Short Stories and Essays · Writing Help

Writing Through The Joys of Summer

Let’s play a word game…

What do these words have in common? Weddings, birthday parties, vacations, school’s out, lighter and brighter clothing, assorted melons, peaches, plums, berries, clam bakes, beach fun and squishing ocean sand between your toes. They all conjure celebrations, vacations, relaxation, the joys of Summer and the end of winter blues.

If you are anything like me, a few lazy days of summer work like magic in fixing the winter blues quickly. There is something wonderful about the feel of sun rays on a breezy day that magnifies euphoria and inspires effortless writing. Aside from the buzzing of a few bees, swatting a few flies and repelling ants with one foot against the other writing life is good during the summertime.

Do allow your imagination to run free and write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes this is the best writing – freestyle at its best! It is used to get the creative juices flowing. Try this exercise – chose 5 unrelated words and write for 15 minutes without stopping or making any corrections. After 15 minutes, stop and read your story. You will undoubtedly have a rough short story or an idea for a novel.

Be careful of the sun rays and the buzzing bees but enjoy writing during the lazy days of summer. I know I will.

Short Stories and Essays · Writing Help

Writing Inspiration: Summer Garden

If you are a gardener, the harvest you get throughout the growing season is a pleasant measurement of gardening success. My summer’s small garden planting was a smashing success! I’ve enjoyed adding fresh peppers and okra to my breakfast sage sausage, and with a little extra Thyme and Cumin Seed, the aroma and flavor-filled stir-fry is a real palate pleaser. In addition to the delicious vegetables featured in these pictures, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to grow eggplants, tomatoes, and onions. One vegetable that didn’t do so well was yellow squash. The plants did well, but the squirrels and other furry creatures loved the roots so needless to say, summer squash will not make the planting list for the 2019 summer garden.

There is a story in all the good vegetables pictured in this post. I will begin a story outline as soon as I finish some of the other writing projects at hand. For now, enjoy the pictures, and maybe you’re being inspired, just as I am in developing an end of summer themed story.

Picture #1 Okra, Pictures  #2 and #3 Purple and Green Bell Peppers

Short Stories and Essays

Treasure Drawer Secrets

Treasure hunt, Melanie called it. Right there in the bottom of Rose’s chest of drawers. Curiosity and childhood memories often pulled her into a world of comfort like a freshly brewed pot of coffee. She’d wandered out in the backyard and made her way to a shed – the chest’s new home. The second-hand piece of furniture was older than Rose, and she’d wanted a new bedroom set but refused to part with the old chest. “I want a complete set,” she’d said. Not the salvage yard pieces I bought long before Bill, and I got married 40 years ago.”

Melanie surprised herself on being disappointed with the replacement. The chest had been her lifelong comforter and friend. Fond memories of spending rainy days pressing her back up against the smooth solid wood finish and devouring pages of Nancy Drew novels. All those after school visits while she waited for Mom or Dad to pick her up from school, and she could never forget Valentines Day evenings. That was when her parents left her for a few hours at Uncle Bill and Aunt Rose’s to spend a few special hours alone, she supposed.

Even at age 25, plundering through the bottom junk drawer in Rose’s chest was mesmerizing and relaxing. Her long well-manicured fingers raked across the loose button collection some of which dated back to the late 1800’s. With Rose’s care, cleaning, and polishing some of the buttons looked as if they’d just fallen from someone’s ripped pocket. She smiled as she spotted the seed pearl buttons. As she continued to troll through the collection she counted a dozen of the little gems. Just the number she needed to replace buttons on a gown she wanted to wear to an upcoming fundraiser. Perfect! Maybe Rose will be willing to part with them she thought as she put the find inside her jean pocket.

Mostly the drawer shared space with hair combs or barrettes some of which presented missing teeth and holes once filled with fresh glue which held tiny pearls, pretend diamonds or some other pretend precious stone. Who wore these pretty adornments and for what occasion? Certainly, they completed an upswept hairstyle perfectly suited to a debutante ball, a wedding, a first date or some other grand occasion that happened in the life of a well-heeled, farm girl. Perhaps they were once worn by Rose or some of the other Smith women like her mother, grandmother, aunts or cousins.

What’s this? A Meniere of tattered World War I shoulder patches carefully sealed in a once clear plastic bag saved in honor of the soldier long ago dead but perhaps the deed not forgotten. “I’ll have to ask Rose about these,” she mused. Rose was her Mama’s oldest sister. A proud retired teacher who no doubt had forgotten most of the events resting behind the treasured trinkets or very possibly never knew their stories. None of that mattered. Trolling through the treasures always brought on a sense of calming wonderment. Sometimes that was all Melanie needed. Breaking the silence, she heard labored breathing accompanied by softly padded footsteps. “Whatcha got there Melanie?” The familiar soft voice questioned.

“What’s this?” Melanie asked as she held up a blue floral box. “Auntie, I’ve been pushing this old junk around nearly all my life, and it never ceases to amaze me that I find something new each time I pursue my treasure hunt.”

“I know.”

“How so?”

“I put it there, and I suppose Bill threw in a few buttons and such here and there.” She struggled to get the words out of her high-pitched musical laughter. “And you thought it was the same collection each time you opened the drawer. Not so.”

Rose reached for the box Melanie held all the while placing her remaining hand on a nearby chair to rest her ample bottom. Once seated Rose carefully lifted the lid off the box with ease.

Melanie stood so close to her that she could smell Rose’s liniment that she dutifully rubbed on her feet each morning. “Helps the circulation.” She often reminded Melanie.

These are all letters from family members. You know people use to write letters, put a stamp on them and place them in the mailbox and off they would go. Snail mail I think it’s called now.”

“You got it! Auntie.”

“I’m not going to go through this entire stack of mail today, my dear. This is something you’re welcome to do on your own from time-to-time but here is something I think you might enjoy. A valentines card from your grandmother to me when I was in college.”

“To a darling daughter on Valentines Day. Wishing you were here to enjoy the delicious dinner I cooked for your father. Roast beef with carrots with a few other vegetables, creamed potatoes, greens from the garden and a red velvet cake the recipe was in this month’s Southern Living Magazine. I surprised him with a nice bottle of red wine which he only drank a glass. You know your dad – not much for strong spirits. Well, the car finally broke down but not to worry we’ll send bus fare for your trip home. Study hard, and we’ll see you in the spring. Love Mother.”

“That’s all?”

“Mother sent me cards and letters quite often. Her words were sparse but ever so meaningful. It was a good day when I opened my mailbox and saw a letter from home. Usually, she’d enclose a few dollars.” We were not rich but shared generously.

“That’s nice, Auntie.”

“Oh, now there’s plenty of heartbreak and bad deeds expressed in a few of these letters. Like this faded white envelope. The letter inside this one shares the death of your father’s dad. Your mom and dad were unable to attend the funeral, but they were not able to see him before he died. That was a painful experience for your dad, to say the least.”

“Hey! I hate to break up your time in the shed ladies, said Uncle Bill, but I thought you’d like some food and drink. I made sandwiches and coffee.”

“Sounds good Uncle Bill. Why don’t you go ahead Auntie and I’ll lock up the shed. We can resume our trip down memory lane at a later date.”

As she was leaving the shed, Melanie wondered what secrets the letters and cards held. Sometimes she caught her mother looking at her, and she felt a sense of for longing in her stare. She would just have to wait. Perhaps on some rainy day, she would again press her back up against the old chest and allow it to reveal more secrets.

Short Stories and Essays

Essie’s Sewing Machine


Essie’s sewing machine needed retrieving. She’d gained weight during the winter months and wanted to make herself a dress. Gathering the super bright flashlight and pulling the stairs down from the ceiling for the second time in two days was as much as she could do to remedy her problem. There was a light up there, but she could never find it quickly enough to ease her skittish feelings. Going up into the black space was not a happy thing for Essie to do.

Instead of stressing or fussing about it, she decided to ask her husband, Matthew, to bring it down from the attic. Essie wanted to inspect it and begin working on a new Spring project. On most days, he came home for lunch, so she didn’t feel the need to phone him at the shop. The urge to have the machine brought down was overwhelming, but she convinced herself that she could wait. It was already nearing the end of February, and so the deliberate aim was to finish her sewing before the March winds gave way to the spirited, warm Spring weather.

She and Matthew owned a resale shop and were once featured in their local small business magazine showcasing the store and their expert bargain hunting prowess status. They were always on the lookout for free or nearly free things to add to their inventory. They skipped no possibilities for priced items including items from family, friends, neighbors and on occasion their cast-off.

Pulling focus away from the attic Essie started preparing a light meal for their lunch which was not a tiring chore. It gave her a chance to glance at an occasional playful squirrel or a low flying bird. She could see Spring budding throughout the backyard. The view from her kitchen window was beautiful. March was a calming and peaceful time of year. It ushered in the blooming daffodils quite nicely, and the spectacular view even gave her the idea to shake up her otherwise drab closet and insert an eye-catching infusion of bright colors. Pondering the idea that maybe a yellow and orange girlish outfit would urge her to lose some of the unwanted pounds.

Memories of her last sewing project gave her pause, but she shook off the negative feelings and resolved to overcome the dreadful try. It had taken her a long while to finish the design, and she vowed never again to tackle a dressmaking task. So the sewing machine remained in the attic for well over ten years.

Suddenly the front door opened. It was Matthew. “Why are you home so early, Dear? It’s only 10:30.”

He could hardly wait to tell her about their good fortune. “We’re not rich Essie, but we just made a great sell!”

“Oh? So early this morning?”

“A gentleman came into the shop and saw your old sewing machine and made me an offer that I just couldn’t refuse.”

“What old sewing machine? ”

“You know. The one that’s been sitting in the attic all these year gathering dust.”

She now had to sit down on the nearby sofa. Taking a sip of coffee, she finally exhaled. “You mean my Aunt Tresa’s old Singer machine; the one that’s been in the family for three generations? The one that my Mother used to make my wedding dress?”

Matthew sat next to her and put his thick arms around her heaving shoulders.
“I’ll get you another one, Essie. Besides the newer ones are programmable, lightweight, faster and can stitch market quality stitches. All the ones you like, Honey. ”

“Yes and they break easily, cost a fortune, and they’re made everywhere except in American.”

Moments had passed before Essie spoke again. “My Mother made me promise that I would never sell the machine or get rid of it for any reason. It was the most prized possession of her Mother. Now it’s gone and I will never see again.”

Matthew wiped the moisture from his eyes. His heart now weighed several pounds more than it did when he arrived home. He thought his news would go right along with the bright, sunshiny day.

“Why didn’t you ask me if I wanted the machine?”

“It was just up there. So that told me everything that I needed to know.”

Essie shook her head in disbelief while deafening silence competed with the low tones of a nearby grandfather clock and a whistling tea kettle.

Short Stories and Essays

Christmas This Year

Fall was waving goodbye. Crunchy leaves showcasing hues of orange and brown filled the woods and unattended lawns. Light snow began dusting the grounds covering all signs of green earth except for a few holdout evergreen trees and bushes. The sounds of wayward wildlife and whistling hunters ushered in the Christmas holiday, the season of giving as well as the time of making way for unrelenting changes.


“The passing of time but not enough for you Bernard,” Mary Louise muttered as her youngest finished his breakfast.

“Ma, I’m ten years old now.”

“I know, but I still don’t want you to go.”

“It ain’t like I’m going far away. Whatcha scared of?”

“Mostly the older boys.”


“They won’t look after you the way your daddy and I always do.”

“Aaah Ma. You treat me like I’m still a baby.”

“That’s because you still are at least to me!”

“Billy is 13, and he won’t let nothin happen to me.”

“Billy is my oldest and you’re my baby.

“You mean, youngest.”


He tried to understand his Ma’s feelings. He was quiet for a while gazing out the kitchen windows. What he saw was the tall field grass signaling that the farming crop season was over. From where he stood, he could make out the silhouette of Billy and two other boys near Billy’s age. They were pulling a small wagon load of wood. They wanted to make sure they could feign off the cold. Oh, how he wished he could be right there with them. Weeks earlier he’d heard Billy and his friends discussing all they’d need for their trip. The list was short: firewood, matches, a few blankets, water, and sandwiches. From what he could tell, they wouldn’t be that far from home. How could he convince his Ma that she could almost see him while they hunted?


“Huh?” She answered without turning away from the kitchen sink.

“I bet if Dad were here, the answer would be yes. It’s not just Billy and his friends, you know, Mr. Trainor, Lonnie’s Dad, will be out there too.”

“That’s nice. So Why do you think Mr. Trainor is going?”

“To make sure the boys are safe and to guide them through gun safety among other things I reckon.”

“What other things?”

“Well Ma for one thing when you get your prey, I mean turkey,” you have to dress the meat right away so that it doesn’t spoil.”

“Doesn’t spoil.” She corrected.

“Yeah. It doesn’t spoil. They have to pull the feathers off the dead bird right?”

“Yes. That’s only part of the process, Bernard.”

“What else is there to do? Eat it?” He asked in total innocence.

Mary Louise gave out a hearty laugh, shook her head and gave Bernard a peck on the forehead. No. There’s still more to the process but we can talk about that later.


She’d high hopes that her husband would be home in time for Christmas. She’d not expressed that to the boys. She didn’t want to get their hopes up, so she kept the secret close to her heart. Afghanistan was light-years away, and at any moment his leave home could be revoked. She’d communicated with him via Skype, and could see the sliver of a cliff in the background surrounded by a large body of water, maybe a river or ocean, but he would not confirm or deny that his unit’s mission included being surrounded by a lot of water and mountains. He was the Command Chief of a small technology unit, but she felt that serving and the head of the technology unit was only a part of his operation. He would only give her bits and pieces of information perhaps to make her feel that he was safe. Common sense guided her thinking, however. How could anyone be safe when at any moment the outbreak of gunfire or a bomb could render a good soldier silent. This was his second tour of duty, and she’d experienced him guiding troops through the rough terrain of the cliffs and mountainous regions.

“Mom. Mom.”

“What baby?”

“The potatoes are boiling over.”

Turning around to clean up the messy spill, she could see the boys heading back towards the house. “They’re back, Bernard.” But the response was that of the back screen door slamming. “Whack!”

As she ran to the porch, she heard the boys laughing and shouting. “Look at our big fat turkey and a bonus rabbit.” One of them yelled. Mr. Trainor had made his way to the porch. “I wanted to get the boys back home ahead of the storm which comes before daybreak but I wanted to err on the side of caution.”

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“Don’t worry Mary Louise. I showed them how to hunt. Now I’ll show them how to clean their kill.”

She was not as worried about picking the feathers and dressing both the bird and the rabbit as she was about her husband of 15 years showing up in time for Christmas. This year would be the second Christmas missed if he didn’t make this one. It wasn’t easy explaining his absence to the boys the first time, and she certainly didn’t want to repeat the heartbreak of his absence. To smooth things over, she’d planned a scrupulous dinner. They could play board games or strike up a football game with the neighbor boys afterward. All of this might, she hoped, work to keep their minds off their Dad’s absence. Perhaps Mr. & Mrs. Trainor and their boys would be their special guest. She knew that it was the spur of the moment invitation but would ask anyway.

With all that she had to keep up with, she didn’t want to forget Bernard’s needs. He’s growing up, and there’s no denying that but he has to understand that things happen when they’re supposed to and not before. There is an order to life that she and his dad wanted to honor. How do you communicate that to a child? They only know a small part of life’s puzzle. Somehow she had to convenience him that she in no way wanted to keep him a little boy, no mother wants that for her child. The act of waiting for a child is always in conflict with a parent’s timeline of moving to the next step. Or is it?

“Knock, knock. What time is dinner?” She heard a welcomed familiar voice from behind her say.

“I knew you wouldn’t miss another Christmas.”

Short Stories and Essays

Christmas Wreath Tradition


Hanging a wreath on the front door is a typical Christmas tradition, and we’ve enjoyed the tradition for many generations in my family. Growing up in a family of 11 siblings we were very creative and spendthrift on holiday decorations. So we would scour the wooded areas to find magnolia trees. The leaves are big and glossy and make a fabulous door wreath, table centerpiece or a mantelpiece arrangement. The Magnolia wreath was unique and adorned the front door.

The doors at my parents’ house were undoubtedly the prettiest in the small community where I grew up or so we thought. What a joy it was to use discarded wrapping paper tubes and wrap them in a shiny color of red, green or gold. They made such pretty tapered candles and taking the yellow construction paper to make the flame made them look all the more authentic. This piece of creativity we proudly reserved for the backdoor entrance.

After decorating our house, it was a must to visit my Grandmother several days before Christmas to get a good look at her wreath. It was always small, and she probably purchased it from the local five and dime store, but as children reveling in the Spirit of Christmas, we loved her decorations no matter the source or the size. After all, hot chocolate, cookies or an assortment of apples, oranges or some other fruit was ours just for the asking!


Short Stories and Essays

Short Story: Book Drive

Blog Writing About things Remembered

Dressler’s vision was not as sharp as it had been in years past but then what would you expect from someone nearing 70. As a young girl, she enjoyed reading when she could steal time way from her assorted farm chores. Her parents were understanding about her love to read when she was assigned homework but not so much when she read books or magazines unrelated to her school work.

Library time was sparse but she always managed to visit the bookmobile even during the busy summer months. Small town living had its ups and down, for sure, and Dressler remembered that one of her down days was the week she was sick and could not visit the bookmobile. It always arrived on the school’s campus every Monday promptly at 10 a.m.

In those early years, she could read a book in two days or less. Now she struggled to see the fine print in most of the books she enjoyed.  Her taste in novel reading had shifted from fun-filled romance, science fiction, thrillers, and chillers. Now she gravitated more and more towards self-help, religion, and poetry.

Although she now relied more on full strength glasses, she had lost some of the zeal to read. She had, however, come to love her new method of enjoying a book.  She embraced her growing collection of audio books. The book that she was currently listening to focused on a nun’s mission to collect books for school age children in an out-of-the-way village in Africa. She connected with the nun’s mission so much that she began calling her church members, bridge partners and all the people she knew from her vast connection as a community volunteer.

She realized as she mobilized the hundred or so people on her contact list that although she was shifting way from the printed copy there were so many others that she could help obtain books. She embraced her new passion of putting a book in every child’s hand. The more time she spent contacting volunteers and collecting books the less time she spent focusing on her eyesight. Before she realized it, she had reached more than 500 school age children.

Note to followers, are you looking for a great summer read? Check out these three authors:

Author Ethel Wilson

Author Bridget Anderson

 Author Stephany Tullis