Hello, I’m a Firework.

Thinking about my 2023 goals, and I think I may want to sing live again.

Yes, again. Singing has always been a part of my life. However, most people I know might not realize I trained as a vocalist in a performing arts school. This was way before The Voice and American Idol were even a thing. These days I sing to myself while strolling through my neighborhood or serenading my cats at home.

But sometimes, I really want to sing live again. Live in person, in front of other people. 

Like that time, I performed a pop mashup in front of an audience of 750 co-workers. Singing in front of your peers is very different from singing in the shower or car karaoke. It was thrilling, nerve-wracking, and almost as scary as my first time performing burlesque.

So yeah, I know what you’re thinking: how have I not heard this story before? I’ve been holding onto this video for a long time, but now that the company no longer exists, I feel I can share the clip and the story behind it.

And so here we go… 

Once upon a time, many years ago, after a night of karaoke, my co-worker and friend @tweedskirtmoran challenged me to perform at the annual sales conference talent show. Halfway into the year of facing my fears, it seemed like live performing was the next thing to try.

The last time I had any solid vocal training, I attended Mark Twain JHS for the Gifted and Talented. Singing anything takes practice, and it took a lot of preparation to get my voice ready to perform my solo in front of a live audience.

First, I chose a song. I saw Alan Cummings perform at Cyndi Lauper’s Home for the Holidays concert the previous December. I enjoyed his mashup–they were all the rage at the time–performance of “Someone Like You/Edge of Glory/Firework.” 

Then, I found a vocal coach. I wish I could remember his name. I can see his face, and the piano in his studio apartment on the Upper West Side. Oh, and I do remember that he was a traveling Broadway actor, and I happened to find him in between gigs. 

And finally, a piano player. I enlisted a fellow co-worker Peter Cherukuri to be my accompaniment on stage. 

Now I had no grand illusion that I could mimic Alan Cummings or the vocal ranges of Adele, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry’s original recordings. So if you’re expecting an America’s Got Talent ringer, this is not it. 

Like everything in life, I put my own spin on it. And maybe, if I had more time to rehearse, it could’ve been a better performance, but sometimes the dare to dream is less about thinking and more about doing it. 

I guess you’ll see for yourself if you decide to watch the video

Truth be told, I hadn’t watched the entire video until almost a decade later. In my memory, I thought I botched up the song and was booed off stage by Jerry Springer, when in actuality, as the video confirms, he was in my corner. So you could say he was one of my champions, awarding me a score of 9 (out of 10). 

I can’t remember who the other judges were, and the emcee’s name also escapes me. However, he looks a lot like that excited penguin from Edinburgh Zoo. I have always had a soft spot for penguins, so there’s that.

I scored 20/30 points, which I think is pretty damn good for a first-time-ever solo live performance.

And who knows, maybe I’ll make good on my intention for a repeat in 2023 only to a much smaller audience.



How to live with your eyes wide open

Nine years ago, I was on the verge of an awakening. Metaphorically one might compare my existence before a deep catatonic state of consciousness. I’ve mentioned before that there are chunks of my life I honestly cannot remember as an all too active participant in the rat race of work hard play hard. Although I don’t know the exact moment when I ‘snapped out of it,’ I do remember that the jolt was so forceful it inspired a quest to reclaim the only holy grail that mattered: Me.

There is a special kind of adrenaline rush that comes from engaging in activities that are hella beyond your comfort zone. And I’m not talking about the Mayhem that is online dating, I am talking about stepping off the beaten path into the world that’s right in front of you. Consider that most people live in a perpetual time loop. They go from home to the gym to work, then home to do it all over again.  It’s only recently that people are starting to take note of how to live a better life.

It’s a work in progress, but I am trying to live the best life I know. I’ve learned how to surf on water and volcanic ash. Well, I chickened out on the volcano surfing, as it involved thunder, lightning, and a metal sled. I tried my hand at samurai sword fighting discovered a love for boas, cheerleading, and the shimmy while performing burlesque. I fulfilled a lifelong dream of visiting India and experiencing a Bollywood-like wedding. Sadly, no livestock was in attendance. I’ve traveled through Southeast Asia, taken mermaid lessons (video available upon request), started my own business, uncovered killer street art, learned how to meditate in a monastery, and hiked the elusive Tiger’s Nest.

I spent two weeks in Paris this summer, immersing myself in everyday life. One of my favorite moments was a picnic by the Seine, watching the late-night (10 PM!) sunset over Ile de St Louis. Then, I dashed away to hike in the Swiss Alps for the weekend. That experience alone was so freeing. The natural vista was stunning and confirmed that the Japanese phenomenon of Shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing,’ is real.

When I embarked on this journey to find myself—yes, I know it’s so cliché, but it’s true!—I had no idea the benefits it would reap. I’ve learned how to extend my limits as if a multiverse lived inside me, engaging and interacting with the world’s citizens, strangers now friends. 

There is an absolute joy in creating distance from the norm in your life. Start with a few hours a day in your neighborhood if it sounds daunting. Once you get into the rhythm, expand beyond the familiar into a new borough or city. Make your weekends count and go somewhere you’ve never been before. Soon enough, you will realize how every experience can positively affect and influence your life. The more you engage in a practice of self-discovery, the more natural it will be to finally take those weeks of vacation you’ve been accumulating.There is real joy in creating distance from the norm that is your life. If it sounds daunting, start with a few hours a day in your own neighborhood. Once you get into the rhythm, expand beyond the familiar into a new borough or city. Make your weekends count and go somewhere you’ve never been before. Soon enough you will realize how each and every experience can positively affect and influence your life. The more you engage in a practice of self-discovery, the more natural it will be to finally take those weeks of vacation you’ve been accumulating.


Nineteen years later

It’s 12:03
and as I sit here drinking a steaming cup of chamomile tea,
it dawns on me
how far I have come from that snowy winter’s eve
when the path I was on veered so off-course,
far beyond what I could see.

As tumultuous as the mighty seas,
I circumnavigated an Odyssey
filled with perilous highs and lows
befitting of only the greatest journey:
where one learns their heart, its strength, and bravery.

Every year on this day of Anniversary
I consider all that I could have been
had my mother lived beyond my twenty-somethings–
The moments of bittersweet sorrow,
of missed opportunities and unlived tomorrows,
and pockets of time on furlough.

The comfort comes from deep within
the gratitude and the blessing
for loved ones who stepped right in
to help me become the woman I am:
the daughter my mother would want to see again.

This poem is dedicated to
Lucia “Lucy” Preziotti

my mother and best friend
b. 9.19.28
d. 1.23.00

The young girl I used to be

Sunday, September 30 — 9:00 AM

This day has been 9 months in the making. And as I sit here listening to the waterfall fountain at our Bangkok resort, I can’t help but wonder how did this small town Brooklynite get here.

Small town Brooklyn may sound like an oxymoron to some but I came of age in a time when the only rising star in New York City was the borough of Manhattan. That was way before Brooklyn was hip and cool, and anyone claiming to be a New Yorker from the outerboroughs was decidedly B&T–Bridge and Tunnel (for those too young to know).

Back then the boroughs–Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and The Bronx were ethnically segregated based on where families settled in New York after migrating from their oppressed homelands: Italy, Ireland, Poland, Cuba, Puerto Rico. We lived as our ancestors did, in hamlets and villages organized by dialect, town and tradition.

Bensonhurst, where I grew up, was primarily Sicilian, Northern Italian, Irish and Jewish. We kept to ourselves, congregated after church or synagogue, and through local social activities on our blocks. If it wasn’t for the public school experience, we probably never would have considered that there was anyone outside of our family nucleus.

Public school. I wonder if my parents knew what a gift they had bestowed upon my brother and I. It was the first time I felt my world break open. And I’d like to believe that in some small way it opened my mind to experiencing other cultures whatever way I could: gathering information from books and movies, and through conversations with others.

That young girl who I used to be, would never have imagined traveling halfway around the world to hike a mountain. My brother, in one of our recent conversations, candidly shared that young girl who I used to be would have been too afraid and timid to dream this big, traveling 24 hours by plane to explore a country few had heard of, let alone been.

I guess you could say that this trip has been 46 years and 11 months in the making; and it’s about time for it to begin.

remembering mama

I sometimes wonder how my mom would have changed if she had the time to age. I’d like to believe it would have been a graceful process, one that involved my dad, me and Rich, and getting to know her grandkids. It’s one of life’s greatest mysteries when someone is taken so much younger then the rest of there generation. Many of her friends have been living the life she ought to have had, had cancer not taken her so soon.

The most cherished trait I have acquired from my mom is empathy, the ability to understand share the feelings of others. She was by far one of the kindest souls I’ve had the fortune of knowing, and if you ever met someone who knew her, it’s quite possible that her thoughtfulness would be one of the first things they would mention. Her sweetness was also her Achilles heel. Sensitive to the core, she would never consider harming another human being. And on the rare occasion when an intention was misunderstood, she suffered with self-inflicted guilt for days from the infraction, no matter how minute.  She was a worry-wart, a trait I’ve sucessfully shed from my emotional repertoire.

I’ve been dreaming about her a lot lately. Lucid dreams that feel all too real, the kind of dreams that are painful to exit because they leave a stronger mark of loss when you wake. Bittersweet as they may be, rife with emotion and zeal, I’ll take them for however long they choose to linger in my psyche, offering a closeness to my mom that I haven’t felt in nearly 18 years.

I recently scrapbooked all the notes and cards she and my dad sent to me, including the jotted handwritten notes enclosed in college care packages. I strongly suspect Mom single-handedly supported Hallmark during the late 70s and 80s for all the cards she sent to family and friends, near and far. I’m a fan of snail mail. And for awhile I, too, thought it might be a dying art. I was relieved to find out that I’m not alone in my letter writing, it appears that my fellow Americans still buy about 6.5 billion cards each year for birthdays and Christmas.

Today is my mom’s birthday. She would have been 90. I’ve been thinking about her all day struggling with what to write to honor her memory flustered by the passage of time, these last 18 years and more potently the last 23 hours evaporating around me.

Happy birthday Mom, I think of you always.


Lucy Preziotti

9/19/28 – 1/23/00

The Greatest Life is the One You Choose to Live

Anniversaries are my totems. Although they are not animate objects or things, they still breathe.  With each year that passes, they remind me to come alive.

My parents were late bloomers: marrying and starting a family at an older age way before it was fashionable. I never had the opportunity to dig deep into their childhood stories but what I’ve been able to glean second-hand is that they didn’t quite fit into the norm of everyday life, and instead carved a life for themselves as best as they knew how. Attuned to the beat of their own drums, they found each other through their love of dancing.

I see myself in that analogy.

A friend recently shared that I, too, had carved a different life for myself, unlike anyone else’s. And I guess in some ways that is true. I owe my parents, and especially my father everything for giving me the opportunity to create a path filled with possibilities of my own choosing.

Dad was the middle child, the first native-born generation Italian-American. Named for a grandfather no doubt, as was the tradition. He grew up in Brooklyn, attended public school and later enlisted. He was a numbers guy, and I often wonder who he would have become if he had the chance to go to University.  Dad would have been 18 when he entered the army,  donning fatigues at the height (1943) of the Second World War. He once told me how a deviated septum prevented his deployment, and although he served his time, it was never on foreign soil. I’ve always wondered what happened to his platoon, but he never spoke about it (or them) again.

Dad was a conundrum, sporting a protective, rough around the edges shell on the outside. But his insides were softer than that, something I learned first-hand in the years after Mom died. A product of the Great Depression he didn’t know how to show emotion, let alone say “I love you.” It took decades before he could audibly say it out loud, but he shared his love tangibly in every day.

If you took the time to discover his truth, you earned his respect and friendship, and his stories. The tales he shared with my friends were different from the ones he shared with me, and so each new interaction became a gift in its own way. I regret that I didn’t fall in love in his lifetime, I’m sure that mystery man would have accessed another chapter or two.

Dad lying on a sandy beach
July 1957

What I remember most about my dad is his love for the sea, tennis, pasta fagioli, and chocolate, his passion for math and conservative politics. Not necessarily in that order. He would stay up all hours to watch a tennis match, staring intensely at the screen, mirroring the vibrant emotion of the crowds. Dad was always on the prowl for pasta fagioli foraging restaurants in New York, and Italy for a bowl like Grandma Teresa used to make. And his love for dark chocolate was infinite. He once consumed a ballotin of Godiva (the first I was ever gifted) in one sitting.  What I wouldn’t give to share a box with him today.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

Five years is both a long and short term of passage when you lose someone you love. There is no workaround to the wave of emotions you will feel. Grief doesn’t operate within a specific timeframe, some days will feel like you’re burrowing through marble, while others sand.

I stand by my belief that healing is the hardest part of the process; when you find the courage to move through it, you become a stronger version of yourself. Another lesson I learned from my Dad.

Vincent “Jim” Preziotti
b. 12 May 1925
d. 2 August 2013

sabers and memory

Light sabers.
For a show at the arena.
“Only ten dollas,” the barker cries.

Lightweight cardboard sabers in shades of pastel blue. No blinking LED lights as far as I can see.

I’m hopeful the salesman is also hawking imagination, too.

Hordes of children under the age of eight, a flock of superheroes wearing expressions of anticipation and glee. Guardians in tow, some hold gloved hands tightly, a look of sheer determination on their face as they approach the crowds. The carney holds my attention for just a moment longer and then I make a sharp right, descending underground.

It’s Saturday morning. At their age, I remember waking to the aroma of coffee and French toast (or pancakes), racing down the stairs to beat my brother to the prime space on the couch. We would vie for control of the television and the morning cartoon line-up a hodge podge of Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros., the escapades of a miming cat and mouse and the clever antics of Wile E. Coyote.

The train jerks forward.

It’s horn blaring as we enter the station. It’s not quite 11 AM, and the car and platforms are nearly deserted. The only sign of life are faces focused on a much smaller screen.

the bittersweet truth of my sorrow

i almost forgot. but then, on the way home from a late yoga class, crossing the street admiring the barren trees casting shadows on the sidewalk everything flooded back. i remembered it was this night.

i wish i could tell my friends, those who are just now experiencing the loss of a parent that every year gets easier, but that would be a lie. it doesn’t feel right to say such things; that’s not quite how it goes. as we get older time dulls the pain, it feels less raw.  and every year that passes brings a different shade to the melancholia.

whether we like it or not, time marches on.

it’s been 18 years for me. when she first passed, i could not imagine making it through 18 days let alone 18 years. 18 years is a lifetime: from child to adult, old enough to vote and make your own decisions.

i sometimes think about what it would be like if i had chosen a different life one that included children. one of them might be close to that age now. instead, i’ve had cats, and i’ve cultivated a group of close-knit friends, who I know would have loved her (like they love me). i wish they had met her, had known my mom.

just like i wish my brother’s children, my nieces and nephew had known her; it pains me to think that they’ll never know their grandmother, either. they’ll never hear her laugh or receive chocolate chip cookies in care packages while away at school. they’ll never lean over her shoulder as she pencils in crossword puzzles, discovering her curlicue doodles in the margins. they’ll never reach for her hand while beachcombing by the sea, or feel her warm, welcoming embrace. all the things that i miss every. single. day.

this year mom would have been 89. if dad had lived, he would be 93. when i was younger, i had high hopes that they would be alive to see all that i would accomplish. i think about all those moments now, all the moments yet to come … in my soul, i know she was there through it all, that they have always been there, that they are here now.

it’s in those moments that i feel the most despair. i can feel my heart sink, the sucker punch to my gut, the tears welling up. i would give anything to hear their voices and hug them one more time. it’s all i will ever want, to hold them fiercely close, to listen to her heartbeat and feel it thumping against mine.

In memoriam:  Lucia Adelaide Barca Preziotti (b. 9/19/28 – d. 1/23/00) 


some old, some new traditions

2017 marks a year of change, new traditions for Christmas. I spend the days after the longest head cold ever, preparing Sicilian sweets, an assortment of cookies, and freshly, baked bread.

On Christmas Eve, after dinner with new friends, I add an old tradition started with my Dad. We would stay up to watch It’s A Wonderful Life on the sofa together, with a steaming mug of hot cocoa.

Tonight I’m wearing my dad’s flannel pajamas, a tin of cookies at the foot of the tree, waiting for Santa’s sleigh bells, and Clarence’s wings.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Photo Credit: @pixabay

The smell of Christmas is in the air


It was a big three-story house with a wrap-around porch. The crisp, breeze refreshing in the summer, was drafty and damp in winter. And luckily for us, there was a stone fireplace in the living room trimmed in evergreen pines and holly.

Some of my favorite Christmas memories were with my mom and dad at the O’Connell’s. Aunt Gail (Dominica) and Uncle Dermott and their family of six: Scott, Kathleen, Chrystin, Michael, Maureen, Brian. At one time, I distinctly remember a pair of chocolate brown poodles.

The layout of the house imprints itself on my memory. The winding hallways lead downstairs to the siblings’ bedrooms and the rec room in the basement, a sweeping staircase leading us to the master suite. On the main floor, the kitchen and living room opened into a full dining room with a wood farm table, long enough to feed twelve. Meals were half-Irish, half-Italian with lots of wine (and chocolate milk for me, of course).

On December 24, you would find us in the living room hours before midnight, stringing popcorn and watching old movies. A sea of brandy snifters and mugs filled with hot chocolate and marshmallows; the crackling of wood in the fireplace, the smell of Christmas in the air.