magnolia tree

I grew up in a northern New Jersey suburb. My family moved into this house August of 1994. I was three-years-old. I’ve spent nearly all my life here. And ever since I can remember, there has always been a magnolia tree growing right outside the bay window in the front yard. When I was younger, I used to climb that tree. I used to climb that tree until my feet were too big for its branches, before my mind became preoccupied with matters of perhaps a more practical, pragmatic sort. A time when my imagination ruled and was prioritized above all else.

This tree has always been a mainstay, but the blossoms would only last for a few days, maybe a week. Every Spring the firm buds on the tips of every branch would blossom and bloom to white and pink magnolia flowers. Their fragrance, unmistakable perfume. The petals would soon thereafter fall on the front lawn, making it look like snow from behind the corrugated glass panels on the front door. If you stole a glance from the top of the stairs, where the front door is squarely situated at the bottom, you could easily forget what season it was if it weren’t for the temperature. These fallen petals would then soon rot and decay; The rain would make them slippery and soft and these delicate petals would soon turn brown and dark. Their peak is always short. And perhaps like all things, die too quickly. These petals would get stuck to your shoes and get tracked into the house.

But I used to climb this tree as a child, situating my feet in firm footholds where thick branches would intersect with the trunk, or with other thick branches, the tree always higher than I could possibly climb it. Glancing up, I remember behold it’s top against the sky wishing I could climb higher if it weren’t for more delicate branches preventing me from doing so. Birds would cry out, wary of my presence in a tree they undoubtedly considered home. Climbing up, I can still feel the rough bark against my hands as I bent my knees and balanced between branches, hoping to get to the highest point where I would then sit on the branch and look down at the yard, satisfied, tasting the fresh air of the summer or autumn. I was never afraid, because my father usually wasn’t far, watching me and making sure I was careful. Coming down, I was sure to watch my step, balancing my weight with my descent, making sure my hands had a firm grip on the rough bark, jumping back down on the soft grass when I was done playing.


Peaches are golden goodness, true nectar of the gods. Sticky, sweet, juicy bites. I like my peaches sliced, maybe with a dash of cinnamon. They’re best alone but also great in jams or pies. The best peaches this summer came from the Livingston Farmer’s Market. My mom would bring them home and I could easily eat a pound. Another great memory of peaches includes this past summer, when I went to the beach with Cass and Marie. We went to Seaside Heights and had a wonderful day. I had brought sliced peaches (from the Livingston Farmer’s Market) as a snack. And we shared the juicy fruit. There is nothing like the cool, sweet nectar of a peach dribbling down your throat and chin in the summertime; The heat of the warm summer sun, the taste of salt in the air, ocean waves crashing, gulls crying out. Summer days like that are why I’m glad I grew up in New Jersey and nowhere else. Out of season peaches are traitors. Previously frozen peaches are traitors. There is nothing worse than a mealy peach, or one stuck to the pit. It is so frustrating and disappointing when you get a peach like that. It’s probably one of the reasons why Farmer’s Markets are superior to supermarkets.

Word Up!

This post is in response to today’s Daily Prompt entitled, Verbal Ticks:

Is there a word or a phrase you use (or overuse) all the time, and are seemingly unable to get rid of? If not, what’s the one that drives you crazy when others use it?

YO. I am 100% guilty on this; I have way too many verbal ticks. Also “texting ticks”. They’re slightly different but definitely within the same vein.

Off the top of my head some of my most frequented verbal go-tos are, “That’s wild”, “For real?”, “No worries”, and “Word”. The “texting ticks” are kind of an extension of these. Instead of “Word” I’ll say, “Word up”. I also use “No prob” and “Sure thing”. I use “Yo” a lot too, verbally and with text.

It’s funny ’cause now that I think about it, I did have another word I overused that eventually (thankfully) found its way out of my vocabulary. That word was, “Trillz” – Slang for “True that”. I picked it up from a friend of mine at the time who always used it and it stuck like super-glue for years. I would continue using it, even though I was sometimes the only one who knew what it meant. I remember going to college my first year and using it in conversation and some people were like, “Huh?” or “Did you just say, ‘Trillz’?”. It was a trip. UGH. That’s another one I use. Sometimes to describe something crazy or unorthodox, instead of saying “That’s crazy” or “That’s wild”, I’ve now been resorting to “That’s a trip” or “What a trip!” or “It was a trip!” in describing something out-there, mind-blowing, unbelievable, an experience. But I digress. “Trillz” eventually progressed into “True”, which progressed into “Word”/”Word up”. I use the latter more frequently now. Must be all the Hip-hop I listen to or something…

It’s interesting to see how little catch-phrases and slang have such an impact on our conversational dialect and how often it’s understood by others, even if they don’t use it themselves. I’m not educated enough to know whether or not this phenomenon exists in other languages aside from English, but I suspect it does. It seems only natural, right? My Nonna pulls a few words from her sleeve from time to time. She’s a riot.

All in all though, I’m glad these verbal ticks do exist despite there potential annoyance. Think about how boring talking would be if we were straight-laced dictionary nerds. Slang and catch-phrases liven things up. It makes things fun. The words we use on our day-to-day basis are a reflection of our character, an outer extension of who we are. Not only do we communicate to one another through the interchange of words, but we communicate who we are by putting our demeanor on display and maybe even flaunting our vocabulary a little bit so we may be authentically understood. We speak who we are and we are what and how we speak, right?

But is it our true selves shining through? Or perhaps the projection or portrayal of who we want to be viewed as when the outside world is looking in…



Antonio, 1984

This post is in response to today’s Daily Prompt entitled, Antique Antics:

What’s the oldest thing you own? (Toys, clothing, twinkies, Grecian urns: anything’s fair game.) Recount its history — from the object’s point of view.


NonnoOctober 1984. Wedding rehearsal dinner.

I am a solemn captured moment of a joyous evening.

A celebration for my oldest daughter.

I am a 29-year-old photograph, snugly fitted into the corner of a bedroom mirror.

Antonio – father, husband, soon-to-be grandfather –

6 more years, you’ll see.

He’s sitting in a wooden folding chair at the table, gazing out across the table, tired,

unaware of the camera’s presence,

just quietly thinking to himself.

The party, melted away in his mind.

When the film was developed, I was probably passed around at family parties

to be thumbed through and glanced at.

Over the years of family functions, celebrations, and holidays, a mountain of pictures formed

like the accumulation of sediment over time.

It became too great, too heavy – Not enough space.

And so I was rolled into it too

to be stored in a 40 lb bin of memories,

to sit in the bottom of a cool, damp New Jersey basement

so far from where I came from. So far from home.

One day, a girl came downstairs, noticed the bin of photographs.

I was one out of a thousand. How did she find me?

Was it fate?

Or random occurrence?

She grabbed a handful

to thumb through and glance at

and went back upstairs.

She looked at me with curiosity and slowly set me aside.

I didn’t go back downstairs with the others

but lay breathing on the dining room table of a house I never recall entering.

I was taken higher up to where the air was warmer,

to her bedroom, to be tucked into the mirror, so she could see me everyday.

You see, I remind her of something – A dream.

A fleeting dream she had about 3 years ago,

way before she knew me or my whereabouts.

It was fall semester, sophomore year of college.

Nightfall. He was sitting outside a church.

No eye contact, side profile, same stoic expression.

She gasped and cried. No one believed he was there.

They didn’t even look! They just told her, “No. He’s gone now”.

She woke up in the midst of hiccuping tears, alone,

mind like an turbulent ocean.

Because as Antonio looked out thoughtfully on the wonderful day,

everyone was unaware of the silent ticking clock counting down in the background:

9 years, 2 months, 6 minutes, 30 seconds.

9 years, 2 months, 3 minutes, 11 seconds

and so on.

So when she looks at me in the mirror atop her dresser,

she thinks back to the man she never knew, or rather

knew too briefly.

She misses him more than anything, gets teary eyed from time to time.

It’s difficult for her to explain why, only that she has this innate knowledge that he loved her,

this inner frustration that she can’t go back, or change anything.

It’s not easy to talk about.

She’s forever scarred by the stroke he suffered right next to her – December 1993.

She was 3 years old

and it was the last time she would ever see him again.

Day 16: Make A Writing Prompt Your Own

Today’s assignment: publish a post based on your own, personalized take on today’s Daily Prompt.”

First off, can I just say how excited I am that I’m over the halfway mark?! 2 more weeks and I’m done with this 30 Day Challenge!

The Daily Prompt hyperlinked in the original Zero To Hero 30 Day Challenge post was originally from January 17th, so I’ve decided to sub that with today’s (March 28) Daily Prompt:

We all feel down from time to time. How do you combat the blues? What’s one tip you can share with others that always helps to lift your spirits?


Well to be honest, the blues are my specialty. I think I feel a different shade of them every day. Last night I was feeling a bluish-black blues that only felt more weighted with the glasses of wine I drank with dinner. It’s funny because it’s raining now and you’d think I feel down about it, but I actually like when it rains and I’m home. It’s a cozy feeling.

But when I do feel down and the coziness has evaporated these things have helped me get out of my slump:

  1. Listening to music – Whether it’s a Saves The Day record or Into It. Over It.’s 52 Weeks on cassette, music calms my mind and just allows me to kind of wallow in my emotions a little bit. Sometimes a fever needs to be sweated out, and sometimes you have to let the emotions you’re feeling run their course before you can pick yourself back up again. About a week ago I was feeling down so I went in my room, put on Under The Boards, turned the lights off, opened my shades to watch the moon, and just laid there listening. And yeah, sometimes I cry a little too. I can’t be ashamed about that. I’m only human.
  2. Listening to Joseph Campbell lectures – A friend of mine got me into this. He tends to listen to them in his sleep, but I can’t do that. My headphones come off, I end up sleeping on them or they end up around my neck, and then I get upset that I don’t remember which part of the lecture I dozed off at. – It’s not quite comfortable for me. But I do listen to them during the day – When I’m cooking, doing laundry, drying my hair, etc. Joseph Campbell’s words have a knack of lifting my spirits and putting me on the right path again. He never fails.
  3. Baking – My mom put away our Kitchen Aid mixer since the holiday baking season is pretty much over, but when it was still in full swing I started really taking off making dairy-free and gluten-free goodies. I love baking and cooking because it ignites that creative fire that’s in me. I get a lot of pleasure out of making something everyone likes, that everyone can share and enjoy. It’s very therapeutic and I feel accomplished and productive afterwards.
  4. Watching TV – Certain shows that automatically put me in a good mood are FrasierThe Golden Girls, Moyers & Company, anything on The Food Network, and practically any Star Trek episode. These shows just lift my spirits, make me laugh, and/or keep me engaged. I guess in the end, it’s a nice distraction and keeps my mind off any problem I may be going through at the time.
  5. Writing songs – Even just writing out the lyrics help. It takes the thoughts floating around my head and puts them on paper so I can stare back at them, decipher them, make sense of it all. I’ve been doing this since I before I was even a teenager, ever since that Good Charlotte S/T came out. That album really pulled me into songwriting. There’s nothing more cathartic than honest and open songwriting, whether you end up sharing the song with anyone or not.
  6. Playing guitar – Playing my own songs help, but sometimes it’s just good to belt out an Oasis cover and sing “Don’t Go Away” at the top of your lungs. Or even turning to open D and finding weird chords. I like that too.
  7. Venting it out on WordPress – When worse comes to worst and none of the above seems to be working for me, I end up writing something emo on here. Sometimes it feels good to just get the feelings out somewhere where you know maybe someone will read it and come across it, maybe even relate to it a little bit. Whether someone likes it or comments on it is irrelevant. Similar to how writing a song for me feels, this is similar except I know I will have a potential immediate audience. Even if it’s one person, that’s okay for me.
  8. Getting a good night’s sleep – Sometimes that all it takes. Tuck in early and get some restful shut-eye. Sleep is how your body and mind heal. There’s nothing like waking up and feeling completely refreshed.

If these work for you too, that’s awesome. I’m glad we share some commonalities. But at the end of the day, my suggestion to overcoming the blues is to find something that makes you happy and do it. Life is all about balance – You can’t have up without down and down without up. This goes for both gravity and emotions. The blues will come, the blues will go – like the wind. No one likes feeling down and out. Such is the emotional nature of human beings. The blues are nothing to be afraid of, they’re just a natural part of life. And I believe we can get through them together. 🙂