A fishy Easter #WeekendCoffeeShare

If we were having coffee…

Wasn’t that coffee tasting fun?

I know, you may not be such a Starbucks supporter, but these monthly events are now something my husband and I look forward to. So far, I’ve learned that I do not like Latin American coffees, and African ones are hit-or-miss. You heard me ask Barista Dean about the types of coffees I like, and it’s the Asia-Pacific ones that seem to offer the mouth feel that I like. The roundness, was that what he called it? You’d think me a coffee drinker fresh out of the womb, but it was an acquired taste, born from the sleepiness of 5:00am film crew calls. That’s a story for another time. I want to tell you about last night.

My husband and I went to a Lenten fish fry.

This was my first fish fry since my Pittsburgh childhood. Oh, memories.

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Our current Peeps haul is larger than this…

Tomorrow is Easter. We’re already overflowing with Marshmallow Peeps, a childhood tradition and a joke between me and my husband from my 2009 article about the History of Marshmallow Peeps. I’m saving my one Cadbury Creme Egg for tomorrow, another family tradition.

And maybe I’m being extra-reflective because of the blogs I’ve been reading lately. Yes, I actually made time this week to read blogs, a lot of goal-setting between the ROW80 Round 1 wrap ups and A to Z Challenge Theme Reveals (you can currently find me at #493).  It’s the Throwback Thursday historic posts that have focused on family and memories in addition to goals. I’ve commented on these with my own family memories, which brings me back to fish frys.

Catholics typically don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent, the weeks that lead up to Easter. Regardless of my parents’ health, what state I lived in or current religious activity, my family always observed meatless Fridays during Lent. It’s ingrained in me, so when I found this fish fry back in February, I so wanted to go.

There are so many pleasant memories about that. Riding the PAT bus through the neighborhood to St. Benedict’s, a school and a monastery. As we walked up the hill, what felt like a mountain, I always wondered what made a nun want to be a nun. Neither Mom nor Dad could tell me, but Dad would regale stories of his schooldays that every year involved nuns and wooden rulers on finger knuckles. The brick building with the ramp I had to go up instead of the steps. The stark hall, dull with tan walls yet screamingly bright from industrial overhead lights. The hum of chatter, voices laughing, saying hellos. The fast-food smell of cooking oil. A buffet line, find your seats first. White cardboard plates heavy and soggy from the river of coleslaw juice running under fish pieces. Sitting with Mom, Dad and my aunt. It was a party, and since we didn’t eat dinner out often, this was an event.

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Military rather than religious, it could almost be Pittsburgh

It took us until Good Friday to finally make it. We drove past a fish fry on the way to this fish fry. Who knew? At the VFW in Plymouth, we had the choice to sit in the Hall, which could’ve been my Pittsburgh memory plopped down in Michigan, or in the VFW Bar. 

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Baked and fried fish options at the modern-day fish fry

My husband chose the Bar. For the ambiance, he said.

We sat at a table across the room from the pool tables, next to the jukebox. It was the 4th Friday so live music started at 7pm and the pitchers of beer came out.

This was not my childhood fish fry.  It was still a good one.

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A #WeekendCoffeeShare where I talk about #ROW80

“I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but I almost always end up where I need to be.”~Douglas Adams, English writer

If we were having coffee, I would first apologize for the hashtags. I dislike blog post titles that use hashtags as a lazy self-promo tool. Take the time to post any blog thoughts separately under different, meaningful titles. Really, make the effort here. However, my ROW80 goals are what I’m dealing with this weekend, so I feel it appropriate.

If we were having coffee, we’d be in Starbucks in Northville. It’s warm-ish in here today. My husband’s across from us, and he’s doing some work, so we have time to chat. I’d tell you that my first full week with ROW80 was pathetic.

GOAL: Write/edit DadMemoir 3-4 days a week, 2-3 hours each time ideal.
RESULT: –I spent last Monday afternoon writing for about 2 hours before a friend met me for coffee. That was my most productive and fulfilling day, especially since it ended with the newest episode of Major Crimes.
–I did write for 3 hours on Friday afternoon, but not on the memoir. Does that count?

GOAL: Print a new draft every Thursday morning.
RESULT: Nope. Didn’t happen, not even came close. I do need significant time to type in my current edits, so I need to figure that into my schedule. I expect this week I’ll make that happen.

GOAL: Find an editor for DadMemoir.
RESULT: –I spoke to another memoirist at the Motown Writer’s Network group. She said she had a good editor, so I need to follow up with her about that contact.
–I did open Fiverr and wandered through the listings. I got distracted by other stuff on the site, so I accomplished nothing else.

GOAL: Crowdfunding for Alaska NFPW Conference.
RESULT: Nope. I explored the website and noted what worked for me regarding description length, catchy titles, photos, videos…and spent wayyyyyy too much time working on a draft that’s not even typed up yet.

GOAL: Glasses by Alaska.
RESULT: Nope again, but I’m squinting more in the sun, so that’s about to kick my butt into gear.

ONGOING CHALLENGE: Keep up with my social media.
RESULT: blah. This is work, a To-Do list, and it does not make me happy. I refer mostly to Facebook here.

UN-GOAL: I want to do some fun writing.
RESULT: This week, my choice will be updating my About Me page. Yes, writing about myself is fun!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, at that point in my woes, I scheduled into my calendar “Reserve for writing time” on Monday afternoons between my work shifts. And just now, I scheduled a similar time for Fridays every week. I now have a dedicated Do-Not-Disturb-Me-Writing-Time right there, blocked off. It’s flexible, of course, for any emergencies that pop up, but it’s there, obvious, glaring in my face, shining from my phone.

I feel power-full.

So this week’s goals are, in order:
1–Crowdfund.
Everything else can be done while this runs in the background. Stop fussing and just put something out there! Now!
2–Eye appt.
Just call. Just do it. Find out what I need to do and schedule it. Glasses take time to make, and I want at least my sunglasses to wear to Alaska.
3–Print out DadMemoir.7 by Thursday.
See: a date/day deadline. I need that focus.
4–Look at two editor options.
I will dedicate some time to look at Fiverr and contact someone(s) to take the next step. I will get in touch with that MWN member, and maybe even another member.
5 and beyond…
The other stuff.

If we were having coffee, I’d thank you. You’re awesome for this support and encouragement, even just for listening. Let’s grab a free refill of coffee, and I’ll share a slice of banana nut loaf with you.

Anniversary, Father’s Day and #WeekendCoffeeShare, oh my!

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”~Helen Keller, American writer

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that today is an exciting day. We’d settle down at the wooden dining table next to the living room–once I brushed aside space from the midst of my scrapbooking stuff. I just finished taking photos for my upcoming article in Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine, and I haven’t put everything away yet. I’m like that sometimes.

It’s Father’s Day in the U.S., so I’d share tales about my Dad, a man who died 10 years ago. So many things about him stand out, little things like no-salt potato chips, mailing birthday cards to my college roommate years after graduation, making friends with bank tellers and supermarket cashiers, and sharing his numerous health issues with anyone in earshot. You’d like him. Strange how “numbered” anniversaries stick in our minds making events extra-significant: 5-10-16-21-29-40-50-75. Actually, I didn’t realize it’s been 10 years until I thought about it on the day of his death back in January. It feels so common that he’s not around in my life anymore, and at the same time, his death feels like it was yesterday.

I wrote a book about him last year, a short story called Lessons from Dad: a Letter to You. It’s a prequel of sorts to the memoir I’m writing now. I published it just before Father’s Day, and the title refers to the daily letters he wrote me in college. Yes, daily! I’d tell you what his favorite topic to write abut was, what he said about the sports teams in my Pittsburgh hometown and what treats he frequently added inside the envelopes. I’d encourage you to read this award-winning book, second place in a national contest. The book is available on Amazon as an eBook for just 99-cents, I’d say with a wink.

I do have a father-in-law in my life, a man celebrating his 56th wedding anniversary today. I think he and my mother-in-law went out to dinner yesterday. He received a Father’s Day and anniversary card from his wife, while he only had to give an anniversary card. He told me today that he made out on the deal.

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Happy 13th engagement anniversary!

Maybe most important…well, one that couldn’t have happened without the first two events…is that my husband proposed to me on this date 13 years ago. Yes, he planned it to be on his parents’ anniversary date, which makes me melt in his sentimental nature. This morning, I wished him a Happy Anniversary while we were out at Starbucks drinking Reserve Clover coffee, and we reminisced every step along that way: how he chose the stone for my ring and planned the setting; how I thought–based on a conversation earlier in the day– that the box on the coffee table was from Costco, hence my confusion; when he knew I was The One; and how all my friends asked me about 6-months into our relationship, “When is he going to propose?” They knew that I knew he was My One. We were just waiting on him.

As I refilled your coffee cup, letting you choose the Keurig flavor, I’d ask you to tell me about your day. It’s all about sharing, my friend, and I can’t wait to hear what’s going on in your life.

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Trust you do Haiku

“The more laws, the less justice.”~Marcus T. Cicero, Roman stateman

Visit this week’s Haiku Horizons and learn what others think about Trust.
This is my trust.

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Haiku Horizons 68: Trust

4 reasons why entering writing contests is a good thing

“It is better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.”~Elizabeth Kenny, Australian celebrity

Do you need outside validation to consider yourself a “real” writer?

I don’t. I know I am a good writer…but it sure feels good!

This year, I celebrate my 10th anniversary as a member of the National Federation of Press Women. I was introduced to NFPW when I moved to Delaware with my fiancé-now-husband. I was already a published writer, someone who had magazine and newspaper clips to fatten her portfolio, but I was seeking more opportunities. NFPW–which is not exclusively a women’s organization–offers its members the opportunity to enter the organization’s annual Communications Contest. The variety of categories is mind-blowing. The writing category includes news and specialty articles, headlines created, investigative reporting and editorials. There are divisions that focus on: photography; radio or television interviews; PR campaigns; speeches; educational advising; and books, blogs and screenplays.

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What a surprise–my nonfiction book won 2 first place awards–so far…

How cool is that list? If you communicate, you can enter this contest.

Not all contests are the same. Most contests charge a fee to enter, which is often a deterrent. Is that a gimmick to snag gullible writers? Are free contests a waste of time because there is no entrance fee? Contests may have certain requirements that your work does not meet, and that can be discouraging. Some contests offer a monetary award, some offer a blog badge and some offer absolutely nothing. Who judges these contests? Can anything be trusted?

An artist to me is any writer producer photographer or designer of something creative. As an artist, you need to value your work. A contest is an easy way to explore that for yourself.

I have entered the NFPW contest every year since I joined. Why not? The entry fee is minimal, and I’m curious about how my work compares to others. Artists in the area you submit in–writers, photographers, media professionals, authors–are the objective judges in each category, which validate the results.

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You’re reading an award-winning blog


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This year, I entered my Michigan Scrapbooker articles, two blog posts and my two books published in 2014. All but one entry has moved from the statewide At-Large level to the National contest. This blog you are reading, it is an award-winning blog, two years in a row.
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Electronic media has recently exploded in the contest, so if you “only” blog, you can enter. But why should you enter this or any contest?
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1–Experience and exposure

By entering a contest, you discover what opportunities exist out in The Real World. You see categories and opportunities available to you. That’s valuable on so many levels. Maybe through that, you explore a new medium. Maybe you challenge yourself to enter a piece of art you didn’t think was valuable to others in the world. The more you do enter contests, the more you explore outlets and possibilities. Research new areas for your work, medium for writing, new groups to join.

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State awards for my Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine articles

2–Critique and Feedback

In the NFPW contest, entries get short but critical feedback about what worked and what needs improvement. My hobby articles are cited as easy to read and informative, but could be longer. I can’t do much about that, as there is only so much space available in the magazine, but that encourages me to make my writing tighter. My books have been cited as being fun and creative but needing technical assistance with editing and/or formatting. Lessons learned.

I belong to a fabulous local writers group. These fellow writers, published and not, offer honest and brutal feedback. I love it! Seeing my work through objective eyes is the only way I can improve. If you don’t have such a group in your area, contest feedback is a useful tool in your creative art.

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Awards from my entries in the statewide contest sponsored by Michigan Press Women

3–Networking

When others are exposed to your work, opportunities for connections abound. Writing is generally a solitary activity, even if you write in libraries or coffee shops. Contest may offer the opportunity to meet other like-minded artists. NFPW has an annual member convention; entrant or not, you can attend.

What a great way to socialize, hand out business cards–you do have some, right?– and share stories over a drink in the lounge. Last year, I attended my first convention, and I reunited with some of my old Delaware members. It was also a reminder that I have access to a network of people to help me achieve my goals. Remember that “needs an editior” comment above…?

4–Bravery

Yep, bravery. You make a commitment to your work, trusting your art and setting it free. I’m a big believer in the empowerment of writing “The End” at the bottom of my document Sending it into a contest accomplishes that even if you don’t believe The End is the end. It is The End for now, and that’s strong. Don’t deny yourself any measure of success.

If you finish something once, what’s stopping you from creating and completing a second project, or a third or a fourth? Enter a contest and find out what that’s like.

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…And we move onto Nationals

Let’s skip across the pond together

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”~Mark Twain, American writer

Over at Haiku Horizons, this week’s haiku prompt is pond. It brought back this memory.

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My Dad taught me how to skip stones. I remember my family going on a day-long retreat with our church, held outdoors in a nearby park. After a burger-picnic lunch, Dad and I walked down to the water. Was it a pond or a small lake? Whatever its official name, he walked along the shoreline looking down at the sand and weeds.

“You want to look for a stone like this,” he said, holding up a flat stone, “but you want it to be smooth and not too big.” When he found one or two, he showed me how to hold the stone: between the forefinger and thumb. With a flick of his wrist, he flipped the stone onto the water. It bounced then skipped three or four times before plunking into the water.

It was my important role to find more stones for us, and I could never collect too many for us. He set aside the ones that weren’t good enough, telling me why he didn’t choose them: too rough, too small, too large, whatever. He showed me how to hold my wrist sideways so I could get a good angle to brush the stone against the water. My stones plopped a lot, but anytime a rock skipped more than three times, I considered it a success. Dad’s longest toss was seven skips away.

Years later, I taught my friend, Dawn, how to skip stones, just the way Dad had.

Here there be Haiku

“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life.”~Walter Anderson, German writer

I’m in a whimsical poetic mood. Enjoy.

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My father is dead

Today marks the 10th anniversary of my Dad’s death.

He died just after 10am, so by the time you read this, I will have lived a life without my father for 10 years.

How should I feel?

I never really thought about that before, but this past year, two of my close friends lost their fathers and one friend’s husband lost his mother. They got hit with it before the holidays. Dad had the thoughtfulness to survive the holidays and not die on New Year’s Day. I mean, how could I really do a New Year’s Eve countdown after that? “5…4…3…2…1…Happy Dad’s Death Day. Oh, and New Year!”

It’s been 10 years. I have some distance and acceptance.

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I missed that, too. Especially now.

He wrote me letters, so it was fitting that I published a short story letter about him, Lessons from Dad: a Letter to You, and I’m finalizing my memoir, My Father, My Friend. Someone asked me if it was cathartic to write that. Odd, I had never thought of that, although I can see why someone would ask that.

No, it is not cathartic, at least not in the way most people think. I have always planned to write his story, but as someone in my Writers Group pointed out, this is my story of him. I always thought he was an interesting man. Drafted as a teenager and getting his GED many years later, I thought he was street-smarter than many educated folks. Practical with money and words. A snarky sense of humor. A unique way of meeting my mother. I though his story was worth telling as-is. It turns out I’m telling his story in my way, through my eyes, which is not the intended or expected way. In that sense, yes, it does feel good. Delightful, even.

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I wish I knew if Dad had been joking. He did like custard donuts….

Maybe I’m not explicitly sad, but I do miss Dad. I can’t call him and tell him about the movie I just saw. I can’t assure him that I did turn my headlights on while driving through the Pennsylvania road work zones. I can’t ask him, “What would you do if…?” I can’t hear him make a joke about me and then snort-laugh with my husband. I can’t even tell him that I published a book about him.

Too many can’ts. That makes me empty.

Perhaps because there’s so much of him in me that I do not feel lost. If I had a nickel for every time someone commented, “Oh, that’s just like your dad,” I’d be buried in cents. It’s a tribute to me that there’s so much of Dad in my actions.

I do take comfort in the date that he died, January 2nd, and not just because he skipped by all the holidays. If you want to know why, the memoir will be out by Father’s Day. It’s a little spooky, actually, but knowing Dad, it just makes sense.

Just when I thought everything was fine…

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Fatherly advice paired with birthday wishes and newspaper clippings.

I wanted a picture to add to this blogpost, but I’m in Philly now. My in-laws might have a photo, but I had this great idea. Rather than use a photo of Dad, insert Dad’s essence here: letters. Letters were the connecting thread between us. I have a lot of his old letters stored in their basement, so I went down to find one to photograph.

One. Yeah, right. I found myself digging through one box from 1988. I read his weather reports and what he had for dinner. He wrote about Mom, their jobs, and when the newspaper would be arriving. The crinkling papers echoed in the quiet basement as I read tidbits of local news, newspaper comics and other clippings tucked inside the envelope. All of his letters were hand-printed in blue ink on white lined paper, the kind you bought in pads of 50 or 100 that was made for small envelopes.  Instantly recognizable as his.  Every letter was like….

When I noticed the time, my hand holding a letter shook.  Realization slammed into me: it was now January 2nd.

When I started this post, it was January 1st.

Everyone in the house was asleep. I was alone in the quiet basement. Not only that, I was lonely.  Deeply.  That empty, gnawing, can’t swallow, breathless kind of lonely.  But I didn’t go upstairs to wake anyone; I just let the feeling numb me.  I wanted that moment.  I needed that moment.  It sunk in–just then–that I will always feel lonely, no matter who else I have to hold. Yet, I know being lonely also means having been loved. I would not trade that feeling for anything…except, of course, to have Dad back.

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Love you, too, Dad

Do you remember when…?

“Frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success.”~Bo Bennett, American businessman

I didn’t intend that quote to be reflective of this blogpost; it’s just serendipity.

Today is December 1. I’m reading social media posts about personal success (or failure) of NaNoWriMo. I did not participate because I had other writing obligations that were more important to me this year than cranking out 50,000 words, but I know I would have won. I’m stubborn like that. My perspective on NaNo is that if you have more written words on November 30 than you did on November 1, then you succeeded. In that sense, I succeeded because I wrote more words in my memoir and in my Day-Night story.

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Since it is December, a lot of people are looking to the end of the month for the end of the year. I’m jumping in here to be a persnickety trendsetter and reflect on the past now. I hate getting lost in the flux of it all.

The Photo365 app reminds me of the month that has passed. “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?” November was exciting: hearing Alice Walker read her poetry in person; reading my current Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine article published as the centerfold; traveling to Illinois for the Penn State football game; wearing funky socks for funny feet; watching the new season of Major Crimes; and recalling family traditions.

I have become so dependent on my smartphone. The Timehop app accessed my past December 1s, and last year’s Photo365 calendar popped up.

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Even the Photo365 app has changed look

Last year, I participated in NanoWriMo and won. There’s a lot of NaNo in that month. Artwork and Zentangle. Games. Starbucks. Coffee. Thanksgiving stuffing once again. New restaurants. Random roses and holiday Peeps from my husband.

How awesome is that?!?

So many things that get lost in the shuffle, especially as we enter the Mega Holiday Month of December. Do you want to capture your memories? Just do this. Write a short journal entry. Scrapbook one 4″x6″ photo on an 8″x8″ page. Post a random conversation on Facebook. It’s as easy as that. Really.

Need some inspiration for a starting point? Check out the Fat Mum Slim blogsite for the Photo a Day challenge. There’s an app for that, and an active community on Instagram posting images.

I’m participating in the #fmsphotoaday challenge most days, having become more active on Instagram. “A natural social media site for you, a scrapbooker,” a friend commented. Come check out my Instagram images. I’ve almost reached 500 posts. Be there to witness the momentous event!

Consider the prompts as beginnings for a journal entry, a piece of art, or a Tweet. The idea is to be creative; how can you choose that creativity? Remember, if you save one more memory or create one more piece of art by December 31 than you did on December 1, you are a success.

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