Friday, April 6, 2018

Book Review: 7 Lessons from Heaven: How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy Filled Life by Dr. Mary Neal - Non-fiction

In this follow-up book, entitled, 7 Lessons from Heaven: How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy Filled Life, Dr. Mary Neal describes her chance meetings and conversations with Jesus, an understanding of the reality of Heaven and its profound impact on her daily life on Earth.

This spiritual awakening began when Dr. Neal was in a kayaking accident in 1999 that took her life; this experience is outlined in her first book entitled, To Heaven and Back. Neal, appropriately, contextualizes the accident to amplify her sense of spirituality in her daily living activities. 

As an orthopedic surgeon she indicates how she “second- guesses” her spiritual experiences of her accident and what was it that brought her back to life from death. Her explanation is well-researched with no scientific conclusions other than believing in the spiritual aspect of what happened to her. She died and was brought back to life through the intervention of Jesus. While in this state of being spiritually uplifted she tells about her meetings and conversations with Jesus. It is an inexplicable account of the impact of the reality of Heaven and how it can shape one’s life in a radiantly and joyful manner while on Earth. There are many stories of other people’s experiences that foster looking for opened doors and walking through them to enable a better lifestyle. She stresses the importance of living in the present. Even though many questions surface, it defies medical science, leaving the reader to accept these inexplicable accounts of being spiritually enlightened by “coincidental” incidences.

7 Lessons from Heaven: How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy Filled Life is an inspiring book.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Book Review: Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis - Fiction

Fifteen dogs by André Alexis takes the reader into the minds of the dogs. They escape from the shelter as a group to fend for themselves within the environs of the City of Toronto. They become a pack. They roam the streets until they come to High Park. Here, they create a coppice as their new home. On their own they learn to hunt for sustenance. Leaders emerge among them who define the differences in each dog, its relationship to each other and the leaders.

There are vivid descriptions of how these dogs interact with each other and other dogs they avoid in their meanderings around the Park highlighted by the variety of smells and filth they encounter in their new environment. There is a sense of wildness evident in these dogs as they plot, scheme and even kill. They communicate with each other and a couple of them assume the human language.

Each dog’s fate and eventual demise is determined by the gods, Hermes and Apollo. These gods “toy” with the cognitive senses of these dogs as they shape the fate of this group of dogs. The author brings in philosophical aspects of the undercurrent of the mind and intelligence of each dog through his portrayal of how these dogs live and survive or not.

Fifteen Dogs is an unusual read. It takes the reader into the minds of the dogs that could create rare assumptions leading to shrewd conclusions.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Travel News: A Winter's Day Trip to Niagara Falls

January 15, 2018: On this cold winter's day my son, Michael and I spent my birthday at Niagara Falls. We drove to the Fallsview Casino Hotel for some comfortable underground parking. We walked around the complex to determine the best way to view the Falls.We spent about an hour walking to and fro the road to the Falls where we stopped to take pictures. We noticed that the Falls were only partially frozen and yet created dramatic views.

The pictures tell many beautiful stories that you can create as you view each picture.

View of the American Niagara Falls from the Canadian side

Back to viewing the Canadian Niagara Falls

We returned to the hotel for a delicious lunch and to warm-up before we ventured out again to be in awe of these partially frozen magnificent Niagara Falls

Statute of Nikola Tesla--a famed Electrical/Mechanical Engineer, Inventor and Futurist.
 This statute is situated in front of the stunning backdrop of snow-draped trees
across the road from the Canadian Niagara Falls.

It was late afternoon when we returned to the hotel to warm up and relax with a slice of chocolate birthday cake and a cup of tea. But before we left I tried my hand at the slot machine in the Casino and betted a small amount that I was willing to lose.  Instead I gained a healthy but much appreciated sum of winnings. Michael declared it was my birthday luck. He drove me home amidst snow flakes and traffic congestion in some parts.  It was an extraordinary and memorable day of a milestone birthday. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Travel News: Day 1 - Tournament of Roses Tour in California

In the past whenever I watched this Parade on TV I said to myself that one day I will go there.  My sons made it happen for me in 2018.  I am deeply grateful for their generous Christmas gift to me; it is a beautiful launch to my solo journey of my life.

A bit of the history of the Tournament of Roses. It was founded in 1890 by members of the Valley Hunt Club led by Charles Frederick Holder who sponsored the first Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, California. They wanted to showcase the warm winter weather as well as the abundance of flowers and plants of California to their east coast friends. All participants in the Parade had to decorate their carriages with a variety of flowers and plants. 2018 celebrates its 129th year; this year's theme is Making A Difference. In 1902 the college football teams became part of the Rose Bowl Game making it their 104th year of affiliation with the Tournament of Roses Parade. (Source: 2018 Official Souvenir Program)

On our first day, December 30, 2017 we spent the morning at one of the many warehouses to observe the preparation of some of the floats for the Parade.  It was a fascinating walk through as we watched volunteers, identified as Petal Pushers work on the floats--inserting flowers, leaves and various plants onto the floats. See images below:
Petal Pushers at work

Roses waiting to be inserted onto the floats

Petal Pushers busy at work

A close-up of the natural flora and fauna
This tour created a curious sense of anticipation of what would be revealed on the day of the Parade on January 1, 2018.

In the afternoon of December 30, 2017 we had a guided tour of the Queen Mary ship, now converted to a hotel. It was one of the Cunard Line passenger ships that sailed from Great Britain to New York in the late 1920s.  It still boasts its original design and architecture inside the ship with minor modifications for today's needs and maintenance.

In front of the Queen Mary ship

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Travel News: Day 2 - Tour of Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood: Tournament of Roses Tour, California

On Day 2, December 31, 2017 we went on a tour of downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood. While in downtown Los Angeles, we stopped to visit the original part of Los Angeles which now has a typical Mexican style market. The images below depict two sites located in front of the market.


As we drove towards Hollywood, we spotted the Los Angeles City Hall--the pyramid shaped building in the mage below:
Los Angeles City Hall
Onwards to Hollywood. We stop at the famed Dolby Theatre where the Oscars event is held and strolled around the complex to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign.
From the Dolby Theatre complex the Hollywood sign is visible in the distance

While walking around the complex I snapped a picture of this saying carved along the pathway along with other sayings from different artists. 

Our tour takes us to part of the pathway that has the different stars of fame. Below is the one for the Beatles' stars.

The site for the Beatles' stars of fame.
We stopped for lunch at the Farmers' Market and then we strolled along the street browsing through all the stores and shops along the way.  Back on the bus we headed onto the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum.  We saw the tar bubbling in the lake while the Museum with all its animal fossils were displayed in the Museum.

Tar Pitts Museum
We drive back to the hotel for an early New Year's Eve celebration in anticipation of being at the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 20`8.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Travel News: Day 3 - Tournament of Roses Parade, Pasadena, California

The flyover - U. S. Air Force B - 2 Spirit

The parade began with a flyover - U.S. Air Force B - 2 Spirit.

There were marching bands, some performed with amazing talent for the onlookers. But for me, it was all about the floats and below are a sample of my favourites,

The many images below are worth thousands of words. Absorb and Enjoy!

In the afternoon, we viewed the floats up front and close; here are a sample of the images:

Every float is created from natural flowers and plants, i.e. a variety of flora and fauna.

It was a wondrous and memorable start to 2018 as I continue to keep in touch with new friends.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Travel News: Tour of South - South West Ireland

The next part of my time in Ireland begins on September 10, 2017 when I hop onto a bus to tour the South - South West of Ireland. We are a small group on a small bus. Our driver/tour guide, Patrick Foley, takes us from Dublin heading West through farmland and peat bogs of counties Kildare and Offally. In our introductions, Patrick is curious about the origins of our surnames; each one of us tell our stories. We stop to take a peek at the bogland as Patrick explains how these peat bogs are harvested, dried and used as fuel for heating the homes; today there are yet a few who have not converted to electricity.

Site of Clonmacnoise
Bridge over Shannon River
Lynch Castle--today it houses the AIB Bank, Galway

We arrive in Kilbeggan to take in the Lockeas Distillery, the oldest legal whiskey distillery in the world. We sample the varieties. I stop at the House of Names only to discover that my maiden name Joanes originates in Spain or more correctly Iberian; I buy the scroll with a crest. We continue our drive further west. We stop to explore the ancient site of Clonmacnoise.

As we head West for Galway we make a traditional pub lunch stop in Shannonbridge overlooking the Shannon River. As we continue on the bus, we arrive on the outskirts of Galway.

As Patrick takes us around showing the sights of Galway and meanders along the Promenade facing the Wild Atlantic Ocean, he tells us the story about the prominent Mayor Lynch of Galway who was also the Magistrate at the time.

He tried his son for murdering a Spaniard who apparently was dating a lady that his son had eyes for; his son was sentenced to execution. The townspeople came out in support of his son and tried to prevent the execution.  

Hence the term "Lynch mob." Since none of the executioners would carry out the order, Mayor Lynch himself executed his son and thus the term "lynching" came about. This is one version of the events as told by our guide Patrick and can be considered to be one of the many interpretations of what really happened way back in the late 15th century. Thus we were treated to many a story or legend  during our trip. Patrick is a captivating  story teller.

The next day we depart Galway for the Burren, a beautiful land of limestone pavements, barren hillsides, rare flora and early settlements. We spend some time viewing the Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher

It was a very, very windy day but as our guide would indicate at least there is no fog and you can actually see the Cliffs. It was a wondrous sight.

Corcomroe Abbey, County Clare
We visit Corcomroe Abbey that was founded by the Cistercian monks in the late 12th century. Then we view the Portal Tomb. There is ancient history in Ireland.
Portal Tomb, County Clare

Later that afternoon we take the ferry to travel into County Kerry to Killarney. We spot a beautiful rainbow gracing its presence for us all to absorb and enjoy.

We explore Dingle Peninsula where there are many ancient forts and early religious monuments. To stretch we take the time to walk along the sands of Inch Strand in Kerry. It is very good to feel the strong wind and inhale the sea air. Here comes another sight, Prehistoric Dunbeg Fort, a promontory fort built in the Iron Age.
Dunbeg Fort, Dingle Pninsula

We spend time in Dingle Town which is a fishing town with the homes brightly painted in a variety of colours that enable the fishermen to recognize their arrival home while at sea.

On the night of Tuesday, September 12th we are treated to a spectacular show The Celtic Steps. A variety of Irish Celtic dance steps performed by the youth who are known Irish Dance champions in Kerry. Also we witnessed Irish drumming and the captivating story of this particular show.  It is meant to maintain Irish culture and hand down to future generations the Irish culture of dance and music. It was a memorable show.

The next morning we are on the road again, driving around the Ring of Kerry that is a classic route consisting of views of Ireland's highest mountain. Beautiful views of Lakes of Killarney.
Views from Killarney National Park

We visit Derrynane House which was the home of Irish politician and liberator of Ireland, Daniel O'Connell. Today it is part of a 320 acre Irish National Park.

We walk along the pathway spotting a variety of fairy houses until we get to walk along the beach.

The view on the right is taken at Derrynane Beach.

Also in County Kerry we visit a sheep farm where the owner demonstrates how he and his dogs round up the sheep.  We make a quick stop to view Torc Falls.
Torc Falls, County Kerry

Blaarney Castle, County Cork
On our last day of this tour we drive through Cork for a stop at Blarney Castle and no I didn't kiss the Blarney Stone. By myself  I couldn't climb the steep 100 narrow and ancient stone steps with no hand rail. A few of us opted out of this sojourn up. 

I discovered this is one of those "tourist trap" things. Apparently when you kiss the blarney stone you will be blessed with the "gift of the gab." Instead, I stroll through the beautiful gardens on the grounds of Blarney Castle. Near the Castle, the strollers are graced by the music from the bagpipes. 

Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary
We are now heading back towards Dublin. We stop at the Rock of Cashel, Monastery built on top of the Rock. The Rock of Cashel, also known as the King's and St. Patrick's Rock. 

Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny is our time for another break. We visit Kilkenny Castle that looks onto River Nore, walk along the main street and quickly walk through The Medieval Mile Museum that represents an immense treasure trove of artefacts dating back more than 800 years of history.

We end our tour in Dublin in the early hours of the evening. it was a packed tour of the three of the four provinces of Ireland that deserves another more concentrated tour of each of these provinces. We toured Leinster, Munster, and Connacht that didn't include the province of Ulster.

The black-marked part of the map illustrates my tour from the Irish Sea to the Wild Atlantic Ocean and back to Dublin.