Short Story: Dark

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and an artist. Darkness plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a nursery in the present. The story is about discovery.

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As the setting sun glowed red, she finished adding touches to the fabric and started cleaning up. She preferred to work while it was daylight, so the sun’s demise was her prompt to put things away. In the northern states, the sun stays up very late in the summertime. It was almost nine o’clock as the radiant orb sank through the haze on the horizon. It was still a good half an hour until dark, but the mosquitoes tend to like dusk and dawn for their foraging, so unless you like the sticky feel and chemical scent of insect repellent (and she didn’t), it is best to let them find another food source.

She had learned that many places don’t have screens on the windows – her first apartment in Chicago was a revelation. It was a third floor walkup in an older building with a grand marble staircase leading up from the ground floor. There were no screens and no air-conditioning, so she kept the windows open and propped a fan in one to try to move the sweat-soaked air into an illusion of coolness. The only bugs she had to worry about were the cockroaches that marched incessantly from the neighboring kitchen through the cracks in the boards into her space. She killed as many as she could personally. She put down a border of boric acid around the entire perimeter. She bought ant and roach spray and used it generously. (Many years later a new fragrance would be released that reminded her of the roach spray – and the scent would take her back to that summer in Chicago. She surmised that the women who wore the fragrance had never had to fight cockroaches personally.)

Back inside her screened porch, she sat in the swing and contemplated the growing darkness. Listening to the crickets and frogs waking. Watching the stars in ones and twos become uncountable in short order. The nursery spread out from her back porch in all directions. Trees to the north so they wouldn’t shade the smaller plants. Pots of fragrant flowers, herbs and tomatoes on tables closer to her house.

The fireflies were rising like little stars themselves. She had always been fascinated by them. Their mysterious light glowing and throbbing in the dark. She remembered a trick she had heard an old farmer tell about many years ago and grabbed a sweater and her keys. She pulled her pickup close to the backyard and turned the headlights on bright. After a few minutes she turned the lights off again and watched from the cab.

It only took a moment of darkness as she held her breath… and then she discovered the old farmer was right. Every firefly in the yard simultaneously lit and went dark in unison. Hundreds of little glowing bugs synchronized all across the landscape. She sighed with pleasure.

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With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Cover Story

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a jeweler. A story plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a journey in the present. The story is about deception.

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She left the shop in the hands of her assistant and promised to be in touch as soon as she landed. She’d been dreaming this trip since she was a teenager and planning it for the last two years. She had told no one except her staff and her landlady fearing if she admitted any thoughts about this trip to family or friends someone would try to talk her  out of it or otherwise prevent it from happening. And she couldn’t risk it. Not after this long. They would worry about the jewelry store. They would worry about her safety. They would deplore the expense.  No, she told herself, this was the best way. She planned to tell them after she returned safely. Then no matter what anyone said the experience was already hers and could not be taken away. She had managed to evade all the social requests  from her friends for events during the time she was gone. She even had a convenient cover story worked out to tell them.

She hurried to the bus stop and caught it just in time. As she slid into her seat she mentally reviewed the items on her to do list. Passport – check. Tickets – check. She was already packed. Had laid out her traveling outfit. Yes! All in order. As she left the bus stop and walked the few blocks to her apartment, she dared to picture herself arriving. Lost in thought she grabbed the mail, unlocked her door, stepped inside and turned on the lights.

“Surprise!” They yelled.

Oh no! This gathering was not part of her plan. Her sister stepped forward and grabbed her arm, turning her back on the crowd in her living room and pressing a glass of champagne into her free hand.

“You could at least look pleased to see us, Sis. We’ve gone to a lot of trouble to arrange this party for you.”

She quickly gathered her composure. “I know, it’s just that I’m beat and was planning a soak in the tub with a glass of wine and a good book. Not exactly social.” She smiled hoping to disarm her sister and it worked.

“Just let me go freshen up and I’ll be out in a flash to enjoy your efforts.”

“Okay, but if you take more than five minutes, I’ll come in and drag you out, naked or not.”

“Promise! I’ll be back before you know it.”

She smiled at the gathered crowd and begged to be excused long enough to change into her jeans. As she walked by the catered spread she swiped a couple hors d’oeuvres and popped them in her mouth. Mmm! That was tasty! They had indeed gone to a fair amount of trouble. Now how was she going to get rid of them before midnight?! She preferred to travel when she was well rested. Of course, she could use the excuse of having to work in the morning… which is where she would normally be going in the morning… That should work to divert them and cover her tracks.

She changed into her jeans and shoved the packed suitcases into her closet, hoping no one had come into her bedroom tonight. Thank goodness the weather was mild so they didn’t need a place for coats, although they could use the guest room or the office.

She gathered her thoughts and put on her party face and went back out to mingle with her guests.

“Here’s the guest of honor, finally!” her brother said to the crowd. “Now for a toast.”

She had no idea what to expect so she smiled and held her champagne glass ready.

“Here’s to my sister. A woman who always gets what she wants.”

A chorus of Here! Here! reverberated around the room as everyone raised their glasses and drank.

Her sister pointed to a table in the corner. “Hey Sis! Why don’t you open your presents?”

She looked quickly at the pile and then at her sister, and then it was her turn to drag her sister away from the party guests.

“What’s all this about?” she hissed. “Christmas was months ago and it’s not my birthday. Why am I getting gifts?”

“I think you better open them,” her sister replied.

With a another suspicious glare at her sister she turned back to the party and smiled.

“How kind of all of you. I am sure I haven’t done anything to deserve all this attention.”

As she made her way across the room to the table smiling and greeting each person as she passed, she wondered what had inspired this party.

She paused in front of the table. The mound of gifts was impressive. Better than any birthday she remembered. Larger than any Christmas since her childhood. She surveyed the pile and turned back to the room. Her sister gestured for her to start opening packages.

“We know you need to get up early tomorrow,” she said simply.

“You are all so thoughtful and I am overwhelmed,” she paused and then picked up a small box from the front of the table. The paper was familiar. And then she realized there were pictures of luggage and travel related items. She hesitated again. They couldn’t know. How could they know? She had been very careful to cover her tracks and her staff were under strict instructions not to divulge her destination.

Then she opened the box. An adorable set of purple luggage tags with a pawprint theme was nestled in the tissue paper. They were perfect! She smiled widely. Then she looked around the room.

“Thank you very much. How did you know?”

Her sister smiled a secret smile. “We have our sources.”

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With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.  Mary is on vacation this week, however, she is with us in spirit and provided a laugh for David without knowing it.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Time

Time does not exist. It is an illusion. We are all eternal beings having a temporal experience. Time catches us and folds us in, deluding us into thinking that we will never accomplish all we set out to do. Quantum physics is better at explaining it. And occasionally I have those moments where I am in two bodies, two places and I understand.

She is nothing like me, so when I step into her body, into her life for a moment, I am surprised at how it feels. I wonder where she goes when I am there. Does she know I am there? Does she blank out and later wonder what happened? Does she swap with me somehow and borrow my moments? It is disconcerting to realize the body I inhabit in those moments is not the one to which I am accustomed. She is darker, slim and glamorous, and high maintenance. And yet, we both shop for groceries and travel through airports. I wonder if we have ever encountered each other in person. Did we both step through the same airport in the same moment? Or would that violate some portion of the physics? So I go on, through the illusion of moments thinking about the next point in the space-time continuum where the lines cross and I will step into her again.

Short Story – The Scroll

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a tax collector. A barn plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a library in ancient times. The story is about aging.

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She rambled down the aisles of the library, randomly looking at scrolls and tablets. She wasn’t expected here and the librarians occasionally scowled in her direction. They weren’t fond of women — educated women were considered to be particularly troublesome. And they were even less fond of tax collectors. Since  she was both, she knew they watched her more closely, and with more animosity than any of the other patrons. And since she was no longer young, she could not distract them with her beauty as she once had. She was still striking although her once jet black hair was streaked with silver and soft lines had appeared around her eyes. The advantage from her perspective was that she was no longer intimidated by their glares. She knew they couldn’t hurt her and they could not stop her. In spite of her gender. It was not a great time to be a woman, although with enough money and power one could still exercise some freedom in Alexandria.

The manuscript she sought was old. Older than anyone here and older than the parents or grandparents of anyone here. The author had been dead for centuries, but she remembered seeing the scroll when she had visited with her father. It seemed like a lifetime ago. She was young then and just starting to realize the power of her looks on those around her. Her father was proud to have a daughter so eager to learn and so pretty.  She still missed her father even though he had been gone for more than 10 years.

She dragged her thoughts back to her task. She tried to remember the general area in which he found the scroll. What was the angle to the librarian’s station? How many rows? How many tables? Based on her memory of that day, she calculated that she had to be pretty close, but how would she recognize the document? Just then she noticed one of the librarians moving an armful of scripts quickly out of the room as if he didn’t want to be seen. He seemed to be checking to see if he was being watched so she looked quickly away before he noticed her gaze. After he left the room she furtively moved down the aisle to see where he had gone. She followed at a distance as he went through two other rooms and then down a set of stairs. She crept down the stairs not knowing what was at the bottom and not wanting him to know she was following. Just as she reached the bottom and peeked over the balustrade, he lifted a trap door with one arm and held it until he had stepped into the hole and replaced the door above his head. She knew she didn’t dare follow him down so she looked for a place to hide and waited until he came back out. Once he came up she knew she wouldn’t have a lot of  time to explore the trap door before he returned with another armful, so she moved quickly. Peering down through the trap door she saw more stairs leading to a tunnel and decided to risk it. She descended quickly and ran down the torchlit tunnel as soundlessly as possible until she found another door. Holding her breath, she eased the door open to peek in and saw a chamber with more doors.  Since no one seemed to be around she slipped into the chamber and was approaching the first door when she heard voices behind her. She darted through the door and closed it noiselessly behind her hoping they would not follow her. Luckily they were distracted by their conversation and didn’t notice as she dove behind a partition, when they entered through the same door. She waited while they discussed the movement of the works from the library to these chambers, holding her breath when they gestured at the urns in her direction. She held back a sneeze and then stopped breathing altogether when they paused.

“Did you just hear something?” the younger of the two men asked.

“No. These chambers will make you crazy if you allow your imagination free rein. There are echoes from the stable above us and the grain in the bins will shift suddenly. Just ignore it. There’s no one else here,” replied the elder man.

As the men were silent again and then left taking the torch with them. She waited in the dark as long as she could.  She could hear water dripping and she heard the echoes of the hooves of the animals above. Then she started to feel for the door she had glimpsed on the opposite end of the room. She found the handle and slowly opened the door a crack  – Light! She decided to go through and soon found herself at the foot of a ladder leading to an opening in the ceiling. As she climbed she realized she was climbing into daylight although still inside a building of some sort. She poked her head through the aperture and looked around – seeing only the animals she finished her climb and looked around the barn as she straightened out her clothing and dusted herself off. Then as casually as she could she walked out the door of the barn and into the street. Now that she knew where the tunnels led, she could come back another time and explore the contents.

When she was a block away from the barn she heard the cries and turned with the crowd to face the library. Fire! The library was on fire! People were running from the building screaming. As the realization came to her, she turned and headed for home. She would never see the manuscript now, so she resolved to recreate as much of it as she could from memory.

Many years later as she lay dying she passed what she had recorded to her daughter with the words, “Never grow too old for adventure.”

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With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – The Trader

The story prompt is: The protagonist is female and a trader. A gate plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a barn in the medieval age. The story is about fear.

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She gathered her skirts and picked up her bag to see if everything was still in it. Good! Nothing is missing. She looked around.  She appeared to be in a barn.  She could see the stalls and straw and hear the horses. The structure was made of stone and wood and appeared to be fairly solid. She didn’t feel any draft so the doors must be closed. She made her way cautiously forward. A board creaked and a horse nickered. She paused. Without knowing what she would encounter, she preferred to move slowly. It was still light outside so the barn wasn’t completely dark although there were no lanterns or torches. She could see the barn door ahead and glanced back to the gate through which she had recently gone. There was no one around. Just the horses and perhaps some other livestock at the other end of the barn. The horses were usually kept toward the front since they were taken in and out more frequently.  The cows and swine were toward the back where the door led into the barnyard and out to the pasture. It had been a pleasant spring day, so there would be no need for heat, although the night would undoubtedly be cool. She continued making her way toward the door when suddenly it flew open and a large man stood in the doorway. She ducked behind a horse stall and waited. He moved quickly to the first horse stall and was bringing the horse out when it whinnied. “What’s the matter, Blackie? You seem uneasy.” The horse followed obediently, but kept turning his head toward the rear of the barn. He had tethered the horse at the mounting station and was getting the saddle and bridle when he noticed the horse’s repeated glances behind him. “What’s going on, old boy? You act like you’ve seen a ghost.”

She held her breath. The last thing she wanted was to have him find her there. She had hoped to make a quick exit and make her way along the nearest road to a village. If he found her she might have to go back through the gate to escape and she was not looking forward to that. The gate was problematic. She used them when she had to, but each trip seemed to take something from her that she never regained. And who knew how long she could keep using them until there would be nothing left of her to give. Still, if that was what she had to do, she would do it. The gates had allowed her to keep her freedom and her sanity. Otherwise her father would have had her married to some man – a peasant, a butcher – and tied to one time and place. By using the gates, she avoided her father and controlled her own fate. She would go to the villages and trade her needlework for food and fabric and thread to make shirts. Sometimes she traded for wool that she carded and spun for warmer garments.  Occasionally she traded her sewing and mending skills for a place to sleep. But since she had been using the gates, she hadn’t needed as much sleep, so those stops were rarer. Perhaps that was the toll the gates exacted – her sleep.

He came very close to her location and she prepared to flee, but suddenly he turned and went back to the horse. “I don’t see anything, Blackie, and we’ve got to get done before dark.” He finished saddling the horse then led him out of the barn and closed the door. She waited until she heard the horses hooves fade in the distance and then let herself carefully out of the barn. Then she moved quickly to the road and hurried on her way. Grateful that she wouldn’t have to use the gate again so soon.

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With thanks to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

Story-A-Day Challenge is courtesy of Forward Motion for Writers http://www.fmwriters.com/

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

Voodoo Doll

Last night it happened again. Every nerve in my body fired at a different time and for a different reason. An itch here. A pang there. A cramp. A twinge. A poke. After four hours I swore someone had a voodoo doll of me and just kept poking it and twisting it so there was no way I could get comfortable.

I could blame the invisible aliens like they had in Star Trek Voyager where only 7 of 9 could see them torturing and experimenting on her crew mates.

It may be ghosts or otherworldly beings trying to get my attention. Problem is, I’m much more receptive to them when I get at least halfway toward a sleeping state.

And it always stops at dawn. As soon as the light comes I can sleep easily and then the alarm goes off and I drag my weary self into the day.

Mom says it’s because she worked nights while she was pregnant with me. So I am programmed to be awake at night and sleep during the day.

It doesn’t help. I can be dog tired and still unable to sleep. Some nights even sleeping pills don’t work. And I rotisserize and dream about sleeping.

I wonder what it would be like to sleep undisturbed from night until morning. Actually, lately I wonder what it would be like to just sleep undisturbed for more than two hours.

Story-A-Day Challenge Post 7: The Historian

I’ve recorded a lot of thoughts and opinions over the years. It’s an occupational hazard when you are in my line of work.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done is try to write this letter.

Words have always come easily. Of course, I was busy recording life as it happened. It’s not so hard to write down what you see and hear.  Just the facts. Most of the time anyway. Okay, yes, I did embellish on occasion. Just for fun. Just to make it more interesting for the reader.  I’m sure James Thurber was recording a historical event in “The Night the Bed Fell on Father” and that every word was true in the best sense.  There’s been such a flap lately over storytellers and whether they should be held to the same standards as reporters. Why should they? Storytellers serve a different purpose than reporters.  Historians are more like storytellers than reporters. And as Machiavelli says, “History is written by the victors.” Doesn’t bode well for Truth, does it? I don’t want storytellers to give me the Truth. I want a tale that’s on the edge of belief. I want to be transported. I want my imagination stretched. I want my boundaries tested. I want to see what might be instead of only what is.

This letter has to contain the Truth. It has to convey the information without making it more than it is. If I make too much of it, she’ll panic, and I don’t want that. If I say too little she will also panic. So I’m struggling to find exactly the words that will make it okay for her.  So she won’t be alarmed. She will know it’s all right and that we will go on. She’s busy you know. She has the kids and her husband and her job. For all I know she’s not even home now. Her job requires a lot of travel. She may not even get the mail for a week. And she lives so far away. We’ve kept in touch. She calls. She emails. I write letters. I hope she shares them with her kids. I think it’s a lot easier to hand a piece of paper to someone. Although the newer technology allows sharing with lots of people all at once. It’s not the same. If you hand someone a piece of paper they may feel more obliged to read it. I mean really read it.  Not just skim over it like part of the din of ever-present media. It’s easy to skip over a post – blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. If someone pauses and presses the “Like” button you’ve made an impact. If they stop and comment you’ve really made a dent. If there is nothing, it’s a whisper drowned in the roar of the ocean.

A letter makes people stop. It holds their attention. It doesn’t have to compete in the same way as other media. That’s why I have to be careful to make sure this letter is just like all the other missives I’ve sent to her. I suppose I could just post it and hope it gets lost in the cacophonous sea of updates, but then one of her friends will be sure to see it. And they’ll tell her. And we’ll be back where we started. No, I have to put it in a letter, in the same manner I usually do. At least this way she’ll have the letter that tells her all about the cancer and the treatment. And even though I’ll be gone, she’ll be okay. And she’ll know I love her.

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With thanks to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

Story-A-Day Challenge is courtesy of Forward Motion for Writers http://www.fmwriters.com/

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

The Golden Bubble

Recently a friend of mine was talking about her six children, all of whom are homeschooled. She worries for them, because they have a more limited exposure to the world, that others may try to take advantage of them. And I was reminded of a tool given to me by one of my teachers, the Golden Bubble. Also called the Golden Egg, this tool is a kind of forcefield that helps to protect the energy of the one enclosed and also helps those around them.

The principle is, by completely surrounding oneself with a golden mesh that allows only love to pass through in either direction, the wearer protects her/his energy from psychic attack. In addition, because the mesh works both ways, the wearer cannot issue an attack on others.

It is important to ensure that the bubble or egg is a complete form with no gaps under the feet and no areas that are scrunched or wrinkled. The sphere or ovoid should be whole and should completely and smoothly enclose the wearer. The form is infinitely flexible and can be visualized in any way that helps to convey the concept. Some children may find the idea of a forcefield to be easier to understand. Others may find a soap bubble like the ones they’ve blown to be a better way to see it. Some may think of it in terms of golden light or an aura. And still others will relate more closely to the eggshell. It doesn’t matter how the concept is taught as long as they get the idea of a golden glow that protects the wearer and spreads light and love.

Mothers, fathers, or other caretakers can create a bubble around the ones they love and wish to protect before sending them out to face the day. And anyone can learn to put one on for themselves. A child who knows how to create the bubble for herself will recover more quickly if she feels the one her mother made has worn off. And anyone who suddenly finds herself or himself in a fearful situation can put on the bubble to gain courage to do what’s right.

Yesterday, my friend reported back to me that she had taught her children to put on the Golden Egg at my suggestion. And one day when they had company, her daughter Annie, who was usually so good, was acting up, so my friend grabbed her daughter and took her upstairs and demanded to know what was going on.  Her daughter blurted out “I’m sorry, Mommy. I forgot to put on my egg.” Relieved, my friend helped Annie put on her golden egg, and they both returned to the family room in a better frame of mind.

So my reminder to myself is to put on the Golden Bubble.  It’s not about me (most of the time) and I can be more helpful to others (and myself) if I am able to Spread the Light. 🙂

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This link from ROFLCat.com may bring a smile:

http://www.roflcat.com/images/cats/I_Has_A_Force_Field.jpg

Story-A-Day Challenge Post 6: Eddie The Prophet

Eddie took another toke and exhaled slowly. The smoke rose and cleared and Eddie put the  roach away. As he lay back into the easy chair, he felt the familiar haze start to swirl and spin as he once again slipped into the space-time continuum. (Or “STC” as he lovingly called it – when you’re as familiar with something as Eddie was with the space-time continuum you often have a shorthand way to reference the familiar.)

As it ebbed and flowed he felt the pulse of the underlying vibration that he usually followed and eased into it. There are lots of vibrations, lots of levels, lots of frequencies, and in his early days, Eddie had experimented with many of them.  The disruption to his corporeal self as a result was hard to endure and gradually he learned which route felt the most comfortable and cause the least after effects.

The sound and color became stronger and then enveloped him and moments later deposited him gently on a staircase.  The stairs were stone and highly polished and led to a landing a short way above him.  Eddie climbed the short distance and found a table laid with an elaborate meal. There was a single chair near the wall facing out.  Eddie looked all around and off the edge of the landing over the railing and saw no one. There was no one in what appeared to be the town square below. No one on the staircase. No one visible in any of the windows or doorways.

The munchies were coming on strong and Eddie’s mouth started watering as he surveyed the table. There were many things he did not recognize, but the fruits and vegetables were similar enough to what he was used to eating that he felt safe in nibbling bites here and there as he circumnavigated the large table.  Finally, he reached the chair with his hunger mostly sated and he felt the fatigue that often beset him after his journeys. He sank into the chair and realized that it was much softer and much more comfortable than anything he’d felt in a long time. As his head nodded he was vaguely aware of another presence watching him.

When Eddie awoke from his nap he was not surprised to find himself surrounded by a coterie of beings.  They were similar to humans from most time periods, except that these people seemed to glow with a soft light that came from inside them.  “Kind of like seeing auras,” he noted they had different colors and intensities. The one nearest him seemed to have a soft purple glow and also seemed to be gazing him expectantly.

“Oh wow! Like nobody was here, man, and I was kinda hungry cause I traveled a long way to get here…” he broke off as he realized that they did not seem to be angered that he had eaten from the table. Their expression seemed welcoming and even joyful. The beings around him seemed to glow more brightly.

So he started again, “Food is like happiness, man. No one can be happy on an empty stomach.”

And the crowd below cheered.

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With thanks to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

Story-A-Day Challenge is courtesy of Forward Motion for Writers http://www.fmwriters.com/

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

Story-A-Day Challenge Post 5: The Ring

She killed the engines allowing drift and gravity to pull the ship into the outer ring of the space station. She pulled together her equipment and costuming and entered the air dock.

Looking out the viewer she was struck again by the darkness of space, which is only broken by points of light. The space station was also dark with only enough light to keep visitors and staff from running into walls or each other. She followed the curve of the outer wall around to the main passageway to the inner ring. Entered the main terminal through the bioscanner ring, which validated her identity and her permission to be on the station.

This space station was referred to as Brachynexus Terminus V. Not terribly creative, but functional in that it referred to the station number and gave a rough orientation in the galaxy from Helios 1 and its third planet, ignominiously named “Earth.”

Sometimes she worked with the local replicators and holographic projectors, although in this case she was not familiar with their systems and since they seemed to be conserving power, she felt more secure carrying her gear. At least then she knew what she had to work with and she could generate enough energy from her pocket pack to manage her performances for the evening.

As she reached the hub, she found the requisite directioning personnel to tell her where to go and she proceeded down yet another dark corridor to the distraction center. These centers were designed to provide station personnel with entertainment and other means to distract themselves from being stuck in a space station millions of miles from the nearest inhabited planet. Since there is no such thing as being “off duty” when you are this far from the nearest colony, there were always station staff entering and leaving based on the current need for their services.

The first biped she encountered was female.

“Do you come here often?”

“No, it’s my first time on this station.”

“What would attract you to this bleak outpost?”

“Work.”

“They must pay you well. Do you offer androgenic tension relief?”

“No and no.

“Then what do you do?”

“You’ll see soon enough. Although a quick search of the universal tracker would give you the basics. Now could you please point me to the central emination point.”

“It’s right over there.

“Thanks.”

She set up her equipment and quickly changed her costume. Then she tapped into the ship’s communication center so that everyone would be able to hear her voice and anyone who was near a monitor would be able to see her, too.

“Hello everyone! My name is Desdemona and I will be your storyteller for this period.”

All around her glowed a ring of light that attracted them like moths. They walked, ran, stumbled and fell under her spell. She brought them to a different place and made them forget their dark circles.

Then she got in her ship and went to the next station. Spreading the light…

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With thanks to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

Story-A-Day Challenge is courtesy of Forward Motion for Writers http://www.fmwriters.com/

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

Story-a-Day Challenge Post 2: The Rope

He took the rope.

He took the rope she handed him.

He took the rope she handed him and jumped.

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And while this thought strand doesn’t really qualify… Story-A-Day Challenge is courtesy of Forward Motion for Writers http://www.fmwriters.com/

Thanks to D Anthony Brown http://danthonybrown.me/ and Mary C Sutton for the challenge and the company while I wrote.

With gratitude

To everyone who has read a post here or liked a post or commented, my sincere thanks.

This blog is an experiment for me. A way to start having my name out in the world attached to my writing. So anyone who helps me as I grow and change and still manages to follow my meandering posts is my hero, and I am grateful to you.

My parents found me challenging, my siblings probably more so. It’s not that I’m trying to be difficult, it’s just that I see things differently than most people and I will point it out. Probably when you least expect it. And you will think long and hard about whether the things I ask you to consider are worth the difficulty of thinking about them. Some of you will give up and leave. And I am still grateful that you gave me what you could.

Story-A-Day Challenge Post 3: It Hit Me

It went something like this:

“Look out!”

“What?”

“Duck!”

“Huh?”

“Never mind….”

“Splat!”

Because then it hit me. The most disgusting, slimiest, yuckiest spitball ever created. It was the size of a baseball and nearly as hard, except the spit caused it to slide downward quickly… drenching my shirt. I looked at it and then vomited.

**********

Story-A-Day Challenge is courtesy of Forward Motion for Writers http://www.fmwriters.com/

Thanks to D Anthony Brown http://danthonybrown.me/ and Mary C Sutton for the challenge and the company while I wrote.

Story-A-Day Challenge Post 4: Winning

I was going out to the garden to grill a steak and knocked over my easel.  “Shit!” How am I supposed to deal with that mess?! I’m too hungry, even though the steak is not for me.  It’s for Max.  I know, I know, I spoil him.  It’s easy to do when he looks at me with those soft brown eyes.

I have some veggies I’m going to grill, too. Asparagus, red peppers, onions, mushrooms, corn on the cob and a couple of veggie brats. And I have peaches, pineapple and watermelon to grill for dessert.  I just have to make sure I cook his steak on one side of the grill and the veggies on the other.  I can’t stand the taste of  meat tainting my food.  As I said, Max is special to me. He has me doing things I’d never do for anyone else.  He’s stayed with me through all of it. Every class, every contest, every show, every disappointment. So I owe him a lot.  And steak is his favorite.

We’re grilling because it’s so nice outside and we love to be in the garden. Hence the reason my easel is out here. It’s my latest effort to emulate Monet.  Although my little garden here in the city is pretty small compared to the vast estate Monet had at his doorstep. Still, I’ve planted as many flowers as I can and tried to blend them so they don’t overshadow one another. Although that red rose doesn’t look very happy…. never mind I’ll have to take care of it another day.

Distractions are easy. I have to do one thing at a time. As you can tell I can’t walk and carry a plate of food without knocking something else down. Now where was I?  Oh yes! Grilling.  The charcoal is ready. The grill is clean.  I lay everything out on the grill.  The veggies are mostly on kabob skewers. The asparagus is in a grilling basket. And the steak is small — half  a pound will be two meals for Max. I’m leaving the fruit until after the veggies are done so there’s room on the grill.

OK, now to pick up my easel and all the spilled paint.  Luckily I prefer watercolors so the paint will wash off the flagstones with the rain I feel in the air. As I look at the canvas I realize it’s now textured. It was still wet enough that it picked up small bits of gravel and dirt and a couple feathers. And it looks… good.  It looks just fine.  The bits it picked up have added texture – not the usual for a watercolor and that’s okay. I set everything back up and head back to the grill in time to keep the food from burning.  Max doesn’t really care if I burn his steak, but I try not to add that many carcinogens to his diet.  (Yes, I did marinate the steak to reduce the creation of those compounds.  What kind of person do you think I am?)

As I pull the veggies and the steak off the grill I feel the first drops of rain.  I grab the plate of food and my easel and head inside.  Max grins and wags his tail.

I’ve got a good feeling about this painting.  I’m going to enter it in a contest tomorrow.  I think it’s going to be a winner.

**********

Story-A-Day Challenge is courtesy of Forward Motion for Writers http://www.fmwriters.com/

Thanks to D Anthony Brown http://danthonybrown.me/ and Mary C Sutton for the challenge and the company while I wrote.

That thought…

I’ve never had that thought before… I’ve always been able to rise above, to consider that “this too shall pass” and, yet,  it came, unbidden, as I was sitting at the dining room table one day not long ago – “I don’t think I can live like this.”

That thought hasn’t appeared again. It never occurred to me before. What has changed? Maybe it’s perimenopause. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s true?  No, I don’t think so… at least not today.

I’ve lived with diagnoses of fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis (and a few other things) for more than 10 years. I’ve worked 40+ hours per week. I haven’t asked for or really considered disability. So why did I have that thought? My marriage is basically happy. My life is pretty good. And yet, on that day, in that moment, I considered another option.

And then I felt guilty. I am not dying of an incurable disease like ALS or cancer. I do not have a progressively worsening diagnosis such as MS. And yet the pain can be so debilitating that in a moment of weakness that thought occurred to me.

The strange weather this season has taken a toll on everyone I know with chronic pain such as  migraines or arthritis or anything else. Here in tropical Minnesota  it was 80 degrees F (or maybe it’s 80 F* degrees?) on March 15th!!  Not normal weather for this part of the country.  Of course, within two weeks there were severe frosts that took out a lot of budding fruit trees.  On April 19, 2011, I documented a snowfall on my digital camera. And the weather has bounced around from Summer to Winter then briefly to Spring. Those kinds of atmospheric changes wreak havoc on anyone with chronic pain.

And the thunderstorms these last few nights kept me awake… which adds to the cycle – lack of sleep, increase in stress, increase in pain.

One of my favorite speakers, Dr Edward Creagan of Mayo Clinic, gave a presentation this week and said the basics to reduce stress  include: walk 30 minutes a day; strength training; restorative sleep (and he added “which most of us never get”); plant-based diet.  When a woman asked him about insomnia, he suggested winding down for 30-45 minutes before bed.  I wanted to ask him “What about when the hot flashes wake me up?”  “What about when the pain wakes me up?” “What about when the I-just-can’t-get-comfortable rotisserizing starts?” And I know the answer is “Go back to the basics.”

It’s that simple — if only it were that easy…

Story-A-Day Challenge Post 1 – An Un-Fairy Tale

What makes a fairytale? And in contrast what makes an “unfairytale”? or is it “unfairy tale”? (is there a difference?) or perhaps “unfair-y tale”?

Never was there a time… A man never lived… or Never lived a man…

There was a fairy who wasn’t fair – not fair of face and not fair in his dealings. He struggled to face himself in the mirror every day because he was homely and because he knew he was not kind to himself or anyone else. He was selfish and it showed in his ugly countenance. Now if this were a true fairytale, he would be redeemed by the end of this story. He would learn his lesson and perhaps with the improvement in his outlook his appearance would change, too. Since this is an unfairytale, we do not find any such redemption.  He continues in his wicked ways unchecked throughout his life and dies miserable and alone. We could go through all the nasty things he does to others, the ways he tries to make them as unhappy as he is, and yet he never succeeds, so why bother describing his actions. The others go on with their lives, slightly disappointed in the moment they encounter him and still manage to maintain their equanimity. He never understands why he is the way he is. He never knows that his treatment of others, although rude and hurtful, is never enough to truly ruin their lives in the way that his is ruined. And he never comprehends that his life could have been different.

He lives a very long time because the powers that created him wanted him to change.  They wanted him to understand that his life could have meant something other than as a trial to those around him.  They wanted him to have redemption. And somehow he stubbornly persists until the very end. Even in death he is not repentant and not worried about where he will go after he dies. Of course, there is no hell, so he passes to the next world. And because that very passage brings with it the awareness of why one has lived and died, he is finally shamed by his behavior. He has no chance to make amends for the wrongs he has caused others. And no opportunity to atone for the sin of selfishness. He realizes he has only harmed himself and his progress. And so he chooses to spend the interval in solitude to contemplate how he could have changed and how he can correct himself and his path so that when he is given the next opportunity he can use it to its fullest. He won’t waste another chance and he will prove to them that he is deserving of that chance. His next life begins in abject poverty in the gutter of a large Asian city. And he is happy to be there.

So perhaps, since he is finally redeemed it has become a true fairytale. Maybe there is no such thing as an unfairytale after all. The End.

With thanks for the inspiration to D Anthony Brown http://danthonybrown.me/

and for the Story-A-Day challenge at Forward Motion for Writers http://www.fmwriters.com/

How do you know when it’s the last time?

It feels like the season of loss… My dad left us at the end of March 2010 and we lost Delilah two weeks later.  In Spring 2011 we lost Jezebel.  And this year we lost our baby –  a beautiful black and white tuxedo named Thomas (after the main character in “The Aristocats” – “Abraham Delacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley, O’Malley the Alley Cat”).

We were given his mother, Lucy, while she was pregnant, so we were there for his birth and held him within moments of his entry into this dimension.  And now we’ve held him as he left it again.

Thomas had so many endearing habits – if you walked by his corner of the kitchen counter he would reach out a paw to grab your clothing and pull you toward him at which point he would vigorously lick your nose. When I took a shower he would wait patiently for me to come out and express his concern that all that water wasn’t good for anyone. And he would try to help by licking the water off an arm or a cheek.  He didn’t feel well enough to do either of these things for the last month. His most unusual habit occurred when I sat on the toilet – he would crawl into my pants down by my ankles and snuggle in and purr. The only way to get away was to pull my legs out of  my pants and leave them and him on the bathroom floor to pick up later.

The Saturday before we let him go I had just returned from a trip to Vienna, Austria, and had been hoping he would have the strength to make it until I got home. He looked so weak and yet he was obviously glad to see me.  He gifted me with his pants stealing habit one last time on the Saturday before we let him go.  And I recognized it as “the last time.”

Sunday night we had left him in his heated bed in the bathroom. At 4am we were awakened to his pitiful cries.  He had dragged himself out of the bathroom into the hallway.  So I went and picked him up and brought him into bed with us.  So he snuggled down between us under the covers purring – one last time.

The Loss of a Mentor

I lost a mentor this week. He didn’t know me and wouldn’t recognize my name, and yet, I thought of him as a guide, a teacher and a friend.

He was influential in our neck of the woods, and not only through his audience with the local newspaper, but also through his neighbors, his activities with local sports and politics, his garden, his church and his family.  He took the concept of community seriously and devoted himself to our city with a passion that’s hard to match.

I’d say “Rest in Peace” although I can’t imagine he would recline on his (plentiful) laurels even now – there’s too much to do!

Fare thee well, Greg! We miss you.

http://www.postbulletin.com/news/stories/display.php?id=1489645

Caffeine fueled encounters

I love my writing friends and the inspiration they offer.  That being said, when I ask for the word for reading someone else’s mind, the answer is not “transvestite.” And while I’ll admit that Max, my data retrieval system (see “Random Access Memory” on this blog), had already convinced me the word started with “trans,” he still did not come back with “transvestite” as an option.

Since my ability to read my own mind (ie, my memory files) was obviously not working efficiently, it took a little bit to come up with “telepathy.”  Which opened the gate for “transvestite” and shared tales of past encounters.

Then I made the mistake of asking for a synonym for “experience” and the options offered by http://www.dictionary.com included “combat” “savoir-faire” and “perspicacity.”  So we discussed labeling that section of a résumé – “Previous Combat” or just “Combat.”  Somehow it didn’t translate directly, and again I was offered “transvestite.”  Since I have no idea which writing project my friend was working on, I will have to guess that it involved cross-dressing…

As an homage (and in dubious gratitude for the “inspiration”), please see:
http://danthonybrown.me/2012/03/09/hair-accessories-mind-reading-and-transvestites/

And please offer suggestions for tags by commenting below – what random thoughts occurred to you?

Darkness

The nightmare is always the same – I am in the dark and I cannot summon the light. The light switches don’t work. The daylight is gone. It’s twilight and getting darker. Soon I will be unable to see…

Insufficient Illumination. Inadequate Luminescence. Not enough LIGHT! It is so easy to let the darkness seep in. To let it color the world.  Bitter, lonely, tortured darkness doesn’t really suit my personality. So I keep it confined and when it manages to seep out, I seek out the light.

Most recently I compared the muddy chocolate ooze at the bottom of my hot cocoa to the darkness in my soul – kind of sweet and gooey. That’s my kind of darkness – tempered with sweetness (and chocolate).

With thanks to Scott Adams for Dilbert and Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light who first appeared in this strip <a href=”http://dilbert.comhttp://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1989-05-03/” title=”Dilbert.com”><img src=”http://dilbert.com” border=”0″ alt=”Dilbert.com” /></a>

and to my friend David http://danthonybrown.me/ for the inspiration…

Random Access Memory

The storage facility now rivals the Smithsonian for content and size, although it was once a lot smaller.  The original caretaker was youthful and spry, retrieving facts and needed data seemingly instantaneously.  Things have changed…

There is an old man with a walker who wanders the aisles of the Smithsonian-sized warehouse retrieving facts for me. Everything I’ve ever known is in the warehouse. Everything. And the old man moves up and down the aisles pulling random files, peeking at their contents and shoving them back onto a shelf in another place. Sometimes he carries the files around for awhile before stuffing them into a stack on the other side of the building. His walker has those yellow tennis balls on the back two legs and a handmade bag with his name stenciled awkwardly on the front by one of the residents at the nursing home on craft day and hot-glued hook and loop tape to hold it on the front bar of his walker.

He wears a hearing aid with the volume turned down so he doesn’t accurately hear the requests that come in over the loudspeaker. If the overhead asks for “sneakers” he might hear “squeakers” or “peekers” and he’s off down another aisle, pulling files reciting a portion of the contents out loud and moving on.

In the bag on the front of his walker are objects that he has found as he has traversed the warehouse over the years. There is a crystal that used to hang from the rearview mirror of a 1993 Ford Escort 5-speed manual Sports Edition. There is a button from a sweater (might have been his sweater). He won’t give up his treasures and he rarely shows them to me.

The warehouse gets larger every year and he can no longer keep up, although he keeps trying. Pulling the files he thinks I need and never quite finding what I’m seeking until hours later – often in the early hours of the morning or when I’m taking a shower. He works best when I am not under pressure because he can’t stand stress. And since the files are not ordered chronologically or alphabetically or according to any known method of _____ (insert word which he won’t tell me at the moment meaning “sortable” and “orderly”), he works best by wandering around and pulling out whatever intrigues him.

The newer items are stacked in baskets near the front door and every once in awhile he goes up and gets a few items, takes them back into the stacks and shoves them into shelves with a logic known only to him.

When I am actively trying to recall the name of the book that so piqued my interest 10 years ago we play charades and I start guessing “sounds like” “starts with” and tossing in movie titles or song lyrics that are somehow in the same file folder on a shelf he has just accessed. If I am lucky it will be the correct folder although I still have to guess the other objects in the folder before he gives me the information I want. I can’t fire him. He works very hard and he knows these stacks better than anyone else. You see, he is my data retrieval system – my random access memory.

Pain

Like many of you,  I  live with physical pain every day. The multiple diagnoses include osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia as the primary causes. Such pain is labeled “chronic” because it is always there, and yet “chronic” doesn’t even begin to describe pain.

Pain has layers. Three basic layers come to mind, although there are many other levels along the spectrum. There is the top acute layer, which screams the loudest and seemingly hurts the most because it gets the most attention. There are the middle layers of nagging ache that are more evident when the top layer has been appeased. And then at the very bottom is a throbbing discomfort that may not even manifest in the brain as “pain” per se and yet it won’t allow the sufferer a comfortable position and insists on intruding into even the deepest repose. Many drugs will address the top layer, some will actually start to work on the middle layers, and none ever seem to address all the layers simultaneously.

A change in the weather brings more pain. And yet, my pain, unlike someone with bone cancer, is not a harbinger of death or worsening disease. Sometimes I hurt so badly I am unable to think and yet I know it will subside at some point. Hopeful that it will not rise again only to be proven wrong. Pain wakes me from sleep and sometimes prevents sleep altogether, and yet sleep is supposed to help relieve pain. In my experience, sleep only provides a brief respite where I escape the confines of my physical self to the place where I can run and even fly.

So I try to remember that feeling when the pain h

as weighed me down… somewhere, somehow, I can fly 🙂

Motherly goats (for David)

There are things that happen when writers start talking… random things that reflect a certain state of mind (or lack thereof)… tied into procrastination and FB and other places that tell of a trail of thoughts winding with the evening breeze through a busy restaurant and past a cup of coffee or two.  And you arrive at “motherly goats” which make you giggle every time.

So much for monthly goals… that Trello board (www.trello.com) will never be the same now that David has re-christened it.  (I hope Mary won’t be too offended since we share that particular board…)

On cats

This week two blog posts from others caught my eye: “Thinking Outside the Cat Box” on February 6th from Susan Wingate (http://susanwingate.wordpress.com/muscle-up-the-gut-of-your-novel-writing-instruction/) and “Ball of Yarn” on February 7th from D Anthony Brown (http://danthonybrown.me/2012/02/07/ball-of-yarn-on-smashwords/).

So what inspired these two writers to use cat-themed posts in the same week?  Perhaps it is the bleakness of winter and the fact that we all spend more time indoors.  We watch our cats do their thing and with the restlessness of cabin fever we pay more attention to their idiosyncrasies.  Their feline quirks then feed our creative process inspiring analogies to the existence of these little Zen masters living in the moment.  A sunbeam calls them to lie down and absorb warmth and light.  A sudden movement grabs their attention and prods them to discover its source.  A can opener, shaken treat jar or other familiar sound tweaks their ears to turn and follow the noise.

And just so, my attention was drawn to posts on cats…

Write your own story

Recently a friend reminded me that we each write our own story every day through the messages we give ourselves. “Thoughts are things” and have a way of becoming the truth of our lives if we let them get out of hand.

Another friend of mine does me the service of showing me how this works – every time she gives herself a negative message I cringe, because it almost invariably comes true. She is better at self-sabotage than most people, so while I love her dearly, I sometimes worry about her, and thank her for the reminder to write the story the way it should be or at least the way I want it to be.

On Duality

Like you, I often feel torn in two directions (sometimes more).

Wanting to be more available to spend time with my mom and wanting to spend more time writing.

Wanting to grow my hair down past my waist like it was in my college days and wanting to chop it short and dye it purple just to shock people.

Wanting to spend more time on my music and wanting to read more novels.

Wanting to look for a new job and wanting to create that new job.

Luckily I never want to spend more time cleaning  (although I sometimes wish I wanted to spend more time cleaning).

Seasoned Greetings…

As I sit down to write this missive, I do as we all tend to do, and think backwards instead of forward. (Although if the quantum physicists are right, it doesn’t matter which way you go on a timeline.) In many ways 2011 was a banner year, and in some ways it was quite ordinary.

We have lost two more of our furry children:

Jezebel in May at the ripe old age of 19 people years and Samson in July just two days after my fiftieth birthday. Samson and I had been together for more than 14 years and the vet estimated that he was at least 2 years old when I adopted him. Jezebel and her sister Delilah (who passed in 2010), kittens born in July 1992, were a housewarming gift from my mom.

Recently I read that the loss of a pet is harder than the loss of a human friend, because we spend more time in the company of our pets than even our closest human friends. From the moment we wake up in the morning they are with us until we leave the house, through the toothbrushing and dressing and breakfasting. Then as soon as we come home again, they are there to share the mail with us, and sit by us as we prepare dinner or work on the computer. We think of our departed friends or family members when the big events that mark our lives happen without them there to share. Pets fill our lives in the small moments that we don’t even think to count and they are always, always there hoping for a tiny bit of our attention. And it is those small moments that feel so empty when we lose them.

After Samson died, Steve was hoping we would not get another dog for awhile. And one fateful night in August when the moon was full, something crossed the road  and then it went back across the road and soon was obviously a dog trotting down the road ahead of us, desperately searching for something. After watching the dog for a little bit, I pulled the car over and got out. And then I couldn’t see it anywhere, so I softly called, “Come here, baby” and a little nose poked from behind the back of the car. I opened the rear passenger door and invited the dog to “Jump in.”

Soon we were back on the road and I called Steve, stopped at my house long enough for Steve to come out with a leash and then I took Mom home. By the time I got back, Steve had determined that the dog was an intact male with a docked tail and while he had an expensive spiked leather collar, there was no identification of any kind – no tags, no phone number written on the inside of the collar, nothing. I called the vet to see if she could squeeze in a visit on Monday and started posting on lost pet sites and sent pictures to local rescue agencies. On Monday, the vet checked for a microchip with no luck and suggested that we foster him for as long as possible because the shelters were all jammed full. So we learned all about belly bands to keep boy doggies from watering inside and waited for the owner we were certain would contact us to get back such a sweet doggy. Two weeks later with not so much as a nibble, we took the plunge and got him neutered and gave him the name Buddy.

For ourselves, we have used the year to try to develop our skills and start moving in the path we have seen laid out for us. My first step outside my comfort zone was to take a class on social networking through my job at Mayo Clinic. So you can now find me on Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress and Twitter. In addition, I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (www.NaNoWriMo.org) with the goal of forcing myself to do what I’ve always wanted to do – write. It worked and I was able to complete the task, ie, write a novel of 50,000 words in one month from November 1 through November 30. I met some great people in the process and really enjoyed myself. Yes, I wrote a lot of crap – it’s one of the things they tell you will happen, because you have to put away the inner editor and just pound out words in order to get it done in a month (while still working a full-time job). I also have some gems that I can use to seed other projects and I’m already looking forward to doing it again next year.

Steve, after much soul searching and thinking, buckled down to put his design in motion and applied for and got a conditional patent on his cat bowl design, so he is hopeful that he will find a company willing to produce and market it. If you know anyone in plastics who could help, please share Steve’s email (pcbcraft@yahoo.com).

As we begin a New Year, we wish you blessings and the drive to accomplish great things.
And if it all ends by this time next year as the doomsayers predict, then may you go out with a bang and no regrets!

and so it begins…

my foray into blogging…. with a trip and a stumble and some muttered epithets…

My hope, my wish, is that I am somehow able to achieve my purpose – to Spread the Light.  To bring a smile. To lighten a load. To brighten a day. To remind myself that we are here to help each other.