My Mom, Genevieve Crovo Gelles (aka Ginny Owens) had the most beautiful voice. She began her singing career as a child, and took private lessons from Madge Fairfax. Soon she had to make the decision between opera or Broadway. She choose Broadway. You see, the Hammerstein’s (Dorothy and Richard) recognized Mom’s talent and asked her to come audition In New York. When all was said and done, she appeared in 48 plays and musicals. Some of her leading roles included Laurey in Oklahoma, Julie in Carousel and Magnolia in Showboat.

Mom was a soprano. I could recognize her singing voice anywhere. Solo or with a whole choir singing with her…I could always hear which voice was hers.

Here is an old recording of my Momma singing “The Lord is My Light and My Salvation”. The solo female voice is my Mom.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
Of whom shall I be afraid?

Wait on the Lord.
Be of good cheer.
Wait on the Lord.
Be of good cheer.

He shall stengthen thy heart;
Wait on the Lord;
Wait on the Lord;
Wait on the Lord;
Wait on the Lord.

A friend of a friend is dealing with a life threatening situation with her 10 year old son. On spring break, while on a cruise, the child, Justin, become very ill. A helicopter came to get him and fly him to a hospital where it was discovered he has acute leukemia. I cannot even imagine what that child and his family are going through right now.

My friend wrote an incredible beautiful and private post (to her inner circle of friends on facebook) asking each of us to make a difference by signing up to be an organ donor, signing up to be in the bone marrow transplant database, and sending positive energy to Justin and his family.

While her whole post touched me deeply, I was really moved by this paragraph:

So if you pray, pray. If you’re a Buddhist, mediate. And if you’re Batman, well, we could really use your help right now. What I know is that if this boy’s life is saved, it will be due to medical science, not divine intervention. But I also know that the sheer power of a critical mass of people working toward a solution will yield positivity. So light a candle, say a prayer, meditate, or send very focused, very present, very positive thoughts to this young man while being completely open to seeing how you you can save more Justins with a few easy mouse clicks. And remember… Whatever you spent the last day or week worrying about? It’s just not that important (unless it was something life threatening).

So, I encourage you to consider becoming an Organ Donor and signing up to Donate Bone Marrow. I’m signed up for both (I first signed up to donate bone marrow when John Slatin was diagnosed with acute leukemia…so yeah…this whole story hits me right where my heart, mind and soul live).

Whether you chose to do this or not…is a totally personal decision, and I completely respect that. I just was moved this morning to reach out and encourage others to help.

On Sunday, October 18, 2009, I was drawn to the site of the WTC. My hotel was just a few blocks away and I felt it was important to visit the site and honor all the people who died that tragic day.

It was a somber experience. The site was so much larger than I had imagined. I felt grief, loss and emptiness. I’m not sure what I was searching for, but I just knew I hadn’t found it yet…so I kept walking…one more block….one more block.

And then I came to St. Paul’s Chapel and I knew I had found what my heart and soul were seeking. As I walked through the gate, I experienced the feeling of quiet strength, courage and hope in the midst of the greatest loss.

As I was walking back to my hotel, I passed Firehouse 10. The door was open and two firemen were talking to tourists and selling tshirts and calendars (all proceeds go to charity).

Someone in the crowd asked if these men had been there on 9 11. Fire Fighter John Morabito said he was there, inside the building as it started to come down. He brought out a photo album to share.

It wasn’t until later, on my trip home, that I read an account of Morabito’s experiences. But at that moment, all I knew was…this man is my hero. And for all the people who risked their lives to save others….I hugged him and thanked him.

At 2:49pm on Sunday, October 18, 2009, I forever fell in love with New York.

A close friend and colleague has been told that their loved one has only hours to live. As I offer comfort, I’m reminded of when my grandmother died and I could not be there to say good-bye.

In tears, I remember writing a love note to my grandma and faxing it to the nurses station in Massachusetts, so that the nurses could read it to her.

Tonight, I recalled this poem that Meg recently shared with me. I hope some day it can bring you comfort.

The Ship

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails in the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says, there she goes!”
Gone Where? Gone from my sight… that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There she goes!,” there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “There she comes!”

– Henry Jackson van Dyke (1852-1933)

John Slatin

Live your life with courage and though you are often afraid, never fail to take that next step forward.

As many of you know, John Slatin passed away last week, and in celebration of how his life has touched so many of us in the accessibility arena a project is being launched that will both honor his memory and assist his family with significant expenses that remain from his long illness. There is a new project designed to help.

The basic idea is this:

  1. We get accessibility experts to volunteer a few hours of time to perform a brief accessibility review of a company or organization web site.
  2. We get companies to sign up. They will contribute a minimum of US$500 to “The John Slatin Fund”.
  3. The expert and the company are paired and the review takes
    place, spreading the word on accessibility.

This review will not be comprehensive but serve to provide an organization with enough information so that they can understand what the strengths and weaknesses of their site are and what course of action is recommended. Some site owners may need a more rigorous audit in order to completely understand all accessibility issues, but such an audit is out of the scope of a review that takes 3-4 hours. This is intended as an introduction to accessibility for the site owner who is interested in learning about this important topic. Accessibility experts will need to conduct a short review, using combinations of tests to provide a document with an overview of accessibility to the site for
users with various disabilities.

What we need is for people who are willing to donate a few hours of their time to sign up as reviewers.

In addition, we ask that everyone help spread the word about this project to help us get companies interested in an accessibility review to sign up and to donate to The John Slatin Fund. If you have a blog, please blog this project. A short description:

The John Slatin Fund Accessibility Project matches accessibility experts with companies that would like a brief review of their site for accessibility. In return, the site owner is asked to contribute a minimum of $500 to The John Slatin Fund. The John Slatin Fund was established to help John’s beloved Anna offset the medical expenses incurred during John’s long illness. The goal of this project is to raise $25,000 for that purpose. Learn about the project and sign up at

This is a project developed and managed by friends of John. All proceeds go directly to John’s family. Please join us in honoring John and helping his family.

If you have questions, please let us know.

My dear friend, John Slatin, will soon pass from this earth. The selfish part of me wants to stop all the clocks right now, so I can race down to Houston and hold his hand one more time. But the wiser part of me, weeps, and knows that my life has been forever changed by knowing this dear, sweet, brilliant man.

How blessed I am to be his colleague and friend. I love you, John Slatin and I won’t let you down. I will continue to be the self-appointed goddess of accessibility for as long as I am on this planet.

Time to go and cry and listen to my Wicked CD cranked all the way up:

For Good (selected lyrics that express my breaking heart)

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood

Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good…

Dear Don,

I know you are in a better place and it would be selfish of me to wish you were still here. But I do hope you understand how much you and Vi mean to me.

When I close my eyes to think of you, I hear your genuine contagious laugh and wish with all my heart that I could hear it one more time.

As a child, one of my most poignant memories was when you took me for a spin in your bright yellow dune buggy. Your love of automobiles and zest for life were embodied in that car. For me, all laughter and pure childlike joy is measured against that moment.

As I roam about my home this evening…looking at all the wood carvings you’ve crafted for me over the years, I feel your love. I also feel like the world just took away one of my favorite teddy bears and that brings tears to my eyes and an emptiness to my heart.

But through my grief, I know that your goodness far outweighs your days. You taught me so many things by example: love, loyalty, friendship, fine craftsmanship, joy and peace. I’ll be at your funeral on Friday, but not to say good-bye to you…because you are forever part of the fabric of my life.

I got a gift over the radio this morning…

Life ain’t always beautiful
Sometimes it’s just plain hard
Life can knock you down, it can break your heart

Life ain’t always beautiful
You think you’re on your way
And it’s just a dead end road at the end of the day

But the struggle makes you stronger
And the changes make you wise
And happiness has it’s own way of takin’ it sweet time

No,life ain’t always beautiful
Tears will fall sometimes
Life ain’t always beautiful
But it’s a beautiful ride
What a beautiful ride – Gary Allan

…it was just what I need to hear. Once again, Gary Allan touches my heart and gives me hope when my own life isn’t being particularly beautiful.

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