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Jersey Shore, United States
In case any of my friends or family members actually read this Blog, please consider all Names, Characters, Places and Incidents to be the product of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales are entirely COINCIDENTAL...Muahhh!! Now, really, about me: I bring the crazy wherever I go, so I've been told...I make fun of myself more than anyone else ever could. I hate: the awkward silence in elevators, watches with no numbers, picky eaters, Cancer and legalism. I love: coffee, stalking Hugh Jackman, my Spanx, COMMENTS, sarcasm and writing: Middle Grade, NA, YA Paranormal and Urban Fantasy.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Coming Out of the Writing Closet


I don't know about you, but coming out of the writing closet is something I really struggle with. For some reason, I haven't been able to be all open about it, like I am in every other area of my life. When I sat down and really thought about it, I realized that a majority of the people I know still have no clue that I am a writer. And I'm left wondering why a person who is normally as open and honest as me would keep such a major part of  their life, a secret.

Maybe it's because I am so insecure about writing, that deep down inside I'm terrified of ridicule. If I identify myself to all of my friends and family and "come out" as a writer, then I'll have to subject myself to all of their questions and scrutiny.  You know, fun questions like:

(1) How can you call yourself a writer if you haven't you published anything yet?
(2) Why don't you have an agent yet?
(3) Do you really think you have a story that's worth reading?
(4) What's your book about? (and then you are forced to give the dreaded synopsis/pitch on the spot)
(5) Am I in your book?
(6) Do you think you can make any money writing?
(7) Have you tried, you know, "not" being a writer? (ha)

Maybe I don't come out as a writer because I don't want to deal with all the drama that naturally follows labeling yourself as such. It's annoying. Like when you finally do tell someone you are a writer and then they proceed to throw in their two cents about how you should change the plot/story and characters of your WIP. (Even though what they want you to write/add in are the exact plots and identical characters from popular TV shows and movies that have already been written about a dozen times over. For example, I actually had someone say this: you should make your main character a vampire who falls in love with this girl but she is human.  Yeah, because that's never been done before. Ha.)

I don't have any concrete answers today. Maybe it's for all of the above reasons and more. I'm still not sure. But I am left wondering do/did any of you struggle with coming out of the writing closet too? Why or why not. Did any of you choose to use a pen name instead of your real name for any of the above reasons?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A-Z LAST DAY LETTER Z is for ZOO

Woo hoo! We made it. Letter Z! Thanks so much to everyone who followed me and commented on this journey. For my final A-Z post, letter Z is going to be for zoo. I wanted to highlight an amazing zoo we have here in New Jersey, the Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey Township.
This poor little piggy was so overweight when she came to Popcorn Park Zoo she couldn't walk.
Now, that she's dropped some weight, she's feeling  much better about herself and can finally get around better.
When I met up with her, she was just cold chilling, taking a little siesta.
The Popcorn Park Zoo is amazing because the animals in this zoo have all been rescued! They take abused, disabled, abandoned and any and all misfits and help them survive here. These animals would most likely not have made it if it wasn't for the intervention of the loving hands at Popcorn Park.
Above: this guy's back legs were broken and his injury was never properly taken care of  by the individual that illegally owned him. Now, he has his own enclosure at the PPZ where they take proper care of him.
Sadly, due to the neglect, he will never regain proper use of his back legs.
Below: This magnificent creature is  Kya. She's a blind white tiger.
 


The Husband and I are huge supporters of the PPZ and visit with the kids as often as possible. My heart just bleeds hearing the stories and seeing how some people can be so cruel and treat animals the way that they do. I know we can't save them all, but the Popcorn Park Zoo does their very best to save as many as they can.
This is Dante. He is my favorite boy because he is fierce with a capital F. Dante was rescued from a canned hunt and was sent to live at PPZ 12 years ago. But then Dante got cancer. He is a survivor and after undergoing chemo, he won his battle against cancer. But then, when he finally was allowed back to his enclosure, he got poked in the eye by a stick, and lost almost all sight in one eye. This is a picture of him before cancer and his eye injury. 

Recently, my youngest daughter participated in a science fair. She chose to do her research on cat behavior, with a heavy concentration on the comparisons and contrasts between domestic and large cat behaviors. (Yes, having a mom that's a crazy cat lady kind of rubbed off on her..lol) In the course of her research, Frankie asked if she could go spend some time at the Popcorn Park Zoo. They graciously agreed and set us up with one of the big cat caretakers. What an incredible way for my daughter to learn. Spending time with the large cats was an awesome experience that inspired my daughter beyond what we could  have ever imagined. Honestly, it was an awesome experience for us all!
No matter what I did, I could not get blogger to turn this picture straight. I had to give up and post it like this before I threw the stupid computer out the window. This is what Dante looks like today, with his injured eye and a whole lot thinner. But like I said, he is fierce with a capital F.  For my daughter's research, we spent the most time observing  and spending time with Dante and I just love him to pieces. He is such a sweet boy.  Again, I'm sorry about the picture being crooked.

The Popcorn Park Zoo is always looking for help with donations. Just to give you an idea of what it takes to fund a place like PPZ, one tiger (like Dante) eats 15 pounds of meat a night, at a cost of $1 per pound. And they have a whole lot more mouths to feed besides the tigers.

Hope you all enjoyed my A-Z tour! Thanks again to everyone who popped in and commented and followed me on this journey - Jaybird


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A-Z Challenge Letter Y is for YES!

Today, much like yesterday, I'm really digging deep to make this letter work for my theme. My letter Y is going to be YES, I went to college in New Jersey.  Believe it or not, besides Princeton (which I highlighted for letter P) New Jersey is home to quite a few choice colleges and universities.

We have Rutgers, New Jersey Institute of Technology, The College of New Jersey, Stevens Institute of Technology, Montclair State University, Seton Hall University, Rowan, Fairleigh Dickinson, The  Richard Stockton College, Drew University, Rider, Kean, William Paterson, Ramapo, Caldwell College, Georgian Court and the list goes on and on...

When I first started this challenge, I had no clue I would be highlighting the colleges of New Jersey. But lately, I can't seem to stop thinking about them. Probably because my daughters won't let me. They have been relentless in pressing me and The Husband to look into colleges and unis with them. It's really turning me inside out. I'm not ready for this! They are still so young.

Initially, when my girls asked The Husband and I to start researching colleges with them, I kind of blew them off. I said, come on, you're only in middle school. You are way too young to be worrying about this...you might change your mind, you don't really know what you want to do yet. Well, guess what? I was wrong. Because although it's true they are young, they're already in the process of choosing their core classes for high school and what they choose to take does directly impact their college choices. Their choices do matter. Gah!! 

Although my girls are young, both of them have a solid idea what they want to pursue as their career paths. Both of them are plotters and major planners. They are, if you haven't already guessed, high achievers. Both of them are so driven and focused it's  frightening. I am proud of them for taking their education so serious yet the scaredy cat inside of me is still screaming, I'm not ready!

The thought of my daughters leaving the nest and flying far, far away is already killing me. The Husband, dear Lord have mercy, is worse than me. This is literally the first time I have ever seen him nervous and visibly rattled. He can't seem to wrap his mind around the girls leaving either. The only good thing is since the girls are so young we have a few years to prepare ourselves and warm up to the idea of them going out on their own. Twitch, twitch. Even typing that makes my eye start to twitch and tick...

Are any of you facing the same reality of having your kiddos going off to college? Did you attend a state school? What made you choose the college you attended? Did any of you attend college in NJ?  Did you always know what you wanted to be when you grow up? 


*According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a college education these days is $22,958. I'm definitely keeping my fingers crossed for scholarships*  


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A-Z Letter X is for X Marks the Spot

X is one of those letters that's really challenged me. I had been sailing along in my A-Z theme fine until we hit this road block letter. Then it was like, uh-oh, I think I might crash and burn right here, just three days from the finish line. But the fighter in me wasn't about to let that happen. So here it is- X is for X marks the spot on the Garden State Parkway!!


Perhaps the most well-traveled road in New Jersey is the good ole' Garden State Parkway. The GSP is 172 miles long and runs the length of New Jersey from the New York line all the way down to Cape May. One of the most common questions when giving driving directions in NJ is always,  "What exit?"
No matter what exit you live near, there's always a bumper sticker available to brag about it.
Weird/Random Parkway fact: There is a ghost story that surrounds Exit 82.  People say the reason why so many accidents happen on that stretch of the road is because right before they crash, motorists have claimed to see a tall man in a long coat (at night) waving his arms, trying to get them to stop and they became so distracted, they crashed. Of course, the man is no where to be found afterwards. Freaky!

Here's a little Jaybird parkway secret... Ever since my girls were little, when we went on a road trip, we played this silly game. We nick-named all of the toll collectors by certain physical/emotional traits they displayed in our limited parkway toll booth encounters.  For instance, someone in our car will say, "I guess today's toll collector will be... angry ginger girl with the raging mullet or Emo guy with all the lip piercings that never smiles or my personal favorite... smiley Rasta dude with the fat dreads. Every once in a while we get lucky and meet a "newbie." And then the fun's all about what nickname/label we should give them. I know this may seem really foolish and possibly mean, but don't judge. Because man, whatever you gotta do to make a road trip peaceful with three kids riding in the back seat is all good. Taking turns guessing who's working the booth and betting to see which one of us guessed right has become a tradition, one that has kept my girls entertained since they were tiny kiddos.

This sight is common on the parkway. Especially in the summertime, on the weekends.
The beautiful GSP is not called a "freeway" for a reason. Tolls must be paid. The price varies from spot to spot. I've paid as little as 25 cents and at other exits had to fork over $1.75- $2.00. Ironically, when the toll was initially introduced, it was proposed as being a "temporary" fee, only imposed until the road was paid for.  I have lived here for close to 40 years now and I haven't seen those tolls go anywhere, but up.

What roads are famous in your neck of the woods? Any of you ever take a ride down the good ole' GSP? Do you know of any great games to play on a road trip? How about freaky road ghost stories?


Monday, April 27, 2015

A-Z Challenge Letter W is for Whitesbog and Women's History

Almost there...we're so close to the end now I can taste it. W is for Whitesbog Village and Women's History in this  final lap of my A-Z Challenge, a tour of my home state of New Jersey.
Cranberry bog at Whitesbog Village
I couldn't decide between telling you all about Whitesbog Village, which is an important part of NJ history, or Alice Paul, a New Jersey native who was instrumental in Women's History. I couldn't decide between the two, so I am telling you about both.

Whitesbog General Store, back in the day
First up, Whitesbog. Whitesbog is an important part of NJ history, and is listed both on the State and National Registers of Historic sites. In the early 1900's, Whitesbog was the largest cranberry farm in New Jersey. Its founder, Joseph J. White, was a nationally recognized leader in the cranberry industry. In 1916, Elizabeth C. White collaborated with Dr. Frederick A. Coville of the US Dept. of Agriculture and successfully developed the first cultivated blueberry at Whitesbog. Today, you can come visit for a living history tour or shop in the Whitesbog General Store, take a guided tour or go off on your own on to bike, hike, kayak, fish or explore the surrounding 3,000 acres of cranberry bogs, blueberry fields, reservoirs, sugar sand roads and Pine Barrens forests.

Now, who was Alice Paul and why was she so important to Women's History? Alice Paul was the creator of some of the most outstanding political achievements on behalf of women in the 20th century. She was born to Quaker parents on January 11, 1885 in Moorestown, NJ. The Alice Paul Institute in Mount Laurel is a wonderful stop on my tour of NJ. Not just for NJ history, but for women's history as well. Ms. Paul dedicated her entire life to the single cause of securing equal rights for all women. As a mother of three girls, making a stop and visiting the Alice Paul Institute to learn more about this incredible woman, was a must. But how do these two tie together on my tour of NJ?


This year, in celebration of New Jersey's 350th Anniversary, Whitesbog Village happens to be hosting a special Women's History Trail exhibit that features legendary Jersey women and historic sites that celebrate their work. This will, of course,  include an exhibit of none other than, Alice Paul. 


My favorite Alice Paul quote of all is short and sweet, "Deeds, not words."
Outside the Alice Paul Institute

I highly recommend both a visit to the Alice Paul Institute, as well as a visit to Whitesbog Village. Why not check them both out and learn more about New Jersey and it's rich history at the Women's History Trail Exhibit in Whitesbog this summer?


The girls and I saw this tricked out bus sitting in the parking lot of Alice Paul Institute

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A-Z Challenge Letter V is for Vineyards

The A-Z theme I chose this year has been a tour of all my favorite places in the state of New Jersey. Letter V on the stop is going to stand for Vineyards.
Renault Vineyard,  if you look closely, you can make out the golf course behind the vines.
Yes, I said vineyards!! Jersey has them, and a good number of them too.  (48 wineries to be exact) My personal favorite is the Renault Winery, in Egg Harbor City, (on the southern end of the state) which is the oldest in all of New Jersey, and recognized as one of the oldest continuously active wineries in the entire US.
My beautiful cousin Lauren got married at the Renault Winery
Here she is posing with a portrait of  Louis Nicholas Renault, painted on an old wine barrel. 
The winery's story begins in Europe, with one man and a sap-eating insect. Master Vintner, Louis Nicholas Renault was a representative of the ancient champagne house of the Duke of Montebello in Rheims, France when Europe was hit by the greatest disaster in the history of wine. The introduction of phylloxera, a parasitic aphid in the mid 1800s. It nearly destroyed France's entire wine industry.
Waving to the Hubs from the balcony of  our room at the Tuscan House, the hotel at Renault. 
In 1855, Renault set his sights on the new world in hopes of saving his vines. His first attempt to reestablish a vineyard was in California, but phylloxera had unfortunately destroyed the root systems of grapes there too. It was then Renault heard about a native American grape that grew on the east coast, a grape that had a natural resistance to certain pests and disease. Renault headed for south Jersey, where this grape was rumored to thrive. Finding a climate and soil similar to that which he knew in France, Renault decided to settle and establish his vineyard there. In 1864 he purchased the land in Galloway Township. By, 1870 he introduced his New Jersey Champagne.
I am quite fond of the Renault's Blueberry Champagne. It's like nothing I've tasted anywhere else. Super sweet, but I love it.

Today, the Renault Winery is open for historic winery tours, tastings and festivals throughout the year. It has an 18-hole champion golf course, a gourmet restaurant that's fabulous, it holds beautiful weddings and is home to the Tuscany House, a 50 room hotel, with yet another great restaurant within, named Josephs. All this makes the Renault Winery a necessary stop on Jaybird's tour of my favorite places to visit in New Jersey.
This is my favorite pic of me and my momma, at my cousin Lauren's wedding, held at the Renault Winery


Friday, April 24, 2015

A-Z Challenge Letter Unique Eats

Okay, today's Letter U might be a stretch, but we are coming down to the end of this A-Z so please humor me and allow letter U to represent Unique Eats. Yes, today's post is going to be all about some foods that are extremely popular here in New Jersey, but I'm not too sure about the rest of the country...

It's funny, because of NJ's location (between New York and Pennsylvania) you can always tell what part of Jersey someone is from, by how they order their food.


You will most likely call it pork roll, if you are from South Jersey or the Philly area. But it is also known as Taylor Ham to North Jersey folks and most New Yorkers. The Hawaiians have their spam, but here in Jersey we've got our pork roll. And man, oh man, there is nothing  better than a hot pork roll, egg and cheese on a hard roll for breakfast!!

What is pork roll, exactly? It's a pork based processed meat originating in New Jersey. It was developed by John Taylor of Trenton, NJ back in 1856. Pork roll is not available on the West Coast, so whenever we had visitors from back East, we told them not to bother coming, if they didn't stuff their luggage with some good old fashioned pork roll.


Another unique food item that originated and was created in Atlantic City, New Jersey is salt water taffy. What kid from Jersey hasn't been caught walking down the boards with a piece of salt water taffy stuck between their teeth? Forget ta bout it!! Now, millions of boxes of salt water taffy is sold world-wide. But it all started in little old Jersey.

I'll never forget when we moved out to California, and my dad called for pizza the first time. He said, in his super North Jersey accent,  "I'd like to order two large pies please."

After a full minutes pause, the girl on the other side of the phone said, "Um sir, we um, don't like, sell pie here. This is a pizza place!" Ha.

To us Jersey folks, pizza has always been known as "pie". And let me tell you how disappointed we were with that West Coast version of pizza. If you can't fold a slice in half, it's not real pizza!! At least, not to us.

This is how we eat pizza in Jersey. Folded in half!

So, what about you? What foods are unique to your neck of the woods? Do you fold your pizza in half? Have you ever tried a porkroll, egg and cheese on a hard roll? (You don't know what you're missing if you haven't!) What about good old fashioned Atlantic City salt water taffy? Ever tried it?




Thursday, April 23, 2015

A-Z Challenge letter T is for Trenton

Hey all. We are coming down to the final six days of the challenge and I can't hardly believe it. Time has just been flying by. So, the theme I went with this year was to represent my home state of New Jersey. We've been on a whirlwind tour, stopping at all my favorite places here from A-Z.

Letter T is for Trenton.  Trenton is our capital city and it sits in Mercer County. If you have never been to the state's capital, it's worth a visit. Last year, I visited the capital on a class trip with one of my daughter. The tour of the state house, pictured below, was really informative and the kids enjoyed the tour they were given, as well as hearing about how laws are made and voted on.

It was an extremely impressive sight to see, especially for the kids.
 

Overall, the highlight of the day was (hands down) our visit to The Old Barracks Museum, where living history is reenacted. That, was my favorite part of the trip, because the kids got really excited about interacting and learning in this type of format. There is A LOT of history to be learned here, and I really believe it's much more fun and engaging for the kids (and me) to learn about history in this type of format. 






Have you ever been to a living history museum? What's your state capital? Have  you ever visited?


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A-Z Letter S is for Smithville


I may have highlighted Smithville on this blog in the past, but it has to make a repeat performance today for the Letter S. My A-Z theme, which is a tour through my home state of New Jersey, just has to stop down in Galloway Township, in South Jersey because Smithville IS it. My all time favorite haunt. If you are ever interested in stalking Jaybird, here's your chance. Because this is where you will find me.

You may spot me cruising around the shops, drinking my freshly ground and brewed hot coffee from Cook's Corner. Maybe you'll spot me grabbing a slice of pizza at Costello's and eating it outside on the deck. If I feel like dressing up and being posh, you'll see me and The Hubs dining at The Ole Smithville Inn. Perhaps you'll spy me putting my kiddos on the Carousel for a ride. Maybe you'll catch the comedic show of  Jaybird trying to run and dodge the roosters and chickens and ducks and geese that like to hoover by the gazebos and tend to chase after me, looking for a free hand out. Better yet, if it's a nice, warm, sunshiny day, you'll most likely hear my loud, obnoxious and quite distinctive laugh as I try not to capsize the paddle boat I am jumping into for a turn around the lake... But it's more likely you'll catch me riding dirty on the Smithville Railroad Train. If it's not so nice out,  you find me hanging out at The Underground, the Punk/Rock store, listening to music and shopping for cool swag or playing video games in the arcade. No matter what time of year it is, I always have a ton o' fun at Historic Smithville. It's a must visit spot on my tour of New Jersey.

















Below: No, I didn't loose my mind. Smithville hosts a "Zombie Walk" every  October.
These two creatures are my friends, Becca and Mark dressed and ready to go Zombie Walking.!!





Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A-Z Challenge Letter R is for Red Bank

My A-Z theme is a tour of my home state New Jersey. Today's stop: Red Bank.
Downtown Red Bank, love, love, love to shop here.
Red Bank is in Monmouth County and is one of those hip towns that's both a cultural and social hot spot. It's chock full of never-ending events to keep you coming back for more. Red Bank hosts my  personal favorite event the International Flavor Festival. The IFF is when 25 of Red Banks finest restaurants sell (for charity) International favorites, including Korean, Thai, Italian, Chinese, All American, Mexican, Irish and many more food samples..as well as International beer and wine. YUM.
William "Count" Basie, jazz pianist
One of my favorite venues to take in a concert or show

One of my other favorite things to do in Red Bank is go to the Count Basie Theatre, named after the famous jazz pianist, William James "Count" Basie. They host all kinds of concerts and events here. After a concert, you can usually find me right next door. Hanging out here: 

The Broadway Diner is right next door to the Count Basie, so convenient!!
Red Bank always has so much going on. The next few months will be even better with the return of the Red Bank Farmer's Market every weekend and StreetLife, which hosts live entertainment and street artists on the sidewalks downtown every Saturday evening from 6-9. Then, in July, The Food & Wine Walk shouldn't be missed, as well as the 6th Annual Red Bank Guinness Oyster Festival! I could go on and on listing all of the things you could do in Red Bank.

Does Red Bank sound like the kind of place you'd like to hang? Oh, I almost forgot to mention, Red Bank is one of those places in NJ where you are most likely to run into a celebrity, just hanging out or walking down the streets.  Like, Bon Jovi. He hangs in  Red Bank a lot. He launched his first "community restaurant" for charity here called  Soul Kitchen. At Soul Kitchen, there are no prices on the menu because it accepts both cash and volunteer hours as payment.  It's worth checking out:

What is your favorite place to hang out and why? What brings you out- a festival, a theatre, art, concerts, food, charity events or all of the above, like me. - Only 8 days left of A-Z everyone; I can hardly believe it!!!