This Year So Far…

Usually about midway through the year, I sit down and assess where I’m at with my personal goals for the year. I never really got around to it this year because we moved from Kansas to Washington in June, and everything has been utter chaos until recently.

So, anyhow, let’s see how I’m doing. These are my goals for the year:

  1. Read 40 books
    • I’m doing well on my yearly reading goal. I’ve read 28 books so far, and according to the tracker on goodreads, that puts me two books ahead of my goal right now. Yipee!
  2. Write the 2nd novel in my series
    • Working on this one, slowly but surely. I didn’t work on it from May till July because the move was nuts, but I’m at it again, making slow progress.
  3. Sell the house we own
    • Not yet. Our renters keep postponing their move out. The world is nuts right now, what can you do?
  4. Stop drinking soda
    • I stopped for a while and then started again, and now I’m back to not drinking it again. It’s my weakness!!
  5. Write 12 short stories
    • I am running a bit behind on this one. I haven’t finished my story for August yet, so I’m running one month behind at this point.
  6. Finish the Grimm Fairy Tales SAL
    • This is a cross stitch project I’m working on. It’s getting there, but I’m not caught up. There is a new section released each month, and I’m a few months behind at this point. UGH!
  7. Finish my gift for Mindy
    • DONE! One small victory! (You can see it below).
  8. Finish my flower needlework
    • Still working on this one. I’ve made really good progress on this since I moved it into the living room. I’ve been working on it when I watch tv at night.
  9. Move
    • DONE. This was a big victory and the single most awful move my family has endured.

So, honestly, things are going okay. I wish I were done with a few more of these, but I’m working on them. I hope everyone else is reaching their goals despite the obstacles of life right now.

Happy reading and writing!

This is the gift I made for my sister.

Battlemage for Life

July 2020’s short story of the month

It felt uncanny, but oddly good, to hear kids running through the house again. I wondered if I could handle being a father, or at least a father figure, after all these years.

I thought about the times when my wife and I fought. It was always about the same thing – she hated my job. When we were young, she’d been attracted to how brave I was. At least, she said she was, but it didn’t take long for her mood to sour.

Being the wife of a battlemage was not what she wanted from life. At some point after the girls were born, she asked me to walk away and find something safer to do, but mostly something that kept me closer to home. She said she was tired of being a single parent.

I got it on some level, but being the dad to three girls was not what I’d expected either. I felt useless when I was at home, like I was in the way. They were so used to me being gone that their routine didn’t include me, and when I tried to “help,” I just ended up messing it up.

If I’m being honest though, it wasn’t just that being home made me feel inadequate. I was addicted to the fight. I tried not to dwell on those times because my wife said she could always tell when I was thinking about my glory days.

As I walked outside to the yard, I took a moment on the deck and breathed in the fresh clean air. There was no smell of sulfur or smoke from fire spells. There was no lingering tang of electricity from magical attacks. It was just fresh plant life and the clean smell of dirt. I could hear children laughing and the murmur of voices in the distance.

As I rounded the corner of the house, I spied my family sitting around a set of tables covered in dishes, food, and party favors. It was all in my honor and I was momentarily overwhelmed by it all. I hesitated.

In battle, I never hesitated. I was always sure and ready for the next attack. Battlemages didn’t usually serve very long at the front, but there were a handful of us old timers who kept coming back for more. I shook my head and tried once again to keep my mind from wandering.

As I joined my wife, our three daughters and their husbands, and my many grandchildren at the table, they all got quiet. After I took my seat in the place of honor, they all rose and started clapping. I shook my head.

This was my retirement party. I was done being a battlemage. I would stay home and be a husband, father, and grandfather full time. I should have been happy and relieved. Instead, I was anxious. I didn’t know how to fit into home life with all of these people who kept looking at me expectantly.

********

There were forty pairs of eyes staring at me expectantly. This was my moment. After the last battle, I’d been promoted to commander. I was now in charge of my own tactical unit of casters. I had a full arsenal of fire mages, weather casters, healers, and energy sappers. This was the moment every battlemage worth his mettle longed for – this was my chance for greatness.

I squared my shoulders and stood as tall as I could. “This is it. You all know your roles. Follow your unit leaders and don’t hesitate. Use your instincts. If you need to refuel, make sure you switch out quickly.” I paused looking around into each pair of eyes. I wanted them all to feel the connection, the bond that only battle can instill.

“Make me proud,” I stated as way of dismissal.

They all squared up and walked away neatly into units. The weather casters began to rise off the ground to protect and fight from above.

*********

Their eyes were hopeful and full of pride. They reminded me so much of the young men and women I’d fought alongside for so many years. There was something else though when I looked at my wife and daughter’s eyes, something that I’d never seen in the eyes of my soldiers. I didn’t know what it was.

Perhaps learning to understand these people who love me would be enough in my retirement. I didn’t know what they wanted from me, not exactly.

I cleared my throat and got to my feet.

“Thank you all for coming today.” I glanced at my wife sitting on my left. She looked relieved, as if a huge weight was lifted. I knew why she was feeling that way. I didn’t want to take that feeling away from her by discussing my fears here in front of the whole family. Instead, I said, “I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time with all of you. Especially you little ones.” I raised my glass. “To my grandkids.”

“Here! Here!” Everyone said in unison. They all raised their glasses, even the littles, and drank to family.

********

After a long night of fighting, we trudged into the mess tent. As we sat around the table, no one was eating, most were just pushing their food around the plates.

We’d taken heavy loses. We were no longer a full tactical unit. We’d lost so many that we would be pulled from the front until our numbers could be replenished with new troops.

I looked around at those who remained and not one pair of eyes looked up at me. They were either staring at their food, not really seeing it, or doing their best to hide their tears from their fellow soldiers.

I raised my glass. “To those who died.”

There was a long pause, and I kept my arm raised until everyone was looking at me.

Further away, another voice said, “To those we’ve lost.”

And then another, “To our fallen brethren.”

The chants went up one after another. Before long, the entire mess tent, not just our little band, was raising their glass to the fallen.

Love Letters

June 2020’s short story of the month

After the funeral, I spent the next few days in the attic, reading the letters my mother had written him in the years before they were married. He had never been the sentimental type, so I was surprised to find a whole box of them, carefully bundled. Holding on to something that served no practical purpose was completely out of character for my father.

Even more surprising was how many times my mother wrote to my father about not wanting to go through with their marriage. At first, I felt like I shouldn’t be reading them. They were very personal and not written to me. My curiosity got the better of me though. They were from a time before I was alive, before I was even a thought. They were proof that my parents, with their seemingly perfect life, had personal struggles just like the rest of us. The letters made me see them both in a new light.

The bundles only contained the letters from my mother so I had no idea what he’d written in return, but he must have said something convincing because they’d been married for over 50 years when my mother had passed last year.

I read them slowly and got lost in trying to piece together what must have been going through both their minds back then. By the time I gathered the letters and took them and a few other items out to my car, I was struggling with my mother’s reaction to her arrange married.

Even in this day and age, magic users are paired up and their families arrange their marriage. The idea is to keep the magic genetics strong. One of my own daughters was challenging the traditional way we did things and refusing to get married. She’d already declined three arrangements. Our family was from a long line of powerful users, and when my daughters were finally ready to wed, they’d had multiple offers. We allowed our daughters to meet and choose from the offers, which was fairly progressive of us, but it wasn’t enough for my oldest.

I put the small box of things in my trunk and paused before I got into the car. I gazed at my parent’s house. My two sisters would go through the house later in the week and then we could put it on the market. Soon it would belong to someone else, hopefully another family would thrive in it’s walls. It felt strange to be parentless, even though I was already a grandmother myself. One of my daughters had a baby a few months ago, and the youngest was pregnant, though she hasn’t “announced” it yet.

My oldest daughter, the strongest user in the family, she would probably never have children — or get married. It was such a waste. She’d definitely inherited her father’s power more than the other girls. To think it might end with her was weighing heavily on me lately.

As I drove home in the afternoon light with the wind blowing through the windows, I couldn’t help but think of my mother’s letters again.

My daughter could never see them. It would only further strengthen her campaign to prove that marriage wasn’t necessary. I needed to destroy them. They may have been precious to my father, but they would only lead to more drama if she discovered them.

I waited until my husband fell asleep in his recliner reading a dusty old book. I gathered the bundled letters and made my way to the kitchen. Throughout the evening as I’d absentmindedly cooked dinner and tidied things, I came to a decision about the letters.

I wasn’t just going to destroy them. I was going to use them in a spell.

In the pantry, I gathered the ingredients I would need – rose petals, lavender, and something to bind them… something strong… dark molasses.

My daughter would be furious with me if she knew what I was about to do. I’d raised my daughters to never use magic when they could do something for themselves. And I taught them to never, under any circumstances, try to raise the dead or make people fall in love. Both magics never worked out the way people wanted them to.

I boiled the rose petals, lavender, and honey in water from a mineral spring. I let it boil down some and then placed the letters in the pot so they were submerged in the liquid.

I took a deep breath and cast my spell. I wanted my daughter to fall in love and the love would be unbreakable, no matter what trials came their way.

When I was finished, I opened my eyes and there was a flash of magenta flames from the pot. I watched as the spell rose up and was caught by a breeze coming in the open window.

It was done. I looked into the pot and all that remained were ashes. I tidied up so that there was no evidence that I’d been working a spell. As I was putting the pot back in the cabinet, I was startled by someone clearing their throat in the kitchen.

I stood up and my husband was standing there smiling at me.

“I think it’s time for bed, my love,” he looked around the kitchen thoughtfully. I could have sworn I heard him breath in deeply as he walked out.

I wondered if he suspected something. I didn’t often cast spells with out discussing it with him. He was a much stronger caster than I, but mostly we were just used to discussing everything with one another. After a lifetime of marriage, there wasn’t much we didn’t know about each other. That’s what I wanted for my daughter.

As I closed the window, I looked out at the night sky and hoped that the spell would work. I should have known better though. The truth about love spells is that they are often cast out of desperation and that fear and anxiety get mixed with the hope and longing causing the spell to twist and distort.

Getting back on track…

I am running terribly behind with just about everything.

We are mostly unpacked with just a few lingering boxes of things I’m not sure if I’m going to unpack floating about. Things are starting to settle for my family. We enrolled our daughter in school, and we’re starting to learn the lay of the land. That being said, it’s time for me to start getting back on track with things. I need to write three short stories at this point (June, July, and August’s).

With that in mind, I’m going to try and get caught up in the next few weeks so that by Septemeber, I can get back to my normal posting schedule.

I’ve already posted June’s prompt, but it was so long ago, I will re-post it now:

After the funeral, I spent the next few days in the attic, reading the letters my mother had written him in the years before they were married. He had never been the sentimental type, so I was surprised to find a whole box of them, carefully bundled. Even more surprising was…

Complete the Story

For July, here is the prompt I never got around to posting because of the move:

It felt uncanny, but oddly good, to hear kids running through the house again. I wondered if I could handle being a father, or at least a father figure, after all these years. I thought about the times when…

Complete the Story

And finally, the story prompt that I should be writing for August:

Always the same old lines whenever she came home for the holidays, like her parents were rehearsing a play over and over and never could get it right. Yet they didn’t seem to notice how much they repeated themselves. Her father would sit down to dinner and say…

Complete the Story

It’s a lot to write in the next few weeks, but here we go…

Happy reading and writing everyone!

Still Struggling

Since my last post, things have not gotten any better. This has been the worst move that my family has ever been through.

Today, as we were unpacking one of the last boxes we found my coin collection archival box, but it was empty.

The movers/packers opened my archival box, which just looks like a black cardboard binder, and took my coins.

My coins don’t have that much value — maybe between 20-40 dollars. The coins have sentimental value though. I have been collecting them since I was a child. Most of them are not even US currency. I had coins from all over the world in there.

But the ones that hurt the most are the one dollar bicentennial coin that belonged to my great-grandfather, and the coins we gave to our daughter when she thought we were the toothfairies. They’re gone. The dollar value isn’t what was important. They were important to us because they were tied to memories. And someone stole them.

So, to the mover who took my almost worthless coin collection — SHAME ON YOU.