyal. Don’t get me wrong, there was drama and gossip and infighting, but overall they were some of the most supportive people I could have been with at that time. In the group were brains, athletes, basket cases, criminals, and even a princess or two.

Last week a story ran in our hometown newspaper about my high school closing it’s doors after 40 troubled years. Since it opened in 1975, George W Fowler High School has been plagued with infrastructure and financial problems, and problems with the students, many who are poverty stricken and face violence every day of their lives, both in school and at home.

So many times over the years I would see someone’s face change when I would proudly state I had graduated from Fowler. They would look at me with pity or surprise or even contempt. I will say this, I had some talented teachers and fun friends and great memories. Yes, our alma mater was cheesy (written to the tune of Elvis’ Love Me Tender) and we may not have had a marching band to cheer our sports teams on. I never even knew about what a homecoming weekend was all about. But we have spirit and drive and determination (OK, you caught me. I was a cheerleader.) G. W. Fowler High School gave me a great start, ultimately earning three different advanced degrees and now I have a productive and amazing life. Fowler grads matter. And today the last class of Fowler will graduate.

I hope that the reincarnation of Fowler will be successful and continue to develop determined, driven students. It will now be known as the Public Service Leadership Academy, with career-focused programs where students will have to apply to attend. Maybe a school with a focused curriculum will be a great rebirth. I have a friend who teaches at ITC (Institute of Technolgy @Syracuse Central), in Syracuse, and he loves teaching the city students. I hope that under Jaime Alicea’s guidance students at PSLA will not just survive, but thrive.

Do not go gentle into that good night, Fowler graduates. Shine and sparkle and do good things. Show people what we are made of. Be good, kind people who do not settle for injustice and the status quo. Be proud. I know I am.


“You see us as you want to see us—in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal. Does that answer your question?” – Brian Johnson in The Breakfast Club


There are two vacation places I love to return to year after year. There is a common theme, the word Sagamore. The Sagamore Bridge takes me to Cape Cod, a fave destination from the day my friend Jeanette took me on a much needed day of R & R when we lived at Westfield State College. The other is Great Camp Sagamore in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate NY. My mom has talked about this amazing great camp for years now. Opposites, ocean and mountain, but in each case, a different Route 28 will take me there.




Cape Cod is a bit of a trek from Syracuse, down the Thruway, over the Hudson River, crossing at the highest elevation on the Appalachia trail where it intersects with the Mass Pike, past the exit for Westfield State College, then by the Worcester exits to Route 495, where the sign says Cape Cod, but it’s actually almost an hour before you get close. Once I hit sand on the side of the highway, I know the long drive was worth it! Once over the Sagamore Bridge, I hit Route 28 and enjoy the drive into the tourist trap that is West Yarmouth. The last leg of the journey includes docking at my fave lunch spot on the water for my fried clam sandwich and summer ale.

My Cape pal Judy gets the same cottage every year (in June before the season gears up and then in September once the summer people clear out) near Chatham and she opens it up to her friends. Since I am the one who re-introduced her to the Cape all those years ago, she always asks me back. She and I spend most of our time reading (on the beach or on the porch or in the cottage) for hours.  Depending on who else has reservations with her for that week, there is also dining out and shopping and often some kind of a ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket for more beach and food and shopping.


14124501_10209802875736186_2021409121352617601_oWhen I come to the Cape with my nephews we head to the state park and if we are lucky we have a yurt where we don’t have to worry about rain and have electricity to charge our devices and watch movies every night. The beach of choice is Scusset Beach where there are either big waves to body surf or quiet water where a fun sandbar appears during low tide. There is mini golf and ice cream and of course the inflatable water park every year.



The other road I travel is the one that takes me to Great Camp Sagamore. Chick and Bryan introduced me, they have volunteered to help open and close the camp for guests for almost 20 years now. It is a gorgeous drive to Adirondack Park, driving down Route 28 through towns where my dad’s family lived over 100 years ago. Things are lush and thick and green and so different from what this city girl sees every day!  We stop at the Old Forge Hardware Store, then we’re off to Raquette Lake and the Tap Room, named so because there is only one tap (duh). There’s a long drive down a private road (about 4 miles, I think) gets us to the gate that has to be opened, usually by the newbie in the group.


This was the vacation spot for the Alfred Vanderbilt family since the 1910s. As with other camps of that time period, it is much more of a resort than a camp. Back in the day it was like Downton Abbey, but in the mountains. Let’s just say that these days I am allowed to eat in the grand dining room and perform in the playhouse, but back then I would have been one of the Collins’ kids polishing the bowling pins for the outdoor bowling alley. Now I help with the gardening and raking, and sometimes in the dish room, in exchange for staying the weekend. There are fun people to work with and play with and joke with and there is always someone new every time. I only see these people a couple of times a year but it feels like coming home.




There is so much more I could share, but the fog is clearing and I need to be on the beach. My bag is packed with snacks and books and my sunglasses, which I hope I will need today. I am sure we will shop and stop for a beverage on some sunny deck. I love vacation!



Photo credits: Judy Carr, Linda Lowen, and Chick Rubenau

Just Another Day In Paradise

January 20, 2017. The day that so many of my friends and family have been dreading. It is another grayish day in Syracuse. Mornings like this are nothing new to us here in the Salt City and we still rise every day and go try to find some joy. I have been feeling unsettled all week and everything I have been paying attention to in the media has not been helping. So this morning I sat in my warm house and had a hot breakfast, took a hot shower and got ready for a job that provides me with a living wage and health care and vacation time. I thought about how I am living the American Dream. But really, what is the American Dream? I am fairly sure that just about every writer around will be posting about this today. This is a day that will go down in history, no matter what comes tomorrow and the next day and the next…everyone I know has strong thoughts and opinions about what will happen during the next four years.

Many, including myself, are staying away from the news and social media today. Friends are planning to attend one of the many marches being held across the country tomorrow. I think the people who think as I do forget that there are many others who are looking at this day as one of victory, including some in my own extended family. There will be tens of thousands on the Mall cheering our 45th president, entertainers will perform and balls will be held, and everyone there will be looking forward to all the things he has promised to do. I do not understand why this is happening but I try to be respectful of their opinions. My best hope is that he will not be able to fulfill every promise made on the campaign trail.

My Facebook feed has been full of posts about Black Friday and about all the programs that are in jeopardy and the civil liberties that are being threatened. I myself feel like we are living in an alternate universe where each subsequent cabinet nominee is less qualified than the nominee announced the day before. It seems surreal and some of us are just waiting to wake up from this bad dream. But it is not a dream, it is our new reality. Many have been wringing their hands unsure of how to proceed, hoping against hope that this day would not come. Now that it has, it is time to stand up and fight.

I will turn the news on after the weekend and watch very closely. I will share my opinions and raise my voice and fight for the rights of those who cannot speak. I will live as good and as gracious a life as my parents have taught me to. I will continue to support those in my community who help those in our city who need a helping hand and a kind word. My family is safe and happy and poised to celebrate yet another milestone birthday (this time the 50th of the twins!) Cloaked in white privilege we will live to be safe and happy another day. And I will try to make the world a safer place for the kids in my life and all the kids, and elderly, and immigrants, and marginalized people in our country, all those who need to be covered.

When I find myself in times of trouble, I turn to The Beatles. I am not suggesting Let It Be, but a much more hopeful song. As the sun tries to break through the clouds, let me leave you with this song of hope and light. Peace.

If I Had A Million Dollars…

cropped-100_1604.jpg#GivingTuesday. I have seen some really worthy organizations tagged on my Facebook feed today and it got me thinking, who would I support and donate to if I won the lottery? As anyone who knows me would guess, I already have a plan. Hey, you never know! In no particular order, here are some of the groups I would support. No doubt you have seen or heard me talk about them. In lieu of actually winning the lottery, I do support these organizations now I whatever way I can. If enough drops of water come together, they can form a really big wave!


We grew up on the Near West Side of Syracuse and my brother Joe spent his teenage years playing basketball across the street from our house, in Skiddy Park. He grew up to be a PE teacher. As an educator, he struggled for ways to help his city school students rise above circumstances and be successful. He got his inspiration from Joe Ehrmann’s book, Season of Life. Joe started an intramural basketball program with an educational component in the middle school he was teaching in, and it has now become a multidimensional program in several schools in the city school district. The guys participate in a variety of community service projects and have had some great guest speakers during their weekly chalk talks. There’s also a summer program with great academic successes. You can find them on Facebook:

Here is a link to his website:


I mentioned IMFK a couple of blogs ago. John and his wife Leigh Ann started this ministry helping the homeless in Syracuse. They bring hot food, basic necessities, and fellowship to their friends on the streets. If you are looking for a creative holiday gift for someone, consider a pasta basket featuring their homemade Taste and See Pasta Sauce (available at most Wegmans stores), or a breakfast basket with their coffee and maple syrup.  These are all available at their storefront at 501 Hawley Avenue (check their link below for hours.) Or if you have clothing (especially for children and teens) or household items to help start a new home, they always take donations. You can find them on Facebook:

Here is their website:


Several homeless people now have comfortable homes thanks to the organization Andrew Lunetta started a couple of years ago. He befriended some of these guys through the Brady Faith Center and the cycling program he started there, Pedal To Possibilities. He was discouraged that they didn’t have safe, affordable housing and he wanted to do something about it. Now there are five homes on the south side, near where I spent my elementary school years down the street from his mom Cathy. Our families have been linked for about 50 years now and I am so happy to be able to shout about his good heart and the drive to make his world a little better. I was at the ribbon cutting for the latest three homes earlier this month and hope to get a chance to help as six more are started on the west side of town. There are many wonderful people and organizations who have donated time, materials, and skills to make these homes. You can find A Tiny Home For Good on Facebook:

Here’s their website:


MIchael DeSalvo and Nick Orth have been supporting and ministering to people with AIDS for almost 25 years, in the tradition of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement. They open their home and their hearts to those who are ill and sometimes dying and almost always don’t have any other options for safe, loving care. Their house guests don’t pay anything to stay there, and their lives are richer because of the time with Michael and Nick.  There are several fundraising opportunities throughout the year, but they could always use more help. They have a delicious homemade dinner to help raise money on the last Wednesday of every month and it is a gathering of some of the most amazing and loving people you can imagine, and the food is as wonderful as you could imagine it to be. Here is a link to their Facebook page:


The list doesn’t end for me there. I would love to start scholarships for the Syracuse city school students to go to college. I would donate money to 100 Black Men of Syracuse, and to the Huntington Family Center, and to St. Lucy’s and all their ministires I would send money to #standingrock and to refugee settlement programs and to Planned Parenthood. I would love to start a foundation that would be able to support all sorts of causes I believe in. But for now, I will support those causes close to my heart and encourage my friends to do the same. Happy giving.

Disclaimer: My lack of tech savvy may be in evidence here with the Facebook links. Thank you for your patience as I continue to learn my craft.

Things I Am Thankful For

Number one on my thankful list is always my family. I know how lucky I am to have both my parents still living and in good health. I have six brothers and sisters that I love to spend time with and get to see more often than most.  I am lucky in so many ways. I am employed by a company who stays closed on Thanksgiving, I own a beautiful home, and I have such amazing friends in several different circles of my life. So what am I doing to celebrate all of these blessings on Thanksgiving? Sitting home alone.

Don’t cry for me, Argentina. This situation is totally by choice. I am a proud singleton. I have loved the concept since the very first Bridget Jones book, long before anyone ever heard Renee Zellweger say it. Don’t get me wrong, I am still waiting for mister right, that chance to connect with someone in a meaningful way and to share my crazy life, but in the meantime, I am embracing that single life.

I was not always this zen. In the 90’s I was the typical 30 something, waiting for my life to start after I found ‘the guy’ and settled down. I spent more holidays than I care to admit secretly resentful of my siblings and their spouses, having Christmas presents and Valentines and someone to kiss on New Year’s Eve. Holidays are fun with the Horans (isn’t everything a little more fun with us?) but there was always a little bit of sadness. Add to that the retail life I have been embroiled in since 1995, and I was exhausting myself with all the merriment.

100_0637I started a couple of holiday traditions that feed my soul and make me feel festive. I started taking the boys on Christmas Eve eve so their parents could prepare for the holiday and I could get some cuddle time around the Christmas tree.100_0636






For my family stocking stuffers I would thoughtfully pick magazines for each individual family member (no easy feat with 15 to 18 to choose for.) I would purchase a new Christmas CD and DVD to add to my collection every season. I would buy a new pair of pajamas to wake up in Christmas morning.

The paradigm shift came in 2004, after my grandmother died. I had some money set aside and decided that I would spend Christmas pampering myself in a fancy hotel room. I booked a luxurious suite at the Doubletree Hotel for Christmas. I loaded a cooler with brushetta and goodies from the olive bar at Wegmans, wine, candles, and a bag with books and magazines and went straight from work after we closed the doors at 6 at Barnes & Noble.

I spent the evening watching movies, reading magazines that had piled up, ordering room service (including creme brulee) and just chilling. Then Christmas morning I woke up in my new pajamas and then started the relaxing all over again! I did call my family at their gathering and got my fill of family loving…all from the comfort of my suite. Another night of sleeping in luxurious hotel sheets and I woke up the next morning feeling so refreshed. Then my boys came to visit me and we went swimming in the hotel pool.

Ever since that holiday, my family doesn’t worry about me being alone or beg me to come and spend the holidays with their families and in laws. They understand that the best way I can be grateful for all I have is to let me spend the time alone refueling.

There have been so many fun thanksgivings that I am grateful for in my life. My friends Jen and Kevin have taken me in for several Thanksgivings in Ossining, New York (and they even indulged me that first time in their hometown when I wanted to see the prison I had read about all my life, you know,  the ‘big house’ which is ‘up the river’.) I have spent more than one holiday with Patty and her family in Queens (where I learned how to parallel park only because I absolutely had to) and then there was the Thanksgiving I made Cornish game hens with all the fixings with my friend Sahar. Add to this the many times I have had turkey with my family, and I am one lucky girl. These days my perfect Thanksgiving is staying home and watching holiday movies all day long. Today was another one of those perfect days. Here’s hoping that you have just as many things to be grateful for in your lives. Peace.


We Will Rise


The sun rose Wednesday morning. I woke up, picked up my coffee, and went to work. It seemed like any other morning. Except it wasn’t. Wednesday morning when I awoke Donald Trump was the president-elect. My stomach was in knots and my brain was in a bit of a fog. But the sun did rise and the world is still here and now WE all must rise to make sure that we have a tolerant and accepting world for everyone. Those of us who are devastated with the events of the week need to do whatever we can to make sure all people are treated with respect and dignity and acceptance. We need to make sure our voices are heard for those who have been or are in danger of being silenced. Here are 5 women who are most definitely committed to doing just that, my mom and my sisters, and of course myself.








For people who do not enjoy white privilege, it has been a long and painful road for basic human rights that the rest of us enjoy simply because of the color of our skin. If political rhetoric from our president-elect is to be believed, then there is a danger for so many in our country. We cannot allow strides that have been made over the last 50 or so years to be erased. How can we keep moving forward?

Black lives matter and all people deserve love and workers deserve a living wage. There should be no reason for women to feel vulnerable and scared that they could be sexually harassed or abused. Children should feel safe and have full bellies and access to education. Those who are suffering from illness, both physically and mentally, should have access to health care that won’t send them into bankruptcy.

So, for those who don’t have faith in the person who is at the helm, what can we do? We need to band together and rise up and raise our voices to make sure that everyone has what they need to be successful and happy. Find what you are passionate about and join that group to help make sure people are safe and healthy and happy. It is up to us.

There is so much good going on in the world and in our country and even in our city (Syracuse, NY). I know two guys who have taken the struggles of the homeless in our city on and have taken action.

Andrew Lunetta, started A Tiny Home For Good, an organization that builds tiny homes for the homeless. They are hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony for 3 more homes this afternoon.  Check out this website for more information about them:

Chef John Tumino and his wife Leigh Ann also took a very personal interest in the homeless population in our city with their ministry, In My Father’s Kitchen. Like Andrew, they just don’t give money or goods, they give of their time and their hearts, making personal connections with the homeless people that they meet, and providing them with food and clothing and prayers and dignity. Here is a link to their homepage (I had trouble with the link, just click on the word home):


So take a few days to feel sad and grieve. Eat your ice cream or drink your whiskey or binge on some mindless TV show. Bury yourself in your work or a good book or snuggle with your kids and pets. Then come back to the world and be a fully committed citizen who works toward the world you want. I will be fighting by your side. Peace.


By The Time We Got To Woodstock

“Road Trip!” she shouted. “Let’s go to Woodstock! You can’t write a rock and roll blog without ever going to Woodstock! Not when we’re so close!” How could I ignore that level of energy and enthusiasm? She was right, I needed to go.  I had actually been thinking about Woodstock earlier in the weekend when John tagged me in a Facebook post with this gorgeously haunting video by Good Harvest:


So we were off, leaving from Hobart, the Book Village of the Catskills (where I was attending the Hobart Festival of Women Writers) and heading towards Woodstock…

I should mention my very enthusiastic traveling companion is my friend Linda, who appeared in my life first as a local writing icon, then became a writing instructor, and now she is my friend, mentor, and cheerleader.  Linda was the one who encouraged me to blog about my band wife experience and even came up with the name of the website!! She keeps me focused and accountable, all the while singing my praises to anyone who will listen!

As we got closer to Woodstock, she took a slight detour down Mink Hollow Road, where Todd Rundgren used to live and record.  When she was younger, she drove down this road, hoping to maybe catch a glimpse of Todd, this talented guy she was crushing on. We started feeling a bit stalkerish, driving down this narrow country road, wondering if at some point we would be found out, but then we came to the end of the road and it was actually a trail head, so we didn’t have to worry about some sheriff stopping us and asking who we were there to bother.

From down the road, Woodstock could be just any small town in upstate New York. As we drove  into town, something seemed different. Maybe it was that first parking lot that had a popup tie dye sale going on. Linda was especially excited because she had been in Woodstock a couple of other times, but the shops were dark and the streets empty. She was thrilled that she would be able to get inside some of the shops this time around.

There were a disproportionate number of antique and head shops in town. The very first one we came to had tie dye and banners on the outside, with statues of Jake and Elwood Blues (of Blues Brothers fame) sitting on chairs in the garden.

14311206_10210004749142895_7629217369505524527_o There was a bench out front with a sign that said’ “Try this on! Take a picture!” ‘This’ was a patchwork coat of many colors, pieced together with gorgeous fabrics that hippie sundresses were made of, and a top hat. Linda pleaded and cajoled until I got enough courage to put the hat on my head, trying not to think about all the heads, clean and otherwise, that it had been on before me. She then took a couple of glamor shots  (this is the shot I like the best!) I felt like a real flower child.




It was cool to check out all the memorabilia from the era when the original gathering happened all those years ago at Yasgar’s farm. Among the souvenier shops were antique shops with stuff from the 60’s and 70’s, items that people would pick up and take home so they can have a touchstone to their past. There was an abundance of lighters, bongs, incense, and other paraphernalia. We skimmed a few of those shops and lingered over the jewelry and trinkets. We got ourselves matching bangles (the Bangle Sisters, we decided to call ourselves, a nod to the Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn characters in the movie The Banger Sisters, another groupie movie.)


We then happened upon a cupcake shop. Peace, Love, and Cupcakes.  I made a comment about hipsters and cupcakes and how I could make a whole cake for the price of one of those treats, but then we saw that they were named the best cake in the country by the Food Network, so of course, we had to step in. In a very small storefront was a bake case with gorgeously frosted cupcakes. Most of them were named after famous musicians.

14902828_10210507110661619_8650365471128416339_oKristina was really helpful and talked us through some of the most popular ones. Linda picked the Bob Dylan (carrot cake with cream cheese frosting), I tried the Joe Cocker (caramel) , and we picked the Jimi Hendrix for later (intense chocolate cake with triple shot mocha frosting). And let me tell you, despite all my complaining about spending too much money, this cupcake was incredible. Kristina is also a band manager and she had some tricks of the trade to share with this newbie.

14883520_10210507112861674_3080465322138707849_oOne of the shops we walked by had some singing bowls in the window and Linda just had to stop by. I had never heard of them before, and Linda owns and plays them, so it gave me some insight into the musical talent of the woman who taught me to write about mine! The man there let us try some of them out and showed us how he teased music out of them (he told us that Buddhists strike the bowls, not circle around the rim.)

It was a little after 4, and the community drum circle had started. Every Sunday, people gather with drums and tambourines and all matter of percussion to drum away the afternoon. Didn’t bring any instruments? Don’t worry, they roll out a huge box full of maracas and tambourines and cymbals so everyone can join in.14884525_10210507112301660_3148908253704442112_o

My new favorite percussion instrument, the cajon, was among the drums being played. These people drummed and drummed and then drummed some more. When one song ended, another beat would start right up and everyone continued. People drifted in and out of the square and danced and swayed and became one with the music. We decided to have an early dinner in the outdoor café which gave us a seat right next to all the action. I love how they do this every single week (weather permitting.)

As the sun started to set and we headed towards home, I was so grateful for Linda’s spontaneity.  I would never have stopped to smell the patchouli if it weren’t for her telling me to experience everything rock and roll. Now the band wives will be planning a visit next summer.  I can see Bridgette dancing to the beat already!