Tag Archives: Maplewood

Follow Through


I saw this sign this afternoon. It is posted at one of our local middle schools. I love seeing them around the town and in the schools. There has been a lot of negativity portrayed in our community over the last few weeks.  Our usually open, diverse and welcoming town has been has been dealing with quite the opposite image. These signs, can’t just be posted. We need to follow through, act upon these positive beliefs and prove to once again be the town we have shown we can be.

Feeding So Many

feed just one

A few days ago, I read on Facebook that one of our local food pantries was in dire need of donations for the upcoming weekend’s food handouts.  The shelves were nearly bare.  The post shared by many in our community, “went viral!” Well, as viral as it can go in our two towns, but the response was huge and the pantry shelves were filled in just a few days.

Unfortunately, after Saturday’s handouts, those shelves will be empty again.

After the Facebook thank yous and a celebration of a job well done, someone in one of the groups where it was first shared, suggested that a Facebook page be created for just this need.

I decided to take it on. With the help from a few friends, “Feed SOMany” was created. Our two towns are, South Orange and Maplewood, (SOM).  Dave came up with the clever name. I have to give him credit for that one! He’s creative with that sort of thing. Much more than I am!

The idea of the group, is to keep people informed of the needs of each pantry. To announce food drives around town and to let others know of collection dates for each pantry. Sometimes, all it takes is a small reminder and the goal of this group is to do just that!

One woman posted this morning, that Shop Rite is holding its Can Can Sale right now. A perfect time to stock up on those most needed staple items. Exactly what this group has been created for.

Summer is rough for food pantries but people are still hungry. People still need to be fed. A few extra food items in your shopping cart each week, dropped off to the pantries can really help.

If you are a resident of South Orange Maplewood, or a surrounding area, join the group. If not, maybe start your own because no one should ever have to go hungry.


The Village


This morning, I was able to meet a friend for a cup of tea in “The Village.” We are on The HSA (Home School Association) for our children’s middle school and we are planning a canteen, (dance) for the 7th grade.

As I sat at a table in the quaint little coffee shop, I noticed all of the little details of the building.  The original brick structure, the ceiling, the floors. It is one of the things I love most about living in my town.  Our “Village” is my favorite part of town and a huge selling point.  I looked up the definition of “Village” today and found this,

a group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area.

Maplewood itself is far from rural, but it is not a big city either. The population is 24,000 yet our village pulls it all together with its charm and allure. It truly feels like you stepped back in time as you enter.  Sometimes referred to as “Mayberry”, The Village is only four blocks long.  It is filled with tiny mom and pop shops and restaurants.  Although most of the stores have changed since I was a child, the structure and integrity of the buildings hasn’t.  I remember the small pharmacy, Ken’s , the tiny pet shop, and the 5 & 10.  All of them are long gone, as is Eva’s Toy Shop and Bobbi’s Barn which sold clothes for teens.  I couldn’t wait to shop there as a kid and when I was finally old enough to fit into their clothes, it had closed.  There were very few restaurants back then.  The Mapleleaf, a diner is still around, though it has moved from a tiny corner shop to a larger location.  Dave’s favorite was Savidi’s Deli.  Every Sunday he’d get his favorite sandwich there after his soccer tournaments at the middle school which is right around the corner.  They are no longer there but a few new sandwich shops have opened up.

There are a few original stores still there.  The Barber Shop, (which changed names a few times,) feels like you’ve stepped back into time when you enter. The Maplewood Stationers, my dad’s shop, has been around since the 1920’s.  There have been very few owners.  About twenty years ago, my dad, who is probably as nostalgic as I am, heard that the store was going to shut down.  He grew up in Maplewood  and had many fond memories of the store as a kid. He had just retired from Wall Street – with NO small business experience – but decided to give it a go and buy the business.  It is far from a money maker – if anything, probably more of the opposite, but it is one of those businesses that is a staple to the town.

No big chains are allowed to move into The Village due to variances and I am happy about that.  It keeps the character of The Village in tact.  Most of the buildings have small apartments above them.  All walk ups with charming little entrances to walk through.

One thing that has changed is the number of restaurants in town.  There are so many to choose from.  Nights are bustling! Only three of them have a liquor license so the rest are BYO.  This is another “charming” thing about The Village.

The theater has always drawn a crowd.  it dates back to 1927 and began as one of the largest combined vaudeville/movie houses in New Jersey before moving on to a movie theater.  In 1988, unable to fill the large theater, it was turned into a six-plex.  Even these theaters are quaint though – some holding less that fifty people.  I can remember during the renovation, being able to catch glimpses of the original ceiling and wishing that it could be uncovered and restored.

You get a lot of that charm still in town though. All of the store owners know each other and look out for each other.  They know their customers by name and that only adds to the charm.  We are lucky to live here!

4th Of July in Maplewood


Last year, Mic.com listed Maplewood as “one of 9 towns that really knows how to celebrate” the 4th of July saying,

Forget the traditional parade and fireworks routine. Maplewood, N.J.  offers both festivities and then some! The town spices up your standard fourth of July celebration by putting on The Zerbini Family Circus for the town to enjoy. The circus features a trapeze and acrobatics, clown acts and even elephant performances and is definitely a unique way of celebrating America’s special day. The day also features various competitions including relay races, a pet awards show, an ice cream eating contest and a pie-baking showdown. 

Fourth of July festivities began in Maplewood 112 years ago.  For many years, my parents used to volunteer when the Jaycess organized the whole day. Now, it is run differently and the town, the YMCA, and other local groups help to make the day a success each year.  We still all participate though.  The races, the fireworks, the circus…

Last summer, after cleaning out one of my mom’s drawers while we were going through her things, I cam across this article from 1974.  I put it in a pile of “stuff to go through and just happened to find it this afternoon.  Perfect since tomorrow is the 4th!

4th of july news record 1974

I can actually remember that day.  I was at the top of the metal slide in the park.  My parents were working one of the booths.  I fell from the top and landed on my head.  At four years old, I remember it being so, so high up!  My mom brought me over to the first aid station where I got ice and they took care of me.  Mom was always very conscious of us appreciating what others do for us and had us write thank you notes for everything, so with her help, I wrote them a thank you note which got published in the town’s weekly paper, The News Record.  Of course, my mom saved it and I am grateful that she did!

Reading this article, I came across names of people that I believe are still recognized names in town.  I am not surprised that even back then, 40 years ago, Maplewood had a “Peace and Community Action” committee.  Back then, the races were held with schools competing against one another but not now although the races are still held and ribbons are awarded.

Tomorrow, rain is expected. I can’t even remember the last time it rained on The 4th of July here.  If all goes well, and the weather holds up, I will be taking photos for The Village Green.   I love doing this.  I can be part of the day’s festivities and capture the memories for others.   Who knows, someday, 40 years from now, someone else might come across and old photo or memory from the day like I did today.  I can only hope that the Maplewood traditions are still going on!

The Village Green

starting a new venture

The Village Green of Maplewood South Orange is a new venture by Mary Barr Mann and Carolyn Maynard-Parisi. Both women are experienced journalists who I got to know while doing freelance photography for Patch.com.  After Patch took a different turn with their local reporting, both of them decided it was time for them to leave .  Mary told me that after leaving both she and Carolyn were continually approached by folks begging them to start something new, bring back the old Patch, etc.  Carolyn agreed saying, “Many local news ventures don’t succeed, but I think we have a great chance making a go at this because the community knows and trusts us and has already shown such support – and we have been up and running less than a month!”

A few months ago, they approached me asking if I’d be interested in doing some more photography with a “new website they were starting.”  I was excited for them and enthusiastically told them yes!  I could not wait to hear more about their new project. Earlier this month, I got an email asking if I could do Fourth of July photos for the new site.  Of course I agreed!  I had taken photos at community events for years while working for Patch.  It was always so much fun to do.  I got the chance to be out and about in the community celebrating our two towns and reporting happy news.  It is what I loved to do and I loved seeing the photos up on Patch.com.  I was sad when that job ended so I am really looking forward to doing it again.

I loved when Patch.com was about neighborhood events and small town news.  I loved that I could go to maplewoodpatch or southorangepatch and see local freelance writers and photographers reporting about the community, but after it changed, it was missing that home town feel that it used to have.  The Village Green wants to bring that back and I am all for it!

The Village Green provides day-to-day, granular news coverage of the issues that matter to the people of Maplewood, South Orange, and environs — including education, redevelopment, taxes, public safety, governance, local business, the arts and culture, and lifestyle — with fairness, thoroughness, humanity and a distinct voice.

The photography job doesn’t pay a lot, but I call it my “lunch money” or “manicure money.”  Truthfully for me, it isn’t so much about the money.  I have written about how much I love my community many times on my blog, and promoting it through photography, my favorite hobby, is a pleasure!  Getting paid for it is just a bonus!

I am so excited to start working for them!  I wish them all the success in the world!  Locals, check out their site.  I am sure you won’t be disappointed!


teachers retire

Tonight I attended a dinner for three wonderful ladies that I work with.  They are all retiring after this school year.  I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with them.  They all touched my life in different ways.

Roberta, our Librarian, (Media Specialist,) was like my mentor.  When I was hired, I had nothing.  I was in a classroom that didn’t even have furniture!  It was just days before the school year was about to begin and Roberta was bringing me everything from staplers to furniture to use in my classroom.  In the nearly eight years that I have worked with her, she has been someone I could go to for anything.  A fountain of knowledge!  She could find a title or author without having to look it up.  She knew where everything was.  A wealth of information who went out of her way to help others.  It was Roberta who I joined with to start our Tuscan School Pay It Forward Program.  She was always doing things to promote kindness in our school.  She began our TV Turnoff program which promotes less television watching during school weeks and encourages doing more…reading, exercising…anything that gets kids to do something other than watching television.  I am going to miss her and her kind spirit.

Marci, a fellow teacher, was always so generous.  She was always doing something thoughtful for others.  After we got our Emmy Lou, Marci arrived in my classroom with a present for me.  It was a little stuffed dog that looks like Emmy Lou.  Her reason was so that I could have Emmy with me all of the time, even while at school.  She did thoughtful things like that all of the time.  When I first began working at Tuscan, she realized that she had gone to high school with my aunt.  Small world!  Marci was so kind and supportive while my mom was dying.  She was a shoulder to cry on and someone who would just stop by to give me a hug, knowing how much I needed it, without having to say a word

Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to work with our last retiree directly.  Barbara worked mostly with the upper grade students so our paths didn’t cross very often when it came to teaching.  She had an infectious smile though and her students adored her.  Tonight, she told a story that I hadn’t heard before.  She told about her mom, who left the south as a young girl because she was tired of picking cotton.  She got on a train and traveled to New Jersey to be a housekeeper for a family in Maplewood – the town that Barbara eventually wound up teaching in many years later.  She mentioned that while her mother was living with a family in Maplewood, their home was on Oakland Road – the same street that I live on.  Again, such a small world!

These three women have influence and inspired so many children in their many years of teachers.  Now it is time for them to sit back, relax and revel in the bliss of retirement.  I wish them all love and joy and restful days ahead.

Small Town

small town girl

I have friends who wonder how I can work in the same town I live in.  It is one of my favorite things about my job!  I love being out and about in the community and coming across former and current students.  Over the weekend, I was visited by one of my Kindergarteners as I got my nails done.  She wrote about it in her “Weekend News” on Monday as the highlight of her weekend.  Things like that make me so happy.

Tonight, I saw that same little girl at one of the diners in town. No matter when we go to The Parkwood Diner, we are sure to see people we know.  That place is like a staple in our town!  The little girl was there with her brother, (another former student of mine,) and the rest of her family.  They were grabbing a quick bite to eat before his baseball game and we were there having a quick dinner before Drew’s soccer practice. Thursdays seem to be a busy sports night in The Maplewood/South Orange community.  Not only did I get a huge, enthusiastic hug from this little girl, but as she was leaving, she ran over to my table and gave me a lollipop that Pete, the owner had given her.  “For my dessert,” she told me!!

I heard someone else call my name and turned around to see two of my coworkers sitting at the table behind me.  I get to see Cynthia daily because her room is right by mine, but I had not seen Betty in awhile because she retired two years ago.  Getting to see her was a treat!  I chatted with them for a bit before having to get back to my table to order and eat before running home in time for Drew to change for practice.  After a quick hello with two more families from my school who came through the diner doors as we ate, we headed home.

I guess for people who enjoy keeping work and their personal life separate, I can understand why this would not be enjoyable for them, but for me, it brings me joy.  Perhaps I am in a unique situation since not only do I work and live here, but I grew up here too. I know how fortunate I am, and I can’t imagine living any other place!

I love living in a place where Dee’s is everyone’s favorite restaurant. I love living in a place where the county fair is the biggest event of the year. No matter what big cities may have to offer, small town life will always have my heart. – See more at: http://highlandstoday.com/hi/list/highlands-today-emily-little/small-town-living-is-the-best-20131023/#sthash.zPIwJAZX.dpuf
I love living in a place where Dee’s is everyone’s favorite restaurant. I love living in a place where the county fair is the biggest event of the year. No matter what big cities may have to offer, small town life will always have my heart. – See more at: http://highlandstoday.com/hi/list/highlands-today-emily-little/small-town-living-is-the-best-20131023/#sthash.zPIwJAZX.dpuf

Giving Back

giving back

Growing up and never leaving the community you grew up in, may not be for everyone but for me, it was what I always wanted.  Other than leaving to go to college in Washington, DC for four years, and a spending a few years right after we were married in a townhouse ten minutes away from here, I have remained in Maplewood, New Jersey.  My hometown.  Married to my high-school sweetheart, we knew this was the place for us to raise our own family.

I am sure it is the same in every small town, but one of the things I love most about my community is how so many small businesses still remain and are thriving here.  There are no big chain stores or restaurants. Many of the businesses are privately owned and run by local families.

I try to support the small businesses in my community to keep the local economy strong.  My dad owns one of these local businesses, which makes me even more passionate about it.  One thing that I love most about living here, is how so many of theses businesses give back to the community.  Through the annual Memorial Day Duck Race and school auctions where merchants donate prizes and services to the Street Fairs and Girls’ Nights Out – the list could go on and on.

This week  it has been “Restaurant Week” in town.

Local restaurants aresupporting Rent Party Pantry, Inc. in its efforts to fight hunger locally so come on out that week and sample the quality, variety and hospitality of Maplewood’s restaurants and food purveyors for less AND help fight hunger on the local level.  

This tied in perfectly with a fundraiser at another one of my favorite businesses, Viva Z.  On the last Friday of every month, the owner holds a dance party.  All classes are free but you are asked to make a donation to the local charity she has chosen for the month.  Last month, it was for the local fire department.  Last night, was a collection for the local food pantry.

Maplewood Karate, encourages its students to give back as well.  Students earn blue charity stripes on their belt for donating food which is also donated to the local food pantry.

There is a saying, “It takes a village,” and Maplewood really proves that is true.  Things like this are happening all of the time here, demonstrating how important community is and how valuable it is to give back.  I think it is part of the charm that draws people to our town.  It certainly makes me want to stay!

Witnessing History

hatred Nelson Mandela

As I sit and listen to all this nonsense, (in my opinion) about “allowing” homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief.  I mentioned to my sons today that I feel like we are witnessing history as it is happening.  We are living in a time that years from now, people will be writing about and saying, “I can’t believe that ever happened.”  When I teach my students about segregation and about amazing people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Ruby Bridges they look at me with amazement because they can’t imagine not being in a school with children of all races and ethnicities.

Maybe in a few years down the road, it will be the same regarding same sex couples .  How wonderful would it be if children can grow up in a world where they can think, “I can’t believe that every happened…”

I have written several times about the amazing town that I live in.  Maplewood, NJ is a special place.  Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality, once called Maplewood, “the ‘peak’ of the state’s most gay-friendly residential ‘corridor,’ stretching through a swath of western Essex County.”  Here in Maplewood, we are already on the right path.  With such diversity in our town, our students don’t even realize there is anything unusual about each another.  It is just the norm – and that is the way it should be.

Happy Wedding Day

love is love

Early this evening, and throughout the day,  people gathered at town hall to witness the first day of marriage equality in New Jersey.  I know that I have written about it several times in my blog, but I feel so fortunate to live in this town.  I love that my children are old enough to realize how important this day is to so many people.  Growing up in a community and having friends with two moms or dads is not “abnormal.” It is a blessing.  My children know that as long as there is love in a relationship, that is all that matters.

I was not able to be at town hall in person today, but I have seen photos  from so many of my friends who were present for the celebration.  Seeing  photos of so many of my friends and neighbors who are sharing this day with one another, and with their families, has touched my heart.  I am so very happy for all of them.

Equal rights to marry who we love, should belong to all of us.  It is the way it should be.  Thank you New Jersey for finally realizing what so many have us have always known.