Friday, October 31, 2014

Winning With Sweet Season

My short story won in the Iron Writer Challenge!

The Iron Writer is a group I am in where there are weekly flash fiction challenges. Five writers are given four elements to include in a story that can be no longer than 525 words. They must complete the story within four days. It is then ranked by four judges and there is a popular vote.

Thank you to everyone who read the stories and voted, even if you didn't vote for mine. And if you are interested in participating in the challenges let me know and you can be a member of the group.

Here is my story for those who didn't get a chance to read it.

Sweet Season

“Damn it,” she shouted as she stubbed her toes on the leg of the table.

Of course it had to be that foot. The other one, the hoof of a goat, could whack things all day long with no ill effect. And the thought of ill effects reminded her once again that she must eat soon.  Ah, well, it would be soon enough.

She limped over to her pantry. The large wood plank door was hard to open. The bottom of the door caught on a nail in the floor and she had to shake it loose. Cobwebs fell as the door opened enough to allow her large frame to enter the pantry. They covered her black raiment with a ghostly shawl before she shrugged them loose.

Squinting, she eyed the labels on her many jars. She chose four and exited the small room.
She set her jars down on the dusty table next to the big copper kettle. The wood fire beneath had the watery contents at a nice rolling boil.

Carefully she added her ingredients. The pickled frog was a pain to get out. She had to give the jar an earnest shaking.

She gave her concoction a good stirring with the large wooden paddle that she had found next to the kettle. This abandoned maple syrup camp was proving to be an excellent hideout. It was perfect for her needs.

With her warty, crooked tongue she licked the paddle. Her violet eyes rolled in ecstasy. This had been a tough meal to come by but it was all going to be worth it.

With a ladle she spooned herself a large portion into a bowl and made her way to the table by a long wall of windows. They provided her with a panoramic view of the snow covered hills and bare trees. She found it to be quite beautiful.

She uncorked a small jug and covered her meal with some of the home brewed maple syrup she had found in the closed shop next door. And for the next three hours she ate and ate and ate.

Once done, she felt her strength returning. Her renewed vigor gave her the conviction that she would be okay through the coming months.

She pushed herself away from the table. It was time for her favorite part.

In what had been the office of the camp she had made a trophy wall. This one, of all the ones she had ever made in her hundreds of years, showed her greatest accomplishments.

She leveled the batarang on two pegs and smiled. It hung nicely, front and center. Surrounding it were a tattered shirt with an S on it, a golden lariat, a visor of ruby-quartz meant to be worn over the eyes, and a severed hand with long, wickedly sharp claws protruding from it.

Yes, she was having a super, sweet season.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sweet Season

I am part of a group called The Iron Writers. We have flash fiction challenges, and this week a story of mine is included.

Each week there are five writers competing. They are given four elements that must be included in the story, which can be no more than 525 words. The stories must be written and turned in within five days.

The stories are rated by a panel of judges, but there is also a popular vote.

I am asking that you take a moment to read and then vote for your favorite. Hopefully that will be mine but they are all good stories, so vote for the one you think is best.

*You can click here to go to this week's challenge.*

So, if you have the time, and if you don't mind, please go to The Iron Writer, Challenge 86 and vote for your favorite story.

I thank you in advance. Your participation is very much appreciated.

And if you are interested in becoming part of the group and participating in challenges yourself, leave me a comment and we will certainly welcome you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Coffee Spoons And Introverts

First of all, I love a good cup of coffee. I don't go to coffee shops. I like a mellow roast with some sugar and some hazelnut creamer. Sipping a cup on a chilly fall morning while reading the newspaper or being online is like a little slice of Heaven for me.

There is even a song that could sort of be about my life - Afternoons and Coffeespoons by The Crash Test Dummies.

But - and it's a big but - it causes me to panic. If I am not mindful I can have a full-blown panic attack.

I have grown more and more sensitive to caffeine over the years. But now I found an article that says that it may be because I am an introvert. To paraphrase, it states that introverts are over the normal level when it comes to neocortical arousal in our brains. Thus, while coffee causes extroverts to gain that extra oomph needed to complete a project or give a presentation, it causes introverts to just get more stimulated and flustered. So coffee can make you feel like you can conquer the world or like the world is crashing down around you.

And how do I know I am an introvert? Why, just today I took a test that tells you your personality type.

I am an INFP, an Idealist. It stands for Introverted - Intuitive - Feeling - Perceiving. In other words, I am a big dreamy wuss. And that's okay with me.

Also today I found out today that all my Chakras are closed. But that is another story.

Lastly, I will continue to have a few cups of coffee a week. I can prepare myself in order to weather the panicky feelings when they start. There is just nothing that I have found that boosts my creativity like coffee does. And then there's that taste!  Aahhhh

Let me know, are you an introvert or extrovert? Does coffee work for you or do you pay for it with your nerves? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Getting Started on Christmas!

I have begun making gifts for my loved ones for Christmas. I have more to make, but I think I started early enough.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Five Reasons We Can All Appreciate Diwali

It is the time for Diwali. The Festival of Lights. The ancient Hindu festival held each autumn. The time to celebrate victory of good over evil.

I do not propose to be an expert but I was chatting with a young Facebook friend, D, who told me that it is the time of the Festival. He said, "It's a most awesome festival. We celebrate by sweets, crackers, etc." I could feel his excitement as he told me "It is our largest grand festival ever."

His enthusiasm was contagious and I wanted to know more. I found a wonderful website, which you can visit by clicking here. As I was reading I realized that the five days of the festival celebrate things that we can all appreciate.


The first day of the festival celebrates a legend of good, or light, over evil, or dark. One legend has it that the wife of a young prince is said to have warded off the god of death by lighting many lamps and piling up ornaments of metal and coins so that they blinded the god. She sat through the night, singing and telling tales, and the god of death retreated in the morning. Entrances of homes and businesses are decorated by beautiful Rangoli designs made with colored sand, rice or flower petals in order to welcome the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Light over dark, Good over evil. Who has not said that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness?

Choti Diwali

This is also known as little Diwali. In reverence to the Lord Krishna killing a demon that had imprisoned many women, they gave him a good bath and massaged scented oils into his skin. The mother of the demon declared that it should be a day of celebration, not mourning, so in many parts of India a bath early in the morning is had, often with loud crackers and fireworks used to entertain the young ones. I think that often we hurry through our bathing and pay no attention to how it feels to have the battles of the day washed away from our weary bodies. Each day we are here is a day that the divine conquered for us.

Lakshmi Puja on Diwali

Ahh, the third day of Diwali is the most celebrated due to the visit of the Goddess Lakshmi. She is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Bells are rung and drums are beaten in the temples. This is the day that a light of knowledge touches the heart of man and these lights are symbolized by many lamps. Puja is a term for worship. But be forewarned - the goddess visits the cleanest houses first so it is important to have the house spotless for her visit. What I take from this auspicious day is that if we allow our hearts to be enlightened we will be visited by great wealth. And in my mind, wealth is not always monetary.

Padwa and Govardhan Puja

Gudi Padwa is a celebration of the love between a husband and wife. Newlywed daughters and their husbands come over for a special meal and presents. Is this not a lovely thing to celebrate? Govardhan Puja is also celebrated, commemorating the time the god Vishnu saved the world from a flood. Also observed is Annakoot, or mountain of food. A bhot, or offering of food, is made to the deities and then believers take a prasad, a food that has been blessed by the gods. The sharing of meals is always a cause for counting your blessings.

Bhai Dooj

This is the fifth, or last, day of Diwali. It is a celebration of the brother, bhai, a time to pray for his long life. According to scriptures it is said that the god of death went to his sister's house and she prepared him a glorious meal. She also put a mark, or tilak, on his forehead. The god of death was so pleased that he proclaimed that if a sister puts a tilak on her brother on that day, the dooj day, no one can harm him. Brothers also give presents to their sisters on this day.

I hope I covered the very basics of this wondrous festival. It seems a beautiful time of enlightenment and celebration of family and friends. And a glorious time for worship. These are things that we can all appreciate.

Do you have anything to add about your Diwali celebration? If so, please feel free to leave me a comment. I would appreciate it very much. And:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How My Cat Helps

My little cat is tearing around the house. She's attacking the rugs, the bedclothes, the couch, the floor. It is so much fun to see her play.

It is frustrating to her to play with things like yarn and dangly toys because she is blind in one eye and it seems the vision that she has is failing. She will get upset and bite her own legs.

She has seizures. She has been having them about every two weeks. Last Tuesday I was going to rejoice that it had been an entire month since her last one but she woke me at 4:30 in the morning with the plaintiff yowls that signal that she has just seized.

Seeing her speed through the house today reminded me of an article I saw this morning. It is about saying "to heck with it" and living in the moment.

Finding that article was also serendipitous in another fashion.

Earlier, a friend and I had been commiserating about the ways our illnesses were similar. We both just want to feel normal. We are both so tired of fighting. We are both so tired of having to be strong when our illnesses make us feel weak. We are both tired of the undertow taking us out when we are swimming as hard as we can.

We read the article and we agreed that sometimes you just have to put everything else aside and do something nice for you. It made us feel a bit better.

It also made me look for other articles on the joy of living in the moment and I found this one about what dogs can teach us.

But, today, it was my little cat that made me laugh and feel like things are good for the moment. When everything else seemed handcrafted to get me down, watching her go a little crazy made me smile.

My cat and my dog are not luxuries. They are my links to living for today. Sometimes it's a case of living just for today, and worrying about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.

My cat helps me stay in the here and now. That's how my cat helps me.

How do your pets help you?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What I Can Do About My Fear

Fear. I have it. I have it so bad that I often have panic attacks.

Today I have been panicky all day because I am waiting on the bug guy to come to my apartment. While this wouldn't be a problem for some, it has me in a tizzy.

Now, what can I do about it?

1. Breathe

I breathe in through my nose for a count of five and then out through my mouth for a count of ten. It brings about a mindfulness, which you can read more about here. It makes me pause and think, "Okay, I'm not falling over dead. Things are gonna be okay.".

2. Self Talk

I ask myself what would happen if the worst thing that I am fretting about at the moment came to be. What if the manager came with the bug guy and said I had to move? Well, I would rally my resources and professional help and move. Why would that happen? Chances are it won't. When I start in with the 'what ifs' I can remember what my therapist told me and not feed my anxiety monster that lurks in the corner.

3. Distraction

I can watch a movie or TV show that I find humorous. Laughter helps a great deal. Here is an article that describes how there are incompatible mood states. It talks about anger, but I feel the same works for fear. I can go online and scroll through Facebook and Google Plus. I can chat with a friend, online or on the phone. I'm able to be quite candid about my anxiety so I can bounce my fears off another person. And it would be okay if they laugh. That helps me see that my fears are not well grounded in fact.

4. Call In The Professionals

Sometimes I find that the panic just won't stop. If that happens, I am very fortunate in that I have mental health professionals that have treated me for quite a while and know me and my situation. If you don't have a doctor that you see for your anxiety you can Google mental health hotline and centers in your area will pop up. 

I am very lucky in that earlier I chatted with a Google Plus friend. That and the act of researching this post, what research I did, has distracted me from my 'what ifs' long enough for the panic to take a back seat. It's still a passenger, though, but not such a loud, obnoxious one.

I hope that I have given you some ideas on how to handle a panicky feeling, that unsubstantiated fear. What would you add to my list?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

National Depression Screening Day

Today is National Depression Screening Day.

It only takes a minute. You can find screenings online and at various places around the nation. Click here for a good start: help yourself help others..

There is this depression screening test that is just ten questions.

It isn't hard and if you think you may need professional help these are the questions you should be asking yourself.

This test from Mental Health America gives you immediate results.

So, if you have felt down, or sad, for no apparent reason and/or for more than two weeks, please consider taking one of the screening tests. You may just be having a bad time of it lately, or you may be clinically depressed. It could start you on the path to getting so much more out of life.

And, as for me, I think that I will have a talk with my doctors because it seems that I am not doing as well as I could be with the meds I have onboard. This has helped even me, an old hat at being majorly depressed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I Have Become The Person You Love To Hate

Thank you for coming back to me. I appreciate your reading after this much time has elapsed. I won't let a long period go by between postings again.

Well, a few weeks ago I became the person we all love to hate. The one with the iPhone using food stamps. But, let me explain.

For years now my phone has been on my friend M's plan. Without him I would not have been able to afford a phone. This was before everything was bundled through a cable plan. Which I would not have been able to afford, either. On his plan, every two years you can get a new phone. It was time for a new phone for me. He saw that I could have the iPhone 4 for free. He asked me if I wanted it and I said, "Yes. I can put digital coupons on it!" So I did not spend $400.00 on a phone while I am on food stamps.

Whew! Now, imagine saying all of that in one breath while someone stares daggers at you.

That is how I feel when I use what little (less than $20.00) food stamps I get and use the coupons available to me on my phone. Yes, I could avoid the angry looks if I just didn't take my phone out of my purse, but if I can save money on food I am going to do so.

I agree that there are people who misuse and abuse the system. You probably know of someone in your neighborhood that has five kids and a new SUV and says that they don't work and that they live alone, when you see the husband every day, and they get $500.00 in food stamps every month. Yes, there are people who lie about income and assets to get more than they should.

I, however, am not one of those people. How can you tell? Well, you can't.

Everyone has a different story. If you worked hard and saved every penny to buy your phone, I applaud your effort. If you are well-off and picked up the phone just because it was new and you wanted it, good for you. But there is a trend in this society to think that just because someone is dirt poor, they should never have nice things. That includes things that were given to them. That includes things that, perhaps, they bought before they ran into misfortune.

And if you ask me how I came to have mine, I will gladly tell you. I am so very fortunate to have someone like my friend M. who does such kind things for me. But I will no longer feel guilty because of prying eyes. They will just remind me to be grateful for everything I do have. I have more than a lot of people I know or know of.

It is my point of view that we should all stop judging each other in the checkout line. Instead of thinking, "Does she deserve to have that?" let's think, "Is that enough toilet paper for that amount of groceries?".Because that could, indeed, be a disaster.