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.


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.


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. 


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.


A chill blogging #WeekendCoffeeShare in Detroit

If we were having coffee…

Oh my gosh. Isn’t this the most chill coffeehouse you’ve ever been in? It is for me, and that’s saying a lot. I can’t even call it a “coffeeshop” because that commonplace word doesn’t do this place justice.

Can you believe we were in Philly just a few days ago? It feels like an eternity, but it’s easy to slip back into life here in Michigan.


Organic coffee and personal service with for-here mugs and water in old milk bottle pitchers

The Bottom Line Coffee in Detroit. For a hole in the wall with a plain black awning out front and the entrance through the side alley, who knew about the local feel in here. I love it when a place serves drinks in for-here mugs. My Americano is smooth. How’s your drink? Are you steady on your wobbly, black wooden chair? It’s a good thing I do those yoga exercises on my WiiFit. Sure, it’s nothing like a real instructor and I don’t expect it to be, but the postures help my balance, so I’m steady perched on my chair.

I feel awkward talking loud with you. It’s whisper quiet in here, a library with a cool, hip vibe. I just Shazamed the music overhead; it’s Chet Baker and now Gene Ammons. It’s good I have a strong espresso drink at my side. My husband’s sitting next to you, but he’s on his laptop, so we have plenty of space to talk.


Americano, apple empanada and brownie, all necessary for good writing

I just came from the most amazing Motown Writers Network meeting to date! The attendance was the largest I’ve seen since I started going almost two years ago; I lost count after 21 people showed up. Two years. Wow, I hadn’t realized that. I get as much from it as I give. As a published and award-winning author, I have a lot of experience and advice to share. I gain resources from others, like using Fiverr to source out projects or If This Then That (ITTT) as an avenue for social media blasts. I haven’t used either yet, but they come up at every meeting. I will, soon.

Today the meeting was about blogging. A lot of people here were first timers, and many of them didn’t have blogs. At least, not until today. One writer told me he was going home to set up a blog tonight! A good blog has the mobile-friendly setting enabled. A good blog has a subscription list or email form to follow blog. Gosh, I am so behind in doing that. My MailChimp account is set up, but I think I have a few steps to do before I can install it or whatever. I think when we’re done here, I’ll make a list of what I think I need to do first and work from there. I’ll be sure to set up a “Thank you for subscribing” email with a link to something…special, maybe a subscriber-only story or how-to post. Whatever it is, it’ll be cool, so I hope you’ll come back then. I’ll let you know here when I’m ready to go.


Life is good

What makes a blog get views? Collaborate with other bloggers–are you interested? I write nonfiction, currently memoirs, haiku and my Jimmy The Burglar quirky crime fiction series. We don’t have to write the exact same material to benefit from each other. It’s all about exposure and sharing. Sharing content, too, is a way to get people to your blog. Make sure Share buttons are visible on your site.

The most memorable advice I got from MWN founder Sylvia Hubbard was about sharing. Post snippets of your best works or posts on social media sites and link back to your blog. In her words: “Use your social media as bread crumbs leading back to your site.” I knew that, I’m working on that, but the phrase “bread crumbs” just blew me away. Perfect!

Interested in sharing a French Press? My husband and I were talking about that earlier; I don’t know if he’s too caffeinated already, but we can all share. Get it? I can only imagine the organic Sumatra here is exciting. Besides, I haven’t heard about your week. What’s new with you?

Books on the Horizon: do you read?

“The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.”~Walt Disney, American Cartoonist

If you’re a writer, do you read books?

You should. That’s what everyone says. However, if you’re a writer, how do you find–or make–the time?


If you’re a reader, how much do you read? Do you think it’s “enough?”

I’m both a writer and a reader, but I am guilty of all that. I don’t make the time to read because I’d rather write, but when I write, I want the relaxing downtime of reading. I don’t know about you, but if I am not doing both writing and reading, then the world says I’m not a good person.

This never used to be a problem. I swallowed books in elementary school. Mom had to limit my Scholastic Book order in middle school. In high school, I wrote extra credit stories based on books I read outside the classroom.

What changed? I guess Life happened. That and the Internet.


Haiku Horizons Week 79: “Brush” reminds me of my choices

Social media in all its forms has distracted us. When was the last time you used your phone to call someone? I did the other day because my uncle doesn’t have a computer. It was cool to hear his voice. The familiar Pittsburgh accent made me miss him and my childhood home even more.

It’s so easy to get sucked in by everything else. That’s when you realize you said “just 10 minutes” over an hour ago. And books are hard to carry. It’s a physical item we don’t need when Life is on our phone which fits in our pocket.

But we do need them. Books are a throwback to a time when we made real connections, not just Likes. Five years ago, as my Timehop app reminds me, I preferred and actually read real books.

Now I’m a published author with currently three books available electronically. I’m procrastinating with the physical printing of them through a service such as Smashwords because I see no immediate rush. Everybody reads eBooks, right?

I thought my Deadwood Writers Voicesblogpost would inspire me to read, but that book I once liked held no interest now. I was reminded of a YA vampire book series I adored, The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer, and I bought but never got around to the final book. I also found a tattered paperback my mom read and adored, The Face in the Abyss by A. Merritt. I remember the big scary snake on the front cover, but I still read it because of her. I loved it because of her, and I’m sure it has inspired me in my writing today. That’s the thing about physical books, the touchy-feely inspiration.

I won’t remember how or if it did inspire me until I read it. And yet it sits on the table, unopened but with a bookmark in it. I can see it as I sit here typing….

Writing thoughts on how to be successful

“Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.”~Ernest Holmes, American Theologist

“I want to be a writer.”

I hear this from strangers. I hear this from my writers group. I hear this from NaNoWriMo participants and winners. I also hear it from published authors.

I am a writer.


NFPW 2014 National Award for my Star Trek book

I’ve often imagined being interviewed on TV or for a magazine–who hasn’t?–and I would say “I’m a good writer. No, I’m a great writer. I also know I can learn more and my craft can be refined.”

I don’t need validation to prove I’m a great writer, but it sure doesn’t hurt!

Maybe you’re someone who just picks up a pen and scribbles words and images. What do you want to be? Are you a writer? Are you an artist? You have to believe in yourself and, if necessary, prove to yourself that you are what you want to be.

Even though I am a great writer, I need to remind myself. How do I do that?

Well, I write.


The first Michigan Scrapbooker article with my new headshot

I am fortunate to have publishing opportunities, like writing two columns for Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine. My latest article combines my love of writing with scrapbooking funky little mini albums. Check out my current article creating map mini albums, pages 18-19. Don’t stop there. Explore all the digital issues. Support this free, magazine, especially if you live in Michigan.

I belong to an awesome writing critique group, Deadwood Writers. It’s tough to find a strong support network, but these people are that. They cut apart my submitted manuscripts into teeny tiny word scraps, and I love them for that. I took writing classes in college, and those classes taught me to have a thick skin when it comes to suggested revisions. I get nothing from people who comment, “Oh, that’s a nice piece.” The most useful thing is for someone to tell me, “This sentence doesn’t work. This whole paragraph is redundant. You’re telling us, not showing us. Consider rewriting this whole page.” To those people, I say, Thank You! The story is mine to write, the direction is mine to write, but it’s good to know what is confusing or awkward to others.


Instagram images by writer me!

So we practice writing. One year ago, the group began a website, Deadwood Writers Voices. I have a monthly column. My blog posts appear on the 18th of the month, and they tend to focus on my adventures in self publishing. My latest post discusses how I use Instagram to promote my writing and discover a community.

Twitter is another place I find a community of people and writers who share wisdom and knowledge, and they have fun playing in 140 characters or less. One user, @WriterlyTweets, does a weekly six-word story challenge. My Tweet this week was popular and shared, or retweeted, almost a dozen times. It may not seem like a lot, but I’m feeling the Twitter Love. How can you not put six simple words out there? Success and belief starts with small steps. Six words is a good starting point.


Twitter Love from other writers

I also find outlets to give me a fresh perspective on writing. Coffee shops are my favorite. Yes, I am that trendy hipster sitting in the corner, typing on my laptop or scribbling revisions on copy paper and notepads. You can also find the unexpected in places like that. An independent bookstore in Ann Arbor, Literati, just opened a coffee shop on the second floor. That’s it: a coffee shop. The Espresso Bar serves coffee and espresso drinks. No pastries, no sandwiches, nothing to distract you from the fresh locally-roasted coffee. The basement, however, houses nonfiction books and…hold your breath…a typewriter. No, a real typewriter. Completely manual. The carriage return level must be pushed by hand to move down to the next line.


Remember when you had to hold your breath lest you made a mistake? Or maybe you don’t recall any machine that didn’t have spellcheck. Whether it’s a throwback or discovery for you, the store encourages you to type thoughts of wisdom or craziness or just words. I can’t resist myself, and I make it a point to carefully compose words before I leave. The deliberateness of it all, the tentative way my fingers hover over the keys, the purposeful punch each finger makes…it all scares me and frees me. This is my latest contribution, a haiku about writing.

Do you have a place to inspire you to create you? If not, find one!

Thanksgiving #tbt memories of Mom

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.”~Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Roman statesman

I’ve been a Weight Watchers Lifetime member for more than 11 years, and the meeting topic for the fourth week in November is always the same: holiday food.

Why do we, as a society, associate food with holidays, especially Thanksgiving?

The real meaning of Thanksgiving is–or should be–to celebrate friends and family, but often food is the focus. I never felt that pull until today.


Mom made turkey stuffing by hand, starting with real bread the night before. Bread cubes were browned in a pan on the stove, but this not yo” mama’s Stove Top. After sitting overnight, she added the seasonings and that’s it. Done. She made 3-4 loaves of bread so there was enough to eat raw and stuff the turkey. That turkey-stuffed stuffing…wowwwww…was that juicy and flavor-full smooshed pile of tastiness!

Since it’s just me and my husband in Michigan, our meal is smaller. Regardless, I can’t not make the stuffing because the food is sharing the holiday with Mom. She’s no longer alive, so this is how I share the meal with her. This is me inviting her to dinner.

Have I gone against the Weight Watchers creed and equated food with a holiday? Maybe. I have equated this one food with that one person, someone I miss dearly at this time because making stuffing was an activity we did together. I get it; food is part of the celebration of family.

And I make a mean, kick-butt stuffing that I like to think would make Mom proud.


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