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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
The cold moon ushers in the New Year – full of promise, flanked by worry and doubt and fear, but new nonetheless, and fresh and free. May we all see dreams made real, time and touch and love, and may we be happy. May we take this year and make it what we want and need, and may we do what we can do. May we happen, and not get happened to. The New Year opens the door. May we all walk through.
Glenmoor Farm glowed in the dark. At least, at Christmas it did. The farmhouse rose from the snow-covered ground into the night sky illuminated in twinkle lights. Inside, each sitting room overflowed with greenery and tinsel. The fir tree in the family parlor stood tall and proud and covered in red garlands and silver bows, surrounded by boxes of every size wrapped in delicate gold and white paper.
“I wonder what it’ll be like next year.”
Tara and Sammy sat scrunched together on the couch in the family room, sipping store-bought eggnog out of matching crystal goblets. The twins had spent every Christmas of their entire lives in this house, unwrapping gifts and smiling for pictures in this room.
“Is it our fault?” Sammy stared straight ahead.
“Every kid goes to college,” Tara answered.
“Yeah, but they never mentioned selling this place until we left,” Sammy replied.
“They probably didn’t want to worry us,” Tara reasoned.
“200 years. Our family’s owned this house for 200 years.”
“Minus two,” Tara said. “Remember they sold it and bought it back after the Civil War.”
“The shame of it!” Sammy giggled. They’d both heard the story growing up, of how their great-something grandfather had gambled away the farm and how his son had fought tooth and nail and pocket book to get it back. Now the fight was over, forever. “You really don’t think it’s because of us?”
“I don’t think it matters why.”
“I guess you’re right,” Sammy said, and shook her head. “I just can’t believe it.”
“I kind of feel like that’s adulthood.”
Tara and Sammy had gone away to college in late August, and they’d returned for their first break in October to the news of an imminent sale to one of the area’s major housing developers.
“It feels empty without you two,” their mother had told them.
“This was always our retirement plan,” their father had added.
Talking about it that October night, the twins knew they should have expected the news.
“There’re developers everywhere,” Tara had said. “They’ve been breathing down our necks for years to get at this land.”
“Suburbia calls,” Sammy had replied. “And we must answer.”
Now, home for their winter break, the twins had made plans to pack up their room starting tomorrow, the day after Christmas. They’d set the table knowing it would be the last time. They’d cooked oatmeal for breakfast in the brick kitchen fireplace knowing that they’d never see it again after this last holiday. And now, outside, they could hear family arriving on Glenmoor’s circular cobblestone driveway, the last any of them would pull up to the old big house with car loads of gifts and casserole dishes.
“Samantha,” their mother called from the foyer. “Sammy! I need you to park Art’s car.”
“Can’t park his own car,” Tara whispered, as they made their way to the front room. “Runs a bank, and can’t park his own car.”
“Everyone’s got their own talents,” Sammy said. “I am excellent behind the wheel.”
“You are not,” Tara said. “She just doesn’t want you near the custard.”
“Mean,” Sammy whined. And then smiled at her sister. “See you on the other side.”
“Well, this will be a memorable Christmas.” Sammy leaned on her cheek on her sister’s shoulder.
“If you mean because I curdled the custard, I will thank you to keep your opinions to yourself.” Tara gave the top of her sister’s head a playful smack.
“You did, though.”
“Yeah, and you dented Uncle Art’s car.”
“Well, nobody’s perfect.”
The remains of Christmas dinner lay in shambles on the dining room table, surrounded by dirty china and half-finished glasses of wine and water. From their hiding place at the top of the chestnut wood staircase, Tara and Sammy could hear the muffled, jumbled conversation of their family.
“Do you think the developer will keep the house?” Sammy sat up.
“It’s historic, right?”
“Do you think that’ll matter, though?”
“I don’t know,” Tara answered. “I don’t know what any of this will look like a year from now.”
The twins looked out of the showcase window in front of the stairs, out onto the meadows and pastures, and the barns and sheds that dotted the rolling property. They thought of the ponds and the corn fields, and the little forest of sycamores and ash trees they’d played hide and seek in as children.
“I guess they’ll definitely chop down the woods,” Tara said.
“I was thinking about that, too,” said Sammy. “And how they’ll flatten everything.”
The opening chords of “Oh, Christmas Tree” drifted up the stairs. The twins heard singing, mostly off key, and their father laughing, probably at their mother trying to plunk something recognizable out on the keys of the old church upright piano they’d inherited from some spinster great aunt who never left Glenmoor.
“Now we don’t have a choice,” said Sammy.
“Were you thinking of Aunt Alice?”
“Of course I was.”
“I was, too. How many greats is she?”
“I don’t know,” Sammy said. “Lots.”
“We should go down,” Tara said, and stood. “They’ll be opening presents soon.” She reached out a hand to her sister, and pulled Sammy up.
Sammy sighed. “Another teddy bear from Aunt Virginia.”
“We have an enviable collection,” Tara said.
“Lead on, MacDuff,” said Sammy.
“You know that’s a misquote, right?” Tara straightened her rumpled sweater as they both descended the stairs.
As the night wore on, the twins opened presents, sang carols, gave hugs, and benefitted from their cousin Leo’s sneaky plan to spike the cranberry punch. After everyone had gone and the house lay silent and dark, they crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling, trying not to think of what came next. Neither of them slept, and at just after 4:00 a.m., Tara broke the silence.
“Most people can park a car,” she said.
“Mom always told me I’m the special one,” Sammy replied.
“You’re certainly special, all right.”
“Glenmoor is special,” Sammy said. “Glenmoor’s probably more special than all of us.”
“Now why’d you have to go and bring it up,” Tara replied. “I was just about asleep.”
“I don’t know,” Sammy answered. “I just can’t get it out of my head. It’ll all be gone this time next year.”
Tara sat up against her headboard and pushed the covers off her pajama-clad legs. “Well, now I’m awake.”
“Sorry,” Sammy said. “I don’t think I could sleep if I wanted to.”
“It’s almost morning, anyway. Let’s go out for a walk,” Tara suggested.
“In the dark?”
“It’s not like we’re going to get lost.”
“Good point,” Sammy said. “Okay, I’m in.”
Both girls jumped out of bed, and bundled up in winter coats and gloves and waterproof boots. Out the door and straight ahead, they walked. They walked the whole property before the sun came up, and they met the dawn sitting in the garden, huddled together on a cold, black wrought iron bench.
Glenmoor Farm came alive with the light. Morning sunshine gleamed off the handmade single-pane windows, and bright red cardinals darted in and out of the scrubby, fallow bushes and brush. The snow in the fields and on the trees glistened, pink and golden, an expanse of glittering, white magic on the quiet landscape.
The twins looked ahead, each lost in the same thought.
“I wonder what it will be like next year,” Tara said.