Monday, December 30, 2013

January 2014: Small Stone Writing Challenge

Dear All:

I will be participating again in the January Small Stones challenge through Writing Our Way Home. I'll be posting my small stones throughout the month of January.
Check it out and join me! I'd love to hear what you write.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2013 Thanksgiving Poem

This is Thanksgiving

Four o’clock
I ring my parents’ doorbell
my dad answers
wearing a red, green and blue plaid shirt.

He hugs me
     his cheeks warm from the outdoors
takes the bowl of stuffing and says:
You missed it.  Your sister choked on a piece of pineapple
and your brother gave her the Heimlich.

I sigh; take off my jacket
as my dad brings the stuffing to my mom
in the kitchen.

I fail to notice
he has no pants on.
I am used to this.

An hour later
Dad yells: Turkey’s done.  Come get a picture.
I walk out the back door
to where my dad stands
next to the Weber grill.

He ceremoniously takes the lid off
pretends to be surprised at how lovely
the crisp but tender bird looks.
Get closer, Stef.

He lifts the turkey off the grill.
I lean in and take a photo
and ten more after that.
This is Thanksgiving.

I drink too much wine
as I sit at the table
and fill my plate.
I talk loudly.
I share too much.

My six year old nephew
plugs his ears
as my mom
runs from table to kitchen
kitchen to table.
She fills empty bowls.
She never sits down.

I know these are moments
I need to remember.
I’m thirty-four years old
and I’ve never missed
a Thanksgiving with these people.

Every year
pictures of the turkey are taken and Dad
runs around half dressed
for the first half of the holiday.

I drink too much wine
with my sister and Mom
circles us and keeps
me and my siblings close.

I tell you
is Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Greedy real estate developers are gross... but they remind me to appreciate every moment in life

It's an odd feeling when your neighbors move and you are left behind, if only temporarily.  It's even more uncomfortable when the building you lived in housed some of the nicest, most intelligent, eccentric and humble people you'd ever want to meet, let alone share a building with.  The fact that we are all being forced out by the new owners of our building doesn't make for a good feeling either

This week, our historic carriage house is being emptied out and we are all scattering across the city into our new apartments.  While I only lived here for 1 1/2 years, these neighbors of mine left me with some fantastic memories.  Off and on for 15 years, I've lived in apartment buildings and I've never felt a real connection to any of my neighbors.  That all changed when I moved to Meade Place in 2012.  The night the lease was signed our building manager, a man well into his late 80s, poured us a glass of wine and wished us well.  The building manager's apartment was decorated like a museum from the 40s and 50s.  Artifacts from his travels around the world as an engineer served as physical reminders of his youth and his late wife. 

In Apartment 4, I loved the 13 foot ceilings, the elaborate crown moldings, the intricately carved doors, and the worn wooden floors that never seemed to look clean.  There were things that I didn't love about the apartment as well: the shower that never drained, the fact that it always smelled like we lived upwind of a water treatment facility, the rats and the holes in the floor that invited huge bugs to come and hang out in the apartment.  But, what I truly loved about the apartment had nothing to do with the character of the building or the fact that it was affordable.  No, what I loved most were the events and memories that took place in the apartment and those are what I will miss most.

Last Christmas, I, the ever lazy and practical person that I am, got to experience a real Christmas tree in the building foyer.  Since I live 5 hours away from family and I always spend the holidays in Michigan, I never decorate my apartment.  But, this was a little gift.  Early in December, the residents gathered to decorate the tree together.  We milled around the foyer, drank wine, listened to Christmas music, told stories and decorated the tree.  It felt like I was part of another family, my Meade family.  Our building manager told stories about his travels and, after a couple glasses of boxed wine, told us all about his political beliefs. At that moment, I excused myself to take out the recycling and as I walked back up to the building, through the glass door, I saw all of my relatives gathered around the tree and piano, singing Christmas carols.  It was straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  Every day after work, I'd walk into the building and my eyes would meet the fully decorated tree that stood next to the piano.  And, every day I would smile.


As I sit in my new apartment and write this I am reminded of how life is all about change.  Each challenge or hurdle that is thrown my way I try to meet with optimism.  I try to live life as if everything has meaning or purpose, that I just have to search for it and I will find it.  Then, when all is said and done, I will have learned something about myself and become stronger.  I know that my story is not unique. But, what still confuses me is how someone, in this situation a real estate developer, can look beyond the stories and needs of their new tenants and only see money to be made.  I have a hard time believing that once the renovations are done and the new tenants are paying double the rent that friendships like ours will be made in this updated carriage house.  To me, that is the saddest part.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Writing Voice

Last night I asked my writing class to describe their writing voice.  While they were working on the exercise I took a whack at it as well.


My writing voice tastes like sugared mint and rum.

My writing voice looks like my grandma as she sat in her recliner, reading the Detroit Free Press and listening to the Tigers on the radio.

My writing voice smells like coffee with sugar.  I always drink it black.

My writing voice sounds like a meditation or pure sarcasm.

My writing voice feels like the afghans my mom crocheted, laying on the couch.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Black Coffee Press Update

Sadly, Black Coffee Press has closed its doors. You can still purchase my book, "Border Theory," and other great BCP titles online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Powell's.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Poem for Friday, September 13

 First and Last Date

The moment he said
I'll be the one smoking at the bar
reading the "Tao of Winnie the Pooh,”
I should have known.

I should have faked an illness
and cancelled the date.

I should have.

Instead, I took the stool
close to the door
leaned in close
and listened.

Listened to the story
of his heartbreak
his time spent in a Buddhist monastery.

All the while,
I kept thinking:
He spent time in a Buddhist monastery. He can't be
that bad.

But, each time I leaned in closer
noticed the scent of cigarettes, stale coffee and beer
looked at each pore on his face
and pieced together the fact
that he looked nothing like his profile picture
I never once
believed that the date would be going

No matter how good
his stories were.

After two hours of listening
never quite
being heard
I sat still and kept drinking.

When he offered to walk me home
even though he lived a block away
from the bar
I declined.

When he offered to sit in my car
and drive home with me
I declined.

When he invited me to brunch
I said, Maybe.

And when he asked to kiss me goodnight
I said, OK
never thinking
I might
enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Small Stone: August 28

as I walked to buy 
a bottle of wine
I crossed my favorite 
pedestrian bridge
and took in
the summer air
of Pittsburgh.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


It's like "Wife Swap"...
only way better!

Listen to four local writers, have some snacks and donate to a good cause. 

See you on August 20th.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I choose to love my life...because it really is wonderful! (Thirties: Part 2)

While drying my hair this morning, I felt hopeful for the day to come.  The sun was bright, birds were singing outside the window and I had just returned from a family vacation in Northern Michigan.  The mere seconds I basked in optimism for the day were thwarted by my own negative thinking.  I began to wonder: "Why would I love my life? I have a low-paying job that forces me to not only work full-time during the day but also at night, I'm a few pounds overweight, the apartment is messy, I don't have enough money and I haven't figured a damn thing out yet! What is there to love?"
As soon as I caught myself in the downward spiral of negative thinking I re-routed myself back onto the optimism highway.  I was feeling inspired, damn it!

Most of what I harbored on above is true, but what is wrong is my viewpoint, my own outlook on life.  Yes, I have a low-paying job and have to work multiple gigs to make ends meet but I am teaching, a vocation that feels right to me and I get to do it on a daily basis.  I am lucky to teach preschoolers during the day.  My younger students teach me how to look at the mundane, the ordinary in awe.  They teach me how to laugh loudly and not take myself too seriously.  I am fortunate enough to also have the opportunity to coach adults on how to unlock their writing potential.  My older students teach me how to stay connected to my art, to never stop looking at the world with curious eyes and to keep writing.  When I look at my bank account, it can be overwhelming, depressing and scary at times.  There never seems to be enough money for me to get ahead.  And, while I do believe I will get to the point, one day, when money isn't such a stress in my life, I know that I have more than many and that I have enough.

In the past year my self-esteem has taken a hit.  There wasn't a big event that knocked me down emotionally, but a culmination of time, age and circumstance that shook me a bit.  I became pre-occupied with my age, where I should be in life regarding career and family, and my looks became important to me in a way they had never before.  I began comparing myself to strangers and becoming defeated when I didn't live up to the "social blueprint" of what beauty was.  Now, I've never been one to really follow fashion, I am most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, but this new act of comparing myself to others made me feel unattractive and boring.  Now, as a feminist and as someone who majored in Women's Studies in college, I was familiar with these pitfalls and the unrealistic notions of beauty society places on women. Intellectually I knew that what I was feeling was normal and that I needed to reject social ques of what beauty was supposed to look like.  But, it's really difficult to pull out feminist theory when one is in the throes of self-doubt.  It's extremely difficult to rely on theory when a tall, thin woman with long hair and full makeup gets out of an expensive car looking like she just stepped off the catwalk.  How could I ever think that I could or should live up to that ideal.  And, who's ideal is it?

So, as it stands, I could lose a few pounds and maybe wear less sweatshirts but what I choose to concentrate on now is the inner dialogue I have with myself.  While I may not love the extra roll I have around my waist, I know that I am taking the steps to feel better about myself.  Steps that society didn't dictate to me but steps that my heart and creative spirit have encouraged in me.  After a week of vacation, a week of eating cheese and crackers and drinking a lot of wine, I am stepping back into my health routine and finding happiness in it.  I try to eat healthy as often as I can and I have recently begun meditating on a regular basis.  These steps help me stay on track both emotionally and healthwise.  I will never be a supermodel and that's ok.  My goal is to be happy with myself and who I am in this world.

I choose to love my life because it really is wonderful.  And, when I look out my window, this is what I see...

I published the above post and then turned to listen to the day's meditation.  Before listening to the recording I read the guiding thought for the day and this is what it said:

 "To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself." —Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, August 10, 2013

It's like "Wife Swap"...
only way better!

Listen to four local writers, have some snacks and donate to a good cause. 

See you on August 20th.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thirties: Part 1

I've never been one to dread birthdays.  Turning a year older just meant, I turned a year older.  A few years ago, when I hit 31, I became the cliche.  I noticed my body began to change and it was no longer "easy" to lose those extra pounds.  Suddenly, having nachos for dinner, three nights in a row, wasn't a good idea.

Recently, a student of mine wrote about the moment she realized her luck in life had run out.  I was immediately drawn to the piece because of the place I'm at in my own life.  In my mid-thirties, my perspectives, goals and realities have changed in a way I didn't expect.  My twenties, although there  were moments of distress, sadness or frustration, were seemingly smooth. I earned two master's degrees, moved to a different state, found work easily and moved along the days.  I spent time with good friends, ate good food, drank good beer and rarely worried about my future health or my future in general. Things would work out, they always did.

As time passed, I found out a loved one was sick and life's continuum seemed to no longer go on and on.  I began to stare, a little bit longer, at the fresh cut flowers on the crowded shelf.  I started to review all of the things I wanted my loved ones to see me accomplish.  All of a sudden, time felt limited, even mean.

This abrupt feeling, that there is an end to everything, is an idea I intellectually knew but never fully embraced in my heart.  I took stock of what mattered most to me.  Material goods, although nice and comfy, weren't my priority.  What began to matter was having a calm and compassionate heart, taking better care of myself, and going home to MI, for even a short visit, so that I could eat breakfast with my nephew.  Sitting outside with my family, watching the sun turn from yellow to orange, making imprints on my heart of the good times became a focus.

A good friend of mine talked of how for most of his life he wanted to leave behind a good obituary for when he was gone.  Having a sweet eulogy wasn't what mattered at the time.  He needed tangible accomplishments for others to see in an effort to prove his time here was productive.  After some big changes in his life he realized that the eulogy was what mattered most. Success based on societal values, business ideals and monetary rewards wasn't important. A loved one reading a eulogy of love, memories and laughter was what would leave the biggest impact on the world.  A eulogy that evoked a good heart, a peaceful existence and a heart that loved deeply was what mattered.

These ideas are in my mind everyday.  I remind myself to look at individual moments as they come and hold them close.  Whether it's my boyfriend making me a cup of tea because he thought I might need it, my nephew leaving me a message about losing his tooth, my brother calling me to talk about his days, sharing wine with my sister or getting notes of support from my parents, these are the moments that matter.

Days can be messy, scary and overwhelming.  I still lose focus, but I always remind myself where I need to be in order to gain clarity.  And, the remedy usually consists of a yoga mat, a pen and some paper and a little piece of time to breathe.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pittsburgh Reading...August 20!

It's like "Wife Swap"...
only way better!

Listen to four local writers, have some snacks and donate to a good cause. 

See you on August 20th.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Creative Writing Workshop: All Levels Welcome

Registration Extended to June 24!  A Few Spaces Left!

Join local author, Stefanie Wielkopolan, for 4 workshop sessions at East End Book Exchange starting Sunday, June 30. Share your work, get valuable feedback, listen to the work of others, read published pieces and discuss what writing means to you. This all levels workshop will focus mainly on memoir, creative non-fiction, poetry and short story.
Be a part of this collaborative, fun, and inspiring workshop.

Cost: $45, prior registration required by June 22

E-mail: for questions/registration/payment

4 Sundays, starting June 30 from 11:00-12:30 at East End Book Exchange in

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Black Coffee Press SALE

Check it out! All awesome titles at Black Coffee Press are on sale!

Creative Non-Fiction and Short Story Classes at CCAC

I am teaching "Writing the Short Story" and "Writing Creative Non-Fiction" starting June 3 at CCAC in the North Side. 

Join me!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Even More Six Word Memoirs

Benadryl makes me dream of babies.

Sorry to make you feel awkward.

Feel like I just got here.

Teacher in need of more education.

Sarcastic poet lives with diabetic cat.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Six Word Memoirs

One night a week I teach a non-fiction writing class at the local community college.  The assignment I gave my students was to write as many "six word memoirs" as they could. The only rule was that it could only have six words.  Here are a few of my own.

I moved back to Pittsburgh...again.

Three cats and too many books.

Still trying to figure it out.

Can't believe I dated him...twice.

Wading through all the loose ends.

Summer in Europe, thirteen years ago.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Remembering to Breathe

At dinner tonight, my partner and I began listing all of the grown up things we have yet to figure out in our lives.  Doctoral programs, writing projects, where to live, acupuncture schools, life insurance, new car tires, taxes and absent 401k accounts littered our page of things we had no answer to yet. We looked at each other, as if to say, we will never get there.

As we listed all of the things to be scared of in the future, our faces began to frown, our chests tightened and we felt discouraged, even ashamed that at 33 and 35, we didn't have it all figured out yet.

I talked about how I felt disconnected from my creative self.  I am a poet and haven't written a new piece in a few months.  I was fortunate to have my book, "Border Theory," published by Black Coffee Press in 2011 but I haven't found the thread or creative push to create another complete project.  I feel stuck and overwhelmed by all of the unfinished business I have yet to complete or conquer.  It's as if everyday I wade through a maze of loose ends waiting to be tied up.

All of these thoughts were being discussed over a lovely meal of lentils, hummus and fresh vegetables.  In front of me were bright colors, rich textures and cooling vegetables that nourished me, made me a stronger person.  So often I overlooked the tiny things in life, the beauty of a good meal with someone I care for.  So often I forget to breathe.  These are lessons I teach my creative writing students, to search for the good in even the smallest life detail, but it is advice I often overlook for myself.

One afternoon, while teaching preschool, I watched a determined two year old build a vibrant and unique home out of colored wooden blocks.  He carefully chose the spot for each oddly shaped or rounded piece to fit into his structure.  Minutes passed as he examined each block, making sure it was in the correct space.  As the tallest part of the home began to sway I prepared myself for a crying and distraught toddler.  Seconds later, the structure fell apart, before I could even take a photo.  Immediately the child surveyed the destruction and began building again, without hesitation.  As he started all over I smiled and let out a deep breath.  The next structure would be even more creative and it too would fall.  Starting over didn't scare or bother the child and the fact that there was no concrete evidence that such a beautiful building had ever existed didn't seem to matter.  The memory, the idea was still alive.

The moment is what matters.  The color of a meal, the laughter, the seconds of creativity are what enhance and make our lives enjoyable.  When things fall apart or seem insurmountable, we have to breathe and know that even if one thing falls down, it's ok to start over.

We don't have to figure it all out, we have to feel it out.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tonight is the Night!

Hope to see you at East End Book Exchange!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Check out this upcoming reading! 
It's going to be a great gathering of local writers with some wine and snacks to boot.

Small Stones: Day 30

Small Stones: February 6

Even the cats
have grown
bored of me.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Small Stones: Day 29

Small Stones: February 4

Having bronchitis
is like the sleazy man
at the bar
who just won't
leave you alone.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Small Stones: Day 28

Small Stones: January 31

of peace and gratitude
are plentiful
when I remember
to pay attention.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Small Stones: Day 27

Small Stones: January 30

Salamander feet
make me

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Small Stones: Day 26

Small Stones: January 29

Subway tiles
     no longer white
line the ceiling
and walls
of the tunnel.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Small Stones: Day 25

Small Stones: January 28

Each morning
you enter the classroom
with the bravado
and humble heart
of a toddler.

Your quirks
are displayed
in bright colors
and bold patterns.
There are no apologies.

This morning
you swung in
on a Barenaked Ladies album
singing of break-ups
and dysfunction.
You made me smile.

You are my friend.
You are my teaching partner.
You are my mentor.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Small Stones: Day 24

Small Stones: January 27

Back and forth
     like two drunks
     playing ping pong
we try to determine
where our Sunday brunch
will take place.

"I'm hungry, I want a buffet."
I argue, thin lipped and stern.

Your defense
     "Buffets are things to be scared of.  They attract old people."
though creative
and true
angers me
in my low blood sugar rage.

Sundays are meant
for meditative practice
focused on peace and health
but all I can set my third eye on
is a buffet of french toast.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Small Stones: Day 23

Small Stones: January 25

Together we breathe
     as we try
to figure
this life out.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Small Stones: Day 22

Small Stones: January 24

When told it was snowing
the students gathered
in front of the window
that overlooks Penn Avenue.

Little hands
held on to the windowsill
and watched
as each flake
floated past.

They watched.
They smiled.
They were together.

There is still so much
I need to learn.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Small Stones: Day 21

Small Stones: January 21

     the size of feathers
fell around me
as I ran to the car.

The melted snow
gathered in my hair
reminded me
to hold on
to the life
in front of me.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Small Stones: Day 20

Small Stones: January 20

Urban sprawl
     annoyances and medians
continue to spread
in America.

Small Stones: Day 19

Small Stones: January 19

We sat in your apartment
to celebrate your birthday
over plates of chicken, rice and fruit.

There was wine.
There was jazz music.
There was laughter.

There was love for friends
     and Todd
the brown lhaso apso
from across the hall.

That damn Todd
made our night.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Small Stones: Day 18

Small Stones: January 18

Every morning
the dense branches of the tree
scrape against the worn window
of my apartment.

As the sound continues
it reminds me
that I am alive
and unusually annoyed.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Small Stones: Day 17

Small Stones: January 17

Philosophically speaking
toddlers are like little yogis
dressed in sweatpants.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Small Stones: Day 16

Small Stones: January 16

At home sick
     I look out
to bare branches
of the front yard tree.
is a cardinal
     red feathers
moving up and down
left and right.

In my lap
the fat cat
with me.

There is nothing else to do.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Small Stones: Day 15

Small Stones: January 15

On Being a Preschool Teacher During the Day and a College Writing Instructor at Night

Regardless of time
     no one
laughs at my jokes.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Small Stones: Day 14

Small Stones: January 14


for whatever reason
we have no real

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Small Stones: Day 13

Small Stones: January 13

The "Writing Research Papers" textbook
     sitting on the chair
will not be read tonight.

Mob Wives is on.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Small Stones: Day 12

Small Stones: January 12

He listens to 1930s jazz on NPR
as he boils water
for string beans and broccoli.

On a Michigan shaped cutting board
he slices fresh garlic.

100 year old doors
from Heinz's Point Breeze mansion
separate us
but through cracks in the doorway
I know exactly
what I see.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Small Stones: Day 11

Small Stones: January 11

At a stoplight on Fifth Avenue
     I look up
through my passenger window
and see an apartment
     on the fourth floor
     lit up
with a man
wearing a pirate hat.

It is at this moment
that I realize
I am no longer

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Small Stones: Day 10

Small Stones: January 10

When a thirty-three year old
     pre-school teacher
with moderate OCD
and a fear of germs
helps toddlers
learn to use the toilet
     her days
are comprised
of consistently

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Small Stones: Day 9

Small Stones: January 9

Wednesday Morning

I open the classroom
     turn on the lights
place the paint on the table
and look out the wide window.

Colors ascend
orange, pink and blue
as waitresses
at the diner next door
serve eggs and bacon
to hungry customers.

There is joy
in this moment
and where my feet
     are planted.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Small Stones: Day 8

Small Stones: January 8

After nap
she sat next to her friend
and began eating snack.

As she ate her animal crackers
she looked at me
     mouth full of cookies
and said, "I'm a happy kid."

Later, she asked me, "Are you happy?"
I knelt beside her
and replied
"Yes. Yes, I am."

Monday, January 7, 2013

Small Stones: Day 7

Small Stones: January 7

The black and white cat
     carries in his mouth
a frayed blue octopus
around the dining room.

His fat stomach
sways from side to side
as he chirps and speaks
of all the good
to come.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Small Stones: Day 6

Small Stones: January 6

The blue, red, green and yellow orbs
that trim my window
offer more than light.

Memories of my parents' bar at Christmas
     are held
in each bulb.

The jukebox that played Bing Crosby
     the tinsel that trimmed the counter
are images that swirl in the light.

* As a child my parents owned a bowling alley in Michigan.  Some of my most fond memories are of the Christmas parties they held in the bar.  Employees and regulars of the bowling alley would show up, eat, drink, sing and laugh in the overly decorated bar.  These memories are with me tonight.*

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Small Stone: Day 5

Small Stone: January 5

Waiting in line
     for a coffee and mocha
my friend and I decide
this winter
can only be warmed
by a morning of sun
to come.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Small Stone: Day 4

Small Stone: January 4

The winter branches
against the orange and white
January sky
bleed into
the rooftop snow.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Small Stone: Day 3

Small Stone: January 3

The vegetable garden
     overgrown with ice
     rests against
the backyard fence.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Small Stone: Day 2

Small Stone: January 2

    pulled to expose
    abstract designs
remind me
to take the lead
of the silver cat
and close my eyes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Small Stone: Day 1

Small Stone for January 1

The water boils
    as sounds of the neighbor
    shoveling the snow
    from last night's fall
fills the kitchen.

I am present.