Making Beethoven Proud

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.  -Eleanor Roosevelt

There are those who scoff at the notion of “having a dream,” at the idea of following your passion, claiming it a foolish waste of time. They are the ones who follow the safe path. And I am very sorry for those people because a life worth living is so much more than taking the cautious route and steering clear of daring choices. It is challenging yourself to try new things. And when people smirk and ask, “What makes you think you can do these things?” you simply reply, “What makes you think I can’t?”

My son, Brian, has had a dream since he was a boy to become a filmmaker. He made movies on a $25 Digital Blue video camera we bought him for Christmas one year. He and his younger brother, Peter, and their friend, Alex, would post signs around the neighborhood announcing casting auditions for their upcoming projects. These signs also promised concessions, which Alex’s mother learned while driving through the neighborhood one day and happened to catch sight of one of the signs. Concessions??!! We wondered if they were just planning on raiding our pantries for half-empty boxes of stale crackers and a few rogue pieces of old Easter candy hidden behind cans of tomato sauce. But there was never any need to worry because no one ever showed up for their auditions. Ever. That didn’t deter them, though. The boys just ended up playing several parts…or twins… that option was always on the table too. And I do believe that someday, those kids from long ago who laughed at ours for thinking they could be anything special will regret not having been a part of those early dreams.

Brian did pursue his dream. He is a filmmaker. And an award-winning one, at that. His short film, Making Beethoven Proud, is currently making the rounds on the film festival circuit and, and of this writing, has been selected to premiere at many festivals across the country and the globe.

It is a story of perseverance. It is a story of overcoming adversity. And it is a story of choosing to see beauty in the world when only darkness surrounds you. It tells the story of a young music prodigy who must come to terms with a devastating loss and the power of the human spirit to rise and conquer.

I think some of those people who rolled their eyes at Brian’s dream will one day wistfully tell their friends, “I knew him when…” Remember Brian…The Best Is Yet To Come 😎

I am immensely proud of him and his beautiful talent. His short film, Making Beethoven Proud, is making this mama very proud. 

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.  -Colin Powell

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The Value Of A Moment

With the recent announcement of Bruce Willis’s aphasia diagnosis, this previously unknown and quite invisible, disability has now come to the forefront of our collective awareness. A few years ago, I had never heard of aphasia. If I thought enough about it, I probably could have figured out what the word meant.But that all changed on Sunday, May 25, 2008. 

The evening before was a festive occasion as my family gathered at my brother, Kevin’s, house to celebrate the college graduation of his daughter.  My son’s college graduation party was scheduled for the following Saturday.  But that night, it was all about Lauren…until the cake was served.  At that point, my other brother, Tom, surprised us all with another cake.  This one was for the mother of the college grad, my sister-in-law, Marita.  She had just earned her second Master’s Degree in Library Science (the first being in Special Education), but kept quiet about her achievement, so as not to steal any of the attention from Lauren.  As we were preparing to leave that night, Marita told me we could expect to see them for our party the following weekend.  We all said our goodbyes and headed home.  In a matter of hours, everything was forever changed.

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Music To Your Ears…Part II

Peter Naughton is at it again. His second piece for percussion ensemble has just been published and is available for purchase through Tapspace, the go-to for all creative percussionists. In his own words:

“When writing Waiting to Exhale, I tried to convey a sense of constant motion and excitement for the listener. I drew inspiration from the Dave Matthews Band, attempting to capture their intense energy and subtle yet distinct harmonic sensibilities. With its relentless 16th note motor, this piece relies heavily on interlocking rhythmic cells to create a larger, composite rhythm.

Originally written in 2017 for a small jazz combo consisting of vibraphone, steel pan, marimba, upright bass, and drum set, I felt there was a lack of rhythmic and timbral clarity among the instruments. In early 2019, I re-orchestrated the piece for marimba quartet, resulting in tighter rhythmic precision and a homogenous color.”

To directors of high school and college-level bands…it’s never too early to start planning ahead for your fall percussion ensemble concerts. Consider introducing this piece to your advanced musicians. They’ll love it and your audiences will be enthralled. I guarantee!

Oh and if you’re wondering why this is Part II, check out Naughton’s first piece, Two Rivers, also available through Tapspace.

Check them out now at:

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A Parting Glass To Mom And Dad

CELTIC TRINITY KNOTWith St. Patrick’s Day upon us, my thoughts naturally turn to my favorite South Side Irishmen. While the day, and in this case, the weekend, is filled with the usual nod to our Irish ancestry, celebrating with parades, rebel songs, beer and plenty of corned beef, a part of me always feels a bit wistful, as memories turn to my parents, no longer here to join in the festivities.  And so, to them, I raise a parting glass in salute.

My dad, John Casey Toner, better known as Jack to his friends, passed away a couple of months shy of my twenty-fifth birthday.  Though I was married with a toddler, I was still a daddy’s girl.  It wasn’t really fair, I know.  My sister, seven years older than me, had been surrounded by boys until my arrival and served as a second mother to us all in her never-ending efforts to help our mom cope with her brood.  In fact, one of my sister’s favorite memories was when she and my brothers were sent off to stay with my cousins as they eagerly awaited the newest arrival in the family (me, coming in at number six).  She asked my dad to please let her be the first to know if she had a new sister (for which she had been fervently praying) or another brother (to which she’d resigned herself).  Upon my entrance into the world, my dad telephoned with the news.  When my aunt excitedly answered the phone and asked the obvious question, he told her that he needed to speak with Mary Beth first.  That was the kind of man he was.  The simple, innocent promise made to a seven-year-old girl took precedence over all else.  When you’re the baby girl in a family, it’s hard not to be spoiled.  So, while my sister was relegated to the role of second mother to us all, including yet another little brother bringing up the rear, I happily assumed the role of the baby girl.

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NUMB’s The Word…

Check out latest book, NUMB. It follows an unlikely serial killer. You might even like her…

NUMB tells the story of a desperate woman trying to balance a professional career, motherhood, marriage and the agonizing loss of her mother into the abyss of dementia. Her coping skills are unconventional, to say the least, as she finds herself reverting to a rather illegal method of stress management. When an old friend confronts her about his suspicions, he learns a deadly lesson in minding his own business. Friend or not, she cannot risk her secret exposed. 

The Amazon direct link to NUMB:

NUMB is now available for download on Kindle devices  and free Kindle apps for $3.99


5.0 out of 5 stars Page turner!, December 10, 2013
By Nora A.Regan
Amazon Verified Purchase
This review is from: NUMB (Kindle Edition)
Fantastic book!! Couldn’t put it down! Great mystery book filled with a lot of suspense and intrigue. Highly recommend it!
5.0 out of 5 stars Numb – the title but not the effect!, December 8, 2013
By Debra J. Hammes
Amazon Verified Purchase
This review is from: NUMB (Kindle Edition)
A very enjoyable read – witty, clever and a page turner. I chuckled throughout while waiting for the next plot twist. I found myself liking the most questionable character and wondering why. Looking forward to a sequel soon!

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To A Life Well-Lived…Happy Birthday Dad

Today’s my dad’s birthday. He was born John Casey Toner on December 9, 1922. To most people, December 9th is not a day that stands out any differently than any other day on the calendar. No one gets the day off work. School is still in session and the mail is delivered as usual. But for me, it’s a very special day because my dad was an amazing man. He was a strong man. He was masculine when being such didn’t require an apology. And he was my hero and my friend. He lived through the Great Depression as a young boy. He fought as an Army paratrooper in WWII with the legendary 101st Airborne Division Screaming Eagles, Easy Company (the same company featured in Band of Brothers). He flew airplanes. And he jumped out of airplanes. Many summer nights he would regale the local neighborhood kids on our front porch with stories of jumping out of planes in Nazi territory in the pitch dark of night, not knowing how far he was from hitting the ground…or sometimes a tree. And we hung on every word.

Following his service to his country, he honorably served the city of Chicago as a police sergeant for 30 years. He raised a family of seven and sacrificed to send us all to Catholic schools and provide college educations for us. He was an artist and, at the begging of us kids, would sit at the kitchen table with us and say, “Okay what do you want me to draw?” And I would then watch the magic that he created. He took calligraphy classes at St Xavier College with my sister-in-law. Can’t imagine many daughters-in-law wanting to take a class with their husband’s father. But I always thought that was pretty cool. His handwriting and printing were pure perfections. He approached everything he did as an artist. He loved to cook and watching him slice a roast was a thing of beauty.

But the thing that will always stand out about him was his courage he displayed in the face of darkness. Without a care given to his reputation or his family, he was callously used as a pawn in the dirty politics of Cook County. He was considered nothing more than collateral damage as criminal charges were brought against him when he wouldn’t play along in their pursuit of much bigger game. The Cook County State’s Attorney thought with enough pressure and mounting charges placed against him, he would eventually break and say what they wanted to hear. But they thought wrong. I can still remember seeing him on the evening news exiting the courthouse. With microphones shoved in his face, his clear blue eyes looking earnestly at reporters he simply said, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

After several long years of being dragged through the mud and the threat of prison looming, he was finally fully exonerated by a unanimous decision and acquitted of all fraudulent charges placed against him. That momentous event happened on this day: December 9, 1979. His birthday. He was honorably reinstated to the police force, given his stripes back and awarded full back pay for the years he’d been suspended.

During these years, I’m sure he must have been terrified. He still had seven kids at home. He couldn’t afford to lose his job, his salary, his benefits. But he never showed it. As my brother Kevin so eloquently put it, “He was an icepick in a frozen ocean.”

My dad passed away suddenly on August 17, 1987 at the age of sixty-four, the day after my son, Mike’s 1st birthday party. He left this earth on good terms with his family, his friends and God. And that is a great consolation to me.

Though my dad’s case was not part the much larger Greylord case, the tactics employed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office with regards to the “Marquette 10” mimicked his case almost identically.

Yes, he was my hero and my friend. Happy Birthday Dad, ya done good 😌


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Mammograms, Colonoscopies and LifeLine Scans…Oh My

There have been a few moments in my life that stand out as bonafide “grown-up moments”. Case in point…when I scheduled (because yes, making the appointment was cause for a nice pat on the back) and then actually showed up for my first mammogram. That was a biggie.

Second on the big-girl list…getting a passport. I felt like I no longer had to pretend that I could hop a plane to Paris at the drop of a hat. I could really do it! Well, sort of. I mean, if it weren’t for that pesky issue of money. I still haven’t mastered that grown-up feeling of having discretionary income. 😒 And I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Unless that damn lottery win ever comes through. But, just knowing I have a passport, though, makes Paris a thing that COULD happen.  Continue reading

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Come Fly With Me…But Don’t Expect a Good Seat

The polar vortex is over and we’re out of hibernation! On today’s episode we’re talking about the joys of air travel. That’s right…the stress of checking in EXACTLY 24 hours ahead of your Southwest flight, checking your bag, dealing with TSA and security lines. All the best stuff. What’s your least favorite thing about flying? Let us know!

Click on the link or type “Where are my glasses” in the search bar on your smartphone podcast app. Seriously, that’s how easy it is 😬

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Bank Math…

"I'm glad you came in. You're behind on your getaway car payments."

Before we get started…just to let you know, I’m all about the fabulousness of Direct Deposit. I have it. My husband doesn’t. So, now that we got that out of the way…

Why is it that when a check is deposited into my bank account, it’s not available to me for 24 hours? Not even 24 human hours. Twenty-four BUSINESS hours. So a check deposited on a Saturday is treated as though it’s been deposited on the following Monday, which means it won’t be available until that following Tuesday. FOUR days after the deposit. Okay, I get that they need to know the check is good. I understand that. But, DAMN. That’s NINETY-SIX HUMAN HOURS. And ya know who NEVER, EVER, E-VER waits a “business” day to withdraw money from my account???? Our mortgage company, that’s who. And our Parent Loan servicers (PLUS LOANS – straight from the Satan himself – but that’s a post for another day). And any other automatic payment I have set up. That money gets SUCKED out as soon as the clock strikes midnight on D-Day (Due Date). So then, on top of having a negative balance in my account, I have FINES to pay, all the while seeing that “Pending Deposit” just sitting there, DOING NOTHING. Just smirking, like…Oh, you thought you had those payments covered?? Gosh, you’re cute. Yeah, sorry about that (SOOOO not sorry)



And don’t even get me started on holiday hours…

I hate bank math. But I still love using capital letters. They really make a written rant so much more satisfying.

bill murray

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Music To Your Ears

Still not sure what to get that special percussionist or pianist in your life for Christmas?? Check out this beautiful solo piece written by my son 🙂
Peter Naughton composed Two Rivers through his tenure at the Birch Creek Music Performance Center in Door County, Wisconsin. The pastoral sounds of this charming marimba solo were inspired by the rich farmlands and rustic architecture of that stretch of land.

For those of us who may not understand the intricacies of performing music, we can still immerse ourselves in the “feel” of its hymnlike texture and flowing melody, which evoke the sounds of Early American folk music. 

And for you music prodigies out there…the piece features a main, song-like melody which is embellished throughout. As the piece progresses, the harmonies supporting this melody become more and more dissonant, with the original melody restated at the end, in its original unadorned form. 

Two Rivers ships in a printed, professionally bound folio with a full-color cover.

Well done, Petey 😌

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