Black Friday Clearance

I’m not one for crowds or extreme shopping but today kicked off a big bag clearance event, nonetheless. 

I am one for stories- and art…and understanding things. 

Because of that, and a memory with giant decorative skylights running the length of it, I find myself surrounded by little - and not so little - mountains of remembrances everywhere: ticket stubs, “thoughtstrings” (journal entries and random writings) bills I hope I’ve got on autopay and anything that resembles a card.

 I’ve got magazines and stickers and lots of visual graphic art. There are programs from events, sermon notes and homework from various continuing ed. 

I am treading a sea of souvenirs from the joys of simply living. 

But after this month, I’ll have less of them.

I’ve already filled one trash bag today.

I’m making room for all new inventory. 

I’m about to tackle the greeting cards. I’ve got all types- spanning several decades.  If you’ve ever sent me a card, this is my official note to say “I’m sorry” and “I appreciate you so” as I feel, at the same time both guilt and freedom,  in this act of letting go. 

I’m sure I’ll keep a few, maybe take pictures and tell stories as I sift through all these things. 

So I wanted to mention, if you’re watching this unfold: I’m not sad or wishing for days gone by. 

In fact, it is rather quite the opposite. 

 I am grateful and walking in grace through the wide open fields of a happy life. 

At the Midnight Hour: Flash Fiction '22

I entered NYCMidnight's Flash Fiction contest again this year. 

At this point, it's more of a tradition than attempt to win, which is a good thing considering I came in 14th out of 15 top entries. (not too far to fall completely off the chart) 

I was assigned to Group 71: Political Satire
We were assigned a smoke filled room for our setting and an umbrella for our prop.
It took me until the 11th hour to find an idea I even wanted to build on (story of my actual non-fiction life, too)

With our current political climate so rife with strife, I couldn't find anything that felt neutral or safe to skewer a little. 

I ran with the idea of personifying 'Just A. Bill' (you know, the one who lives on Capitol Hill) 

Back in June, one Sunday after church,  I  started writing around 3 PM  and finished the same evening just ahead of the midnight deadline by a smidge. With some time lost, no doubt, to bathroom breaks, coffee refills, the closing of Panera and my relocation to Blanchard Park (thank you for the WiFi, Columbia County- that's a nice park feature you provide) 
While I was running the marathon, I questioned my sanity for choosing to do this to myself when it was a perfectly good Sunday for napping, but now, as is often the case, I'm grateful for being challenged and for the cathartic afterglow now that it has ended. 

It is almost midnight. 
Round 2's prompt should be here any minute now. 
Here we go... again. 

You can read my story 'Just Bill'  here

You can read the judges' feedback and direction for better writing below ( all very sound advice,  helpful insights and much appreciated) :

••••• Just Bill'' by Kelly Brewer -     WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY - {1953}  The concept of (literal!) aromatic truth bombs is intriguing, and Ol' Bill is a compellingly drawn character: an apt blend of down-to-earth relatable qualities and cartoonish performativity.   {2035}  I really liked the idea of these smoke sessions being so vulnerable. My favorite part was probably the Pages complaining about it with one another; the lines about New Mexico were just specific enough to give us a taste of what it was like behind closed doors.  {2045}  The truth inducing smoke is a clever idea which allows for strong motivation of the actions throughout the story. Bill is intriguing and his demeanor is a nice juxtaposition with the power and influence he holds.   

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK - {1953}  Why is Ol' Bill revealing these secrets to such a low-level journalist? I think he needs to articulate some of his motives and/or reasoning around this.

I was also intrigued by the Weather Underground connection, but I wasn't quite sure how Bill's

aromatic therapy connected with this legacy. Does he see his smokey deceptions as a kind of peaceful, nonviolent alternative to the actions of the weathermen? It would be helpful if Bill could articulate this reasoning a bit more clearly.   {2035}  To me, William Scrivner's role and authority in this space didn't quite feel clear. I think that playing around with why he's the person that managed to pull this all off would help readers see his role in the greater framework of the peace he brokered while showing readers why he was so willing to share his secrets with a journalist.  {2045}  Seeing the world through the reporter's eyes gives us a fresh perspective and opportunity to learn as they learn, however, it is unclear why this particular reporter has been summoned and wha the purpose of the interview is. Likewise, what is Bill's ultimate goal and how was he able to gain the power necessary to enact this truth plan? ••••

Home: Where We Laugh

:: laughter :: 

"Mom, come here and look at this one." 

We were killing time in TJ Maxx, waiting on Fisher to get off from work.

She held up a red mug as I took my receipt and joined her at the end of aisle cap.

"I saw this one and had to laugh" she said as she read aloud, 'Home is where Dad is.' 
Really? Is that where it is? 'cause I don't think so. Isn't that just too funny, mom? " 

I smiled at her. 

What do you say to that?

Surely not what I was thinking: "This is what comedians are made of- laughing at the hard stuff "

We had almost reached the car when she picked the conversation back up mid-sentence. 

   "...and I just think about everyone, you know, who doesn't have a dad in their life... having to see that...and you know, like, Father's Day and stuff..." 

Then, with the resiliency of childhood, she was on to sweeter things,  pulling a sleeve of just purchased pistachio macarons from her bag to share with me ( five for her, one for me) 
• ~ • ~ • ~ •
I wrote that a little over a week before today, Father's Day.
 I didn't feel like it had a sufficient ending and, not wanting to cause strife with her dad, I left it in draft. 
Because you see, she does have one, still living and in town. But, he gave her a pass on today. A clever little uninvite that got him what he really wanted for Father's Day: to be left alone. 
Same as last year. 

Isn't it funny? We just have to laugh.

...Love, Like Kudzu...

I love my pastor's heart for other pastors. 

He didn't realize a photo would be shared when he sent the text, he just wanted to encourage a fellow pastor as their church plant launched this morning. 

I am grateful for the understanding that others may not see: it's an authentic love. 

It's not some shallow attempt at networking or building a bigger platform. 

Here's how I know: 

Once upon a time, my pastor and I shared the same pastor. And he will always kind of be our pastor- he's our dad. 

 If you've never heard NeedToBreathe's 'Washed By The Water', go now, listen. It explains the backstory well enough

** If you are a fellow PK who finds this song relatable, you are my tribe. I love you. While it is sad and a shame there are so many of us, it is not a waste, my dear friend. And I'm here for you **

God has taken a season of hurt, betrayal and dismay in our family's life and turned it into a harvest of love, multiplied. 

Just like actual seeds, that stormy season scattered us into the presence and lives of others- only then did what would grow "for the good of us who love Him" begin to take root. 

One painful event, multiple rows of growth. 

Twenty years have passed- at least. 

Today, we had a meeting after church. Some matters of gossip amongst the Body needed to be addressed (our elders did a wonderful job). 

One of the underlying complaints of those who had begun to speak out of turn was that they wanted more transparency in the reasons why certain staff members transitioned out. They'd heard maybe some negative details were left out. 

How could my brother send them off with a blessing and a smile if there were disagreements or differing ideas ?  

I can tell you how. Love has grown through the torn out places in our hearts. He has learned to be gentle and graceful from a time when people were not.

And he got it honest; he's a lot like our dad. 

My dad is a quiet and humble man. He wouldn't brag about the ways he reaches out to encourage fellow pastors because he doesn't do it for credit... but love grew like kudzu in his heart, too. 

I've observed both of these men be graceful to those who are committed to misunderstanding them. 

As I sip my tea and listen to the falling rain this Sunday evening, I am steeped in gratitude for those who are just trying to make the world a little better, you know, shine a light. 

Especially my own pastors: my dad and my younger (smarter, better-looking) brother- not to mention their long-suffering, good, good wives. (one each) 

"Even when the rain falls, even when the food starts rising ..." 

s w e e t

I drink unsweet tea and talk to strangers. 

Though many concerned friends have warned that either or both of these things may kill me, a life devoid of at least a little risk is, to me, a bigger tragedy. 

On a recent McD's tea run, these two quirks of being me collided in Drive-Thru Lane 2 with a shift manager's concern that she'd just poisoned a diabetic. 

When pressed through the seive of a drive-thru speaker box, my dialect of Southern persuasion can cause "A Large Unsweet Tea" to sound like " Uh,  Large, Um... Sweet Tea" (because, why would anyone down here order UNSWEET?!) 

So I try to remember to qualify my order when it is repeated:  " Yes, that's right, Unsweet Tea, no sugar."

 If I don't find a chance to repeat 'no sugar' the first time, I definitely work it in when I (inevitably) drive back around to switch out the sweet tea I was given for the cup of tea stained water I requested. 

My emphasis on "no sugar" this particular day seemed to concern the very nice lady who came to make sure I knew that, though the order was taking a minute, they were going to make it right. Someone in the kitchen had made Sweet Tea and Sweeter Tea so a whole new cylinder of 'No Sugar' tea was brewing fresh, just for me. 

We began to discuss various health issues (I am not diabetic, to my knowledge, but I do have some stuff going on and I am prone to experiment with natural approaches before springing for lots of medical intervention) 

Mrs  Shift Manager shared with me a remedy for improved circulation. In fact, she thought maybe God had let our paths cross for this very reason, this remedy been so helpful for her. 

All I needed to do is drink the juice from cans of beets. 

As much as I love Farmer Dwight, I have never enjoyed beets as anything more than a plot device. I can't recall eating more than one tiny nibble of a pickled salad-bar beet, once upon a time and I definitely remember not loving it. 

But- doctors are expensive and the tests they want to run are many. 

 I wondered if fresh beet juice (don't say that 3 times in a row!) would be worth a try. I seemed to recall fresh juices at SPROUTS involving beets, blended with other juices.

 I thought maybe I could hide the taste from myself. 

The same week as my McDonald's encounter, I happened across a nice, very clean juicer at a thrift store. Seeing this as Providential provision, i also bought what must be my first bunch of beets. (I bought a turnip once as a sketch &  watercolor model, but never any beets) 

Today, I juiced a lot of fruits and veggies: blueberries, strawberries, carrots, kiwi. I had to work my nerve up and around to the beets. 

I was so scared. 

A life devoid of at least a little risk is a bitter tragedy.

So, I massacred the beets. 
Juice everywhere. 
So much red. 

They aren't as sweet as advertised. 
In fact they are rather unsweet
A bit earthy. 

But, they aren't horrible.  
No worse than spinach in a smoothie. 

I can definitely incorporate them into stuff for awhile.  Hopefully, it will help a little (or a lot) 

My future daughter-in-love, who is from Hawaii,  just happened to be visiting today. She, who ensured that many of my Christmas gifts were Office themed bits of joy, including the cookie jar featuring Bobblehead Dwight & a tiny bunch of beets. 

Today held a lot of firsts for her. She visited Waffle House and ate grits for the first time, then together, in my kitchen, we took baby-spoon sips of this risky-red, sweet and untamed life.