My Name’s Howard

Well worth reading…

Main Street Musings


“This is an unorthodox request and feel free to say no,” began my creative writing teacher, Laura, in a recent email. She went on to explain that Bridges, a non-profit organization, received a grant to create a photography project on the homeless in Newark. The program gave digital cameras to people experiencing homelessness to express themselves and their world through their art. Would I be interested in interviewing a photographer about his or her experience?

She had me at “unorthodox.” I loved the idea of giving homeless men and women the opportunity to learn skills to develop and project their own voices. For ten weeks, a professional photographer worked with a small group of individuals, training and mentoring them as they documented their lives and their community through photographs.

In an interview with Scottie Howard, I learned what it was like to see the world through his lens, as…

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How is an oncology nurse like a midwife?

This is what bravery is, my friends. And faith.

I May Contribute A Verse

How is an oncology nurse like a midwife?

Near the end of labor during the birth of my second child fear unexpectedly possessed me and I began a whiney, shallow-breathed, feeble chant of, “No, no, no, no. I don’t want to do this anymore. No, no, no.” At about that point my butt involuntarily mobilized itself and scooted back from its assigned spot at the edge of the delivery bed. The midwife calmly said, “Look at me. LOOK AT ME.” Once she had my full attention she gently said, “There is one way out of this situation. No other way……one way. You are going to listen to me and I am going to help you have this baby.” And we did. She was a magic woman who shortly thereafter handed me my beautiful girl, Cameron. During a routine visit a few years later, after I’d not seen her for…

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I’m Moving! Follow Me to My New Home!!

Follow me!!



Hi Friends:

A lot of thoughtful smoke has been rising from my home (and occasionally coming out my ears) over the last few weeks as I’ve worked my way through many of the steps necessary to create a self-hosted WordPress blog (who knew it was this complicated?!). I’m closer than ever and have transferred the majority of my content from here to there.

Please follow me to my new site:

I will begin writing exclusively on the new site next week. I’ll try to do some sort of hocus pocus behind the scenes (it should only take me a few days to figure out how!) to bounce you to my new site if you end up here because you forgot I moved, but I encourage you to take the plunge and move with me now.

Bookmark me!

Add me as one of your Favorites!

I love my subscribers but I can’t transfer you to my new site. You have to come over and (re-)subscribe there. It’s easy, I promise!

The best is yet to come!

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Telling Real from Faux: Brutus the Parrot

Real, not faux!

Yesterday I talked about faux. Faux fruit. Faux flowers. Faux plants. The best place I’ve found in Northern New Jersey to purchase quality faux plant material is at a garden center in Madison, NJ. That’s right. J&M Home & Garden ( on Main Street in Madison has a terrific selection of faux. . .as well as a terrific selection of real. . .as well as a parrot named Brutus, whom I visit.

I figure that it’s no surprise my girlfriend Ginger, she of the faux plants that look real, introduced me to J&M years ago. It’s a great place to browse for gifts and end up taking something home for yourself. Really! And when I visit I always think of my good friend who now resides in St. Louis.

He's a good listener.

Another major reason I keep returning to J&M is Brutus the parrot. I’ve had a thing for large birds for as long as I can remember. I can easily talk with Brutus for 30 minutes or more, if small children aren’t around. Small kids get annoyed if I take up too much of the big guy’s time! I visit Brutus the parrot on a weekday at midmorning. He’s usually alone then and willing to take a few minutes out of his busy day to talk with me. He’s a good listener too. It’s a very good quality large birds have; they kinda tilt their heads, look at you with one wise eye and nod periodically as you talk. It’s more than many spouses do! In addition, since he resides in a very large, bright, sunny, warm, Florida-like greenhouse, I get a huge dose of vitamin D, my shoulders relax and I leave a kinder happier person.

My advice if the weather has you down? Find a garden center greenhouse. Walk through it slowly and touch the plants. Meander up and down the rows. . .and remember that spring, the real no-snow spring, is just around the corner!

P.S. Did you figure out which plants in the photos I posted yesterday are faux? Answer: the forget-me-not plant, the apples and the fern in the photo of the three large plants in my dining room.

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Faux, the New Real


I used to be a real stickler for everything in my home being real, genuine. I had an unbreakable rule: Real fruit in the fruit bowl, even if no one ever ate it. Real flowers artfully displayed, even if we weren’t expecting company. If it wasn’t real, I didn’t display it or arrange it. Years went by, and it became an almost full-time job keeping ahead of the rotting, wilting, uh, expense of it all. The real fruit rotted in the fruit bowl before it was time to go to the food store again. The real flowers wilted and died halfway through the week they were guaranteed to last.

Keeping one step ahead of the rotten and dead took up too much of my psychic energy and free time after a while. Week after week, it was a choice between either eating the last apple or making something out of it. And how much fruit can one family eat anyway? Or flowers. I’d spend an hour or two arranging flowers only to have them kick the bucket after a couple of days. I wanted to change, but I didn’t know quite what to do. I mean, fresh fruit and flowers make a home feel more homey to me and I hated to give that feeling up, but the plasticky flowers and jeweled fruit I grew up with didn’t seem like viable alternatives.

Then in walked my girlfriend Ginger. When she lived close by (now she lives in St. Louis <sniff>) we visited back and forth pretty often. One afternoon I walked into her kitchen and exclaimed over the new rosemary topiary sitting on the kitchen counter. She smiled as I walked over to rub a leaf and catch a whiff. When I got thisclose I realized the rosemary topiary was faux. It was fake and it didn’t look fake or gross! It was a revelation!

Another time soon after I walked into Ginger’s dining room and saw a very pretty tree. It looked like it needed watered, though, since a few curled up brown leaves rested on top of the pot. Ginger smiled. Faux! It was faux!

Ginger sold me on faux. She coached me: Start with a high-quality faux plant, add a few “real” elements to the tableau (the dried up leaves, for example) and you can fool most of the people most of the time. Now I use faux in my home, selectively, and to great effect.

Quick! Real or faux?


Well? All real? All faux? A mix??


Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, floral design, Food

Another Snowfall, Another Spring Day

No sun today in my part of the USA. How is your weather?

We woke up here in Northern New Jersey to snow on the ground and snow drifting from the sky. It snowed all morning then switched to rain in the afternoon. I hear we’re going to have more snow tonight. That’s right. It’s Spring, but it’s Spring in New Jersey, the flaky weather state.

If I wasn’t so ready for Spring I would see the beauty in the snowfall.

The snow weighed down branches today; it's heavy and wet.

No lounging around outside today!

Maybe it’s because I went to the dentist today and had four fillings replaced; my face is lopsided and I’m drooling like a 6-month-old because the Novocain hasn’t worn off yet.

Hey! Did I make you twitch? Most folks just look at the tools (see the Novacaine needle on the far right?!)and feel dread! Bwahahaha!

Or maybe I’m just grouchy.

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Spring in Northern New Jersey: Snow

The snow came down thick and fast this morning.

This past weekend was gorgeous weather-wise, a little nippy but sunny and hopeful feeling, like winter was gone. Not so much. I woke up this morning to snow. The first full day of spring in my Northern N.J. world and the snow is falling thick and fast. I raced outside to rescue the pot of herbs I had just cleaned up, watered and put outside on my back steps just yesterday. I covered my strawberry pots with an umbrella-like cloche and will keep my fingers crossed.. The hostas and astilbes I planted? They will likely survive. The two kinds of heirloom poppy seeds? Not likely. The lettuces? We’ll see.

This cloche operates like an umbrella; let's hope it keeps the plants in the strawberry pots I showed you yesterday nice and warm!

That’s what I get for rushing the season. You’d think I would have learned by now. I mean, I’ve lived in New Jersey, Northern New Jersey, for more than 25 years. I should know that spring around these parts is unpredictable, kinda like a two-year-old in a department store: Here one minute. Hiding under the women’s clothes rack the next.

P.S. I was so distraught at the snowfall that I videoed it. I know. I know. It sounds like I need a vacation. . .in a warm place. Anyway, if you like snow falling, take a look at the video to the right under “My World in Photos.” And yes, that is my depressed voice you hear!


Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, New Jersey, Snow and Snowstorms, Uncategorized, weather

Perigee Moon and Spring, All in One Weekend!

How could you not notice the moon last night?!

Last night I was driving east at about 8 pm or so and noticed the moon. I don’t think anyone could miss it last night, truth to tell. The moon was huge. Actually, the moon was huge, full and bright. It was beautiful. When I got home I grabbed my Nikon D90 and headed back outside to take a few photos. It was really nippy by then. Okay, my teeth were chattering, but I got my photos.

It was a perigee moon, a rare lunar event that last occurred in March 1993. Did you see the moon last night? What did you think of it? Do you remember it being as large in March 1993? Ah. Me neither, so don’t feel bad. I have trouble remembering what I ate for dinner a few hours after I’ve eaten it, never mind what the moon looked like on a specific night almost 20 years ago.

"It was a dark and stormy night". . .uh, wrong! But it does look a little sinister in this shot, right?

Some folks were thinking/writing/talking about how perigee moons trigger natural disasters. Did a natural disaster happen near you? The only natural disaster I experienced was losing my footing on my front hill; I slipped and fell into the rose bush I was pruning. It hurt and all, but I don’t think that’s the sort of natural disaster some folks were thinking/writing/talking about.

My venerable beech tree makes this shot lovely, in my opinion.

I pulled this pot out of the unheated greenhouse. Survivors! I have survivors!

Today it’s another beautiful weather day here in Northern New Jersey, a bit chilly, but sunny. I’ve been out working in the garden again. Today I plants hostas (‘Patriot’) and astilbes (‘Key West’), spruced up the raised veggie beds, and pulled the strawberry pots out of the greenhouse; they overwinter there every year, and come spring, I pull them out, see what survived, and replant the empty holes. I have a ton of self-seeded forget-me-nots in a bed on the west side of the house so I plugged the empty holes with some of  them for now; it’ll make a very pretty spring vignette.

This pot will look terrific when the forget-me-nots bloom!

Whatcha doing today?

These pots are pretty old; it's a surprise every year to see what lived through the winter in the unheated greenhouse.


Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, garden cleanup, gardening, weather

Thanks to a Former Coworker and Still Friend

Today I met Lori, a former coworker and still friend, for lunch. We worked together for many years, me as a financial editor and she as tech support at a big-deal investment bank. Lori helped me out of many a PC jam, week in and week out. Time spent together created a friendship. We both left the big-deal investment bank many years ago, but we keep in touch. We are both writers, in addition to what else we are!

The last time Lori and I met for lunch she told me about The Write Group, an organization created by and for writers that meets in Northern New Jersey. She told me about the Saturday morning free write meet-ups and the weekly email newsletter. After that lunch I went home and signed up to receive the newsletter.

I love my Mac! My husband Mike surprised me with it. I kicked my PC to the curb and never looked back. The Best!

Today I thanked Lori for broadening my writing horizons. If Lori hadn’t told me about The Write Group I would not have had the opportunity to attend some of its Thursday night meetings like Social Media, Memoir Your Way to Freedom, and Legal Issues for Writers, to name three. I would not have learned about MEWS, an organization that was founded to bring together writers and editors in a Northern N.J. town. And then I wouldn’t have taken Pam Satran’s one-day novel writing class; I learned more in that one-day class than I have at any other writer’s gathering, ever.

During class I write long hand, which is NOT my preferred method.

And if I hadn’t attended these events and workshops I probably wouldn’t have signed up for the five-week free-write class I have been taking on Monday nights; it’s a challenge for someone like me, an editor, to sit and just write for 20 minutes without sneaking back and editing what I’ve just written. And it’s difficult for me to read what I’ve written out loud to my classmates. But I’m learning. I’m learning to let go of my old edit-as-I-go habit and I am conquering the fear that hits me every time I hear myself volunteering to read what I’ve just written in class.

I figure that if I can just write, as Pam Satran, the many writers I’ve met over the past year and my Monday night instructor and classmates say I should, then I will create something truly special.

First, write it down. Put all that wonderful stuff in your head onto paper or computer. All of it. Or as much as you have time to do in the time you have.

Second, edit it. But edit it at another time, a time far removed from the initial creative process. Assign a day or time to “just edit.”

<deep breath>

Now excuse me while I go practice what I just preached.

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High School Softball Season: First Scrimmage Today!

It's that time again!

Today my daughter Tory’s high school softball season begins with the first of 7 scheduled scrimmages against local teams. Tory throws out her first pitch of what we hope is a long and successful season today at 4 p.m. I will drag a cooler full of cold water to the dugout a little early then climb into the stands to cheer for the team and Tory.

My girl is ready for the high school season to begin; Tory will be the starting varsity pitcher this year. The team graduated a number of key players last year so it could be a bit rocky around our home field until the newbies find their proper throwing and fielding arms, never mind pulling out their bats and hitting the ball. And I heard a number of the starting varsity players are injured.

This is what Tory swings.

That said, the young women have 7 scheduled scrimmages to get their game faces adjusted. And they are young, their second-year coach is young and spring is in the air. . .everything is possible.



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