Write on Wednesday – The Santa Diaries Goes to Indiana and Maine – July 18, 2018

Laura Ambler and I are over the moon.  Last week we got word that The Santa Diaries will be produced in Crawfordsville, Indiana this year by the Sugar Creek Players as their Christmas Show.

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And then two days later we were approached by the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath, Maine who also wanted to do the show. Of course, we said “YES.”

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Laura and I are honored that the original The Santa Diaries has chosen by the Sugar Creek Players and the Chocolate Church Arts Center for production this December.We are big fans of community theaters which play important roles in so many small towns. They build community and often become families for local actors, musicians and front and back of house volunteers.

Community theaters throughout the country have also saved countless buildings. Sugar Creek’s home is a former movie theater, as is the Avalon Theatre in Easton, Maryland where we live. Chocolate Church is one of two iconic Gothic Revival Churches from the 1840’s located in Bath. This church would have been demolished, but local citizens, recognizing its architectural significance and in the spirit of supporting the cultural arts, came together to create The Chocolate Church Arts Center. It received this name because of its unique chocolate brown color that covers the original caramel color it was before it had been painted white. Here’s a link for its interesting history.

The Sugar Creek Players, in Crawfordsville, Indiana, found a permanent home when W. Addington Vance and Myron Pattison deeded the Vanity Motion Picture Theater to them. Prior to that Sugar Creek had been producing shows at Wabash College, in local high schools, gyms and once in a Holiday Inn. In 1988, despite tar paper flooring, folding metal chair seating, and a lack of air conditioning, the opening show in the new theater was a success and the Players finally had a home.

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The cherry on the top of our Christmas pudding is that the sequel to The Santa Diaries will be produced in Faribault, MN by The Merlin Players who commissioned the play. Almost all the actors in the original prodcution of The Santa Diaries will play the same characters — five years later. Brandeee is pregnant but who is the father? The new show is titled: The Santa Diaries: A Christmas Wedding. We are beyond grateful that The Merlin Players reached out to us.

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Our plays will be in three states this December. Laura and I hope to be able to attend some of the shows. A road trip is being planned.

 

Six on Saturday – Getting an Early Start – 7-14-18

  1. It’s too hot to work in the garden past 10 a.m. I can begin watering early, but on this particular morning the colors in the sky beckoned me to walk to the water’s edge so I abandoned hoses for watching the sun rise on the Miles River.

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2. When I got back to the house a few minutes later, I fastened on my toolbelt and began working. I don’t know where I acquired this small toolbelt but I couldn’t garden without it. There is a place that perfectly holds a pair of Fiskars scissors. The orange handles mean I don’t often lose them. They are inexpensive and the tool I use as much as my Felco pruners. This time of year I carry a roll of plastic tape with me as there always seems to be something that needs tying up. And I always have to have something for a drippy nose.

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3. The dusty miller is blooming. I don’t remember seeing it bloom before. This variety wintered over in a pot where a slip of coreopsis was tucked in this spring. It keeps blooming as long as I deadhead it.  The  whorls on the upper left are the remainders of clematis blooms.

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4. Rudbeckia is beginning to bloom and will be gorgeous in another week or so. They droop in these dry conditions but perk up after watering. They are a reliable perennial in my garden withstanding flooding and drought and clay soil.

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5. The veggie beds are not producing well with the heat and dry conditions, but I am harvesting cucumbers. The bumble bees are busy on the cucumber blossoms. The *&%$ squirrels ate the two gorgeous Shah tomatoes I had a photo of last week. I was not happy!  My bed of tomatoes at the community garden is beginning to produce. I’ll be canning tomato sauce in a couple of weeks

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6. Quite a few of the Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum succulents) are sending up blooming stalks. The rosette at the bottom of the stalk will die so there will be some maintenance required on these hypertufa planters I made last fall. I have tried some of the other colors of sempervivums, but the green ones reliably winter over and spread for me.

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I hope you enjoy my Six on Saturday for this week. The meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

 

 

 

Write on Wednesday – Short Attention Span Theatre – July 11, 2018

Last Sunday I attended (with Laura Ambler and my husband) the Short Attention Span Theatre in Chestertown, Maryland. Performed in the Garfield Center for the Arts,  on Chestertown’s main street, the space used to be a movie theater. Laura spent summers with her grandmother who lived in Chestertown and remembered seeing movies here — sometimes with bats flying in the high ceiling. I saw no bats on Sunday.

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A group of playwrights meets monthly at the Garfield to read each others works and critique them. Here’s a link to more information in case you’re interested in the group. Once a year nine or ten ten-minute plays are selected for production. This is the 14th year for these Short Attention Span Theatre productions. Why did we never get to one before?

During the intermission we smelled popcorn. Laura loves popcorn and went to the concession stand to get some. You could get a beer or a glass of wine but they didn’t have any popcorn. She came back disappointed. We wondered if we were having a folie à deux, the psychiatric term for a shared delusion.  The first ten-minute play after the  intermission had a bowl of popcorn as a prop. Turns out we aren’t as crazy as sometimes we think we are.

We love theater because we always get ideas, and these ten minute plays must be a challenge to write. No time for multiple plot lines. The story is set up right away and moves quickly to the denoument when the threads of the plot are pulled together. Several of the plays relied heavily on physical comedy which also gave us some ideas as what Laura and I write often turns comedic.

We really went to see the show because our writer friend, Brent Lewis, was on the bill. (It was piece of Brent’s writing that I shared on last week’s Wednesday blog post.) His play,  All Over But The Shouting, has only two characters, cranky elderly brothers in a nursing home who think an incoming missile is going to obliterate them in ten minutes. This gives them just a little time to try to resolve every damn argument and misunderstanding before they are blown to bits.

Below are Brent, me, my husband Roger and Laura. Laura’s husband would have been with us but he was flying.

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But I’m really glad we went. Brent’s play was awesome and I know from experience how important it is to have people you know see your work — and like it. Somehow Chestertown, Maryland seems further than going to Baltimore, but it’s not. We need to try harder to see local theater and support all the playwrights, even the ones we don’t know.

Six on Saturday – July 7, 2018 – Rain Dance Visualization

I am writing this on Friday morning, obsessively checking the weather channel radar map to see if the predicted 80% chance of rain is going to get to us. Sometimes it just doesn’t transit across the Chesapeake Bay to the Eastern Shore. The ground is cracking and I will lose plants if we don’t get significant rain soon. I can’t water enough to keep up. The gardens are looking sad with a few exceptions. Note: it is now almost 7pm and the rain has just skirted around us. My rain dance visualization had no effect. Tomorrow I will haul hoses.

Here’s my six. Only photos that don’t show the desolation…

  1. This small tree is a Vitex or chaste tree. I prune mine to keep it from getting too tall. It’s glorious for a couple of weeks. A native of the Mediterranean area, it doesn’t mind our summer dry spells.Pruning the suckers on the bottom is on the “to do” list, although they do hide a wonky stem that was the result of someone, who shall remain nameless, backing over the plant when it was small.

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2. A couple of years ago I had a wheelbarrow that I didn’t know how to dispose of. So I painted it purple, put potting soil in it and planted it with mint.  I learned my lesson about the invasive quality of mint years ago as a newbie gardener. Now it only goes in elevated pots or containers as the roots will escape through drainage holes. This spring I replaced the soil in the barrow, replanted rooted cuttings and put a chartreuse coleus in the front (because I had been at a nursery and couldn’t help myself). The pot on the right side has left over SunPatiens from planting the window boxes in the front of the house.

I put a drip irrigation hose in the mint which is keeping it fresh, but you can see the drooping yellow jasmine by the fence. I need to run some drip to it.

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3. The cleome that were tiny two weeks ago are going to town despite the drought. The window boxes are planted with SunPatiens which do well given the late afternoon sun on the front of the house. I have drip irrigation in the boxes.

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4. This is heliopsis Burning Heart. I ordered it last spring and it was puny looking when it came. I’ve parked it in one of the raised beds so I could keep an eye on it.

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5. Tomatoes are coming on. These are Shah, a white variety, which I’ve never grown before. The seeds were included with other seeds I’d ordered. Shah’s leaves are different as you can see below the tomatoes. There is also a Sungold in this pot. The leaves of that variety look like traditional tomato leaves.

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6. The photo below shows what happens when you wait too late to prune. I had already cut back the red twig dogwood once but it was over powering the avocado sculpture so I cut it back again. A couple of days of temperatures in the high 90’s with blistering sun and this sun scald is the result. Tony Tomeo wrote a great blog post about summer heat and plants.

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I hope you enjoy my Six on Saturday for this week. The meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Write on Wednesday – July 4, 2018 – Finding a Voice

If you write fiction, finding your voice can be an ongoing search. My talented writing friend, Brent Lewis, has a unique voice that comes from growing up and hanging out with Eastern Shore folk. He eloquently writes about the Eastern Shore on his blog EasternShoreBrent.com and graciously gave me permission to repost Summer Marsh. It seemed appropriate for these hot summer days and the Fourth of July. Thank you, Brent.

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SUMMER MARSH

by easternshorebrent

Muggy drops of humidity hang suspended midair and almost visible.

The pungency of the marsh is pervasive, strong. It sticks to the skin. Rich with the cycles of life and death, the marsh is a sensory reminder of the changes wrought by time’s tides.

A blue heron flies low and with grace across a dish-calm creek.

Something else drifts by on the slow, saturated breeze. Something wistful. Something that smells like bulkhead creosote, tastes like warm beer from 10 oz. cans, and looks like cutoff denim shorts and bright cotton tank tops that provide free advertising to bars, beverages, and billionaire rock bands.

Feels like a dock splinter, like nostalgia.

Sounds like a summer squall. Electricity cracks the sky. The downriver horizon darkens with much more threat than warning. Regret storms in through unbattened hatches. A few minutes of intense natural fury and the tempest blows north, up the Chesapeake Bay.

Local tomatoes: heirloom red and sweetheart firm. Pale yellow sweet corn, cooked in the husk, swathed in butter. Blue crabs caught on trotlines, steamed and spiced to perfection, giving the best of themselves only to those who know their secrets.

Soft crabs fried. Served on white bread or Saltines as God intended.

Watermelon.

Carnivals, county fairs, and the ghost-march of long extinguished firemen’s parades.

Lightning bugs announce the dusk.

Grand explosions of red, and white, and blue, and gold, and silver thunder in the night sky while the marsh lies silent below the blasts of rockets, solid looking in the dark distance and surrounded by shallow, murky waterways and paved-over wetlands.

From the intended solemnity of Memorial Day, through the patriotic celebration of the Fourth of July, to Labor Day, when we honor those who work to make this country work, there’s nothing like summer to remind an Eastern Shoreman how the marsh permeates his soul.

Follow Brent at https://easternshorebrent.com/author/easternshorebrent/

Brent’s first novel, Bloody Point, is a page turner with a quirky cast of characters involved in  a mystery set on the the Eastern Shore in 1976. Available on Amazon.

This is Brent and me at his book launch signing party. Where else but at a crab house on Kent Island.

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The fantastic cover of Brent’s book was designed by my multi-talented writing partner, Laura Ambler. Brent is also a long-time member of our Working Writers Forum which meets monthy.

 

 

 

Six on Saturday – June 30, 2018 Ditch Lilies Mean Summer Is Here

Summer is here. We are hot and dry. The first six cubic yards of mulch has been put down. I promptly ordered another six yards. I don’t mulch every year and I want this effort to last for awhile. We’ll take our time spreading it in the cool early morning hours. The front of the house looks dressed up now.

Lots of things are blooming now in the garden and it’s hard to choose just six. I noticed some deer damage on a couple of hostas and sprayed Deer-Away. The squirrels are busy digging up my tulip bulbs. They really went to town after I put down the mulch. Why is that?  I wonder if I will have any tulips next spring.

I am not seeing many bees in the garden. That has me worried. The first two cukes were picked two days ago and we’ve started eating beans from the garden. The sugar snap peas haven’t produced well this year and will get pulled soon to make room for another crop of something.

Here are my Six on Saturday.

  1. I always called these common orange day lilies Ditch Lilies because they filled the ditches along the sides of the roads in the rolling hills of Maryland (on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay) where I used to live. When I googled Ditch Lily it seems that is one of the names they are known by so I have to get over thinking I made that up. On a walk one day I saw a double so I dug it up and brought it home where it thrived. When we moved I carried some of the tuberous roots with me and now have a whole section blooming near Shasta daisies in some very inhospitable soil. When the ditch lilies bloom I know summer is here.

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2. This Raspberry Wine monarda was brought from a reading garden I helped install at our local library. (Those of us who weed that garden feel entitled to bring home extras.) It is a lovely berry red and the bumbles like it. It grows about 4 feet tall but is prone to mildew. Behind the monarda are elephant ear leaves from tubers I left in the ground last winter. These are the leaves that I made cement castings from last summer. Leaving them in the ground was an experiment. Now I know I don’t have to dig and store the roots over the winter.

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3. In the front of the house the cleome have been thinned and mulched and are beginning to bloom. It will grow 24 – 36″ tall and blooms all summer. The tallest can be cut back and will send out blooming side shoots. I’ve mulched very heavily so I’m wondering if this will inhibit the cleome’s self-seeding. I need to edge the beds, but that may or may not get done. Getting mulch down before the hottest summer weather was the priority. I understand commercial landscapers have a motorized tool for edging. Maybe I can find one at a tool rental company. It would look more finished if it was edged.

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4. A seating area overlooking the azaleas is ringed with a small hosta that has lovely purple flowers. It spreads even in this dry area of my garden which only gets occasional watering. Surprisingly I have seen little slug damage to my hostas this year. Maybe those ashes from the fireplace (that Fred, the French gardener, suggested) helped.

The white blooms are on a variagated leaf hosta. I just had to include the lovely photo. It makes me want to be a painter. Maybe in my next life…

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5. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is native to our area. I have several clumps that the Monarchs will soon be visiting.

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6.  Northern Sea Oats can easily become invasive. I am very careful to cut the seed stalks back before they ripen and fall, but I’m considering removing them because it’s another gardening chore I have to remember to do. I certainly do love they way they wave in the breeze and they are lovely in flower arrangements.

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That’s my Six on Saturday for this week. The meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

 

 

Write on Wednesday: Is Writing My Passion?

There is alot of foot traffic in my neighborhood early in the morning. Runners, parents with strollers and lots of walkers, many with their dogs. I was out in the driveway on Saturday morning loading wheelbarrows of mulch to dress my garden beds and several people stopped to tell me how much they enjoy watching my gardens change through the seasons. Three people actually told me that gardening must be my passion.

That made me stop and think. I’m a writer. Shouldn’t that be my passion?

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I googled passion in one’s life and here’s what I got. “Knowing your passion in life gives you something to build the rest of your life around. Your passion can be anything that simultaneously challenges you, intrigues you and motivates you. Contrary to the idea that doing what you love makes work effortless, a passion puts you to work.”

Do I only get one passion? And how is passion related to self-identity?

Identity is multi-faceted and mine has evolved over the years. I do know one thing about myself. I’ve always loved learning. Part of my identity is being a student.When I was a young mother, my focus was on my children. A large part of my identity was Mother. When my children were in high school, I went back to graduate school and started working for a paycheck. Four kids in college at the same time was a daunting prospect for my husband and me. We had to plan for that. My work identity became Social Worker. When I retired I had an identity crisis for about two weeks so apparently being a Social Worker wasn’t drilled into my soul.

Is my passion writing or gardening? Certainly gardening is more visible. People driving by our house can see what I’ve accomplished. My body of writing work is not very visible, has not made me wealthy and the hard work of writing doesn’t result in people stopping me in my driveway to deliver compliments.

Writing is important to me. It’s an outlet for creativity and in my life I’ve realized that I get a little crazy when I don’t have some creative outlet. But creativity doesn’t have to be writing. It can be cooking or gardening, or an art project. Writing is not the most important thing in my life, and I suspect that’s heresy in some writing circles. It’s the creative part of writing that makes me boot up my computer. 

Since I am a Gemini I’m going to choose two passions. Creativity and learning. For me they go hand in hand and can be applied to both gardening and writing and any other thing my squirrel brain sees that looks interesting.