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!