Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

So once again as this year draws to a close we are being bombarded with of the "end of the year" lists and reviews. I guess this one is especially poignant as it is also the end of the decade. The news outlets are each doing a reflection and review of the 2010s.

I will not bore you with the specific ups and downs of my life. If you read my blog or follow me on social media, you pretty much get the gist of how my year has gone. I do want to tell you that through the year's disappointments and heartaches, laughter and fun times, I have survived and I've come out stronger that I was before, albeit a bit grayer too!

I recommend therapy if you want to rip yourself down to the core and build yourself back up. ๐Ÿ˜›  It's extremely insightful in figuring out why you tick. But it was also an extremely emotionally exhausting journey which I am still on. I've never felt more aware of my existence as well as my reasons for making certain decisions throughout my 49 years. I feel like I'm in more control and deal with stressful situations much better. 

I've lost some dear wonderful friends due to death and illness. Lost others figuratively because they just don't have a place in my life anymore. But I've gained others and with that, my life is very rich. What a lucky dog am I?

Disappointments happen and I have had my fair share of them this year but they haven't brought me completely down. I won't let them. If anything they made me realize and how truly blessed I am. I try and keep that cup half-full at all times!

Also, although they're fun to talk about, please don't make your annual New Years resolutions too difficult or too out of reach as you will only disappoint yourself. But hey, if they work for you, don't let me stop you! I know for a lot of us, being too specific can be very unrealistic.

So that is why instead, I am unveiling some easy and vague resolutions or as I have coined the term, "vague-olutions" which I figure I can conquer and complete in a half-assed manner!

1. Be nicer or at the very least, don't be as mean.
2. Play with my cats more.
3. Drink more water.
4. Eat healthier.
5. Schedule a workout at some point.
6. Try a new recipe or two.
7. Listen to classical music if I stumble upon the Sirius station.
8. Try not to be as late.
9. Read something.
10. Throw out stuff.
11. Live within my means.
12. Learn to love light beer again if no IPAs are available.
13. Accept that I am never gonna learn that 2nd language.

Happy New Year EVERYONE! 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Just Another Minute

"MAX, the snuggle-bug"

Certain mornings I feel weary from the world,

Just laying in bed with just enough energy to gaze outside.

Birds are chirping, even on this cold early winter morning.

The sun dapples so brightly through the remaining pin oak leaves.

Those leaves,  although crinkly and brown, remain ever so steadfast holding on for life.

To my right I feel the soft warm body of my lovable snugglebug of a tom-cat Max.

I smile as I nudge him; he purrs in response, stretching out a paw towards my hand, then a cold little nose to my palm.

Perhaps I will stay in bed just a little bit longer, another 5 minutes, another 30, another hour.

I drift in and out of sleep. Max’s purrs now become light snores.

The weight of my comforter envelopes me, cocoons me in safety. So warm and so safe.

Evergreen branches scratch at the window, beckoning me to finally rise.

In a few minutes I say to myself, in a couple, maybe in awhile.

Fow now, the peace and the quiet is just what my world weary soul needs.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

My Name is Gossip

"Gossip - At every Sip a Reputation Dies"

***Blogger's note:  I did not write this but wanted to share as it is an important reminder on the dangers of gossiping!

"My Name is Gossip"
(author unknown)

My name is Gossip. I have no respect for justice. I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives. I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age. The more I am quoted, the more I am believed.

My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.

To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become. I am nobody's friend. Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.

I topple governments and wreck marriages. I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartaches, and indigestion. I make innocent people cry into their pillows.

Even my name hisses. I am called Gossip.

I makes headlines and headaches.

Before you repeat a story, ask yourself:

Is it true?
Is it harmless?
Is is necessary?
If it isn't, don't repeat it.

Saturday, November 30, 2019


Marc & the Big Ragu, World's End 

This Fall has once again shown me that I have much to be thankful for. I am blessed with close friends and family, a solid career, a warm home, my new lil SUV, the Blueberry, two loving pets, the awesome force in my life known as the Big Ragu, and my health!

I will attempt to curb my minor complaining. I have gained some weight as of late so if you hear me complaining, feel free to shove a beer or a snack into my face to shut me up.

I have had some dissappointments this past year but I have learned from them. After cabin hunting across New England this Fall, the Big Ragu and I did not find our dream cabin/retirement home yet but that's ok. I am blessed enough to be able to be even thinking about getting a second home. That's pretty lucky so I shouldn't complain. 

My heart grows heavy thinking about those that aren't even sure where their next night may be. I have no doubt that our vacation home is out there, we just havent found it yet. And if by chance, it is not, I have gotten to know Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine better than I ever thought I would and met new friends and reconnected with old dear ones along the way.

I realize that some relationships were not meant to be saved and life goes on. Others have faltered by the very nature of two friends moving on in opposite directions. It can be painful when it happens, but it's just a fact of life. 

I have been lucky to also see certain friendships grow and strengthen this past year. One in particular, reblossomed with the most fun gal I've had the pleasure of meeting during my life in Lake Wynonah. She makes me laugh and laugh. I am so happy we were able to move on and rekindle the friendship. And still one more friendship came with the most unlikely of friends. I never thought I'd have room for one most close friend but guess what? When it happens, you make room for that individual. I am blessed by his friendship. 

To those friends I've lost, my heart still weeps from pain and heartbreak. To those friends who have lost family members as well as pets, I have cried for you. Time tempers the pain, but it is a fool's folly to think that it will ever go completely away. 

My health is solid. I am thankful and blessed. I will attempt to cut down on the IPAs and other craft beers. But hey, if you knew what I gave up in my 20s, you'd see how ahead of the game I am. I just need to hit the gym more. ๐Ÿ˜‰

As I come to the close of 2019 and begin the final approach to my 50th birthday in June 2020, I will continue to strive to not take things for granted and be thankful for what I have in my life. We all get distracted here and there but try and remember to bring your mindset back to these core values, even if it takes a holiday to help you do it. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Saying Goodbye

"Sunflowers for Cynthia"
My good friend is nearing the end of her life.

When it comes time to begin thinking of saying goodbye to a close friend or family member there are so many thoughts and emotions that one goes through. My mind races from the past to the present and back again. I have been through it before, but each time it is just as emotional and difficult, but as it should be.

It should not be easy to say goodbye. It’s not meant to be. For some of us, the good bye will have to be from afar. We are unable to get the time off. Unfortunately more often than not, our employers do not give us off for the bereavement of friends, even if that person has been more like family than one’s own family.

Others cannot handle the visual repercussions of illness, accident or trauma. They cannot bear to see their friends or family member in such a state. And that is OK, there is nothing wrong with that. We are all different and should not be made to feel guilty because we cannot bear the pain to say good bye face to face but instead choose to cherish the good memories that one had with their friend.

Even after losing so so many friends to cancer, illness, HIV, accidents, trauma, and drug overdoses, I still question why. Even as I make my way through my 49th year, I find myself at a loss in trying to comprehend why bad things happen to good people. There was a book which my mother had, written in 1981 by Rabbi Harold Kushner, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”. I may revisit it to see if I can make sense of this world, see if the advice and wisdom from back then still apply to today.

Why are people taken from us like this? Especially those which have valiantly fought the hard fight. They’ve struggled through cancer and other illness, only to go so quickly. It doesn’t actually matter whether it’s quick or slow, expected or unexpected. It just sucks.  

If anything, it’s times like these which allows one to take stock of their own lives and remember what’s important. You weed out the trivial. You refocus on what’s important. For that I am thankful. It’s times like these which cause me to remember all those good memories with my friend which I haven’t thought about in years. I smile ear to ear thinking of all of the fun times we had.

One of my wise older friends at my local watering hole stated that sometimes the only thing you can say when you can’t figure out why someone is dying is that God is calling them home. Perhaps that’s the best answer right now for my friend coming to the end of her life. God is calling her home. That at least gives me some solace. I wish her peace.

*Pic courtesy of

Monday, September 16, 2019

My Father, My Grandfather

"Dad and Me ๐Ÿ’“"

The following blog was written during my visit in August to see my 88 year old father. He just had heart surgery to fix a flap and was doing remarkably well. He was kept overnight and released the next day. I arrived the following day to Arcata, CA to begin a long weekend of serious father/son time. No activities were firmly planned. Maybe an idea here and there but nothing set. My main goal was to visit with my father and connect on a deep level. I am lucky that what I had wanted was achieved back to me ten-fold. Some of the following is written in present tense prose.

I sit quietly as my father sits in the corner of his bedroom on a rush seated ladder back chair; he is deeply involved in a book he wants to discuss with me. It is one of the major books by the esteemed author, wood block artist, Lynd Ward, who also happens to be my Dad's father-in-law. A compilation of Lynd Ward's incredible works.

With each movement, the wooden chair creaks even under my father's diminished weight. I have never seen him at this advanced an age but also never seen him more wise, more serene, more at peace. His wit is sharp and he has just the touches of a mild forgetfulness which betrays his age. But it does not betray his incredible knowledge and wisdom which puts me to shame.

I listen to his every word patiently, looking at his wavy silver white hair combed back. It is tussled here and there. The deepened crevices on his face show a man in his 80's who has experienced life: the wonderful to the extraordinary, the good to the painful. What has he pondered throughout his years? The wisdom he possesses and gives forth is thoughtful, sometimes direct, sometimes meandering. Oh how lucky I am to be a part of this man's life at this point.

The urge for me to question, to interject, to comment is put off. It's not easy for those that know me. Now is the time to listen. Now is the time to be that sponge that I once was in my youth. For my father still has knowledge and wisdom to give forth which I must take in. I am blessed to be here and know and recognize it.

Apparently there is still much to learn. He captivates me with his tales of his youth. His voice quietly telling me of his childhood, his difficult relationship with his father, his loving relationship with his mother, and his admiration for his father-in-law Lynd Ward, who became a surrogate father to him when he so needed it for his professional and artistic development. He saw his father-in-law as more of a loving father-figure to him than my real grandfather Leslie.

I came to understand this while listening to his soft voice. I knew Grandpa Leslie as a kind and loving man, far older than me. He was in his 80's when I was 10 or so. He had mellowed by that time. An elderly gentleman who was set in his ways but had softened. He has now more into his keeping his schedule and tending to his garden behind the 314 Jackson St home in Pueblo, Colorado.

Grandpa doted on Adam, Sheryl, and I. Taking time to show us trinkets, artifacts, tales and memories of the old West. He captivated us, ironically, in the same quiet meandering speech that my Dad now possesses. Smelling reminiscent of a mix of his favorite pine tar soap and aftershave, he always wore a crisp white shirt, cuff-links, tie clip, tie or bolero and slacks.

Grandpa Leslie was always perfectly dressed to this nines, even in his advanced age, he tended his perfectly manicured garden this way in the blazing Colorado summer sun. The yard smelled heavily of cypress from the trees looming over the small stucco shed in the back off the alleyway. Adam and I played ball back there and were often yelled not to go into the alley. My mother was a worry-wort.

As it turned out, Grandpa Haynes was not an an overtly loving father. He was an excellent traditional  father, a disciplinarian, a scholared man. But not a man of emotion. He was a man of his time, a father from the 30's and 40's. Emotions were from the mother, discipline from the father. Dad continued on to tell me that Grandpa Leslie was exactly like Great-grandfather Dr Aaron Lorenzo Haynes. Doc AL Haynes was the same unemotional way as Grandpa Leslie. Thankfully, my father broke that pattern. He was a generous and loving Dad to my siblings and I.

Dad was not without his faults and he honestly admitted them to me with regret. He learned from those mistakes and did the best he could after them. That's all that anyone could ask for.

Dad and I spent the next couple days talking in the morning beneath the sunny warm northern California sun. Dressed for the coolness of the morning, giving way to the warmness of the afternoon, we sat together sipping coffee, sometimes a local beer for me and watered down Scotch for Dad. We spent the hours talking about important things in our lives to the unimportant bits and pieces.

It was a wonderfully incredible time rediscovering about each other, remembering why I love this man I call my father. How lucky am I to have him in my life, to gain from his wisdom, his opinions. I was also privy to his vulnerability, his fears, his regrets, his strengths, his emotions, but also his stubbornness at getting older. It touched me to the point of tears at some points but touched me to the point of love and pride at most times.

My Dad is an incredible man. I am the luckiest son to be able to spend time with the man that has molded me into the man I am today. But don't think I am too special. For if you have a father, you are able to do this as well. Give them time. Give them respect. Let them speak and JUST LISTEN.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Rough Patch

It was Winston Churchill who so eloquently stated, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

We all have them, those emotional rough patches. They can be triggered by family, relationships, friends, work, physical issues, or finances. I’m sure you can come up with other triggers as well. It’s those times in life which become so overwhelming you are at a loss of what to do.

I recently hit a rough patch which effected many areas of my life including work and friends. My rough patch was triggered by these two subjects. And so goes the merry-go-round of emotions, each making the other worse by exacerbating my existing issues.

As I stare out of my 3rd floor office window (and yes, I write over my lunch while at work), I gaze out at beyond the Allentown skyline at the Blue Mountain range stretching from as far West as I can see to as far East as I can see. 

What is beyond that view? I cannot see it but I know it is there. For me right here right now, it is hidden from my view. Yet, I know there is so much more beyond that range. There is so much more to life than what is before our faces.

A commercial jetliner takes off from Allentown airport, heading westward. I wistfully think, “Take me with you!” Where is it headed? Sometimes it does not matter, does it? It is headed somewhere, somewhere other than here. And I desire to be on it, taking me away from my problems. 

There is more to life than here. I am reminded of that bubble bath TV commercial from the 1970s, “Calgon, take me away!” Friends my age and older will surely remember it. At this instant, my mother is in my head, saying that catch phrase. And I am 7 again, sitting at the kitchen table in my childhood home. My mother says it laughingly, to no one in particular. She wipes the heat of the kitchen from her brow, momentarily exasperated. She then catches and composes herself and lovingly smiles down to me. 

It is times like these, where I despair at what is happening in my life ... and I retreat. I pull back to the comfort of my home, my safe place. I turn off all contact. I need to nurse wounds, figure out my next step, build back up my courage to face the world. 

Having a rough patch is emotionally exhausting. People who suffer from actual depression are physically worn out and drained by it, sometimes for weeks on end. I am lucky in that I may need only a day or two to get myself back on track. Others fall into a well, unable to climb out. Those friends need our compassion, our understanding.

When I have a bad day on the job, I always have it in the back of my mind, well this conference has to end at some point, or my day will have to end at some point and since I cannot do overtime, I have to leave whether I like it or not! But that is a bad work day. 

Bad days and rough patches also come from deep down inside. It feels lower than you've ever been before. The depths seem immeasurable. You are staring up at that tiny pin prick of life from the bottom of the well. How do I get up? How do I get out? 

And those dark feelings linger. They draw me back down that deep dark hole. The ladder doesn't appear sometimes for a good day or two. 

There is nothing wrong in taking time for yourself, holing up in your house for a couple days, avoiding social contact. You do not have to do every thing you are invited to. You do not have to go out every night. You do not have to go to every BBQ, every party, every happy hour. Take time for yourself. 

For myself, when I am in that rough patch, I get off social media. Some people may not agree with me but as a general rule, I will not get the support I may truly need on social media websites. It is fleeting. I instead connect and talk with my closest friends. That connection via phone or in person will be more meaningful than a "like". You cannot get a REAL hug from social media. 

(I will ALWAYS give those virtual hugs when a friend is in need but sometimes one just needs the real thing.)

One thing to remember is that there is an entire world out there. Don’t get trapped into thinking your little community or circle is the end all and be all of your life. There is so much more out there beyond your gated community! One just needs to expand their mind and explore. Step out of that comfort zone. 

You are STRONG enough to get through those rough patches. We all have those periods in our life. Just nurse yourself for a bit. 

But also recognize when a rough patch becomes something more, and then seek help and guidance to figure out how to get through it. There is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Some websites which may help:   1-800-273-8255

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

My Fellow Commuters

"My Commuting Buddy" 
I was commuting the other day on Route 78 by Lehigh Street in Allentown and passed an senior citizen driving along in his little colorful car. He looked to be in his upper 70's early 80s and was still working. How do I know? Because he was driving a colorful little auto parts store, bright green, yellow with writing in orange.

My commuting buddy looked exactly like that cartoon character old man in the movie where his house was lifted up by a huge mass of balloons. EXACTLY like him. Rather comical. Anyway, I passed the old guy and smiled. He was focused so intently on driving. Good for him!

The next week, perhaps Monday after work, I stopped at the Wawa on Lehigh Street for gas and who pulled up to the pump behind me was the my favorite colorful senior citizen commuter! I looked over and nodded to him. He nodded back in greeting. A couple days later, I was driving on Martin Luther King Dr, crossing Oxford Drive and my little old friend passed by me!

Since then, I have see him on 3 other separate occasions and though to myself, WOW we are totally on the same commuting cycle. It was then I began thinking about others I pass by or see who have the same schedules as me. Have you ever thought about it? You tend to see the same people and develop perhaps a type of kinship with them.

There is a professional woman who lives in Lake Wynonah who drives a white Ford Explorer with a Penn State sticker on the back. I sometimes see her leaving Lake Wynonah at the same time in the morning, see her on Route 183, Route 78, even getting off my old exit onto Hamilton Blvd by Dorney Park. I've seen her on my return trips too. I wonder where she works and if she gets exasperated at the endless commute as I do.

My good friend Kate has told me that if she sees me in the morning pulling out of my driveway in the morning she knows she is running late to her job in Reading. I have to laugh at that one because I think if I see Kate, then I am running EARLY! I saw Kate when I was early the other day, I figured she was fuming because she was late. LOL

There is a guy who, if I am on time, passes me when I am going down Blue Mountain when he is driving up it. He drives a recent model black Corvette. It is probably a $70,000 car. He drives up the mountain while I am driving down it. I never see him on the way home but always see him on the way to work. Except on snow days. He must not take the Corvette those days. Smart man.

I know a guy, big beefy with tatts, who used to work out at my gym. He drives the smallest Volkswagen Golf GTI. I think he is the largest guy squeezing into the smallest car he could find. He wears sunglasses, even on cloudy days. I see him sometimes at the local Chrome Shop gas station in Shartlesville. It has gas for a penny cheaper than the LOVES gas station across the street. I go there because no one else does. I love savin' that damn penny. Can you say CAT FOOD FUND?  LOL.

We glance at each other every time. We remember each other from the gym and give an ever so manly grunt. That is all. No harm no fowl. Just a grunt. Nice guy though.

Lastly, a bitter sweet story about a commuter I would see every day. I used to take in Hamilton Blvd into downtown Allentown before I took Lehigh St. I would always pass a cool ass dude on a yellow motorcycle. I discovered somehow, I forget now how, that he worked for the Court House where I work.

He would look so cool on that cycle. I was jealous. Very cool. I'd see him before me, alongside me, after me, cruising down Hamilton Blvd on that yellow cycle. He always wore a helmet and proper leather riding gear. You know me all about safety. If the Big Ragu doesn't put on his seat belt, I pull over and make him do it. LOL

One morning my motorcyclist friend passed me in the left hand lane heading towards the Court House. He was doing the speed limit while I drove along like a grampa. No lead foot here! Suddenly, a young kid driving a car ahead of me in the right hand shot forward. I probably could not afford his car. I had an momentary pang of bitterness.

The young kid made a stupidly ridiculous sharp right in the middle of the block to make a U-turn. He did not even see the motorcyclist coming up in his blind spot to the left. The cycle crashed into his hood and the driver in his leather gear flew literally 40 feet over the hood through air landing very hard onto the pavement.

The poor guy sat up once I saw, and then fell back down, solidly. I shuttered and felt sick to my stomach. Others stopped to take care of him. Although I always run into accident scenes, I was not needed at this one. Police were on the scene almost immediately and I was rerouted around the block.

I never saw him again and felt bad. He was a commuting buddy, doing the same drive as I did. I searched the online news pages for him. Thankfully the kid who he ran into stopped. An accident was reported. No deaths. I was always hoping he survived and is OK. I never saw the motorcyclist again though. Truly sad.

Ending on a down note is usually not my style but I wanted to make the point about the motorcyclist  obeying the laws, doing what he needs to do, but only to be taken out by a bad driver. I do get apprehensive when I commute. I take extra precaution and drive like a grampa. If there is an accident, I am gonna do my damnedest that it ain't gonna be me who caused it!

Thursday, July 4, 2019



I feel crushed as the weight of this world pins me down.
It rests fully upon me,
Upon my body and my tired soul.
I stare up at the wispy clouds overhead, my breath labored.

The clouds are floating freely, so light,
Changing their shape ever so slowly,
So angelic, filled with colors unseen.
Why can't I change my shape, my attitude, my mindset
As these clouds do along their journey?

Sometimes I don't know, how will I continue.
Whether it's the burden of past decisions which forces me down
Or the burden of past ways which have hurt others.
My cross to bear, my rock to push up the hill,
My Earth resting so precariously on my shoulders.

A hand reaches downward from the Heavens, lifts me up.
My guardian angel caresses my face, wiping away that salty tear.
I am here to help, to give you strength.

My son! We all bear those crosses, of different shapes and sizes.
You are not the young man of your twenties.
You are not the naive fool wandering the maze.
You are not the child you once were.

You will make it, you will go forward.
You may suffer but you will not forget.
Life is not the hopeless struggle of Tantalus or Sisyphus.

Life is the struggle of meaning which you seek.
Your journey may take the passage of time.
But as the drops of our tears slowly erode the stone,
You will eventually be free of this burden.

Monday, June 10, 2019

I Have Hope

I climb the mountain until my hands are scraped, bloodied.
I wander through the forest until I find a clearing, weary from exhaustion.
I get swept out to the dark sea by oppressive waves,
My arms outstretched towards the fading light as I sink deeper in the abyss.

Do you see how I've grown? Do you see I've suffered along the way?
I am afraid of not when the sun sets but when the dawn breaks.
The new morning's light may bring me that fearful clarity
Which could ultimately destroy our fortress.

I wonder when calm will come to the thunder raging inside.
My soul yearns for comfort, for serenity, but at what cost ...
Thunderclaps shatter the glass around me
Piercing me to my core, my shield not yet strong enough.

I fear these torrential rains mean the sun won't shine
And if I have to, I will sit in these rains alone, waiting for them to end.
I will wait for that light to warm my soul once again,
That summer light which warms me deep inside.

The light will shine again and I will become stronger
Though I fear the journey will be made alone.
I don't want to be the only one on this journey.
It needs to be made together, from lost to our home.

Even though sometimes I am the eagle soaring far above
Confidently riding the winds of change,
I am happy just to be the colorful mallard with his mate,
Content to swim lazily along together in the rain.

Blogger's Note: 
Please don't read too much into my writing, trying to figure out whom I am talking about. More often than not, it would not be correct. Sometimes when I write, it is just an expression of emotions and memories from various times in my life.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Relationship Collateral Damage

"The Break-up"

Blogger's note: Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals mentioned.

Why is it that when a couple breaks up, more often that not mutual friends and family become relationship collateral damage? Obviously, it is in our very nature to side with those we are closest with. This rarely talked about part of the breaking up affects the closest friends and family members. Unfortunately this part of it seems to be a constant and very difficult to overcome.

When a break-up occurs, who do you go with?  We as friends and family also suffer. One strives to remain neutral but it can get very awkward dancing the dance between the former couple. It just may not be possible to remain friends with both. You subtly realize who your allegiance is to and to whom your loyalty lies. One tries to remain Switzerland but sometimes it just is not possible. And then suddenly you find that you've chosen or have to choose.

If you are striving to remain neutral and let the couple "figure" things out, it doesn't mean that you like the other person any less, but you realize that you have naturally gravitated towards that one side. And thus, your friendship with the other person has become "relationship collateral damage."

Fortunately sometimes, it is black and white. I am reminded of a college friend Mr. Big Guy, who divorced his wife. I had met her once, became friends with her on social media, and supported their mutual business together in NYC. After finding out they had divorced, I dropped  my connection with the now ex-wife on all counts. It just was not appropriate anymore.

Mr. Big Guy, who is among the most respectful of my friends, said to me, "Ya didn't have to do that bro." I responded to him that I had known him for 25 plus years and I did have to do that, for our friendship. It was the right thing to do. My loyalties lay with him. He appreciated it. And believe me, I am sure his ex didn't give it a much thought. I don't plan on ever speaking or seeing her again. No loss on my part.

My friend Sharon Stonehenge is another example. I was always closer friends with Sharon. We had much more in common than I did with her other half. My internal discussion in terms of who I would "go" with was an easy one. Without even thinking, I knew it was Sharon. BUT, I have strove to remain social friends with her ex, Morty Hausenhoffer.

I see Morty out from time to time and have once ever so briefly acknowledged the break-up but we don't talk about it in depth. I think he appreciates a friendly face and just someone to have a drink with. I will never consider Morty a close friend though. We both know that, and it's OK. That spot is reserved for Sharon Stonehenge.

My final example involves my friend Ceecee A. Young and her boyfriend Mr. Wentworth McGillicuddy. It was wonderful seeing them together as a couple and I celebrated that. Over the last several years I have come to enjoy Ceecee's company and I always have a great time seeing her out. She and I are about the same age and have bonded over life's experiences and our similar career choices.

I had also become closer with Wentworth. He and I had the most wonderful conversations, very deep ones. Anyone who knows me knows I love a good deep philosophical discussion. I looked forward to having more of them with him. Then the break-up occurred.

From my observational opinion, it was deeply painful for Ceecee. I honestly hadn't discussed it with Wentworth but I had initially made a point to Ceecee that I wanted to remain friends with both of them. She had stated she hoped I would and had no issue with us remaining friends.

As time has moved on, I found my loyalty gravitating organically towards Ceecee. It was nothing personal against Wentworth. Ceecee and I were friends first, have more in common, and I still see her far more often than I saw him. I was upset for the break-up but wished happiness for both of them in their future relationships. If two people are not meant to be together then they deserve to find happiness with others. The hurt is there though and for now, that saddens me.

Privately, Wentworth and I did acknowledge the break-up via private social media and how it just sucked that we would not see each other as often anymore. Our lives are very busy and it would not be too often that our paths would cross again. He understood I would remain good friends with Ceecee.

The other evening, I ran into Wentworth at a local bar. It was initially awkward for me but after a hug, we briefly discussed the break-up and the unintended effects of it on other friends included, not just me. I had not meant to choose one or the other but it's happened. I will always say hi to Wentworth with a smile and a hug. Perhaps in the future, we can continue our long great conversations over a cold one and a shot.  I hope so. I am happy I got that resolved.

I try to have no disrespect to the other party but it often becomes different, uncomfortable, awkward. It helps to have a discussion with the other person acknowledging the situation as I did with Wentworth. It helps to get through it. It will be easier for social interactions hopefully from then on in.

The other party also must accept that they will not see parents and family members as often anymore. You may have become close with them but when the break-up occurs, interactions will become few and far between if nonexistent.  It just sucks.

But we are adults. We must face it and accept it. It's painful and you have to realize THIS IS LIFE. Break-ups are not wrapped up in pretty little packages with fancy bows. They are uncomfortable at it's easiest and nasty and horrible at it's worst. There is a lot of pain that is caused. I'm not even getting into the reasons behind the break-up in the first place!

What is the fallout? The fall out is that a relationship has irrevocably broken up. Some people will obviously and understandably takes sides. Others still try and tow the narrow line, ride the middle. Sometimes this works. It is very admirable and God bless those that can pull it off. But in all honesty and reality, this often fails.

One can try and be the bigger person and rise above the "drama of it all" but it is more natural that you gravitate towards one more than the other. You are a friend caught up in their break-up, and you are human. It is normal so don't be too hard on yourself if you find yourself an example of "relationship collateral damage." Remember that we are all doing our best to stumble through this thing called life.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

I thought I saw my Departed Friend

"Farmer's Market, Londonderry, Vermont" 

Recently I was walking through an outside city market, enjoying all the sights, sounds and smells of food before me. I love the cacophony and energy of it all. People bustling about, each on their own mission to get what they need. Others simply browsing. 

There were individuals like myself just observing and people watching. And the hardworking vendors, all trying to make an honest days work. Vendors of fruit, vegetables, meats, cheese, coffee, bourbon, beer, and food stalls all co-existing as separate businesses and yet depending on each other for support.

There were so many people. Market days are always so packed, it doesn't matter what city. It could be Philly or DC, could be LA, could be New York! 

I was turning a corner and passed someone who I instantly thought was my recently departed friend Chris. He just passed away in November. Ironically, Chris had been in my thoughts lately. My heart sunk and I stopped in my tracks. My gut felt punched. I reeled around to look at him. It wasn't Chris Dwyer of course but it was just so odd how much he looked like him, same fair Irish skin, same facial features, same wavy hair, the same kindest eyes.

I ran ahead to get in front of the stranger, to finally get a better look. I knew that it wasn't Dwyer. But I just wanted, I needed, to see him again, one last time. I made my way hastily through the vendor aisles dodging shoppers with bags filled of vegetables, fruits, pies, and meats. In and out I veered, on the verge of spinning into customers with their multiple bags of food. 

Coming around another corner abruptly, I ran right into some poor guy, knocking him down. "Oh gosh!" I exclaimed, "I'm so sorry man! Are you OK?"

He was momentarily pissed as I helped him up. I continued to apologize profusely and then realized that I had run into the very man that I was hunting! I had run into Chris's double. I stopped short from saying anything else and just stared at him. 

No... No it wasn't Chris, I thought.

I stammered, "I, I'm, I'm so sorry again, I was just looking for someone."
"That's OK. Don't worry about it. Hope ya find them."
I sighed. "No, sadly I don't think I will."

He looked at me quixotically, mumbled "Ok, later man" and walked away. I watched him walk away and was truly saddened but at least happy for just that split second, I had thought I'd seen my dear friend Dwyer again, and as if it were as a smoke ring, he disappeared into thin air.

Other shoppers had taken over the space of our chance encounter. I was in the way and was shuffled off to the side of the aisle by the crowd, unaware of the wave of sadness I was feeling.

An elderly Asian man asked me if I needed help in his stall. I said no thank you and sighed again, glancing one more time down the aisle in the direction that Chris's look-alike walked and I continued in the opposite way. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Nighttime Yard Visitors

"Max at Night"

Last night around 3 am, I was awoken by a rustling beneath my window. Now I love the Spring as I can now sleep with my windows open but that also invites those outside nighttime sounds in. Whatever it was, it was clicking and scratching beneath the white rhododendron bush. I looked outside, seeing nothing but fog consuming the houses down my street.

More digging and clicking which prompted Max the Cat to leap from his cat bed to my bed to the window sill in two large bounds. Max responded by chittering away. All I heard was chittering and clicking for the next couple minutes. I eventually fell asleep again.

Time passed, it may have been a couple minutes, or maybe an hour. I stirred awake and noticed Max still sitting on the windowsill staring outside. I whispered to him, knowing he wouldn’t listen, Come to bed Max, stop being such a night owl.

He glanced in my direction, acknowledging me, and then went back to his pensive stare out the window. Suddenly there was a loud tussling underneath the rhody bush. Whatever it was having the late night discussions with Max then hissed and bolted for the woods. Max responded in fright and bolted off the window sill knocking off half of the objects on my nightstand.

A night time conversation between Max and an investigative possum perhaps? Whichever one of the nightbreeds it was, it gave Max a good earful and then the fright of his life. I got up in the morning and Max barely stirred. Must be nice to sleep in after a late night convo's.  

Monday, April 29, 2019

I Dreamt Mom was in a Coma

"Mom & the Flamingo, Reunited"

I dreamt of Mom last night.

I dreamt she had never died but was in a coma for the last 10 plus years. She was still alive, lying peacefully in a fugue slumber in some 50s rancher out in the Midwest. It was decorated in pastels. Outside of Florida, she'd hate this color scheme I thought, surveying the decor. Where were the antiques? Where were the dark woods, colonial blue and grey colors? I then wondered, Why didn't anyone tell us she was here?

She had her ageless beauty and I smiled. Her makeup perfect, wearing her favorite gold, I knelt down and kissed her forehead. She then awoke from her decades slumber and smiled back at me. "Hello Marco," she stated in a gravely voice.

In a timeless whisper and dream-like haze I was off, searching for the perfect gift to welcome her back to the living. From what must've been her Key West life and influences, I had it driven into my mind that I must find her a flamingo to welcome her back.

I zipped in dream time from malls to flea markets to department stores to parking lots looking for a flamingo. It could've been a flamingo Christmas ornament, a stuffed toy flamingo, a flamingo dish-towel ... No matter, it just had to be a damn flamingo.

I never found that flamingo and spent the rest of my dream night searching in vain for the perfect gift for her return. I would like to think she'd be happy I looked so hard for it. I did not see her again in that dream but woke knowing for a short blip in time, Mom was alive.

And the irony of it all is that I now have a small stuffed flamingo which was hers. If only I had remembered it at the time, maybe I could've returned it to her.

Hopes and wishes? Regrets? Disappointments? What does it all mean? Dreams are such funny odd experiences. I try not to read too much into their meaning. That is for my dear sister Sheryl to do and let me know after her dutiful research.  ๐Ÿ˜‰  But if the superficial meaning is that I am overjoyed to see my deceased mother one more time after 10 years of her leaving this Earth, I am just fine with that too.

All I know is that Mom would never have permitted her coma to happen in a 50s rancher out in the Midwest. She had several decades of magazine subscriptions to Colonial Homes and Country Living under her belt. She definitely would not have approved of the locale.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Her Name was Kim

Writing project essay:

Her name was Kim H. She was a black haired beauty with dark eyes. Loud and brash, perpetually tanned with a toned body to match. She had the same last name as he. She and M worked together for those many years at Houlihans and they developed a close friendship and bond.

They had close deep talks, often fueled by alcohol and drugs. She was definitely manic, possible manic-depressive, although M never saw that side. But she had a temper like hellhound. And that's when M knew to back off!

They could've been an obvious couple, should've been, except for one glaring fact known to most which was often laughed about. No matter though, as they'd still often introduce themselves as Mr. and Mrs. H, even fooling old college friends visiting Philly!

And then Kim H. died suddenly. She died of a drug overdose. It was a horrible crushingly difficult experience which foreshadowed the beginning of many death's of M's friends during his 20s. There were many tragic reasons ... drugs, alcohol, cancer, AIDs, suicide, murder, ... all of which deeply affected him. 

M numbed himself through various substances for many years after her death and only later mourned for his dear friends. He would often joke that he barely remembered the 90s but perhaps the real reason was that he didn't want to. The pain of losing friends at such a young age was perhaps just too much to remember.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Passover 2019 at my sis Sheryl's

Got to Sheryl's in Philly for her annual Passover Seder. She lives up by the Art Museum. Relaxing out on the porch doing paperwork, watching the world go by. I was just thinking how much my Mom just loved this porch & used to so the same thing when she would visit. It was her favorite spot. Being a city girl herself, Mom practically grew up on her front stoop! ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ‘

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Looking Back

It took him years to realize that even with his tumultuous relationship with X, way back into the 90s, there were good aspects to it other than the old ratty teddy bear staring back at him on his grandmother’s rocker. For a couple years following the break-up there was a sense of bitterness and lost dreams which lingered. But now, as he brushed some dust off of the bear’s soft furry head, he smiled slightly.

There were good memories there. They just needed to be given time to rise to the surface after being buried underneath the emotional scars. No, there wouldn’t be any reunion with X, but just a silent private acknowledgement that there were once good times and they deserved to be recognized.

Wouldn’t life be so grand if we could get through all the pain in the blink of an eye? But unfortunately, he thought, that’s not how it works. You have to go through the pain. It toughens you, thickens your skin and hopefully drives you forward. And only after that, sometimes in the sunset of your life, can you remember those good times, if they do exist at all. Luckily for him, he tended to always see the glass half full.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Spring Night Sounds

My window is open this breezy Spring night. Something is ever so lightly dinging in the far off distance. It's not the bamboo chimes by the willow tree. It's not loud, not annoyingly so, but just enough to be mesmerizing, like a light gong far enough away where it doesn't bother me, but close enough to be soothing. I'm intrigued but sleepy enough to let it hauntingly lull me to sleep. It gives me peace.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Spring Flowers

"Perfectly Imperfect" 

I did so much work this weekend I injured myself. Nothing major. Just a pull somewhere. Ha-ha. I recuperated with a well deserved voddy and tonic with plenty of those limeys. YUM. Well worth my effort. As I sit here writing this on a late Sunday evening, the evening dew is wafting into the den, aka computer room aka library. OR... whatever the Big Ragu and I wish to call it that day.

The air is so dewy, fragrant. I am just memorized by it's scent, along with the light clinkling of the bamboo chimes. It's blowing in and I'm just drinking up the scent. So relaxing. I smell hyacinths and am drawn to wander outside about the yard, late dark at night, following the heavenly scent where ever it draws me. It's so rich, fragrant, and makes me drunk with Spring.

I picked some flowers this evening. I just had too. The Big Ragu said no, just let them be. I get his  reasoning. He was worried I'd pick the ones we view from the kitchen window and deck. After assuring him I would not, I ventured over the muddy landscape of a yard, with the fresh grass sprouting forth, and ended up on the other side of the yard with garden shears in hand.

Fragrant hyacinths, daffodils of three varieties, and forsythias were before me. I smelled wet earth, fresh grass, and whatever other flower was reaching towards the new warm sun. I carefully snipped here and there, apologizing as I went, as I am that neurotic, but still reassuring them how much joy they'd bring!

I snipped the ends on a diagonal as Mom had taught me, adding some sugar, and through the laziness which hit me, arranged them in a beer stein instead of a vase! Ha-ha-ha! Placing them on the kitchen window, Max the Cat eyed them curiously with a direct admonishment from Dad Marc.

The flowers will sit there for the week, intermingling with the coffee that is brewed, or the soup that is stewed, or the meat that is roasted. But they bring me such joy, knowing that we have survived the winter for a new dawn, a new Spring. They are beautiful and remind me of my past, my present and my future. I see my Mother in those flowers, as they are they same flowers we grew as a child. And for than I am so thankfully happy. ;)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Lobster Mac and Cheese Recipe

"Lobster Mac & Cheese"

My Mom truly had the best Mac & Cheese recipe. But then again, as her son, I am completely and unabashedly biased. I often make it as it truly reminds me of her in my kitchen. Such good family memories over food. How many of us have said that thought? LOL "My Mom's is the best!" It's all good. I won't argue with ya!

Below is the link for my Mom's Mac n Cheese recipe. Hope ya try it. Lemme know how your family recipe differs! :)

For Christmas this past year, I wanted to make something homestyle but incredibly rich and decadent! I was tired of turkey and ham. I wasn't really into making a goose. Wouldn't know where to start. Have had Cornish game hens, had duck the previous year thanks to big sis Sheryl! YUM!!!! I had my heart set on lobster macaroni and cheese!!!

The Big Ragu had bought a good couple pounds PLUS of cooked lobster meat and the idea for lobster mac & cheese hit me! SO homey yet SO decadent! I made it for Christmas dinner and it was INCREDIBLE. And actually, just the recipe for the mac & cheese (without the lobster) was good unto itself!

Oh yeah, these too. LOL 
I felt guilty loving another recipe over my Mom's. Treacherous... even traitorous!!! Would she ever forgive me? Well lemme tell ya something. If my mother tasted this recipe with the lobster, she'd never look back! Ha-ha!
Now I will still make hers, but this one is now a favorite for me and goes into MY recipe box. But Mom's is still first! ;)

SO here is the recipe for an easy Lobster Mac & Cheese. You can either get fresh lobster and broil it or get precooked. I've tried it both ways and it comes out fantastic. I have noted adjustments for the recipe when I made them. I found it online and include the link below.

I could just eat these now.
This time though for the blog, the Big Ragu won two fresh frozen one pound lobster tails at the local firehouse bar where we hang out at. (Shout out to our local awesome Summit Station Firehouse!)

Now lets make some incredible...


Broiling the Lobster Tail:

1. Preheat your broiler to High.
2. Place lobster tails on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife or kitchen shears, carefully cut the top side of the lobster shells lengthwise. Pull apart the shells slightly and season meat (if you'd like) with equal amounts butter, paprika, salt and white pepper.
Make extra lobster to nibble on!
3. Broil lobster tails until lightly browned and lobster meat is opaque, about 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges to serve.

*OK, a couple things. I got the lobster recipe online but I forget where I got it. It is a basic recipe which is kinda the same after several tries of finding it again. I did NOT season the meat since I was adding it to the mac & cheese. I cooked the lobster tail at 5 minutes and checked it but it was not completely done, so I went the full 10. Lemon wedges are for if you are just eatin' the lobster and there is NOTHING wrong with that! YUM!!!

Into the oven it goes! 

Yields: 8 servings
Total Time: 40 minutes
1 lb cavatappi pasta (I've used large and small elbow mac noodles as well if you need to sub.)
1/4 cup butter (I used salted.)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cup whole milk
Pinch nutmeg (Optional but I liked it.)
Kosher salt (I used fine and course sea salt, too. Both worked well.)
Freshly ground black pepper (pre-ground works too.)
1 1/2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Fontina (You may have to shred it yourself. Check out the gourmet cheese section at the supermarket.)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 lb cooked lobster, roughly chopped (I've used anywhere from  2 lbs to 4lbs of lobster! LOL)
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley (for garnish)

I have tried the recipe adding 1 cup of shredded Gruyere and/or shredded mozzarella cheese. I like adding different cheeses each time to get a different flavor, sometimes more savory than the next. Also, I've tried using chipotle Panko bread crumbs for the topping. It gave it a nice bite, especially if you use hot sauce or your cooked mac & cheese! I also usually make double the topping with the Panko bread crumbs. I like it crunchy on top. Experiment!!!


1. Preheat oven to 375'. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook cavatappi until al dente. Drain and set aside.

DONE! :) 
2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Sprinkle over flour and cook until slightly golden, 2-3 minutes. Pour in milk and whisk until combined. Season with nutmeg if using, salt, and pepper. Let simmer until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. (Very important, don't over cook the flour butter mixture!)

3. Remove pan from heat and stir in cheddar, Fontina and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and whisk until smooth. Fold in pasta and lobster and transfer into a 9'' x 13'' baking dish.

4. In a medium bowl, combine Panko, the remaining Parmesan, and oil. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the pasta. Bake until bubbly and golden, 20-25 minutes.

The original recipe link is below! ENJOY!!!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Conversations with my Father

"Dad, bro Adam and sis Sheryl"

When I was a young child, I would often, as children do, ask my Father "Why?"
This would happen over and over again. With the utmost patience, he would do his best to answer my questions and in turn, pose questions back to me to inspire thought and conversation with my budding mind. He would take his time with me with these quiet meaningful conversations. He took the time to explain things to me.

This continued into adulthood. Our conversations became and to this day, are more philosophical. They show the wisdom of his age and the growing wisdom of mine. But they are still along the same lines of patience, quiet civility, but now also include possibly differing opinions but with the understanding and respect that comes with age and maturity.

There is a song called "Pushy" by an electronic soulful group called Lemon Jelly. The truly British colloquial conversation in the song is from the 50s and takes place between an English child and an older English man, perhaps a father, perhaps a teacher, with beautiful melody playing in the background. The spoken conversation in the song reminds me of conversations between my dear Father and myself. They were gentle, filled with patience, understated, but always meaningful.

I was never quiet. ๐Ÿ˜‰  But the conversation below reminds me of the ones Dad and I have had. The meaning behind the conversation is thoughtful, provoking, and beautiful. Enjoy the lyrics and actual conversation below. As always, thank you for indulging me and my thoughts.

"Pushy" by Lemon Jelly

Child (softly):   I don't like people much. I get on better with animals.
Teacher:  You don't like people much?
Child: Well I like people but I don't get on with them very well. Not a lot of people.
Teacher:  Why is this?
Child:  I don't know really. I just ... people don't take to me. I get on much better with animals and things like that, you know.
Teacher:  What's happened when you've tried to get on with people?
Child:  I don't know. I get on with them in school and that, but I just haven't got a knack of being friendly, you know? I'm quiet, and I haven't got any push in me.

Child:  Noisy people seem to get on, you know?  Like at school you get noisy people play up and that. And they always seem to get on better, and, ehr, I don't know, I just...
Teacher:  Do you thing you have to have push in this world?
Child. Yes I do. I think it's hard luck on anybody who's, you know, quiet or can't get on really. You have to be fairly you know, have a lot of push and, cheek about you.

Teacher: But it's also sometimes said that the people who work quietly, behind the scenes, are the most important people. They really get the work done, not the noisy ones.
Child:  Yes that's true.
Teacher:  Do you thing that's true?
Child:  Yes.

Here is the link to the song on Youtube: 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My Beautiful Pennsylvania

"PA Grand Canyon"

During my childhood in Wenonah, New Jersey, I found that South Jersey was quite flat. As a family in the 70s and 80s, we would drive to the Jersey shore towards Ocean City or Strathmere. Dad and Mom preferred driving the back roads, winding our way down through corn fields and tomato fields, then through cranberry bogs. Or we would drive through miles and miles of Pine Barrens. Not a hill in sight, just miles of flat fields or, with the Pine Barrens, miles of forests. That's what I grew up with and that's what I knew. The trip to the shore only broken that up in terms of marshes and wetlands. Still flat, but just a different terrain.

When I was a young child of six or seven, my father brought me to the home of his dear friend Dr. Rachel DuBois, an esteemed author and educator, for a summer visit. She was diminutive in stature but enormous in terms of wisdom. Dr. DuBois also happened to live on one of the highest hills in South Jersey. We drove up and up and still further up a long gravel driveway. Why, we were above the very treetops themselves!

How far up are we Dad? I asked astonished.
Well, we are on one of the highest points in South Jersey, He answered surveying the view.
WOW, was all that I could muster...

Years later in the 80s, I would travel to see my grandparents, Leslie and Lavina Haynes, who lived in Pueblo, Colorado. We would drive out through farmland, ranches, and desert as far as the eye could see. I even once say a tornado miles away slowly making its way across the horizon.

The view was suddenly overtaken by the great looming Rocky Mountains running straight through the middle of Colorado. Pikes Peak, 14,000 plus feet in all of its glory, rose up over the prairieland and the surrounding Rockies. It's height was awe-inspiring and at the same time unfathomable to this South Jersey born kid. I had never seen anything like it.

When I turned 21, I moved into Philly. Prior to this my family would take day trips to the Brandywine Valley in Chester County or the Amish County out in Lancaster County. Brandywine farms and fields are interspersed with a forested ruggedness cut through by many a lively brook forcing its way through the lands. Amish country in turn is a patchwork of extremely well manicured farms being worked by the salt of the Earth.

The rolling hills of the coastal plain are dotted by many towns or villages, white or stone farmhouses, barns and silos. The green hills eventually stop at the foot of the last Appalachian chain, the long Blue Mountain. This formidable wall stretches diagonally for 255 miles from Maryland to New Jersey. Beyond that, the old Appalachians continue their drive through the Wilds of Pennsylvania to the top of the state. During one of my many "teachings" and discussions with my father, I specifically remember him telling me of how the Appalachians curved their way northward. And now how ironic that I live in a community named Lake Wynonah nestled between these ranges.

I love my state of Pennsylvania with its ancient mountains rising up North as far as the eye can see, one after another. The rolling hills and farmland of Eastern Pennsylvania are cut in two by the mighty Susquehanna River meandering through the state, ever widening to an impossible width at the southern most portion. Countless waterfalls and rocky, mountain streams eventually make their way into this incredible river.
"Winter in Lake Wynonah, PA"

Due to my frazzled nature, part of me loves Pennsylvania because it always seems to be a safe stable state to live in. Sure we have the occasional rare earthquake or tornado. Major rains and storms barrel through from the West and sometimes floods follow. Heat waves struck in July or August. In fall and winter, a nasty Nor' Easter or a late hurricane spin through the state sometimes causing destruction. Our winter blizzards, ice and snow storms dot the cold winter months. But we seem to be very lucky. I count on the stability of the four seasons and look forward to each one bringing it's own distinct beauty and unique experiences.

I am continuously delighted by the flora and fauna which I come across in my hikes and travels. Eastern hemlocks and mountain laurel abound statewide. I have been lucky to spy or view many of our state's animals in their natural habitats: black bears, countless deer, elk, skunk, raccoons, coyote, porcupines, weasels, beavers, grey and red foxes, flying squirrels, eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, turkey vultures, pheasants, many wild turkeys and our state bird, the ruffed grouse. I have yet to spy a bobcat but have seen evidence of several while hiking. I would also love to see an otter one day, or a mountain lion ... from the safety of my car.

South Jersey will always be my original home state but I've settled quite comfortably in Pennsylvania, now having lived here longer than New Jersey.  I am very lucky to reside in such a beautiful state.