2021 Short Story Challenge Theme!

You guys, I have agonized over this. And I’ve gotten some really good suggestions. I’ve looked at quotes and poems, at nouns and verbs and adjectives, at artwork. I wanted to pick a theme for 2021 that feels accessible, not esoteric, and that will lend itself to lots of different stories from lots of different people with lots of different life experiences.

So, here it is, the theme for my 2021 Short Story Challenge:

Home. A place of comfort for some, a place of anxiety or fear for others. For many of us, a place we’ve seen plenty of in the last several months. A physical space, or a feeling, a certainty or a longing, a boon or a burden.

I feel like home has plenty of stories to tell. I hope you’ll join me in telling twelve this year. Let’s see where home takes us.

My story for January will be up next Friday, January 29th. (And then I’ll resume the regular Found Friday feature.) I…haven’t started writing it yet, but I’m excited to see what it will become.

And, if you want to write along and post a story for each month this year, I’m excited to see what you’ll create.

Let’s make 2021 a year for stories.

Old Walls (A Poem)

Old walls
Stand strong
The test of time
It touches all
Some pieces crumble
And fall away
But the center holds

The center holds
Fast against the weight
It dares to last
The old walls
Rise from solid earth
And all around
New life brings new light

Bright again
Old walls
Tell the tale
Of many moments made one
And become part of
The halls of history
For each and all

Short Story Challenge 2021!

At around this time last year, I’d made up my mind to write twelve short stories for each month of 2020. The idea was that each story would have something to do with its respective month – inspired by a holiday, typical activities, the weather, etc.

I enjoyed the project so much that I’m doing it again in 2021. This year, I think I’d like to challenge myself to write twelve stories around a central theme. But I don’t know what that theme should be! So, I thought I’d reach out to you, wonderful readers, for your ideas and suggestions.

And to see if any of you would like to join me in my Short Story Challenge 2021. 😊 It’ll be fun!

So, what do you think my central theme should be?

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If you haven’t read them and you’d like to catch up, here’s a list of the twelve stories from 2020. Some of them I really like, some of them could have been better, but either way, it’s kind of cool seeing all of them listed here. I enjoyed writing each of them. I’ve put asterisks by my favorites.

January 2020 – Charmed

February 2020 – Snow Moon

**March 2020 – Something Borrowed

April 2020 – The Green Man

May 2020 – The Bridge

**June 2020 – The Day Thomas Leonard Came Back

**July 2020 – Magic Hour

August 2020 – Birthday Funeral

**September 2020 – Memories of September

October 2020 – The Sleepwalker

**November 2020 – In the Time It Takes

December 2020 – The Last Glenmoor Christmas

A Song for Graham (Bonus Post!)

I know this isn’t a normal posting day for me, but y’all, my husband and I have been together for 12 years today, and I forgot until about 3:00 this afternoon.

On this day, 12 years ago, Graham and I basically looked at each other and said, “Let’s do this.” And here we are now, after all this time, married since 2013, living in our little historic house in our beautiful village with our needy pets and our embarrassingly extensive wine collection, and I have never been happier for anything in my entire life.

I can’t believe I forgot.

So, to make up for it, here’s a little Cole Porter, by way of Patsy Cline, for Graham. Note – no makeup, frizzy hair, don’t care. The most important thing is the love. I hope you feel it, too.

Found Friday #18: Bridal Brooch (…and a just for fun picture that will probably make you laugh…)

I pulled a picture from my wedding album for my last post. And then I got to thinking about something sort of random.

On my wedding day, I wore a brooch in my hair that belonged to my great grandmother. As I was flipping through pictures on Wednesday, I realized I couldn’t quite remember where I’d put it. So, a search ensued. I couldn’t get it out of my head until I found it. Nothing else mattered.

It was, of course, in the most logical but least likely place – not with my keepsakes, but with my jewelry.

It’s just a costume piece, but I love it nonetheless. And I’m glad I wore it, and carried my family with me, on such an important day.

It’s safely tucked away now.

Bonus photo! This one’s in the wedding album, too. I have no idea what’s happening or why my face looks the way it looks, but I’m pretty happy that someone captured this moment.

Real Talk: I don’t like public speaking.

I just don’t. It doesn’t make me nervous or afraid or anything. But public speaking is definitely not something I enjoy.

(I’ve got an obligation to do it tonight, and I’m already thinking about it, at 9:23 a.m. Can you tell?)

When I write, I feel like I have time to choose my words perfectly, to build them perfectly, and that people will take time to read them and digest them.

And I love to sing. I love to tell a story in a song. Basically, anywhere, anytime, and to any crowd. Here’s me, at my wedding, being both the bride and the entertainment.

One of my favorite memories, honestly.

But when I’m up speaking in front of people, even if I’ve written my statement and practiced it and I’m confident that it’s good and right, I’ll second guess myself. I’ll worry about my tone, my delivery, and my body language, and that the words I’ve chosen aren’t actually all that good or right, and that I’m not getting my message across, and that I’ve lost the audience halfway through.

What I’m saying, I think, is that public speaking is just not one of my core strengths.

But I want it to be!

So I’d love to hear any advice or suggestions from you. 😊 How do you approach making public statements? How do you pump yourself up and keep from second guessing yourself? And, for those of you who enjoy public speaking, do you have any advice for how I could shift my perspective?

Don’t Bet Against Me (A Poem)

When I was born
six weeks too early, too tiny,
and before I even had a name,
they took bets on whether I’d make it.

I made it.

I’ve always made it,
every moment of every day,
even when I shouldn’t have,
when I should have failed,
I’ve made it.
And I’ve made it good.

So I tell people:
Don’t bet against me.
Underestimate me and
just wait and see
what happens.

Because I made it, and I’ve made it, and I’ll make it.

I am my own hero,
my own knight in shining armor,
my own deus ex machina,
my own miracle.
I am unstoppable,
unflappable,
unembarrassed,
unashamed,
and unconcerned with those who’d doubt me.

I made it.

Even when it’s impossible (nothing’s impossible),
when it’s too dark to see (there’s always light),
when the game seems lost (life’s not a game):

Whatever you do,
don’t bet against me.

Found Friday #17: A Sweet Photo Album

I mentioned in Wednesday’s post that I’d spent some time thinking on fond memories and my family.

I don’t have many photo albums in the house – most of those are with my parents – but I do have one, and I’d sort of forgotten about it until Wednesday.

I realize I spend a lot of time talking about my mother’s parents, but not so much about my father’s, and this album was a Mother’s Day gift from me to my paternal grandmother, Dorothy, back in 2001.

My dad’s parents both passed away much earlier in my life than my mom’s. My paternal grandfather, Porter, died when I was in the second grade. I don’t remember all that much about him, but the memories I do have are good ones.

I remember he always kept a little black comb in his shirt pocket, and he used to let me comb the whisps of hair on the sides of his head.

I remember drinking Mountain Dew floats with him in the two big recliners in their living room.

I remember his voice, barely, and that he wasn’t a tall man. Neither he nor my grandmother was particularly tall, actually. I guess that explains why I’m so short.

My paternal grandmother died when I was 21. My parents lived with her for the last years of her life, and I’m so glad now that I got to have that extra time with her, in her home, that’s now become my parents’ home.

My favorite picture in the album is this one.

That’s Grandma Dot teaching me to make biscuits. I’ve smeared flour on my cheeks to make it more “believable.” She’s trying not to laugh at me, kindly, and I’m smiling, because I think I’m very clever.

Happy moments like this one will live in my memory forever, I think. And on days like Wednesday, they keep me going.    

A Song for Today

I just have no words after what I’ve seen and heard in these last several hours.

As I often do in times of stress and fear and sadness, I’ve turned to my fond memories, and to my family, and to music. So I thought I’d share a video with all of you of my dad and me playing one of my favorite songs. I’ve not performed this one in public since my grandfather passed away in 2015. He was a WWII veteran, and a coal miner. I am proud to be a coal miner’s granddaughter.

It’s hard to get through this song without tears now that he’s gone. But today, his legacy of strength and perseverance, of hard work and grace in difficult times, and his belief in a strong, fair and free America has kept me going.

Wherever you are in the world, whatever you’re going through, or dealing with, or healing from, I hope this brings you just a few minutes of joy and peace and comfort, as it has for me. Tonight, I’m sending all of the love I can out into the universe.

I hope tomorrow is a better, brighter day.

Introducing: The Better Friendships Podcast!

I am so excited to share this announcement with all of you! I’ve been working on this project with a very good, very talented, very smart and fun and amazing friend since the summer, and tomorrow, it finally launches.

Here’s some information from our website on what it’s all about:

Have you ever struggled to stay connected to your friends? Have you had a friend breakup? On the other hand, have you ever met someone and just clicked immediately? Or enjoyed a years-long friendship that makes you feel whole?

Friendships are hard work, and research has shown that strong friendships make women happier, healthier, and more successful. But research – and our own personal experience – also indicates that many women struggle to make and keep close friends. We see depictions of mean girls on TV and in movies, we read about toxic female friendships in some of today’s most popular fiction, and there are countless self-help books dedicated to building and maintaining friendships. (We’ve read lots of them.)

Clearly, friendship is important to women, and we believe that all women deserve positive, supportive friendships that enrich their lives and raise them up. We believe in better friendships! And we want to help you build them. Join us every other Tuesday for Better Friendships.

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, or if you know someone who would be, then please tune in tomorrow, January 5th, for the very first episode of Better Friendships! You can find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. In the meantime, check out our website, our Facebook page, and find us on Instagram  at @better_friendships.

Let’s be friends, y’all!