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).

Image result for heart health

#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.


#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.


#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.


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.




On Life

Sharing Something Sweet: A Reward That Comes From Teaching

Yesterday, I popped onto my Instagram feed to take a peek at what was going on when I came across this:

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 9.16.30 AM

The Instagram post was written by a former student who was also one of the co-presidents of our public relations club that I advise and someone I mentored during her college years. During that time and afterwards, we became friends.

I am always so touched when someone takes the time to write something heartwarming like this. It’s the best reward one can get from being a teacher.

I am full of gratitude, and it brought a tear to my eye. It means the world to me.

Thank you so much, Rachel, for your very kind words, and for allowing me to share this on my blog. And I’m so proud of the journey you’ve taken into the world of higher education where you are now making a big difference in the lives of students, too.

xx |

signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.


On Life

Let Scrooge In This Holiday Season

AlbertFinney | Scrooge
My Favorite Scrooge | Albert Finney in Scrooge the Musical Version

I’m crossing my fingers that my feature writing students will heed my advice and read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. We talked about the book’s timeless appeal: a ghost story wrapped up in the idea of redemption at the holidays. When you study writing, it’s important to study all writers. Stephen King, in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, strongly urges writers to read other writers. It’s the only way we learn technique, garner ideas, and think about things in new and exciting ways. ‘Tis the season, I say. Plus, we could all use a little reminder of the importance of giving and caring and loving those around us.

“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that…Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.” (From the opening paragraph of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens).Scrooge&Marley

Dickens had the keen ability to write intriguing characters, those that will live on in the hearts and minds of people for generations to come; and Scrooge is simply marvelous. And yet, the brilliance of the novel comes bit by bit, with the Ghost of Christmases Past, Present, and Future all paying our main character timely visits throughout the night. The question for Scrooge is this: Can he change his ways, turn himself around, and become a better person all in one night and will this change last for the rest of his life?

As Scrooge says, “It’s Christmas Day! I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like Of course, they can. Of course they can.”

Therein lies the appeal. Show me a person who hasn’t done something in his or her life that he or she regrets, and I’ll show you a ten-legged alien from the planet Outinspace. We fail. We do dumb things. We make bad choices that turn into big mistakes.

Scrooge’s mistakes were just on a grand scale. Yet he repents, changes, and comes to terms with them. He rights his wrongs.

One may question the novel’s incredible, yet simple, theme and whether or not Scrooge’s specters were imagined or real. Did the ghosts actually appear for his salvation? Or, did Scrooge imagine them or dream them in order to save himself?

It really doesn’t matter either way, because what Dickens does so artfully well is he makes us think. He makes us ask ourselves questions such as the following: What would happen if we revisited our own pasts with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future and could clearly see the things we’ve said or done that may have been hurtful or have to examine and scrutinize again and again the choices that we’ve made in life?

Dickens’s brainchild allows us to live vicariously through Scrooge. He had to endure a harsh wake-up call for the sake of us all.

The truth is, when we read the novel, or when we see the film, we are reminded of our own capacity to make small and big mistakes in our lives. We cannot help but glide across the cold, night air with Scrooge as he watches the shadows of his life pass before him, and we are reminded that he represents us.

Moreover, it doesn’t matter how many times I read the book or watch the film (and most especially, at the end of the musical version with Albert Finney), I cry. His change is our change; we have become a part of him, and he has become a part of us. We have been redeemed.

Do yourself a favor and read the book—or watch one of the films. Its timelessness and perfection make it a ghost story that will remain a classic for years and years to come.


On a side note, writing A Christmas Carol was good for Dickens’s career and for the Christmas holiday in general. The notion of Christmas as a special, commercial, and magical time of year can be attributed to his artful imagination. You can thank Dickens for promoting Christmas as “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time,” as was stated by Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, in the text.

Christmas, as it is now, can be attributed directly to Dickens. And it all started with an old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge.


“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.” — Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol


Our family last year at Ford’s Theatre seeing A Christmas Carol.

One other note: If you live in the Baltimore/Washington Metropolitan area and you have not seen A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre, you are missing one of the best treats of the season. My husband and I went years ago, and last year, we went with our children. We all thought the stage production was absolutely fabulous.

If you don’t live in the area, I highly recommend the musical version of Scrooge with Albert Finney and Sir Alec Guiness. For classic, non-musical versions, try A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott as Scrooge, or the older version with Alastair Sim.

Books & Flim

Why I Can’t See “Titanic” in 3D

Dear Readers,

So it’s here: “Titanic” in 3D. It’s been 15 years since we’ve seen the film on the big screen, and now it’s back as that mogul James Cameron tries to lure film buffs to return to theatres to see it in a new way. The James Cameron 3D way.

I’ve discussed “Titanic” with many of my friends and students. It typically goes like this.

“Professor Verni, don’t you want to see ‘Titanic’ in 3D?”


“Why not?” they ask. “You’re a romantic. It’s one of the great love stories in the movies.”

This is certainly true, but apparently, they don’t know me well enough to understand how I am the epitome of a “hopeless romantic” as opposed to simply a “romantic.” The “hopeless” in the words means that we are hopelessly hopeful there will be a happy ending, that love will conquer all. “Titanic” does not give us a happy ending, not for Rose and Jack, and not for many of the other passengers who died on that tragic evening. It’s a film I was happy to see once, not twice, and not again, in a 3D kind of way. It’s way too much for me to handle. There’s just too much sorrow and agony. There’s enough of that in the real world, and I, for one, am pretty sure it will just depress me.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not one to rail against a film. “Titanic” was brilliant. It deserved the awards it won. It was an amazing piece of work, it’s just that, as Celine Dion’s “heart can’t go on,” my poor heart can’t take it again.

And yet, the irony is, I can watch and have my heart broken over and over again as I get involved in films like “The Bridges of Madison County,” or “Out of Africa,” or “The Thorn Birds.” Good grief. I’ve cried many tears over those movies…and will continue to do so every time I click through the channels and see one of those films playing. I stop and watch, absolutely mesmerized. I can’t help myself.

But “Titanic” is so desperately sad. Nevertheless, I will endorse it in this manner: If you never had the opportunity to see it back in 1997 on the big screen, you may want to indulge in this wreck of broken hearts and disaster in the theatre. It is a movie worth seeing. I just can’t put myself through it again.

With my apologies to James Cameron,

Books & Flim

Encouraging the Longer Reads: An Educator’s Dilemma

Here’s a typical day in either my magazine writing or feature writing class. It usually goes something like this:

Me: “So, today your assignment is to read a classic and masterful example of profile writing as we prepare to write our own profile pieces. The article is called “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold” and was written by Gay Talese in 1966. The article ran in Esquire magazine and is still regarded as one of the finest profile pieces ever written.” http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ1003-OCT_SINATRA_rev_

Then, the students usually look at the length of the piece and say things like…

“Wow. This is a L-O-N-G piece.”

“How many pages is this? It’s kinda long, isn’t it?”

“Exactly how long is this article?”

“How long will it take me to read this?”

It’s long. I get it (and I know how long it is, folks). It’s brilliant. So, who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Who’s afraid of a lengthy story?

I thought I was on an island for a little while, scratching my head and then second guessing myself – was this article too involved for them to analyze? I quickly slapped my face and got it together. No. It’s perfect, I thought. Do not deviate from the game plan. Besides, it’s already on the syllabus. I must encourage students to read these longer articles. I must force them to step away from the brevity of texting, Twitter, and Facebook. They must delve into these substantial pieces.

On Saturday, May 28, an article in The Washington Post written by Paul Farhi appeared on my doorstep and helped validate my beliefs. The article is entitled: “Up from the pit of pithiness on the Web: While others tweet, some think the next big thing will be long, thoughtful prose.” Oh joy of joys! The article discusses a wonderful website that I’ve now linked to through Scribe Links on my blog called Longreads.com, a site created by Mark Armstrong (longreads.com). He posts articles that are over 1,500 words and there are a variety of articles and stories to read—all on the lengthy side. And guess what ladies and gentlemen? “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold” is among those listed. (For more on this Washington Post article, visit thewashingtonpost.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx to register and read it). I’m enamored with this idea of a site promoting longer reads. As Armstrong notes, it’s perfect for people who want substance when they are commuting, waiting for a plane, on a car ride, waiting for the bus, etc. And, it’s perfect to read on a Kindle or an iPad (and even suitable for those of us reading on computers who are not in transit).

Not everyone wants information in a quick and easy way. People are still reading long books like The Pillars of the Earth, The Help, “…And Ladies of The Club”, and Bleak House. It’s still being done. Likewise, folks might like to plunk themselves down with a longer journalism story, fiction or creative non-fiction piece, or even an interview or historical article. Longreads.com is there for you when you need that kind of stimulation to entertain you when you’re in-between books or you forgot to pack something to read on that trip on the subway across town.

So, fall feature writing students B-E-W-A-R-E. There may be quite a few long reads on the syllabus, but trust me, they are all worth the (long?) investment of your time.