In The Words of Maya Angelou, “Don’t Bring Negative To My Door.”

NegativeI’ve always been a cheerleader. In 7th grade I made the squad, and then again in high school I made it, and I cheered throughout my years in school. When I was done there, I cheered with the band at Towson University for the Tigers, and then did it again for the Orioles as a front office employee. Now, as a grown, middle-aged woman who works as an educator, I cheer for my students. Cheerleaders want others to do well for themselves. We have hope inside of us, and wish the best for others.

You may be wondering what’s charged me up tonight. It’s a long story, and one I’d rather not relay at the moment. It is, indeed, a short vent, and I will try to control myself. Let me put it plainly: I cannot stand—and prefer to remove myself from—all negativity. It beats you down and wears you out. It’s exhausting. And whether it’s someone you know peripherally or someone you know dearly, negativity and “dream killers” are to be avoided. This is a warning: stay away. Don’t bring negativity to my cheerleading door.

I find it remarkably appalling that people try to put others down and kill them either to their face or behind their backs. People have “dreams” for a reason. And though some may be more attainable than others, every single person has a right to fight for that dream without being demoralized, scoffed at, or ridiculed for thinking small or big. No great thinkers and innovators would be where they are today had they not had the inclination to GO FOR IT.Impossible

It takes a great deal of spirit to hunker down and try for something you want. Therefore, I prefer to be a dreamer and positive thinker. I do pay attention to reality, but sometimes reality is very dull. Dreaming is much more to my liking. What the Queen in Alice in Wonderland said in the adjacent quote gives one hope. The mere word impossible should fire you up to prove the naysayers wrong. That is a problem—listening to jerks fill you with nonsense that you shouldn’t try something that’s in your blood must be avoided. Pronto.

I’m locking up my door and am determined not to allow those types of people in any longer.

Care to join me?

Passions

Fictography #16 – Little French Market

 

Little French Market, Historic Ellicott City. Photo by yours truly.

Little French Market, Historic Ellicott City. Photo by yours truly.

 

/FICTOGRAPHY/ def. — The intersection of photography (submitted by readers) and fiction (written by me!).

Truthfully, this week I’m on a little bit of a hiatus. On campus, we are down to the last two weeks, and I’ve been inundated with work and grading and attending events, not to mention that it’s Easter weekend. Therefore, I had little time for creativity this week, so for this week’s Fictography, I pulled one out of the archives and dusted it off. I actually took this photograph myself. This cute little coffee shop is situated in Historic Ellicott City, and I used to frequent it all the time when I lived there. I used to love going there, and although I’ve “used my imagination” to embellish what the inside looks like and invented a server who wears a crazy apron, the building served as inspiration for this short snippet I wrote a few years ago. It’s still one of my favorites, as it speaks to several things that can affect relationships: selfishness, heartbreak, and the existence of both good and bad memories. In this particular piece, when I originally wrote it, I was tasked with using a smell to evoke memories from one of the characters, but not the other.

Even if you don’t like the story, you just may end up hungry and “wanting a bite.”

Fictography #16 — Little French Market

FrenchMarketI was trying to get out of Little French Market as quickly as I could without him seeing me. My cup of coffee was burning my hand. I made the mistake of stopping to put a cardboard sleeve on it. He grabbed my shoulder, nearly spilling the coffee all over my coat.

“Oh my God? Is it you? It’s been so long…”

“Hello, Edmond.”

“Are you visiting?” his accent was still thick.

“Yes. I’m in town sorting some things out. My father…”

“Come sit with me! I just ordered something. Can you sit? Do you have time?”

I didn’t want to sit, not with him, but I found myself placing my coat on the back of the chair and easing into it. There was French music playing in the background, and the black décor with dark grey accents felt modern French, even though it was nestled in historic Ellicott City.

Edmond talked about his life, his work, how busy he was, and that he’d moved into a brownstone on Main Street. He was renting the downstairs to a tenant who sold handcrafted home goods and wares. Edmond lived upstairs. On and on he went, as I sipped my Hazelnut coffee, letting the aromas fill my nostrils. His hair was still on the long side, his dark eyes upon me. His mouth was moving at an uncomfortable pace, filled with words that propagated self-importance and indulgence.

The girl behind the counter wore a little French apron with the words “voulez-vous un morceau??” on it. She brought him a piping hot croissant with butter and strawberry jam—just the way he always liked it. The smell of the baked croissant— the mixture of the butter and the cream and dough—grabbed hold. My mouth began to water.

“Would you like some?”

“No, thanks,” I lied. “I just ate.”

My mother used to own this place; it was hers. Back then it was called “Emiline’s.” I spent hours in her cafe, helping behind the counter after school, working on the weekends to give my mother a break, and then later, as an adult, when cancer consumed her, I practically lived there. It looked different then. My mother’s taste was feminine French, with pastel blues and pinks and lots of white accents. I have some of her cupboards in my home now. They are beautiful and they remind me of her.

“Voulez-vous un morceau??” then brought Edmond a profiterole with chocolate and ginger crème—the very same kind I would make with my mother. The scent of hot ginger oozed from the puff pastry. When she could no longer work, I’d make them with Edmond. We made love on the floor in the back behind the counter by candlelight one night after closing on an old wool blanket, our bodies covered in flour and chocolate and ginger. I cried about my mother. He told me he loved me, that he would never leave, that he’d never go anywhere. I found out about Caroline the following week. A month later, my mother was dead.

“How long will you be in town?”

“I am only here for the day. My father passed away and I am settling the estate with our lawyer.” I looked at my watch, smelled the ginger. “In fact, I have to go.”

He was never sorry. For any of it. He still owed me money from the sale of our condominium, among other things.

“It was good to see you, Chéri. Chin up!”

Condescending, selfish bastard. A sense of revulsion pulsed through me. He never called me by my name. Time marched on, but Edmond didn’t change.

I stood to face him; I found the words I’d imagined uttering for years. “You, Edmond, are a selfish ass, and you always will be.”

Customers stared. I snatched my coat from the chair, nearly knocking it over, and walked out, making sure to keep my head high.  The moment lasted all of about ten seconds, but he actually looked stunned when I said it.


French Translation:

“Voulez-vous un morceau??” – Would you like a bite?

She’s A Doll

DollThis doll, that has never been named and probably deserves one, is from my childhood. I feel as if she’s always been around. I could never let go of her.

My grandmother, whom I called “Nanny,” won her for me playing a game on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. She’s pink and totally sentimental to me. Nanny has been gone for years, but the memory of her lives on in not only the doll, but the Christmas decorations, the jewelry (I’m wearing her ring now), and the countless other “items” and gifts she bestowed to me, both materialistic and non-materialistic.

When I was growing up and we lived in Bowie, Maryland, I had a bedroom with pink and white shag carpeting. I had green apple colored walls (with a poster of John Travolta from ‘Saturday Night Fever’ on the wall), and pink curtains, with a bedspread that was made up of pinks and whites and black. On that bed was also a huge Snoopy stuffed animal, another prize from the Jersey Shore boardwalk. And while Snoopy is long gone, the nameless pink doll remains a part of my world and decor.

When things are that sentimental, though they may have cost mere pennies or hundreds or thousands of dollars, they remind you of the person who gave it to you.

My doll has been with me for years and is showing only a little wear, so she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. She brings back memories and helps me remember the younger me, something I’ll always try to hold on to, for as my favorite quote from “Under The Tuscan Sun” states: “Never lose your childish enthusiasm and things will come your way.”

What reminds you of your childhood? What item can’t you ever part with?

 

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This idea for this post came from Wordpress’s suggestion of “5 Things to Write About Right Now.” I immediate thought of the doll…so it may have a little twist, but sometimes we look elsewhere for inspiration.

The Results Of Our Fairy Garden

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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.

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Fictography #15—Finding Paul

 

JennyPhoto

Photo credit: Jenny Bumgarner

/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.

 

 

10 Memorable Baseball Quotes

BaseballBaseball’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