A Tale of Two Condiments

#Writing101, Day Seven: Give and Take:

Today’s assignment is to focus our post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.


As I contemplated today’s assignment, I considered the first things that came to mind:  men and women, my two boys, old and new, young and old, black and white… Then I noticed this all-time favorite photo from years ago staring at me from the corner table, and I knew exactly what I was going to write.  Enjoy this little diversion from the “usual” at life in between.

ketchup and mustard

Halloween 1991 – Jake just turned 4, Nick 19 months


Long ago on a tabletop far, far away,

A battle began that continues today.

Who will win the ultimate Victory Cup?

Will it be Mustard?  Or will it be Ketchup?


“I am surely the King,” boasted Ketchup.  “Kids love me best.”

“They pour me on hot dogs and french fries with zest.”

“You know my friend, Mustard, I’m their favorite request.”


“How silly you are,” replied Mustard unimpressed.

“Nary a pretzel – hard or soft – could exist without me,” he pressed.

“A bratwurst or corn dog would be so suppressed,”

“without the complex spiciness I so richly possess.”


Which one wins your vote?  Which one wins the test?

In the greatest of battles and longest running contest?


“If you were only allowed one,” I asked Marty.  “Which would it be?”

“Mayonnaise – that is easy!”



Cheers & Hugs,


The World Needs More Henrys

#Writing101 Day Six: A Character-Building Experience

Today’s assignment is to write about one of the most interesting people I’ve met in 2014. The twist is to develop and shape the portrait further in a character study.

Henry, Strip District Meats

Henry – Butcher & Salesman “EXTRAordinaire” at Strip District Meats, Pittsburgh, PA

Henry is a pretty “ordinary” guy by all usual accounts.   But spend about five minutes with him, and I’ll bet you will feel differently.

Henry Strip District Meats

Henry chatting with Janet on our recent trip to the Strip District

If you would pass Henry on the street, you might smile and nod, but he wouldn’t particularly stand-out based on his physical appearance.

Henry is not tall, nor is he short.  He is an average height, average weight, middle-aged, African-American man whose skin is not extremely dark nor light, just a medium, warm cocoa color.  His arms are strong with muscles that show Henry works hard – not at the gym, but in life.  His hands are large and strong, but clean and manicured.  He has a bushy, but well-manicured mustache and a greying, tightly trimmed beard.   Henry’s cheeks are sprinkled with a scattering of freckles, his nose round and broad, his lips are full.  His eyes are the shade of strong espresso – one shines brightly, while the other twinkles as if in a permanent state of “winking.”

Henry Strip District Meats

Henry and Janet – Now we are all BFFs – that’s how Henry is

Henry is a butcher and salesman at Strip District Meats in Pittsburgh, PA.

When my friend, Janet, and I recently made a Trip to the Strip, we sauntered into Strip District Meats in search of some ground lamb Janet wanted for a new recipe for Greek Moussaka she was trying (which was DELISH by the way – she shared some with us!).

As we gazed through the glass encased shelves of meats ranging from smokey bacon and spicy sausages to plump chicken thighs and marbled delmonico steaks to boneless python (yep – you read that right… “boneless” python – because who likes  bones in their python?!??!!), a warm, cheerful male voice greeted us.

Enter Henry.

Enter delight.

Enter zest for life, passion for his job, expertise, dedication, knowledge.

Enter warmth and kindness.

Henry immediately engaged us from the word “Hello” with his twinkling eyes, the spring in his step, and his excitement to show us the lamb, all the way to talking me into paying $19.95 per pound (a steal on sale from the usual $32.95 per pound) for the ABSOLUTE best, most melt-in-your-mouth, cut like butter, tender Wagyu steaks I’ve ever eaten in my life.  (which Henry spent 15 minutes examining at least 30 different steaks before choosing just the right two for Marty and me)

Henry found the most perfect rack of lamb, which he offered to expertly and exquisitely cut into the most beautiful chops for Janet to share with her Dad.  His favorite, and her gift to him.

Who knew meat could be so intriguing?

Henry does – because he makes it that way.

Henry IS Strip District Meats.

Without Henry, our visit to this “butcher shop” would have been uneventful.

But WITH Henry…….

our visit to Strip District Meats was the HIGHLIGHT of our Trip to the Strip.

We hugged Henry before leaving the store (and carrying our heaviest bags of the day).

The world needs more Henrys.

People that embrace life to its fullest.

People who exude passion and purpose in their work.

People who make others want to be part of what they are and what they do.

People who are passionate about life and passionate about their jobs.

People who make us enjoy the “usual.”

People who make the usual EXTRAordinary.

I want to be a Henry.

The world needs more Henrys.

Cheers & Hugs,


Longing for a Happy Ending


#Writing101 Challenge Day 5:  Be Brief

You discover a letter on a path that affects you deeply. Today, write about this encounter. And your twist? Be as succinct as possible.


Well – of course its a love letter 🙂 …………
Bear with me, friends, on a fiction challenge.


It was just like any other Friday morning in September.

Mikey and I were on our morning walk.

The sun was bright, the breeze light, the air crisp, and the crickets chirped their Autumn lullaby.

Mikey saw it first – or most likely smelled it first, and he tugged on the leash I was leisurely holding.

“What now,” I thought.

Then I saw it.

I couldn’t resist picking it up.

I unfolded the tattered composition paper that was tucked into the torn and faded yellowing envelope.

My Dearest Love,” it began.

“I miss you more than the number of stars in the sky.  I miss you deeper than the depths of the sea.  The only thing that makes this time away from you bearable, is knowing that you are there, waiting for me, praying for me, longing for me – as I long for you.  I am the most fortunate man in the entire universe, because I know in my heart that you are…..”

The page was torn.  The rest of the story is lost – – – lost in time, lost in space.

Maybe it belongs to one of our neighbors.

Or maybe it has traveled for hundreds or thousands of miles – floating through the winds of time.

Mikey and I will never know.

He trudges ahead, sniffing and searching for the next treasure.

I smile and wonder…. imagining…. dreaming…. hoping….  longing…. for a happy ending.

love 2

(The card pictured here was designed for The Pals Paper Arts Color Challenge PPA213.  The challenge was to use:  Blackberry Bliss, Brown Sugar, Cajun Craze, and Always Artichoke.)

The thing I love most about it is the tiny gold embossed hearts amidst the plethora of random dots.  It’s like the hidden treasure – in the mass of chaos.

Kind of like life…


Cheers & Hugs,


Our Song


It’s 11:11pm, and I am in a Holiday Inn about 4 1/2 hours from home in Eastern PA where I will be speaking at a conference tomorrow on “Using Social Media in Healthcare to Meet, Engage, and Retain Patients” for the Central PA Chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).  I’m looking forward to it and hope it will be an engaging talk.

Before I turn in, I wanted to do my “homework.”  Today’s #Writing101 Assignment:  Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

Music is such a wonderful expression of feelings and emotions, and I was able to quickly come up with three that came to mind immediately that represent important moments and people in my life.  (And I even have to add a bonus one!)

So here goes:

#1:  “You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain

When Marty turned 40 about 15 years ago (holy shmoly – where did that time go?!), I threw a surprise party for him.  At that party, I had this song played for us to dance to.  At that point, we had been married 17 years.   I was 19 and he was 23 when we married that April afternoon 32 years ago.  At the time, I thought the lyrics were so perfect and appropriate, and they are even more so now.  It has become “our song.”

Looks like we made it. Look how far we’ve come, my baby. We mighta took the long way. We knew we’d get there someday.
They said, “I bet they’ll never make it.” But just look at us holding on. We’re still together, still going strong.
You’re still the one I run to – the one that I belong to. You’re still the one I want for life.
You’re still the one that I love – the only one I dream of. You’re still the one I kiss good night.
Ain’t nothing better. We beat the odds together. I’m glad we didn’t listen. Look at what we would be missing.

#2: “What a Wonderful World” by Louie Armstrong

I have always loved this classic – the words, the instruments – Louie’s raspy passion when he sings it.  It always makes me feel so grateful – makes me realize the simple pleasures – makes me think to myself what a wonderful world…

So when Jake and Colleen were planning their wedding last summer, Jake asked me what song I would like to dance with him to for the Mother-Son Dance.  I immediately chose this one, and he immediately agreed to thinking it was a great choice.  (And those that know Jake know that is a monumental occasion)

During the weeks prior to the wedding, I listened to it over and over.

And over and over.

And over and over.

Until I could get through it without crying.

And the day of the wedding, when Jake and I danced to this beautiful song, all I could do was smile and be happy and hug and hold him tight.

But the even more awesome thing was when a year later at Jackie’s wedding (the oldest daughter of my BFF Jill), the DJ played this song, and Jake sought me out from another room and escorted me onto the dance floor to dance to “our song.”  This time I had tears in my eyes…

#3:  “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life” by Ronnie Milsap

I’ve shared this one before here at this post – The Journey Back to Daddy’s Girl.

This is the song I played over and over when I was reunited with my Dad four years ago.  For at least a year, neither he nor I could listen to it without crying tears of love and gratitude.

For our first Christmas together after 30+ years, I made a CD of songs for him, and this was the first one I put on it.

It will always be “our song.”

And for the bonus one I mentioned – way back in the beginning – I had to share this photo that was in Marty’s work newsletter, The Cranberry Township Staff Lines.  KUDOS to the witty writer who captioned this photo that sure made me one proud mudder!



He aint heavy – he’s my brother.

I forgot how much I love this song.

More tears……….

at life in between.

Cheers & Hugs,


There’s no place like home

“It wasn’t a dream….. it was a place……..”

#Writing101 Assignment #2:  A Room with a View (or just a view):  We’re all drawn to certain places. If you had the power to get somewhere — anywhere — where would you go right now? For your twist, focus on building a setting description.

I made it through Assignment #1 in #Writing101.  So stressful – yet so rewarding.  Thank you to so many of you for the wonderful comments and encouragement.

Today’s assignment is to write about a place – any place.  Where you would go right now if you had the power to go ANYwhere?

It’s a Monday evening.  The end to a beautiful, perfect end-of-Summer, beginning -of-Fall day.  A hectic, but rewarding work day.   A relaxing, enjoyable evening spent with some of my favorite people.  Monday nights mean my buddy Janet joins us for dinner.

I had meetings up until right before “dinner” time, so Marty was so awesome to help pull it all together while I packed for a business trip and looked forward to enjoying some spaghetti and meatballs with Janet and Marty and Nick, and “unwind” from my day.

Janet and I talked about my first #Writing101 assignment, watched the Season Premiere of “Dancing with the Stars,” and contemplated what I would write about for my next post:  Where would we go if we could go anywhere right now?

I asked Janet where it would be for her.

She thought for a bit.  Then she mentioned Greece, Alaska, various places she’s been and loved.

She asked me what I was thinking about.

I told her the first thing that came to mind was Heaven.

Wouldn’t it be cool to go there and visit, talk to some of our loved ones (Grandma, Grandpap)?  It would be great to see there is hope and beauty that lies ahead.  Great to know a paradise awaits.

Then I said it would be intriguing to go back in time to Paris or Germany (or anywhere) circa 1944 – during World War II – and experience what people were going through.  This is totally because I am reading “All the Light we Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr, and completely enthralled by it.

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be an 18-year old boy drafted to Vietnam.  Babies killing babies.   As a mother of boys, this has always tugged at and broke my heart.

But to happier places.

Where would I go if I had the power to go anywhere?

You know what?  For me, it is not necessarily a “place,” but it is a feeling.  It is who I am with.  It is how I feel when I am in “that place.”

And after considering all the places in the world and all the periods of time, I came to the most boring of all conclusions…………….

There is no place I’d rather be than home………..

Home is where so many happy memories have been forged.

The home we are in now is one we built.  It is the one that Marty and I planned so easily when we perused through house plans and presented each other with mirror images of the same house.

But more than that – it is many “houses” that are home.

My BFF Jill knows me so well when she presented me with a beautiful hand-painted plaque for Christmas that simply states, “What I love best about my home is who I share it with.”


Funny thing she hadn’t realized was that I loved that saying SO much that I had already bought a plaque with just that saying on it, and had it hanging on my photo gallery wall.

Home is where we can be ourselves.

It is where my couch cushion is indented on the left from the way I curl up and lean in it.

It is where our oak kitchen table has nicks and worn spots that represent hundreds of meals, games, holidays, discussions with family and friends.

It is where I cook Thanksgiving turkey dinners and bake Christmas cookies.

It is where I host “Girlfriend Camp” and where my boys have brought friends for football games, hot tub parties, sleep overs, dates.


It is where I know my hubby is when I snuggle up next to him at night – feeling content, safe, protected, comfortable, loved.

It is where my Dad came back to me, where other family members rekindled their love for me.


It is where I watched the 9-11 events unfold and embraced my family when they came home after school and work.

Home is where the people I love the most waited for me while Jill took me out to greet me upon our return with a “SURPRISE” 50th birthday party last year.

50 nick


It is where we hosted our son and daughter-in-law’s wedding rehearsal dinner and friends gathered in my kitchen to help host and serve.

jake and colleen rehearsalfriends rehearsal dinner

My happiest memories are those spent at “home” – whether it was Marty’s and my first humble 12X60 mobile home when I was 19 and he was 23 to our little ranch in Fox Run surrounded by lifelong friends raising our little ones to the two houses we built, the memories we created, the lessons we learned, the people that helped and the people we shared with.

Marty has always said a home is not the bricks and mortar, and I have come to realize that is so true.  For a man who lived his entire life until our marriage in the same brick home, he is amazingly profound in his statement.

The best thing about our home is who we share it with…
and there is no place like home.

Cheers & Hugs,




Do NOT Read (Seriously!) – Worst Blog Post Ever!


#Writing101 – Unlock the Mind

Assignment #1:  To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.

Keep typing (or scribbling, if you prefer to handwrite for this exercise) until your twenty minutes are up. It doesn’t matter if what you write is incomplete, or nonsense, or not worthy of the “Publish” button.

And for your first twist? Publish this stream-of-consciousness post on your blog.


What is on my mind? What is my stream-of consciousness? Am I brave enough to just free type for 20 minutes and publish what comes of it?

Today is the first day of #Writing101, and our first assignment is to take 20 minutes to free type.

The “twist” is to publish it.


Feel free to stop right now and read no further – truly – it’s not worth it!!


Immediate writer’s block.


I think I worry too much about what I will say….. Who it will affect… Will I say something that will upset someone if I say all the things that are going on in this crazy head of mine?

Mostly what I feel is love and gratitude.  Today was an absolutely gorgeous day!  (photo above)

But when prompted to share my stream of consciousness – YIKES!

All kinds of crazy things go through my head!

Who wants to hear that?

I don’t want to be like “poor me – let me tell you my woes – my heartbreaks – my betrayals – my losses – those that have lied to me……”

That is the stuff I keep tucked in the very back of my mind, because what I prefer to focus on is the good. The beautiful family that I have. A faithful, supportive husband of 32 years, two wonderful young men that are my sons, a beautiful daughter-in-law, friends that are like family to me, extended family that has come into my life late. But then there are some people I have lost – that are no longer in my life – for various reasons – in the back of my conscious – which I will not write about – will not share. It’s not the right thing to do.

So I push it back.

Why does that come into my “consciousness” for this exercise!!!????!!!

Focus on good. Focus on blessings. Focus on love. Focus on goodness.

I’ve always thought I wanted to write a book.

Probably all bloggers have that in the back of their mind.

I wonder if I could ever be disciplined enough to do it??

I wonder if I could ever feel “free” enough to truly express my thoughts and feelings??

I think of Jeannette Walls and The Glass Castle.

I think of Lenore Skomal and The Bluff.

Her words run through my mind so often.

“Write what is in your head, in your heart. Don’t worry about what others think. Your thoughts and your feelings are real, and they are yours. Own them. Share them. Express them.

But I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

It’s part of my DNA. I’m a “pleaser.” My greatest pleasure in life is to make others happy – to encourage others. I don’t do it at my own expense. But I do guard.

Oh boy – already I have proofread and backspaced and erased. More worried about what this sounds like than just allowing myself to “free type.”

I’m really not as crazy as this makes me sound!  🙂

Sheesh!  I hope the next assignments are not this difficult!

Wouldn’t you rather see pretty cards and yummy recipes and nice photos?


Now – seriously – this should not be difficult – to just free type – but I worry nobody will want to read the nonsense that comes of this.   And oh brother is this sounding like N O N S E N S E !

I know!!!!!!!!  GREAT IDEA…..

I will title this blog with a disclaimer that says you will not want to read this. LOL!

I wouldn’t as a blog follower of mine!

Oh bear with me my friends, and know that this is just an assignment – and one that I am challenging myself to do. To allow myself the freeness to do.

If you got this far, I apologize!!!!!!  SORRY!

Remember – it was a challenge to just “free type,” so it is not meant to really make sense.

I will try to find a great picture to go with it and make it a little more appealing!! LOL!!

Hey – Marty and I had our Wagyu Steaks tonight. Remember those ones I got on “SALE” for $19.95 per pound!?!??!! Oh My! They were pretty delish!

Does this photo of my dinner plate help???  🙂


Phew – the 20 minutes is up…….

Not sure I like this……

Cheers & Hugs,


Gearing up… for Fall & #Writing101

white christmas fall hello ppa219

I know – for all of you literalists out there – it’s not officially Fall until September 22 (at 10:29pm)  – (remember – we already talked about this here?!) – still 8 more days of “Summer.”

But will you indulge me to share one more Fall card – BEFORE it’s officially Fall??

I had so much fun on Saturday just “goofing around” at home.  We had no plans this weekend, and I told Marty I just wanted to “craft,” especially since the weather was so Fall-like.  🙂

I made a few cards, and I wanted to share this one that I made for the Pals Paper Arts Color Challenge (PPA219). 


The challenge was to use these three colors:  Crushed Curry, Always Artichoke, and Cajun Craze (Fall colors – right?!)

I used the SU White Christmas stamp for the trees and sponged a combination of only the three challenge colors to create other hues of oranges through blending.  I used the fun Flower-Soft again for the Fall leaves and a Wplus9 framelit for the “hello” greeting.

I’m really happy with how the card turned out, and its vibrant colors are helping me in my quest to embrace Fall!

white christmas fall hello ppa219 2

Tomorrow I begin a WordPress #Writing101 Challenge.  It will be a 30-day challenge that provides a daily topic and a twist to the topic to challenge a blogger’s creative thinking and writing.  I’m looking forward to sharing with all of you.  Not sure where this will take us, but glad to have you along for the journey!

Another new adventure at life in between.

Cheers & Hugs,