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What Are The Chances

March 22, 2016


Yesterday was my birthday. I love my birthday. As I go about my day, I tell everyone, even strangers, that it’s my birthday. After a transaction at a cash register a person might say, “Have a nice day,” and I reply, “I will! It’s my birthday!” They smile and wish me a happy birthday – and more joy is added to my day.

This year, all the usual happiness occurred on my  birthday, with one remarkable exception, about which I’ll write last.

Throughout the day, I got text messages, emails, fb postings, and cards (e-cards and real, paper cards). They all contained images of hearts and flowers, candles and cakes, fireworks and butterflies, as well as words of love. It was good vibrations all day long!

A lifelong, joyful aspect to my birthday is that I share it with my aunt, my mother’s only sister, who is the dearest person. I had tears of happiness in my eyes as I read her (paper) card, which arrived in my mailbox precisely on our birthday. At age 95 she still handwrites the envelope and heartfelt message to me.

There’s a numeric quality of my birth date, 3/21, that fascinates me:  backwards and forwards in counting ~ 321, 123; addition and subtraction ~ 3-2=1, 1+2=3. These mathematical gymnastics float through my mind throughout the day.

And always, Mother Nature surprises me. Because my birthday is the first full day of spring, it’s on the edge of winter’s exit and spring’s arrival. I’ve had sunny, hot birthdays – with temps in the 80s, as well as full blown blizzards. Yesterday, I awoke to a gray day with snow falling at a good clip, courtesy of nor’easter Regis. Fortunately, only a couple of inches accumulated. By mid afternoon, the sun was shining brightly from a blue sky and it was in the high 40s! This is typical of my birthday.

But this year, the most surprising thing happened in the early evening. I went to CVS to pick up a few things. I waited quite a while at the end of a customer line. During that time, I saw a woman sitting and waiting for something. She was called to a register, handed her product and then she maneuvered to the end of the line, directly behind me.

I said, “Why did you have to come to end of the line if you had already waited and were then at the register?”

She explained the reason, which seemed reasonable to her, though it bothered me.

So I said, “Please go ahead of me. You’ve been waiting longer than I have been.”

At first she protested, but with my insistence she did move to in front of me.

After a minute she turned to me and said, “You know if I weren’t so tired, I would have been happy to wait. But I’ve had a long day. I was out all day with my brother and sister-in-law. They called me early this morning and said, ‘Why don’t you spend the day with us since it’s your birthday.'”

I said, “Oh my gosh, it’s my birthday, too!”

She said, “No.”

I said, “YES!”

We laughed and wished each other a happy birthday and talked on and on about how uncanny it was that we should meet on our actual birthday!

As it turned out, my celestial twin and I ended up at registers side by side. When the pharmacy clerk asked for her date of birth, she replied, “3-21” and then she turned and smiled at me. Five seconds later, I was asked the same question, to which I answered, “3-21,” and my new friend and I laughed at the amazing coincidence of our encounter, on our birthdays.

When my transaction was done, we said goodbye. As I walked away she smiled and called, “My sister’s birthday is tomorrow!” I laughed and said, “My brother’s birthday is the day after tomorrow!”

I treasure such moments of human joy!

On St. Patrick’s Day I’m An American

March 17, 2016

Under my mother’s watchful eye, preparing her parents’ grave site for Memorial Day. (circa early 2000s)

When I was young, I’d wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. Sometimes I’d wear a button on my jacket declaring my Irish heritage. I was proud of being of Irish descent.

But now, the day doesn’t have as much meaning. The struggle of my ancestors means a great deal to me, but after all that they achieved, I am left with the gift of being fully American.

One strand of my maternal family came to this country in the 1600s, about 16 generations ago. In the late 1800s, my great-great-grandfather was the first Irish Catholic mayor in New England – in the then booming immigrant city of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

John Breen, first Irish Catholic mayer in New England (City of Lawrence, Massachusetts)

John Breen, first Irish Catholic mayor in New England (City of Lawrence, Massachusetts)

It’s hard to imagine that Lawrence still had a rim of country land around it. But these photos show the home of the mayor and the field across the street from his home. These photos show the progress of an American immigrant family given opportunity and being self-motivated.

My great-grandfather held the drop-kick record at Purdue for nearly 100 years.


Charles Breen, Purdue-University football, held dropkick record for nearly a century.

My grandfather was the managing editor of the Lawrence Eagle Tribune. When I was 22 years old, my own father was given the honor of being asked to be the Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Lawrence, a city he served with his surgical skill. I choose the word “served” because he thought of his profession as one of service to the people of his community, all people – regardless of their country of origin or the number of years they had spent rooting into their new home land.

My generation, in photos below in 1977 at the Hibernian Dinner Dance the year my father was Grand Marshall of the parade, enjoyed a good life because of the hard work and courage of our predecessors.

I am proud enough of my Irish heritage and family history to have placed the story of my book, The Setting of the Sun, in the city of Lawrence in an Irish Catholic family.

My blood is about 7/8 Irish. The remainder is a smattering of English, Dutch and Native American. But in my heart, I am fully American. Perhaps I feel strongly about this now that my parents are gone. And perhaps it was their personal history and patriotism that caused me to transition to not really celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

Each of my parents served in WWII – my father in the Army, my mother in the Marines. Every year of my childhood, on Memorial Day, my mother would walk us, her children, the quarter of a mile to the passing parade. She’d instruct us to put our hand over our heart as each American flag passed. She’d talk to us about giving honor to “the boys” who lost their lives to keep our country free from tyranny.

My mother’s solemn disposition on Memorial Day had an impact on me. Looking back now, I believe that each year, I’d feel more and more American because of her influence.

At age 70, my mother went back to work. She worked for several years in the Immigrant City Archives in Lawrence. She loved the legacy her home city had left on the Merrimack Valley. She especially loved the mix of races and cultures, and the contribution of each to the American way of life.

My mother was a solid member of the GOP. I don’t believe she ever voted outside of her party. She followed politics with the same zeal that is associated with sports fans. She understood her civics and she could determine with a fair amount of accuracy, by following every move of the Senate and the House of Representatives, who might bid for the presidency and how he/she would be receive by both parties and the American people.

I think of her often as I watch the current presidential election. I believe she’d be in a dilemma. Her party has put forth a candidate whose bigotry and aggression is a threat to this country. It would bother her to hear his anti-immigration and immigrant bashing statements. She’d wonder how Donald Trump could lead a country whose military has already acknowledged that it will not follow his illegal commands regarding torture and the killing of civilians (family members of terrorists).

I am my mother’s daughter, and though we did not see eye to eye on all things, we loved each other dearly. Like her, I am proud of the courage it took for my ancestors to leave the home they loved and brave the seas to find a better life. I’m proud of what they achieved in their small way. This is the American story for every family in this country that is not Native American.

So, on St. Patrick’s Day, I thank my Irish ancestors for my American heritage. And I want this country to continue to allow the privilege of American heritage to any person fleeing oppression, violence, tyranny, starvation or lack of personal freedom and human rights.

The First Time – A Talk With My Daughter

March 1, 2016

snowdrops - signs of spring“Sweetie,” I said to my daughter, “I know it’s your first time, and I’m sure you’ve talked with your friends – each generation has their own ideas and I understand that, but still, there are some basic things that I want to be sure you know.”

“You need to be careful that you’re not choosing a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Money and flash can be distracting allures. But honesty and integrity are far more important.”

To my surprise, my daughter seemed to be content to continue listening to me.

“Once you’re alone and the moment has come, please be prepared. You can get caught up in the newness of it all and lose track of your thoughts. So please, for the wellbeing of yourself and all of us, be prepared. Know how you are going to proceed. The decision you make can effect your health and wellbeing for the rest of your life.”

“When the sheet is drawn and you have only your wits to guide you, please keep your head and don’t vote for Trump!”

10 Classic Shakespeare Plays Everyone Should Read

January 26, 2016

I’ve been following Interesting Literature for some time now. Sometimes the site introduces new (to me) writers and their works. Other times, like today, I’m reminded of reading I did many years ago – some in this article, when I was in high school. Reading this post tempts me to do a study of Shakespeare’s works again. Macbeth was my fav.

Interesting Literature

The best of the Bard’s plays, with some interesting facts about them

Every Shakespeare play is a classic, of course. But William Shakespeare left behind nearly forty plays, including his collaborations with John Fletcher and others, and it would be disingenuous to claim that they all have equal ‘classic’ status among the Bard’s work. What we’ve compiled here, then, is less a definitive list of ‘best Shakespeare plays’ and more a small selection of some of his most talked-about, reread, performed, and adapted plays. We’ve included some facts about them as we go. We’ve not attempted to place them in any preferential order: that would be a step too far. But what, if you had to choose, would be the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays?

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In Honor of Sprite – a poem by Mary McAvoy

July 19, 2015



In Honor of Sprite
    by Mary McAvoy

Tonight I washed the kitchen floor and there went the last traces of your paw prints.
When I shower now, the water will rinse from my legs the residue left by your wet nose
when it came up against me, the last sense able to find your home base.

Down the drain will go the flecks of dirt from your fur and paws as you sat at my feet for the last time
and I stroked your warm body.

I know you are lingering here.
Either you can’t let go of me,
your source of safety –
or I can’t let go of you,
my constant.

Soon, after 16 years of 64 seasons, we’ll drift fully apart
and you will remain only a memory to me.
How odd that seems, when you are so freshly real.

Run now! You are free to go!
Enjoy the others who are happy to have you among them!
You are a sprite – delight them!

And I will miss you, till we meet again.

Snippet #2 2014

October 24, 2014

128px-Ambox_blue_question.svgHere’s my second post in the snippets category, which I’ve identified in an earlier post as:
Sometimes I really don’t have the time or energy to create a whole post, so snippets will suffice when I have a burning thought around which I don’t really want to build a whole post.

2014 Snippet #2 – a burning question:

Which came first, the garbage disposal or the food processor?

Let Me Introduce You To A Poet, In Word and Heart

October 23, 2014
tags: ,

banner for website Poetry By JDA site
I know a guy who has decided to take the leap and put his poetry online. I happen to be a fan of his writing so I couldn’t be more pleased.

Please wander on over to his site, Poetry by JDA, and see what you think!

Frank Sinatra Fell In Love With Me…in my dreams!

October 22, 2014

Frank_Sinatra_laughingLast night I had a dream in which Frank Sinatra was pursuing me…romantically.

In my dream I was my current age…let’s just say “middle-aged.” Ol’ Blue Eyes was looking not too young and not too old, and he was lookin’ good. Somewhere along the line we kissed. He was a good kisser.

I think the dream was spawned by an article I’d read about him the day before, an interesting article that someone had posted on Facebook.

In the dream I expressed to Mr. Sinatra that I was concerned that his interest in me was grounded in his desire for a one night stand. I told him that wasn’t my style.

With a big display of being insulted by the insinuation, he left me and went to the airport to go back to Hollywood.

I was sad and regretful.

But, lo, he returned a few hours later, having missed his flight on purpose so that he could return to me. He insisted that he’d prove his sincerity.

So, he took me back in time to my childhood home. (Remember, this is a dream, where incredulous is the norm.) He said that in order to convince me that his interest was real, he wanted to know all about me. Hence the trip back in time. For days we observed the world of my youth.

We stood in the midst of my childhood life and laughed genuinely and felt that sense of endearment that childhood memories can conjure – where innocence and sweetness reign. And he fell deeper in love with me and I with him for his appreciation of those who I have loved.

Then I woke up, reality hitting me like an Arctic blast.

Through the morning as I mulled over what the dream might mean, I remembered a poem I wrote during the summer. I think Ol’ Blue Eyes was standing in for a brown eyed guy.

Missing you, Kissing you
 by Mary McAvoy

missing you
kissing you
…in my dreams

how is it that I’m coming apart at the seams
not from our separation
but life’s undulations

resettled again
is there no end

changes, changes
unexpected rearranges
leaves me

missing you,
kissing you
…in my dreams

Tuesday’s Tunes – I’m Not The Only One by Sam Smith and Gotta Get Away by The Black Keys

October 21, 2014

I sometimes wonder if I’m the last person on earth who listens to music on the radio. I have CDs and I use Pandora. But when I’m home I like to listen to the radio.

Actually, I think that by listening to the radio I’ve stayed more current than I might have otherwise. I don’t know how I would have come across the two songs I’m featuring today if I hadn’t heard them on the radio.

In any event, I love the song I’m Not The Only One by Sam Smith (video above). Every time it comes on the radio, I turn up the volume and sing along with the refrain. I guess I’m not alone in liking this song. The official video has 34 million hits!

It’s really a sad, sad song.

So, after you give it a listen, here’s an upbeat tune from The Black Keys. I call it the Kalamazoo song but the title is Gotta Get Away.

A Poem by Mary McAvoy – Digging My New Digs

September 25, 2014

red sunrise

Sunrise out my window this morning.

Digging My New Digs

by Mary McAvoy

This is where I rest,
where my mind revels,
where my heart beats a mellow lub-dup,
and my muscles melt in relief.
Alone, at long last,
to shed life’s weight –
to shake it off like a four-legged rids itself of dust
after a trek across barren terrain.
Give me Bacchus, give me nourishing greens.
Let me dance on these floors that are mine and mine alone.
Wild, free dancing,
to music that only my ears hear.

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