Friday, September 30, 2011

Georgia, You Know That You've Been On My Mind...

       Before I left Asheville, North Carolina, Rachael took me to her favorite coffee bar, "The Dripolator." We sat on the bench outside the shoppe and chatted before she had to go to work.  I would love to spend more time in Asheville at some point to be able to soak up more of it's culture. The people in town seemed diverse and laid back and the surrounding mountains towered.

I checked my oil, filled my gas tank and I crossed the border into South Carolina. The Carolinas are truly beautiful. I learned that the Blue Ridge Mountains run for hundreds of miles along the ridge of the Appalachian Mountain Range from North Carolina to Virginia, from the Smokey Mountains Park to Shenandoah Park. I've been to the Blue Ridge Mountains years ago when I visited Greenville, South Carolina with my Aunt and cousins and will have to revisit those photos.

South Carolina smelled of wild woods, unless that was just the dump truck full of bark mulch in front of me. On the wings of flight, I saw a mother hawk teach her young'ins how to soar over the highway and into the trees and back out to find food. Food sounded like a good idea and I saw a sign for Chick-Fil-A, a fast food restaurant I had never been to but have only heard good things. I figured I'd give it a shot as fast-food is the cheapest way to eat, when crossing the country. My cousin, Chelsea and I  ate at Dairy Queens across the nation as the DQ in my neck of the woods only sells ice-cream. This time, at Chick-Fil-A, I tried Deluxe Chicken Sandwich with waffle fries. I'm no longer a virgin to their meals and it was a heavenly "first time." However, their lemonade was not nearly as good as the limonada in Juarez, Mexico.

Welcome to the cult.

I also saw my first Palm Trees of my travels in South Carolina.

I hugged the border of Georgia and tried to gaze through the clusters of tall, skinny trees that separated the highway. After an eight hour drive, I arrived in Bluffton, South Carolina at my friend Angela's gorgeous apartment that she has been building bookcases for in each room. I met her neighbor Mary, originally from Chicago, who let me in and left the key for me, since Angela was moving the rest of her belongings from New York City to the South. I fed and watered her blind bunny, Greta and later on that night gave her, her eye drops. Greta was an angel.

Deciding to take the drive into Georgia for a quick visit, I past Coosawhatchie, SC. A town? River? Both? Either way, I neared Savannah, Georgia where restaurants with names like "Chicken Lickin'" existed. In the tall grasses, the clicks and chitters of Southern bugs grew louder into the evening and I kept thinking it was my car making funny noises.

This is the Eugene Talmadge Bridge, that crosses over the Savannah River into Savannah, Georgia. The state line is midway across.

Savannah, Georgia!

It was so nice getting into Bluffton, South Carolina early to have the time to go explore Savannah, Georgia for an hour or so. I've waited my whole life to see Georgian trees. Tall, ancient looking, sturdy and covered with moss that hangs from each branch. A cluster of these trees make any town quaint.

        And Check out what you can actually buy in a store down South! Due to it's racial innuendoes, you don't find this in very many stores up North. However, it remains a classic Disney period piece, for sure!

         "Zippity-doo-dah! Zippity-day! My, oh my, what a wonderful day!"

       One quarter in the parking meter gave me almost a full hour to walk around downtown and head down to The Port Of Savannah Georgia. I saw City Hall, The Cotton Exchange, Savannah Tours and Russ Russ even made a friend along the way!

City Hall.

The Cotton Exchange.

Going down to the water.

Georgia Queen River Boat and the Eugene Talmadge Bridge in the background.

Along the Port Of Savannah.

        It has been a few years since I have seen Angela and boy, how I have missed her. I'm grateful that I was able to stay in her clean abode, relax a bit while listening to the new Indigo Girls album, Beauty Queen Sister, streaming online before it's release date of October 4th! I even contemplated a bath. I wish I could have stuck around a little longer to see Angela, though! I would have helped her move her large furniture, much like I had done for cousin Tom and Danielle right before I left Massachusetts but onward I must go.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hey, Virginia!

        I packed my car with family and friends and they saw me off as I started my journey. Jersey bound. I'm taking the long way to California to see all the land I can and to meet up with life long friends along the way. I'm enriching and acclimating myself before I start my ten month long service commitment with AmeriCorps. A panda sat in the window and counted the trees that past. The sunset over Hartford, Connecticut shined it's erie light over the highway, tinting my skin a pinkish hue.

Capturing life goes the distance as mystique darkness crawled across New York City. I searched for Lady Liberty who stood tall watching over her inhabitants, looking towards the sky for a sign. Ten years later, yet I can't tell if she is filled with hope or filled with fear. Atop the George Washington Bridge, the Hudson River breathed it's muggy fish breath in my face but suddenly, Jersey strangely but welcomely smelled like some sort of a popcorn festival.

Steam billowed from tall buildings and airplanes took off from Newark, New Jersey over the city lights. In Linden, darkness had fallen. Heads rested on shoulders and hands were held during a stroll down a lover's lane. It's always a slow crawl through Roselle, New Jersey but I got to "Aunt" Pat's with no problems.

Rocky and Patch always crave extra love and it's always easy to spoil the "dog-people."

After a night's rest, "Aunt" Pat made me a Jersey treat: an egg, cheese and pork roll breakfast sandwich.

Now ready for day two, I sipped my Red Bull and smiled back at the phantom toll booth lady, bearing black skin, a nose piercing and dreadlocks. Cinnamon stains on the Jersey Turnpike. Delaware came and went with red flashes and outside Baltimore, Maryland, a disgruntle customer caused a commotion at the gas station. The silver springs in my car bounced to a happy country tune in the perfect 85 degree weather. Puffy clouds and blue sky hovered over Fairfax, Virginia. I drove and drove and drove. Who knew Virginia was so huge?! Orange sheet metal rolls up the front lawn and I pull off the highway in Marshal, Virginia to gas-up at the La Palmita station across the street from this Marshal Methodist Church.

Cattle to the left and sheep to the right. Farmlands. Black sheep, white sheep. I thought about what it feels like to stick out like a black sheep. I found them inspiring. More farmlands. I drove through Virginia and thought,  she's got a lot to offer… if you're a farmer.

The day turned to pre-dusk and I nodded a thought at a rest stop but I gained my second wind from the beauty of Shenandoah. Endless caverns. Acres and acres of nature.

I heard my first Southern accent at a Citgo that night and couldn't help but wonder what the Southland was like in the Autumntime. Soon enough. I got my third wind by the time I passed the exit for Virginia Tech and finally, after hours and hours, I crossed the State Line. I thought she'd never end, Virginia.

Tennessee however, brought rain. He brought lightening to my left and darkness to my right. I could smell wet hay and freshly cut grass. Darkened, starless skies feel like empty arms and white knuckles.

I drove into North Carolina in the dark, surrounded by tall, black shadows the whole way into Asheville. Mountains. Mountains I hadn't seen before. Mountains I still haven't seen… in daylight. It took me twelve hours that day to get to Rachael in Asheville, North Carolina but I made it and still had energy to catch up on our busy summers and learn Asheville has the best beer in the country.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Your Tree

Your Tree

A friend once told me that possibly, for every one person,
there is a tree.
A tree that grew with you,
not against you.
Existence throws tiny veiny leaves,
swirling and pushing and pulling.
But this one tree,
is you.
Burly and Brawny.
It grows with you,
by which she meant,
with every day, every triumph, or gain
-     a twig would sprout
and for every loss, or tribune
     -     a branch would evolve
for every discovery and rebirth
-     a leaf would bloom
and with the dealt of death,
that leaf would fall.
But with every grain of soil that stirs
and for every cloud of dust that forms and sticks to the bark, shows
youve done it.
Lived it.
Been there.
Limbs may grow old,
stuck frozen in time,
upon mid-descent.
Hurricane winds may be determined and fierce,
striping blossoms from vines,
splitting dried branches from the trunk,
dropping their heavy baggage onto our ground,
onto what ever lies below.
 But be strong,
Your Tree will stand.
She added,
Even though youll never see it, your tree is out there,
for someone else to notice and gain inspiration from.
Some people believe in guardian angels,
She believed in trees.
When she is gone…
Her tree will die.
When I am gone…
My tree will die.
But when we live…
We must be strong.
Like trees.

Colin Progen 2004/2011

          It always amazes me how long winter on the East Coast can last. The harsh cold surrounds the snow up until the bitter end. Then I spend all of April preparing for Spring (and my birthday) and once May comes, I’m ready for the beach. However, my Tiger Lilies come and my Tiger Lilies go. The summer sun flowers arrive but by the end of September, hang their heads in mourning for the farewell wave of Summer's weather. With just a snap of the fingers, Summer has drawn back it's heat, releasing our lungs from its grip and “flu season” bares its crooked teeth around the chilly New England corner. The weather begins to encourage sweatshirts, scarecrows emerge, retail stores set their Halloween candy planograms and pumpkins begin to sprout from their vines. Things start to become festive as the leaves slowly start to change color, from green into deep reds, oranges and yellows. Eventually gourds will be available at every florist, grocery store and market. It's the season of death, yet after hibernation, new life transpires.
           As September comes to an end and I start my four-wheeled-journey across our vast country, I say a quiet prayer, for no other month, to be as crazy as September 2011 has been. I'm a big ball of magnetic energy, like when you hold two magnets together. The push and the pull curves up and down, and jolts back to front. Like an invisible rubber dodgeball that is pulsing in midair. I can push people away and I can draw people close. Its seems that people always come into our lives, or leave our presence at the strangest time. I've always believed everything happens for a reason, though that belief has been most recently challenged. I know that I can't lose my faith and I realize, I couldn't be happier that I have reconciled differences this season. I hung my own head in mourning for the grand exit and the memories of the ones I won't be lucky enough to see again but welcomed the ones still here, who mean the most.
          I love my family, my cousins are my siblings and I am grateful for everyone who still stands as tall as their trees. Life works in strange ways and I have no idea what the next year has in store for me. I will continue to learn the lessons that life offers and I will grow, much like my tree, which is a Buckeye; more specific to New England, A Horse Chestnut Tree.

         With dried cheeks and contained energy, I'm hitting the road now. First stop, New Jersey. See ya'll there!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Family Values

                             [most all of] My Family


Wednesday, September 21, 2011


         During the summer of 2010, Andrew and I were given the opportunity to join All Saints' Parish from Peterborough, New Hampshire, on their fifth annual, mission trip to Juarez, Mexico to build a Boy's Dorm. What an experience we had! Sixteen students, four adults and Andrew and I built the structure of the dormitory, helped build a bathroom in a local house and also did manual labor at the facility where we lived for the week.  Before we left, I had invited all my closest friends to attend a fundraising party where I raised $700.00 to donate to Central Victoria, the Church and home to many children saved from the streets by Pastor Joel. Along with the invitation, I sent an essay I wrote about my upcoming trip. I later used an edited version of that essay as my Motivational Statement for my AmeriCorps application.

        My meme, at the time of my arrival home, was finishing up her college credit writing course and for one of her final stories, she interviewed me, used pieces of my original essay, added her own words and together, her article, "Hope For Juarez, Mexico" by, Doris Progen" was published over at the beginning of this year!

         I have yet to finish a follow-up but I wanted to share with you for now, those who haven't read it, my essay that I originally wrote, dealing with the fears of violence and hopes of changing the world before I headed South of the border into Juarez, Mexico, one of the dangerous cities on Earth.

                                Written: January, 2010

Other than declared war zones, Juarez, Mexico is one of the fastest growing, most dangerous cities in the world. Its population climbs higher each year and, with that, so does its poverty and murderous crime rate. Juarez leaves hundreds of children homeless, sick and on the streets each day. Boys are brought into gangs and girls are often left to lives of prostitution. This June, I am flying over the border, landing with my best foot on the ground and making the time to help these children.

Consisting of several Monadnock area youth and four adults, our team will travel to the impoverished community in Juarez, Mexico for the fifth consecutive year. This will be my first time. The mission of our group, led by and sponsored by All Saints’ Church in Peterborough, NH, is to spend a week under the desert heat in this underprivileged city, to lend our hard-working hands to Pastor Joel Cortez Ramirez.

Pastor Joel Cortez Ramirez is a religious man who has lived in Juarez, Mexico for over twenty years. He has a beautiful family and is the founder of Centro Victoria, a ministry of God for the people of Mexico. Pastor Joel was an only child born into a broken marriage, raised in Mexico by his aunts who lied to him and abused him. At the age of six, Pastor Joel was saved by “Hogar Victoria” (Victory Home), a place where children could go to receive a better life. Upon his admission, life was indeed improved, but by his early teens, he had harbored so much angst he could no longer deal with it. His angst turned to addiction and thievery. Since Juarez is one of the 14 cities along the southern border of the United States, Pastor Joel set out from Mexico City en route to Juarez to cross into prosperous land. Soon after, sitting on a bench near death, he was recruited by Christian rehabilitation and embraced into the arms of his God.

Today, Pastor Joel encourages trust and faith in God and also instills personal confidence, good character and integrity. These qualities were never taught to the children in Juarez before this time, but now, they are receiving education in their own schoolhouses that make up the elementary and junior high classes at Centro Victoria. Pastor Joel is persistent in reaching young girls who have been physically and mentally abused, or who come from dysfunctional families or the streets. Centro Victoria fills a crucial gap in a country whose government is broken and overburdened. In addition to housing these lost children, Centro Victoria provides medical attention, clothing, food, counseling, education on drug prevention, and space to discover what moves them spiritually, leaving room to heal, live, love, read the Bible and find security in a chance at a better life focused on community, social and family integration.

Each child given shelter at Centro Victoria costs Pastor Joel nearly $2,500 a year. Unfortunately, due to the difficulty of promotion, his mission is not supported much by outside sources. Small churches, like All Saints’ in Peterborough, who hear of the dire needs of the area, try to send financial support and youth groups to lend a hand. It is still not enough. Additionally, the economic crisis has also diminished the sparse support and the media, filled with negative reports from Mexico, generates a fear of Juarez. Yet through all the bad, Pastor Joel continues his work and relentlessly takes action to further his mission. His dream is to one day house one hundred children.

In previous years, Peterborough’s All Saints’ Church group has helped build houses and schools, mix cement for walls to surround the area, dig foundations, mortar cinder blocks and construct community centers for the children, all without the aid of machinery.

The full cost of the trip is $1,100 per person. Thanks to dedication and fundraising, the out-of-pocket cost per person is reduced to $400 per plane ticket. Mine is paid for; however, since I am not a high school student in the Monadnock area, I will not be involved in every fundraising event. I will, nonetheless, be participating in a wine-tasting benefit party and a spring clean-up raffle, though I know in my heart, I can raise more money for tools and extra donations for Centro Victoria.

Therefore, I am planning a fundraising party, inviting all my close friends and family to my house! What a way to celebrate with each other how fortunate we really are! Together we can make a difference in the world. Even if you can give only a little, all contributions are greatly appreciated. Every single penny adds up. Each dollar adjoined generates a huge contribution of help that is significantly valued. Without the security of the walls of Centro Victoria, children would fall victim to homelessness, gangs, drugs and prostitution. I plead for help and I express ample amounts of overflowing appreciation and exploding thanks.

I feel lucky to be a part of this group. I am grateful for the chance to work in the community of a different country, help make a difference and to enhance the well-being of the people of Juarez. I feel that this is just the beginning of a string of life-changing service events I will engage in that will be most rewarding. I strive to continue my quest of community service and my pursuit to someday soon, serve in the United States Americorps in their mission to reinforce community and expand leadership skills through team-based service projects. For now, this summer, I will swan-dive into these polluted waters to save schools of children and present them with crystal clear seas. How sweet it would be for these precious Mexican children to wake up in secure arms and benefit from our donations, which created what lies within the cement walls of Centro Victoria in Juarez, Mexico.

The team and children in front of the roofless structure of the three-room, boy's dorm on the last day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Journey To Self Love: I

       As much as I admire them, when I said I wanted to be home schooled, it was not because I wanted to be like my cousins from Alaska, such as my father had thought. When I said I wanted to be home schooled, it was not because I didn't want to get up early or because I thought it would be an "easy way out" of school and it was not because I was work-shy. The reason I said I wanted to be home schooled, when I was eleven years old, was because like many other spirited youth, I had been bullied, teased, and taunted for years and did not want to deal with those angry children any longer.

Kids are mean, it's just in their nature. But some kids take it too far and when someone becomes the target of a sharp, speeding dart that hits the bullseye every single time, every single day, it begins to get personally offensive. It is almost unimaginable being a vulnerable kid, who is continuously picked on, day after day for the nine school months of the year. Ridiculed for "looking strange." Tormented for "sounding different." Those were my school years from grades Three to Eight. Being provoked, mostly by other boys, caused me to fear other guys my own age and set me back socially because I thought I could never communicate with them. I was afraid to. Besides the point, I had always been sensitive anyway. Additionally, most all my family is female and for some strange reason, most of my classmates in my first and second grades, were girls. Ninety percent of my small group of friends were of the other gender as well, which left me feeling teamless. I did not know how to interact with guys. I didn't know how for a long time. I stopped trying, yet I was still faced with them each day. Through the years I only occasionally had a few close friends who happened to be other boys but as time passed, I evolved, thankfully, into the more socially adapted person I am today.

I was born in the midst of a blizzard. At the end of April. It was the end of the 1980's and I was just in time for the demise of big hair, bad music and blizzards in the middle of Spring. What was I getting myself into? The the hospital I was born at is on a steep hill, which of course was coated with black ice at the time of the storm. I got no visitors on my first night in town due to the storm, however, "a night in with my parents is always nice," I'm sure is what I envisioned.

"I am successful, I am talented and I am strong." It wasn't until I was out of high school when I started thinking that I could possibly carry these traits. I didn't start to actually believe them until long after I started repeating them to myself every morning and each night. To this day, I still have a hard time finding self confidence and self love. The first step to self love is acknowledging and accepting each of our own unique and individual attributes. I've always been able to accept others and love thy neighbor as thy friend but loving myself has always been the challenge. I had been worn down early on in my life with negative accusations about my body and what would eventually become my lifestyle. Of course I had my friends and of course I had my best friends but being that young age, the negative emotions always outweigh whatever positivity the day graciously donates. Never knowing what to say, fighting for a lousy reputation… school was confusing and vicious and my insecurities got the best of me. This is my story.

A Journey To Self Love

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tootie-Fruitie Pancakes

           When I think of my Meme, I smell Noxema and can vividly picture her, standing in the kitchen of her house on Seneca Street. Until she moved to Maine when I was nine, I spent most every weekend with Meme, in that house. She taught me how to color in-between the lines and built clothespin roads for my cars. As she cut my sandwiches into triangles and transformed them into sailboats with toothpick masts and napkin sails, I learned that a little bit of scotch tape goes a long way. One day, we even built a spaceship with an empty box that was taller than I was! When she moved to Maine, I spent my summer vacations in her cottage where she taught me how to win Scrabble and we'd play rummy in her sun porch. Each night at dinner, I'd always enquire about the following night's home cooked meal. If you've had Meme's meals, you know why I was so excited. If you've had our Tootie-Fruitie Pancakes, then you know why I was so excited. Over the past seven years, I've been lucky enough to have my Meme as close to me as down-the-hall. These are years that I will never take for granted. She was there when I went to Prom and when I graduated high school. We watched American Idol. She has asked me for writing advice and has shined her light over many of my friends. Mem has supported all of my endeavors and as I conquer my next journey, I know that my Meme will be there with me, holding my hand, every step of the way. And whenever I sprinkle the sugar on my cornflakes, AFTER I pour the milk, I will think of her.

Our Little Flower

Friday, September 16, 2011

People Come And Go So Quickly Here...

I realized how much I enjoy "Barefoot Gardening," as I pulled out the dry, dead, hollow stocks that once bloomed the flowers of my Tiger Lilies this summer. The flocks of Canadian Geese flapped overhead, heading South. The lilies I refer to are the ten medium sized bushes of Tiger Lilies, that line my parent's side lawn. They use to take root on either side of the cement stairs that lead up to the front door of my parents house. They lived in those two corners for years until my mom expressed her hatred for their sassy orange attitudes. My Dad and I dug them all up when I was little and threw them into the thick mess of vines, pricker bushes and small trees that grew beyond the yard. He told me to watch, as we threw the bunches sporadically into the (what we called) woods. He promised that by the following summer, they would have taken root and begun to thrive again.

        A couple years later we had landscapers come by and they made the viney, prickery, wooded mess disappear. It widen our yard by at least six feet all the way down to where the actual wooded area behind our house begins. When the landscapers left, to my surprise, I realized that my Tiger Lilies were standing tall and strong, equally spread out clumps, in the newly cleared out soil. Since then, I've watch their progress every Spring from my bedroom window. When they bloom in the Summer they flaunt their bright orange sass. When their ego's get to heavy, they lean towards the East, in the direction of my bedroom window, to catch the sun's rays. They bow to me, greeting me "Good Day," each morning.

Here's a villanelle I wrote in college inspired by my Tiger Lilies.


I’m not sayin’ - I’m just sayin’ - I should’ve said fuck it;
merely sashayed by mausoleums on shoddy foundations.
Just uproot the lilies and chuck ‘em in a bucket.
They sting the earth bright green like young bucks kick
I’m not sayin’ - I’m just sayin’ - I should’ve said fuck it.
Warden can’t explain the love that a thousand blossoms can commit
in collaboration.
Just uproot the lilies and chuck ‘em in a bucket.
My opened eyes scrutinize, minute parasites collectively punt development to transmit
I’m not sayin’ - I’m just sayin’ - I should’ve said fuck it.
Shivering, pantless legs that dangle off the edge can’t quit
Just uproot the lilies and chuck ‘em in a bucket;
for they are almost in bloom and so am I in soundless ruckus.
Engrave your zeal in this genteel relation.
I’m not sayin’ - I’m just sayin’ - I should’ve said fuck it.
Just uproot the lilies and chuck ‘em in a bucket.

If I were to ever get a tattoo on my back, I'd have a hawk with a Tiger Lily in it's beak, inked on my shoulder blade, reminiscent of the sign of peace: Dove with Basil.
       Basil? Fig leaf? It could have been a twig for all I know but my tattoo would be in honor of my home, were I've grown up my entire life, surrounded by Tiger Lilies and the tall pines that are home to a family of hawks, each summer.

September is always a sad time of year for my Lilies, as they have passed their prime season. Their leaves sprawl across the bark mulch and the dried stocks stand like enlarged straws, stuck in the ground, claiming their land. I say a prayer as I pluck each one from the Earth. I'm trying to make the yard a bit more presentable for the weekend since the family is coming from across New England, from Canada and maybe even Las Vegas for Meme's services. My aunt wanted me to read out loud at the funeral but I honestly don't think I'll be able to. If I do end up speaking, it will be something I write.

I really enjoy the occasional day-off but I usually get easily agitated and anxious, I'm glad I've been really productive the last couple days as my work schedule dwindles before I leave for California, however, I lost my glasses during all my yard work! Try looking for your glasses, WITHOUT your glasses! Maybe someday I'll get contacts, I'm just too afraid that they will get sucked into the back of my head and stuck in my brain.

Looking back on the summer, it seems to have flown by, again, as usual, like feathers in a breeze. I came home from Austin, Texas to spend the remainder of my summer in Massachusetts for a few different reasons. One of which was for my new job I started in June, in the industry I want to get involved with. The Travel Industry. The other priority I also came home for, was to spend time with my Meme, not knowing what would happen in the year to follow, after I left again. I'm thankful for the last times I had, at home, with her. I've also just started to make amends with people I've been closest to for years but fell out of touch with the beginning of this year when I was trying to piece myself back together, in a brand new city. My Meme in a way, has inspired a refurbished connection with my allies, based on bonds externally bestowed. She brought us back together and dispelled the anger. In the process of rekindling one friendship, I have actually made a new friend as well! It's particularly peculiar how a chain of events occurs but my journey continues and I am lead to my next adventure, across our country, with more love and support in my heart than I've ever had. I feel like Dorothy. "People come and go so quickly here."

           I'm concluding with a list of the best new movies and music that have entertained my senses this summer. I would not steer you wrong.

Great Movies:

"The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage of The Dawn Treader"

"The Chronicles..." have always been my favorite series and I've waited years to see The Dawn Treader brought to life. Even though the film was not backed by Disney this time around, It was well worth the wait, regardless.


I love Johnny Depp's monologues and Rango certainly did not lack great dialogue. It's not necessarily a kid's movie but is comical, visual and promotes self confidence and the importance of coming together as a team when hope is not enough.

"XMen: First Class"

The entire story line of XMen is so intricate and detailed that you can't help but to get sucked in! There is never a dull moment as the story unfolds and the action sweeps the screen before your eyes. The whole movie is an "Aha! moment" for fans of my caliber, who never read the comics but have inthralled by the characters of the previous four releases.

"Change of Plans"

Staring the innocent, pure-voiced, singer/songwriter Brooke White, originally airing on Fox, "Change Of Plans" is a great family flick. Watch what happens when a free spirited musician and her husband find out they just inherited four siblings, born from all over the world but grew up in Uganda with their Peace Corps parents. Love will prevail.

Hot New Bands:

The Shadowboxers

Scott, Matt, Adam, Ben and Jaron were born across the country but all just recently graduated from Emory College in Atlanta, GA. Their southern rock style shows master musicianship and romantic melodies. These boys know how to put on a show by intensely focusing on the harmonies they create and also knowing how to let loose, have fun and dance.

Suite 709

Think James Brown, meets Tower Of Power with a few less horns and even more spunk! Jirod Green is the front man of this Austin, Texas band that has funk in their junk. And take a look at those dreadlocks!

Quiet Company

As the launch of their fourth album approaches, these Austin boys know how to promote themselves to their fans. From giving out free hugs on Sixth Street during South By South West and serving popcorn to a few lucky fans during their Concert DVD Viewing... to live-streaming KGSR performances and a virtual listening party and group chat over the internets. Backed by key boards, bass lines and electric and acoustic guitars, the dirty voices cause their stories to shine  and ambition emanates from their melodies.

Head and The Heart

I caught the repeat of this Seattle band's performance on Conan O'Brien the other night and immidately became obsessed with their song "Lost In My Mind." These hippies know how to create a full bodied, folky sound. Also, having two folks in the bands strictly for hand claps and harmonies is always welcomed!

The yet to be released album that I am most excited for would have to be...

Tony Bennet: Duets II

Tony comes back for a double dose of Duets with powerhouses, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, John Mayer, K.D. Lang, Michael Buble, Aretha Franklin, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson and Queen Latifah to record the standards.

Happy Belated Birthday, Amy Winehouse. She would have just turned 28.

Here is Amy and Tony's duet together which would turn out to be Amy's last full length recording.

                                                     Body and Soul
Forever in our hearts. "These tears dry on their own."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

You Must Be My Shining Star

The worst of Hurricane Irene has come and gone and thankfully there was no real damage in my area of Massachusetts. Sitting at my open window, during the 'after storm,' the gusts of winds pulled the sounds of sirens in the distance and fire trucks continuously zoomed by. We had a ton of branches and leaves all over the yard but thankfully, no water in the basement. The pool damn near over flowed but we didn't loose power. The tops of our 50 foot pines came down a little more (since the ice storm in 2008) and twigs and sticks flailed about but the windy flurries eventually became sparse. I am incredibly lucky. The damage in Vermont and parts of Connecticut, New York, North Carolina and the other states that were hit, is near devastating but that is another blog for another day.

Last week, we kept getting pounded with beautiful days, then mini-pre-storms but I beat the rain everyday with my jog. It's 'cause "I've got them moves like Jagger." Watching Maroon 5's new video, "Moves Like Jagger" while cooling down after a work-out the other day, I was brought back to being a high school junior, meeting the boys of the band, at a show in Dartmouth College's gymnasium. That memory was a mental bridge to recalling who my "high school celebrity crushes" had been back in 2004. My biggest and longest celebrity crush was always, the college student, Julia Stiles. Then there was the beautiful "7th Heaven" star, Jessica Biel. For the boys, I always kept an eye out in the magazines for, the bad boy: Shane West, the athlete: Andy Roddick, the golden boy: Paul Walker and the singer: Adam Levine.

Looking back on it all, I'm not sure if I wanted to be with them or just be them; successful, rich, talented, admired and attractive.

I never really liked the term, "hero." A hero, to me, is someone who pulls babies from burning houses, or who talks someone off a ledge, or who saves a drowning woman. Someone who rescues kittens from trees. Someone like, Batman. I remember the first day of school each year. The teacher would pass around index cards for us to write our name/nicknames, contact info, our favorite class, something interesting about ourselves… and our hero. No one had ever legit saved my life before but my parents had given me life. Their names were the best answer I could give. To this day, not one person has saved my life so I'm left technically hero-less and pondering the influence that non super-human people have had on my life.

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, who are the Indigo Girls have been a constant inspiration in my life since day one. Their music has flowed through my home on weekends since I was a kid. My family's roots, buried in music, have always been one of the many ways we stay so connected. When I first had the moment of realization that Amy and Emily were positive influences on my life, I was a freshmen in high school and I almost felt "embarrassed" because their genre was not the genre my peers were listening to on the radio at the time. It was hard enough to feel as different as I did but the girls in time, taught me to be myself and to proud of who I am. They encouraged me to 'come out' to my friends. They encouraged me to learn how to play guitar. They encouraged me to write and to be as different as I could be. They inspired me with their talents and their passion for activism. They travel, they spread love and they support gay rights, the environment, native americans, Greenpeace and women's rallies across the country. They have toured with positive groups like Amnesty International, Rock For A Remedy, Honor The Earth, Rock The Vote and the list goes on. I have been attending their shows for ten years now and over those years, I have traveled to places, met people, made best friends, done and seen things things I never ever would have, if it wasn't for those Atlanta, Georgia folk/rock girls. They have helped shape my life for the best and I am eternally grateful. Amy and Emily will forever remain my largest positive influences.

Even while watching certain people over the years, on MTV's realty show, "Real World," I have found mentors and been inspired in the most unique cast members. Cast members like Pedro, from San Francisco's 1993 season, made a huge impact. Pedro fought to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS. He fought to get his voice heard. Just because he had a blood disease, did not mean his blood ran a different route than someone without a blood disease. Other cast members have taken college courses, maintained a 'no loose' attitude, participated in internships, built a home with Habitat For Humanity, volunteered time at Food Shelters, created resumes, became writers and wrestlers and many cast members in their early twenties have interviewed and failed for their dream jobs. That is real and that is what I appreciate about that silly show. That is also why I have applied for Real World twice now. I want to be a person who strives for their dreams. I do not want to appear on television to drink and scream, I want the youth of America to see me thrive in a new professional endeavor and do good for the people around me. I want to be a positive influence on the audience watching, to bring positive change to their lives so maybe they will pay it forward. There can never be enough of that kind of enthusiasm on the 'boob tube.' 

I doubt I will ever be on television, so I need to bring that enthusiasm to my own reality. Being influential and being influenced are both equally strong and equally important emotions. Everybody needs a positive influence throughout their lifetime and everyone should also feel what it is like to be that positive influence in someone else's life. Though, we sure do know that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a real role model. Not everyone has a positive influence that they can look up to, to learn how to be a better person. If I can be that enthusiastic energy, shining in someone's existence, I know that I am on the road to arriving at my goal of changing the world. I know that people already admire me and are inspired by my drive to help, my fight to think positively and my semi-motivational stamina. Those people mean the world to me. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

When I was super little, I use to tell my mom I was going to live with her and my dad forever. That is a normal thought for a four year old but as I came into my own, I realized how unrealistic that idea actually is. I remember being scared of growing up. I didn't want to branch out on my own. I was nervous to attend a college that was away from home. I was scared to choose a career and succeed, because what if I didn't succeed? I am an only child, so I had to figure these things out on my own. I was left with the confusing knowledge of, "I don't want to leave but I can't stay here." While realizing that sticking around my hometown would be easier, the fear of knowing I could do whatever I wanted with my life was overwhelming. Easier is never the route to take. Ever. We can not evolve when we take Easy Street.

I learned from my influences to be the best person I could be each day, by encouraging others to do the same. We can all succeed in whatever crazy dreams we may have with will-power, self control and confidence. I have not mastered these qualities but I still try proving to myself that I can be courageous enough to conquer any quest I embark on. The more traveling I do, the further I can spread my light. Life is not trouble-free, it still makes me nervous but when someone witnesses me achieving my goals, I may be inspiring them to do the same. In which case, I have triumphed.

Last April, when I was living in Austin, one night, out with some friends, I received an email congratulating me on finally being selected to serve on an AmeriCorps, NCCC team in Sacramento, California this Fall. With wide-eyes, I jumped into the air and called almost everyone I knew. After six years, I had finally been selected for the program that I knew I could be an asset to. No matter what our goals are, always know that they are most certainly achievable with patients and hard work. What we each ultimately desire deep inside us is never just handed to us. The journey may be exhausting and the work may be strenuous but the target is always straight ahead. It is just the path that is chosen that may sometimes lead us the 'long way' through the labyrinth.

I have learned that it is less effort to present a positive attitude, rather than wallowing in negative emotion. Stay focused on what is possessed and what is attainable rather than what is lacked. For instance, instead of saying, "I should be feeling content, active and comfortable…" tell the world "I could feel the best I ever have, I can feel loved and I will take a step towards being productive." If we surround ourselves with positive energy, nothing but good things will fall into our paths. I ask of you to fill your hearts with some compassion and I'll continue to surround myself in love. Recognize what you love. Love your plants, your pets, your friends, your family, your favorite song or pillow case, a golden, sunny morning or the way a windy evening, through an open window, can sound like the ocean when you close your eyes. Not every day is perfect but every day is beautiful. We need to find what makes our heart sing. Reflect every night on one iota of intelligence that was learned that day. Focus on that knowledge in order to be a better person the next day. Do something for someone else that will make their heart sing and I bet yours will belt out even louder. 

With good-will and will-power, I have progressively praised my icons for their inspiration. The influences in my life, all took part shaping me into who I am today. I feel extremely lucky to be happy and healthy. I feel extremely lucky to have stuck with my goals and to finally be selected to participate on an AmeriCorps, West Coast, NCCC team. I have placed respectable people on pedestals in order to mimic their qualities so I can be the best person I can be each day. It is now time to be an inspiration. Please stay happy and healthy and stick to what goals are known because I promise, it gets better. I learned from my high school celebrity crushes to stay studious, feel beautiful and talented, play by my own rules, stay active, smile and sing my heart out but my father always encouraged a penny pinching, responsible attitude and my mother graced me with her light hearted, care free social skills. They have both always supported me in almost every decision I have conjured, even and especially when they didn't want to. They gave me life. They are my heros.