Tag: Fourth of July

Fireworks Aren’t Always in the Sky

Here’s a short story starring Franki and Gianni. This takes place after the end of Bleeding Heart. (Part way through Mind Controlactually, although this won’t be found in that book.) I hope you enjoy it.


Fireworks Aren’t Always in the Sky

villa lanteFranki stood on the travertine-tiled patio and rubbed her arms against the night chill. Weather in Florence, Italy reminded her of weather at home in Pennsylvania—nearly ninety degrees (Fahrenheit) during the day and low sixties at night, but for some reason, that evening’s breeze blew exceptionally brisk. Unprepared for the cool wind, she’d stepped outside in a tank and shorts. And regretted it immediately.

But the view captivated her, so she stayed and braced herself against the cool air.

The Brotherhood’s home in Pennsylvania was beautiful. Their compound in New York was gorgeous. But their complex in Florence? It simply stole her breath. And she and her sisters knew quality properties. They’d been raised in the construction and design industries, and since the death of her father, were the owners of one of the most prestigious building and design firms in Pittsburgh.

It didn’t take her construction knowledge to know she stood on private property overlooking one of Italy’s most beautiful—and non-touristy—creations. The house behind her rivaled any palace or basilica she’d toured in her first visit to the country. The grounds, however, captured her interest at the moment. The hedge mazes and topiary created shadow-play on the paths as marble statuary gleamed a luminescent hue of white and water in the grottos sparkled from moonlight, star shine, and discrete lighting fixtures. The burbling fountains composed an organic melody, harmonizing with the chirping crickets.

Gianni walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. The warmth she felt from his arms over hers and his torso against her back spread through her body.

And caused her to shiver all over again.

“Cold?” he asked. “It’s a beautiful night.”

She smiled and leaned back against him, not revealing what caused her latest shiver. “The wind just gave me a chill. It is a beautiful night, though.”

“The glow flies are out. June’s nearly over.”

She tipped her head up and looked at him. “Glow flies?”

nighttime gardensHe nodded toward the hedge maze. “Glow flies. Those little floating blinking lights in the garden. You have them in the States.”

A chuckle escaped her. “Yes, we do. But we call them fireflies. Or lightning bugs.”

He kissed her neck and said, “Hmm.” The vibrations from his lips on her skin gave her another shiver. “I don’t like the sound of lightning bugs.” He nuzzled her neck. “Fireflies is kind of nice, though.”

“I think I like glow flies. And I love it when our cultures merge.”

He kissed her neck again. “Mmm. Me, too. I love it when we merge even more.”

Franki giggled. “I love it here. But I wish we were home for the festivities next week.”

His lips grazed against her shoulder. “Festivities?”

She sighed. “The Fourth of July.”

Gianni didn’t answer. He continued pressing his lips on her arms, her shoulder blades. The nape of her neck.

She shuddered again. “Independence Day?”

“I know what it is,” he murmured. “I just didn’t realize it was next week.”

“The food, the fireworks, the festival… music and dancing and seeing the whole town come out to celebrate.” She sighed. “I love that. I’m going to miss it.”

“Let me see if I can take your mind off it, then.”

He led her inside, and she saw fireworks that night.

*    *    *

They continued their work for the next week, and Franki tried not to fixate on missing yet another hometown comfort. She was pleasantly surprised when, on July 4, Gianni and Donni threw together a picnic that would rival any festival back home.

fried doughPlatters of pasta salads, grilled vegetables, and antipastos sat on the table between pulled pork, sausages, burgers, and dogs… all with fresh-baked rolls to put them in. Trays of grilled chicken and barbecued ribs nearly overflowed. Two huge bowls held fresh cut fruit, and sugar-dusted mounds of fried dough sat ready to be topped with gelato, fruit compotes, chopped nuts, homemade hot fudge and salted-caramel sauces, and vanilla-flavored whipped cream.

Why those two idiots loved to work in the kitchen, Franki would never understand. And she’d never complain. Everything was delicious.

After dinner, everyone took drinks out to the patio and settled down to digest their food. Franki sipped on coffee laced with Frangelico. The twins had glasses of Galliano. Jo and Vinnie had beer. The other guys had wine. She’d be content to taste everyone’s drinks, and after feeling comfortably fuzzy from the liquor, slip off to bed.

She sighed.

“What’s the matter?” Gianni asked.

“Nothing,” she said.

“Franki, you’re a lousy liar. What’s wrong?”

“I don’t want to sound ungrateful.”

He waited, staring at her. The others had broken into pairs and talked quietly to each other. She turned toward Gianni, took his hand, and squeezed it. “You worked so hard today. Everything was wonderful. Delicious. I couldn’t ask for more.”

“But you want more?” he said.

“I just miss the fireworks. Despite the perfect picnic, it just doesn’t feel like the Fourth without fireworks.”

“I see.” He fumbled with something in his pocket.

“When I was little, I used to call them ‘a glittery extravaganza in the sky.’”

“Big words.” He sent a text and then looked at her. “How little?”

“I don’t know. Papa teased me about it for years, though.”

“It’s cute.”

“I guess he thought so, anyway.” She looked away from him, out over the gardens. Talking about her recently-deceased father still made her sad.

“Would fireworks tonight make you happy?”

Why dwell on something she couldn’t have. “I’m happy now, Gianni. Really.”

“So, I should cancel tonight’s festivities?”

She so loved his ‘festivities.’ She’d never say no to that. He’d provide her with her own personal fireworks, and that would be an excellent cap to the evening.

“Do you want to go upstairs now?” she asked.

He laughed and shook his head. “You and your one-track mind.”

She looked at him and raised her eyebrow. They didn’t have a language barrier, but every now and then, he confused her. “What are you talking about?”

Gianni sent a final text, then he nodded toward the gardens. “Watch.”

Italy_fireworksShe heard a faint whistle, then the sky exploded into sparkling embers of violet and gold. A loud boom echoed over the gardens, so loud she felt the air shake with the strength of it.

Fireworks.

Spinning toward Gianni, she flung her arms around him and planted a firm kiss on his lips.

He laughed and pulled away. “Turn around, cara. I don’t want you to miss the show.”

She leaned against his chest and watched as the sky sparkled with explosion after explosion of colorful mortars. The finale rivaled any she’d ever seen before.

Franki turned and wrapped her arms around him, and this time he didn’t turn her away. “You did all this for me?”

“Well, I am a joint citizen…”

She kissed him.

“I just want to make you happy, Franki. Always.”

She held him tight, head pressed against his chest. She felt the heat of his body, heard his heartbeat through the thick silence the end of the show left behind.

She pulled away and looked at him. “How about one more show?”

He frowned. “I think they set everything off, cara. I could call and—”

Franki put her finger over his lips, stopping him from continuing. She shook her head and smiled. “I mean the kind of festivities I thought you meant earlier. A private show.”

He stood, pulled her to her feet, and addressed everyone sitting outside. “Donni and I cooked. The rest of you are on dishes. Goodnight.”

They didn’t wait for an answer. He swept Franki off her feet and carried her upstairs for the second finale of the night.

11 Fun Facts About Independence Day

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -The Declaration of Independence

Spirit of '76

…………………Image courtesy of wikimedia.org, and is in the public domain Public domain
 

I love all holidays. Spring, summer, fall, or winter; holidays are always special. My husband is off work, the kids are home, loved ones gather, and millions of people slow down and celebrate the same event. Holidays unite people in a way that nothing else does.

Independence Day is one of my favorites. Without the actions of a determined group of people, I wouldn’t have grown up in the greatest nation in the world.

We have all year to debate governmental policies and economic platforms; Independence Day should be a day to celebrate our freedom, our unalienable rights, our liberty. And that’s exactly what my family will be doing this year, with a picnic and fireworks.

In honor of our Founding Fathers and the soldiers who gave us our great nation, I found a few “fun facts” about Independence Day to share.

1) The anniversary of our independence is not really July 4. 
In a closed session of congress on July 2, 1776, the resolution of independence was approved, legally separating the thirteen colonies from Great Britain. Proof of that was found in a letter John Adams wrote to his wife: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.” So why do we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th? Because that’s the date printed on the Declaration of Independence.

2) All 56 men didn’t sign The Declaration of Independence at the same time. Officially, the signing occurred on August 2, 1776, when 50 of the men signed it. For the safety of the men, their names were kept hidden from the public for more than six months. If the independence movement had not succeeded, the signers would have been guilty of treason and put to death.

3) The Revolutionary War didn’t begin with the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence wasn’t adopted until 1776, but the American Revolution began in 1775 and lasted until 1783. This epic battle for liberty culminated with independence for the colonies and the birth of the United States.

4) The first Independence Day celebration wasn’t July 2 or July 4.
Independence Day was first celebrated in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776. In America, before the revolution, colonists would hold annual celebrations in honor of the king’s birthday.  In 1976, colonists celebrated independence by holding fake funerals for King George III, symbolizing America’s liberty from Great Britain. Early Independence Day celebrations also included concerts, bonfires, parades, and canon fire.

5) Parades and fireworks mark Independence Day because of John Adams.
In the same letter John Adams sent his wife, he went on to say: “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations [fireworks], from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

6) A standard flag was created to avoid confusion.
The reason a standard flag was even suggested was because colonists were all creating their own emblems as symbols of independence from Great Britain.

    • One was a British Union Jack sitting in the upper-left corner of a red flag with the words “Liberty and Union” (in white) adorning the field’s lower half.
    • The Sons of Liberty (famous for the Boston Tea Party) operated with a simple flag sporting alternating red and white stripes.
    • Another popular design was a coiled rattlesnake on a yellow or red-and-white striped flag emblazoned with the words “Don’t tread on me.”
    • Immediately before the Declaration of Independence, the most popular flag of revolution was the “Continental Colors.” This flag displayed a Union Jack in the upper-left corner on a field of red and white stripes. That particular flag created confusion in battle. Because of the presence of the Union Jack, sometimes revolutionists were mistaken for the enemy, prompting the June 14 resolution creating a standard flag.

7) The flag’s first design was unspecific; standards were adopted later.
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the country’s first flag law. It was a brief resolution, but lacking detail: “Resolved. That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” The law said nothing about the flag’s shape or size, nor did it direct the order of stripes or the size, type, or arrangement of stars. The Continental Congress adopted the first flag as a sign of national pride and unity. Flag standards were set on June 24, 1912 by an Executive Order from President Taft. For the first time, there were specific proportions given and directions for the arrangement of the stars (at that time, into six rows of eight).

8) The flag colors of red, white, and blue were never given specific meaning.
Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress, was one of the designers of the Great Seal of the United States. In his report to Congress on June 20, 1782, the day the seal was approved, he described the colors of the seal by saying: “White signifies purity and innocence. Red hardiness and valour and Blue . . . signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.” That is likely where the flag’s colors gained their meaning, however, no such attribution was ever given to it. Historians believe the colors to have come from Great Britain’s Union Jack. Today, the interpretations are as follows, but are not official:

……….. Colors          Meaning on the Great Seal          Flag Interpretation
…………..Red                Hardiness and valour                           Blood, war, and courage
…………..White            Purity and innocence                            Purity
…………..Blue               Vigilance, perseverance and justice    Justice and freedom

9) The 13 stars on the first official flag were arranged in a circle, not lines.
While there was no official law mandating the arrangement of the stars in the field of blue, the stars were said to have been in a circle so no state would be above another.

10) There is no proof that Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag.
We’ve all heard the story that Betsy Ross was approached by George Washington with a sketch he drew and she then sewed the first American Flag. That story was first told to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania by her grandson, William Canby, in 1870, nearly 100 years after the event took place. His only evidence was testimonials from his family. There is no tangible historical evidence — letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, bills of sale — that Ross (then Elizabeth Claypoole) had any involvement in the creation of the flag. Does that mean that she didn’t do it? No. In fact, there are several patriotic organizations that support Betsy Ross at the first creator of the iconic symbol, stating that she’s a cherished part of American history and is synonymous with the flag’s creation. So who actually designed the flag, if not George Washington? Continental Congress journals show that patriot and New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson was the flag’s designer. No evidence has been found specifying who first sewed it.

11) Uncle Sam was inspired by a real person, but not a patriot during the Revolutionary War.
The Uncle Sam symbol probably began in 1812. The US Army was being supplied meat shipments from meat packer Samuel Wilson. Those shipments had a “U.S.” stamp on them. Someone joked that “U.S.” stood for “Uncle Sam,” the meat provider. Eventually that joke resulted in Uncle Sam symbolizing the United States government.

Uncle SamSo, how many of these facts did you know?

Did I miss any big ones?

Share your knowledge in the comments section below, and have a Happy 4th of July!

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Image courtesy of wikicommons, painted by James Montgomery Flagg in 1916-1917 for the
Department of Defense United States Department of Defense Seal.svg, and is in the public domain. Public domain

Independence Day

I had a post all planned for today. I thought it was poignant and insightful. Then I read through my inbox before I made my own entry here. Instead of using my post, I invite you all to read this post by Jeff Goins. Truly inspirational.

http://goinswriter.com/revolutionary-words/

Happy Fourth of July, every one. And God Bless America.

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