Flash Fiction: By Design

The prompt this week from Carrot Ranch is “By Design”. My goal was to paint as vivid a picture as I could of “real” winter. Not the sort of chilly, once in awhile gray winter weather we get here in the desert southwest. So how did I do?

“Painting a Picture”

 The landscape was encased in ice, trees frozen in mid-motion. Snow gleamed pure white, too cold even for the stars to twinkle.  The cold poked and prodded, looking for a way into the snug cottage.  All was still.

Inside the fire crackled and popped from the newly added pine log before settling down to give a steady heat.  The flames danced to a happy song only they could hear.

I breathed in slow and deep, holding for a beat at the top.  By design peace flowed through me.  By Mother Nature’s design sleep settled over the great wintry outdoors.

Flash Fiction Contest

In October Carrot Ranch sponsored four flash fiction contests. In keeping with my creative courage theme for 2019 I entered three of them. My goal was to finish in the top ten at least once so I could get a critique from Charli. And to my profound joy I did finish in the top ten for the TUFF Beans entry. Yeah me! (To read my TUFF Beans entry click on the Carrot Ranch link above.)

Of course the funny thing is this was my least favorite entry! Today I will share my other two entries.

Three Act Story

I think my mistake here was not getting the reader more invested in the main character. But I loved the somewhat ambiguous ending, even I am not sure who killed who!

“Campsite Twenty-Three”

Jamie drives in the final tent stake with a satisfying thwack and carefully places the hammer onto a nearby stump. She hurriedly builds a fire. A nearby howl has Jamie tossing another branch onto the meager flames.

The howling is getting louder.  She moves closer to the fire, freezing as she hears rustling in the bushes.  “Don’t look behind you, something may be there” is her last thought as four heavy paws land on her back.

Animal fur, chunks of torn flesh and a bloody hammer litter the campsite.  The seasoned state trooper retches while photographing the grisly scene. 

Modern Tall Tales

For this entry I don’t think I got the modern twist part. Oops. But I had a lot of fun writing this. Growing up I did walk to elementary school up a pretty steep one-way road and cross a busy four lane road and just exaggerated from there. Bats were also prevalent in our neighborhood and every summer one would get in the house and my father would put on his motorcycle helmet and use a fishing net to get it out. I also remember Hurricane Agnes. So I had a nice little trip down memory lane. 🙂

“Untitled”

When I was a kid I had to walk to school. I left in the pitch dark, wearing a helmet to keep swooping bats out of my hair.  I had to walk up Ailsa Avenue, which was so steep it was one-way downhill because cars couldn’t make it to the top.

 Then I had to cross a six-lane highway, without a crossing guard! 

And it didn’t matter what the weather was like.  Even during Hurricane Agnes I had to walk to school. 

So I think you can walk a block to the bus stop on this sunny, 70° morning.

I hope you are enjoying the season!

Photo Friday: Holiday Decorating

I have been in my current home nine years now and still don’t have a set Christmas decorating plan down. Maybe I am destined to change things up every year. Overall I am pretty happy with the way things turned out this year. Except for the dining room light. I have already decided to go look at the clearance stuff after Christmas and see if I get any ideas. Here are a few of my new favorite spots this year.

I almost left these garlands in the garage because I didn’t like them on the upstairs railing last year. But I hauled them in “just in case”. Turns out I love them on the picture frames!
My Agatha Christies all gussied up for Christmas.
I had no idea what to do with this garland (and couldn’t even remember where I had it last year) until I thought to put it above the stairwell. And I like it.
My village scene keeps growing and now has been divvied up into three different locations. These are the hodge-podge pieces and work nicely in this narrow (height wise) space.
The nativity portion in now on the bookcase in the upstairs hallway. (Nice and peaceful there for the Holy Family)
And finally our Lego village in the dining room. We added the gingerbread house at the far end this year and I wish I could live there!

One last photo. I found this sweater in the grocery store of all places!

I couldn’t pass this up, it is too perfect to wear to “The Nutcracker” ballet later this month!

Here’s to a wonderful holiday season!

Flash Fiction: Gnomes

The prompt for this week from Carrot Ranch is to write about a gnome. I am drowning in Christmas right now: cards, baking, potlucks wrapping… I opted to go with the flow and not fight it. I figure if I could tie Key Lime Pie to the holidays how hard could a gnome be? 🙂 A little research revealed some interesting bits and pieces about gnomes so maybe this letter could be considered historical fiction!

Dear Santa,

         My name is Terrence and I am a gnome working as a guard in a diamond mine.  While I know this work is important it is not my true passion.  What I really love to do is make toys and ornaments. I love glitter!

         I have heard there are gnomes who make sleigh bells and I would be happy to do that if there was an opening available.

         I believe I can be an asset to your North Pole operation and will be ready for pickup on Christmas Eve if you will have me.

Sincerely,

Terrence Sparkle

Here and Now: December

Despite my best intentions the days this month have felt rather hectic. I have decided I am not a fan of the no-plan plan. I am thinking a “soft” plan would suit me better. I will put things on the calendar and when the day comes if I really don’t feel like doing whatever it is then I can re-plan it. Or if the mood strikes I can do it sooner. But especially for the holidays I need to see all I need to do posted on a calendar.

I am continuing with my yoga and meditation. I was worried I would quit the yoga now that I am getting up in the dark but found I love doing the yoga by the light of the 12″ tree in my office. It is peaceful and festive and the stretches feel really good.

Meditation continues. I am hoping my focus improves for the morning session (so much to do these days!) but I am loving the evening session and actually look forward to that period of peace and quiet before bed. Once again I am in the office with the only light coming from my tiny tree.

Something I forgot to mention last month is my gratitude logging. I write down at least three things each night that I am grateful for or brought me joy. I do believe this is having a positive affect on my attitude. Helps me look for the good in the day. (No line at the post office! A good coupon for Petco! Getting my second shingles shot out of the way, even if it did make me feel like crap for two days.)

My absolute favorite thing to do this month? Story time with my son. At bedtime we take turns reading a story to each other. We have a whole shelf of Christmas books, many of which he has technically “outgrown”, except I believe you can never out grow books. So we are visiting our favorites, “Oliver the Other Reindeer”, “Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake”, “If You Take a Mouse to the Movies”, “Mickey and Minnie’s Gift of the Magi”, just to name a few. That reading time together makes my heart happy.

Last year I colored the dogs, this year cats.

All the holiday pieces are coming together. One thing that I am doing differently is saving a few items to do between Christmas and New Years’. Not all the cookies need to be baked ahead of time, not all the movies watched before Christmas Day. For my family Christmas is celebrated through Epiphany, January 6th. I always feel a little sorry for those families that start the day after Thanksgiving and are sick of Christmas by the 26th. Just makes the winter that much longer.

I like taking my time preparing for the whole 12 days of Christmas (which start Christmas day). This year may not be quite as detailed in the planning but there will be activities and fun family time.

I hope you get to enjoy the whole holiday season, both the preparations and the festivities!

Flash Fiction: Key Lime Pie

This week’s prompt from Carrot Ranch is key lime pie.

True story: I had the idea for my flash fiction in my head, if not written down on Thursday night. On Friday we celebrated St. Nicholas Day and I bought a mint Oreo ice cream pie as a special dessert. When my son went to get it out of the freezer he was all excited because he thought it was key lime! Now mint chocolate chip is his favorite ice cream and I was rather surprised that he wanted key lime. Of course he still enjoyed the mint pie but I marveled at the coincidence.

I thought about changing my story but decided I am happy with my fictional version. Plus, who has time to do things twice this time of year! And I confess to plagiarizing the end of the last sentence from Dr. Seuss. I do love me some “Grinch”.

“Just One Yes”

“Can I go to Johnney’s house?”  “No, I don’t have time to take you.”

“Can I have computer time?” “No, you have math homework.”

“Can I have a snack?” “No, dinner is in less than an hour.”

“Can we have key lime pie on Christmas Eve?”  “What? No, we always have pecan pie.  It’s tradition.”

 All the nos of the day echoed in my head.

“Wait!  Yes.  Yes we can have key lime pie on Christmas Eve.  I love that idea.”

I looked at my son’s beaming smile and just like that my heart didn’t feel quite so tight.

Photo Friday: Green Friday and Small Business Saturday

You may have heard about a movement to change Black Friday to Green Friday. To change the focus from consumerism to getting out in nature. Here in the desert southwest it was more of a Gray Friday. Rain, wind and dropping temperatures made me want to stay indoors. I boiled up the turkey frame re-filling the house with that Thanksgiving turkey smell. After I got three containers of soup base into the freezer I noticed the weather was clearing up so after lunch my son and I went to Sabino Canyon and fulfilled our Green Friday hiking goal.

Yup, snow on the mountain tops!
Water roaring over the dam.
Some macro lens action. This is a “teddy bear” cactus. From a distance it looks fuzzy, not spiky.
I don’t know what type of cactus this is, first time I noticed it. Very cool looking though.

After more rain early Saturday morning the sun was shining again by the afternoon. We went to the Reid Park Arts and Crafts festival for a little Christmas shopping. After we were done we took time to stop and smell the roses. They were a bit battered but still fragrant and beautiful.

So you can get an idea of how many blooms there were.
Another macro shot, such a beautiful color.
And we’ll end with a Christmasy looking rose.

Keep your focus!

*Top photo is an orange on my tree, close to being ripe. Maybe we’ll have fresh orange juice for Christmas morning!

Flash Fiction: Winner

This week’s prompt from Carrot Ranch was “winner”. I started with one idea and then tried a few others. I felt like my first idea didn’t really capture what Charli was looking for but I couldn’t seem to let it go! After quite a bit of tweaking this is the end result. Closer to Charli’s intent I think.

“Winter Growth”

Winter was descending, short cold days followed by long cold nights.  Distraction was needed.  No, not distraction… learning.  Yes! This was valuable time that needed to be used thoughtfully.  Much growth could happen in the cold with a little encouragement. 

So many topics beckon, but let’s be real, nothing that involves leaving the warmth of home will happen.  And yes, there it was, an on-line art class.  Collage: cutting and gluing bright bits of paper.  Abstract flowers and cats. Back to kindergarten and my simplest self.  Growing from the roots. My heart lit with joy, I had a winner.

November Recap

My focus for November was yoga, meditation, creative time, random acts of kindness and having some computer free time. I am thrilled at how well I did for all these!

Yoga: Every. Single. Day. Whoo-hoo. I even added one new pose to my morning routine.

Meditation: Every day. “Self-five!” I am now up to ten minutes a day. I have been thinking about my twenty minute goal and realized I wasn’t really looking forward to it. Mostly because I would lose some of my flexibility as to when I could meditate if I had to have twenty uninterrupted minutes. Plus I wasn’t sure I could really focus for that long.

So I took a few minutes to really think about what I wanted and I have decided to stop at ten minutes in the morning and add an evening/bedtime meditation session. I will start with five minutes and add one minute a week until I am up to ten minutes. I will experiment with different times and bedroom vs office and see what works best.

It was a bit of an epiphany realizing I can simply do what works best for me and I don’t have to follow someone else’s guidance or rules.

Computer Free Time: I am doing better. I realized trying to do a set 24 hours was really hard but that after a quick use in the morning I could ignore the computer the rest of a designated day. Overall I felt like I was on the computer a lot less and that I am well on the path to less mindless computer use.

Creative Time: I have been working on lots of projects this month and enjoying them all. Now I just need to get some of them finished! Here are some of my accomplishments:

Thanksgiving place cards, even the dog gets one. 🙂
I got a book on lettering out of the library and found I loved it, once I let go of worrying over the end product and just focused on the process. I trust that with practice my spacing will get better, my lines straighter etc.

Still working on my felt winter window, slow going. But I have almost finished eight Christmas mason jar ornaments.

Now I need to figure out what to do with them!
I got some jars from the dollar store, made these labels and I am going to fill them with yogurt raisins. Do I give them to the naughty or the nice list?

Random Acts of Kindness: I accomplished this mostly through my driving. This time of year the snowbirds are starting to arrive so there are a lot of older drivers out there. Going slow. Forgetting where places are. Confused about the left turn arrow which could be at the beginning or end of the green light (and in a few intersections is at both the beginning and end). And it only gets worse through March. This year I am being extra patient and ultra courteous. I especially get to do this in the mornings letting drivers in/out of the school driveway right next to my son’s school. And yes, I do feel like a better person and less frustrated driver for doing this.

My chrysanthemum bloomed just in time for Thanksgiving. I loved looking at the blooms outside the kitchen window while doing dishes!