What Is the True Meaning of Thanksgiving? It All Depends On Whom You Ask!

Modern Family Thanksgiving

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Under One Roof  

While my true meaning of Thanksgiving is having our children, Richie, Kevin and Katie together, there is nothing that measures up to having them all under one roof!  With everyone grown and living far away, we absolutely treasure having a full house.   Our Thanksgiving morning starts off   cozied around the tv watching the Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, eating breakfast and sipping coffee. Followed up by playing touch football out front and later baking  with Katie for the evening’s festivities.  Thanksgiving means a lot to me and is definitely my favorite holiday. While it includes the serious act of indulging, a perk that I am seriously thankful for, it is about Family, Gratitude, Giving Back and Paying it Forward that resonates most with me. In the twenty-first century, with my Modern Family, Sarah Hales ~ The true “Mother of Thanksgiving,” would be a welcomed guest at our table. Her vision of Thanksgiving has lived on, not only in America, but also across the world on different dates and honoring different cultures. It’s a significant reminder that the art and act of giving “thanks” is about treasuring the bonds of family, creating our own traditions or adopting the traditions that have been handed down to us over time. Today, this annual holiday conjures up images of loud and overflowing families, smells of sweet potatoes, pumpkin and apple pies, warm, buttered rolls, corn bread soufflé (my specialty,) green bean casseroles, and the iconic Turkey or Ham, or Tofurkey for vegetarians. Also hidden in the ingredients is Tryptophan, the one to blame for the head bob, food coma’s, and long naps stretched out on the sofa wearing stretchy-wasteband bottoms. Ahhh and  let’s not forget the long-awaited remote control struggle during multiple football games. Eat and Repeat.  But nothing means more than those who congregate around the table. Time stops to relish our children, our parents, our siblings and cousins, our in-laws, (some out-laws,) all branches of our family tree and friends amongst us. While we celebrate it’s national status annually, I believe that Thanksgiving is a daily occurrence in our wonderful, crazy and hectic lives. And while change is a constant, the most important actions we take to instill inclusiveness, harmony and gratitude, need never change. It is the one way in which we can honor our family and ourselves. Supporting local charities such as The Harvest Drive ~ Children Helping Children, is a vision started over a quarter of a century ago, and a movement that our family has participated in almost as long. It assists more than 2000 food insecure families in Broward County during the Thanksgiving Season. “Educating children and creating a consciousness about the needs of their community; promoting altruism and giving them the opportunity to help others are the cornerstone of the Harvest Drive.” There’s plenty of time left to check out their website to see where you are needed. The Harvest Drive also has several year-round food pantries. Visit http://www.harvestdriveflorida.com  

“Necessity is the Mother of Invention”

Thank Goodness for Mothers! So you may wonder who started this Thanksgiving tradition and demanded it become a National Holiday? A Mother of course. Symbolic of the Native Americans who graciously taught the Pilgrims survival techniques upon their arrival at Plymouth Rock, Sarah Josepha Hale was also a “rock” in her own right.  Known as The Mother of Thanksgiving, Sarah persevered relentlessly, pestered and nagged different Presidents with her tireless letter writing, pleading to make Thanksgiving a National Holiday. As a scholar, promoter of women in education, a mother of five, an accomplished writer and  journalist, Sarah knew how necessary this holiday was to promote the emotional well-being of families. She knew what was at stake and what mattered most. Credited with helping to establish Vassar College for Women in 1861, Sarah’s urging to commemorate Thanksgiving finally gained traction when she appealed to President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln  issued a Presidential Proclamation, demanding that Thanksgiving become a national holiday for the first time ever on Nov. 26, 1863. His decision to do so is widely perceived as an act of National Unification — an idea suggested to him by Sarah Hale. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill on November 26, 1941 declaring Thanksgiving as a National Holiday to be celebrated the fourth Thursday in November. Hail to Hale! Sarah had to rock the boat and make waves before smooth sailing was in her forecast.

Rocking the Boat ~ The First Step in Discovering a Solid Foundation…

Thanksgiving has a rich history, and while it is embedded in the history of America, its concept is replicated by many other countries around the world, at different times of the year and commonly known as a special time of harvest and appreciation. For the Pilgrims, it began by ‘rocking the boat” as they set sail upon The Mayflower on September 6, 1620 from Plymouth, England bound for the “New World.” The sixty-six day voyage was anything but smooth sailing and documented as a lethal journey. So you can imagine the Pilgrims gratitude upon reaching America and being greeted warmly by the Native Americans.  But their happiness was short-lived since they were ill-equipped to face the winter on this estranged place where they were ravaged thoroughly. 

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for life.” Lao Tzu

First Thanksgiving

Fortunately, the Pilgrims were saved by a group of local Native Americans who befriended them and taught them essential survival skills, introducing the settlers to the technique used to cultivate corns, grow native vegetables, and store them for the difficult days ahead. By the next winter they had raised enough crops to keep them alive. The winter came and passed by without much harm. The settlers knew they had beaten the odds and it was time to celebrate and honor the Native Americans through a shared feast of gratitude.

Thanksgiving Belongs to All Humanity

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“The world we have been given is a masterpiece. But in order for us to survive, we must be the masters of Peace.” Jayne Bonilla

This National Holiday, significantly reflective of those fateful days when the Pilgrims first planted their feet on Plymouth Rock and with the guidance of Native Americans, became rooted in America. Who knew that celebrating the fruits of their labor back in 1620 would provide the impetus for a favorite holiday shared across  the world today With all of our rich history and traditions, we do not corner the market on this magnanimous holiday that exemplifies gratitude. The concept behind the Thanksgiving ceremony celebration, held with a massive zeal in every nook and corner of the United States, is similar to the August Moon Festival in China, Tet Trung Thu in Vietnam, Sukkot in Jewish Communities, Kwanzaa in Africa, Pongal in India, Chuseok in Korea and Cerelia in Rome. The list is endless and unique to each Country that inhabits our planet. The only difference in each festival is the date, rituals and customs. The reason behind each celebration across the world,  clearly shares a common denominator, as does humankind; To show gratitude for our blessings and to instill peace across the land!

Thankful For Sarah

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving

Let us not forget to be thankful for Sarah Hale. In 1837, Sarah wrote her thoughts on Thanksgiving: “it is a festival which will never become obsolete, for it cherishes the best affections of the heart — the social and domestic ties.”  Thank You Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving is a children’s book by Laurie Halse Anderson, and is synonymous with honoring and valuing family time and recognizing that nothing has a higher calling or means more than the bonds of family! Sarah Hale’s dream not only came to fruition, but lives on 153 years later. 

On this Thanksgiving Holiday, may your tummies be full and your hearts be fulfilled. 

Jayne Bonilla is a passionate parent, a children’s advocate, a published author and a motivational speaker. Her greatest qualities are her courage to be herself, her sense of humor and her faith in others. 


Please keep an eye out for my December Blog about “Giving the Gift of Time” this Holiday Season ~ Experiential Pursuits that Promote Greater Happiness!



November 20, 2016 at 9:42 pm Leave a comment

I Could Have Danced All Night


dirty dancing

Once a dancer, always a dancer. Bear with my while I take a moment to put on my dancing shoes. There, now I am ready to dance up a storm, dance my heart out, and dance circles around anyone who will let me. I am off to my first ballroom dance lesson at Fred Astaire Weston, I am greeted by Alex and Carly, the fabulous, dynamic duo who have danced around the world. Lucky for us Alex and Carly chose The City of Weston to plunk their studio down and take up roots. From the very instant I sashay across the dance floor of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio,  I am  warmly greeted by Carly and Alex, franchise owners, brilliant dancers, and a loving couple. Their warmth and graciousness, talent and enthusiasm solidify my decision to take ballroom lessons. Alex and Carly put the Ball back in Ballroom.  Forty-five minutes later I have learned  how to dance to the Foxtrot, the Rumba, and the Hustle one, two, three. And I feel like I am back home! You see, back in the day, I danced my way through adolescence and adulthood. And today the only difference is my age. I may feel middle-aged on the outside, but my inside has not yet caught on and I hope to keep it that way as long as possible.   After my first  lesson, I’m hooked. Alex is a gifted dancer and teacher. He teaches with patience, flair and the  gift of solid explanation. The steps are new but the movement and mood familiar.  It’s like getting back on a bike. You never quite loose the momentum. 


That momentum began for me as far back as I can remember. My parents encouraged all of us to immerse ourselves in music, dance, theatre, and piano and exposed us to the arts every chance they had. Growing up around my Grandfather’s Baby Grand Piano, which was perched smack in the center of our living room, we gathered often, sang loudly and sometimes off-key. My sister Dale, a gifted Concerto Pianist, couldn’t wait to break away and play Top 40 Hits and Broadway Tunes that were forbidden during her fourteen years of studying and performing Classical music.  I thought  Rogers and Hammerstein were relatives since they seemed to be a part of every party and get-together my parents through.  Sounds pretty corny, but singalongs were an integral part of  life for us and inspired other hidden talents, (of which some should have stayed in hiding!)  While musical theatre resonated with me, I found dancing to be irresistible and took top billing.  My parents always loved to Jitterbug and Charleston. Craving to imitate the dances of their teen years, my Dad took me under his wing and taught me a variety of dances with the enthusiasm and skills of Fred Astaire. My Mom was his Ginger Rogers, though she acted more like Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy! 



Displaying IMG_1232.JPG1948, long before Dating App’s and Tinder existed, blind dates were very popular. That is exactly how my parents met when a  mutual friend fixed them up. If they did have classified ads back in the day, it might read like this… Bobby D: Temple University Boy Studying Radio Broadcasting on the GI Bill. Nickname “Jitterbug Bobby.” A Poet and Romantic who loves to dance. Enjoy Big Bands, Judy Garland, Ping Pong and Movies. Frat Boy.  5’7″ with red hair and freckles. Mickey Rooney look-alike. Heart of Gold.   Adele G:  Nickname “Del.” Somewhat Shy yet Mature for my age. 5’5″ with dark hair and hazel eyes. Friends say I’m loyal and funny. Love to shop, love Sinatra, Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Steve and Edie. Love Movies. Want to become a Nurse.  One blind date later, a proposal on the second date, followed by a refusal. An engagement six months later and a wedding in 1949. A marriage made in heaven that lasted fifty-five years, stood the test of time, truer, deeper and more devoted than any we have ever witnessed. My parents always knew what mattered most. Us. Their children and grandchildren. We have inherited their love and respect for others, for each other. It seems like yesterday when we were at Brown’s Hotel in the Catskills. I was maybe ten-years-old and I can recall, with such clarity, the times my parents danced in the ballroom. They were always so in  love, but dancing made them seem even more so. Dance can be the most romantic gesture a couple can exchange to show their love. Men who like to dance are a rare find. And those who have one right foot and one left foot ( not two left feet,) are an anomaly. Thirty-four years ago, I had my last first date with the love of my life, my husband Rich. We spent it dancing the night away and we both had a very strong hunch that night, under the chandelier, that the music would never end. Don’t turn the music off and never stop dancing.  




Little girl dancing on Dad's feet Toni Kami ~•❤• Bébé •❤•~ Father & Daughter photography idea

I’ll always treasure dancing with my daddy, especially when I danced on his feet. My daughter Katie followed in my footsteps as she danced on the feet of her Poppy and her Daddy! A beautiful rite of passage, a tradition that will continue with each new generation and one that started generations ago! 


• ginger rogers • fred astaire

Traditions are made to pass along from one generation to another and to be repeated consistently as you desire. In 1947,  (the year before my parents met and fell in love) Fred Astaire, launched his first Fred Astaire Dance Studio Franchise. As an American dancer, singer, actor, choreographer, film and television extraordinaire, Astaire also fell in love. He was in love with  ballroom dancing. And we fell in love with him. Considered to be the greatest multi-talented dancer of all time, Fred Astaire wanted to establish a chain of studios under his tutelage to make sure that his techniques would be preserved and passed on to the public. Fred Astaire was instrumental in the instructional techniques and the choice of dance curriculum that is still used today. A true pioneer, the first Fred Astaire Studio opened on Park Avenue in New York City, where Fred Astaire brought his immense talent out of the glamour of Hollywood and onto the dance floors of America and the world.



Swing Time [DVD]

Fred Astaire’s film and television careers spanned a total of seventy-six  years and is treasured and remembered for his sense of rhythm, originality and his perfectionism. While  dazzling audiences (since the age of five,)  with unmatched choreography, sensational syncopation, and flawless ballroom routines, he was the King of SwingAs far as a more perfect pair, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers fit like a hand in glove. They were iconic dance partners who made nine black and white motion pictures together from 1933–1949.  Made prior to Technicolor filming,  they reflected the colorless times during wartime.   The Barkleys of Broadway, a musical with M-G-M, was Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers only movie produced in Technicolor.  Yet it was inevitable that when Astaire and Rogers hit the dance floor, no matter the technology, we were struck with an indescribable happiness and moved by the magical movements that brought color back to life. 


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While dance and music have a profound effect on each of us in a personal way, it is especially important for families and military to have a place to retreat to where the music drowns out any negative thoughts and the chance to dance is ripe. The USO, usually the last stop before shipping out overseas, also provided troops with a place to hang their hats, decompress and reduce the  emotionally and physically strenuous day-to-day events of military duty. At the USO’s Hollywood Canteen,  (1942-1945,) soldiers could dance their cares away!  All the troops needed to do was to show up. In fact their uniform was their ticket. As a World War II veteran and Purple Heart Recipient, my daddy was the  bravest man I’ve ever known. He was an underaged boy who entered the army voluntarily, and came out a man who saw too much.  Prior to his journey to the Philippines, he was sent to California where he discoverd the Hollywood Canteen and our “Jitterbug Bobby,” danced the night away. My dad’s  biggest thrill was when Barbara Stanwyck asked him to dance! He described that moment with boyish enthusiasm and added how his heart was beating out of his chest.

The famous embrace: On 14 August 1944 a sailor and a woman locked lips, but who were they, and when did they kiss? To answer that question, researchers have re-analysed the image (shown). Looking at the clock in the 'O' of 'Bond' on the right, and the shadow on the building top right, they say it happened at 5.51pm

Post war was pieced together with extraordinary reunions, fragmented and broken hearts, a sense of hopefulness in a sea of hopelessness, and a desire to leave the shattered past in the past. Music and dance are not only therapeutic, but can replace any preoccupation and drown out the negative noise in your mind, making room for the noise of the big band sound and the music reflective of that era.


Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (photo)

 The Master of Dance himself, Astaire mesmerized us growing up. So it’s no surprise that we couldn’t help but fall hard for the multi-genres of Ballroom Dancing. Whether a throw back to the memories of more simpler times, or  the echoing beat of the music, we have become romanticized with the cheek-to-cheek movement, the infectious mood and the costumes.  My favorite movies include, Shall We Dance, Silver Linings Playbook, Save the Last Dance, Center Stage, Dirty Dancing and of course, the countless musicals that graced my childhood and inspired me to “get up and dance!”


Shall we dance pics

From the very instant I sashay across the dance floor of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio, ready for my first lesson,  I am  warmly greeted by Carly and Alex, brilliant dancers, and a loving couple. Their warmth and graciousness, talent and enthusiasm solidify my decision to take ballroom lessons. Alex and Carly put the Ball back in Ballroom.  Forty-five minutes later I have learned  how to dance to the Foxtrot, the Rumba, and the Hustle one, two, three. And I feel like I am back home! My only complaint is that I have to leave after my lesson is over because of a student whose class begins after mine. The nerve. I wanted to dance longer and my lesson flew by so quickly.  The truth of the matter is… I could have danced all night

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain. Picture Quote #4  

 Jayne Bonilla is a passionate parent, a children’s advocate, a published author and a motivational speaker. Her greatest qualities are her courage to be herself, her sense of humor and her faith in others.



November 9, 2016 at 10:19 am 2 comments

The Candy Man


Sandwich Costumes

You don’t need to spend a lot of dough on this years Halloween costume. Originality takes the cake, if you ask me. As October 31, 2016 arrives, PPA, Professional Procrastinators of America scurry around in search of the ultimate costume. As the President of PPA, I dig through a pile of costumes, like a dog digs for a buried bone, salvaging what’s left of the shreds of material tangled on the shelves of almost any store I enter.  


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It’s no surprise that Halloween, only celebrated one evening out of the year, is a billion dollar industry. Only second to Christmas, which lasts over the course of twelve days, kids’ are smitten with this annual celebration of  the mysterious, the mischievous and the make-believe. Accompanied with  masquerade parties, a wide spectrum of make-up,  fangs, wigs, magic tricks as well as playing tricks on others, you can walk into any Halloween party and it’s as if you’ve entered a bazaar for the bizarre. Then there are those distinct designers of costumes, masks, Hocus Pocus, wizardry, and haunted houses. Imagine all of these unusual purveyors of prank coming together for the sole purpose of scaring the wits out of us. And every year they step up their game even more.  


Gene Wilder in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I am convinced that Halloween is ageless. No matter how old we get, we  all love The Candy Man! I mean, “who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew, cover it with chocolate and a miracle or two? The Candy Man, The Candy Man Can! The Candy Man can ’cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good!” 

Ahhhh, candy…  I still look forward to gobbling down all the leftover candy until I am nauseous and my teeth begin to ache.  It feels like yesterday when we had to patiently wait while our parents examined the candy before we could eat it. And we did the same for our children. And they will do the same for their children.  It’s a rite of passage which includes dividing your favorite candies from the ones that make your taste buds frown and then swapping and trading treats with your siblings and friends. It’s still about choosing between the most outrageous costumes or wearing the one that feels the most comfortable. 

Coyotes use their high-pitched howl to communicate.

As I stroll down the hectic store aisle to buy oversized bags of candy to give out to the families stopping by in my neighborhood, I am surrounded by howling coyotes, pumpkin heads, black cats, hanging bats and skeletons illuminated by green and purple strobe lights. Suddenly my concentration is broken when a tug of war breaks out behind me. Two kids are calling dibs on the last Ninja Turtle costume in the store. They have wrestled Michelangelo to the ground and all I can ask myself is “where on earth are their parents?” When I put my glasses on to get a closer look, I realize that the wrestling mania pair, now on the ground themselves, are the parents’. Cowabunga Dude! There is nothing  we won’t do for our kids. 

Retro mikey

Now that my kids are grown, and loving Halloween on an entirely new level, I cannot wait to see the costumes they create and concoct based on their personalities, the times and what they consider iconic. My hubby and I don’t go out of our way to dress up anymore, but still love trick or treating with our young nephews JT, Joey and Jonny and our great-niece Paige! When it comes to our furry family however, we don’t want them to miss out on the festivities and actually dress them up and parade them around. They don’t even seem to mind us donning silly costumes on them while relishing in their foolishness. Or do they? Isn’t that the true question? 


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According to Hamlet’s Soliloquy “whether ‘tis nobler in mind to suffer” I cannot be certain that our Lyla and Rudi, a Black Lab and Westie respectively, are suffering as we dress them up for this year’s Halloween. While their headdresses and Velcro costumes do not cause any discomfort, I cannot help but think that we may be hurting their egos!


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While Rudi is the dinosaur of the family, fourteen in dog years, ninety-eight in human years, Lyla didn’t get the memo on “respecting your elders.” She tries to eat Rudi’s food, nabs her snacks, and races to the front door to be first in line to be walked. But all in all, they are paw mates and love the company of one another, at least in front of us humans. What goes on as soon as we lock the door behind us is anyone’s guess. “The Secret Lives of Pets!”

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October 31st. It is the one day of the year children and adults alike can officially “mask” who they are, kiss and “make up,” get “all dressed up” with some place to go, and take the time to have an intimate relationship with a lot of chocolate peanut butter cups. Being an empty nester, I’ll most likely be participating in the latter. However you choose to spend October 31st, and whatever your taste may be, don’t forget to let the kid in you takeover. And please get rid of that “resting witch  face.”         Image result for witch face





Jayne Bonilla is a passionate parent, a children’s advocate, a published author and a motivational speaker. Her greatest qualities are her courage to be herself, her sense of humor and her faith in others.


October 31, 2016 at 1:52 am Leave a comment

If Our Travels Paint a Portrait, Our Journey was a Masterpiece

“We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.”  

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Picture me donning a beret, dipping my paintbrush into a multitude of colors, blotting a palate, and giving birth to a portrait… Describing the past two weeks of my life can easily be expressed through the eyes of an artist whose canvas is about to be saturated with a plethora of colors and blended to create an original masterpiece! 

Two weeks ago, our three grown children, my husband and I  boarded our plane with the uncapped enthusiasm o five children on a field trip, stoked to be embarking on a journey together, ready to explore, experience and embrace a brand new land.  Across the pond awaited a city, a country and a continent that greeted us with open arms. In  London we were “United in a Kingdom” where the people, the culture, and the history, (not to mention the fish and chips) all work their way into a visitors heart in a significant pattern, leaving lasting impressions and a craving for a future return. Feeling like guests rather than tourists, we arrived at St. Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster, dropped our suitcases like hot potatoes, and hit the ground running.


Beauty is in the Eye of the beholder”

We boarded The London Eye, with great anticipation. Picture a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames, towering over London at 443 feet (135 m) tall.  Nicknamed The Millennium Wheel, it is described by its operators as “the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel.” Weary of heights? No worries, riders are snuggly encapsulated with others,  encouraged to roam around during the thirty-minute ride or may remain glued to your seat inside the outer space-like cabin for a birds-eye peek. With its one-of-a-kind, breathtaking 360 degree panoramic view of London, The London Eye is a must. *We suggest you buy the fast track pass to avoid long lines and maximize your time in this      magical city.

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City of Motherly Love… That is the Queen Mother, of course. As our son Kevin posted a family photo of us on Instagram, posing at The Tower of London, his caption read “here are the real crowned jewels.”  Have you heard of Big Ben? I thought it rang a bell… I am happy to “chime” in on how Big Ben, the iconic Clock Tower, garnered its famous nickname… Most believe the Great Bell was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation of the Great Bell. Sir Benjamin Hall’s name is inscribed on the Great Bell, suggesting that he was the source of the Great Bell’s nickname. 

Time for a change... The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, The Tower Bridge with its glass bottom walkway, Hyde and St. James Parks, Trafalgar Square, a Riverboat Cruise down the Thames River and a leisurely stroll along the banks, make it hard to declare a favorite spot. The Anchor Bankside Pub, situated on one of the most historical reaches of the Thames River, lays claim to fascinating and historical associations. Sitting just a stone’s throw away is its most famous neighbor, the original Globe Theatre site which stood from 1598 to 1613 and was rebuilt in 1997. Shakespeare himself enjoyed a pint of ale or two within the walls of the Anchor. Many of England’s best known literary figures and actors frequented the pub and were known to study their lines in preparation for many a Shakespeare performance.

I certainly felt the creativity and literary history all around me.  As we ate, drank and became merrier, I felt empowered to tell The Anchor, Banksidethe stories of our journey, the catalyst for this blog. Glasses raised, our son Richie declared a toast to “Mems on The Thames (pronounced Tems) celebrating the unforgettable memories we forged during our time together in London ~ Cheers!  

“Traveling ~ it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a Storyteller.” Ibn Battuta

Enter Dublin, the capital and largest city of Ireland. But even more extraordinary than this beautiful city in this magnificent country, is the purpose of our trip. My children’s Nana, my husband Rich’s Mom and my Mother (in-law) who treats me like a daughter, is turning eighty-years-young! What better way to celebrate this milestone than in the homeland of her parents, grandparents and family.

With all six of Nana’s children,nine (out of eighteen) grandchildren, and three additional family members in tow, this trip of a lifetime will live on forever in our hearts and minds.


It was first in Dublin, that eighteen family members congregated to honor a woman who has a Heart of Gold! Everywhere we went, including The Guiness Brewery, droves of folks sang “Happy Birthday” to Patricia, our Matriarch, who could barely contain her emotions throughout.  Patricia Dougherty, tickled Pink and moved to tears, is basking in the fruits of her labor, now spanning four generations.  Nana truly deserves a “Pat” on her back!  

Every ship needs a captain and at the helm of our ship was our oldest nephew PA, world traveler, born leader and time-keeper. Keeping us on our toes, PA arranged every detail of this magnificent trip with flying colors. With a Coach passenger bus equipped with a Roscommon native/ driver/tour guide/ entertainer and cousin, Enda navigated north from Dublin toward Belfast and back to Dublin, taking on curves and narrow roadways like a precisioned Nascar Driver. This afforded all eighteen of us a Golden Opportunity to visit hidden gems along the Ireland Coast while spending as much time together along the route, laughing, playing games and avoiding politics.

On January 1, 1892, Annie Moore, a 15 year old girl from County Cork, accompanied by her younger brothers, became the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island.  





Arriving at Cobh, a famous port in County Cork, we stood on the same platform where countless Irish families began their emigration process, voyaging to a promising but unknown land. Cobh was also Titanic’s last port of call before its tragic voyage.

 A ferry to Kerry took us to one of our favorite towns known as Dingle. The name, as quirky as the town itself, fits this colorful little town perfectly because it overflows with its irresistable and infectious charm.


This unique village sits on a cozy little harbor on the south side of the Dingle Peninsula. With an abundance of pubs, shops, bookstores and all things Irish, you can even find a hardware store known to moonlight as a pub after business hours.

The Dingle Peninsula itself boasts some of Europe’s most stunning beaches and secluded sandy coves, like Inch Strand where some family members relinquished their socks and shoes to feel a true Irish beach between their Floridian toes. Known as a deserted beach before we showed up, our large,  boisterous family replaced the well-known silence with splashing, laughter and shenanigans.

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As night fell upon us at the end of non-stop days, the sky was freckled with millions of stars.   Somewhere between exhausted and exhilarated, we climbed into our sweats and oversized tee’s. Siblings and cousins shared rooms in our bed and breakfast, imitating childhood sleepover’s where sleep was the last thing on our minds. Mornings arrived quickly and cows served as our alarm clocks. The fall air smelled like Irish Spring soap.  

Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, until you find your dream”… Reaching the top of Cliffs of Moher, Giants Causeway and The Waterfalls of Donegal, it was as clear as day that experiencing these incredible “wonders of the world” with “our wonders of the world” made it even that more special! 

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Of  titanic proportion… while visiting the shipyards in Belfast where the Titanic was built, hearing survivors testimonials, recorded in their own voices, and reading telegrams written by those in their last moments, was heart-wrenching. The reality of a time not too long ago (1912,) reminded each of us of the preciousness of life. The vulnerability and sacrifices made by so many of our ancestors, made us not want to waste another minute but instead relish being in the moment and being together.

While celebrating life, eating an obscene amount of  food (from Jacks Restaurant at The Ballyliffin Lodge in Donegal,) dancing to live Irish, Pop, and Country music with a group of golfers visiting from Sweden, we raised our glasses and raised the roof. The next thing we knew, we were informally invited to check out an Irish Wedding next door to us. Meeting the Bride and Groom, (Nana posing for a picture with the Bride,) taking over the center of the dance floor, we can now add Wedding Crashers’ to our resumes. “This more the merrier” philosophy of life is commonplace with so many people whose paths we crossed along the curvy way through Gaelic paradise. 


“Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life.” Albert Einstein

Our most meaningful moment was visiting the birthplaces of my husband’s grandparents in Donegal and Roscommon. We fell in love with the Finan Family, cousins who remained in Roscommon while many of their family members emigrated to Brooklyn and the Bronx, never to return again. We were fixated on stories spun by Michael, Anne, Padraig and Nichola Finan, Fiona and Manus Tiernan. Touring Rich’s Grandmother Maryellen Finan’s original home  felt like time had stood still. A 1961 black and white tv remained on the floor of the two-bedroom home. Spending quality time with a new extension of our family ignited tears of joy for an indescribable reunion yet evoked tears of sadness when it was time to bid farewell. Waving all the while as the bus pulled away, our beautiful Irish Family became tinier in the distance. 

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” Angela Schwindt  

As we boarded the plane to New York’s JFK Airport, baggage bulging and hearts expanded, Richie, Kevin, Katie, Rich and I embraced one another in appreciation for a trip of a lifetime. While there is no place like home we felt blue that at the culmination of our family trip each of our children would go to their respective homes. With Thanksgiving around the corner, we will reunite in New York City and embark on our next adventure!   

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller      

 As I dab the last bit of paint on my canvas and finish up this blog, I know my masterpiece shows my true colors ~ loving my family immeasurably and being ever so grateful for our blessings! 

Our Irish eyes are smiling. With love to have and hold. We need not look much further. We’ve got our Pot of Gold…

Jayne Bonilla is a passionate parent,  a children’s advocate, a published author and a motivational speaker. Her greatest qualities are her courage to be herself, her sense of humor and her faith in others.



October 16, 2016 at 6:42 pm 1 comment

Empty Nester Awaits Return Flight

Jayne Bonilla's Blog

Empty nest syndrome

It’s hard to believe that it has been four years since I wrote my first blog (as written below) as an empty nester. I still seem to be riding the emotional seesaw, shifting between ups and downs, but always craving that central point that creates the necessary balance. I have, however come to realize that the ups are equated with each of our children’s happiness and the downs are merely moments of reflection of a simpler, carefree time that had its own pair of wings, flying by way too speedily.  Let’s face it: our kids blood runs through our veins. When they are happy, we are happy. When they are struggling we struggle right along with them. Welcome to parenthood ~ the best place to live! I am grateful that our children have the courage to flap their wings and challenge themselves knowing that our nest will always be…

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July 11, 2015 at 6:36 am Leave a comment

“Even Lady Liberty Wore Sleeves” by Jayne Bonilla

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”
Denis Waitley

Jayne Bonilla's Blog

Statue of Liberty-Face-Close-Up-NYC-Liberty Island

Since 1776 until the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American Independence. So this year, on July 4, 2015, we can sing Happy 239th Birthday (Birth of Independence) to our country. And how great we look at this ripe old age. While many will acknowledge that over these past 239 years our country has endured its share of wrinkles and creases, labor-intensive age spots, receding hair lines and graying temples, these are undoubtedly reflective of centuries of overcoming adversities that come with declaring independence.

Hail to “Everybody’s Gal” Lady Liberty! She remains a breathtaking, invigorating and ageless woman who has seen it all. The “Giant Goddess,” a woman who has weathered the most storms (including Hurricane Sandy,) The Lady of the Harbor, who has had the greatest view through her own eyes. Our “Mother of Freedom,” whose 12’ right arm (wearing sleeves, no doubt) has…

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July 4, 2015 at 7:06 pm Leave a comment

“Even Lady Liberty Wore Sleeves” by Jayne Bonilla

Statue of Liberty-Face-Close-Up-NYC-Liberty Island

Since 1776 until the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American Independence. So this year, on July 4, 2015, we can sing Happy 239th Birthday (Birth of Independence) to our country. And how great we look at this ripe old age. While many will acknowledge that over these past 239 years our country has endured its share of wrinkles and creases, labor-intensive age spots, receding hair lines and graying temples, these are undoubtedly reflective of centuries of overcoming adversities that come with declaring independence.

Hail to “Everybody’s Gal” Lady Liberty! She remains a breathtaking, invigorating and ageless woman who has seen it all. The “Giant Goddess,” a woman who has weathered the most storms (including Hurricane Sandy,) The Lady of the Harbor, who has had the greatest view through her own eyes. Our “Mother of Freedom,” whose 12’ right arm (wearing sleeves, no doubt) has never tired while holding her torch to lighten the way and enlighten others. “The Green Goddess” whose left arm never tires as she tightly embraces the tablet (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. “The Lady Higher Up” is iconic of freedom and of the United States, and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad.

What’s in a Name? Since we feel like we know our “Grande Dame” personally, people affectionately refer to her using many a nickname including: America’s Great Lady, Aunt Liberty, Bartholdi’s Daughter, Lady on a Pedestal, Lady with a Torch, Mother of Exiles, Saint Liberty, and the Spirit of American Independence. “The Statue of Liberty,” is, in fact, a nickname. Bartholdi’s name for his gift was “Liberty Enlightening the World.”


Best Mother’s Day Gift Ever…Frederic Bartholdi has trumped any Mother’s Day gift you could ever come up with: He used his mother, Charlotte, as the model for the most recognized statue in the world. This was first discovered in 1876, when Bartholdi invited French Senator Jules Bozerian to his box at the opera. When Bozerian pulled back the curtain to step into the box, he was shocked to find a real-life version of the Statue of Liberty sitting there in the box. When he said so to Bartholdi, the sculptor smiled: “But do you know who this lady is? She’s my mother,” he told the senator!

What a Hot Dog! While approximately 158 million hot dogs will be consumed on our Nation’s Birthday, enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times, one ambitious person will try to break the record and eat more than 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes during The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Bald Eagle Photo

Who Knew? Bald is Beautiful! Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national animal but was outvoted when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson chose the bald eagle. The first 4th of July party held at the White House was in 1801 while The 4th of July was not declared a national holiday until 1941. John Hancock was the only person to actually sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. His signature was the largest of all the 56 signatures. The other 55 signers did not sign until August 2nd or even later. The youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence was 26-year-old Edward Rutledge. The oldest signer was Benjamin Franklin. He was 70. Most of the signers were in their 30s and 40s.

Nelson Mandela - Let freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement.Red, White and Blue? So as you celebrate the 4th of July with family and friends, wave your flags proudly, march to the beat of your own drum while the parade marches by, wear your patriotic colors, and indulge in the festivities all around you! Red, White and avoid the Blues… remember to be prudent, safe, and sound. Wear sunscreen, use caution during fireworks displays and never imbibe and drive. This holiday is about celebrating freedom, which came at a gigantic cost to our forefathers and mothers. And let us show gratitude to our troops and their families who protect our freedom everyday with their lives. That is the true meaning of this holiday. I will toast to our troops, and drink from the cup of LiberTea!

 Jayne Bonilla, the Blogger for Arm Candy, is a Passionate Mom, Freelance Writer, Motivational Speaker, and the Brand Ambassador for Sleeves 2 Go. You can reach Jayne at: jayne@sleeves2go.com 

July 1, 2015 at 10:37 am 1 comment

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"It is better to improve than it is to prove"
- Jayne Bonilla

Since the road to success is always under construction, this blog is intended to serve as a visceral compass empowering readers/writers to find their own direction along the way.

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