Upcoming Stuff

News is posted regularly on my main welcome page but for those following HERE, I thought I would share what’s up for the month of December.  SO MUCH STUFF.

  • I bought a house!  Settlement is December 20th.  It’s a really fun cool house right on a canal, and I must say I cannot wait for warm weather sitting out on my deck to write while Nathan goes fishing for the first trout of the season.  I want to get in there RIGHT NOW to paint but of course I have to be patient!!
  • My single “Machine” should be released sometime around the new year.  I have to wait until…
  • My headshots are coming up!  The amazing Britt Olsen-Ecker will be my photographer.  I’ve said it many times and I will say it again: she is the one photographer I know that manages to capture the very personality of the person she is photographing.  It looks like you, at that moment in your life.  Of course, I need new ones and album shots so that’s where this comes in! I will be shooting starting at the Maryland Historical Society around 12:30/1:00 on December 21st if any local natives care to join in the shoot.  There will be Venetian masks! Jeans! Steampunk jackets!  I can’t wait.
  • My EP Machine is set back a little so I can generate buzz with my single.  Stay tuned, listeners, for more on that.
  • I am searching for a great music video production company local to me.  I have some leads.  I will keep you posted.
  • I am entering several writing competitions in the hopes of being published this year.  (ER, next year.)  Wish me luck.
  • I am so happy to be involved with the online writing community once more.  I’ve missed you all!

Hope you all are having a great start to your December! Best.


Thanks for reading, as always, and I will talk to you all soon.

Babci (Trifecta Week 106)


It is 2009.

My grandmother is a bustler. 

She never stops moving. 

But she doesn’t like the rest of us to help.

She flaps her arms at us, apron strings flying around her like white snakes on the loose.

Rapid-fire Polish.

“Set your tush down on the chair and relax!”

She stirs the mushroom soup, fries the potato pancakes, pours a thimble of cheap plum brandy.

It’s A Wonderful Life plays on the TV.

It is hard to imagine this night the poets call holy being any other way.

Now it is 2013 in my new house.

My Babcia bustles less now, and sits more.

“Let me help! Give me something to do, aniołka.” Her tired eyes say otherwise.

Her aniołka, her little angel.   I pour her a highball and take her into my dining room.  For such frail hands, they have a strong grip on my forearm.

“I’ve got it, Babci.  You just sit your tush down and relax.”

A smile.  A tuft of white hair at my table.  “You know, you really are somethin’.”

I look at my settings.  Odd plates.  One extra for Jesus, enough for the rest of the family.

These traditions come from her. 

This house is a reflection of hers, of my favorite childhood memories.

It is hard to imagine this night the poets call holy as the new normal.

I think she will stay the same way forever, even long after she is gone.

A white, plump and curly-haired ghost in my kitchen telling me not to worry.

There will always be Babci.




Mój Babci.  Ja cię kocham, Babcia.


After a long hiatus, I have returned with a Trifecta challenge answer.  This week’s word was:


1. a long pointed tooth; especially : a horse’s canine

2. an interjection used to express disdain or reproach

3. buttocks (slang)


First Time Home Buyer

“You’ll break it!” I shout.

My father, ever the engineer, is wiggling the rusted iron stairrail before he’s even gone into the house.

“Hmmm.” It’s a noncommittal sound, more of a grunt than speech. My father’s common form of communication.

“Katie can fix it,” I say quickly. My best friend is a metal worker. “Knowing her, she’ll make some elaborate thing that’s better than that.“.


I’m craning my neck to look down the street for the white Ford that is my longtime boyfriend, Nathan. He is late to look at the house.

“What are you looking for?” My dad asks as I dig into my purse.

I glance at my cell phone.

“Time,” I reply.

Nope. He’s not late. We are 15 minutes early. A miraculous feat for the Staley women, only made possible by the presence of my father.

“Let’s just go in.” I smile in anticipation for him to see the inside. “He’ll catch up.”

The front porch has a cathedral ceiling and a skylight. I envision my wok chair in the window overlooking the waterfall pond. A shelf of my antique lanterns above the door. Wrapped in a blanket with cocoa as snow falls outside.

“Look at that,” dad says. “They put one of those remote controlled fans in.”

We go into the foyer. Dad’s eye sees the scuffed walls, which my mother, the real estate agent, is quick to explain away. He kneels in the doorway and picks at the frame, where somebody moved some furniture past and scraped it all to hell.

I see the unique antique mirror forgotten by the last tenant. “If it’s not, I’m asking for it,” I tell my mother. “Because it fits that wall perfectly.”

“Oh my, what a nice kitchen.” My father steps into the next room. I see the endless storage, the bar, the perfectly maintained tile.

“I don’t know why the last buyers hated this room,” my mom says as she peers at the bronze covered light plates above the counters.

“They were crazy,” I reply.

It may not be granite counters, but I don’t care. The form is perfect.

My father plays with a drawer that’s off it’s runners and mutters to himself.

The back room for entertainment – exquisite. No one has a bad word to say about it. We see TV and sofa and the overhang from the bar as a great place for parties. I like parties. I fantasize I will hold my wedding reception in this space, knowing full well it would never support all the people.

We go out back. There is slight termite damage to the deck and the hot tub needs a new motor. (“we can negotiate in closing,” I rationalize.). The gutter drain is disconnected from the roof, and my father reconnects it.

“It needs a screw to stick, is all.”

I stare at what will be my domain. The place I will take over in the summer for parties and play. The fire pit they are leaving. The barbecue. “Hey, that’s a smoker on that there.” My father leans in to look.

I see a pergola I will build and hanging wisteria. I ignore the cherry tree dead from over pruning – new ones can be planted, and this one will be home to woodpeckers and owls.

I go to the edge of the canal while my dad inspects the supports under the deck.

I watch the red fire bushes rustle in the afternoon wind. I step all the way to the edge. “Needs a fence,” I say to myself, although I picture the moment my friend Katie and I will sail a canoe upriver to New Hope dressed as pirates. I slip in the mud and return to the main yard, wipe my dirty shoe on fallen leaves.

Nathan arrives. I take him back through the first rooms while my parents go over the dining room. Nathan is silent, nodding, looking at everything.

We join my parents in the basement. It used to be finished, but flooded once. Ironically not from the canal but the street side when the town’s sewer systems went wonky for a day. It is no longer finished but the struts and wall frames are still around.

“It would be easy to refinish!” My mom bubbles with enthusiasm. She doesn’t see the look my dad gives her from the breaker box.

“My friend Jan is in construction,” I chirp helpfully.

We debate on if it’s oil or gas heat and decide it’s hooked up for oil but could be converted to gas someday. I reflect it’s something I never would have cared about as a child but now I think I will buy space heaters in the winter and leave the house cold. My poor harp.

We talk dogs and cats. And frogs. And wildlife outside that might get adopted.

“You can watch the ducks on the canal,” my dad says. “You can see the water from that back deck.”

Upstairs. The second floor.

“That’s exposed installation there!” My father’s back is sticking halfway out of a crawl space closet, where I plan to put all my clothes. “They should really fix that. Put paneling up or something.”

Nate’s head hits the wall as he backs into the low ceiling. Dad does too. They’re too tall to hug the walls as they walk up here.

“Are we okay to make this a bedroom?” I am genuinely concerned if Nate can fit.

He laughs. “Yeah, I just won’t walk right here.”

My mother and discuss sanding down the exposed wood and staining it. Putting down a shag carpet my father has been keeping in the attic since Algeria.

I smile and find myself getting excited over things I never would have pictured as being worth getting excited over. Double sided shades on the windows!!! They can go down from the top too!!! Skylights!!! A Radon filtering system!!!

My father notes the instability of the stair railing here too. He wiggles it hard and my mother yells at him for potentially breaking her seller’s house.

“Well, it will be empty for a while,” Nathan says to me softly from the corner. “I mean, we don’t have a lot of furniture or anything.”

I chuckle. “Honey, you haven’t seen the furniture I’ve been keeping in my parents basement. Trust me, we won’t want for furniture!”

We all stand around the downstairs, agreeing the middle of the house is the best made.

We stand out front. Nate plans how he will redo the pond, making it like the one at his parents house. My mother notes how we could put shutters up, but with vinyl siding we don’t want to do much else. I see gardening and landscaping.

“It’s a starter home,” my mom says. “When you have kids you can move. Don’t put too much money in.”

Nate is looking longingly at the canal; thinks aloud about fishing every day.

My father is wondering if the lamp post out front is still functional. He agrees with me that the boxwood has to go. It’s cluttering the yard.

“You think it’s overgrown now,” my mom laughs, “you should have seen it before.”

Nathan goes back to work and the Staley clan returns home, talking mortgages and loans and what it takes to sand a floor.

My father hugs me before he goes back into their house and my mother and I return to the office.

“Dad sure saw a lot wrong.”

“Nah, he loved it. He told me to talk to my broker at work.”

“You get both ends of the deal,” I realize. “You will get awesome commission on this.”

“Except we are offering lower than what they’re asking. I will have to cut my commission on it. But at least they will like the new people moving in,” my mom says.

“At least you’ll like your new tenants. I hear they’re kinda crazy artsy types.”

“Definitely crazy!”

Later in the evening I sip hot tea and look at one of the ten “first-home/Eco-home/Eco-gardening” books I have taken out from the local library.

I get a text from my mother.

“Dad is in. We’re going to try getting your house.”

I picture a pergola with wisteria hanging in the midsummers and sigh wistfully as I think of the morning runs along the canal.

My father texts me.

“You will have to mow that lawn.”

I smile, and can’t be happier to have a family that’s moved (probably) about 100 times. They know how to see more than what’s apparent in a house. Despite what it seems, My family sees the home within.

I sit up in shock as the thought hits me like a semi.

“Nate!” I shout it through the apartment.


“What?” He stumbles out of the bathroom, flings the door wide.

“Christmas in the hot tub!”




“Hey, white people!”

It wasn’t something I expected to hear, let alone on a quiet Sunday morning in an apartment complex parking lot.

I wasn’t even sure I had heard it, so quiet were the words.

It was as if the caller was testing them out for the first time.  He tasted them, not really sure if he could get away with it.

“White people!”

He came into sight in my peripheral.

It was a young black boy around ten and his two friends, possibly younger brothers. They shushed  him as they lugged three, heavy trash bags to the dumpsters.

I was off balance as I carried unwieldy boxes from my car, and frankly, couldn’t look at them for long even if I wanted to. My boyfriend was flustered and not paying attention.  He muttered something about his keys.

I was the only one who heard.

“Hey, white people! I don’t like your color.”

His companions shushed him again.

“Man, that’s disrespectful,” one of them whispered.

The instigator laughed like he didn’t care. They dumped the bags and ran for the door to our building.  They didn’t know that I was watching them out of the corner of my eye.

There is a first time for everything, I suppose, and my first personal encounter with racism was when I was twenty-five years of age and living in a crappy extension of a suburb across the bridge from Trenton.

I thought about it for hours.  I tried to decide where a kid that age would have heard such things. His parents? People at his school?

Years ago we subjected an entire race to ridicule, to spite, and we allowed our small white children to hurl insults at them. Is this payback? Is this fair?

No. It’s just racism. And you won’t hear me throw around the term “reverse racism” because that’s just dumb. It’s racism. Period.

This is a case of cruelty, towards grown adults, from children. Cruelty is hurtful, whoever it’s aimed at. I know it’s totally controversial, but isn’t it about time we stop making things about races and start making them about, well, people?

Must we all be little check boxes on a Census form?

Is it really necessary at a job interview to have to think to myself: “Well, I am mostly Hispanic, but I’m secondly German and thirdly Irish and actually have some Native American so which one will get me hired because I know this company has diversity requirements?”

What bureaucrat decides this stuff, anyway, that we end up thinking that? Isn’t it confining ourselves to a race even more? That “race” is a term mired in such gray areas of morality as to who is “bad” or “worse”, even though the fundamentals of human nature have nothing to do with color of skin.

I see racism every day.

I quit a group not too recently and one of the biggest reasons was blatant racism.
A little black boy had come by to hang out and hear us play, and hadn’t said anything aside from: “What kind of guitar is that? Can I stay here? Can I play?”

After he left, the member in question shook his head, picked back up his guitar, and said: “He’s going to grow up and steal stuff.” Just like that. I mean, who knows, maybe the kid might grow up to steal things, but he might also grow up to become the world’s first man on Mars. Let’s not assume based on race. And it was totally based on race.

He then threw around racist terminology for quite a while and I was too chicken to say anything. I regret that, still, because it was wrong, but I’m not one to start arguments. I’ve always been of the view you can’t change a person’s behavior if they are already so hateful like that.

Or can you?

Is awareness the answer? Proper schooling? Or is it all a factor of what happens behind closed doors at home?

It doesn’t mean I have to like it, whoever it’s coming from.

Now, in the quiet confines of my apartment before the blue glow of my computer screen, I think of things I should have said.

“I don’t like my color either, frankly, I’ve been trying to get tanner, but it’s a bit late in the season.”

“Actually, my color is Soft Ivory #1 if you ask Estée Lauder, but you’re only what, like, ten? So you couldn’t have known that. I forgive you.”

Or the more obvious:

“Hey kid, I’m not a crayon. I do  have a name, you know.  Now take me to your parents.”

So now I want you to think about the worst thing a person has said to you about your race.

I know my story is probably nothing in comparison to yours.

Now I want you to take your story, think about it, and tuck it away.

There will always be shitty people in this world, regardless of the color of their skin.

Don’t let it ruin your day.

I’m only twenty-five.  I don’t have the answers.  I don’t know how to make it right.

But I do know not to let it get me down.

Even though they would have just laughed, what I should have said, was:

“Let’s not make this about a color.  Let’s not make this about a race.  You are just a bully.

I am not a checkmark in a box.

And neither are you.”


The Family Blood (Trifecta Week 76)

The Family Blood

Blood is thicker than water.

He hated that phrase. The exclusivity of it made him cringe.

Besides, it was all a lie. When your family stock was so spread out across the country that your nearest cousin was two states away, blood was no longer a factor in your life. You no longer cared.

But his mother still tried.

“Harry, think about it, please. They all want to see you.”

He glared out the apartment window. The children frolicking below thought it was because of them, and they moved away to play somewhere else. “They never call. I haven’t seen Mackenzie since she was two years old. I don’t even think Brenna likes me.”

His mother sighed. “Why do you say that?”

“I don’t know, mom, maybe it’s because she never friended me back on Facebook.”

“Does that matter?”

His sarcasm was lost on her. “Come on, it’s obvious from how she acts. Why on earth would I come to their reunion?”

“Please, just think about it. You’re still family.”

“You know, it was Ron that told me I was not really a member of the family all those years ago.”

His mother must have sensed his tension, because her voice rose. “Harry, he’s sorry about that-“

No. I’m adopted. Like they’ve made abundantly clear: they don’t want me there.”

He hung up and threw the cell phone onto the couch.

Kindred. Ties. Obligation.

He knew in four hours he would be on the plane, headed for his adopted parent’s house in Abington.

Because no matter how hard he tried to fight it, even though his cousins were a tight knit group he could never break into, even though he was an only child, he knew:

Sometimes the blood wasn’t on the inside. It just rubbed off and happened to leave a mark.

But it didn’t mean he had to be happy about it.


This was for the Trifecta Challenge:

BLOOD (noun)


a (1) : the fluid that circulates in the heart, arteries, capillaries, and veins of a vertebrate animal carrying nourishment and oxygen to and bringing away waste products from all parts of the body (2) : a comparable fluid of an invertebrate

b : a fluid resembling blood


: the shedding of blood; also : the taking of life


a : lifeblood; broadly : life

b : human stock or lineage; especially : royal lineage <a prince of the blood>

c : relationship by descent from a common ancestor : kinship

d : persons related through common descent : kindred

e (1) : honorable or high birth or descent (2) : descent from parents of recognized breed or pedigree


  • Your response must be between 33 and 333 words.
  • You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post.
  • The word itself needs to be included in your response.
  • You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above.
  • Only one entry per writer.
  • If your post doesn’t meet our requirements, please leave your link in the comments section, not in the linkz.
  • Trifecta is open to everyone. Please join us.

This week’s word is blood.

Title shamelessly stolen from Doctor Who. ;)

I am adopted, and there are definitely times I feel the strain. Especially lately, it feels like my cousins have grown up into two very distinct clans, and I, sibling-less, sort of get left out. All the time. This definitely came from a real place. But I know they are still my family, and I still go to them and spend time with them, because that’s what families do.

And yes, when I was a child, one of my older cousins really did tell me I wasn’t a real part of the family. I never forgot it, even though he probably did. Adopted kids have it rough! But hey, I turned out mostly sane, and my family is also my friends, and my sisters are my best friends. I got back in touch with my birthfamily, so we are also very close.

Life works in mysterious ways.


Vanity or Confidence

“I’m not creative, like you,” she said. “I’m an editor. I guide things. I don’t pump things out quickly like you or Karyn, but I do what I can.”

I ponder the differences between what the ignorant perceive as vanity, and the wise perceive as knowing what you are good at.

Which I am guilty of is the real question.


Based on a real conversation, and Lance’s blog mention of “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon. (One of my favorite inspirations.)

More to follow soon.

The Music Budget Is Cut Somewhere Else Today As I Stand In A Crumbling Theatre

The Music Budget Is Cut Somewhere Else Today As I Stand In A Crumbling Theatre


The dialogue is low

The excitement running high

The audience aglow

For the first of songs to fly


Crash! The hallowed cimbalom

Sounds throughout the hall.

The reckless pounding of the drum

Rumbles out the prophet’s call


The dancing starts at five past two

The filming starts at nine

The arts secluded to this room

Cemented in a rhyme


Perhaps I’m pessimistical

Perhaps a needless fear.

Try naming five youth musical

I’ll name you “arts budget disappeared”


They don’t recognize a quarter note

or treble clef today.

A student said to me, I quote

“Why would I need that, anyway?”


In years to come some future folk

Will look on “auditorium”

As something sacred to our time

Lost, in memoriam.


Taxes raised and spirits fallen.

Notes that once brought ecstasy

now fall upon these deafened columns

and offer me no clemency.


The Trifecta challenge for this week was “

a : a state of being beyond reason and self-control

b archaic : swoon

: a state of overwhelming emotion; especially : rapturous delight

Please remember: 

  • Your response must be between 33 and 333 words. 
  • You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post. 
  • The word itself needs to be included in your response. 
  • You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above. 
  • Only one entry per writer. 
  • If your post doesn’t meet our requirements, please leave your link in the comments section, not in the linkz. 
  • Trifecta is open to everyone. Please join us. 

Good luck!

This week’s word is ecstasy. “

Big Changes Coming!

Dear readers,

life is going to get a little nuts around here soon.

After much soul searching, I have decided to use a stage name for my rock harping/songwriting career.  I chose to do it, not because I feel there is anything wrong with myself, or because I want to change my name, but because it allows me to keep my public and private life separate.

What does this mean?

For now, not much.  I am keeping this website until I save enough moolah to run two.  For now, all writing and songwriting etc. will link you here.  I am going to write some code up so my domain will also be rivermae.com.  You can call me River, you can call me Julia, it doesn’t matter.  One is work, one is all me.

As to my writing career, I will not be using the name River for my published works.  It is solely for my stage life.

Confused yet? Hope not! Anyway, love you all, I promise I will get back to writing on the blog.  I’ve been frantically working on some contest entries that I can’t post here (until they are sent out).  But wish me luck, and I will be back soon.

JMS aka River

So meet River, my alter ego:

River Mae

River Mae

Possible Album Cover Idea

Possible Album Cover Idea

“Diner”, or A Saturday Short

The diner was the place to be.

Rose always thought so.

“Here’s your coffee and the cream,” the waitress said.

(Cindy, the computer of Rose’s brain ticked: had two kids and a husband in jail. But Cindy was convinced he hadn’t done the crime he was incarcerated for.).

She loved the way the waitresses all knew her. And she knew them. She loved the solid feel of the table. The clink of the metal spoon as it tapped the glass rim of her mug. The smells. The people.

“This is early morning perfection, Cindy,” she told her waitress.

Cindy leaned on her hip. Her lipstick was one shade too bright for her skin tone and Rose found it terribly distracting.

“This is not perfection,” Cindy said. “You’ve been a writer too long. It’s going to your head.”

“I’m serious! No friends bother me with endless text messages. No mother calls with redundant questions about how the new dishwasher works. Perfection.”

Cindy sighed and went back to the kitchen.

Cindy didn’t understand. Rose would snuggle with her fiancee until the last possible minute when he left for work. Then, she was left to her own devices which meant, in simple terms, that she was free to write and read and be.

Cindy came back with another regular waitress in tow.

(Pat, the brain computer clicked.)

“This is an intervention,” Pat said. The rest of the diner stared. It was only two old ladies and some construction workers but Rose felt herself blush. “This is it, Rose! You need to stop coming here!”

“What?” Rose choked on her toast. “What are you guys talking about?”

“You! You’re a writer,” Cindy said. “You can’t come to the same diner every day and expect to write good things. You’ll write about the diner and nothing else!”

“That’s not true!” Rose lowered her voice. “Please. It’s the one place I can get away from it all.”

“It’s not,” Pat said. “It’s for your own good. We will ban you for a week. “

Cindy folded her arms. “The boys won’t let you in, they already know.”

Pat stepped closer. “You are going to write something new. And then you can come back.”

“This is ridiculous!” Rose said.

“This is tough love,” said Cindy.

They stuck to it. 8 am the next morning, Rose approached the door. But one of the kitchen boys was there.

“Sorry, Miss Rose, but orders from the boss. You can’t come in.”

“Lee is in on this too?” Rose threw her arms up in the air. “You know you’re the only diner in this area, right?”

“Too bad!” His jacket creaked as he tightened his crossed arms. “Find somewhere else.”

Left with no choice, she went to the Starbucks next door out of spite and glared at him the whole way down the sidewalk.

The Starbucks was stuffy and crowded and she balked at the state of the floor. She crammed herself between a businessman and a gaggle of preteens she was shocked to see awake.

“Don’t you have school?” She asked them.

“Holiday,” one of them quipped before going back to gushing over Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift or whatever it was those teens did.

She wrote nothing worthwhile that day.

Wednesday she tried again.

“Really,” a different kitchen boy said, “you’ve got to get the hint. No diner!”

She got a Wawa coffee and a wrapped sausage biscuit and sat by the lakeside.

A goose came up to her in a completely un-wild fashion and nipped at her jacket until she gave it a piece of her biscuit.

Then, honking, they all came, and thus ended the lakeside adventure. An old man sitting on a bench across the lake laughed her to her car.

Thursday she avoided the diner and went to the lake again, this time armed with an umbrella. It wasn’t raining, but she opened and closed the umbrella at the geese until they left her alone.

The man across the lake laughed and laughed. He was back again.

She wrote for a while and looked up when her hands started cramping. The man was still there.

Rose walked around the lake’s edge until she reached the bench. “Hello,” she said.

“Hello.” He smiled at her. “You seem to have made quite an impression on our geese.”

“Yes,” Rose laughed. “Your geese?”

“Well, the lake’s.” The man waved a hand over his shoulder. “That’s my house in the woods over there.”

She peered between the trees. “You mean that’s your house?” She had passed the green mansion many times and had always wondered who lived there.

“That’s the one.”

“You always light it up for Christmas time! I drive past the lake just to see it.”

“Oh, my sons did that.” He laughed. “But I’m afraid those days are coming to an end.”


“My wife passed away a few months ago. I’m afraid my sons aren’t speaking to me at the moment. Matter of the will.”

“I’m sorry.” Rose hated to see families torn apart. “Have you spoken with them?”

He shuffled his feet in the dirt. “Children need time to process things. They’ll come around.”

“You seem sure.”

He chuckled. “I’ve seen quite a bit of life. Things happen for a reason, and people do change. But families are like elastic. They have a way of snapping back. Just some of the facts of life.”

These words resonated so with Rose they sat in silence by the lakeside for a long time.

When she returned to her car, she began to write.

A week later, she passed the diner on the way to the bank.

Cindy poked her head out of the front door. “Hey! Rose! You can come back now!”

Rose smiled at her. “Sorry. I have a date at the lake.”

“But don’t you have a fiancée?”

“Not that sort of a date. A writing date.” Rose waved, and walked away from the diner.


As writers, we get so stuck on places sometimes that it kills our creativity.

I wish I had people like Cindy and Pat looking out for me like that. The green mansion on the lake is real, although the man is fiction. I still wonder who lives there.

The diner in question is loosely based on the best diner in Bucks County PA: Mil-Lee’s. If you visit, you must go. Delicious food. Maybe you’ll even see the lake on the way. :)

Thanks for reading, as always.