As I mentioned in an earlier blog post this week, my daughter and I planned to start our Fairy Garden on Saturday. We did it. After a visit to a local store called All Things Country and purchasing our starter pieces for the garden, we raced home to get started. We couldn’t be happier with the results, and it was so gratifying to hear her say this was one of her most favorite things we have done together. We both look forward to watching it grow, and after our renovation is complete, who knows. It may make its way closer to our house; right now it is set in the far corner of our property in a little wooded section where we conveniently had a tree stump to work with as a starting point.
/FICTOGRAPHY/ def. — The intersection of photography (submitted by readers) and fiction (written by me!).
This week I’m featuring a shot from my friend, Jenny Bumgarner. Jenny and I have been friends for…we counted…over twenty years. We met when we worked at the Orioles way back when, and have remained close friends ever since. From attending Opening Days together, to sharing our Hippodrome Broadway Across America season tickets, to getting together with friends when we can, our friendship has remained strong and true. When I needed a cover shot for my novel, “Beneath the Mimosa Tree,” Jenny came armed with camera as we trespassed on a piece of property (don’t tell anyone) to get the shot we needed of a full mimosa tree in bloom. It came out so pretty. We both couldn’t be happier with the cover’s results.
Her photograph this week was shot in San Diego, a place she and her husband lived pre-k (pre-kids). They spent five years there, as Ron worked for the San Diego Padres and Jenny would hold casting calls for extras.
This shot, of the sunset over the Pacific, is so pretty, and reminds us that we need to take some time for relaxation and to enjoy beauty. Sometimes, it’s the thing that can calm us.
The main character of this piece is troubled with anxiety, and it’s the beach and sunset that can calm him. While it’s a little sad, it’s also full of hope, something we all need in our lives.
I tried to keep this one under 500 words…it came in at 476. Thanks, Jenny. Enjoy.
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Sunset. The beach was quieter than it had been earlier in the day when people were stomping on its sand, swimming in its ocean waters, or gazing across the Pacific. Some people were relaxing, reading books and magazines, closing their eyes and listening to music, or just sitting and staring, listening to the music nature provides.
Not Paul. Paul was restless and antsy. He would pace up and down the beach, anxiety kicking in so badly, as he’d only had about an hour of sleep the night before. He’d worked all day, and at five o’clock, he tore out of work, drove home, parked his car, got a bite to eat, tossed on shorts and a tee and his Nike cross-trainers, and made his way to the pier.
The beach was the only place he felt he could breathe sometimes. He could find himself again, here. His brown hair, though thinning, blew lightly in the breeze. The smell of the salty Pacific kept him calm. Sometimes at night, when insomnia would kick in, he’d find himself down at the beach—in the dead of night—walking, pacing, stressing, and then, miraculously, unwinding when he’d hear the waves crashing against the sand. The lull of the waves and the lullaby of the sea could cure his mercurial moods.
Despite being on a beach and all the prettiness it afforded, he could still hear the shots ring…still hear the explosives go…pop…pop…pop. He remembered the lights flashing—a bright light—and hearing the men panic. The medic arrived to help; his arm was bandaged, still together, but wrapped. When he looked down he realized he was missing a few fingers. It was then he’d passed out.
Hours later, on a makeshift hospital bed, he recovered. Six did not. They were dead, the medic said. Gone, in one bullet, one grenade, one second. Lives over.
When he’d arrived back home in the States, Meg had taken care of him. She had loved him, had waited for him, had written him letters of love. She lovingly nursed him back to health, but he drove her away. He’d loved her, but he’d driven her away, little by little, and piece by piece. He couldn’t climb out of the hole he’d created. He wanted to overcome it all, but he didn’t know how. He’d loved her more than any woman, and yet he allowed himself to wallow in misery, making her miserable in return, forcing her to leave. You never know a good thing until it’s gone, they say.
He ran up and down the beach as the sun began to set. Tomorrow was another day— maybe even the first day of his new life. He didn’t want to live with regret or sorrow any longer. He had dialed that number yesterday, the one that promised help, the one that was suggested to him when he’d had the breakdown.
What he wanted more than anything was to look at the sunset and feel happy.
That was what he wanted.
Baseball’s back, the weather is getting brighter here in Baltimore, and I’m coming in from third to home with the writing of my baseball-themed novel. In baseball as in life, quotes can be inspirational, funny, or just tell it like it is. Quotes are a big part of my novel; each chapter’s lead quote ties into something that’s going on in the story, and I’ve had a lot of fun constructing them and their meanings.
Here are some quotes from notable players, coaches, managers, and folks who love the game. I can’t call it my all-time favorite list, but it certainly includes some great ones.
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If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are men on base. — Dave Barry
People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. — Rogers Hornsby
A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz. — Humphrey Bogart
Baseball, to me, is still the national pastime because it is a summer game. I feel that almost all Americans are summer people, that summer is what they think of when they think of their childhood. I think it stirs up an incredible emotion within people. — Steve Busby
There are only two seasons – winter and Baseball. — Bill Veeck
In baseball, you can’t kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why this is the greatest game. — Earl Weaver
Opening Day. All you have to do is say the words and you feel the shutters thrown wide, the room air out, the light pour in. In baseball, no other day is so pure with possibility. No scores yet, no losses, no blame or disappointment. No hanger, at least until the game’s over. — Mary Schmich
I’m a guy who just wanted to see his name in the lineup everyday. To me, baseball was a passion to the point of obsession. — Brooks Robinson
In the beginning I used to make one terrible play a game. Then I got so I’d make one a week and finally I’d pull a bad one about once a month. Now, I’m trying to keep it down to one a season. — Lou Gehrig
All the ballparks and the big crowds have a certain mystique. You feel attached, permanently wedded to the sounds that ring out, to the fans chanting your name, even when there are only four or five thousand in the stands on a Wednesday afternoon. — Mickey Mantle
Several months ago, my daughter and I stopped into a nearby store. I was on the hunt for something in particular that I could not find. However, on that jaunt, we found something magical that spoke to the two of us: fairy garden items.
We had not been in search of such items, but the mere fact that we happened upon them meant something to us both. We tend to enjoy stories of fantasy involving fairies, witches, wizards, and pirates (such as gorgeous Captain Hook in “Once Upon A Time.”) We love the mystical idea of fairies, just as some believe they have angels watching over them. When we saw the elements of the fairy garden, we were mesmerized and decided that once we cleared out the back patch in our yard that we would begin to build our own magical little fairy garden. We are set to start on it this weekend.
On Pinterest and online, you can find lots of items to start your fairy garden. Our first step will be to visit the store again and select our first pieces. This will be a project that unfolds over time, but the loveliness of it is that we will be doing it together. Sometimes I look at my 11-year-old and can’t believe how quickly she has grown…that in a few years, she’ll be in high school and then off to college. I want her to remember these special times we have together and build something we both look at fondly.
Years ago, when my children were very little, I began a short story about fairies. I didn’t get very far, but I did save the beginning of the story, and maybe someday, I’ll return to it.
After the fairy garden grows.
SHOPPING FOR YOUR FAIRY GARDEN
Here are a couple of links in case you want to take on a project of your own:
and now…a story about fairies…
THE STORY OF ESMERALDA
My mother used to tell me there were fairies that lived in our house and occupied our wood. She told me there were four of them and that the leader of all the fairies in the land was Esmeralda. She used to tell me this story when I was very young, a little girl, and I would be fascinated with the idea of these fairies. I used to grab my flashlight and head into the woods adjacent to my house to see the fairies floating in the night sky. I must have gone into the woods a hundred times and only once did I see anything that somewhat resembled a gathering of fairies.
On my tenth birthday, my mother bought me a fairy necklace. It was gold, and the fairy wings were on the large side. It didn’t look like what I thought a fairy would truly look like. I had a very distinct image in my mind of Esmeralda’s physical characteristics…she was dainty, a brunette, crisp blue eyes, with pink wings and a glistening gold wand of magic. Fairies were meant to protect you from danger. It was what my mother taught me and it was what I had grown to know.
On my twelfth birthday, I came across a book on my desk in my room. The book was called “The Fairy Rules,” and it was written in a very strange language. I looked through it and couldn’t understand any of it. I showed it to my mother; she was shocked to see it in my hands. She asked me where I got it and I told her it magically appeared on my desk. She said that’s what she was afraid of.
When I fell asleep that night, I dreamt of what was in the book. I dreamt I could understand the words and all of the rules that guide fairies to everlasting life. I dreamt I learned how to use the magic powers fairies possessed and when not to use the powers. I dreamt I learned how to fly and become small, to float through the air and use my wings, and I learned what the fairy diet was…lots of greens and flowers. When I woke up in the morning, the book had vanished from my desk, and in its place, all that remained was a pile of sparkling dust.
When I was fifteen, I felt something strange on my body when I showered. On my back, reaching down from my rib cage, I felt two lines and they itched. They itched like crazy. I showed them to my mother. She told me it was a rash and that it would go away. I wasn’t sure if I believed her, because her faced seemed to be one filled with worry. She also forbade me to go into the woods. She told me I had to wait until I was seventeen for that.
At midnight, on the night of my seventeenth birthday, my mother took me into the woods. There were no flashlights this time. This time it was just us. It was then that I learned my mother’s real name was Esmeralda.
As you have probably never read a true account of fairy life and have only read the stories of Tinkerbell, you will have the chance now. My name is Agatha Ann, and this is the story of my life as a fairy.
—Written by Stephanie Verni/copyright 2014
My friends Jenny and Ron, along with their children, Shelby and Stella, saw me in all my glory this afternoon when they stopped by unexpectedly. My husband and son were on the golf course, my daughter was at a friend’s house, and I had the dubious honor of executing some spring cleaning. I can get in quite a state when I’m in this zone.
In one week, our house is going to be a construction zone. We are renovating the exterior—the front, the back, the roof, the siding, the sidewalks, and adding a screened-in porch. We are overhauling this sucker, and I can’t wait to see it all come together. I’m fascinated by the mere word renovation. It’s so exciting to watch your plans on paper turn into something realistic.
Last summer when we moved here, I orchestrated a gigantic overhaul. I made at least 14 trips to Goodwill, gave countless items away to friends, and pared down what we owned. It’s actually an exhilarating feeling when you have more room in your closets, more room in your cupboards, more room in your office and bedrooms, and more room in general.
- Don’t get sentimental about everything. I’ve had to learn what to let go of, from baby clothes to toys and memorabilia. Allow yourself a “bin” of things to keep for prosperity (label each bin accordingly), but realize you can’t keep everything. Some things have got to go, sweeties.
- It’s the old rule: If you haven’t worn it in a year, dump it. Why do you want to clutter your closet with old fashion anyway? Leave it behind and treat yourself to something new. If one thing goes out, another can come in, but you have to stick with this rule, or you’ll soon get overwhelmed with new items without dismissing any of the old.
- Get rid of needless stuff in your kitchen. If you don’t use it, don’t entertain with it, and all it does is take up space on your counter or in your cupboards or pantry, as the song in “Frozen” says, “Let it go.”
- With regard to old bed linens, towels, wash cloths, here’s my rule: If you wouldn’t put it out for guests to use, get rid of it. Keeping things fresh in your house helps you feel good about your own home. Step out of the shower and wrap yourself up in the right towel, not some old raggedy thing from the year of the flood.
- Dissect your garage every six months. This makes a huge difference. I just made a run to Goodwill today and dumped old speaker stands, a beadboard white bookshelf, a Pottery Barn rug and rug mat, an alarm clock, and various other things that were taking up space in our garage. Also, use bins in your garage and label them. I have a bin for light bulbs, extension cords, patio items, gardening supplies, etc. It makes it so much easier to find things. Toss whatever you don’t need anymore.
I worked hard today, but our house feels lighter, cleaner, and ready for spring.
Once that screened-in porch is built, there will be two places you will find me this summer: at the pool or on the porch.
And all the cleaning will be behind me.
I just popped on to check my stats for the day, something we bloggers who take this seriously often do. (I’m nearing the 100,000 mark—a significant milestone to only one person—me). Anyway, when I logged on I had a little message from WordPress, my content management site, and it said, “Happy three-year anniversary!”
I’ve been doing this for three years. I can’t believe it.
I must have a big mouth, because I always have something to say. I may get writer’s block here and there, but then it always comes back to me. I enjoy “talking” about things on the blog, and even if people don’t actually comment here, they chat with me about it when I see them or on Facebook or Twitter. It’s been fun connecting with other writers and bloggers and readers.
I’ve enjoyed my three years of blogging, and I intend to keep it up.
That is, until I run out of things to say.
Thanks for supporting this blog for three years, readers!
/FICTOGRAPHY/ def. — The intersection of photography (submitted by readers) and fiction (written by me!).
How spectacular is this castle? Over spring break, a group of students studied abroad in Ireland. One such student was Emily Maranto, a senior at Stevenson University. Emily has taken several writing courses with me, and as well, she’s got a special place in my heart because she was fortunate, as was I years and years prior, to intern at the Orioles. The students had so much fun on their trip, and last weekend, I was told the story of Kylemore Castle and its history, once the home of Mitchell Henry who built it from 1863-1868, and ended up not spending much time in it after the death of his wife, Margaret, in 1875. She had contracted a fever while in Egypt and passed away at the age of 50. Since 1920, the castle has been the home to Benedictine nuns, who have resided in it ever since.
Much like writer Philippa Gregory writes historical fiction (I loved The Other Boleyn Girl and couldn’t put it down), I decided to try my hand at historical fiction, writing from Mitchell Henry’s perspective after the passing of his wife. Much the same as Joe DiMaggio placed a rose on Marilyn Monroe’s grave every day after she died, I imagine Mitchell writing a letter each day to his dearly departed Margaret.
I hope you enjoy today’s fictography, and thank you, Emily, for the sensational photograph.
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For ease of reading, the printed text of the letter is below:
My Darling Margaret,
It’s been 212 days since your passing. The days grow increasing longer, my dear, as I must endure your interminable absence. I find myself walking the paths we’ve walked together, taking a turn in the garden where your assortment of roses have awakened in glorious blooms, the colors so vibrant, my dearest, they heighten the senses, and I am constantly in awe of their perfection. Each petal is so delicate, yet so sure of its posturing that I almost feel neglectful of them as a whole, for I cannot possibly examine each one individually. And so I admire them as a whole, as you would have done, pleased with their expressions and their vivacity.
The garden has become a place of peace for me, as I find myself lingering with a book or stopping to pray and ask for forgiveness. Had I not insisted on you journeying with me to Egypt, I might still feel your presence, nestled next to me, hearing your glorious laugh as you tickle the nape of my neck—a gesture I so miss and will likely never experience again.
The way that the children look, still devastated and missing their mum, breaks my heart, and so, my dear, I have decided that I will not live here much longer. I will go back to Warwickshire and work in Parliament where I will throw myself into my work, allowing an occupation I find rewarding to envelop me with the hope that it will be able to mask a broken heart. I am not confident it will work.
Progress is being made on your church; I have set it slightly off the main grounds, one mile from Kylemore, where you and I will rest in peace together, forever, into a sleepy yet blissful eternity.
How I long to see you one day again, my dearest, loveliest, sweetest Margaret.
Yours Faithfully with Love Forever,