Shedding Light on the Family Tree: A Magical Connection made by Music

The second in a series of posts about my family tree.
Inspired by Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Prompt: Favourite Find

~*~

Part of the thrill of shedding light on the family tree is discovering who’s hanging out on its numerous branches. During my meanderings I’ve located many interesting people and stories, and so far this is my favourite find. It relates to my mother’s story and a magical connection made to an ancestor through music.

Let’s start with some background on my mother, Lois Jeanette McDonall:

Dimings and Sparklings
Mom was born during the night of a frigid February 7, 1939, in a one-room log cabin in the middle of nowhere northern Alberta. By all accounts she was a “miracle baby,” born three years after her mother, Alice, had suffered a traumatic event giving birth to stillborn twins and been told by her doctor it was unlikely she would ever have more children.

Still, she was an only child raised among adults, encouraged to read whatever was on the bookshelf (Voltaire!), and to sing. Music was a vital thread in the family fabric. Everyone sang and played at least one musical instrument, so on many an evening her parents (Alice and Stan), paternal grandparents (Steve McDonall and Mary Belton), and uncles Joe and Earl, gathered around the old upright piano and made music. The harmonies of old hymns; parlour songs and Irish folk tunes filled the air and were among the happiest of times for a family beset with challenges while recovering from the trauma of losing everything after the Dust Bowl.

These lamplit musical interludes left an enduring impression on young Jean. “I fell in love with singing the moment I knew what it was,” she told me recently. “It spoke to my heart like nothing else.” In fact, she loved it so much that at the tender age of four she announced to her mother that she was going to sing on the stage one day wearing “dimings and sparklings.” Her mother’s response: “Hitch your wagon to a star, darling, hitch your wagon to a star.” And that’s precisely what Jean did.

A little more than 20 years later Jean was married with two small children and attending the Opera School at the University of Toronto. After graduating she had a chance to get her professional feet wet by fulfilling a one-year contract in some of the smaller German opera houses. This necessitated a difficult separation from her two young children (who stayed with their grandmother Alice) and from her husband (foreshadowing divorce). During this time she adopted the professional name, Lois McDonall, and secured a one-year contract with Sadlers Wells Opera (soon to become English National Opera) in London’s West End. In 1970 she moved to London with her children and raised them as a single parent while pursuing her career. The initial contract was renewed for 13 more years and she enjoyed an illustrious career as a dramatic soprano specializing in the Bel Canto repertoire. Among her major roles: The Feldmarschallin (Der Rosenkavalier, R. Strauss); Countess Rosina Almaviva (The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart); Miss Jessel (Turn of the Screw, Britten); Rosalinda (Die Fledermaus, J. Strauss); Violetta (La Traviata, Verdi), and more. In addition, Lois was a regular guest on BBC Radio’s Friday Night is Music Night, and toured Britain’s many opera houses and concert halls.

Lois McDonall at centre stage as Rosalinda in
Die Fledermaus (J. Strauss)

Just as she’d dreamed the little girl from the middle of nowhere Alberta grew up to sing on the international stage. Naturally the story is far more nuanced than this and deserves further scrutiny, but it sets the stage, as it were, for what follows.

Expect the Unexpected
When I felt prompted to take another look at our ancestry last year I hooked into FamilySearch.org, plugging in our family information until it linked to related lineages already uploaded by other researchers. There ensued hours of ooh-ing and ahh-ing as I traced back through the maternal ancestral line. The Fairchild name (my 5th great grandmother, Ruth Fairchild, married Daniel Springer in Delaware, Ontario in 1794) proved to be the most fruitful. During my exploration, (and without going into detail about all the generations that made this possible ~ that requires a book!), I was transported back to the American colonies and beyond to Britain and Western Europe. As it happens many of the lines reach back to royalty. One name in particular caught my eye, Maria Juana de Padilla.

There are many sources of information on this colourful woman, however for simplicity’s sake the following is taken directly from the entry under her name on the FamilySearch.org website.

~*~

“María Juana de Padilla (c. 1334-Seville, July 1361), mistress of Pedro I “el Cruel” Rey de Castilla (1334-1369)

Maria Juana de Padilla

Maria was a Castilian noblewoman, daughter of Juan García de Padilla (died between 1348 and 1351) and his wife María González de Henestrosa (died after September 1356). Her maternal uncle was Juan Fernández de Henestrosa, the King’s favorite between 1354 and 1359 after Juan Alfonso de Alburquerque fell out of favor, and the mediator in an apparent pardon for Fadrique Alfonso, King Peter’s half-brother. She was also the sister of Diego García de Padilla, Grand Master of the Order of Calatrava. María’s family, members of the regional nobility, originally came from the area of Padilla de Abajo, near Castrojeriz in the province of Burgos.

She is described in the chronicles of her time as very beautiful, intelligent, and small of body.

Relationship with Pedro I “el Cruel,” Rey de Castilla
King Peter met María in the summer of 1352 during an expedition to Asturias to battle his rebellious half-brother Henry. It was probably her maternal uncle, Juan Fernández de Henestrosa, who introduced them, as mentioned in the chronicle of King Peter’s reign written by Pero López de Ayala. At that time, María was being raised at the house of Isabel de Meneses, wife of Juan Alfonso de Alburquerque, a powerful nobleman. They became lovers and their relationship lasted until her death despite the King’s other marriages and affairs. The Padillas were raised to various offices and dignities. Her uncle, Henestrosa, became Alcalde de los fidalgos.

In the summer of 1353, under coercion from family and the main court favorite, Juan Alfonso de Alburquerque, Peter wed Blanche of Bourbon, the first cousin of King John II of France. Peter abandoned Blanche within three days when he learned that she had an affair with his bastard brother Fadrique Alfonso en route to Spain, and that the dowry was not coming.

Children
María and Peter had three daughters and a son:
Beatrice (born 1354)
Constance (1354-1394)

Isabella (1355-1394) [our ancestor]
Alfonso, crown-prince of Castile (1359-October 19, 1362)

Two of their daughters were married to sons of Edward III, King of England. Isabella married Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, while the elder, Constance, married John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, leading him to claim the crown of Castile on behalf of his wife. Constance’s daughter, Catherine of Lancaster, married Henry III of Castile in order to reunify any claim to succession that may have passed via Constance.

Death and burial
María de Padilla died in July 1361, possibly a victim of the plague, although Pero López de Ayala does not specify the cause in his chronicle of the King’s reign. She was buried in the Real Monasterio de Santa Clara de Astudillo which she had founded in 1353. Shortly afterwards, however, her remains were taken, following the orders of King Peter, to the Cathedral of Seville where she received burial in the Royal Chapel with other members of the royal house.

Depictions in fiction
Gaetano Donizetti composed Maria Padilla (1841), an opera about her relationship with King Peter.”

FamilySearch.org

~*~

Lois McDonall graces the original cover for the 1980 recording of Maria Padilla

The Magic Unfolds
In 1980, Lois McDonall was signed by Opera Rara, a music organization whose mission it is “to rediscover, restore, record and perform the lost operatic heritage of the 19th and early 20th centuries,” and the Donizetti Society, for whom she’d already made a number of recordings, to sing the title role in Gaetano Donizetti’s dramatic opera, Maria Padilla. (This link takes you to a platform featuring snippets and options to download. For an initial preview I recommend tracks 7 and 8. The full recording is also available on Spotify and other platforms. ) When asked about the experience of doing the recording mom shares how she loved the music of Donizetti and was thrilled to be asked to do it. As with all 45-plus major roles she’d performed during her career, she familiarized herself with the character of Maria by researching her story and the times in which she lived. “Beyond that,” she notes, “I gave it no further thought. It was an easy production that went off without a hitch. This made all involved immensely happy.” It was, indeed, well received. The New York Times called it, “A fascinating and valuable recording.”

Here’s where it gets trippy … Imagine our delight last summer when mom and I discovered that Maria Juana de Padilla is her 19th great-grandmother!

“It makes me giggle,” says Lois, now in her 80s and astonished by the synchronicity of it. “First of all that an esteemed composer of 70 operas would find Maria’s story worthy of a musical retelling. Secondly, that I should have the opportunity to record it. And lastly, because never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that such a blood connection existed to this remarkable woman to whom I’d loaned my voice. And that I’ve lived long enough to know about it? Simply marvellous!”

As I muse about this favourite find it occurs to me that it isn’t until we allow ourselves the curiosity to peek beyond our perceived realities that life’s magic can truly begin to unfold. Shedding light on the family tree is one of the ways to uncover that magic … and maybe it even involves a little music. ❦

Related posts:

Shedding Light on the Family Tree: Beginnings

A Lesson in Thrival

Choice 1200

~*~

This past year has been a lesson in thrival. Yes, I have just invented a word. From survive and survival we go to thrive and “thrival.”

You’re welcome.

This time last year instead of setting new year’s resolutions as I would normally, I set the intention to thrive. 2019 was going to be the year I stepped out of my kick-ass survival boots and replaced them with comfortable thrival shoes.

It’s been interesting, because in setting that intention all my survival moves have been challenged.

February proved a jumping off point, first because I was re-introduced to the work of neuro-scientist and author, Dr. Joe Dispenza, who challenged me, through video and the written word, to fire and re-wire neural pathways in my brain. Basically, to replace old thought habits with new ones so I could create my desired reality based on new, more holistic information, rather than continue to struggle (a survival mode strategy) doing it based on old patterns of being. So illuminating!

He then challenged me to raise my awareness by starting each day with a 20-minute meditation. (“Rest and Renew” on YouTube). I’d meditated before but not with the commitment I now felt to thrival. So,I turned my Ikea footstool into a meditation spot and made it a practice to go their early every morning to quiet my mind and connect to my heart. With each passing day it became easier. In fact, I looked forward to it and enjoyed it so much that it very quickly it became a habit, one I’ve committed to every day to help establish and maintain equanimity. It has served me well. Getting into thrival mode has created a good deal of chaos as the people and feelings that were a product of my survival scurry out of my life. It’s like I just don’t have room for them anymore and somehow they know it.

Believe me, it’s a thing. Look at the people around you. Are they a crutch in your desperate need to survive and let you down when you don’t fulfill their agenda, or do they lift you up to a higher understanding of yourself and support you in your quest to thrive, no strings attached? There is a difference, and I learned that in spades this year.

Indignation be gone!

Part of my learning has been understanding the part indignation has played in my survival strategy. Indignation, or reacting in the heat of the moment, is rarely our friend. How often has someone or something annoyed you so much in the moment that you’ve risen to defend yourself against a perceived injustice and then regretted it? Or it backfires on you?

For me it was another moment last February when my husband and I were walking on our property and watching one of the current trainer’s horses making a meal of a spruce tree in its paddock. Horses don’t eat trees unless they’re hungry. It was mid morning and as I looked around the snow-covered paddock I noticed there wasn’t a speck of hay to be found. My back was instantly up. Horses need access to hay when there is no grass. Without realizing it I started ranting at my husband about winter turnout and how horses need hay and why don’t these horse people know this, and on and on. When he’d finally had enough, and after I’d texted the person in charge in as calm a voice as I could muster (please give this horse some hay so she’ll stop eating our tree) he forced me to look at myself and my reaction. Why was I so quick to react instead of simply observe and then respond? Why was I so hot under the collar about something that a simple conversation could fix?

This new awareness gave rise to a personal commitment to get ahead of this triggered reaction. Over time I realized that my indignation was born of a sense of injustice and this was related to the survival mode in which I’d been living my entire life. With years of therapy under my belt I already knew the whys and wherefores, now I needed to deal with the ingrained coping mechanism ~ the propensity to lash out to protect my personal and emotional space.

So, it’s been interesting. With lots of triggers on and off the farm this year, never mind out in in the world-at-large, I have had to learn to get in front of my reactions. To take stock of the moment and choose my response rather than get lost in my reaction. Wow, is that ever hard. But it’s been such a valuable lesson. I now know the moment my indignation is about to rise. I can feel it first in my chest like a thud. And then my mind clicks in and the wheels start to turn and my heart rate elevates and my mind spins and … and … and … if I don’t get ahead of it BOOM! it’s out there. And the funny thing is, it’s no kind of release, it just ramps things up even worse so that in the end I’m actually doubting what I did and then beating myself up for being reactive. In the end, I lose!

Observe . Breathe . Wait

Getting ahead of my reactions means observing, breathing and waiting. When I wait I give myself time to even consider whether or not I want to dignify the perceived offense or injustice with a response. I give myself the choice of ignoring it or responding to it later from a more solid, less volatile place. One of my strategies is to write everything down to get it out of my system. Journaling. A personal record from the heart that I can then put away and not think about again unless given a very specific reason, say, as evidence. (It also provides great resource material for other writing projects.)

You see, to live in thrival mode we must release all the survival instincts that have kept us stuck in old patterns of behaviour and re-program our vast intelligence to function more efficiently and dynamically. Interestingly, living in thrival mode is less energy sapping than survival. In survival mode we’re always alert and waiting for the other shoe to drop and believe me, that’s an exhausting and debilitating way to live. The Complex-PTSD and adrenal issues I’ve experienced did not appear by accident. However, in thrival mode we have the option to live a more edifying and enjoyable life without placing conditions on everything and everyone to be exactly as we need them to be so we can survive. Isn’t that the bane of our world right now? The fact that many of our leaders are so burrowed down in survival and fear that they must control everything to the point of utter destruction in order to make themselves feel better and more in control?

Thrival is impossible as long as we allow ourselves to be influenced and buried in the deep fear and survival mentalities of people we can’t control. This has proven a difficult challenge for me. Survival mode made me a terrible control freak and I’m still working on letting this part go, but at least I’m aware of it. At least I can get ahead of my negative momentum and stop it before it impacts another. I can thrive on my own terms, in my own happy heart, and there’s nothing you or anyone else has to do to make it happen.

In thrival mode, we claim our power at no one’s expense. In survival mode our power flails to the detriment of all.

As we head into 2020 I set my intention to Thrive 2.0. The next, more advanced level of living a full life ~ flourishing, growing, prospering. Even more comfortable thrival shoes.

May I wish you the same. Happy New Year!

Be well and thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2019

 

Mirror

Water abstract

And if the view’s not to your taste …

Don’t blame the mirror.

~*~

Image: Dock relic in large pond … Tylney Hall, Hook, Hampshire, England

~*~

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2019
Aimwell CreativeWorks

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Voyage

Ships ahoy

Upon life’s billowing seas
My vessel is swept
Windward. I am
Storm-tossed
And swell-swallowed,
Brine-stung
And surge-whipped.
I steer my battered
But unbroken ship
Upon the crashing waves ~
Afloat I remain.
My vessel salt-stained
And wind-lashed,
Yet a survivor.
In calmer waters,
Renewed in purpose,
Resolved, am I, to press on.
The map is charted
And though off course blown
Yet will I arrive.
It is my destiny.

~*~

The truth is, tall ship or small, we’re all just doing our best to get to the opposite shore.  

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2019 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Dust to Dust

Goodbye, we say again, goodbye,

Beneath a sad and sullen sky.

A year has passed

Since you drew breath;

Surrendered to untimely death.

My judgment, for I miss you so ~

I was not ready to let you go.

Still,  life goes on as well it must,

So I release your dust to dust.

Your spirit soars while tears I cry

Beneath a sad and sullen sky.

~*~

©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks


Punch the Monster

Be authentic;

know who you are.

Understand what’s

buried beneath those

mountainous feelings of

inadequacy,

fear,

suffering,

depression,

despair,

grief.

Be prepared

to walk deep into the

cave of your misgivings;

to poke the monster,

Vulnerability, and

hear its high-pitched

squeal that shuts you down

or sends you running.

Be prepared

to punch the monster

in the nose and say,

“No more!

No more will I be

ruled by the unseen

terror that lies

dormant within.

No more will I

allow it to undermine

my truth and sway

me toward the lies

that feed

its hungry belly.”

Be prepared

for the struggle that is

that step from the dark

pit of toxic unknowing

into the light of pure truth.

Be the David to your inner

Goliath; slay the monster

and rise victorious. It is

your right to be

authentic.

~*~

When we have no understanding of who we are, or what makes us tick, we cannot be authentic. It’s just not possible. All the fears, anxieties, and other negative feelings that keep us stalled in a debilitating life pattern are driven by what we don’t know about ourselves. It takes courage and shining a light of curiosity into the cave of our unknowing to unearth our truth, remove the obstacles that prevent us from living it and be authentic. It’s a heck of a journey and worth every moment.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Daily Prompt: Authentic

 

 

Hope

Glimmer,

hope.

Be there

for me.

Uphold my

faith in

what might be.

Help keep

my focus

on the prize.

Keep me

humble;

make me

wise.

Glimmer,

hope.

Be there

for me

so I, for

others, there

might be.

~*~

In a world of despair and disappointment a glimmer of hope helps to keep the heart light and the mind open. The source of that hope can be anything or anyone that speaks to our soul through encouragement, love, empathy. A simple “I believe in you” is often all it takes to help someone through a difficult time. It’s a glimmer of hope that says “everything will be alright in the end and if it isn’t alright, it is not yet the end.*”

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

*Patel, Hotel Manager, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Daily Prompt: Glimmer

 

 

No Return

To churn

is to change,

our life

re-arrange.

Like butter

from cream,

to rise from

a dream.

A process

profound,

turns our lives

upside-down.

To change

is to churn ~

one-way ticket;

no return.

~*~

When we make desired changes in our lives or take steps to live a dream we often forget that for a time there will be some discomfort; some churning of our inner world as we move into a new level of consciousness. Every transition brings uncertainty as we process and let go of what has been and make room for what might be. And once we’ve made that shift in awareness there’s simply no going back.

Be well,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Daily Prompt: Churn

Masterpiece

I am a work in progress.
The canvas of my life
Stretches across the easel
Of time, anticipating each nurturing
Brush stroke by the Masterful Artist.

I am a landscape ~
An ever-unfolding vista of colours,
And shapes and light.
The shadows of clouds
Float in, and out,
Dispersed by bright sunshine,
Irreverent and true.

The Masterful Artist reveals
Mysterious patterns and
Miracles with a
Flick of the conscience, or
A long, deep stroke of thought.
The brush of a shadow ~
The sweep of radiant light ~
Depth to denote character,
And dappled sunlight to
Delight the soul.

~*~

The Masterful Artist’s strokes
Are sure, each measure
Of the art-child completed
In its time ~
Contemplated and recorded.
Mistakes are washed away,
Remembered no more.
Flaws are embraced to
Profess a perfectly natural appeal.

I am a landscape ~
Time rolls across my verdant fields,
Tickled by morning dew drops ~
Each tender blade of
Life reaching beyond
Tomorrow ~ to grow ~
To stretch toward the measure
Of its creation.

I am a work in progress.
The canvas of my life
Gradually reveals a story
Spun by the Masterful Artist.
I am a Masterpiece.

~*~

If only we could be patient with the creative process of living …

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2018 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

Daily Prompt: Radiant