On Life

Play Spud, Catch Fireflies, Run Through the Sprinkler

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I am one of the lucky ones.

My childhood was filled with laughter and love and long days spent outside that rolled into the evening. When I think of my formative years, I picture myself playing outside on the lawn, riding bikes through the neighborhood, going to the park, splashing at the neighborhood pool, or hunting down my friends in a friendly game of flashlight tag. We were outside most of the time; I’m sure my mother loved it that way. Besides, why be cooped up all day inside when the glorious sunshine beckoned us to come outside…and…well, play.

Two days ago on one of my long walks in my current neighborhood, I came upon a group of kids. They were playing SPUD. I said to one of them, “SPUD was my favorite game as a kid.” He responded, “It’s the best.”

He’s right. It’s a great game for all to play. It doesn’t take a lot of talent, and it’s just fun to see what happens after you throw that ball up in the air and call someone’s name. It’s good old-fashioned fun. No electronics are needed. Just a ball and some friends. And voila! You’ve got a game.

We happened to love that game and played it on the hill in our backyard in Bowie. Our family had a pretty grand hill—super for sledding in the winter, that was for sure. But in the summer, we made use of it in other ways. SPUD was a street favorite. There was also Hide and Seek using our yard, our neighbor’s yard, and our other neighbor’s yard across the street.  Flashlight tag worked the same way. We played Graveyard and What Time Is It, Mr. Fox and Red Light, Green Light.

On super hot days, if we weren’t at the pool, we’d get in our bathing suits and run through the sprinkler. We’d get squirt guns and play a game of squirt gun tag.

When dusk arrived, we got our Mason jars, kiddie nets or our hands, and hunted for fireflies. We’d catch them and watch them light up while we ate ice cream on the patio. Then, we’d let them free.

As the crisp spring air and sunshine warms up Maryland, I hope I see more kids outside playing SPUD, eating ice cream, catching fireflies, and running through the sprinkler.

Just like the days of old.

imageStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

On Life

7 Meaningful Takeaways from 2016

Hello Friends, Readers, and Fellow Bloggers,

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of the year again—a time to reflect on the past year and see if there were any takeaways and lessons learned from the last 365 days. In my college classes, I always have students write a final reflection that permits them the opportunity to critically analyze what they have learned over the course of the semester. I figured I’d do the same about what I’ve learned in 2016.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-4-37-37-pm#1: Your Health Is Everything

This past summer, I made a commitment to becoming healthier all around. This included diet, exercise, and my own personal health. Setting these goals allowed me to lose weight, feel better about myself, and engage in activities that were beneficial to my well-being. In addition to dropping nearly 30 pounds, I stayed committed to regular exercise and fitness. (I won’t lie: I think I ate a few too many holiday cookies, but we’re all entitled to a splurge now and then, right?). Additionally, I stayed focused on things that make me happy personally: writing, reading and fashion. These three hobbies of mine make me happy–and we’re all entitled to some personal indulgence now and then. (A day at the spa doesn’t hurt, either).

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#2: Really, Your Health is Everything: Don’t Ignore A Medical Issue

While I never made this public here on the blog or on social media, my students and colleagues who saw me regularly were aware that for the months of November through December, I wore a heart monitor for 30 days. After experiencing racing heartbeats and the feeling of my heart skipping beats, I took myself to my general doctor who then sent me off to a cardiologist. I had two EKGs, a heart sonogram, and wore the heart monitor that had a node and wire below my breast, above my other breast, and then the monitor that had to attach to my clothing. (I teased that I looked like Britney Spears wired up for her concert; all I needed was the microphone). There wasn’t a way to hide it, really. Plus, the thing made a high-pitched noise like Rudolph’s nose when my heart skipped beats. While I was terrified as to what the cardiologist might find, during those 30 days, I learned to appreciate my health more than I ever had before. I continued to exercise (though not as strenuously as I had previously), and I was determined to keep myself healthy when the monitor went away. Luckily for me, what I learned after the study is that I am prone to an extra heartbeat that can be set off by a lack of potassium, magnesium, electrolytes, and stress. When I hugged my cardiologist after hearing the good news, I likened my extra heartbeat to having extra love to give.

Well, at least that’s the way I’ve chosen to look at it.

Nevertheless, this episode taught me never to take things for granted, and that taking care of ourselves should always be a top priority.

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#3: Don’t Say NO To Travel

I saw California: Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley and San Francisco. I almost didn’t go on this trip with my husband. I’m so glad I did. It was lovely–I absolutely loved it. As well, our family traveled to Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head, South Carolina, where we did a lot of things, but primarily, we made memories.

That’s why you can’t say no to it. It’s not something you can purchase and give to someone–it’s experiential, and it’s something you should do as it bonds you and brings you together in more ways than one.

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#4: If The Shoe Fits, Buy It

I know material things shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all, but I’ve come to a conclusion in my middle-age years: if you find something you love and it will make you happy, buy it. It doesn’t matter if it’s clothes, music, a ticket to the theatre, movie, or sporting event, a purse you’ve saved for, or a diamond necklace—if it makes you happy and you can afford it without going into debt, get it. We only live one short life, so we might as well make ourselves happy.

#5: Make Time For Your Friends

This one’s a tough topic for me because I’m feeling like many of my friendships have changed and morphed over the years, and I blame a lot of that on social media and our busy family lives. My opinion is that because we are connected on social media 24-7, we think we are having meaningful relationships with people we used to talk on the phone with our go out with regularly. However, the truth is, these friendships have lost their special qualities when we think we can stay connected just through Facebook or Instagram. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to reach out more to friends the old-fashioned way–by calling them, inviting them to dinner, or by mailing them a handwritten letter. Reconnecting with our friends in the old way is what makes these friendships last…not posting and viewing each others’ photos on Facebook at the expense of spending time with one another.

Image result for what's your superpower#6: Inspire Others With Your Superpower

Whatever your amazing talent or gift is, you should consider sharing it with others in order to inspire them. For example, I received a lovely letter (mailed to my house, by the way!) from a student who told me I inspired her in many ways: to write, to pursue writing as a career, and maybe even to getting a master’s degree and teaching someday. I was tickled pink by this letter and will treasure it always; it made me realize that I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing—teaching. That is my superpower. What’s yours? How can you inspire and encourage others? When you answer this question, I challenge you to do it. You will feel wonderful as you begin to help others find their way.

inn-significant-cover-verni#7: Don’t Let Fear Stop You From Doing Something You Love

In a few weeks, I’ll be putting out my latest novel entitled Inn Significant. I’ve worked on it all year, and I am almost ready to let it go. Let me tell you something you probably already know: putting something out into the universe leaves you very vulnerable. It’s not an easy thing to do, and you must have the strength and gumption to do it. Do you think I second-guess my characters, plot, and story line? Of course I do. Do you think I worry that people won’t like it? That would be a ‘yes.’ However, we cannot let these self-doubts and worry consume us. I love to write. I love to tell stories. I know my type of story isn’t for everybody, but guess what? That’s okay.

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If you love what you do, you must be confident in that love for it. Nobody wants to put out a bad product…we do it for the love of what it is. So, I am encouraging you to not let FEAR decide whether or not you get to do what you love. YOU get to do that.

That’s it folks. I hope some of these ring true for you as well. Here’s wishing you a very happy and prosperous New Year filled with blessings. I’ll see you in 2017.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

 

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On Life

Christmas Supper Club

image5Last night, our friends Jackie and Matt hosted our final Supper Club dinner of the year. It’s always so nice to get together around Christmas, eat some delicious homemade food, drink some Christmas spirits, and share quality time with our friends. In fact, we knew how much fun we were having when all of a sudden we looked at the clock and said, “It’s almost midnight!” Time certainly does fly when you’re having fun.

image11We’ve been getting together for over two years now; approximately every other month, each couple takes turns hosting at their home. The couple who hosts makes the main course and provides some drinks, and everyone else who attends brings an appetizer, salad, side, or dessert that goes along with the theme of the dinner. Last night’s theme was Italian; before we arrived, Kathleen shared the appetizer she made–and Jackie made one, too. Our meal last night was a true collaboration, and everything was delicious. The baked ziti, made by our hostess, was scrumptious; Sarah brought a fresh green salad, I brought Chicken Parm meatballs (a fantastic Martha Stewart recipe I’m sharing here), and Jen made an outstanding “makes your taste buds so happy” Tiramisu. One missing ingredient was our sixth couple, our friends Shawna and Rick, who spent the evening with their kids seeing a show.

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Two kinds of Ziti: one spicy, one not-so-spicy.
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Jackie set a beautiful “sparkly” Christmas table.
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The Chicken Parm meatballs I made…Martha Stewart’s recipe. These things were outstanding…recipe above.
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Christmas Sangria. Easy to make…and goes down easy, too.

Drinks and cheer were flowing…I attempted to make the Christmas Sangria, a recipe I’ve pinned over and over and was itching to try, which turned out to be rather delicious.

Santa even left some presents under the tree for us…but the best part about Supper Club is just getting together with friends in their warm and welcoming homes.

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Ready for supper!
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Sarah taking a whiff of Jen’s delectable Tiramisu!
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Not in a group photo, but I was there!
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A sampling of the bar…

So, farewell to Supper Club 2015; it was a great way to go out. We’ll be looking forward to a whole new round of recipes, drinks, and good conversation in 2016!

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Another angle of Jackie’s table…and that chandelier…oh my!
Books & Flim, Posts About Baseball

Readers Share Baseball Girl on Social Media

I said this earlier in the week, and I mean every bit of it: I am touched by my friends and supporters.

Thank you so much for helping a little independent author like me get the word out there. It’s word of mouth, sharing on social media, pinning, and talking it up that are seriously the best promotional tools for any indie author. Please know how much I value your support, encouragement, and kind words.

As a quick tribute to those who have helped promote the news of Baseball Girl, I thought I would share some of the photos they have been sharing on social media.

I’m truly tickled by your efforts.

If you ever take the novel on vacation with you, and you want to snap a photo in some cool, exotic location, or if you’re just reading it somewhere cozy, feel free to Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram it to me. I’d love to share your photo.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone, and thanks for reading.

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From Mary
From Mary
From Amy
From Amy
From Mariana
From Mariana
From Chrissie
From Chrissie
Chrysti
From Chrysti
On Life

Five Tips for Finding Balance in Your Life

FindBalanceOne of the most difficult things we deal with on a daily basis is striking that desired balance we want to achieve in our lives: the balance of juggling family, friends, work, commitments, exercise, kids activities, healthy eating, and more. It is not easy to “find the time” to do everything we want; therefore, we must learn to prioritize what is important each day.

Tip 1

Plan each activity in your calendar.

A great tip for helping find this state of “balance” is to plan each activity or task into your daily planner. For example, you should write in your planner or your iPhone calendar that Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are days for exercise. Select a time in the day that you want to do that task. Likewise, with other activities or kids activities you engage in, put them in your calendar. We are more apt to “check things off our list” than we are to navigate through those items without a plan.

Tip 2

Don’t overextend yourself.

While the word “no” is typically associated with something negative, use the word “no” to your advantage. Learn to decline things that may send you over the edge with regard to scheduling. If you simply do not have the time or energy in the day, week, month, or year to engage in that particular event or task, simply decline it. Others will step up, and you will have more time to complete things that are more important. This includes social calendars; sometimes we have to pass on something in order to make room for something else. The quote by David Allen, “You can do anything, but not everything,” kind of says it all.DoEverything?

Tip 3

Make room for down time.

In this world of rushing here and there, be sure to make time to relax and enjoy some down time. Take a walk, ride your bike, read a book, watch a movie, or just enjoy appetizers or dessert with family and friends. Making time for ourselves helps clear the mind, and it helps rejuvenate us for the week ahead of work and commitments.

Tip 4

Find a hobby.

Sometimes we are so busy working or going to school that we forget to do some of the things we love. For me, it’s creative writing. For you, it’s probably something else. Taking time to do something we love matters; it helps to satisfy the soul. If we love to paint, paint. If we love to ice skate, go ice skate. If we love our Fantasy Football League, stay involved in it. Whatever it is, we need to have that something that is all ours.

Tip 5

Don’t forget your friends.

Social media has helped us all stay connected in a peripheral sort of way, but it’s not in the same as picking up the phone, writing a letter or dropping a card, or just popping by to say hello to someone you care about. We all need friends in our lives, and staying connected means just that–letting the other person know you care about them. Also, our friends provide us with balance. When we’ve had a difficult day, need a shoulder to cry on, or just need some good old-fashioned girl or guy time to catch up, our friends are there to help us know that we all go through the same things.

Finding balance is not easy. We are bombarded with things to do, places to go, and commitments to work and school. However, if we can break it down and plan accordingly, things will become easier, and we won’t feel as frantic about each week ahead we face.

About Creative Writing, Posts About Baseball

On slumps, in baseball and in writing…

CreativityLast night after my son’s baseball game and in the middle of a post-game, in-depth discussion about baseball bunting, I told my kids to hold it a second. “Let’s call Charles and ask him what he thinks about bunting.”

I’m not a fan of bunting, though I do realize it has its benefits. I dialed Charles’s number, and he picked up. This, in itself, is miraculous. Sometimes he is just too busy to chat. Charles currently works for the Boston Red Sox, is a brilliant, creative mind, and happens to be one of my former bosses from my days at the Orioles.  He also is one of those dearest of friends where, when you chat with him, though we haven’t lived in the same city for years, not a moment has passed. We always just pick up where we left off.

In this discussion where Charles used Earl Weaver as an example of one who didn’t much care for the bunt, we determined that it’s really the sacrifice bunt that I have a problem with in the game of baseball. I don’t like giving up an out just to advance a runner. For some reason, it drives me crazy, and we talked it through. And don’t get me started on the suicide squeeze.

After we worked out the bunting issue—for you see, I am writing my next novel about baseball and working in the sport—he asked me how my writing was coming along. I didn’t tell him the whole truth, that I’ve been in a writing slump, and that I’ve hardly paid much attention to it lately. Instead, I just said, “Well, I’ve got about 42,000 words written.” Why I say this to people, I have no idea. What good is a novel in progress if you’re not writing it? “Beneath the Mimosa Tree” was roughly 58,000 words. This really means nothing. “Baseball Girl” may end up being longer. It’s hard to say when you’ve abandoned the poor, helpless characters that rely on you.

The truth of the matter is, I realized, like ballplayers, I’m in a slump. They have hitting slumps and I have writing slumps.

CalRipkenO'sBut like most slumps, at some point you come out of them. Remember when Cal Ripken had his hitting slump and problem with his stance at the plate? We all thought it was over, but the Iron Man fooled us, and came out of it just fine. We should have known better.

What I also didn’t reveal to Charles is that, thanks to his prodding and enthusiasm for my writing (he gave me wonderful, rave reviews for my first book), I am back at it. I’m ready to go. Today, a few ideas came flooding into my very tired brain. The light’s been switched back on.

As Dionne Warwick once belted out in song, “That’s what friends are for.”

Books & Flim

Odds & Ends, Updates, Books & Joe Flacco

logoThere was a lot of excitement this week…

It all started Monday night, when ABC2’s THE LIST featured BENEATH THE MIMOSA TREE on the show. It was a thrill to see the piece come together. Many thanks go to Steven, Nicki, Suzette, and my husband for helping this come to fruition.

FrankSinatraHasAColdThis week also marked the beginning of the spring semester. I hope my student are busy reading FRANK SINATRA HAS A COLD by Gay Talese, one of the greatest profile pieces ever written. We’ll be talking about that in magazine class this upcoming week. Originally written for Esquire in April 1966, it’s a classic snapshot that delves into Sinatra during a certain period of his life.

On Tuesday night, I stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish THE KITCHEN HOUSE. Admittedly, I couldn’t put it down and wanted to see what happened to all the characters. I’ll be formally reviewing the book on GOODREADS, so if you want to get connected and share book reviews, check me out there. We can “swap” book stories  and make recommendations.

The-Kitchen-HouseLast night I attended my first book club meeting as a “new” member. THE LADIES OF CLARKSVILLE/COLUMBIA invited me to join their book club after I was their guest author in December. I was thrilled to be asked, as I haven’t been in a book club in years, and we had a hearty discussion of THE KITCHEN HOUSE in Chris’s family room last night, replete with southern recipes Chris prepared for us as hostess. I’m enjoying getting to know my new friends! So much fun! We picked our next book, THE LOST WIFE, and I look forward to the February meeting.TheLostWife

Along with my friend, Jenny, we also met a couple of other folks, Jack and Jamie. It’s always wonderful to connect with people who share a love of reading, books, and the appreciation for the beauty of books. As Jack said, “In every room in my house, there are books. I love the Kindle for traveling, but I hope books never go away.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

p.s. Speaking of magazines, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco graced the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, which leaves me only to say, Go Ravens!

Joe Flacco makes the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Joe Flacco makes the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Books & Flim

Book ‘Em Danno: Making New Friends Through Book Club Visits

The support I’ve received for “Beneath the Mimosa Tree” has been overwhelming. From former students writing and publishing articles about the novel in local newspapers, to friends emailing me about how much they enjoyed it, to people recommending the book on Facebook or Goodreads, to book clubs asking me to attend their meetings, it’s been heartwarming. Truly.

Then, add on top of it that “Beneath the Mimosa Tree” has been awarded a Finalist Award for Contemporary Fiction in Readers Favorite’s annual contest, and I’ve got a whole lot of warm and fuzziness going on right now.

Cover Girls of Ellicott City Book Club

The Annapolis Book Bag Ladies and Cover Girls meetings, along with my colleague Leeanne’s book club I attended in May, have been so much fun to visit. I’ve met some fantastic women who share a love of reading. They were genuinely interested in the writing process and the plot and character developments. They asked me when I write and what the creative process is like. They wanted to know how I market the novel and have offered to help in any way that they can. This kind of support is touching. It means the world to me. I have two upcoming visits scheduled, and I look forward to them immensely.

Also, for these book club visits, I come armed with a tin of homemade Italian cookies, a family recipe that perhaps Annabelle’s mother would have sold in La Pancia Affamata? If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about here.

Have cookies, will travel.
Perhaps these are a variety of cookies Annabelle’s mother baked at La Pancia Affamata…

So, thank you ladies of the book clubs for making me feel welcome and for caring enough to have me attend your meetings. I’ve enjoyed every second, and look forward to continuing my relationships with these new friends, as well as meeting new ones along this journey.

On Life

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Such a big thrill for me! Click on the image to go right to Amazon!

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This was a big week for me. For the first time in my life, I can say I’m an author. I’ve written a book. I’ve endured the anxieties that come along with self-publishing, and miraculously, I’m still standing. It’s been a week where sleep has meant very little, but my friends have meant a lot.

Launching one’s own piece of writing is a test. It’s truly a test of one’s own nerves. I’ve asked myself if I have the gumption to subject myself to criticism and opinion when the writing and plot of my book are dissected. I’ve got to have thick skin; it’s true. If I don’t, I’ll never make it as a writer. (Or anything else in life, for that matter, if I’m unwilling to give it a try!)

But what was overwhelming this week for me was not launching it. That part was pretty easy. The overwhelming part was how responsive my friends, colleagues, and family members have been with regard to the book. Friends have reached out and said, “We can’t wait to read it!” They’ve posted my announcements on their Facebook pages and pinned to my book on Pinterest. They’ve talked about it and passed along the word to others. I’ve been on a high all week. I’m so thankful. I truly am.

And guess what that does? It makes me want to work harder the next time I put something out there because I’d never want to let them down. I couldn’t have gotten to this point without my support system. My Facebook friends have been amazing. I’ll be forever grateful.

On Amazon's list of 4-for-3 yesterday.

The most fun has been watching the book move around on Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” area under the 4-for-3 category. At one point, I hit #10 under “general fiction.” When I saw Nicholas Sparks was at #1, it was the biggest thrill. In that category, I was only nine behind him.

That’s all well and good and loads of fun. At this point, after all the stress, I should be allowed to have a little fun with it. And I do intend to enjoy it now. However, I’ve learned a very valuable lesson this week. It’s quite simple, actually, and it comes in the form of a song. As the Beatles said, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

About Creative Writing

Have Yourself A Yummy Little Christmas Now

In a few hours, my house will be full of people, from family to friends to little children. I look forward to the Christmas Eve festivities every year. It’s such a warm, wonderful time to spend with the ones you love.It’s also a wonderful time to eat with the ones you love.

My husband dropped a pretty penny yesterday at Scittino’s Italian Market in Catonsville, Maryland. The Italian tradition of the seven fish dinner may live on in many homes, but not here. We begin with a huge antipasto where we indulge in cheeses, breads, prosciutto, capicola, roasted red peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, and…I must stop. My mouth is starting to water already. Pour me a glass of wine.

Last night, I spent hours baking cookies and prepping the baked ziti and fish we will be having as our main course along with what we call “The Good Salad.” We are on our way to being full and fat by the night’s end. And I haven’t even mentioned the desserts yet.

I’d love to write more about this delectable meal, but I must get going. They are coming in a few hours and I must shower and get the place ready.

But before I go, I’d like to wish you and your family a very happy Christmas and to those of you who celebrate other holidays, very happy ones as well. I’ve had a lovely year and I hope you have, too.

I sincerely thank you for reading my blog; you all keep me going.

Enjoy your holiday and have yourself a yummy little Christmas now.

From My Family to Yours...Merry Christmas!