New Light (A Poem)

Through the gate and
into the cold winter world,
the New Year comes to greet the Old.
Not to replace or relive,
but revive –
tired hands,
tired hearts,
tired minds –
and bring new light
to the darkest days.

Sunday Supper #5: Happy New Year!

Hello, 2022! It’s lovely to meet you, and I hope you’re kind to us. Like, seriously. Please.

That’s pretty much where I am today. We had a lovely Christmas, and a very low-key New Year’s Eve and Day, and this evening, I’m mostly just pondering possibilities and wondering what this newest of years will bring. I’ve not made any Very Big Plans, though I have jotted down some goals, especially in regards to my creative work. More to come on that, and I think it’s going to be exciting.

But for now, I’d like to leave you with wishes for a wonderful, fulfilling, peaceful, exciting, creative, memorable, and most of all, a happy New Year. I hope you do cool stuff, make mistakes, learn, grow, draw, paint, dance, cook, eat, sing, read, write, and just generally live the best you can. And if you ever need a cheerleader, know I’m here, in your corner, even from the other side of the world, and I think you got this, whatever it is. Make 2022 a good one, y’all, and I’ll do the same.

Oh, and for supper: Taco Bell. Don’t judge. What’s a good year without a few tacos? 😉

The Making of Annie’s Auld Lang Syne (A Short Story)

First thing’s first: I think this is a silly idea for an essay. I’m only writing it because Mrs. Vernon said I’d get a big fat zero if I didn’t. And so help me, Jordan Nunley, if you make those weird faces while I’m reading it out loud, I will throw my pencil at you every day for the rest of the year. It’s only December 11th, buddy.  

I think this is a silly idea for an essay for two reasons. The first is that we’re twelve. We’re just going to do what our parents tell us to do on New Year’s Eve. The second is that there’s a stupid virus going around that’s keeping us from having too much fun anyway. Chances are, we’re all just going to sit at home and watch TV and eat snacks.

So, yeah, that’s “What I’m Doing on New Year’s Eve.”

But I’ve only written three paragraphs, haven’t I? And I’ve been told I need to write at least five to get a passing grade. So in the interest of my report card, here’s some more stuff that I’m making up to take up space and prove that I can make sentences and choose good vocabulary words.

My sister and I only like each other about half the time. My mom tells me this is very normal, and that we’ll be closer as we get older. Alice and I have our doubts.  

On New Year’s Eve, sometime in the afternoon, Alice will walk into my room and say: “Are you really going to spend all night in here reading?”

She’s not supposed to come into my room without knocking, but she always does. So I’ll already be kind of annoyed, and I’ll say: “Yes.”

And then I’ll go back to looking at the stack of books I’ve got fanned out in front of me, because I’ll want to choose the optimal one to end the year with. A mystery? Or a romance? Or maybe a fantasy. But I’ll take the choice very seriously.

And she’ll look at me with that face that she makes when she thinks I’m being pedantic, and she’ll say: “You’re so boring, Annie.” And then she’ll laugh and walk away.

My sister laughs a lot. Mrs. Vernon knows, because Alice was in this class four years ago, and Mrs. Vernon sent a lot of notes home to my parents about how she’s “disruptive.” She’s always laughing or talking, and she’s always busy, and I sometimes think she’s exhausting. So it never bothers me when she laughs at me, because I laugh at her, too, but only in my head. And there’s no way on earth I’d want to spend my New Year’s Eve hanging out with her and her friends, doing…whatever it is that they do. I’d rather be boring.

Except I don’t really think I’m boring at all. I write a lot of stories, and I read a lot of books. I get to live in new worlds almost every day. That’s why I’ll make sure that the book I choose to read on New Year’s Eve is the perfect choice. Isn’t that cool? I can go anywhere in any world to end the year. Alice will probably just go to the park down the street and drink something gross. To me, that’s boring.

Anyway, I’ll choose a book and start to read, and in about an hour, I’ll probably get hungry. I used to keep a bag of chips in my bedside table for just this problem, but my mom started worrying that we’d get mice. So now, all the food stays in the kitchen. So I’ll walk downstairs and while I’m looking for just the right snack, my mom will be working on dinner, and she’ll warn me: “Don’t ruin your appetite.”

My mom’s a good cook, and I think she’s actually enjoyed having some extra time to learn new recipes. We made cookies together before Christmas, and they were probably my favorite cookies ever.

My dad will hear us over the sound of the TV, where he’ll probably be watching some show on Netflix for like the fifth time, and he’ll walk in, too, and he’ll say: “Where are you going tonight?” And he’ll wink, because he knows I’m not “going” anywhere.

I’ll say: “Decided to go back to Narnia, at least for a while. Might stop by Hogwarts later.”

And he’ll say: “Safe travels. Chess when you get back?”

My dad loves to play chess. He’s been teaching me for the last year or so, and I think I’m getting pretty good. I even win sometimes, though I’m never sure if it’s because I’ve figured it out, or because he lets me. Either way, it’s a thing we can do together, which is cool.

I’ll say: “Sure!”

And he’ll say something dumb, like: “The challenge is accepted. I must prepare for battle.”

My dad’s such a dork.

Last year, we decided to have a fire in the back yard and make S’mores, but this year I think we’ll probably plan to stay inside. It’s been a rainy winter so far, and I don’t think any of us wants to get our hopes up. Except Alice, anyway, because she’s crazy, but I already talked about that.  

I’m already almost out of material, which is something my dad says when he’s trying to be funny. But I guess it’s a real thing, because it’s happening to me right now. Seriously, how do you write an essay about your plans when your plans are basically to do nothing?

Okay, so I’ll have chosen my book, and gotten some chips, and talked to my sister and my parents. Next, I’ll probably head back up and read for a while longer. I don’t know if I’ll actually choose The Chronicles of Narnia or one of the Harry Potter books, but I bet I’ll pick something adventurous. And it’ll probably be something I’ve read before, so it’s a sure thing that I’ll like it. And I guess I’ll eat dinner with my parents at some point, too. I’m not sure what my mom is planning to cook, but I am sure that whatever it is, it will be delicious.

At dinner, I bet we’ll talk about our New Year’s Resolutions. My parents both like to make New Year’s Resolutions, because they say you should always have goals. I haven’t decided yet, but I think my goals for next year are going to be to read twenty books, write ten stories, and start learning to play piano. I bet you’re surprised I want to learn piano, because I’ve never talked about it before, but I do. My mom’s been playing since she was little. If I do chess with my dad, it would be cool to also do piano with my mom.

After dinner, I’ll read for a bit more. And then at about 9:00, my dad will probably beat me at chess. And I bet that by then, he’ll have started a fire in the fireplace. Aside from chess, I think that’s his favorite thing. Alice will probably come home at about 10:00, because that’s her curfew, and we’ll just all sit there together until the ball drops.

My mom always cries a little right at midnight. She says they’re happy tears, and that she’s just really glad that we’re all together. I am, too, even though I can’t wait until Alice goes to college and gets out of my hair for a while.

And right after midnight, my mom will sit down at the piano and play “Auld Lang Syne,” and we’ll all sing. Which is the one thing Alice is good at. And then, we’ll hug and say goodnight, and I’ll get ready and go to bed. Or, to read. My parents always let me stay up late on New Year’s Eve to read.

And that’s it. That is probably “What I’m Doing on New Year’s Eve.” Unless an asteroid hits Earth or my parents win the lottery or something. Then I guess my plans might change.  

See? I told you this was a silly idea for an essay. And don’t think I don’t see you, Jordan. I hope you like Number 2 pencils.

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Thank you for reading! This is the last of the twelve stories I’ve written as part of my 2021 Short Story Challenge. Twelve months, twelve stories, and the theme this year was: Home.

Here are the first eleven stories, if you’d like to read them: 

The Roads

This Place

Talk Out the Fire

Quiet Neighbors

The Return

Old Friends

Jesse’s in the Back Room

Just Like Magic

Stage Fright

Cloud Dwellers

Old Enough

Stay tuned for an announcement regarding my 2022 Short Story Challenge. I’ve got some good ideas, and I hope you join me in writing some amazing stories. But just reading is good, too, and I’m glad you’re here. 😊

Happy New Year!

Five Lessons I’ve Learned in 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, I’m spending a lot of time reflecting on what I’ve learned, what I’ve accomplished, what I haven’t, and how I want to set goals for 2022.

I didn’t always do this. I’m not a great planner, and sometimes it hurts to think about missed opportunities and bad moments from the previous year. But 2020 changed everything. I want to set goals. I want to make things happen and keep improving myself. I want to live every day with purpose, and live knowing that I’m doing my best. 2020 showed the world just how fragile life – and all of the things we’ve built around ourselves to be comfortable and happy – can actually be. So, here I am, looking back on this last year, and planning for the next one, knowing that all of my moments and all of my dreams are precious.

So, that was a big lesson from 2020. And I’m thinking tonight about what I’ve learned in 2021.

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Be gentle and patient with yourself.

Life’s hard enough without having your own self as a critic and an enemy. Things won’t always turn out the way you want them to. You can try and still fail. You can fail to try, and then have to deal with the consequences. That’s not a moral failing, or a sign that you’re not a good person or capable. That’s human. We’re all human. We are worthy of our own kindness and grace.

Life may get in the way of your plans. Make them anyway.

I had some big creative plans for this year, and though I’ve made a little bit of headway on them, they clearly haven’t materialized yet as I wanted them to. For the first half of the year, there was a bigger issue – an issue that affected more than just me – that required my full attention. So, I gave it. And it mattered. It made a difference. I made a thing happen. It meant changing up what I thought I’d be doing with my time this year, and that’s okay. I’ve still taken steps forward. And I’ll continue to take steps forward, even if they’re tiny ones, until I see my goals become real.

Failure is a teacher.

To be fair, I think I’ve always known this. I think we all do, but it’s a lesson we have to learn over and over, because it sucks to fail. There are few things harder for a human, I think, than to do your best and still not succeed. But it happens. And it will happen again and again. There’s nothing for it but to learn from it and take those lessons forward to the next task. If you’ve failed, at least you’ve tried, and if you’ve tried once, you can try again.

Every single second is a chance to start over.

Don’t give up on a day because you had a bad morning (or lunch hour, or just a bad moment). I’ve had to really contend with this, in the last year. It’s so easy to lose motivation, ambition, willpower – even hope – when things go south. But every breath you take is a chance to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again. Don’t wait. Don’t waste precious seconds of your life.

You’ll be scared. Do it anyway.

Hit send on that email. Type “Chapter One” on that blank page, and then keep typing. Send that text, make that phone call, book that ticket. If it’s important to you, do it, even if it scares you. You’re afraid because you care. And because you care, it’s worth doing. So do it.

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It’s been a strange year for me. So many ups and downs, moments of absolute relief, and joy, moments of abject fear, of sadness and worry. But it’s been good. I’m glad to be here, to be alive and to be working and loving and trying and singing and dancing (badly) and eating and breathing. And so as I close out my 2021, I look forward, and know that every step I take matters.

The New Year (A Poem)

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.

My 2021 Goals

I set goals every year, and I’m normally too shy to share them. But I’ve seen lots of posts over the last few days about goals and hopes for the new year, and I’ve found them all so encouraging. For what they’re worth, here are the goals I’ve set for 2021. I’m nervous to put them out there, but you all have made me feel brave and inspired. So, here goes!

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Go hiking and get outside more often

Whenever my husband and I travel, we hike. We’ve done big hikes and small hikes, and I’ve loved them all. I’m not the fittest person out there, but I’m pretty capable.

I don’t do a lot of hiking in my everyday life, though, and truthfully, I spend a lot of time inside. In my pajamas. I’d like to change that this year, and plan a good hike at least once per month. And, you know, just be outside more. There’s a lovely patio out back, after all, and I’m sure it would be nice to do some writing in the sunshine every now and again.

Make some improvements to the house

I love my house. I know I talk about it a lot. But I really, really love it. It’s the first place I’ve lived in my adult life that really feels like home.

In 2021, I’d like to spend some time painting, decorating, cleaning up and refreshing, and maybe even renovating (lightly…and inexpensively). I’ve not made a complete list of what I want to do, but I would like to make my home a priority in the coming months.

Continue to work on and grow this blog

And to engage with my wonderful followers. I’ve gained over 100 this year, and you all are amazing. Thank you for reading! And for writing and sharing your own thoughts and stories. 😊 In the new year, I’d like to gain 100 more followers, and to put out good, interesting, creative content that resonates and gets people thinking.

Start a YouTube channel

This is something I actually wanted to do in 2020, and I just chickened out on it. It’s kind of intimidating to think about being on camera. But I would love to take you all along on some of my adventures, especially in the beautiful Virginia countryside.

And to show you what it’s like to live in a very old house, and to just share some of my day-to-day life with you. What else would you like to see? Let me know. Maybe it will help me be brave enough to actually get something up and running!

Finish a novel

Oh yes, the big one. The main goal. The dream. I’ve been in some phase of working on a novel since 2016 when I started this blog. I’ve got several in various states of doneness. This year, I’d like to actually finish one. And then, if I can work up my courage, start the hard work on trying to get it published. Maybe to hold myself accountable I’ll do a weekly or monthly feature here. Is that something you all would like to read? I think it would help me to share the journey with you.

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And there they are, out there for everyone to see. I feel like by posting them here, perhaps I’ve spoken them into being. 2020 hasn’t been the year I thought it would be, but I’ve worked hard and accomplished a lot.

2021 will be better, I hope. I certainly plan to do everything I can to make it as good and as happy as it can be.

Oh, and one more thing!

I actually have a super exciting project to announce. It’s been a labor of love for the last several months, and I’m so excited to share it with you guys at the beginning of January. So stay tuned!

And on my December short story…

It’s almost done. It’ll be up on Wednesday. I swear.