Random, Silly Poetry

A Winter Poem, by Juli Hoffman

T’was 10 shopping days before Christmas,
The roads were all white, 
With at LEAST 6 inches of snow,
And not a snow plow in sight!

Other States might close down,
Going out would be crazy! 
But not in dear Michigan,
Stay indoors? That’s just lazy.

Get your butt into work,
And you better NOT be late!
You can leave the house early, REALLY early,
Your “free time” can wait.

It’s not a big deal,
Just follow the wheel ruts,
Like a old-fashion wagon train…
Oh, let’s face it. We’re all nuts!!!

Our tires are slipping,
The roads are a mess!
But the shoppers are still shopping.
Why? Well..that’s anyone’s guess!!!

They come out in droves,
And complain about lines.
Really? You could have stayed HOME,
With a large glass of wine!

Don’t get me wrong,
I went out today, too.
Chipped the ice off of my windshield,
No gloves. Fingers blue.

But sometimes I wonder,
At the end of the day,
Is it all really worth it?
Hmm… I do like the pay…

So Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!
Happy Hanukkah! Good Night!
While you’re out and about shopping,
Please try not to fight.

Take your time and drive slowly.
Wear your boots and thick socks.
Leave your “tude” at the doorway,
Or else you can “KICK ROCKS!” 

I’m back from vacation…


View from the balcony of our hotel room. Yes. That is a snowman. In June. Only in Michigan! LOL Our hotel was RIGHT next to Bronner’s, the “World’s Largest Christmas Store.”

Frankenmuth, Michigan is BEAUTIFUL, its own miniature Bavaria right here in the States.  This was the first vacation we’ve gone on as a family where we all stayed overnight in a hotel room.  Lovely time!!!  Kiddo was the right age for this kind of trip.SAM_0340 SAM_0335

Short post.  Lots of catching up to do!    :)

Have a great day!




Summer Reading

My KMom loaned out a few of her books on Mother’s day, a little impromptu summer reading book club.  Last night, I finished reading The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver.  Holy wow!  I think this book should be on every writer’s “to read” pile.  There are books that are written purely for entertainment, and there are books that make you think, but in my opinion, there are VERY few books written that do both.  Barbara Kingsolver is one of those rare writers that consistently creates books that are difficult to put down, while at the same time, she paints stories that make you look at the world with fresh eyes.  Amazing!

The Lacuna is a fictional story, but there are characters in it that were based on actual people.  For example, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.  As I was reading, I KNEW those names were familiar, but I couldn’t place where I knew them from.  It nagged at me while I was reading.  A quick search on the computer this morning, and it all made sense.  Diego Rivera has a HUGE fresco at The Detroit Institute of Arts called Detroit Industry.  Breathtaking!  The Rivera Court is one of my favorite areas of The DIA.  Rivera and Kahlo spent close to a year in Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan while he was working on this project.  That’s why their names were so familiar!  Both artists had an impact on our local history.

While I loved The Lacuna, my FAVORITE book by Barbara Kingsolver is STILL The Poisonwood Bible.  I have to confess that every time I see The Poisonwood Bible at a rummage sale, or garage sale, I HAVE to buy it, then give it away to a friend.  I’m like the Johnny Appleseed of Kingsolver, but I can’t help myself.  I think I empathize with her character, Adah, more than I should.  ;)  I’ve lost track of how many copies of Poisonwood I’ve given away.  If you want to read a book that will make you THINK, this is the one.  It sneaks up on you and subtly changes you, perhaps forever.

As a writer, I’m CONSTANTLY looking for new reading material.  I think that’s pretty common.  The more I practice at my own writing, the more I appreciate the writing of others.  Words, in the right hands, are an art form.  They can have such an impact.  When my life starts to feel hectic, and a little out of control, I bury myself in the world of books and literature.  I can take a fifteen minute break and instantly, I’m transported inside another universe created out of imagination.  Amazing!

Have a great day!


4 Day Weekend!

Wow!  It’s been busy around here!  Last week, it felt like I had a month’s worth of work related drama in only a matter of days.  Crazy stuff!!!  I’ve never been bored at work, not ever, but last week took things to the extreme.  I’m convinced that we are NOT allowed to have a holiday weekend (Memorial Day Weekend) at the same time as the full moon.  No! No! NO!!!  When you end your week with a phone conversation with your boss, in a FIT of the I’m-about-to-lose-my mind-giggles, and say, “And that’s when the cops showed up!” you KNOW it’s time for a vacation.  Yikes!!!  (BTW Everyone’s fine!  Nothing scary.  The police department near my work are AWESOME quick when you need them, easily under three minutes.  YAY!!!)

So…yeah, I REALLY needed this past weekend off.  It was great!  I had a four day, mini-vacation.  Hung out with my hubby and kiddo, we had soooo much fun.  It looked like it was going to rain all weekend, but we live in Michigan.  If you stayed indoors every time the sky looked cloudy, you’d hardly go anywhere or do anything!  Pftttttt!!!  The weather is ONLY predictable in the fact that you can NEVER predict it.  Three seasons in one day?  Sure!  That’s Michigan.

Kite Festival in Lyon Twp, Michigan

Kite Festival in Lyon Twp,  Michigan

We went to Kite Fest out in Lyon Township and Ya’ssoo Greek Fest out in Ann Arbor on Saturday.  Busy day, but really fun.  I can’t remember when I last flew a kite.  Reminded me of when I was a kid.  My dad taught me how to fly a kite.  We used to buy them from the discount store, but half the fun was tinkering with the silly things to get them to fly better.  Sometimes you needed to add a longer tail, or change the way the kite was tied…  I didn’t understand that when I was really little.  Now, of course, I do.  I’m not sure when the flip takes place inside your brain, when you stop thinking of kites as toys, and start looking at them from an engineering perspective, but my kiddo is ALMOST there.  By next year, he’ll probably be ready to make his own modifications.  :)

The Ya’ssoo Greek Festival was surprising!  Very educational.  I’ve been to church fairs before, but I’d never been to a Greek Orthodox Church.  All I can say is the folks at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Ann Arbor were amazing!  Rarely have I met sooo many warm and friendly people in one place!  And…the church grounds were packed!!!  Wow!!!  They had tours of the church, Greek music, Greek food, Greek dancers, crafts for the kids… We had a REALLY nice time.  We’re putting this one on the calendar for next year!

I LOVE Greek Food!  YUM!!!

I LOVE Greek Food! YUM!!!

I have a weird fascination with religion.  I enjoy learning about WHY people believe the way they do.  I enjoy diversity.  I’m fortunate to live in an area where I can indulge this part of myself, where I can learn about other cultures, first hand.  Michigan seems to attract people of ALL ethnicities to itself.  I don’t think there are many states that have what we have.  We’re NOT perfect.  We’ve have our own unique set of problems, but this is something we seem to have gotten right!  In Michigan, you can have a Mosque, a Jewish Synagogue, and a Catholic Church all on the same street, or maybe even across the street from one another…and nobody cares.  We don’t even think anything of it unless someone who isn’t from around here brings it up.  It’s just NOT a big deal!  In fact, there’s an Episcopal Church/Jewish Synagogue near me that shares the SAME building.  It’s called Genesis of Ann Arbor.  Here’s the link to a great article about these coexisting faiths:  http://www.annarbor.com/faith/the-freedom-of-interfaith-understanding-straightjacket-of-religious-indifference/

Beautiful architecture!  Inside the sanctuary at Saint Nicholas Greek  Orthodox Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Beautiful architecture! Inside the sanctuary at Saint Nicholas Greek
Orthodox Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

When I was a kid, we attended a very plain looking church.  Not a lot of decorations of any kind.  White walls.  No artwork.  Maybe a banner hung up at Christmas or Easter.  I’m sure that’s why I’m abnormally fascinated by the paintings and statuary of other faiths now that I’m an adult.  But until Saturday, I’d never heard of the word “Iconography.”

Roughly translated, iconography is writing through images.  When I toured St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Ann Arbor, they explained why they use iconography.  I never thought about it before, but during our tour, the guide explained that until recently, most people couldn’t read.  The church used pictures, icons, to explain various stories.  Everything depicted in an icon is there for a reason.  Nothing is by chance.  And, in general, icons are often depicted slightly abstract.  You’re not supposed to look at an icon of Mary, for instance and think of it as a portrait of Mary.  I learned that you’re supposed to be able to look at an icon, pick apart the symbolism, and see the soul of the person being depicted.  Isn’t that fascinating?  It’s like a puzzle of sorts.  EVERYTHING has meaning.

Our tour guide at Saint Nicholas.  The Iconography behind him are "temporary" pieces.

Our tour guide at Saint Nicholas.  You can see examples of Iconography behind him.  These are “temporary” pieces being used until Phase I is completed.

From what I understand, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church used to be in the downtown area of Ann Arbor, but the parishioners outgrew their building.  They’ve only been in their new building for about ten years.  You can read about the history on their web site.  Here’s the link: http://www.stnickaa.org/Parish%20History/parishhistory.htm

Pics from the Iconographer in Greece.  He's painting HUGE canvases that will later be installed here in Michigan.

Pics from the Iconographer in Greece. He’s painting HUGE canvases that will later be installed here in Michigan.  Cool stuff! 

They’ve only just begun the process of putting iconography on the walls of the church’s sanctuary.  By autumn of this year, the church is hoping to have Phase I completed.  One day, they hope to to have every inch of wall in the sanctuary covered in icons.  It should be interesting to see what the church looks like at this time next year.

Have a great day!



Who was Joan McBride? A memorial blog post dedicated my friend.

MVC00825I received the news in the form of a text message.  My friend, and former coworker, had passed away the day after Mother’s Day, May 14, 2013.  She was 70 years young.

This isn’t the first time I’ve learned of a death electronically.  Once upon a time, we learned of death through letters, then phone calls.  Now, we text one another or message each other on Facebook, the “talking drums” of our generation.  I was at work when I received the news, printing up paperwork, fighting with our tired printer as it complained.  Loudly.  I’d loaded the fresh reams of paper “all wrong,” the printer cussed in its own way, a language consisting primarily of obnoxious warning beeps.  Just a typical workday.

I’m convinced ALL the equipment at my workplace hates humans and their incompetence, barely tolerating us, which is why our computers and their companions rebel against us so much and at the worst possible times.  But, “Mama Furniture” is used to dealing with the peculiarities that come with refurbished equipment and machinery.  I’m not afraid to take things apart as necessary.  There’s a reason I’m on first name basis with all the good folks at Help Desk. 

Perhaps this is why I wasn’t in the right frame of mind when my phone went off in my pocket.  I’d already dealt with one naughty gadget.  I wasn’t ready to deal with another.   I stared at my outdated cell phone.  I knew I had read the message wrong.  I put the phone back into my pocket and then took it out again.  I did this several times.  I don’t usually text people nor do they text me.  I don’t even have texting as part of my cell phone plan.

But…there it was.

My friend was gone.

A friend I’d worked with, for many years, had died.  A friend who shared her stories and listened to mine while we toiled and sweated through muggy Michigan summers, and froze our tushies off during harsh Michigan winters.  Cleaning up messes, mopping floors, shoveling snow…there’s more to management than just managing.  Most days, you accept that your going to have to get your hands dirty, but it helps to have another manager, someone you care about and respect, getting just as filthy, working beside you.   Perhaps that is why it was fitting that I learn of her passing while at work.  I think she would have enjoyed the irony.  If she had been looking down on me at that moment, she would have enjoyed my battle with the misbehaving printer, too.

I’ve known Joanne McBride for over a decade.  She was there for me when my mother passed away.  She gave me advice when I was pregnant with my own child.  Joanne was the type of person who could start a conversation with, “So, what did you have for dinner?” and that mundane chat could lead to some of the most important conversations of your life!  She was gifted that way.  Heck!  I’m convinced that if it wasn’t for her and her motherly advice, there’s a good chance I might have accidentally given birth at home, being clueless as to what to expect when the “Big Day” arrived.  My kiddo was in such a hurry to be born, if it wasn’t for her advice…we might have been a statistic.

I try not to think, “What if? What if? What if?”  You hear stories on the news about women giving birth in cars and on bathroom floors and you think, “How could they not KNOW they were having contractions?  Are they stupid?”  Well…I didn’t KNOW, not at first, not for sure.  I felt sick to my stomach.  It felt more like I had the worst case of food poisoning of my life, not at all what I assumed the beginnings of labor to feel like.

I’m soooo grateful Joanne had shared her own stories with me, in all their gory details.  I’m so grateful she asked soooo many questions regarding my pregnancy and shared her wisdom accordingly.  If I hadn’t listened to her, if I’d stayed at home because I’d misinterpreted what was happening to me, there’s a strong possibility that I would have had some serious complications.  It took TWO doctors to put “Humpty Dumpty back together again.”  It took the doctors longer to put everything back the way they found it than it did to give birth!  If Joanne hadn’t been in my life, hadn’t been my friend…I don’t know what would have happened that day.  Because of her, my kiddo and I are both healthy.  She was and still is our family’s blessing.

Over the years, we’ve talked about these things.  I’ve thanked her many times.  Deep down, I’ve often suspected that…she knew, almost in an “I told you so” sort of way.  Maybe it was because she’d been there before, being both a mother AND a grandmother.  She was very intuitive.  I remember her face during these talks.  She’d look at me, an impish twinkle in her eyes and a playful smirk, and say something along the lines of, “See?  That’s why I told you.  Those doctors won’t tell you anything.”  In this case, she was right.  My doctor’s hadn’t prepared me at all.

That was Joanne!  Irreverent.  Knowledgeable.  Feisty!  Caring.  Sassy.  Funny.  She was full of surprises.  Her own enigma.  She used to pull me outside when she knew I needed a break, sometimes dragging me along by the sleeve of my shirt, as if I might try to get away.  “Come on, Juli!  Let’s go have a cigarette.”  Meaning, she’d smoke, while I sat beside her and took a fresh air break.

I often thought Joanne’s mannerisms didn’t quite matched up with the rest of her tomboy exterior.  She was a thin woman.  She wore her hair cropped short and rarely wore any makeup, as if she couldn’t be bothered with such frivolities, though in my memories, her outfits were quite colorful.  Tomato-red pants and a floral print top?  Why not!  Who was going to stop her?  In my mind, I can still see her sitting outside, legs crossed at the knee, her body language screaming there was much more to this woman than her outward appearance would suggest.  Sometimes, I’ve even gone as far as to wonder whether there might have been a bit of aristocracy hiding in her lineage…somewhere.  Joanne was a proud woman, in the best sense of the word.  You could see it in the way she carried herself, the way she sipped her coffee, the way she held her cigarette poised between her fingers, just so.  You don’t meet women like her everyday, if ever.  She was special.

Joanne LOVED her family.  They were everything to her.  Her grandkids, her husband, her children…they were her world.  I don’t know what it was like to be related to her, but from my perspective, a person on the outside looking in, she seemed to have her priorities together.  She seemed like she’d figured out how to balance her work and home lives, and still find time to do the things she enjoyed, like going out to play Bingo.  Being a wife and mother myself, I KNOW that’s not easy.

Sometimes, Joanne would share stories about her past, before she’d become a wife and mother.  She told me she used to climb in and out of windows and sneak out to see her friends, back when she was a teenager.  I use to laugh and laugh as I imagined Joanne during her wild child days.  When we first met, Joanne was about to turn sixty.  I was half her age at the time.  And yet, the differences between our ages weren’t really important.  It wasn’t a big deal.  She could run circles around me.  Not only did Joanne march to her own drummer, she’d tell him what to play!  I tried to see her as a person and friend first, and everything else second, but when you’re young, you don’t always think about the details of a person’s life.  You see the outward appearance first, in this case, someone’s grandmother.  You sometimes forget they were once young, too!  I’m glad she took the time to share these things with me.  I think a respected her all the more because of it!

Eventually, Joanne “retired” and I changed job locations.  I’m sorry to say, I lost touch with her these past three years.  It happens, I suppose.  Life gets in the way.  I lost her phone number.  I could have hunted her down through mutual friends, but I didn’t.  Even after we stopped working together, she’d call me out of the blue to say hello and make sure I was doing OK.  I miss those conversations and her quirk of NEVER saying goodbye at the end of a conversation.  She didn’t like goodbyes.  When she was done talking, she’d hang up.  That’s just how she was.  Even at work, when she was done talking, she’d hang up when the conversation was over, whether you knew it was over or not.

When I received news of Joanne’s passing, I didn’t know that her husband of 45 years had passed away only 45 days prior.  She loved him so!  Most of the family members I’ve talked to felt Joanne had died of a broken heart.  I believe it.  He was such a sweet man.  I remember him giving roses to the woman Joanne worked with during Mother’s Day weekend.  That’s kind of guy he was.  A good person.  In fact, in my experience, ALL of Joanne’s family are generous like that.  Good, loving people.

I went to her funeral on Monday, May 20, 2013.  I’m glad I was able to see Joanne’s family once again, though I wish it had been under different circumstance.  When it was time for the funeral to begin, the minister got up and talked about Joan McBride and her life.  I did a double take.  Joan?  He must have said her name wrong.  But…as the various members of her family got up and spoke, they all called her by the name “Joan.”  And now…as I sit here and write, bitter sweetness mixed with sad, I realize that only a handful of those in attendance knew her as Joanne, the rest knew her by her given name, Joan.  I don’t know WHY she called herself Joanne at work.  Her best friend called her Joanne.  Perhaps the woman I came to love was even MORE multifaceted than I thought.  We used to tease her because she’d sign her paperwork different each time.  Sometime it was just J. McBride.  Sometimes she’s throw in an A at the end, Joanna.  Why?  As she used to say, “It’s MY name.  I can sign it any way I like.”  It just goes to show, you never REALLY know anyone.  Perhaps there’s a joke behind this as well.  I’d like to think Joanne’s watching me as I type, having a giggle over my quandary.

In Loving Memory Of

Joan K. McBride


May 8, 1943-May 14, 2013