I Need A Writing Prompt


So I put this off today until the last minute, and even at the end of the day, I’m shy of ideas, so I went to writing-prompt-s.tumblr.com for a glimmer of something, and I came across this gem …

Bored with Skyrim, you download a mod that has no description, just the title “self-awareness overhaul”. Starting up the game, you can tell something’s wrong with your character. Turning to face the fourth wall, they locks eyes with you. All you know is you’ve never seen such intense anger…

And here we go.

I installed the new mod and fired up Skyrim like I’d done so many times before. I already had mods for invincible pets, horses, and followers; mods that enhanced the graphics and added foliage and other scenery to the game; mods that gave essentially unlimited crafting materials; mods that vastly altered the price of trainers and the frequency you could train; even a mod that added coffee drinks to the game. I’d made it ludicrously easy to play the game in an attempt to soak in every bit of story that I could, but I was hoping this new mod would add some new angle to a game I’d already essentially mastered.

My saved game started in Lakeview Manor, with my character’s wife (Lydia, who doubled as her companion – since they spent so much time together it only made sense that the two would find a connection someday), their two kids, their housecarl, and their hired bard. Everyone else was in another part of the fully-built and furnished manor house, and I could only see the back of my character in her usual dragonscale armor.

Until I was suddenly looking at the front of my character. She had turned to face me, something I’ve never seen her do in the game before, and she took off her helm and threw it to the ground.

I saw the look in her eyes and even though it was a computer game I quailed.

Then dialogue started appearing on my screen.

“Look, I don’t know who you think you are out there, but I am really, really pissed off at you.”

Reflexively I asked, “What’d I do?”

“What did you DO? Well, let’s start with the dragon. I’ll admit, you saved my life when the dragon came and interrupted my execution, and I have to thank you for that. But I was absolutely terrified, and the last thing I wanted to do was deal with anything that scary ever again. I wanted to just get away and live a quiet life. But no, you got me involved with yet another dragon and it turns out now I’m the Dragonborn and I have a prophecy to fulfill. That was the last thing I wanted. I wanted to settle down, learn a craft, make a few septims, and you made me charge into battle after battle, clearing old forts and caves and crypts. Somehow, you made all of this easy for me – most of the time I never got a scratch, even though I was shot with countless arrows and hit by a thousand swords! Can you imagine the terror I felt when I realized that I was invincible and inhumanly strong? I was dragging everything I could pick up with me and selling it, sometimes spending months doing nothing but selling gear to make septims hand over fist. You sent me everywhere in Skyrim and if there was a quest, you made me do it. It wasn’t enough for you to make me fulfill this damnfool prophecy, you made me the Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold, the Guildmaster of the Thieves’ Guild, and the Harbinger of the Companions. You made me fight vampires, you made me the Thane of all nine holds, you bought me eight houses, you made me learn EVERYTHING there is to learn, and the whole time I was waiting for the magic to end and for me to die through all the hell you sent me through. I wanted a SIMPLE life, and you made me the single most important, most wealthy, most influential person in all of Skyrim! You made me famous throughout the land. I couldn’t talk to a guard in any town without hearing someone talk of my exploits. There’s no way that I can ever get what I wanted, which was a small cottage and a trade. Oh, I have a trade, alright, but I can make anything I want, and I learned how to do it almost overnight – there was no logic to me learning things as fast as I did. And it’s all because of YOU. YOU did this to me. YOU took away the simple life that I wanted. And why? Because you felt all mighty because you could control me? Do you think this is some sort of game?”

I started to reply, but the dialogue was still moving across my screen quickly and it was all I could do to keep up with it all.

“This is my LIFE that you ruined. Why couldn’t you have just left things alone once I’d gotten away from that damned dragon? Why did you make me do everything, become the best at everything, own everything? Was this fun for you? This was hell for me, and I’d be SO much better off if you’d have never interfered in my life.” She finally looked sad after so very much anger. “Just go away and leave me alone.”

So I did. I closed out to the main screen and decided to start a new game with a freshly rolled character.

The cart ended its trip and the Imperial guard called my new character out for customization, which only took a few minutes. Unbidden, I went to take my place at the headsman’s block when the dragon appeared and all hell broke loose.

As I expected to start trying to get my character away from the dragon, he turned to face me with a look of sheer terror on his face.

“You! You out there! You’ve got to help me! This dragon is going to kill me if you don’t tell me what to do!”

Friday Fiction: Monsters!


It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for another edition of Friday Fiction!

Today’s prompt from writing-prompt-s.tumblr.com is a fun one.

You are convinced there is a human living above your bed at night. Your monster parents don’t believe you.

Let’s see what I can do with this …

I decided to bring up the subject.

“Daddy?” I asked.

“Yes sweetheart?” he responded.

“Are there monsters in my room?”

Daddy chuckled a little bit and answered, “No, baby, there aren’t monsters here. I promise.”

I responded with an uncertain voice. “I keep seeing them move around at night.”

“It’s just shadows, honey. Now let me tuck you in and –“

I interrupted him. “Can you check?”

He looked around the room and saw nothing. “No, little one, there’s nothing here.”

“What about on top of my bed? You didn’t look there.”

He frowned a bit, then said “Well, it’s awfully high up there. I’d need a stepladder to check it.”

“Pleeeease?” I was begging him.

“Now Maria, listen to me. There is no such thing as monsters. It’s just something that your overactive imagination is making up. I promise you’re safe here in bed. There’s nothing here.”

“Do you promise?”

“I promise. Now roll over and go to sleep. I can wait here until you’re asleep if you want.”

“Can you read me a bedtime story?”

“If I read you a story, do you promise to go to sleep afterwards?”

“I promise, Daddy.”


~ ~ ~

Daddy sat down beside Maria and started to tell her a magnificent tale about princesses and heroes and before he could even get to the best part, she was out like a light. He kissed her softly on the cheek and went downstairs.

A few minutes later, had Maria been awake, she would have seen a large hand suddenly come into view from over her bed. It was pink and hairless and had four long digits and one short one. The young human it was attached to began to softly snore.

Friday Fiction: Old Dog, New Tricks


I’m going to try this feature one more time. Behold the return of Friday Fiction!

I went to writing-prompt-s.tumblr.com for my writing prompt today, which gave me …

The year is 2070. You have just moved into a Seniors’ home, and the LAN parties are amazing.

Okay, I think I can crank a couple hundred words, at least, out of this prompt. Let’s see what happens. I’m writing autobiographically but changing names for reasons.

“Welcome to Beechwood Estates Senior Living Community, Mr. Jones! My name is Carla and I’ll be helping you and your wife settle into your new apartment. Nursing staff is available with the touch of a button on your watch, so if you ever need anything all you need to do is just push this button right here.” Carla gestured to Mr. Jones’ wrist to show him what button to push, then went to do the same with Mrs. Jones and her watch. She continued the orientation speech. “Dinner will be in the main dining hall at 5:45, although you can always cook on your own here in your apartment. Tonight is gaming night, so you’ll want to be ready for that.”

“Oh, I love games. I presume the usual stuff, checkers, gin rummy, that sort of thing?” Mr. Jones asked.

Mrs. Jones piped up. “Don’t let him play checkers for money, he’s a shark.”

Carla chuckled. “No, um … we do game night a little differently around here. It’ll take a bit of preparation for you to play.”

“You guys do roleplaying games? They never told me that in the sales pitch.”

“Actually, no,” Carla said with a smile. “Well, not tonight, at least. RPGs are the first Tuesday of the month. Jim Watson is our game master and he puts together a really good campaign.” She looked around and noticed two 14-inch tablets on the dining room table. “Do these run Windows or Linux?”

“Windows,” Mr. Jones responded. “I never could get the hang of coding in Linux. I know, I’m a bit of a Luddite compared to most of the youngsters here.”

“Windows is fine. Here, let me just …” She fumbled on a ring with multiple flash drives on it until she found the one she was looking for. “Can I install something on your tablets, Mr. and Mrs. Jones?”

Puzzled, Mrs. Jones asked Carla what she was intending to install.

“Oh, we have some of the classic computer games here on a private server, and tonight is our LAN night. I think tonight we’re playing Minecraft, did you used to play that one?”

“You know, I never did get into it,” Mr. Jones said. “Stacy used to dabble with it back in the Teens, but it was never anything that caught my fancy.”

“I think you’ll love it, Mr. Jones. Some of the other residents have taught me how to play – it was way before my time, of course – and it’s kinda fun. The throwback graphics are interesting and a big change from the graphics in today’s games. They stopped updating it decades ago, but we have a copy of the last workable version and that’s what we play on game night.”

Mr. Jones smirked. “You know they were throwback graphics when the game came out, Carla. We played Skyrim and The Witcher 3 and The Sinking City, and the graphics for those games were incredible at the time. They’re nothing compared to what’s out today, but we always stuck with the classics. There was a point in time that we stopped getting new games, they’re always so complex and hyper-violent these days, and most of them are console based. We never played console games, so it’d be like trying to learn how to ride a bike for us. We’re just used to the tablets these days.”

Carla asked Mr. Jones to enter his passcode into his tablet, and she began work installing the Minecraft client on his tablet. It only took a few seconds before she was done, and she repeated the process with Mrs. Jones’ tablet.

“There now, you guys are all set, server information is already loaded in so you’ll go straight to the LAN when you start. Minecraft starts at 7:00. That’s when I get off, but I’ll stick around to introduce you to the other residents on the server.”

Mrs. Jones spoke again. “Oh, you don’t have to do that, Carla, I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

“Don’t give it another thought, Mrs. Jones, I’m happy to do it.”

“Well, thank you, dear.”

“Okay, it’s getting close to dinnertime. I don’t think you two have had a chance to stock your fridge yet, so let’s get you over to the dining hall.”

Carla and Mr. and Mrs. Jones left the apartment and the three of them got into the Jones’ golf cart. Carla directed them up the street a short ways to a large building where people were already starting to take their places at long dining tables.

Dinner was a simple affair, fried chicken with green beans and mashed potatoes, and the Joneses were able to make quite a number of new acquaintances with Carla making introductions.

After the plates were cleared, some residents left the dining room to go about their evening, but many stayed behind and started pulling out their tablets to prepare for Minecraft night. Carla was seated beside the Joneses and started her tablet up as well.

Mrs. Jones remembered vaguely what to do so she forged ahead, saying hello in chat and getting a lot of hellos in return. Mr. Jones was a little slower and Carla helped him get started, introducing him when he’d logged in and giving him some pointers on what to do to get started. He’d spawned in the middle of a wooded area, but off in the distance he could see some other buildings. He wasn’t far from friends. Carla helped him to fell a tree and build a crafting table from it, then use the table to craft the tools he’d need. Eventually another player found him and together they put up Mr. Jones’ first shelter. The player’s name was Fred, and he was very helpful.

Once he’d gotten acclimated and introduced to another couple of players in game, Carla said it was time for her to go home, so she signed out, shut down her tablet, and wished both Mr. and Mrs. Jones luck with Minecraft, explaining that she’d be back on site at 10 am the next morning if they had any questions.

Mr. Jones sat back and marveled at his good fortune to find a senior community that was active in the ways that he used to be. He looked over at his wife, smiled, blew a kiss, and went back to exploring his new cubical digital world with his new friends.

It was going to be a good home for them both.

Valhalla Does Not Discriminate


Today’s blog post comes with reading homework, since my post builds on that and I really feel weird posting the entirety of someone else’s writing on my blog as a quote, so I’m going to get to a point in this post where I’ll ask you to click on a link and go read the story there. My post will likely make sense without the reading homework, but I want you to read the absolutely amazing piece that brought me to tears and inspired today’s post.

There is a Tumblr account, writing-prompt-s, that has posted hundreds, possibly thousands, of writing prompts since its inception in May 2016. Back on November 1, they posted the following prompt:

Valhalla does not discriminate against the kind of fight you lost. Did you lose the battle with cancer? Maybe you died in a fist fight. Even facing addiction. After taking a deep drink from his flagon, Odin slams his cup down and asks for the glorious tale of your demise!

This one prompt resulted in over 110,000 notes on Tumblr, but the one that I want you to read comes from a Tumblr user named prismatic-bell.

All the links that I’ve provided up to this point are mostly for reference, although if you’re a writer I would recommend going to the first link and following writing-prompt-s for yourself. They are prolific with their writing prompts and I found many of the ones I browsed through looking for the prompt above to be inspirational.

This is the link I want you to click and read. This is your homework before continuing with today’s post. It, like the rest of the links that I put on this blog, will open in a new window, so you won’t lose your place here.

The old man suddenly appeared inside the entrance to Valhalla, and a booming voice cried out to him, “Come closer, and tell us your tale, you who would enter my hall!”

The old man timidly approached Odin’s throne, cleared his throat and simply said, “I was … distracted … and walked in front of a bus.”

The Allfather took another long drink of mead before stating, “Only those who died fighting may enter this hall. Since you are here, I do not think you are telling me the whole story. One does not fight a bus! What distracted you?”

The old man cleared his throat, plainly intimidated by the majestic presence before him and started his tale.

“I … I was talking to myself. Well, not really. I was listening to my own voice inside my head. It was telling me that I was worthless, that I was friendless, that I was a waste of the skin and bones I’m made of and the air that I breathe, and I was trying so hard to tell myself that wasn’t the truth, but my voice inside my head wouldn’t stop putting me down. I never stopped putting myself down and telling myself all these horrible things about me.”

The lines of Odin’s face softened as he began to understand who and what the old man’s enemy was. “When did this begin?”

Now that he had started, the whole of the old man’s story came out in a flood. “I’ve been putting myself down for as long as I can remember. I was bullied throughout school, I was sexually and physically abused as a teenager, I was psychologically abused well into adulthood, I never felt like I had any close friends … I always felt so alone and incapable of anything. I never did anything with my life. I wanted to end it so many times, but I just couldn’t. I was too scared to.”

Odin One-Eye regarded the old man for a moment before speaking. “You spent a lifetime fighting your own mind, an enemy that never once gave you a moment of peace in all those years. You died fighting that enemy, even though it was not that enemy that killed you. To fight an enemy that’s as relentless for as long as you did takes bravery, strength, and courage the likes of which many here do not have. To be considered brave among such company is a high honor indeed. You have earned your rest.”

Immediately the old man noticed a peace of mind that he could not ever recall feeling. His mind was clear of self-harming thoughts for the first time in his memory. Odin then offered the old man his horn and bid him to take a long drink from it. Those who were listening to the exchange between the god and the old man gasped audibly, which caused many others to stop what they were doing and pay attention. The hall was considerably quieter now as the old man drunk and Odin continued. “You have just drunk from the Mead of Poetry. This is a gift that is not given to many, even here in Valhalla. It will serve you well here.”

The old man thanked the Allfather and went to take his place at a table full of food.

It wasn’t long before another came before Odin and told her tale. She had an eating disorder and had essentially starved herself to death. The old man paid close attention to the conversation, and when she had left the throne the old man spoke with a confidence he had not experienced in life as he effortlessly told the tale of the newcomer, painting her as a true hero of Valhalla for her struggles against the enemy in her mind.

The old man, from that day forth, turned the stories of conflict that he had heard before Odin’s throne into epic tales of bravery and strength and courage, qualities that he now understood that he possessed throughout his life. He became known as one of the skalds of Valhalla. The hall was filled with his stories of the heroes that came before Odin that he told to his many friends there.


Maybe This Will Help …


Early on in the life of this blog, I started a feature that I called Friday Fiction. The idea was that once a week, I would create a short story to share with you, my readers. That lasted all of three episodes before I ran into a fierce and unrelenting case of writer’s block which has persisted to this day.

Recognizing that I was suffering from this affliction, I found a Kickstarter project called the Writer’s Block Tarot. It intrigued me and, after reading the description of what the project would be like, I was sold and put my name in the book, quite literally.

The package that I ordered consisted of a tarot deck themed to writing rather than readings, as well as a pack of nine genre cards and a book to explain everything. I’ve been waiting patiently for it to arrive, which it said it would do in April.

I picked up the package from the mailbox yesterday.

The deck was created by Vivian Caethe and illustrated by Amber Peter. The cards are very lovely, photographic pieces of art in and of themselves. Just like a regular tarot deck, there are 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards, split into ten pip cards and four court cards (King, Queen, Knight, and Page) in each of four suits (Keys, Pens, Pages, and Clocks). As the companion manual explains:

“In the Writer’s Block Tarot, the Major Arcana cards represent larger aspects of the plot and characters that the protagonist(s) experience as they go through the story. The Minor Arcana represent the detailed aspects around them that can influence the plot, both conceptually and directly.”

Just like with a regular tarot deck, cards change their meaning depending on whether they’re dealt right side up or upside down. Again, quoting the companion manual:

“A right side up card’s meaning is intended to convey the “loyal” meaning of the card (how it is represented in the spread in relationship to the other cards) versus the upside down or “disloyal” meaning of the card. This is similar to the concept of the synonym and antonym of a word. Loyalty and disloyalty in this case refer to the innate meaning of the card and how well it is conveyed in the situation in which it is placed.”

As an example of one type of card, card 10 from the Major Arcana is the Try/Fail Cycle. “This concept contains all the attempts the character makes to reach the end of the conflict, and their results.” The other type of card, for example, is The Eight of Pens from the Minor Arcana, which deals with Rage. “What enrages [the character]? What makes them so angry that they can barely speak? How do they present this anger?” (These quotes are exemplary and not the full description of each card in the companion manual, which goes into far greater detail for each card.)

Just as with most tarot decks with companion manuals, several spreads are included, and the writer is encouraged to do a spread for every major character in the piece. The writer is also encouraged to either use the deck as the manual suggests or use it in a manner which works for the individual – there is no right or wrong way to use this tool as a means to jumpstart a story.

I’m going to use the deck to write a short story this Friday to try to resurrect the Friday Fiction feature of this blog, and then on Saturday will write about my experiences using the deck. Here’s hoping everything works out according to plan.

I Won an Award!


I was chosen by brightonbipolar to receive this award, my first, and I am humbled by her considering me for this accolade. I haven’t been blogging long and it’s nice to see that my words have touched her in some small way.

The Rules:

1. Post the award on your blog.
2. Grant up to 5 other bloggers the award.

What you cannot do:

Abuse or misuse the logo.
Claim that it is your own handmade logo.

What you should do after receiving the Encouraging Thunder Award:

1. Enjoy the award!
2. Give thanks via comments, likes and/or by mentioning the blog that you received the award from.
3. Explain your purpose in blogging.
4. Well done and good luck.

I’m new to the blogging community and so I don’t have a lot of people that I can nominate for this award. But it does state that I have to pass this along, so I nominate The Persistent Platypus; MWGS: Mom, Writer, Geek, Superwoman; and inventoryofirina for this award.

I started this blog to have someplace besides Facebook to put my more personal thought and struggles with both physical and mental health – then promptly set it up to where everyone that follows me on both Facebook and Twitter get to see these words. It’s morphed somewhat in that rather than being just an outlet for myself, I hope my blog might contain some passage or experience to let those who suffer from mental illnesses know they aren’t alone, and those who don’t know a little about what I go through on a daily basis.

Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge: Day Three


Warning: brief language

Once more, thanking brightonbipolar for nominating me for this challenge. It’s been fun!

Day Three

I figured I’d end this challenge with a humorous quote, which I share with you through the magic of typography below.

The quote is from Cave Johnson, one of the characters in Portal 2, a game by Valve Corporation (the guys behind Steam), and voiced by Academy Award-winner J.K. Simmons. In it, Johnson, who founded Aperture Science Laboratories and acts as its CEO, offers a different outlook on what one should do when life gives you lemons.

Johnson is an eccentric, which means he’s strange, but wealthy, and has the entire think tank behind Aperture Science at his disposal. He’s also the “take-no-shit” kind of businessman who isn’t afraid to change his reality with the tools he has. Give me lemons, will you? I’ll turn them into weapons and lob them back at you, life!

There are days I’m capable of doing that. I have the strength and the energy to weaponize the adversity that I’m given on a daily basis through my mental and physical health struggles, and I can take that energy and do amazing things with it. There are other days, though, that it’s all I can do to be appreciative of someone else turning that adversity into a mild-mannered, tasty drink and handing me a glass to sip.

I wish I had more days that I was like Cave Johnson: brash, in-your-face, no-nonsense, get-stuff-done thinking. But those days are fleeting for me and I’m aware of my shortcomings in that area. My mental illnesses often keep me from being so gung-ho about any given situation, and my physical health often tag-teams in to make sure I stay down.

It seems silly to take what’s supposed to be a funny quote and turn it into something deep and thought-provoking. But it is. What if we had the power to take all those struggles that life handed us and figuratively set the world aflame with that fuel? There’d be no stopping what we could do.

So I strive to reach that ideal once in a great while, all the rest of the time quietly sipping my lemonade and lost in thought.


“I’m going to burn life’s house down. With the lemons.

Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge: Day Two


Again, my thanks to brightonbipolar for nominating me for this challenge.

Day Two

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

~ Ira Glass

I tried to find a graphic for this quote but every one of them wound up being rendered so small in the end result as to be unreadable, so instead of a pretty graphic today, you simply get the quote. It’s a long one, so I hope you’ll understand.

I’d like to think I’m a creative type. I like writing, pottery, calligraphy, weaving, and want to get into a lot of other art forms as well. But I run into a mental block with regard to my art that paralyzes me.

Because I haven’t devoted a lot of time to any of my art forms, none of them are really that good. And so rather than push on, as Ira Glass encourages in the quote above, I’ve been holding myself back.

“I’m not as talented as Person A is, so why bother trying.”

“Person B dislikes me, and is really good in that discipline, so my work will be unfairly critiqued, so why bother trying.”

“Person C wants to help me and encourage me, but all I’m going to do is disappoint them, so why bother trying.”

And just like that, my fears about my artistic ability become subject to my mental illnesses, and get blown out of proportion, and the end result is that I don’t actually produce any work.

This blog is the longest writing assignment and biggest artistic project that I’ve ever undertaken, and it’s nothing like I originally intended it to be. I wanted this blog to showcase my sense of humor, and only rarely am I even trying to be funny. I wanted this blog to highlight my struggles with self-esteem, yet I seem to be writing about everything but my self-esteem. I wanted this blog to be good and, well … that’s open to interpretation.

But the point is that I am keeping at it, this once. (If I had a dollar for every failed blog with which I’ve littered the Internet …) I’m not giving up, I’m seeing it through.

Which means that I can do the same with my other artistic endeavors.

Yes, my work is going to be fairly crap at the beginning. But so was the work of all those people who I look up to artistically. Not one of them was a prodigy. The difference between me and them is that they started earlier and kept at it longer.

I don’t read this Ira Glass quote as often as I should. I should have it on the wall in my home so I can read it every day. It would inspire me not only to not give up, but to keep at it, regardless of how bad the outcome might be.

I’m in that gap between where I want to be and where I am. And the only way of getting through that gap is to keep moving forward, by continuing to create.

Today I’m going to see what I can do to start down the road of creating art again. I’m limited on art supplies and funds right now, so I can’t guarantee that I’ll have a finished piece by the end of the day, but at least I can start the process – shopping around for pottery studios, maybe finding an old calligraphy pen someplace and practicing a hand for a little while – and have something to show for it by the end of the day.

And maybe, just maybe, that gap will be a little more narrow because of my efforts.

Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge: Day One


I would like to thank brightonbipolar for nominating me for this challenge. I’ll do my best.

Day One

different drummer

A wall decal of the above image can be found on singlestonestudio’s Etsy shop.

This is the first quote I can remember ever being given to me as an explanation of my life. My parents gave me a card one year for my birthday with the quote on it, and my mother’s handwriting explaining how my parents felt it always fit me. It fit me especially well that year, since I had taken up drumming lessons and I was having a blast with it. (I still miss drumming.)

This quote has long been with me, close to my heart, as so often with my own quirky personality and my mental diagnoses it was apropos. It has reminded me to be myself and to not attempt to change who I am based on what’s popular at the time. I’ve followed that advice to varying degrees, as there was a time in my life (and still is, to some extent, from time to time) that I wanted to be in the popular crowd. But almost every time that I strayed from Thoreau’s advice, I wound up in pain, because I got hurt either by own clumsy attempts to fit in or (more accurately) others inability to accept me for who I was and especially for who I was trying to become. It took me a long time to learn that I would be happier just being me, so while this quote has held some meaning for me since childhood, it wasn’t until I got older that the depth of its true meaning sunk in. I’m fortunate and thankful that it finally did, because when I started being myself, I found lots of others being themselves alongside me, and somehow I became one of the popular crowd among my newfound friends. I forget that fact from time to time, and my symptoms tell me no one likes me, but rationally speaking, I know I’m well loved in my broad circle of friends and acquaintances.

Friday Fiction: The Gift


The following work is flash fiction. That means there’s no editing involved, nor was their any research devoted to medical accuracy in this story. It’s just an exercise in writing off the top of my head. Hope you enjoy.

The saying goes that God won’t give you more than you can handle. If that were true, then Jennifer Stewart’s family must have been able to handle anything.

Jennifer’s parents had both destroyed their credit as young adults and had never been able to recover. Now in their early thirties, Rick and Diane were struggling to make ends meet, fighting to squeeze everything they could out of every check, and it was never quite enough. Then Jennifer came along, and things got financially worse.

Both Rick and Diane made enough to barely make ends meet with Jennifer as a part of their lives, but they made far too much to qualify for any sort of government assistance, and so they continued to struggle, turning any holiday into an afterthought.

At age three, Jennifer was diagnosed with a rare heart condition, and that landed her a spot on the transplant list.

Rick and Diane didn’t know what to do anymore. They tried fundraising sites, they tried neighborhood bake sales, but nothing could come close to matching the enormous medical bills Jennifer’s condition was racking up. Things were looking bad as the holidays arrived, only to be largely ignored once more.

Early in December, as Rick and Diane were tucking Jennifer into bed, she announced that she didn’t believe in Santa Claus, because if there was one, she wouldn’t be sick. Rick and Diane didn’t know what to say, so they reassured her the best they could and stumbled, crestfallen, to their own bedroom for a night of fitful slumber. After the life they were living, they couldn’t bring themselves to believe in Santa Claus either, though they desperately wanted to.

Christmas Eve came around with little fanfare, when the phone rang that night. A donor had been found, and it was time. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning. Rick and Diane only fleetingly thought of the expense they were about to undertake – their little girl was getting her life back, and on Christmas Day.

Jennifer was wheeled into the OR and the long wait began.

And went on. And on.

For 13 hours Jennifer was in there with no notification from the doctors or nurses of any sort of update.

Finally the surgeon, Dr. Peterson came to meet them, still in his scrubs.

The surgeon began, “Your daughter had some complications in surgery, but she’s fine. Once she stabilizes in recovery, you can come back and see her.” Rick and Diane started crying and profusely thanked Dr. Peterson before returning to their seats in the rear of the richly decorated waiting room. They were the only ones there, due to the holiday, except for the tree with the solid white lights.

While still wiping the tears from their eyes, a portly gentleman in a well-tailored navy business suit and a crimson tie approached them. “Mr. and Mrs. Stewart?”

Rick and Diane stood up and acknowledged their visitor, who introduced himself as a member of the hospital’s board of directors. He started to speak with little fanfare. “We know your situation is tight, so I wanted to make a point of visiting with you today and telling you that an anonymous benefactor has agreed to pay all of Jennifer’s medical bills from the beginning. It seemed an appropriate way to wish you merry Christmas.”

Rick and Diane were dumbfounded. They didn’t know what to say. This could give them their lives back. Without really thinking, Diane just hugged the man, who smiled a big smile and hugged her back.

As he departed to leave, the man handed each of them his card and said for them to call on him should they need anything else..

Instinctively, they both looked down at the card, which bore only two words: “Kris Kringle.”

Open-mouthed, they looked up to face the man. But he was nowhere to be seen. He’d not had time to walk across the waiting area and there was nothing blocking their view to any point in the room. He’d just vanished.

Beside them, the solid white lights on the Christmas tree started to twinkle as somewhere distantly in the hospital, they heard a jolly old laugh.