Flash Fiction (Colonnades)

Last fall I started participating in Carrot Ranch’s 99 word flash fiction challenges. Not all of them but more than I realized looking back. Now on to the next step, posting them here as well. Creative Courage!

This week’s theme (17 January) is colonnades (an evenly spaced row of columns); natural, architectural or metaphorical.

Giant Redwoods

She put the lawn chair all the way back and stared straight up.  It felt scary, a thrill in the pit of her stomach.  The trees towered so far above her, swaying at the top with the clouds holding on to keep them from veering too far.  She looked at the thick trunks of the redwoods, sure the movement at the top would topple them. How did the trunks stay so straight?  She wondered what would happen if a branch came crashing down.  Would she be able to move away, or watch mesmerized as the clouds let it go?

Creative Courage

My word for last year was “unhurried” and I loved it. Having a simple, one word reminder staring at me from various spots in my office really made a difference. So I decided I wanted to pick a word for this year.

Last November I read this article at Carrot Ranch and the words creative courage really stuck in my head. As soon as I started thinking about possibilities for this year’s word I knew right away “creative courage” was it. I dithered a bit though, are you allowed to borrow your word from someone else’s website? Am I stealing someone else’s dream? No, the idea came from someone else and Carrot Ranch wrote about it. I think I am good. I feel like the words found me. (And it is too late to change them anyway. We bonded instantly!)

I am already trying out my creative courage, not just in writing but in other artistic endeavors which I will write about soon. In writing I have been entering some of Carrot Ranch’s flash fiction challenges. Now I need to start posting those entries on my blog. The best part is even if my entry sucks they are only 99 words so won’t waste much of your time!

I actually got an honorable mention for one of my entries, now I have to figure out how to post my badge here. I guess I should link to the entry too? So here it is. I am having enough trouble formatting my posts with this new editor who knows how long it will take me to figure out the badge thing! But I am cultivating my creative courage and will persevere.

Musings on March

Remember how I had a plan for the month of March?   The first half of the month went really well as I wrote in my mid-month update.  But after that things rather fell apart.

I had finished a very rough first draft but I was at a crossroads.  My characters had built their own lives and the short story idea wasn’t working out with the plot lines very well.   I loved the plot that had developed but now I didn’t know how to make it work as a series of interconnected short stories.  So I dithered a bit and finally took a day off to consider the situation: novel or short stories?

While dithering about the writing was going on family life was intruding upon my writing time.  And then physical issues butted in and I confess:  I gave up. For now.

The good news is I loved doing the writing.  In the near future I plan to keep experimenting until I find a writing plan that works for my life, right now.

What did I learn?

  1.  Writing everyday is not for me.  Weekends were especially difficult.  I am a parent and parenting often takes precedence over everything else.
  2. Having a spreadsheet “yelling” at me that I was behind on my word count was not helpful.  I do much better with goals of completing scenes.
  3. But I do like the idea of seeing my word count progress divided up by writing session.  So I am making my own spreadsheet that I can adapt to my writing style/goals.
  4. Writing while walking on the treadmill was very helpful, really kept me focused. (I am walking as I write this!)

 

Since March ended up being about a lot more than writing let’s talk thyroid and menopause and allergies.  Yes the triple headed monster has re-emerged.  The first half of the month I did some excellent healthy eating, I was sleeping well and I felt like I had my allergies under control with the right combination of meds.

And then poof!  Total exhaustion, short tempered and eating everything in sight.  I went straight from my period to PMS to having another period ten days later.  So peri-menopause?  Of which I can do nothing about.  Or thyroid?

As luck would have it my prescription is due for renewal so I got my thyroid level checked this week and it is higher but still in the “normal” range.  But looking at my results on-line and looking at levels from the past five years I noticed (again) the pattern of how my TSH is always higher in the spring. So the doctor is renewing my meds at the same dosage but I will be secretly (don’t tell my doctor!) upping my dosage for the next two months or so during allergy season. (My prescription is filled via mail order and somehow I have ended up with an extra bottle. I have no idea how.) And we will see if I feel better in the next week or so. If I don’t feel better I guess that means it is menopause and you will find me on the couch in stretchy pants eating junk food.

As for the allergies my meds seem to be working pretty well.  My only issue is a bit of post nasal drip which leaves me with a bit of a sore throat some days.  I can live with that.

Not the March I had imagined for myself, but life is like that. It was a good experiment though.

Tune in tomorrow for an April surprise!

 

The Ides of March

Nothing to beware of though, everything is going along swimmingly. This is my promised mid-month mini update post.

I have written every day but one and my word count is a bit behind but not alarmingly so. It was a little bit tough getting started but I have to admit I am pretty proud of myself for not being totally de-railed by distractions beyond my control.  (I have two parent teacher conferences scheduled for this week and I keep practicing the tactful and calm logic I am going to present as to why collaborative learning in core subjects is not in my son’s best interest. And a second distraction has to do with dealing with my poor body’s tramp toward menopause. Sigh.) I have remembered to be kind to myself though and it is really paying off.  The writing itself has been a joy.  My stories have taken a surprising turn and I love how I started down one path and then found a whole different plot line developing.

I took some pictures to cheer up, well the whole rest of the country which seems to be experiencing extreme cold, sleet, snow and blizzards.  What perfect writing weather! 🙂

(If you look on the left side of the first photo above, the featured photo, you can see the start of two teeny green oranges!)

Buds on my lemon tree.

 

 

My son gave me a packet of mixed heirloom flower seeds for my birthday last September. I unbelieveably remembered to plant them mid-February and it looks like a lot have come up.  Now I hope they can survive this unusually early heat long enough to actually bloom.

 

The weather has turned from winter to spring to summer in the last two weeks.  Temps are now reaching the low 90’s and the smell of citrus blossoms are perfuming the air.

We picked all the oranges off the tree before they started to rot in the heat.  I think I will add fresh squeezed orange juice to our St. Paddy’s day menu!

Back to my writing!  See you in April!

Q is for Quote

 

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This year I decided to keep an index card on my nightstand. On this card I write two sentences for each month. Sometimes it is my own thought or something I stumble on in a book. It could be a quote or just one word.

The purpose of these sentences is to remind me of how I want to live my life, who I want to be, what is important. I review it each night before sleep, sometimes again in the morning or whenever I feel the need to regain some focus.

In March when I watched Peyton Manning give his retirement speech one thing he said really stuck with me:

“Life is not shrinking for me; it’s morphing into a whole new world of possibilities.”

I LOVE this idea and I hope it is true for all of us!

My military life is way behind me and motherhood is being revamped with small child in school all day and becoming more independent all the time.  I find myself wondering in which direction my life is going to go next.  A whole world of possibilities await!

 

N is for Nemesis

A few weeks ago I finished reading “Nemesis” by Agatha Christie. I was reading all the Miss Marple’s in order and that was the last one. Sad now. Guess I’ll have to start on Hercule Poirot. Happy now 🙂 .

I love the word nemesis: an enemy that is very difficult to defeat. It sounds so sinister but could be anything. That last five pounds. Dark chocolate covered almonds. That spare in bowling where a second pin is hidden behind the first. We all have our nemeses.

I love Agatha Christie too. If I was stranded on a deserted island her books are the ones I would want. (And “How to Survive on a Deserted Island for Dummies”.) Dead author to invite to dinner?  Agatha Christie. Know what I like best about Agatha Christie?  She wrote her first book on a bet with her sister.  But after that she started writing books for the money.  No angst or struggles over being a writer.  She just sat down and wrote.  Why can’t I do that?

K is for Killjoy

Killjoy: a person who spoils other people’s fun or enjoyment

I know this A to Z challenge isn’t a person but it is being a killjoy of my blogging experience.  Wait.  I am bummed because the challenge has turned out to be a challenge?  That’s weird.  I am going to persevere, sorry about that.

I am already thinking of how I will tackle the challenge differently next year.  I have a few ideas. Perusing the other blogs has been helpful.  I have seen lots of  interesting themes.  I know it would be best to start drafting posts well before the challenge begins.

Doing this year’s challenge off the cuff has been good in some ways though.  I have had to push myself a little, learn to prioritize a bit better.  I find I actually enjoy writing each day.  This bodes well for August when I plan on starting to conquer my personal goal of writing some fiction.

What I am not thrilled with is spending so much time on the computer.  This has been compounded by the temporary loss of my treadmill. I remind myself it is only for one month. Now that I know how to schedule posts I could take a day or two off. It’s not like I can get fired because I didn’t read any blogs for a day.

Here is the link to the A to Z blogging challenge.  Maybe someone else could read some blogs for me?  There is more than a thousand to choose from!!  Thank you in advance 🙂

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So as not to be a total killjoy here is a fun photo of a dragonfly I took last summer. (If I had known ahead of time I would have re-painted my toenails!)

 

F is for Fiction (from Fact)

 

The Dead Cat

The Miami Heat were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers and D. Wade was poised to hit his twenty thousandth point when I heard a soft knock on the front storm door. I had left the inner door open so there was no pretending I wasn’t home. With a sigh I hit pause and went to the door. I was expecting one of my son’s friends but instead I saw my neighbor from across the street. It took me a minute to remember his name. Billy? Timmy? No, Bobby, that was it.   Even though it was a Saturday evening he was still in his military uniform.

I noticed he looked a little pale and he asked me to come take a look at something in his backyard. As we walked across the street he explained how he lets his cat out in the fenced in backyard for a few minutes when he first gets home from work. The cats rolls around in the gravel and then explores a bit. This evening the cat was hissing and acting strange about something in a corner of the yard. When Bobby went to check he saw some fur and a partially dirt covered cat. The cat was a tabby that looked like his own. Bobby thought it might belong to the house two doors down but when he knocked no one was home.

I peered cautiously toward the back corner. Yup, a half eaten, half buried cat with a bunch of fur lying around met my eyes. Bobby and I began to speculate what had gotten it. Coyotes were around but seldom (if ever) seen in our small, cinderblock walled yards. “Bobcat,” I said with authority. We had seen bobcats frequently in our neighborhood. Mountain lions were also reported to be nearby but I had never seen one. My guess is a mountain lion would have eaten much more of the cat in one go. Bobby agreed. Covering it with dirt to come back for more later was a cat behavior.

“So the bobcat will be back?” Bobby half asked, half stated. He looked a little unsettled at the idea and glanced around. Dusk was settling in and the corner of the yard was heavily shadowed. “You keep your cat indoors, he will be fine,” I told Bobby. ” Do you have a shovel?” I asked.  Bobby thought a second and then said no. “I have one in the garage, I’ll be right back,” I told him.  “I’ll grab some garbage bags and meet you back here,” said Bobby.

On my way to the garage I ran into Bobby’s next door neighbors, Ashley and Jason,  and told them about the cat. They weren’t surprised as right after they had moved in two years ago they also lost their cat to a bobcat, in the same corner, just on the other side of the wall.

“I think the bobcat likes to hang out on top of the wall back there because it is sheltered and shaded by an orange tree,” said Jason.

I found my shovel and met Bobby in his backyard. It was getting rather dark now and I hoped the buried part of the cat wouldn’t be too gross or too easy to see in the gathering gloom. Bobby took the shovel and I held open the bag. Then Bobby said wait and took a few pictures to show the neighbor.

We stood there a few moments in a respectful silence, listening to the quiet of the gathering evening. We heard the neighbors leave and I crouched down holding the bag open as wide as I could as Bobby attempted to get the shovel completely under the cat.

And then we heard it, a low,  menacing,  hissing growl. I looked at the dead cat in confusion and then up at Bobby. He was looking at the dead cat too. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of movement and a small bobcat launched itself at Bobby. Instinctively Bobby  turned and the bobcat landed on his upper left back and shoulder. Bobby gave a surprised yelp and dropped the shovel which I picked up. I used the handle end to jab at the bobcat. I was afraid to take a swing, sure I would hit Bobby in the head.

During this time Bobby and I had been strangely quite but now I started muttering “oh shit oh shit oh shit”. With a low roar I whacked the cat over the head and then turned the handle to wedge it under it’s front paws and pry it off Bobby. With a grunt of effort the cat went flying backwards. It headed for the open gate, weaving and limping but moving fast.

Bobby and I looked at each other in stunned disbelief. Had that really just happened? I asked Bobby if he was hurt. A quick check showed the heavy material of his uniform shirt had protected  him from the worst of the cat’s claws. Just a few pinpricks of blood showed on his t-shirt. Without another word we quickly cleared up the remains of the cat and headed into our respective homes. I was ready to see Dwayne Wade hit his 20,000th point.

 

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Last July behind our house, a mama bobcat and two bobkittens.

 

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The mama bobcat.

(The beginning part of the story is true, however I am glad to report that we were not actually attacked by a bobcat!)

Changes (Part I)

I have been doing a lot of contemplating about my life of late. Who I am, who I want to be, how I want to spend my time etc.  Specifically I have been thinking about how I want my days to look in 2016 and how I want to feel at the end of each day. There is much going on in my head and I am not sure how much I am going to share here, we’ll just have to see how it goes.

I think Changes will be a three part blog post, but as the author I reserve the right to change my mind at any given point in time. But here is Part I: This Blog.

Mid-January I will have completed a full year of writing this blog. I have written on a fairly regular basis. Mission accomplished! I know to be a “successful” blogger I need to narrow my focus and work on increasing readers, blah, blah blah. But my definition of success is writing on a regular basis.  I am doing that so I won’t be making any changes. Maybe later this year I will change the background or the format a bit. Maybe I will find my blog does naturally narrow down in scope. Or maybe not. Maybe ‘monkey mind’ will continue to rule. Time will tell. The bottom line is, no changes to this blog for now.

Goals for 2016

After a bit of thinking and a lot of doodling I have come up with THE LIST. Since I won’t be starting until mid-January there may still be some tweaks but for the most part this is what I am going with.  They are in no particular order and I will be implementing these habit changes one at a time using the “Zen Habits” method.  I doubt they will all get done, actually if I have just two or three new habits firmly entrenched by the end of the year I will call it success.

  •  Improve eating habits
    • reduce grain intake and search for healthier grains
    • keep sugar intake low
    • avoid chemicals, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives
  • Steps
    • experiment with grain free recipes
    • eliminate processed treats (no more store bought cookies, desserts etc)
    • decide ahead of time when I am going to break my rules and keep track

Goal: better sleep, better mood, less joint pain

@ I am already doing most of these things to some degree but I want to try a little harder.  I have begun looking up all the ingredients on things like crackers and cereals and researching to find the healthiest flours.

  • Increase my physical activity
    • longer walks with dog (10k steps per day goal)
    • yoga
    • jump rope
    • biking
    • hand weights
  • Steps
    • create a schedule
    • start small

Goal:  better sleep, better mood, tone muscles, increase upper arm strength

@ this one is going to be tough because I don’t really like to exercise. I also need to be flexible and adjust my routine to fit the time of year.  Swimming in the summer instead of walking for example.  But this is where the Zen Habits will be very helpful.

  • Meditation
    • two 5 to 10 minute sessions per day
  • Steps
    • start small
    • be patient with myself

@ I had already started on this goal, I thought it would be a good one to give the “Zen Habits” method a practice run with.  But then I got sick and now I need to start over.  Such is life.

Goal:  peace of mind, better focus

  • Writing
    • finish writing something, anything
  • Steps
    • set time or word count goal
    • investigate entering some contests

Goal:  to write enough that I can think of myself as an author, to feel a sense of purpose, to add another dimension to my day.

  • Photography
    • take better photos
  • Steps
    • watch a Great Courses DVD I bought this year
    • read blogs about taking photos
    • look into photo editing software

Goal: become a more knowledgeable photographer

@ I enjoy taking nature photos and am ready to up my game.  The last few years I have made myself a calendar and I want 2017’s to be fabulous!

Hopefully I will have the patience to take my time and attend to each new habit properly.  This time next year my days will look very different if I am successful.  I am looking forward to change, feeling better and discovering who I can be in this next phase of my life.