Category Archives: inspiration

Requiem The Soundtrack

requiem the soundtrack
photo credit: Julie Cohn of Cork, Fork & Passport

The waning months of 2015 and the beginnings of 2016 were hard on the world of music and arts.  Rare voices and singular talents were lost. Bowie, Frye, Rickman… those were hard losses to take.  Each had a place in the soundtrack of my life, maybe yours too? Requiem The Soundtrack is a bit of a love letter to voices gone but still so much a part of the story.

Did you know Alan Rickman sang?

Okay, so maybe Alan didn’t sing well. He might not even be deserving of inclusion in Requiem The Soundtrack save for the fact that his voice is inextricable from my memories. Truth be told, I could listen to that luxuriously deep voice reciting tax code. You’ll forgive me for subjecting you to Johnny Depp’s screeching in Sweeney Todd… eventually. 

Bowie may have been the biggest loss. It’s a very short list of people that have had such enormous impact on music, art, fashion and culture. Our youngest daughter may have been the biggest Bowie fan I’ve ever met.

In the days following his passing there were lots of tears. Stuck in DC traffic a week after the news, Under Pressure came on the radio. Before I could turn the channel, her brother was misty-eyed. It was his favorite song too. I let them cry it out. For the span of 4:08 minutes they bonded. That was the power of Bowie in our lives.

Before we could recover enough to listen to Space Oddity the news of Glenn Frey’s passing came. This one hit me harder.

Though I’m a kid of the 80’s I’m also the child of a musician. My Dad plays dozens of instruments, shared a stage with Chuck Berry, and knows the girl in Dan Fogelberg’s song Same Old Lang Syne {he and Dan went to school together, my dad played for his dad}.  Music has always been how I connected with him. Songs from The Eagles were the first chords that bonded us, musically.

I can vividly recall sitting outside on cool nights in the California desert town where I grew up, watching him sing to my mom, “I love the way your sparking earrings lay against your skin so brown…”  She was his Witchy Woman, her spell cast from sapphire eyes under dark lashes. Frye’s voice harmonizing  with my dad’s, true magic. 

So many disappeared voices make their way onto my playlist of memory.  The Optimistic Blues of Allen Toussaint. Nobody but Townes Van Zandt should ever sing Poncho and Lefty. Down in the Boondocks they’re missing the dulcet voice of Billy Joe Royal.

As vividly as though it happened yesterday, I can remember driving down a single-lane road headed from Boston to The Cape and hearing that Amy Winehouse had died. We were in two cars and my oldest son called to be sure I didn’t need to pull over and cry. They all know how much music means to me, because it’s the same with them.

Then there are the bands that won’t ever quite be same without members that made the music; Pete de Freitas from Echo & The Bunnymen, the Chilis without Hillel and The Stooges without Dave. There is no INXS without Michael Hutchence – no matter how many reality shows they dream up.

I can think of a song for almost any milestone in my life. When I look back there seem to be a whole lot of holes where amazing talent once lived. Perhaps that’s the inevitability of aging. The beauty in that though is that those songs don’t go away. Technology these days lets us dive into the pool of memory anytime we want.

Not a day goes by where I’m not on Spotify, or offline with my collection of tunes. Music is as much a part of my everyday as it is my memories. We have a playlist for road trips, work days, house cleaning, there is even one a bunch of us put together in morbid homage to my bestie’s thyroid cancer. {for the record, she kicked cancer’s ass}

Any time I need to hear the voices of those gone, I just turn my smartphone and wireless headphones on and they live again. 



This post was inspired by weekly #VZWbuzz chats that often feature ways that technology impacts our daily lives. As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events.   All opinions – and playlists – are entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 

It’s Scary

But it's scary
photo credit: tyler s miller


When you’re a kid people ask you what you want to be. As we get older that simple question expands into more specific things. Where do you want to go to college?  What will you major in? How the hell are we going to pay for that?! Once adulthood hits though, it isn’t so much a question to be answered as a quest we’re on.

It wasn’t until I hit my forties {gulp} that I really felt compelled in any way to set off on that quest. For the most part what I was, was on autopilot. Wife, mother, maker of dinners, keeper of calendars, planner of trips, czarina of mismatched socks. It all just sort of happened in the way that we take in and let out a breath. You just do it.

This isn’t to say that I hadn’t accomplished anything, or was a nobody. There were things along the way that I was proud of having done, which had nothing to do with parenting or marriage. The thing is, even those things weren’t really what I would have said I wanted to be.

In all fairness I’ve wanted to be several things in my four-plus decades {again, gulp} on this rock hurling through the void. Not the least of which was a forensic pathologist.  I was a huge fan of Quincy back in the day. I went to cooking school, opened a catering business, worked in criminal investigations and higher education, learned how to paint, sold some of the photos I’ve taken, picked up a few rudimentary language skills, and traveled the world.  None of that was wholly, me.

It may be rather romantic to say that all those things were simply steps in a journey. Each getting me closer to the quest’s end. Sorry to break it to ya, but the truth is rarely ever romantic. Whether I chose to face it or not, the fact was I’d known what I wanted to be from the age of nine and that scared me.

It’s scary to want something. Truly terrifying, in fact.

What if wanting it isn’t enough? It never is.

Beyond having to work to get this thing you long for, there is the fear of never getting there no matter how hard you work. I love to sing in the car – much to the chagrin of anyone unfortunate enough to be a passenger. I know that even if I longed to be a singer, I still couldn’t carry a tune if you gave me a Birkin bag to put it in.

I can live with never singing a solo, but could I say the same if that thing I’d wanted to be since I was nine never happened? Fear is the ghost that haunts our every decision. For years I’d let it paralyze me to the point that not only would I ignore what I wanted to be, but I couldn’t even bring myself to speak the words to another living soul.

I want to be a writer.

Even typing that was scary. I know I’ll never be a Susan Jane Gilman {one of my very favorite authors}, write the great American novel, or any novel. I own the fact that my grammar and spelling are – to put it mildly– wretched.  I think though that I can tell a story, I love telling stories. Words are my narcotic, my high. Even if I can’t spell most of them.

Yesterday I took a seriously scary hairpin turn in my quest to be what I’ve always wanted. My first piece was turned in to the editor at the Washington Post who asked if I’d like to write for her a year ago this month.

It isn’t a full story, more snippets on a topic. But I did the research, made the calls, and wrote the words. My name will be on an actual check from their publishing department. Of course I also got a good friend to help me edit it before I sent it in – grammar and spelling support, a must.

Hitting send was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. The most liberating, fulfilling, kick-ass keyboard stroke of my life. I may never be a known name, or even a marginally successful freelancer, but for the moment I am who I always wanted to be… a writer.

Yeah, it’s still scary.

UPDATE: You can read my first Washington Post piece here. Already working on my next assignment. And yes, it’s scary… still!



A Life Measured With Coffee Spoons

I’ve often wondered what T.S. Eliot meant by a life measured with coffee spoons. Was The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock  a lament to time lost in the doldrums of watching others live a fuller life or a reminder for us to see the extraordinary in our own ordinary.  That’s sort of the beauty in poetry, it’s a kaleidoscope of words in which we each see different things. Right?

A friend recently sent me a gift with the quote on it.

A Life Measured In Coffee Spoons

I’m sure this had something to do with my famed addiction to coffee. But, as I sat and thought about it the gift took on a deeper meaning, making me realize how profound a cup of coffee can be.

Slowly circling the cup, pulling along a snowy wake of frothed milk, the spoon sings a quiet tune. The sound of daydreams, of new adventures, of deep longing and fruitless introspection. 

In cups ornate and plain, chipped on occasion stained, the spoon omnipresent. I’ve stirred with a view of the sun rising upon the Duomo, clicked steel on china while watching sheep graze in a misty Irish haze.  Sleeping children have heaved blissful sighs as the spoon turned on. Words and tears have flowed to the dulcet drone.

I choose to believe in the everyday extraordinary. In a beautiful life measured in coffee spoons. Though I’ve recently switched to tea.


Motorola Droid Turbo Giveaway: Take Better Travel Photos

Take better travel photos from anywhere in the world with Verizon WirelessIf I had a dollar for every time a member of my family rolls their eyes over how many pictures I take I’d check one of those items off my bucket list.  Take an epic solo trip – CHECK! How many travel photos do you think you’d take if you won a Motorola Droid Turbo giveaway?

Though they may find my laying on the sidewalk to get the best shot both annoying and disturbing, there is a reason why I take so many pictures. Kathleen was her name.

I can still remember the sound that marked her arrival in our one-tumbleweed town – a low rumble, followed by a roar. I was five years old the day Tropical Storm Kathleen sent a nearly four foot wall of water through our town. I’ve never forgotten that sound.

Her wake washed away life as my family had known it. Once she was done I’d never again hold my mom’s hand, a trembling ball of excitement waiting to get a wave back from the Engineer driving the train that ran past the house. No train would ever travel those tracks again. The friendly rabbits that took shelter in Manzanita grove behind our neighborhood would never come back. Nearly every photo my mother treasured was damaged or destroyed.

We were lucky that September day. The sandbags held, for the most part. Much of our town was damaged. At the bottom of the mountain they weren’t so lucky.  Homes, lives, almost the entire town was lost.

So much can be gone in the blink of an eye, in the roiling waves of Nature’s furry, on random happenstance. Having seen that first-hand at such a young age shaped me. A quiet voice in the back of my head tells me to hold on. Pictures are how I hold on to the people, places, emotions that shape our lives.

With my very first “job” {hocking greeting cards from a company that advertized in the back of a magazine} I earned myself a Polaroid 1000 Land Camera – complete with Instamatic film cartridges and a fancy disposable flash bar. I was well on my way to becoming the next Dorothea Lange. 

Or… not. 

My photography skills – or lack there of– were fodder for endless comic relief. “Hey, look! Jason is Flash Gordon. See the blur?!” I was notorious for beheading my subjects, on film at least. Shaking a photo to aid in development became the preamble to public humiliation.  Yet, I was undaunted. I wouldn’t let a few bad photos {okay, a ton} keep me from snatching those memories and holding on tight. 

In the many decades since that first camera I’ve gotten a little better at snapping a photo. I’ve also had the chance to capture pictures in some of my favorite places around the globe. Sometimes there is still blur, but for the most part everyone has a full head on their shoulders.

I took this photo with the HTC One M9 Smartphone while visiting Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. Taken in the dark, the only filter used was the low-light feature on the phone. Not bad, eh?
I took this photo with the HTC One M9 Smartphone while visiting Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. Taken during their Northern Lights display, this is a night shot. The only filter used was the low-light feature on the phone. Not too bad, eh?

The advent of smartphones with good cameras {and let’s be honest, great filters} may not have made me a better photographer,  but it has made for better pictures. I’d like to think my willingness to lay on that sidewalk, stretch out over the precipice, and elbow the elderly out of my shot has had an impact as well. 

I hope that one day the rolling of eyes and the exasperated sighs of my family will fade. It may be a bit much to think that they’ll ever appreciate my insistence that they never take a bite before I get a picture of the food. I hold hope that they’ll eventually forgive me for forcing them to ask the Irish Customs Inspector wait until I was set up to get the shot before he stamped their passports – and then sharing it on Instagram because I have great Global Service with Verizon.  Even if none of this ever happens, no matter where we roam in this crazy adventure, I will  have the pictures to remember. These are the moments that I never want washed away.

A group of some of my favorite Wanderlusters have teamed up with me and OM Media Group to let you know about Verizon’s Global Service, help you stay connected while wandering the globe, and make sure you never miss a shot. Share your favorite travel photo(s) for a chance to win (a Motorola Droid Turbo). Be sure to join @theonlinemom and the Verizon Wireless Buzz crew for some fabulous Twitter chats – every Friday at 3:00 p.m. eastern using the hashtag #VZWBuzz
a Rafflecopter giveaway



Valid to residents of the United States only. All photos must be original with no copyright or distribution restrictions. Photos remain the property of the entrant, who further agrees to give Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom, OMMedia Group, and participating bloggers permission for use solely in promoting this giveaway. Entries with nudity, violence or illegal activities will be deleted and the entry voided. Prize fulfillment will be completed by OMMG. No cash value or substitutions. Winner will be chosen by random number generation and announced within 48 hours of the contest end date (8/30/2015). Winner will be notified via email and has 72 hours to provide shipping information for the prize. If 72 hours lapses without contact, a new winner will be drawn.




Disclosure: As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events. All opinions entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 


Visit Turkey For the coffee, and more…

Traditional Turkish Coffee and famed Turkish Delight - perfect for sharing with friendsCoffee – the ultimate conversation starter- has a long and storied history of being present where great things have begun. There was a cup of coffee on the table the first time I met Jessie.  It sat nearly untouched as I shared in one of the best conversations I’ve ever had about the importance of travel, its power to transform, elevate and educate.

My time with an immensely talented and passionate group of travel bloggers – including Jessie- at the White House Travel Bloggers Summit has taken me down paths I’d never imagined. Beyond that though, it has connected me with a group of people who prove that travel is a force that changes perceptions, challenges stereotypes, and brings us together in a way that nothing else can. 

I’ve yet to recover from the fact that life tossed a wrench into my plans to join the group on their recent voyage to Turkey.  {darn you, life!} While still laboring under the delusion that I’d be going, I was surprised at some of the questions that came my way.  This one came up more than several times;

“Aren’t you afraid to go to Turkey? I mean, isn’t it dangerous?”

Let’s be honest, there are some places that you might want to take extra precautions when traveling to {Antarctica comes to mind – frostbite is serious, people!}  In the end though, danger lurks right outside your door, if you let fear get the better of you it’s going to be rough to ever go anywhere. I had (have) zero fears about visiting Turkey.

Being that I couldn’t make the trip – this time! – I asked Jessie if she’d share some of the experience in a guest post. {She said YES! OMG!!!} I’m over the moon about this, enjoy! 

Stunning frescos and architecture inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Why Travel to Turkey?

Did you know that Turkey is a relatively new country (although an ancient and diverse culture)? This area was known as Anatolia and Thrace, and ruled by many empires, including the Byzantine, Ottoman, and Seljuk. It wasn’t until after World War I that the movement for Turkish nationalism gained momentum, and in 1923, the Republic of Turkey was globally recognized. The first president of Turkey was Mustafa Kemal, also known as Atatürk (father of the Turks). Wherever you go in Turkey, Atatürk is revered for his vision for the country, for his efforts at civil and political rights for all, and for his forward-thinking methods of economic independence. Wherever you go, a photo of Atatürk will be there, showing how important he is to the Turkish people.

Sultanahmet Camii - The Blue Mosque - Istanbul, TurkeyBut what’s it really like, to travel to Turkey?

Did you know that Istanbul is the 5th largest city in the world, and is larger than New York City (which is ranked #21)? It’s amazing to be there – Istanbul straddles two continents: Europe and Asia, and around every corner, history is present. You can be driving in crazy rush hour traffic, and see marine life on the Bosphorus on one side, and millennia-old walls on the other. You can find bookstores and lemonade cafes, international cuisine and simit carts and doner kebab stands, global goods and Turkish rugs (and fresh Turkish delight, swoon!). Every local I talked with, though they loved Istanbul, often went home, to the country.

Widen Your World - start with a tasty Simit served fresh from a cart in IstanbulFor here is what is amazing: even dedicated city people like Istanbulites feel a very strong connection to home, in the country. They go home as often as they can, to visit their families, to be home, to enjoy the beautiful countryside, to center themselves in their culture, to be reminded that family is everything.

And Turkey is incredibly beautiful. From Ephesus and the Aegean Sea to Sanliurfa near the Syrian border, Turkey shows its true nature: gorgeous, diverse landscapes and, of course, the famous Turkish hospitality.

If you’ve never experienced Turkish hospitality, let me explain why it is the main reason you want to visit Turkey. Turkish hospitality shows itself in many ways – from being invited over for coffee, taken out for a meal, helped in various ways, shown immense kindness, and being the recipient of Turkish generosity and compassion. Why? Turkish people believe that all visitors are guests sent by God. They honor guests by taking care of them, by learning about and from them. I never imagined it to be as complete and widespread, though, as I experienced it. The Turkish people I met went above and beyond to accommodate my disabilities, to talk with me, to teach me, and to care for me. It changed my mind about Turkey – a place I’d always wanted to visit – and turned it into a country I love, and a culture I can’t wait to get back to.

Why visit Turkey? The people. You’ll never meet a friendlier, more caring culture.

Photo courtesy of Gizem Salcigil White
Some of the White House Travel Bloggers gathered in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul – Photo courtesy of Gizem Salcigil White

More About Jessie

Jessie {or Dr. Jessie as I call her since she does have a PhD in International Education – boom!} is the publisher of Wandering Educators, a travel library for people curious about the world, and Journey to Scotland, a travel site for her favorite place in the world. She founded the Family Travel Bloggers Association, and directs the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program. She’s published six books about travel and intercultural learning, with more on the way. If you can ever have coffee with her – do!