Charming Community Connection

Discovering charm in small town establishments has become more difficult in the last few years. The expense and multitude of regulations make starting a brick & mortar” business difficult. Surviving beyond start-up is an even more daunting challenge.  I survived and thrived over 20 years in a small town.

I have always been drawn to unique, non-franchise style establishments. I understand the process of start-up, development, advertising, hiring, operating several businesses. A large gap exists between “cookie cutter” franchises and independent operations.
A chart and floor plan for where every item is to be placed — a standard for block stores — keeps employees from feeling connection to their workplace.

This Wednesday, I visited Pizza Phi in Lewisburg, PA. It had the standard look of a town pizza shop. The employees were at their job — pleasant, but there was no phenomenal friendly service.  As a customer, I was also not engaged in the establishment.



There is a spirit of spontaneity that will never feed my soul when I walk into other establishments.

I will have to build a new place with personality again — someday.

100 Four Letter Words to Celebrate 100 Blog Posts

OBOE – REED – SOLO. Yes, those are four letter words. SWAN – DUCK – BIRD — they are too. So what’s so FOUL about 4 letter words. Those last words were simply FOWL.

For years when my oboe students voiced concern and discontent about the troubles they had with reeds, I would remark that OBOE was one of the few four-letter words they could speak openly and NOT get in trouble. Then I’d move on to REED. Then SOLO. Students would need a moment to ponder my comments, and then snickered with the flash of insight to the coincidence of their troubled feeling as countered with their LOVE for the same unique instrument.


I find that writing my blog has allowed me a way to be FREE with words.  At least I hope I don’t end up in jail for something I write here especially after breaking free from a “domestic” prison last year . . .

A month ago I was chatting online with a young gentleman (Daniel) who frequented the studio and coffeehouse that I owned and operated up until November 2011.   He works 2nd shift — as I do.  We had a “heart to heart” discussion about the difficulty in finding people who are capable of less than shallow conversation and behaviors.  Even at his young age of 24, he had an insight about how a building is nothing without the person or people who existed there.  He reminded me that the home/business I had to evacuate a year earlier was just a building, a shell with no soul.  The life created, the joy projected, the creativity encouraged, were GONE when I left.

Replacing ME with a photography studio was a bizarre way for an abusive spouse to gain power and control.  Was control more important than stealing my earned income?

I was given a small green notebook entitled GRATITUDE by the couple that gave me a room the first night I evacuated my home.   It took several months till I felt like making note of anything. The words finally came.   After I listed the freedom from abuse, my precious cat Carmel was next on the list of entries.

After chatting with Daniel, I began a list of all the FOUR letter words that popped into my head – most were POSITIVE.    Here are some of the words:

life – cool – hope – oboe – home – game – mini – food – heal – swan – head – love – book – mind – bake – town – song – sing – rest – feel – care – rain – kind – text – call – talk – blog – cook – note – safe – have – look – lake – cake – cafe – save – rose – tree – leaf – bulb – type – able – good – more – many – most – each – will – want – wish – past – take – show – wise – wait – best – soul – wake – dawn – moon – star – wing – full – help – even – ever – grow – sign – gift – last – lark – part – harp – find – seed – bulb – read – seek – calm – free – milk – fork – high – draw – clay – blue – post – flag – frog – meet – horn – meal – meat – stay – gone – sink – soap – knob – roll – wall – bean – need – pack – oven – band – bell – make – mask – loaf – soon – line – fine – fill – soda – time – pure – sure – move – give – snow – word

Wonders of Work

There is nothing in the world other than art and oboe that I enjoy participating in more than WORK.  There are so many benefits to working that go beyond a paycheck.

I started my first job at age 17 at McDonalds.  I was assigned to the grill and made burgers, fries, milkshakes, egg McMuffins.   I had to clean floors and empty trash in the seating area.  Unless I had a rehearsal or concert, I worked exclusively on weekends. I was glad for the work and money. I never had the attitude that the “job” was beneath me or not appropriate to my future career. (Best employee 11/10/2012 – Kara)


By the time I was in college, I started working part-time as a tutor.  I tutored Music 101 students — non-music majors who needed assistance understanding the difference between the sounds of instruments and certain composers music.    I was a conscientious student. Though I was an art major, the music professors recommended I tutor students who needed help with their class.   I found ways to relate the student’s area of study to music and enjoyed working in an area related to my degree — education.

Before I graduated from college, I was hired for an official art teaching position.   I taught drawing, design & graphics, 9th grade general art, jewelry, pottery, art appreciation.   I formuled ideas, assignments, graded, displayed, prepared supplies, disciplined.   No one needed to monitor me.  I was self-motivated to do the best job possible.   After two years of temporary positions, I divided a paper into columns to mark the pros and cons of the current job, but decided to take a full-time position that required me to move. I retained the connection with music colleagues after the move.


I planned to remain in the school system for at least 10 years. I stayed 11.5 years. The entrepreneurial spirit that I exhibited since selling pewter jewelry at age 16 needed to be nurtured. I was 32 when I “retired.” The adventure of working every day had just begun.  I never needed someone to coach or prod me to work. I began building an amazing business that developed into a marvelous merging of art, and music. The final addition was a coffeehouse. A restaurant was not in the picture as I was growing up — definitely not a dream. But what a joy the inclusion of coffeehouse was to my art studio. Sometimes, it barely seemed like “work” even though I was on call about 98 hours a week.


I loved all my jobs that were destroyed by a hostile spousal takeover.  My pay was nothing to brag about, but the connection to my family of art, music and coffeehouse friends was “priceless.”

Locating Lunch

A university town seems like a logical place to look for a lunch location. The main street had plenty of on-street parking, with meters. I made a drive-around to determine the most likely section of town to park. All situated, feeding the meter first with quarters, I proceeded to walk into a deli that was easily accessible. I stood at the counter, looked at the menu for about 5 minutes to make a decision. There was one customer ahead of me picking up pastries. The girl at the counter asked if I was waiting for lunch. When I answered yes, she informed me that lunch (the grill) closed at 3:00.

I turned around, headed out the door, turned left and scouted for another location. The buildings are jutted next to each other, intermixed with restaurant, retail, office, and apartments. The next location I spotted was a deli with hours posted on the window and door. I double-checked the door to clarify that indeed, lunch ended at 2:00. Hmm, am I seeing a pattern here?

I moved up the street another half block, saw a known sub-shop and a pizza shop a few buildings farther away. But before I could get within three buildings, I began to cough . . . cigarette smoke coming downwind my direction attacked my nose and lungs. I halted. The “smoking section” was fully operational (3 people). That’s what I call the outside of buildings now that there’s no smoking allowed inside (finally) — so — I made an about face, doubled back to B&N where I knew I’d get in and get served.

It was 3:30 pm. My standard lunch meal has been at 3 pm for probably 15+ years. For 20 years my private teaching schedule was from 4 – 10 pm, 4 evenings a week. Then, as a musician, 95% of my concert work has been evenings, weekends, holidays.

I suppose I will always be on the edge of time for work, eat, sleep. I have a similar issue with my end of workday. If I want to go out to eat after work — 90% of any restaurant, diner, cafe, deli, pantry, and coffeehouse — is CLOSED by 9:00. You may be thinking, “There’s got to be a pub open somewhere.” Yeah — but — I don’t smoke OR “drink”. I’d be happy to have a cappuccino at 10 pm except were “supposed to” drink coffee in the AM. Oh, how I dislike conformity.

Now, this is more like it — a midnight cafe.

Coffee and Curiosity

There is ALLOT to miss about my exceptional coffeehouse! (my blog followers know of CC’s premeditated destruction) I’m here in a place that I discovered when traveling north to a small city 45 minutes away. I’m drawn to the culture it appears to promote though I question the need for young people to pierce so many parts of their bodies thinking they are “being unique”.

The establishment ( has all the typical features that I’d expect from a coffee bar in a city — certainly better than any sterile franchise where predictability is promoted. The cafe table wiggles, the music is too loud, it’s a tad rustic — but who cares — people are here socializing, listening to live music (vocal, guitar, drums) and drinking a beverage that will not likely alter their mind adversely as they get in their vehicles to travel home afterward.

I’m curious about the young lad who is preparing cups of coffee one at a time with filters. He has been going non-stop since I arrived. It’s 8:00 and the room cleared out while the musicians (Maitland) are on break… No problem though, the musicians playing on the street are powerful enough to be heard inside here as well as around the streets!

Hey, the musicians are back — time for a break in writing. They seem to be holding their own with a variety of selections.

Time to head to the street for more discovery.

Coffee Conversation

Here at the big “….bucks” cafe, youth are in and out at a steady pace. I’m positioned in a corner spot to be unobtrusive and so I can study, write and observe. The music is a bit loud for my taste but a nice mix of tunes condusive to study. The air is refreshingly cool (a little chilly). The round faux-marble table with antique style base is the right height for me to type. The bench seat is surprisingly comfortable.

Three of my former employees who were forced out of our coffeehouse along with me last September, remarked this past July that they couldn’t go to any other coffee places. They couldn’t accept the formal presentation, almost sterile environment and mediocre drinks with no customization.   They were also trying to heal from what transpired only months earlier to their beloved place of employment.  I, however, don’t have a problem sitting in a different coffeeshop anymore. I know, without a doubt, that my establishment was truely the best ever — unique to the max. My “shop” was comfortable, charming, intriguing, powerful, expressive, spontaneous – – it absolutely radiated life.

My five lively businesses were  “put down” — verbally, spiritually, mentally and financially as had been going on behind the scenes for years.
My multiple life careers (all involving people, not machines) were killed – a pre-meditated act.  When the abusive spouse set out to destroy everything I created, worked to build, and successfully managed (personally AND financially), he was effective in terrorizing us out of OUR coffeeHOUSE with the aid of a vindictive “lawyer” neighbor.   Wow, Mr vO is really enjoying the parking lot my parents paid to pave for MY customers.

Be right back — have to open a space for another customer . . .

Swan and Cygnet Cappuccino

OK — got in my car and drove to another location — secluded for my serenity . . .

Check out this beautiful swan and cygnet cappuccino — a reminder of the artistic, creative preparation of drinks we prepared.

There I was in the *coffeeshop* with two college girls next to me chatting as if in a schoolyard playground about guys and their observations of them on campus.  It was certainly a much more open discussion than what transpired 30 years ago when I was a Co-ed.  Back then, we had our space — our sensibility — our subtle scrutiny.    We were in a public venue.

Now, we have pods for coffee — little packs of liquid and energy.      So many people want everything quick, easy, convienient.    The young ladies left in 20 minutes – probably the maximum level of concentration for an above average young adult.     Where are the filters — coffee or otherwise — that formally defined our conversations?

Where are you going?

Written by Heidi Cornelisson
I am part of a coffee and connection group that meets once a week. Being a regular commitment I have a set route to and from the venue. But one day this was challenged when I left with a friend heading in the same direction as me. He was in front of me and I saw him drive straight at a roundabout where I usually turned right.”Where’s he going?” I wondered, “Is there another way to the freeway?”But I turned right as usual, staying with the familiar. As I stopped at the red traffic light leading onto the freeway I saw my friend whizz past from another side onto the onramp.”His route is obviously quicker,” I thought again and never caught up with him on the freeway. He’d made significant headway.The following week I still turned right at the same roundabout not willing to go straight and potentially getting lost. Sure enough, this time, despite having left after me, I saw my friend whizzing onto the freeway again.”Damn! I should’ve tried the new route,” I muttered.I have since eventually taken the alternate route and it’s not only quicker, but simpler. My route was a huge detour, catching more roundabouts and traffic lights. Although familiar I’d settled for a difficult route.I’m using that roundabout as a metaphoric decision-making point for your life.

  • How many potential decision points do you have in your life?
  • Do you keep turning right because that’s familiar or are you willing to try something different?
  • Which decisions do you continually make that are merely habitual?

Familiar and safe options may have served you well in the past. But, as you know, if you keep doing the same things, in the same way, thinking the same thoughts … you’ll keep getting the same results. I see so many people who feel stuck in their lives because of old habits.

Some people who have started exploring personal development realise the impact of their past on who they are and how they live.

They then get stuck all over again, but now, consciously, in the past.
“It’s because I never had a father that I can’t keep a relationship now.”
“It’s because my mother was too concerned with my weight and appearance that I have low self-esteem now.”
“It’s because my teacher told me I’d never amount to anything that I have a fear of success.”

Whatever the case may be, what you’re saying is probably true and the thoughts you have about yourself are as a result of that particular experience. But remaining in this excuse-place keeps you beholden to the past repeating same behaviours. Is that what you really want?

Once you’re aware of old beliefs and you hang on to them for too long, they’ve become excuses. These excuses are then like carrying around a ball and chain with you, preventing you from moving forward. This would’ve been like my car automatically turning right each week and me feeling powerless to change its direction. I had to consciously fully engage the vehicle and take a different route. I then found myself, within seconds whizzing onto the freeway as well.

As with driving a car, you have the power to change the direction of your life as well. For example:
“Although I have picked up a low self-esteem, a fear of success and an inability to have a meaningful relationship from my past, I can now choose to let these go. This is not who I am as I now choose differently. I am willing to change, believing my life can get better and I’ll ask for help if necessary.”

  • What is it time for you to change in your life?
  • What from your past have you been holding onto
  • Where are you stuck in a repetitive rut?

Stop using the past as an excuse for where you feel stuck. It may be the reason, but let go of attaching to the excuse. Kick off those shackles, choose differently and take a self-empowered step forward in a different direction with new thoughts and beliefs. You may even move through life with ease and learn that the more you trust yourself, the more your self-esteem, your fears and relationship skills will evolve naturally

Time moves in one direction, memory in another.
William Gibson