Jesus Walks – Top 12 Marie Christine Game Changers

We are all many things.  I’m a strategist, a wife, an ex-wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a homeowner, a professor, a diplomat, a mentor, a humanitarian, a drummer, a blogger, a friend and a pessimist.  My list goes on, as does yours.  I’m having an extremely busy quarter.  Whenever I use the word “quarter” my friend Andrea makes fun of me.   Apparently it’s not a term normally used by the general population to describe time.  Alas, I’m having a busy quarter.

I sold my house!  I also bought a house.  Wow!  Blog posts to follow about city vs. non-city, moving, and the differences between my husband and I when it comes to how we approach(ed) the entire process.  I’m also leaving for a business trip to San Diego in two days (Poor me! I “have to” go to San Diego.  Feel sorry for me.).  I close on the houses in less than 4 weeks.  Not only am I going to San Diego, but I have my day job (strategy), my night job (teaching economics etc), 2 charity events, the Worcester Economic Club annual meeting and I’m taking Not-Tom-Brady to see Dead & Company at Fenway Park in Boston for his birthday.  I’m sure I’m missing something, but there’s a lot going on.

Every single day there is someone at my house.  The handyman fixing my windows.  The electrician covering up exposed wires.  My realtor collecting ANOTHER check (Hey Dave!) The myriads of people buying all of the furniture we’re selling on Craigslist.  Side note: If you have a busted snowblower, it doesn’t matter how bad of shape it’s in…. put it on Craigslist.  We had 48 emails in the first hour!

Looking for a home is awesome, and not awesome, at the same time.

What do I do to get me through busy and/or tough times?  Clarification: These are not tough times, these are awesome times… but still busy and a little overwhelming.  I look to music.  I’m here to share the songs that have meant the most to me in my life, and why.  I hope to hear what you think about these songs, and even better, if you can tell me what songs are meaningful to YOU and why. Side note: there are 27 songs that I struggled with NOT putting on this list. It’s very hard to get down to 10ish… so know that there are an additional 27 deserving songs such as “Hear My Train A Comin’: Jimi Hendrix” that I refuse to live without.  But I don’t think the general blog reading audience is up for a selfish extended blog of 39 songs… I digress…

Disclaimer: I’ve had a bit to drink.  Disclaimer to the disclaimer: I’ve had more than a bit to drink.  …. Note to self for future blog title: “Don’t drink and blog”. Damn you Jager and also bless you at the same time.   Forgive any typos, I blame the Jager. There is also a Jager related future blog post… you will enjoy the context but it’s difficult to explain in one sentence so enjoy the suspense lol.

Songs that have impacted my life the most… in reverse order.  Heads up… these aren’t the song’s you’d expect, I’m just being as honest as I can be:

12. The Chain: Fleetwood Mac.   I simply love this song.  It’s not only technically on point, but it gives me a sense of calm and meaning.  If you haven’t heard this song, you need to listen to it immediately. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t love this song.  I’ve seen it performed live once.  It was awesome. My family is always very talkative on car rides.  I notice that we are all silent during this song.  That speaks volumes.

11. Daughter: Pearl Jam.  This song has multiple interpretations.  I recently asked my daughter to teach me to play this on acoustic guitar while she sings it.  Stay tuned for the youTube debut. #LABRocks

10. Beat It: Michael Jackson.  This was one of the first songs that made me feel optimistic and made me want to dance.  It’s also brilliantly written and musically just about perfect. In 2015 we saw a famous Michael Jackson impersonator perform this in Woonsocket, RI… and even the impersonator nailed it.  The song is THAT good.

9. Wanted Dead or Alive: Bon Jovi.  When this music video came out, it was the first glimpse into the life of a musician that may be less than glamorous.  The song is well written, has great hooks and is all around great.  I love playing it on drums.  It’s one of the few songs I can listen to over and over after years of hearing it.  This song was ahead of it’s time and still holds up today. I sometimes wonder if non-musicians love this song as much as musicians do… ?

8. Head Over Heels: The Go-Go’s.  The Go-Go’s changed my life.  As I was trying to figure out how I fit in to the world, Belinda Carlisle helped me get there.  This is one of their lesser known songs, but it’s the one I remember listening to over and over and saying ok… I can see myself in this person.  I have someone to relate to.  Thank you Belinda Carlisle!  She wasn’t all punk, she wasn’t all pop, she wasn’t any category she was all categories, and still is.  I aspired to be like that. I still want Belinda to be my best friend.

Belinda ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

7. Fight For Your Right To Party: The Beastie Boys.  You should know, the Beastie Boys are my favorite band of all time.  They don’t have my top slot in the countdown, but if asked to name my overall favorite band… it’s hands down these guys.  They changed the way I felt about music and felt about life.  They broke barriers. They still break barriers.  I would sit with a friend and memorize the words to Paul Revere and life was good. I couldn’t possibly name all of the songs I love by them, but this was the very first. Plus let’s be serious, before this I had no idea that I had the RIGHT to party 😉

6. Dream On: Aerosmith.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Aerosmith.  Too many to count.  This is partially due to the fact they they are from my home state.  I even settled 2 insurance claims for them in the 1990’s when I was a claims adjuster.  I originally wrote the details in this blog because Jager temporarily made me forget that was inappropriate.  Luckily I remembered before I hit “Publish”.  Let’s say we have a long history. My band did a cover of their cover of “Walking The Dog”.  That said, Dream On has always been an important song to me.  I’m in the process of convincing my daughter to perform this one with me because it’s such an emotional song and has so much meaning to me.  Whenever I hear this song, I feel like a 19 year old drummer at UMASS in a state of Zen once again.  Does it get any better than that?

5. I Know You Won’t: Carrie Underwood.  Best vocals of any song I’ve ever heard.  Also a great emotional message.  Lauren will learn this song when she’s ready.  I’ve heard this performed live twice, and have been speechless every time.  Not only are the vocals better than anything I’ve ever heard… even without production/mixing/blending… but the emotion and meaning is real.  When someone doesn’t keep their promises but you keep hoping they will, this is the song for you. Carrie Underwood can’t dance for $hit but I’ll tell you what, that woman can SING. She doesn’t need studio tricks… this song is the real thing.   Songs I couldn’t include in a short top 10ish list: Someday When I Stop Loving You, The Night Before Life Goes On & Wasted.

4. Ali In The Jungle: The Hours.  I learned about this song last year.  I asked, on social media, for inspiration.  Someone who knows me better than most suggested this song.  The music video is just as good as the song.  A senior leader at my day job recently asked me what I felt my best quality was.  I responded by saying “overcoming adversity”.  I believe that to be true.  When self-doubt creeps in I listen to this song and it tells the self doubt to F-Off and go back to where it came from. If you’ve overcome adversity and struggle with intermittent bouts of self-doubt, this song is a necessity. In my 40’s this song has been a critical reminder that I CAN and I WILL.  Thank you song writers and producers.

3. Ride The Lightening: Metallica.  When I was a Sophomore in high school I experienced a lapse.  I have always been extremely driven.  Focused.  Achieving.  Surviving.  Cutting through red tape with a machete.  In 1985 I experienced a lapse.  I gave up.  I decided the fight wasn’t worth it and almost gave into the dark side.  I started smoking cigarettes.  I stopped caring about my schooling.  I focused on survival but nothing else.  I determined there was no point.  A fellow student gave me a Metallica tape.  One day while mowing the lawn at my house I put the tape in and heard Ride the Lightening.  I have no explanation why, but this was a turning point for me.  It energized me and put me back on track.  I felt a kinship with the meaning of the song. I realized I wasn’t the only person going through something.  I realized I had the power to control my outcomes.  I could ride the lightening.  Thank you Metallica for this turning point. I regained control of my future because of a cassette tape and a lawn mower.

2. When Doves Cry: Prince.  This is one of my favorite songs of all time.  I loved this song at the same time that I loved Metallica.  I wasn’t a metal head. I wasn’t a pop culture buff.  I wasn’t into anything, I was just me and I loved parts of most things.  This song is almost perfect.  I regret that I never heard Prince perform it.  This is my go-to song when I need to forget about something.  I get in my car, I put this song on, and I sing every… single.. word.  I LOVE THIS SONG. Prince had a way of helping you to let go and become a part of the music.  You dance in your car, sitting down, and you don’t care who sees you. We will never hear a song like this again.  People in the next lane over in traffic stare at you like you’re crazy.  Instead of worrying about what they think, you feel sorry for them because they can’t experience the same sense of freedom.  I’m thankful it exists.

  1. Jesus Walks: Kanye West.  If there’s one thing in the world that I CANNOT STAND, it’s Kanye West.  I think he’s one of the biggest narcissistic assholes of our time.  He’s overconfident and often unintelligent.  He puts down others to make himself feel powerful. That’s my least favorite type of person.  That said, he has produced the song that has had the most impact on my life.  I listen to this song several times a week.  This song is my anthem.  This song is my reset. This song is for anyone that has come close to going to the dark side and come back.  This song is for those who have gone to the dark side and come back.  This song is for those who are still on the dark side and still have the opportunity to come back.  This song is brilliantly produced.  It’s motivational and meaningful.  I have listened to this song weekly since it came out over a decade ago.  This song keeps me on track.  This song reminds me to stay the course.  This song has had more of an impact on my life than any other song every has.  My only regret is that it wasn’t released earlier in my life when it would have helped me sooner.  This is the message we need in the struggle.  We are all equal.  We can all rise above evil and do what’s right, even without the resources or means to do so.  Even if we have already gone down the wrong path, there is always still time for course correction. YES WE CAN. We can always come back no matter how far off track we have gone.  #JesusWalks.

 

 

Christmas in Hollis – Tales of an Italian Superhero

I’m not sure if my grandmother was born on a Sunday, but I know that was her name. Her name was Domenica, which translates to “Sunday” in Italian. Her friends knew her as “Maggie” or “Madge”. I never even thought to ask why. I knew her as “Gram”.

If you ask most people how they remember Maggie, the response is often negative. You’ll hear stories about her being irrational and demanding. You’ll hear about the time my father returned home from the Vietnam War and many of his possessions were missing/sold/gone. You’ll hear about her blind hatred for her step-mother and her apparent inability to relate to her own daughter. You’ll hear about an ungrateful woman full of bitterness and impatience. That is not my story… and most people know better than to argue with me on this subject.

hollis argue italian girls

I’m a worrier. I was born serious. I was a serious child. I’m a serious adult. I’ll be a serious elderly person. The world, if it remembers me, will remember me as… Serious. Maggie was also serious, precise and deliberate. I’ll save the details of the serious child-Marie discussion for a separate blog. Or, let’s face it, a series of blogs. Back to Gram…

Gram listened to me. In a world where people don’t often pay attention to unaffectionate children, she paid attention to me. She made it her mission to embrace my nature and to point me toward a life of self-sufficiency. For those who know me, mission totally accomplished. Probably to an extreme. I tend to be a bit… productive.

hollis productive woman

hollis productive cartoon

Gram would often take us to interesting, out of the way places. She took us to fish hatcheries to learn about fish farming and to learn about forestry. She also took us to “the brook”. I have no idea where this brook is. It’s in Berkshire County, MA, USA somewhere. It was a typical New England Brook. Rocky shore. Clear running water. Minnows. Trees. We ate egg salad sandwiches on the rocks and waded around in the brook.

If there were ever other people around, it was usually another family or a couple of teenagers drinking Genesee Cream Ale listening to the radio. This time, there were two men in their 30’s. No swimming gear. No fishing poles. No picnic baskets. They were staring at me as if they were waiting for something to happen. Gram came over to us and said, “Girls, everything is ok. We might have to leave. If I say something, you obey.” She had never used the word “Obey” before. I noticed she was side eye-ing Beauregard and Jimmy-John (Pretty sure these were totally their names). Something wasn’t right.

About 2 minutes later Gram (who was calm, beautiful and, of course, serious) started walking sideways toward us. She was walking calmly in a way that she could see us, and our unwelcome guests, at the same time. Calmly and deliberately, she stepped into the brook. She picked up Sissy in one arm and me in the other. B and JJ sprang into action.

They were probably 100ft away and started running toward us. “Girls, stay calm and do as I say”.

With two lanky primary school children in her arms, Gram ran at what felt like a gazelle’s pace. At first B and JJ were so close that I could smell them. I could see their calloused hands reaching forward as if they were trying to propel themselves faster. I looked down and saw Gram’s legs outstretched and strong. Huge strides on an uneven terrain of oddly sized rocks. Wet and dry land. Tree limbs and rusty pieces of metal. In her bare feet. “Don’t look back”. I didn’t. She didn’t. Sissy didn’t. I failed to mention that in order to get to the brook you had to walk down a very steep hill with a winding dirt path. So steep that it was hard not to fall forward on your way down, and hard to catch your breath on the way up. No time for the path now. No time to catch your breath now. Like an Italian Superhero she flew up the rocky slope. I could hear rocks falling down the hill behind us.

Hollis Italian Superwoman

We finally reached the road. “Almost there”. I see the blue Dodge Horizon in the distance. Tilted at a right angle half on the paved road and half on the dirt path. I hear her shoes fall from her fingers and hit the ground. I hear panting and footsteps of B & JJ but can’t tell how close they are. I obey and don’t look back. “I’m dropping you now. RUN”. We fall to the ground and run. These were the days of unalarmed, unlocked cars. Her right arm reaches out and grabs sissy by the back of the shirt, shoving her through the open driver side window. I open my door, jump in and curl into a ball. Driver door slammed. Key into the ignition and the car starts. Tires burn out leaving skid marks from the driver’s side tire. The acceleration slams my door shut. I sit up and look out the back window and see B & JJ bending down, hands on knees, exhausted.

Hollis Dodge Horizon

Gram, serious and calm. Her hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that her knuckles looked like they would pop out of her skin. Her right leg pressing so hard on the gas pedal trying to make the piece of shit engine go faster. “It’s over girls.” Wet bathing suits. No shoes. Calm Gram. Life continues as usual.

I was confused, but not shaken. I wasn’t shaken because she wasn’t shaken. She behaved how I now behave. Behavior that is often mistaken for unemotional or cold. In reality, it’s just serious. We went to the Friendly’s take-out window for ice cream. None of us wearing shoes. Life went on.

hollis italians forgive

Gram in a nutshell:

She took me to see every breakdancing movie that came out. Ever. She was obsessed with gang wars being resolved by dance battles. This knowledge hasn’t come in handy in real life…. Yet… (I’ve got my cardboard slab ready to throw down)

Hollis breakdancing

She felt it was important that I could find my way around by myself. She would tell me our destination and I would have to tell her how to get there. I now have a keen sense of direction and no fear of getting lost.

She knew that I didn’t enjoy life. She knew I was capable but that I just had no desire to enjoy it. I felt it was unproductive. One of the ways she countered this tendency was to bribe me to enjoy myself. I would be allowed to stay up late, or to try on her clothes, or watch soap operas if I would enjoy myself for 30 minutes. She chose to do this by taping songs from the radio and playing them back on a small, portable tape player. She played the music loud. Very loud. No breaks. I had to dance the entire time. Not move my feet around. Not move my hands around. DANCE. I had to dance my ass off for 30 minutes. It was an order. It was also amazing.

I really dislike sports. I refused free Red Sox Tickets so many times when I worked in Boston that my boss asked me if I was crazy. I explained to him that sitting through a sporting event for me was akin to him having a crying baby held in front of his face, and asked if he wanted free tickets to that. No… no he didn’t. Gram was one of the most dedicated NY Yankees fans I’ve ever seen. She took me on a tour bus to the Bronx to see a game once. This was her happy place.

My grandfather was a stone mason by trade by a guitar player by heart. Gram played saxophone. In their basement was an oil tank covered in signatures from people having partied with them over the years. I loved that oil tank and wonder if the current residents have painted over the signatures.

Natale / Ned / Grampa (Added bonus, Natale means Christmas in Italian)

She complained about housework constantly. Her house was spotless. You could eat off the bathroom floor. Her complaints to me weren’t just annoyance or regrets over life choices, they were direction. Don’t be like me. Be something more. Do not do housework. Ask my husband, I don’t do housework. I should, but I don’t. Blame Gram????

Gram loved Bruce Springsteen. She would lecture me on his music with detailed explanations about why he was the best musician, and best human being, on the planet. “The Boss” really understood life, apparently. She was very interested in pop culture and fashion. I knew all about which dresses Nixon’s daughters were wearing and how Nancy Reagan was a fashion nightmare even though she meant well. Poor thing.

She taught me that health is our most important asset. She hiked every day. She also loved to eat (and loved forcing others to eat… a lot… and then eat again). She taught me about balance. Ok Marie you can eat a Jim Dandy for dinner but then the next day you’ll want to just have a salad. Don’t deprive yourself or life isn’t worth living.

Hollis Jim Dandy

For those not from New England, USA.  THIS is a Jim Dandy.  Hellll yea.

Hollis nonna food

She taught me which plants you can eat and which plants could heal you. She taught me how to survive in the woods to the extent that I always felt being stranded in the woods was something inevitable… I’m still basically waiting for it to happen.

Gram learned as much as she could about rap music. She loved Run DMC. She bought me the Christmas in Hollis 45 record. We played it constantly. To me this was all very normal. In hindsight I re-think the scene. Me in my black, leather jacket, red nails and Metallica T-Shirt. Eating piles of pasta with poppy seed rolls. My grandmother in her Madonna-esque, but very appropriate, black outfit and thick silver, short, modern hair. Listening to Christmas in Hollis over, and over and over and over. When RUN DMC and Aerosmith later decided to collaborate, this was basically a national holiday for us. All very normal…

Hollis Album Cover

hollis aerosmith

Yassssssss

She must have told me a THOUSAND times to “Work in Computers”. “Computers are the future”. “You’ll never make it if you don’t know computers”. Yup, she nailed it. In 1981, she knew.

She was a fierce democrat. This isn’t uncommon for Italian immigrants, especially during this time. I would post the photo of us at a Mondale/Ferraro rally but my sister would stop speaking to me. Let’s just say we didn’t look our best that day (or that decade if I’m being honest).

Waste NOTHING. I swear this woman’s garbage on the curb was the size of my fist. She would find a use for everything, and if someone was wasteful I had to assume they were basically going to hell. Quickly. And we would be judging them as the descended.

hollis italian tupperware

She drove fast. She told it like it is. She did not GAF. She really didn’t. Except when she did. And when she did GAF it was about me. So she gets her own blog post, and she gets me punching anyone in the face who tries to tell me she wasn’t amazing. My often irrational, demanding, ungrateful, bitter and extremely loyal Italian Superhero.

Gram / Domenica / Maggie