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2nd Campaigner Challenge

This second challenge was, in my humble opinion (the same humble opinion that no one listens to anyway), a tad harder than the first. We were given five different prompts and tasked with doing one or all of the following:

  • Write a pitch/logline for a book based on the prompts (less than 100 words)
  • Write a short story/flash fiction piece of less than 200 words based on the prompts
  • Write a poem with a twist using the prompts as inspiration (in less than 200 words)
  • Write a story/poem in five sentences, each sentence based on one of the prompts
  • Write a poem/flash fiction piece (in less than 200 words) about the water pear *without* using the words “pear”, “spoon”, or “droplet”.
  • I chose to write a piece of short fiction (under 200 words) on the following prompt:

    Two people are sitting together under the remains of a concrete bridge. Their backs are against a rusted bridge support. One person’s leg is cut. The other person has wet hair.

    We were also given the opportunity to invite critiques from our fellow campaigners, which I am formally doing now. This is the first piece of short fiction I’ve written–at least for public consumption–which is just a not-so-subtle way of saying, be kind to me…I’m just a poor, lowly (and menopausal, therefore over-emotional and ultra-sensitive) blogger.

    Oh, and honesty is very much appreciated, since I can use all the help I can get.

    In the meantime, I’ll be cowering under the coffee table.


    Jack dropped to the ground next to Dougie, his breath coming in quick, short bursts. His shirt clung to his back like a soggy blanket as he slithered out of his knapsack. His fair hair, normally neat and tidy, was wet and standing on end; he looked like a startled hedgehog.

    “Well, I don’t think we were followed,” he said, sucking in air. He had doubled back in the dark after settling Dougie under the remains of the concrete bridge that used to link the island with the rest of civilization.

    “How’s your leg?”

    Dougie let out a low grunt as he shifted position against the rusted metal bridge support.

    “Hurts like hell! One of Fowler’s goons got me. Where’d they come from anyway? I thought the area was supposed to be deserted!”

    “It was. Somebody clearly knew we were coming.” He leaned over to inspect the ragged gash running up the length of Dougie’s calf. Good. Not too deep, then. Jack got to his feet.

    “Can you walk?”

    “Guess I’ll have to,” Dougie said. “Unless you can find me a taxi off this god-forsaken a-toll.”

    Jack grinned, reaching down for Dougie’s arm. “I’ll see what I can do.”


    4th Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign

    Here we go again!

    Rachel Harrie is hosting another Writers Platform-Building Campaign (for which, in my humble opinion she deserves unlimited kudos), and I am looking forward to participating again. These campaigns provide participants with a safe environment to test the boundaries of their creative comfort zones…and if you’re anything like me, you have to be coerced, conjoled, or flat evicted! They also help increase blog traffic by introducing everyone to other like-minded writers…not to mention other unlike-minded writers, which is even better!

    I’m looking forward to the first challenge – which I equate with a roller coaster ride (not an original metaphor, but apt). I get in with shaky knees and a queasy stomach, the whole time mentally cursing whoever talked me into doing it.

    But, I know I’ll be proud of myself for just getting on…

    With Age Comes Honey West

    Today is my birthday, and to celebrate, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I promised myself a few years back when I was younger–and not as panicked as I am now–that I would step out of my comfort zone at least once a year and try something classified under the heading of “daring-do stuff.” Sort of like a bucket list, only without the bucket, since I didn’t make a list limiting myself to specifics, like jumping out of airplanes (not in a million years) or climbing Mt. Everest (“because it’s there” is not a good enough excuse to climb something taller than a stepladder). It was just a simple promise to myself to broaden my experiences. Now, one would think that turning 60 would be dangerous enough to get me off the hook for 2012. It is, after all, something I’ve never done before (and won’t do again, a fact that I’m a bit ambivalent about, actually). And, it definitely gets me out of my comfort zone, as my 50’s were very comfortable indeed (I had, obviously, ten years to get used to them). But it doesn’t count because it’s not voluntary…I have no choice but to become 60, because that’s what comes after 59.

    Therefore, for my one deliberate act of daring-do for 2012, tonight at 6:30, I am going to travel across town and boldly walk into a Gun Shop (I bet you thought I was going to say “strip club” but I’ve already done that). Before you snicker and tell yourself you could walk into a Gun Shop with one hand tied behind your back, please be advised that (and this is the daring-do part) not only am I going to walk into a Gun Shop, I’m going to actually pick up a gun and actually shoot it.

    It all started when my husband walked in from work one day and said, “how’d you like to get your concealed handgun license?”

    “Huh?” I eloquently replied.

    “Your concealed handgun license,” he repeated, wide-eyed and expectant.

    I thought about it for a minute, and let the import of the question sink in.


    I have to admit, I’m not sure I want to do this. It surprises me that I’m more hesitant about this than I was about climbing on a motorcycle twelve years ago, which could be because (a) twelve years ago I wasn’t as smart as I am now, or (b) my definition of “living life with gusto” has undergone a subtle, albeit definite, change, probably because of (a) above. Either excuse would give me license to back out, but I’m not going to do that. I’m going to keep my word to myself, boldly trudge forward, pick up a pistol, and, hopefully, avoid shooting my foot off.

    To put this in its proper context for those of you who haven’t read my very short–but succinct–“About Me” page on this blog, I live in Texas. The land of cowboys, tumble weeds, Judge Roy Bean, and, yes, concealed handgun laws. To be honest, I haven’t given the issue of the right to carry a concealed weapon much thought. I’m a very trusting person (spelled n-a-i-v-e) who believes that everybody who carries a gun on their person, in secret, out of sight, unbeknownst to anybody else, has been thoroughly and properly vetted as a Pillar of Good Citizenship. Probably more to the point, though, since the issue is a pretty polarizing one down here, I’d just as soon stay on everybody’s good side, especially the good side of those who carry concealed handguns. In this case, ignorance is bliss.

    Anyway, once my brain rebooted itself and I began to mull it over, it occurred to me that before I took to carrying one around in my purse (or strapped to my thigh, like Honey West), I’d have to know how to shoot one. I mean, isn’t that sort of a prerequisite?

    Which brings me to the apex of my discomfort with the whole idea…if I learn how to shoot a gun, handle it safely, accept responsibility for it, I take the risk of becoming obligated to educate myself about the whole right-to-carry issue. I just might actually have to jump off the fence, form an opinion–an actual well-thought-out opinion–with facts to back it up. That gives me the willies just thinking about it.

    On the upside, that gives me two daring-do’s for 2012, making 2013 a bye.

    I Resolve…

    It’s a new year. Again. Why we can’t just hold on to the old one until it wears out is beyond me. If we took really good care of it, kept it clean, oiled, and out of the rain, it would last twice as long. But, we are, afterall, members of a throw-away society, so we get a new one every twelve months, whether we need it or not.

    On the upside, though, the turn of a new year is a great time to start over, reassess priorities, change course if we don’t like the heading we’re on. A new year is just chock-full of unrealized opportunity. Optimism abounds. As a result, many of us take the time to sit down, get quiet, and thoughtfully jot on a piece of paper what is commonly referred to as our “New Year’s Resolutions,” solemn pledges to either (a) not fill up the cuss-bucket with our spare pocket change, or (b) buy every self-help/self-improvement CD out there, along with (for an additional, but very nominal, fee), the optional food dryer-outer and over-sized medicine ball.

    I use the term “us” in a global sense…”us” doesn’t usually include “me.” In fact, it never includes “me,” because I never make resolutions, which are not to be confused with promises I make to myself that I can’t keep…I do that all the time. No, I never make resolutions, because writing them down on paper implies a contractual obligation, the covenants of which cannot be broken without consequences. And I always bust out of the covenants by the end of January.

    But this year, I’ve decided to take a personal risk…make what is, for me, a courageous move. This year, I’m going to utilize my baby-steps-to-a-new-you approach. I’m going to make some resolutions I just might be able to keep through the end of February, at which time I will check my progress and then decide to give up.

    Therefore, I hereby publicly document my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012, which were arrived at after loads of consideration and the examination of hundreds of pertinent possibilities (by which I have determined I am in worse shape than I thought); to wit:

    I RESOLVE to be a more considerate and courteous driver. It occurs to me, however, that I’ll have to quit driving altogether to keep this one. And that means I’ll have to quit my job and sell my house. No…on second thought, it would be much more considerate and courteous (not to mention much more convenient) if everyone else out there just got out of my way.

    I RESOLVE to take my writing more seriously. I will apply more industrial-strength chair glue to my delicate heiny, which is a lot easier said than done due to significant childhood trauma. When I was little, I had to sit all by myself, at the dinner table, bereft, forgotten, and totally ignored, until I took at least one bite of my macaroni and cheese. Do you realize what the lack of attention can do to a fragile, four-year-old, female psyche? As a result, it’s difficult for me to sit alone and isolated long enough to write anything of substance, which is why I never do.

    I RESOLVE to turn up the self-analysis. Being happy and well-adjusted just isn’t acceptable…it would deprive me of what little joy I get out of life. Besides that, I’m running out of insecurities to write about.

    I RESOLVE to buy a good pair of polarized sunglasses and not leave them in the airport bathroom.

    And, last, but certainly not least,

    I RESOLVE to live in the moment. It’s the only place I have any control at all, and it doesn’t last long enough for me to seriously screw anything up…at least, nothing they can’t comfortably classify as a misdemeanor.

    Just in case you missed me…

    It’s been a while since I’ve written anything in this space, and maybe there are a few of you (optimistically speaking) who have wondered, perhaps unconsciously within the dark recesses of your minds, just where the heck I’ve been.

    Then again, maybe not, but I’ll tell you anyway.

    I have no clue.

    Which is, under any circumstances whatsoever, strictly par for my course. It’s very seldom that I have a clue about anything at all, let alone where time went. But went it did. So, in the new tradition of the annual “what we did, how we did it, and who we did it with” letter that many of us find enclosed in our Christmas cards these days, here’s a brief synopsis (in no particular order) of what I did, how I did it, and who I did it with (unless I didn’t get a release letter, in which case names will be changed to protect my delicate heiny).

    For starters, there was Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the official gateway to the Holiday Season, and is always an accurate indicator on how the rest of the season will go for me, like Punxsutawney Phil’s winter forecast. If I plan to eat by noon but don’t actually sit down until 2:00, chances are better than 99.9% that I’ll be in the mall on Christmas Eve, a good thirty days behind schedule. I don’t have any problem with the cooking part, it’s the execution…I always forget to do something. One year it was rolls. This year it was cornbread dressing. I know…pathetic, right? Especially since it comes straight out of a box.

    Then, my husband and I recently attended both of our office Christmas parties, events which will mark from this point forward December 2011 as one of those rare historical anomalies scientists will be studying for years to come, like sunspots or the Dead Sea Scrolls. Amazingly, both were a lot of fun, but I must say that mine forever changed the way I viewed the world and my place in it. I discovered that Scotch is a poor substitute for tequila, and is not enhanced whatsoever by a wedge of lime. It does, however, serve very well as a chaser for Cabernet Sauvignon.

    I booked a trip to Scotland and Ireland. After I finished reading the latest book in the “Outlander” series (which I’ve mentioned in this space before), I discovered via the author’s website that the next book won’t be out until 2013. I was struck with such an acute sense of loss that I decided the only thing I could do to alleviate the extreme (and if there was another word more extreme than “extreme,” I’d use it) discomfort of withdrawal was to spend a zillion dollars and go to Scotland. It’s therapeutic…and I intend to file on my insurance.

    And, last but not least, (and what I consider to be my crowning achievement), I learned how to spell “ubiquitous.”

    Using it in a sentence, though, will have to wait until 2012.

    Merry Christmas, everybody!

    It Starts with Rubber Pumpkins

    It’s Fall. Finally. Life slows down. Chores like mowing lawns, trimming shrubs, and washing cars are temporarily suspended–not that I ever do any of those things, mind you, but I always (sometimes) feel guilty about it, which, now that I think about it, is, in itself, hard work. So, just when I think I’ve made it home free, that I just might get out of this year alive, it hits me that the Holidays are right around the corner. They come furiously, one after the other, starting shortly after Columbus Day (which, when you think about it, really isn’t the true “Columbus Day,” because we don’t actually celebrate the actual day Christopher Columbus discovered America, probably because he didn’t actually do it on purpose) and ending with New Year’s Day, when one is able to collapse into one’s Barcalounger and slip into a well-deserved catatonic coma watching football. In short, the whole holiday season is just one cruel joke on me. Slack off for nine months, and work my tail off (relatively speaking) for three.

    There’s so much to do, and I’m not used to that. Halloween candy to buy for little trick-or-treaters. Thanksgiving dinner to plan for and cook, which means there’s a devastated kitchen to clean afterwards. And then…there’s Christmas, the mother of them all. Every year, I hack my way through the crowds at the mall to buy gifts for people who probably won’t appreciate them anyway, which is entirely my fault, because I always wait until Christmas Eve to start my shopping. Speaking of which, one would think that waiting until the last minute would allow one ample time to decide on that perfect gift for that special someone whose name one has drawn in the company’s Secret Santa lottery. But, alas, I’m always derailed by last-minute sales. Any ideas I had about that perfect gift fly right out the proverbial window when I spy socks and underwear marked seventy-five percent off.

    With everything else demanding my attention, I’ve never bothered with decorating for the holidays; there’s no way I can come up with anything worth ooh-ing and ahh-ing over, which is, let’s face it, the goal of every serious artiste. At any rate, by the time I got them up, it would be time to take them down. But I’ve always admired those people who could come up with beautiful, Macy’s-like displays. They seem like such fun people. Happy people. People who enjoy life to the fullest and put their elbows into living it. All I’ve ever done for Halloween is buy candy and turn on the porch light, and it’s all I can do at Christmas to put up a tree, pre-packaged and pre-lit as it is.

    So, wanting to be one of those happy, live-life-with-gusto people, this year I’ve decided to do something different, something I’ve never attempted to do before. Rather than futilely fight to defend hearth and home from the onslaught of holiday madness, I’m going to invite it in for coffee. I’m going to cross enemy lines, turn to the dark side. Or as my husband says, I’m going to succumb to the “materialistic commercialization” of what would normally gently fade away if you’d just leave it alone. (Bless his heart…it’s always a long three months for him.) Last weekend, I went out and bought some fall decorations. Yes, Fall Decorations. For the house. Where I live. I know. I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t been there. As a result, I will have poking out of my shrubs a scarecrow-on-a-stick, and I will have sitting on my porch a realistic, hard-to-tell-from-the-real-thing, rubber-ish Jack-o-Lantern, lit from within by a tiny little light bulb that runs off three double-A batteries. How cool is that?! No carving out the icky, slimy guts of a real pumpkin, no newspaper getting soggy with pumpkin blood, and no cutting myself with the knife creating eyes, noses and toothy grins, which is important, because apparently I cannot get around any blade at all without nearly amputating a finger.

    I’m encouraged when I think that what is pretty pathetic this year may be the foundation of something perfectly semi-adequate for next. I’m finally putting into practice that which I have always suspected: the holidays are exactly what you put into them. Contribute enthusiasm and childlike eagerness, get back joy. Put in effort and thoughtfulness, get back joy. Add a little free spirit and undaunted passion, get back joy. It’s a win-win. Scarecrows-on-sticks and rubber pumpkins are not going to win any “best holiday yard” contests, but one cannot deny what they represent. The people in this house are fun people. Happy people. People who enjoy life to the fullest.

    Well, maybe not yet, but there’s always next year.

    The Reunion Chronicles – The Final Chapter

    In contrast to the Mixer I went to but didn’t attend the night before (depressing details available here), I managed to arrive at the Richmond, Texas venue for this multi-class reunion a tad early. I bought a plastic cup of wine, sat myself down at one of the smaller tables—close to the get-your-nametag-here table, and where I could easily see the door—crossed my legs, and waited for one or more of the following events to occur: (a) someone to walk through the door who I recognized (not likely); (b) someone to walk through the door who recognized me (even more not likely); and/or (c) the wine to kick in (a sure thing).

    As apprehensive as I was, I managed to sit there, gulp my White Zinfandel, and, with an air nonchalance that any Frenchman would envy, stare fixedly at the door. I was projecting such an air of nonchalance, in fact, that even if Mark Harmon himself were to walk through that door, I would have reacted with the proper dignity and reserve appropriate for any woman my age, especially since there was a clear shot between me and that door, and no shoving, pushing, or tackling would have been necessary for me to get there first—which was a good thing, because I wasn’t dressed for it. In addition, I had the advantage of the element of surprise, since no one else was watching that door like I was.

    But, alas, no Mark Harmon. Only normal, ordinary, old people… like me.

    Out of the thousands attending from the four graduating classes invited (such observation being based upon the length of the food line), there were only seven people in attendance with whom I graduated in 1970 (christened, just now, by me, and referred to herein forthwith as the “Seven from Seventy”). The rest graduated in ’69, ’71, and ’72, and because no one showed up from ’69, I qualified for a shot at the title of Most Senior Senior. The upside, though, was that all but one of the Seven from Seventy had signed my yearbook, which meant that I might have actually met five of them before now. And, not counting my sister, that just left a mere crowd of people I didn’t know.

    I really shouldn’t have worried about connecting or re-connecting…it turned out that the shared experience (or trauma, if you prefer) of high school was enough for me to assume a familiarity with my fellow classmates that I would not have assumed otherwise. I renewed friendships long deemed dead, and made some new ones that, hopefully (or miraculously), will last another forty-one years.

    Just one more insightful observation: People there seemed to just pick up where they left off, and I’m thankful I wasn’t grilled about how I spent my last forty-one years. I would have had the devil of a time condensing my life since graduation into a short—albeit fascinating—synopsis.

    And that’s assuming, of course, I could remember any of it.

    The Reunion Chronicles – The Mixer!

    I didn’t go.

    Well, actually, it depends on one’s definition of “go.” I climbed into my little rental car with the cool GPS and set my course, like Christopher Columbus and the New World. And, unlike Christopher, I had no trouble finding it.

    The bar was located in one of those “town centers” that all small suburbs seem to have nowadays, and I was soon reminded what a disadvantage a car (even with a cool GPS) was in these teeny-weeny places. However, this one had a free, multi-level parking garage, so I pulled in, corkscrewed my way up and parked.

    Now, I was born and raised in Colorado, which means my sense of direction is completely and utterly dependent upon the Rocky Mountains, even after forty years gone (give or take)—finding my way out of a parking garage, on foot, is akin to finding my way back to civilization after being spun, blindfolded, and dropped off in the middle of nowhere…all parking garages look the same to me. I got out of my rental car with the cool GPS, and started walking, praying at the same time that I could find it again, especially since I was having a hard time remembering what color it was.

    I had the street-smarts to realize that down meant out, and I just happened to spy a stairwell, half-hidden in a corner of the garage. That was the easy part. The hard part was deciding in which direction to turn once I got down to the street. As is my nature, I turned the wrong way, and after walking past the same Mexican food restaurant for the fourth time, I made an adjustment to my heading, and finally got there before my canteen ran out of water.

    I walked in and promptly stopped, dead cold. People were crunched together, barely able to move, so mingling seemed out of the question. Worse yet (and this was the kicker), the bar itself—the home of dearly-desired, highly-anticipated Screwdrivers, was totally socked in, like an airport in fog.

    Reminiscent of my days as a junior high school wallflower, I hung around outside for a little while and waited for anybody who looked even remotely familiar. I finally, reluctantly, gave up, and headed back to the parking garage. I’m proud to say that I did find my rental car with the cool GPS on the first try, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that God answers prayer.

    I just wonder now, looking back, if I should’ve prayed for Vodka and orange juice, too.

    The Reunion Chronicles – Almost Part One

    I woke up at 4:30 this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up, got myself some coffee, and sat down at the kitchen table, where I flipped through the pages of my senior yearbook for the umpteenth time (it’s a whole like cramming for a test I know I’m going to fail anyway). I’m now sitting in a hotel room in Sugarland, Texas, after a forty-five-minute flight in a metal tube the size of a drain pipe, and in about another forty-five minutes from now, I fully expect to be throwing away (with both hands) all of the personal growth and/or profound wisdom I have managed to accumulate over the past forty-one years.

    Suddenly, I’m reminded of that song by Joe Nichols: “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.”

    Lord, please bring me back with all my clothes on…

    My High School Reunion – A Prologue

    As I wrote in this space a few months ago (see a rundown of my travails here), I have been debating the wisdom (?) of attending my 41st high school reunion.  Yes, that’s right.  The 41st.  As in one year beyond 40, when one would naturally expect a reunion would take place.  Personally, I think it’s rather unique holding a reunion in an odd-numbered year…everyone else holds reunions in the even-numbered ones, probably because even numbers are a whole lot easier to remember than odd numbers, since—and I was somewhat surprised by this— cheerleaders, class presidents, and football jocks age just as quickly as we average, anonymous under-achievers do (really…you can look it up.)  So, by having it on year forty-one, we can all prove to the world—and each other—that we remain fleet of mind, when in truth it just took an extra year to get organized.

    Actually, that’s not strictly true.  The graduating class of ‘71 planned this reunion—their 40th (see? even number!)—and they did it in a most timely fashion.  Then, for reasons most likely known to everyone but me, they graciously opened it up to classes ‘69 through ‘72, which means that, now that I think about it, there will be even more people there I don’t know.  The upside is that I may not remember any of it—there will be liquor, after all.  And an even better upside is maybe no one will remember any of it.  I do, however, have grand plans to keep you all intimately informed…I just might have to make something up.

    So, the decision has been made.  I’m off the fence.  I’ve taken a stand.  I’ve bought a non-refundable plane ticket.  The only things left to do between now and next Friday are (a) get my nails done, and (b) lose ten pounds.

    I should have started a year earlier.

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