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Master of Disguise


She was a master of disguise and the mistress of malevolence; yet outwardly she appeared to be the nicest friend anyone could ask for, kind and caring, and above reproach.

There was another side to her, very dark and discovered only by the few who got close enough to really know her. Out of view of the public eye her kindness would turn to relentless criticism and emotional manipulation, leaving those who tried to befriend her off-balance and confused.

Woe to anyone who dared to call her out on such behavior; she would feign shock at their accusations, then switch from denial to attack mode in a heartbeat and systematic character assassination would ensue.

Acquaintances who thought they knew her would sympathize with the pain purportedly caused her by such a "hateful, heartless" person, never suspecting who the perpetrator really was.

But life has a way of has a way of coming back around full circle, and one day she found herself abandoned by everyone, alone in the bitter company of her own smug self-righteousness.

 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
 I'm joining Zoe at "Uncharted"
where the cue this week is "master"
 
Come and read some great stories and share one of your own!
 

One Choice


Fresh out of school and flushed with the excitement of receiving the first paycheck from his new job, Jack headed out to local bar for a Friday night celebration with his coworkers. He had too much to drink but chose to drive home anyway, colliding with another car and killing the driver.

Jack spent the next six years of his young life in the state prison with plenty of time to think about how one very bad choice not only altered the course of his own life, but ended another... that of a man who was someone's son, someone's husband, and someone's father.

Finished with his prison sentence, Jack has been released and is slowly rebuilding his future; he's about to become a father... with the rest of his life to think about the child who lost his own. One choice made all the difference.*

*This is a true story, details have been changed to protect his privacy.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
This was written for In Other Words where Patricia has asked us to  
write a story or poem of 5 Lines or Less using the word fresh.
  
Come and read more stories and share one of yours!

As If On Cue

~Image Source~
 
Shana couldn't believe they were arguing yet again; it seemed like that's all they did lately.

Justin's voice grew increasingly loud and his face began to redden.
 
As if on cue, Shana's dog left her side and walked cross the room to where Justin was standing. Lifting its leg, the dog aimed a stream of warm urine directly at Justin's pant leg. 
 
Firing off a string of expletives that ended with "That's the last &%#@ straw," Justin stormed out the door.
 
Shana collapsed onto the floor in laughter, partly at her dog's perfect sense of timing, and partly in relief that the relationship was over."
 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
 I'm joining Zoe at "Uncharted"
where the cue this week is "cue"
 
Come and read some great stories and share one of your own!
 

Shake It Off

 
People criticize you... shake it off
 You feel misunderstood... shake it off
Life has treated you unfairly... shake it off
Others do it so much better than you... shake it off
Put an end to your self-pity party
 Pick yourself up, shake it off and move on
 
 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
 I'm joining Zoe at "Uncharted"
where the cue this week is "shake"

Come and read some great stories and poems and share one of your own!

Reflections on the 2017 A to Z Challenge


The A to Z Challenge for this year is over, and there has been a week to relax and recharge from the busy pace.  Each year, about midway, I consider making it my last year of participation due to the time involved to do it well, and yet before the month ends I find myself thinking about what I will take on as my theme for next year. :-)  I think that says it all about how much fun it really is, and also how good it feels to participate in a group effort and see it through to completion. 

This year saw me undertaking my most ambitious theme yet, the writing of six-sentence stories each day that were connected by their membership in a ladies church group in a small Midwest community. It is familiar territory to me from my own upbringing, so the story telling came easy, and finding something for each letter of the alphabet was simply a matter of choosing the name for the next character.  However, I realized early on that it was going to be impossible to provide full bio information for each character and still weave the stories together with only six sentences to use, so I opted to go with abbreviated biographical info and provide more of a storyline which, based on the comments I received throughout the challenge, worked out very well.

My stories weren't of great literary merit but I think they were interesting, or maybe it's more that  the characters seem familiar. In the small town of Cottonwood Creek most people look out for each other and support their community, despite a few with problems and issues. I used the stories to convey the message that good things can happen when we work together.

The biggest concern at the beginning of this year's A to Z Challenge was how not having a master sign-up list was going to work.  I had my doubts, as did many.  However, I have to admit that once we got the hang of the linkup html, it worked out very well, with a much more manageable list to review than the massive sign-up list of previous years.  If you were further down on the old lists, you didn't get a lot of visitors, this way there were plenty of visitors and the blogs you took the time to visit actually had a current post. 

I really liked the people who added something about their theme in their daily comment/link, and I think this needs to be encouraged. It enabled me to choose blogs that I might enjoy and relate to, rather than ending up spending a lot of time running through blogs that weren't in the scope of my interests. I visited more blogs this year, and had more visitors on mine than in previous years, which was great!

The very best part of the A to Z each year as far as I'm concerned, along with sharing the experience with bloggers you already know, is discovering new bloggers that write awesome posts and soon become friends that you will continue to follow long after April is gone. I met some really great people this year, and some wonderful writers and storytellers. I also encountered a variety of clever and creative themes that made it fun. You can find a link list of some of my A to Z  favorites in my sidebar.

I plan to be back for next year, and I'm already pondering theme possibilities. As I say each year, I intend to have at least some of the posts pre-written. Maybe next year will be the year I actually get it done! :-)  I've even contemplated doing a "Return to Cottonwood Creek" series for next year's theme, continuing the stories of some of the characters I introduced this time around. We'll see!

Many thanks to everyone who stopped to visit, read, and comment, April was an awesome month! :-)

Drop by the A to Z blog to check out what other A to Z participants had to say about this year's challenge.

I Am Josie Two Shoes


This week I am joining Kristi at Finding Ninee for Finish the Sentence Friday, where she has asked us to finish the sentence "They call me..."

They called me Wendy at home, school, and work, since that is my given name. I've gone by several others over the years including WJ, Gypsy, and Mama Ratt. When I'm out in public these days, I often get called things like "Sweetie" and "Dearie" by young women... OMG! I have to check in the mirror to make sure my hair doesn't have a lavender tint like my Grandma's did. :-) 

At my last job one of the new hires was angry at me because I am "old school" when it comes to what I expect of employees. She bent down in my face and spat "Your problem is that you are OLD" as if it was a dirty word. While it's true that I have very possibly lived three quarters of my life and my own children are older than my coworkers were; and in the case of those in their early twenties I was old enough to be their grandmother, that doesn't make me senile by a long shot. I used to smile thinking to myself how little they really knew me or knew about me. I was young once too and thought I knew it all, and I've been around the block a few more times than they might believe.

I have gone by five different last names including my birth name... Haselhorst (it doesn't get more German than that :-) which I was quite glad to abandon, followed by a string of husbands - Bruhn, Hammond, Trevino, and now Harris. In my case, the fourth one was clearly the charm; as I've said many times, God saved the good one, the very best for last when I would have the wisdom to appreciate him. It is a marriage that will be until death do us part, and a last name I will keep as mine forever.

All that being said, in reality I am Josie Two Shoes. I first adopted that name as a pen name when I began a new blog after leaving my previous husband and thirteen years of marriage hell. Josie is an adaptation of my middle name, and Two Shoes is meant to symbolize that I was at last standing on my own two feet. Somehow Josie Two Feet didn't strike me as very poetic. ;-)

My blogs are where I am most real, where there is no filter between what I say and what I am, and no effort to maintain an assumed image for any reason. For better or worse, I am pretty much an open book. My life, has taught me many lessons, and I'm not ashamed to share that. Some of us learn things the hard way, but the point is that we can eventually learn, change, and grow. If you've come here looking for a saint you are mistaken. As I've noted many times, I am a combination of both the sacred and the profane and I'm okay with that, even though it confuses some people.

I have never really felt like a "Wendy", whatever one of those is supposed to be. I was told that my name came from "Wendy the Weather Girl" on TV in the early 1950's. Wow, a whole lot of thought went into that one. :-) In some cultures a new name is bestowed upon an individual when they reach adulthood, something befitting them. I think that would be a good practice, or let them choose their own.

When blog friends ask me if they should call me Wendy or Josie, I tell them it doesn't matter. I answer to both and to almost anything as long as it's not the "B-word"; but in my heart I am Josie Two Shoes and she is me, and if I could afford to I would likely change my legal name to that.

Tastes Like Chicken

 
"Well hello," she said with a beguiling smile, "it's been a long time since I've seen you!" 
 
It was true, I'd been gone for nearly a year; we had argued over some trivial issue and I walked away without looking back. 
 
But time has a way of changing your mind, and I realized how much I missed her; so I called to tell her I was back in town and she invited me over for dinner.
 
We sat down to eat and I had no clue what was on the plate that she served me.
 
"Try it,"  she said, "it's a delicacy; I think you'll find that it tastes like chicken."
 
Three bites down and my heart started to pound, and before long my head was spinning; the last thing I recall as I started to fall, was her staring at me and smiling.
 
 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
 I'm joining Zoe at "Uncharted"
where the cue this week is "chicken"
 

Rose Petals

 
While growing up, Gwen used to tease her mother about the big jar of dried flower petals she had collected from every rose she'd ever been given... her prom corsage, her wedding bouquet, flowers she'd received for birthdays and anniversaries, and some from the beautiful roses in her garden too. 
 
Gwen's mother was killed in a car accident shortly after Gwen turned sixteen, and her world came crashing down; she couldn't bear the thought of her mom not being there to share in her birthdays, her graduation, and her own wedding some day.
 
On the morning of her seventeenth birthday, Gwen awoke to the fragrance of roses and found a handful of dried rose petals scattered across her pillow; and more of them sprinkled on her mortarboard as it lay waiting on her dresser on Graduation Day.
 
As Gwen's father prepared walk her down the aisle on her wedding day, she glanced down at the white carpet runner to see dried rose petals mingled with the new ones and scattered along the way. Bending down, she picked up a few and tucked them into her bouquet, vowing to begin her own jar of dried flower petals with these, a precious keepsake and reminder that a mother's love remains forever. 
 
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
This was written for In Other Words where Patricia has asked us to  
write a story or poem of 5 Lines or Less using the word flower

  
Come and read more stories and share one of yours!
 

Six Sentence Stories - Try It!

 
During the course of sharing my six-sentence story posts for the A to Z Challenge in April, I had a few inquiries about where the concept came from...  
 
In 2013 a friend and I talked about how much we enjoyed writing very short stories, but we weren't exactly thrilled with the lack of community at the blog hop where we'd been participating. With her encouragement, I began the weekly Six Sentence Stories writing prompt,  and it met with a good response. I continued with it for about nine months, until work and life necessitated me putting it on hiatus. 
 
In 2015, my dear friend Zoe, asked if she could revive Six Sentence Stories on her blog, Uncharted, and I was delighted. It met with wonderful success! Since then she's been posting a cue word for the coming week each Sunday afternoon, and the link-up goes live in a new post early Thursday morning. 
 
Zoe's instructions are to "write a masterpiece of 6 sentences, any genre using the cue any way you like."  I have to admit that some of us are masters at implementing the run-on sentence to comply with the six sentence limit, and no one really cares. :-)  We do it more for fun than for great literary merit, and comments are in that frame of mind, rather than critiques. 
 
The link-up stays open for a week, so you have plenty of  time to add your story if you're not ready by Thursday, although the sooner you link it up, the more likely you are to have several of the other participants come and check out your post. Please remember to add a link back to Six Sentence Stories in your post, too
 
We have a diverse bunch of regulars at Six Sentence Stories who always welcome new bloggers that come to share their stories. We encourage everyone to read and comment on as many of the linked-up stories as possible, that's what makes it fun. If you drop by Zoe's blog you can read stories from previous link-ups and perhaps be inspired to try writing one of your own. You'll recognize some of the same friendly folks there that you've been following during the A-Z Challenge.
 
This week's Six Sentence Stories cue word is "chicken", and I'd love to see you come and join us! Zoe will have the new post for it up Wednesday evening, and the link up will open after Midnight EDT.
 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
 I'm joining Zoe at "Uncharted"
where the cue this week is "chicken"

Victory is Mine


Look at me Mom, victory is mine!
For all the projects I never finished
Or lost interest in over time,
Here's one I actually completed
And the feeling is sublime!
 
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
This was written for In Other Words where Patricia has asked us to  
write a story or poem of 5 Lines or Less using the word victory

  
Come and read more stories and share one of yours!

Z is for Zadie


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Zadie:
Zadie, 18, arrived in Cottonwood Creek via the Greyhound bus, her father having paid for her ticket. It had been a long time since she visited her Grandma Thelma, and she was more than a little nervous and feeling somewhat nauseous, being nearly four months pregnant. Thelma greeted her granddaughter warmly, pulling her in close for a hug, and Zadie at last had a feeling that things were going to be okay.

It was with some trepidation that Zadie accompanied Thelma to the next meeting of the Women's Circle; while she knew that her grandmother was right about her needing to meet some new friends as she settled into life in Cottonwood Creek, she did not know how the other members of the Women's Circle were going to feel about her being visibly pregnant and unmarried.

Thelma understood Zadie's concern, but assured her that she had already talked with several ladies in the group and was certain that Zadie would be made to feel welcome; she was right, and it wasn't long before Zadie was chatting away with Alyssa, Denise, Lainey and Uriel.

The older ladies smiled as they observed this group of young women reaching out to Zadie, knowing that one day they would become leaders in the church and the community and the Circle of Hope would continue.  
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
A list of links for the A-Z Challenge blogs
I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-) 
 

Y is for Yvonne


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Yvonne:
Yvonne, 73 and a widow, was sad about leaving her home of over forty years, but she knew the time had come to move to the Cottonwood Creek Retirement Center & Nursing Home where she could have the assistance she needed.  She had raised all kinds of animals in her lifetime starting with rabbits for 4-H when she was young, so having no immediate family, she was delighted with Xenia and Denise's proposal to turn her property into a no-kill rescue shelter for cats and dogs.

A long time member of  Hope Christian Fellowship, Yvonne was blessed with plenty of assistance from the Women's Circle when it came time to sell most of her belongings, and pack and move her personal things to the retirement home. Her friends knew this wasn't easy for Yvonne, so they organized one last "retirement party" in her honor, a potluck dinner at her home after Sunday church services with nearly everyone from the congregation in attendance. It was a happy day filled with reminiscing, love and laughter; the highlight being Yvonne's surprise and delight when Denise unveiled the beautiful new brick sign at the road entrance with it's large brass faceplate that read  "Yvonne's Place ~ A Rescue Center for God's Beloved Creatures."  Xenia topped off the day by promising to pick up Yvonne as often as she liked so that she could come and spend time playing with the cats and dogs at the shelter, knowing it would be a blessing for them all.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
A list of links for the A-Z Challenge blogs
I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-)
 

X is for Xenia


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Xenia:
Xenia, 33, and Alyssa, had become good friends soon after Alyssa's return to Cottonwood Creek. When Alyssa's parents agreed to her adopting a puppy for her sons, she called Xenia who she knew had been caring for a batch of puppies that someone had dumped at the junkyard.

Alyssa's boys were wild with anticipation as Xenia led them to the indoor/outdoor pen where the six puppies were being kept; she had always loved caring for animals, and worked as a receptionist and assistant for the local vet.

"I was thinking," Xenia said to Alyssa while the boys cavorted with the puppies in their pen, "the Women's Circle has been looking for a community project that they could involve their families in, something in addition to the regular charity work we help fund-raise and volunteer for.  What do you think about helping me see if we can get funding to start up a no-kill shelter to care for the growing population of stray and abandoned cats and dogs in Cottonwood Creek?"

"Oh my," Alyssa responded excitedly, "I know just the place for it; Yvonne told me the other day that she is getting ready to move to a retirement home, and since she doesn't have any children she wants to donate that piece of property she owns on the edge of town for something that would benefit the community!"
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
A list of links for the A-Z Challenge blogs
I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-)
 

W is for Winnie


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Winnie
Winnie, 50, managed the Sundown Hotel and Café that she had inherited from her father, although the hotel hadn't seen all that much business since the new Super 8 Motel went up on the highway that ran thru Cottonwood Creek. Winnie had turned the unused third floor of the small hotel into a safe house for women who were victims of domestic violence and in need of someplace to go, and she often provided jobs at the café for them as well.

Uriel had originally thanked Vanessa for her kindness when she dropped by to visit, and told her she would think about her offer, but just a week later she called Vanessa from the restroom of the local gas station, nearly hysterical and asking if she could come and get her. There had been another confrontation at home and Vanessa arrived to find Uriel with torn clothes and badly beaten, having barely managed to escape with her life and what she was wearing. 

Uriel refused to let Vanessa take her to the Emergency Room to be checked out, so Vanessa called Winnie asking if she had room for a young member of their Women's Circle who desperately needed to get out of a bad situation at home, and of course Winnie said yes; her father had instilled in her the importance of giving back to the community and this was her way of doing what she could.

A half-hour later Uriel was wrapped in a warm quilt, sitting on the sofa at the safe house with Winnie and Vanessa on either side of her as Chief of Police Dan Olson, a good friend of Winnie's, took the report which would lead to the arrest of her husband, and the beginning of a much better life for Uriel.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
 I'm also joining Zoe at "Uncharted"
where the cue this week is "well"

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
A list of links for the A-Z Challenge blogs
 I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-)
 

V is for Vanessa


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Vanessa:
Vanessa, 43, divorced her husband after thirteen long years of abuse that had began as emotional badgering and belittling, closing her off from her family and friends, threatening and intimidating her, and eroding away at her self-confidence by finding fault with everything she did.  When his behavior escalated to physical violence, Vanessa knew she had to leave before he killed her.  Thankfully she had the strength to go to the church pastor and seek help, but she remembered how hard that was to do in a small town where everybody soon knows everything.

As she sat down to visit with Uriel, who she knew was experiencing the same nightmare, Vanessa engaged in a bit of friendly chit-chat and then told Uriel that she had a story about her life she wanted to share with her. When she had finished describing the nightmare her life had been then, and how afraid and alone she had felt, she looked up to see tears forming at the corners of Uriel's eyes and sliding down her cheeks.

"Uriel, would you like to leave?" Vanessa asked gently, "I know a safe place where you can go."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
An list of links for the A-Z Challenge blogs
I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-) 

U is for Uriel


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Uriel:
Uriel, 25, was married to a Cottonwood Creek boy she met while they were in high school.  He was a mechanic at the local car dealership, hung out with the guys at the bar on Friday nights, and led what otherwise appeared to be a normal life with Uriel. Vanessa, who was sitting across the table from Uriel at Denise's baby shower, saw the signs and knew better.  It was a story she knew all to well from an earlier time in her life... the thick layer of makeup in an attempt to conceal a bruised face, the downcast eyes, the unlikely explanation about her broken wrist. 

Vanessa had gone out of her way to be friendly to Uriel at the shower, and decided to drop by her house the following day with a gift of fresh rolls and homemade blueberry jelly. When Uriel opened the door Vanessa could see that she'd been crying, and was glad when Uriel hesitantly complied with her request to come in and visit for a few minutes. 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
A list of links for the A-Z Challenge blogs
 I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-)
 

T is for Thelma


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Thelma:
Thelma, 70, is a widow in good health who lives comfortably thanks to her husband's good financial planning through the years. Attending Denise's baby shower couldn't help but make her heart heavy for the current situation in her own family, as she had just learned that her eighteen-year-old granddaughter Zadie, who lives in a nearby state, is pregnant. Zadie is completing her final months of high school by correspondence course, but the father of the baby is not interested in marriage or being an involved parent. 

While Thelma doesn't believe in sex outside of marriage, she loves her granddaughter dearly, and is very much against her son's position that Zadie needs to have an abortion; he has told her that she cannot live at home if she decides to keep the baby. Thelma doesn't want Zadie to have to deal with the emotional fallout for making that kind of decision at such a young age, and she believes that Zadie is mature enough to be a good mother.

After thinking long and hard, and praying about it, Thelma spoke with Zadie and her parents, offering her home as a place where Zadie could come and stay; knowing that small town life might be good for Zadie and her child, and would give her the opportunity to work part-time while continuing her education online.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
An ever-growing list of links for the A-Z Challenge
blogs I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-)
 

Thankful Times Ten

Ten Things of Thankful

No, this isn't my "T post" for the A to Z Challenge; my tale "Circle of Hope" will continue tomorrow as scheduled. Since today is a free day in the A-Z, I wanted to take a moment to share another blog that I manage, a place where bloggers come each weekend to link up posts sharing the things they are thankful for in their lives, either from the week or in general. 

Although it's called Ten Things of Thankful, the rules on that are flexible, we don't want anyone to feel they can't participate because they can't come up with ten things to share.  However, I know from personal experience that once you get started, it's easier than you think to identify the positives in your life.  It's not all about the big events, the small things we experience day to day sometimes affect our lives far more profoundly... for example the blessings of having clean water, food, and shelter.  When we begin to focus our lives on what we have to be thankful for it helps redirect our minds from the struggles and negatives we sometimes experience that too easily pull us down and steal our joy.

The Ten Things of Thankful link-up goes live just after midnight each Thursday night, and stays open until 11 PM the following Tuesday night, so there is plenty of time to write a post and link it. You don't need a fancy format, you don't even need to number your items, you just need to show up and share!  Everyone is welcome, and I promise you'll notice the difference when you begin to look for reasons to be thankful in your life.  I firmly believe that, no matter what, "there is always, always something to be thankful for!" 

Why don't you give Ten Things of Thankful a try, we'd love to have you join us!  Stop by and read what some of the other TToT bloggers have shared so far this weekend, it will definitely  encourage you, and you'll find yourself smiling before long!

Thank you!
Josie Two Shoes

S is for Sarah


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Sarah:
Sarah, 63, was in charge of Bible Study and Devotions for the Women's Circle this year.  After Denise had been seated at the head table at her baby shower, Sarah stepped up to the podium, her eyes sparkling, and opened with a brief prayer. Then she announced "I had a devotional I planned to read today, but then I heard the recording that I'm about to play for you and decided that it would be much more meaningful."

Sarah took a seat at the side of the stage, and a voice came over the PA system telling a story about a mother watching her little girl grow up, get married, and prepare to become a mother herself, elevating her to the sacred role of grandmother.

As Denise listened her eyes opened wide and her hands flew to her face as she recognized her mother's voice as the one narrating the story.  Just then her mother and her mother-in-law stepped out from behind the stage curtain together smiling broadly, and Denise flew into her mother's arms as everyone applauded and more than a few tears of happiness were shed for Denise.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
An ever-growing list of links for the A-Z Challenge
blogs I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-)
 

R is for Raine


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Raine:
Raine, 40, ended up sitting next to Erica at the surprise baby shower for Denise being hosted by Hope Christian's Women's Circle, and it didn't take long for Erica to start with her typical line of conversation.  "Well this should be interesting," she whispered to Raine, "you know that Denise's mother-in-law is none too excited about this baby, so I wonder how she's going to act today."

Like most members of the Circle, Raine was weary of Erica's never-ending gossip. She gave Erica a direct look and responded "Well I certainly hope she'll put any of that aside and make this a really happy day for Denise, that's what we're here for!" 

Just then Alyssa arrived with Denise, who she'd convinced to go to lunch with her and then "drop by the church to pick up some table linens that needed washing."  Denise's eyes brimmed over with tears as she entered the dining room and encountered baby blue decorations, a host of warm greetings, a pile of wrapped gifts, and a beautifully decorated cake on a table near the door.
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Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
An ever-growing list of links for the A-Z Challenge
blogs I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-)
 

Q is for Quinn


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Quinn
Quinn, 57, lived on the farm across the road from Opal and her husband, and the couples had been friends for many years. Belle enlisted Quinn's help to talk some sense into Opal about attending the surprise baby shower at the church for her daughter-in-law, Denise. 

The big question was whether or not to tell Opal that Denise's mother was going to be there; Quinn knew that might encourage her to attend, but she also didn't want Opal to accidentally spoil the surprise by spilling the beans to her her son.

Rather than initiate a confrontation about the shower, Quinn cleverly told Opal that she needed to drive to the city on the morning of the baby shower to pick up a friend at the airport who was flying in for the weekend; she asked Opal to go along to keep her company.

Quinn knew that once Opal found out who they were picking up she would do her best to save face and act like she had always intended to attend the shower. The three of them walking in to the baby shower together would save Denise the humiliation of having her mother-in-law be a no show, and Opal could act like she was in on the plan all along.

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Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
 I'm also joining Zoe at "Uncharted"
where the cue this week is "question"

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An ever-growing list of links for the A-Z Challenge
blogs I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-)
 

P is for Patti


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Patti:
Patti, 35, is a skilled pottery artisan, and sells her art online and at shows all over the country; she has won many awards for her beautiful designs. 

While helping Alyssa make decorations and party favors for Denise's baby shower they talked about how sad it was that Denise's mother-in-law Opal didn't seem to appreciate what a sweet and caring person she was, nor offer her any emotional support during the pregnancy. 

"Wouldn't it be fun if we could surprise Denise at the shower by having her Mom come?" Patti said, "it's been over a year since Denise has seen her."

"That would be so awesome," Alyssa replied, "but she lives in Arizona and I don't think they have a lot of money; it would probably be too expensive for her to fly here." 

"Let's find out how much it would cost," Patti said, "I've got a bunch of frequent flyer miles saved up from attending art shows, probably enough to cover it!"

In no time at all Patti and Alyssa were on the phone with Denise's mom, chatting excitedly as they made arrangements for what would surely be the best shower gift of all.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
An ever-growing list of links for the A-Z Challenge
blogs I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-)

O is for Opal


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Opal:
Opal, 53, is Denise's mother-in-law; she and her husband raised their son Kevin, an only child, on the farm, but had hopes of him pursing a college education and moving on to do bigger things in his life. Opal had never been too fond of Denise, and she felt that Kevin's desire to remain on the family farm was influenced by his determination to marry Denise when just out of high school; she didn't  understand that farming was in Kevin's blood and he loved it and small community life.

Kevin and Denise had waited a few years to start a family, working hard and saving up enough money to buy a small home. When they announced that they were expecting a baby, Opal had mentioned to more than one of her friends that she didn't feel Denise was mature enough to be a good mother, and word of that got back to Denise, who became all the more determined to prove her wrong. When she found out they were having a boy, Opal decreed that he should be named Kevin Jr., and was more than unhappy when Denise and Kevin told her that they felt their son should have his own name; she was still trying to persuade them.

When Belle called Opal to tell her about the surprise baby shower being planned by the Women's Circle for Denise, she was totally taken aback when Opal stated abruptly that the Women's Circle hadn't held a shower for her when she was pregnant with Kevin, and she didn't plan to attend this one.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
An ever-growing list of links for the A-Z Challenge
blogs I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-)

N is for Norma


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Norma:
Norma, 48, is the Vice President of the local Community Bank. She is very pleased with Alyssa's performance as a new hire, and is thinking about promoting her senior teller in a few months.  

After having lunch with Denise, Alyssa realized how alone she felt with a baby on the way and a mother-in-law that wasn't the most supportive. She mentioned it to Norma who said that maybe the Women's Circle could do something to help her feel more included. 

Norma called Fran, the Circle President, and proposed that the Circle hold a baby shower for Denise.  Fran loved the idea and asked Belle to assist her and Norma in coordinating the shower. Belle was tasked with calling Norma's mother-in-law, Opal to let her know what they were going to do.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
An ever-growing list of links for the A-Z Challenge
blogs I'm following can be found on my sidebar. :-)

M is for Martha


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Martha:
Martha, 80, oldest member of the Women's Circle and one of the founding members of Hope Christian, is beloved by all. 

Alyssa decided to do something a bit different for this year's Children's Christmas Program at the church, and instead of having the Pastor or the children read the Christmas story from the Bible, she asked Martha is she might be interested in sitting up front in a rocking chair, surrounded by all the children as she read the story to them, just as their own parents or grandparents might do.

Although Martha's health hadn't been the best as of late, she was thrilled to be asked and felt she could handle this role as long as a microphone was provided so everyone could hear her read. What Alyssa didn't tell Martha was that there was another project in the works, a special gift from the church's children for her. 

Alyssa had gone around to trace each child's hand onto a square of cloth, printed their name on it, and then had them decorate it to their liking with fabric paint. She took the completed squares to Lainey who joined them to make a beautiful quilt that would be lovingly placed across Martha's lap when she sat down in the rocking chair at the Christmas program to read.

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Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
 

L is for Lainey


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Lainey:
Lainey, 27, is a stay at home mom with two small children; she and Alyssa have been friends since high school.

When Alyssa talked with Erica, Erica noted how unhappy she was with the faded and worn satin stoles the choir members wear with their robes; she wanted them to look nice for Christmas, but said that there wasn't money in the church budget to order expensive new ones.

Alyssa had an idea that might cheer Erica up and help improve their relationship. Calling up Lainey, she asked if she still did sewing and if she might be willing to make stoles for the church choir at a lower price than what it would cost to order them.  Lainey jumped at the chance to use her skills for the church, and to earn a little extra money for her Christmas shopping.

When Alyssa informed Erica that Lainey was willing to sew the stoles at a greatly reduced cost, Erica was delighted and totally surprised that someone would do something nice to help her, since she often felt like no one in the town liked her very much.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
 

K is for Kate


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Kate:
Kate, 65, is a retired therapist who moved her practice to the community more than twenty-five years ago when she married Cottonwood Creek's mayor. 

Jeanette had done her best to console Erica and reassure her that her new assignment as director of the Christmas Choir Concert was not a demotion but she wasn't really successful, so as soon as she got home she texted Fran to fill her in.

Realizing that the situation was escalating, Fran called on Kate for expert help in dealing with Erica; and after some thought, Kate came up with a plan that she thought might be the key to resolving the situation.

Kate arranged a meeting with Alyssa, and clued her in about Erica's feelings, proposing that Alyssa make an attempt to befriend Erica and solicit some advice as to what had worked and not worked with Christmas programs in the past, offering her the opportunity to be a mentor for this transition year.

Alyssa liked the idea, realizing that it was important to restore harmony among the ladies of Hope Christian Fellowship, and acknowledging that there were probably things she could learn from Erica about directing the Christmas Program. 

Erica was floored to receive a call from Alyssa asking if they could get together, and even more surprised when Alyssa requested her input and advice; she felt ashamed of  the way she'd acted.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
 I'm also joining Zoe at "Uncharted"
where the cue this week is "key"

J is for Jeanette


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Jeanette:
Jeanette, 38, is the owner/director of Cottonwood Creek Daycare Center, and also teaches the pre-school Sunday School class at Hope Christian; she is well acquainted with most of the parents in the church.

Although Jeanette hasn't been happy with Erica's heavy handed control over the Children's Christmas Program, she has opted to do her best to work with her for the sake of the children and other volunteers involved, but word has reached her that Erica is now out spreading damaging gossip about Alyssa, trying to discredit her in an attempt to regain control of the Christmas Program.

"That's the last straw," Jeanette said, exasperated with Erica's disruptive and hurtful behavior; she decided it was time to pay Erica a little visit, and dropped by her house early one evening to ask if she had time to go for ride and talk, maybe stop at the local drive-in for a treat. Erica, always eager to have an ear to bend, happily agreed, and wasted no time in sharing her "concerns" regarding Alyssa with Jeanette.

"Erica, you of all people know how hard it is to be a newcomer here," Jeanette said calmly while maintaining direct eye contact, "why on earth are spreading rumors about Alyssa that you know aren't true and are going to cause her so much pain?"

Ericka who wasn't used to being confronted about her behavior, stuttered and stumbled and then began to cry, choking out the words "I want to do the Christmas Program, it isn't fair that she gets to take it away from me."
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
 

I is for Ida


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Ida:
At 67, Ida, was a life-long member of Hope Christian Fellowship, and had served alongside Fran as an officer of the Woman's Circle several times. 

It doesn't take long in a small community for gossip to travel, and Ida soon heard about Fran reassigning Erica to the Christmas Choir Concert and Erica's displeasure over that turn of events. She wished Fran would have spoken to Erica before inviting Alyssa to take over the Children's Christmas Program; but she realized that Fran had anticipated Erica's reaction and thought it best to be over and done with it, rather than leave room for an unpleasant confrontation. 

Ida was more of a peacemaker and would have handled it differently, but she agreed that the change needed to take place before more church members withdrew from helping with the Christmas Program due to Erica's talent for alienating people.

"What's done is done," Ida thought, but she and Fran both underestimated Erica's determination to have her own way, and if she couldn't do that, to make sure that Alyssa's turn at directing the program didn't go well.

It wasn't long before word reached Ida's ears that Erica was going around to various members of the Women's Circle implying that Alyssa wasn't a good choice to lead the Children's Christmas Program due to rumors of immoral conduct.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
 

H is for Heather

 
A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Heather:
Heather, 20, is Grace's daughter and a college student studying to be a teacher. She is living at home this semester while she does her practice teaching at Cottonwood Creek Elementary School.

Heather walked in as Erica was visiting with Grace, and overheard her complaint about being replaced as director or the Children's Christmas Program.  Always one to think positively and encourage others, Heather said "But you know, Erica, they've been doing the same songs for the Christmas Choir Concert every year for as long as I can remember, and you are so creative that I think you'd be the perfect one to initiate some changes, come up with something new and wonderful!"

Grace gave Heather a smile and a nod of thanks while Erica pondered this possibility. "Well... maybe, " she said, "but Fran should have given me a choice rather than just turn the Christmas Program over to Alyssa, who's only been back in town for a few months, without even asking me first!"
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Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
 

G is for Grace


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Grace:
Grace, 45, divorced mother of a daughter in college, did her best to get along with everyone at Hope Christian, and Erica viewed her as a friend, even though at times Erica's behavior exasperated Grace.
She wasn't the least big surprised when Erica came barging through her front door without knocking; she'd been anticipating her visit after hearing rumors of a shake up at the church.

"You won't believe what they've done!" Erica sputtered, red faced and fuming.

"Sit down, and let me get you some iced tea," Grace said quietly, hoping to give Erica a moment to calm down.

"Fran called me to tell me that they want me to be in charge of the Christmas Choir Concert this year instead of the Children's Christmas Program!  She said they wanted to involve some of the new Women's Circle members so she asked Alyssa to be in charge of the children's program; that's a fine thank you for all the work I've put into it for the past eight years!"

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Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
 

F is for Fran


A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Fran:
Fran, 60, has seen a lot during her life at Cottonwood Creek.  Her husband is one of  three doctors at the small clinic, and she had been friends with Carol, his nurse, for many years. Both Fran and Carol are long-time active members of the Women's Circle at Hope Christian; this year Fran is serving as the Circle's President. 

Carol dropped by Fran's house after work one afternoon, and as they sat at the kitchen table visiting the subject of the children's Christmas Program came up.  "What are we going to do about Erica?" Carol said, saddened about the conflict she was stirring up in the church.

"I've been thinking about that," said Fran, "and I have a plan, but I don't think she's going to like it."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
 

E is for Erica

 

A to Z Theme - Circle of Hope:
A serial story (written in six-sentence segments) involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women's Circle of the town's protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.

Erica:
Erica, 36, moved to Cottonwood Creek with her family when she was ten. Although she eventually made a place for herself in the popular group, she didn't really feel like she belonged. As a result, she grew up to become one of those in the community that seems to enjoy stirring things up, spreading gossip, and causing problems between friends.

An active member of Hope Christian, Erica enjoys being in charge of events that will earn her accolades, but tends to forget the message of serving with love and humility. Christmas was still more than two months away and already there was dissension about the children's Christmas Program, with more than one woman refusing to work with Erica. With the entrance of Alyssa into the Women's Circle, Erica was about to discover that's she'd met her match.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Read the stories of all the Circle of Hope women here.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
 I'm also joining Zoe at "Uncharted"
where the cue this week is "entrance"