Tag Archives: Bruce Springsteen

Heather’s Favorite Reads of 2016


“If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

– Meister Eckhart, German Christian mystic

2016 was a challenging year for me personally, for many of my loved ones, for my students, for our country, for the world.  I want it to be sealed with a kiss of hope and happiness, so My Favorites posts are expressions of gratitude for the people who created things that made me happy this year.  I hope they make you happy, too.

This first post is about my favorite books.  It’s hard to write about all of them, so please follow me on Goodreads to see what else I loved.  In the meantime, here are two of the most memorable:




A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay: If I were to write a horror book, it would be like this: contemporary and full of pop culture allusions.  I stumbled upon this page-turner on my Kindle one night.   It was on sale for $2.99 and with a blurb from Steven King, I thought I’d try it.  It’s part psychological drama/mostly horror about a teenage girl who may or may not be possessed by a demon.  The point of view expertly switches so the readers sees things from different angles.  As a high school teacher and former teenage girl, I am acutely aware of the mood swings that might only be described as possession.  The movie comes out in 2018 starting Robert Downey Jr, but don’t wait until then.










He could read the alphabet for 80 chapters and I’d buy it.


Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen:  “Uncle Brucey,” as The Boss calls himself in one part of the book, reads to me every day in my car and it is the epitome of delightful.  As a huge fan of his music, it’s amazing to hear his life story unfold in his voice, to hear the timbre darken when he talks about his father and to catch the light  when he talks about his mother.  I don’t often re-read books (so many books, so little time), but once I finish listening to this as a fan, I’m going to buy a hard copy and read it as a writer, mining it for his wisdom about the creative process, the business of art, and perseverance.





What are your favorite reads from 2016? Please share in the comments!

If Your 9/11 Loved One’s Death Wasn’t On 9/11


Although I lived two miles from the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 and while standing at the end of my block, could smell the jet fuel and other chemicals that were burning at the crash site, I felt lucky.  I knew no one dead or injured.  My cousin, Harvey, an Arlington County (Virginia) police officer, was a first responder.  He had been fishing on the Potomac River, heard the crash, and worked the scene for days, recovering body parts and evidence.  My tribe was physically safe and I was so proud of my cousin.

Fast-forward fifteen years and my cousin, Corporal Harvey Snook III, is now buried at St.


Harvey and Russ

Mary’s Cemetery in Hanover Township, PA.  An aggressive lymphoma that started as a lump in his side soon grew into a garden of invasive, choking vines that strangled his kidneys and other internal organs until he was a husk of the 6’6 smart-ass, strong, stubborn, generous and loving man we loved so, so much. His cancer is assumed to have been caused by chemical exposure on 9/11.

In January of this year, he received a hero’s goodbye as his hearse rode past his house and past the police station in Arlington, where officers saluted his funeral procession.  On a snowy Saturday the following week, we said a final goodbye as he was interred,  the ashes of his K-9 companion, Russ, set on top of his own.

9/11 is always hard for me, having lived in Arlington.  But on this anniversary, it’s that much worse.  My cousin is gone.  I am not alone in my grief.   There are others grieving the loss of their loved ones on that day. There is a legion of people mourning the loss of their loved due to 9/11-related illnesses and an army of people themselves dealing with a host of diseases like cancers and COPD, caused  by chemical exposure from all of the destruction.


Harvey is the tall man in the white hard hat.  This is him and other responders at the Pentagon. Notice the absence of masks, respirators, and other protective gear.  He told me his boot soles melted from the chemicals.

If you are among this  club you never wanted to belong to, I have your heart in mine.   I have no comforting words, no solutions, no answers.  Just give yourself time to think, to grieve, to be angry, to be scared.  I found some solace in writing this article and maybe it provide can you with some tender support, too.

But writing an article doesn’t keep my breath from getting caught in my chest when I think about how Harvey was supposed to have retired in Pennsylvania, how he was going to buy land in the country, how my husband and I were supposed to bullshit around a fire pit with him, roasting marshmallows and drinking beers as we moved through middle and old age together. That is all gone.  As Bruce Springsteen sings in his song Into The Fire, “Love and duty called you someplace higher.”

So, if your pain and grief is as present as mine today, I’ve got you.  You’re not alone. This post by Rebel Thriver has ushered me through some dark nights, and I want to share it with you:


And these two Bruce Springsteen songs always get me through:



Sending you so much love.

You’re not alone.


5:13 pm: Please enjoy this tribute by Mary Hanula about my cousin.  Thank you, Mary! I’m glad that big galoot connected us 🙂









ANTHEM: Wrecking Ball


 Welcome to my twice-monthly feature about anthems, the songs that inspire us.  You can listen to the songs on my Spotify playlist, Carry A Watermelon Anthems. New Anthems will be posted here the 1st and 15th of each month. 


I was thrilled to be in the front row, but I can see the sadness and exhaustion in my eyes.

It was a bucket list moment: front row at the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on February 12, 2016.  My husband and I were the 16th and 17th people into the venue, a stroke of luck  I can only attribute to karma and possibly divine intervention of my cousin Harvey calling in a favor to the correct department in heaven. He’d passed away a month earlier from lymphoma, most likely caused by his first-responder work at the Pentagon on 9/11 .  He was only 49 years old, so I’d  been robbed of growing old with him. I was in pieces.

When Bruce started the strums of Wrecking Ball, I stood motionless for the first time in 2.5 hours, hands at my side, tears streaming down my cheeks. Breath came in gulps as I wept along with the lyrics.

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 8.32.12 PM

Life had taken a wrecking ball to my family and my heart.  Deaths of my uncle, my grandmother, and my cousin, along with other major life changes and some unmet  expectations, had left me tattered and raw. The image that described my life was a balloon floating into the sky, its ribbon trailing away, away, away. And there at the front of the stage, immersed in the throbbing music, I was momentarily anchored.  I wasn’t just signing along; I telling the world I wasn’t going anywhere.

Hold tight to your anger/Don’t fall to your fears…by this point in the song I was full-on screaming the lyrics through sobs.  When the last note ended,  I offered a quiet thank you to the band for their music. This was the song I’d listened to countless times in the car at full-blast, to convince myself it was going to be OK. For the first time in months, I started to believe it.


Thank you, Bruce and the E Street Band.

Upcoming Anthems:

May 15 = Vickie Bartkus, teacher extraordinaire with a heart of gold, a love of Idina Menzel and a hard-core Brooklyn accent

June 1 = Patricia Florio,  author, former court reporter, and a founding member of the Jersey Shore Writers