Ode to my grandfather, George Neverdousky (Neverdouskas)

Part 1

My fiancé likes to surprise me with unique gifts. Recently, it was a DNA test from the company 23andMe. That, after he bought me an acre of land on the moon should we decide to fly up, up and away one day. We’d been watching a program on public broadcasting (PBS) called “Finding Your Roots” off and on for the past year and I suppose he’d seen the wonder in my eyes, and heard the longing in my voice, each time someone found out what story their DNA told of their ancestors.  My own had been such a mystery and I think he felt sorry for me.

Like most of us in the United States, I had little idea of where I came from. Being a country full of immigrants it’s not uncommon for stories, histories, and even whole livelihoods to end abruptly.  So many men, women and children, having poor situations abroad, left everything behind in search of a chance in the new world – America.  My own relatives were no different. I knew from my family name I had a little Irish in me, and maybe a bit of English and Italian, but other than that, I would have called myself a Heinz 57 – meaning I likely had a little of everything in my DNA. 

My mother had never known who her father was either, which didn’t exactly help her or any of us kids with our familial histories. The story was told that after hearing my grandmother was pregnant with my mother, her own mother (my great grandmother) sent her from New York to  Jersey City to live in a home for “unwed” mothers until it was appropriate she return. The child’s father, my grandfather, was never spoken of and in the case my mother would ask, she was shushed. My grandmother would go on to marry another man and have five more children. 

My fiancé on the other hand, knows exactly where he came from. He was born and raised in Amsterdam, Netherlands where his family still lives, and we will eventually live more permanently. His parents were born and raised in The Netherlands, as were their parents, and their parents’ parents, and so on and so on. He is a Dutch man through and through; from his accent to his extra tall, lanky body and facial features. When we’re traveling people don’t even ask where he’s from. One look at him, and they all think – Dutch.

Within a month of mailing my sample to the lab, I had answers I never dreamed of. And the DNA to prove it. I scoured the pages of my results to see where in the world I could claim for my own…

And it wasn’t what I expected at all.

As it turns out, I’m not a “Heinz 57” as I had thought. In fact, I am 100% European with a whopping 67.6% Irish/UK, 24.5% Lithuanian (my mother’s side) and 7.9% Southern European (Italian/Sardinian). I come from just three areas of Europe with the majority being Ireland and Lithuania. 

The Lithuanian bit was new by the way….Completely new. And so the search for my grandfather began. 

Woman reclined, pencil and graphite

“I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of non-feeling, or stop questioning and criticizing life and take the easy way out. To learn and think: to think and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love.”
― Sylvia Plath

A reintroduction

“Change begins when the fear of not acting at all at last outstrips the paralyzing fear of  making a mistake.” – Alain de Botton 

In late 2018 I was in a car accident. Not a fender-bender type of accident, but the real deal. The kind that involves ambulances, scans, the closure of a highway and in turn, utter confusion.  Before that, I’d been working on a book; two, actually.  One was a photographic journal of my travels, complete with short stories to accompany them.  The second, a novel about modern love.  

My journey to recover my rattled brain, rattled bones and ligaments consumed much of the year 2019.  

After my concussion healed I managed to travel a little, but it was different.  Slow. And although throughout the year I casually made my way through France, Ireland, Sardinia, and retreats to the American deserts, I didn’t write about it.  I gave up my column at The American Magazine as I felt I’d nothing to say. I dug for creativity that simply wasn’t there. The more I dug, the more I tried to write, the more I felt like an imposter, a fake.  Unable to grasp words or ideas, I froze.  Insecurity crept in and its ugly little tendrils permeated my very essence. Much like a virus. 

I changed jobs too. It was a good change, which allowed me more financial comfort and security,  but with longer working hours. I used it as an excuse not to write, nor paint, nor photograph during my holidays. I was just there to “relax.” I even stopped bringing my camera and notepads in my carryon. I didn’t want the extra weight.  Or the risk.

Late in 2019, when I finally felt the tiniest, fleeting glimpse of creativity, the calendar rolled over  to 2020. And, well….you know.  

So I put my head back down and worked more. I was fortunate enough to have a job that wasn’t affected by the shutdowns, as I can work from my home office.  With spending time with friends, as well as any travel, out of the question, my days  became solely about work, self-care and daily walks with my dog.  By late  summer, like a lot of people, I was emotionally fatigued and lonely. I’d pick up my sketch pad and nothing would come out of the pencil. Or I’d stare at my empty computer screen hoping a story would find its way from the now decrepit tendril of insecurity, but its death grip hadn’t loosened.  

Until it did.  

I’d like to say it was all me, but it wasn’t. I had a nudge from someone who showed me there is still joy to be found in letting oneself take a risk.  

And now, after an over-two-year hiatus from writing, photography and sketching, I’d like to think I can squeeze the rest of my self out of the claws of fear: of making a mistake, of failing, of not being “perfect,” and put myself back out there creatively on OneStreetShy. And hopefully, back to my book too. 

So here’s to a better, more creative, and less solitary 2021 for all!

Hazy shade of winter, a photograph

Ahhh, seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me
But look around, leaves are brown now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Look around, leaves are brown
There’s a patch of snow on the ground…
-Simon and Garfunkel


One’s entire life, a photograph

“How concrete everything becomes in the world of the spirit when an object, a mere door, can give images of hesitation, temptation, desire, security, welcome and respect. If one were to give an account of all the doors one has closed and opened, of all the doors one would like to re-open, one would have to tell the story of one’s entire life.”
– Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space 

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 4.37.20 PM

The dog, a photograph

“A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.”
– Geroge Bernard Shaw


Creative, a photograph of life

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that
without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”
― Pearl S. Buck


Or not to be, A Photograph

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub.”
― William Shakespeare



Lisboa, adoro-te – My thoughts on Lisbon, Portugal

José Saramago, Portugal’s renowned Nobel Prize winner, once wrote, “We always arrive in the place where someone is waiting for us.”

What if, however, that “someone” is a city? After all, do cities not have hearts? I believe they do. Some are warm and some are cold, but each has it’s own essential personality/characteristics. Do we arrive at a city which “is waiting for us”? It’s how I felt about Lisbon – it had been waiting for my visit. For years I’d been wanting to go, but somehow other trips would take precedence and I’d let the notion of Portugal go for the time being.

Until recently.

Before my departure, a friend of mine (someone quite wealthy) gave me her account of Lisbon.

“Well, it’s kind of…dirty. Run down. But I liked it…sort of,” she recounted.

Though my Lisbon, (Can I call it that? Mine? Will he be upset that I have claimed him, the city, as my own, such the foreigner that I am? And why have I deemed him male when other cities such as Rome are so female to me?) was far from “dirty” (Although I’ve always been partial to dirt) and there was no “sort of” in my opinion. My love for the city is definitive. After all, I just laid claim to it here, didn’t I?

It was lovelier than other cities I’ve been to and it wasn’t because it’s cleanliness or cohesive architecture (which I love architecture so very much.) In fact, Lisbon is quite a mess architecturally, so to speak. Expensive buildings mixed with cheap prison-looking facades of recent took my eyes by surprise. However…. inside of that mess lies the kind of beauty that Neruda speaks of in one of his famous Love Sonnets.

“There are purer than you, purer.
There are lovelier than you, lovelier.”
“When you go through the streets
No one recognizes you.
No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks
At the red carpet of gold
That you tread as you pass.
The nonexistent carpet.”

I saw the crystal crown of the city and it’s people though…each time I took a walk…

I came to appreciate the beautiful buildings much more so than in any other place I’ve had the pleasure to visit. The perpetual underdog of Europe has something that the other more aesthetically pleasing cities don’t – it has the mess. Because you see, in between the architectural wonders of centuries past are ugly monstrosities of buildings irupted like small pox during the sixties and seventies to replace the fallen down ancient structures. By seeing the lovely original buildings next to the nasty replacements, I appreciated the beauty even more-so than in those cities where nothing is out-of-place and every facade blends with the next..

And the people? They have the same flavor as the buildings. They’ve been built up, torn down, burned down, smacked down and built again….only to remain strong.

I was right at home.

In conclusion, Lisboa, adoro-te


Here, A Photograph of Life in Lisbon

“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”
– Aristotle

Here I found no pretense.
Here I found neighbors filling the small bar housed next to the neighborhood soccer field to watch the game together – children laughing.
Here I found a better representation of life in the city of Lisbon than anywhere else.
Here I found authenticity and I suppose, a sample of Portugal’s own 99%.



Door, A Photograph of Lisbon, Portugal

“There are such moments in life, when, in order for heaven to open, it is necessary for a door to close.”
– José Saramago

The first post from Lisbon, Portugal, or anywhere for that matter, should be a door. After all, upon entering a new place, you have to open the door first.


Contemplation, A Photograph of Hawaii

“Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is the spirit that is experienced. That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally.”
– Fernando Pessoa

I’ve spent the better part of the week in Hawaii with my sons. What I find interesting about the islands is that for as beautiful and pristine as they are, I struggle to be photographically inspired here. Don’t misunderstand please – the sunsets alone are photographed from visitors all over the world and I’m a sucker for a good sunset. The beaches, the aquatic world full of great sea turtles and fish the color of rainbows are what postcards are made from; though for me, while meditative, therefore giving me ample time to contemplate, they lack artistic inspiration; drama.

Take me to a city with interesting architecture and people and I can’t seem to put my camera down. Take me to the beaches where cameras abound, and I’m loathe to pick mine up. The photo below is one of the twenty I felt inspired to take. The man in the photo must’ve known he was being photographed because he quickly moved down the beach.


The Path, A Photograph of Spain

“Let each man take the path according to his capacity, understanding and temperament. His true guru will meet him along that path.”
– Sivananda Saraswati

This church, sitting on a hill in the middle of a small neighborhood, was possibly the prettiest place I found on Ibiza. I can’t remember where it was as it was found during an exploratory drive. The beaches, coves and sunsets were lovely too, but I’ve found them other places as well. However, this church on the hill, with all its white walls and cobbled pathways was special.


Something True, A Photograph of France

“if you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone.”
– Richard Yates

I leave Europe in a few days, although take with me wonderful new experiences and a few new friends. I’ll return soon, no doubt. Eventually I’ll just move here I’m sure. However for now, it’s time I go back to my daily life instead of photographing the daily lives of others (which I love so much.)


Comfort, A Photograph of France

“Comfort has its place, but it seems rude to visit another country dressed as if you’ve come to mow its lawns.”
– David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

This is my first real visit to France. I’ve stopped in a time or two on the way to somewhere else, but never stayed long enough to truly meet the people. The only French man I know happens to be one of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet though as an American, I was told virtually my entire life that the French would be rude should I visit. I should’ve known better and tsk tsk on me. How is it that I can go my entire life defending us “obnoxious” Americans while abroad, yet, because of what others say, have a preconceived notion of what the French are like. I feel rather stupid, to say the least. 

In fact, having been to Italy more than a dozen times, I never quite fit it. Don’t get me wrong though, I love the country. I love the history and I love the people. Although my Italian friends tell me that I don’t look or act Italian. I stick out like a sore thumb; I don’t wear that much make-up, my personal style (which I do love fashion) has always been more conservative or “vintage” and lastly, I talk and smile with people – I’m friendly. Here in France though, nobody stares at me like they do in Italy, I dress the same as most women here and when I smile – they smile back, they hold doors, they say thank you and even the women wish you a good day – and no, you don’t need to be purchasing something to gains smiles and chatting.

This morning at breakfast I sat and chatted with a nice German couple on their way to see the areas around Grasse. The owner of the Bed & Breakfast, Monique, showed them on the map how to get to their destinations. I found myself envious of their plan – I had none.  After they left, Monique asked me what I’d be doing today. I told her I had no clue, maybe Cannes, and asked what she recommended. “Cannes is full of tourists. You don’t look like you would like that. I see you don’t like those things. Let me show you where I go.” she responded. Music to my ears.

By the end of the day I had driven through the beautiful countryside, chatted with numerous locals and in some villages, felt I was the only one in the streets – completely safe and decided that my trip to France would be the first of many yet to come. My relationship with Italy is by no means over, it’s just a good friend now, instead of a lover, that’s all.

Below are a few photos I took today while exploring. They show the simplicity, yet elegance of the French style.