Claiming myself in a new state of mind…kinda

“It is important to stay positive because beauty comes from the inside out.”~Jenn Proske, Canadian actress

Today I heard Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ and I cried.

I have no reason to, but I did. I guess I do have a reason. There’s one line that Michiganders emphasize EVERYtime that song plays:

“Just a city boy, raised in…” (wait for it) “…South Detroit.”

I hummed along and automatically claimed that line as my own just as I’ve been conditioned to. Instantly, I got homesick, which is weird. Michigan is not my home, just the state I resided in for these past 11 years, but the familiar and unknown crashed together.

We’re house hunting now in New Jersey. It’s still a daze to think I’ll be a Jersey girl again, another state that’s not my home. I’m not discouraged by the search. There are well-groomed houses that are within our price range in cities we could live in. We haven’t found The House yet, and that’s the unsettling part of all this.


Haiku Horizons prompt #159: Cold

I’ve found some coffee shops to claim as my own, local shops that give a 5-cent discount if you use a for-here mug and offer loose leaf tea drinks. I even made a friend at one of them. I found potential writing outlets and publications to explore. I discovered a writing group I’m trying out next week. I feel good about all that, but right now, that d@#n unknown scares the crap outta me.

I left friends. A left a kick-a$$ writers group. I left the safe and familiar. I’m working to create a new safe and familiar, but where? I’m afraid that the connections I’m making here, close to the temporary housing we’re currently living in, will be nowhere near where we settle. That’s unsettling.

I couldn’t even properly mourn my memories. Landscapers came by at just that moment, blowing grass clippings into my car. I had to drive away, and that pissed me off.

I claimed that line as my own. I claimed that state as my own. I’m being quite presumptuous with my life, and I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.

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Perceptions and misconceptions of New Jersey

“At the end of the day, life is about being happy being who you are.”~Kim Kardashian, American celebrity

I’m in New Jersey now, and I’m surprisingly happy.

I lived in NJ for almost 10 years before getting married and moving to Delaware and then Michigan. I thought I’d paid my dues and earned the right never to return, but Destiny has a weird sense of humor.

My life before was not entirely a bad one. I was here during those formative, post-college years. I worked part-time. I worked full-time. I gained weight. I lost weight. I found new friends, and I pushed some of those nasty people out of my life. I fell in what-I-thought-was-love. I broke up. I was broken up. I drove to Asbury Park one winter evening to see The Stone Pony, musical home of Bruce Springsteen, just because I could. I got engaged. I was gifted a new car. I paid off credit card debt. Family members died while I was away here. I developed stronger writing skills and wrote some intensely fun, intricate newspaper articles. My time here was not a waste, but there is that stigma towards NJ. To an extent, that is true.


Haiku Horizons #158: Waste

People are rude. There is a lot of traffic which frustrates people which makes them rushed which adds to traffic which makes people cranky and when they stop to buy something on the way home, they are still rushed and therefore rude. Gangsta songs and movies, reality shows and controversial musicians all come from here. I get the stereotype and therefore the stigma.

Adding to that, the more north you go, which means closer to New York, generally the more traffic rush and rudeness you’ll find. Guess where we are?

In my week here, I’ve been surprised by my presumptions and misconceptions. Public conversations have been pleasant. I had three spontaneous conversations in Starbucks and chatty staff at two local coffee shops. I didn’t expect outgoing people. Most drivers seem to honor the speed limit of 65mph, and I’ve only been cutoff twice and honked at once. I’m the one balancing and adjusting to the speed limit here having come from a 70mph state.

My husband is happy, and I mean ecstatically so. He’s in a positive work environment, and he comes “home” after work talking about his work, not office politics. I put home in quotation marks because we’re currently in temporary housing at an extended-stay hotel while we search for a house.

I’m happy because I have the freedom right now to write as much as I want. Coffee shops have become my daytime office, so I make sure to order enough coffee and food to justify my time here supporting the local environment.

I met my realtor for the first time last night. My husband met her twice before, but this was my first time. We clarified areas to look at, how best to contact each other, identified what language I should avoid in listings and the research she needs to do so we don’t waste our time.


This is what I found. Maybe Bingo, but I couldn’t tell if the woman was dressed all in black

Today, while I await her updated emails, I’m at a new coffeeshop writing and playing Café Bingo. I received the game as a going away present from my Deadwood writerly friend, Kelly. The cardboard bingo card has 25 images of coffee shop clichés. When you spot one, you push back the appropriate square rather than stamp an ink circle like a traditional bingo card. These cards are reusable since the squares just bend back and not pop out. No waste or lost pieces to deal with.

Since I’m here by myself, I try to see if I can get all squares pushed in. It makes me stop and look up from my laptop. To embrace the friendliness and the openness. To be present.

But no Bingo. That’s okay.

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Reflections on #ROW80 goals, buying house and coffee

“Sometimes just when I say hello the right way, I’m like, ‘Whoa, I’m so cool.'”~Robert Pattinson, English actor

It’s been five months since I completed a Photo365 spread, but it feels like forever.

The first is the date I would normally post that, along with some deep, introspective look back at the life that was. I offer no perspective other than I saved no photos for February, January and November, with only a smattering of images in October and December. Despite my dozens of PokemonGO screenshots, Goodbye Selfies, Tree, coffee and sunsets, I collated nothing. Why? Did I lose interest ? Did I forget? Have my priorities changed?

Yesterday, I discovered a local coffee shop in Denville: SmartWorld Coffee. It’s small, almost teeny-weeny with its 6 circle tables, 3 barstool square tables and 2 comfy chairs. The store closed early this week because tomorrow, they unveil a new them. More comfy chairs, the owner said, improved lighting and more. I have no idea how this will all fit together in this cozy space, but I admire them for improving the experience.

We should all strive for that, even when we don’t know the end result. We see it in our mind’s eye, but how does that translate to reality? I’m striving for success with my first quarter goals, which are part of my “17 in 17” and ROW80 projects.

1. Buy a house.

It’s not really a goal in the sense of writing or achievements, but that is my #1 priority. Finding a house is a part-time full time job. It’s somewhat out of my control because I can only look at houses that are available. Listings change day-to-day, but this goal is at the mercy of sellers.

Since I have this time on my hands, I’m focusing on two of my goals for the next few months:

2. Write 17 chapters in one or various books.

As much as this is work, being creative is finger painting for my brain. I almost feel guilty giving into play. After all, there’s more serious writing to do. Can play be serious?

3. Explore 17 writing outlets.

I was about to type that I haven’t done anything yet, but the proverbial light bulb in my head blasted on. Next to SmartWorld’s condiment bar is a shelf of local publications and business cards. The publications are the type that are full of text and look like a folded newsletter, the ones you find in small-town boutiques, local bookstores–if you’re fortunate enough to have one–libraries and coffee shops. We’ve all passed them by and wondered if anyone reads them because the info inside is specialized and local, We don’t know if they’re interesting because we never pick them up, just snob by the independently produced papers.

Of course people read them! The publisher wouldn’t waste money on paper and staples otherwise. The beauty of these is that they are specialized and local. They know their audience, the key to any successful book or magazine or newspaper.

I picked up three publications: the Morris County’s Our Town; a folded flyer for GFWC Woman’s Club of the Denville-Rockaway area; and NJ Kids on the Go! Of these, I’m only counting Our Town towards that 17 goal because it’s the only magazine publication with stories inside. The GFWC is an organization I know nothing about, and NJ Kids is mostly advertisements. By flipping through the February issue, I learned the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum Arcade is in Asbury Park.

I admit that I’m hesitant to delve deep into these. My husband and I haven’t found a house yet, so we could end up living miles and counties away. That may mean nothing. That may mean everything. I won’t know un less I try, and the opportunity was a cup of coffee away.

SmartWorld is my first Photo365 for March.

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Should you write about everything?

“Be happy for this moment; this moment is your life.”~Omar Khayyam, Persian poet

I made it to the other side.

The 2-day move from Michigan to New Jersey was casual. April weather in February accompanied me my entire drive. My husband and I parted ways in Pennsylvania: he was driving straight to our temporary housing, and I was going to drop off some of our excess non-mover stuff at his folks. I drove to Philly via Pittsburgh. Friday night, my college friend, Dawn, and I connected over Eat’n Park salad bar and iced tea. I spent Saturday at the hospital with my uncle. He is being treated by specialists, care that he was lacking before.
I always leave a little bit of my soul behind every time I drive away from Pittsburgh. It’s my childhood home, my home-home, and I miss the familiarity of it all. This visit, I left in good spirits.

I arrived at my in-laws close to midnight and was pummeled by Lucky who shed his greeting on me before I stepped inside the doorway.

Sunday after breakfast, we went out for our usual Faretheewell Coffee at Starbucks. They shared stories of their past moves. During one time apart when he was in the army and she was a graduate teaching assistant, they’d meet on weekends at a hotel halfway between them. Many months passed, and then one night, the hotel clerk saw their consecutively-numbered license plates and said, “Oh, you two really ARE married.” It’s a shame I had to leave then because they were just getting around to stories of my husband in grad school.

Those stories will wait for another time. My in-laws are now 2-hours away instead of a 12-hour drive. The sun sets earlier on the East Coast than the Midwest, so even though I left early, it was dark when I hugged my husband in Parsippany.

More than one person from my Deadwood Writers Group asked “Are you going to write about it?” They refer to the drive, the trip the whole gosh darn moving experience. Because I’m a writer, especially because I write in the memoir genre, people presume that I will write about anything and everything I stumble into. A lot of these experiences, like driving, do inspire me, but that’s all.

Some things aren’t meant to be written about. Some things aren’t story-worthy. Some things are just meant to be experienced.

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On being “Home” this #WeekendCoffeeShare

If we were having coffee…

Hey, good to see you. **Hug** Thanks for meeting me so late. I’ll be at my in-laws in a few, but their coffee is from some big box warehouse store, so I always stop here at Wawa for a cup of Columbian or some mix of different blends before going home.

Home. That’s such a vague, interpretive and subjective word. I just left my former home state of Michigan because we sold our house of 11 years. Last night, I stopped overnight in my hometown of Pittsburgh to visit a family member who’s in a hospital near my childhood home. Now I just drove across my home state of Pennsylvania to visit my in-laws’ house overnight before I drive to temporary housing in New Jersey tomorrow while we look for a house.


In a sense, I’ve driven from home to home to home—or house to house—to stay at home while we look for a house to call home. Often, “where I’m heading” is what I call home.

Listen to me, getting all philosophical at 11:17 at night, and after a 6-hour drive at that. My college friend, Dawn, and I stayed up late last night chatting. We talked about her love life, my husband life, friends, ex-friends, exercise—no topic is off limits for us. That level of comfort and familiarity is a kind of home. We ate dinner at the Eat’n Park where my high school boyfriend took me for the midnight buffet when I lived at home.

It was good to see my uncle. He’s been struggling with his health. When I called him two weeks ago to meet me for lunch at another Eat’n Park he said, “Sure, we’ll get together if I’m still alive then.”

My Dad was like that.

Anyway, specialists are treating him, so he’s getting good care. I left after dinner tonight because he said, “Let’s eat together,” giving me half his hamburger.

As you can guess, my writing is non-existent these days, except for Monday’s Ann Arbor Emerging Writers Group. I was able to make one last meeting to say goodbye to everyone, and it was critique week. I printed some random bit from my memoir, I don’t even remember what now, because any critique is a good critique. My last writerly goodbye selfie to wrap up sweet pea’s Farewell Tour.

The week wrapped up with a few other friends, errands and last-minute donations. We sold our house. This was a good week. How was yours?

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My Farewell #WeekendCoffeeShare from Michigan

If we were having coffee…

Hey, I’m glad you could join me and my husband at Starbucks. This is one of my last times writing here. Actually, I’m coming tomorrow, Monday, for my last Swarm check in streak. I know, I know, silly little app game, but I have to see what coins I’ll get.

My life this week has been full of goodbyes and errands and more goodbyes. It’s hard to grasp that in five days, we’ll no longer be in Michigan. To think that our drive back East is not a vacation but final. Reality.

Yesterday, I was excited about it. Part of that was due to the sunny, 63-degree weather. Did you get out to enjoy it? I got a haircut in Plymouth–do you like it? It’s shorter than my hairstylist, Kate, said it was, but it’s so gosh darn cute. I feel all flouncy, still tossing my head side to side and having hair flip-bip-bop around. Anyway, we walked around afterwards, and I counted 17 Lures thrown down around Kellogg Park. Are you Playing Pokémon GO? Oh, that was the place to be! We walked and spun and walked and spun, catching a lot of those new Gen 2 critters. Because of all that, I don’t know if I should trade in my coins for a Lucky Egg or upgrade my Pokémon storage bag. Decisions, decisions.

So, what did you get to drink? This Nicaragua Monimbo is the reason I dragged him here. **husband looks up, nods, makes a hmmmph sound, then returns to typing**. Did you try it? It’s a newer Reserved Clover coffee. This store used to do monthly taste testing seminars before that manager left, and I learned that I like Nicaraguan coffees, most Latin American coffees, I recall. This is smooth. I only needed two Splenda and a touch of milk to make it work for me. I’d get another cup, but we’ve got to get going soon. More packing and errands and all that.

How’s your writing and life going? My writing and My 17 in 2017 has suffered during this time, but I’m okay with that. This move has to get done. There’s plenty of time for that on the other side because I have nothing waiting for me there. Not yet. I contacted two editors about writing opportunities. I scouted coffee shops near our temporary housing. A Swarm friend suggested I write at the Parsippany Library where her sister works.

Only if there’s a PokeStop there! hee, hee, hee!

It’s time to go for now. Oh, and a Goodbye Selfie. **click, click**. I have way too many of these, but I just realized now that I’m fortunate to have so many people in my life to have so many Goodbye Selfies.

My new Jersey memories begin next weekend. I’ll see you on the other side.

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Saying goodbye is an art form

“Could we see again when and where we are to meet again, we would be more tender when we bid our friends goodbye.”~Ouida, English novelist

Another Goodbye Selfie is taken, but my friend prefers privacy, so I’m sharing our story instead.

We met in an Archiver’s scrapbook store in Michigan, oh, maybe in 2008 or 2009, a lifetime ago. Remember those? As I recall, she was crafting alone at an empty table. I was newer to the area, and I know creative loneliness, so I introduced myself with some friendly chit-chat. She talked with me, which is not always a guarantee with strangers. After that afternoon, we were no longer strangers.  We’ve scrapbooked together since.

Today is our last crop together for a long time. I thought last week was, but we squeezed in a bonus day together. She’s worth that, for sure. I arrived at Baker’s Scrapbook Studio first.  I printed photos at the nearby CVS, a tornado process until you download their app. She arrived just as I finished, so we walked over to Dagwood’s Deli. I passed on my usual egg salad sub for chicken salad. I brought the chips, as I always do, and we ate next to our cutting mats. In the tick of the wall clock, the store closed and I took my second, bonus Goodbye Selfie with her.


“You’re the only person I’ve had two Goodbye Selfies with,” I said.

“I should hope so,” she replied. “I deserve it.”  Of course, she was right.

After this, I’m packing up my scrapbook papers and most of my art supplies. I don’t know how much time or space I’ll have in temporary housing to create, so most of it goes with the movers in two weeks. I am packing a separate bag of essentials–as in, my overload of adhesives–for the Great Lakes Mega Meet in May. I’m leaving that bag at my in-laws when I drive across Pennsylvania and will pick up in May. I have a smaller bag of materials to finish my husband’s overdue annual calendar. Or should I say his annual overdue calendar? That’s the amount of art I’m limiting myself to: the project delayed by me and the small fiasco with CVS photos.

And let’s face it…right now, scrapbooking without her is lonely.

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Writerly goodbyes are on the horizon

“Saying goodbye doesn’t mean anything; it’s the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it.”~Trey Parker, American artist

My phone is filling up with Goodbye Selfies.

I met my writerly friend, Erin, today for a writing adventure. We met at Plymouth Coffee Bean, the super-hip and trendy coffeehouse in downtown Plymouth. Bands play there. Pastries are baked locally. Every sign, from “Bathroom is for customers only” to “Please close the door firmly,” is handwritten. Among the bumper stickers adhered on the wall behind the counter is one that reads, “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.”


Goodbye Selfie with writerly friend, Erin

The mismatched tables, lit by table lamps of various style, are spread throughout this house-turned coffeehouse–and yes, this is the type of place that you call “coffeehouse” not “coffee shop.” I claim one big enough for both of us and our writings. Hug. She buys a cookie. I get my bottomless cup of coffee and a turkey-ricotta quiche sprinkled with powdered sugar. I pulled out my laptop. She set up her tablet. We wrote.

Occasionally, she asked for my input or shared a story from her documentary travels. Occasionally, I commented on my writing, her writing and all my goodbyes. Mostly, we wrote.


Haiku Horizons #155: Rain

The silence between us was friendship. It never felt like a goodbye, and that’s the best goodbye of all.

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A flood of writing emotions

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”~Helen Keller, American writer

I arrived at Barnes & Noble early enough for tonight’s Deadwood Study Group. The format has changed over the years, and right now the focus is freewriting from a prompt presented by the coordinator, Barbara. I chatted with other members who had arrived early–remember, I have two meetings left with these inspirational folks–but pulled out my Snoopy Moleskine journal to write the prompt. The topic was: a song that evokes a strong place, time and emotion.


Haiku Horizons #153

Always the memoirist, I asked, “Is this real or fiction?”

Barb said, “Whatever you choose.”

I blended reality with fiction, using a real song, the real name of a real bar, but added two fictional characters. We all lost track of time because no one set a timer. I stopped early because I reached a point where I couldn’t go on because it finished neatly:

“Of course “How Deep is Your Love” would play as Kayla walked through the doors into The Surf Club. Tonight, however, the bar was empty. The club had all of 5 people–she counted–and not one of them was Dylan. There never would be.”

Everyone said “Ooooohhhh” when I finished reading.

I’m making the best use of this group while I can in person by submitting a piece for critique today and in 2 weeks. Tonight’s piece was based on this comment I heard somewhere:

Take old blog posts and publish them in an eBook. It gives you an easy backlist because the text is already written.

Yeah, let me tell you, it’s not as easy as cut-n-paste.

Sure, the physical act is easy enough, however tedious. Two years ago, I pulled together all my blog posts with the Zentangle tag. Unlike pattern books or now the onslaught of coloring books, I plan a book-book on Zentangle from the perspective of the musings and lessons from a CZT. That’s me, by the way.

When John and I talked yesterday, he gave me some creative insights and options to approach the book. Our discussion changed my focus and idea of the book almost to the point that tonight’s critique would not be helpful. This group always surpluses me. [NOTE: I meant to type the word “surpasses,” but “surplus” works just as well when I think about it.]

I got what I needed from them without knowing what I needed. There was enough of a split between length and number of books that I will have to make my own decision on that. As for the rest, well, the best thing is the positivity that everyone vibes. Why? A segment I forgot I wrote made everyone adore the humor of my book idea:

“I dabbled with ambidexterosity in high school trying to impress a guy I liked who was. I gave it up after 2 weeks because he didn’t seem to notice me. What a waste… for him.”

That was cool. Spread positivity.

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My first writerly goodbye, and my steel cut emotions

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi, Indian leader

Damn, these goodbyes are getting harder.

Today I said goodbye to John, the moderator of my Deadwood Writers Group.


My first writerfriend goodbye. Don’t let that smile fool you.

He challenged me in the early stages of my memoir. The scene I submitted for critique was about how my Dad was friends with my college roomie. I wrote something like, “Sometimes he talked to her more than me.”

“How did that make you feel?” John asked. “Jealous?”

That was an odd question. He was trying to get at my underlying emotion. Dad did talk to Roomie more. Did they have a special connection? Dad had special connections with all my friends. Was this different since deliver together?

There was something there, and I said, “Yeah, I guess.”

“Then that’s what you want to say, to convey to the reader,” he said.

I thought about that during the meeting. No, it wasn’t jealousy I felt, but I couldn’t come up with the right word. I walked out of Barnes & Noble annoyed that John would think I felt such a petty emotion. I was also embarrassed that he could be right.

To this day, I know jealousy isn’t the word. I’m not sure what it will be in the final edit, but the scene will be more powerful from John’s observation. Memoirs are all about emotion. For the reader to feel emotion, the writer has to feel that emotion. That’s where memoirs become challenging to write. It can be tough to find the raw emotion, and rougher to feel that.

John gave me a valuable piece of my writing puzzle that day. He may not realize what a gift that was; he was simply critiquing a chapter I chose to share with the group.

That’s when I felt the raw goodbye. I may never be here, in person, with this group again. I choked and cried the entire drive back. Not those little dribbles, mind you, but the red-faced, sunken eyes, I-hope-I-can-hide-this-by-splashing-water-on-my-face kind of tears.

What terrifies me now is that I have two weeks until I say goodbye to the writers group. I don’t want to be me on February 15.

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