My Top Five Ted Talks

If you haven’t heard of Ted Talks yet, you are in for a treat.  “Ideas worth spreading” is their motto.  There are hundreds of talks on various topics.  Best part is they are all, on average, about 20 minutes.

These talks aren’t meant to be taken at face value.  They are meant to get you thinking – to consider other possibilities and to implement changes in your life off those insights.  I have changed a little (or a lot) after watching each of these talks.

In no particular order here are my top five favorites.

Ken Robinson’s talk on Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Malcolm Gladwell’s talk Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce.

Mel Robbins talk How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over

Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle talk.

Brene Brown’s talk on The Power of Vulnerability.

Do you have a favorite Ted Talk?  Tell me in the comments and I’ll check it out!

Photo by Juan Marin on Unsplash

Ten Years and Counting

January 31, 2011 – that was the day I wrote words on a page that would change the trajectory of my life. Sounds a bit over the top but it’s true.

I laid my youngest down to bed with the first line circling in my mind. I sat at my computer and wrote without stopping until I was done with that page. I saved the file and emailed it to my oldest sister, Sarah. I had never sent any of my writing to anyone until that moment.

Sarah’s enthusiasm for those words encouraged me to continue to write, even as she spoke of ways to improve. It’s now been over ten years and my joy in writing has only increased.

As a tribute to my ten years mark, I decided I’d post that very first page I shared all those years ago. My writing/knowledge of storytelling has expanded but these words mean a lot to me since they were the beginning.

First Page:

He slashed at her, cutting her from her high, defined cheek bone all the way down to the tip of her chin. She wasn’t a vain girl, but she felt the distinct impression that this was going to leave a mark. His mark, and she didn’t know if she could bare looking in the mirror and thinking of him. She could see herself go crazy, clawing at her face as she saw her reflection, her eyes wild. She didn’t like what she saw but she knew inevitably that was where she was headed. But she wasn’t there yet. Not by a long shot, and right now she was simply pissed off, and that, that worked for her. If she was going to go crazy eventually, she wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of knowing it.

It had been a long battle already… at least an emotional one. He struck the first…punch? Yeah, we’ll go with that. But she wasn’t going to just lay there broken. She was stronger than that or at least more stubborn than that.

Up and at ’em she told herself. She carefully stood up, eyeing him. He grinned. He shouldn’t have grinned; it made her blood boil. She could feel the anger in her veins, so tangible. It made her feel more powerful than perhaps she was, but maybe that would work to her advantage.

Finally, she stood there just a few feet away from this man monster. He had deceived her in so many ways. She had loved him. No. She loved the idea of him he had gift wrapped for her. Well, that gift was covered in gasoline and set on fire. She watched it go up in smokes until only the ashes remained. She wished she could get rid of the ashes too.

“Please do yourself a favor and sit back down.” He said it sickeningly, all calm and cool and polite. Polite. One of the first things she noticed about him. He always was the master of etiquette, Mr. Genteel. He had opened every car door for her, remembered every special occasion, he never yelled in an argument, hell, he was even polite in bed. It was all about her, but really she was discovering it had always been about him. It made her want to throw up… and take a scolding hot shower, a long one, one she could get lost in, stay in for weeks on end.


Ten years later and I notice all the things I would change about this but mostly I just think, “Not too shabby for someone with no experience!” I never finished this story. I wrote to chapter eight and then began what would become my first novel. But despite not finishing it, those eight chapters helped me to write the next thing. Just like that first novel helped me write the second novel. Knowledge stacks my friends, and with everything I write I improve and discover some aspect of the craft or, perhaps more importantly, myself.

So, cheers to a decade of writing! And cheers for the decades to come!
And here’s to you, reader, and all your time pursuing that which brings you joy and growth!

Photo by Rafael Garcin on Unsplash

Beta Listening

The best thing about conventions and conferences is the people – hands down. Interacting with creatives who share a similar sphere as myself is a boon to my soul. It’s being seen and understood while I (hopefully) see and understand them as well.

One of those wonderful people is Lee Moyer – an artist and writer. I met him while being in charge of the World Fantasy Convention 2020 Virtual Art Show. We emailed a couple times on the subject, but really began our friendship during the convention. I was the volunteer who got to introduce him for his reading. And what a reading it was!

If you check out Lee‘s art you’ll see he’s put in the time/effort to know how to create powerful works of art. If you get a chance to read his words they are woven together by wit and are pure delight. However, to hear Lee read his own words is like listening to a one man show – the voices, the inflection, the energy! It is entertainment that feels almost like it is from another time, as if children and parents alike should be crowded around a radio listening to a weekly installment of an audio drama.

So you can imagine my enthusiasm when Lee contacted me and asked me to be a beta listener for him. I’ll be honest I had never heard of beta listening. I’d done plenty of beta reading but this was a new adventure and I was more than happy to let Lee guide me in the process.

Lee had finished seventeen chapters of his novel The Three Queens of Venice. He wanted to make sure it was clear before he moved on. His other listeners had already been engaged with it long enough that he needed fresh ears. We arranged a time for the beta listening and Lee explained how it worked. He would read and after every chapter I would have a chance to give reactions, impressions, and ask questions if anything was confusing. While he read, if he saw mistypes or if something didn’t work, he’d fix it right there.

We were able to get all seventeen chapters in and it only took four hours! Between the editing done on the way and the chatting between chapters, I was surprised and impressed it took so little time. A completely unique and fun experience that I hope to repeat when he gets the next part finished because I want to know what happens! And you better believe I will be putting on the pressure for him to do his own audio book when the time comes!

I’m immensely grateful to Lee for giving me this opportunity to broaden my experience. There was a time when I would have said no because of feelings of inadequacies – so here is a big reminder to say “YES!” to new adventures! You won’t regret it.

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

New Year – Same Idea

I’m an optimist. Not a “plug your ears, close your eyes and sing a happy song while ignoring reality” type. More like I know reality and hope in the good to come. I believe that problems can be solved, people can learn and be better, and everything will turn out alright in the end…until the next thing arises 😉

I know a lot of people had it rough last year. (Last year, feels weird to say when it was just yesterday) I’ve had personal friends struggle with health – physical and mental, finances, job loss, long hours at hospitals, suddenly homeschooling their kids, not being able to get appliances and material to finish renovations (literally living in a construction zone!), and literally everyone trying to manage the changes in the world and how to interact with everyone else trying to manage those changes. Oy!

I’ve experienced some of these myself and boy, it’s strange and some times uncomfortable…or outright painful. But I’m an optimist and that has helped me all my life when Trouble peeks out and throws a few obstacles in the way. Cause Trouble comes and the only thing to do is choose your perspective on the obstacle, see what you can learn from it, and be optimistic for the good to come. And the good ALWAYS comes if you look for it.

So, I’ll say it. Last year was good.

Despite gaining fifteen pounds back (probably more than that – I quite weighing myself) after keeping it off for literally years. Despite not having as much time to write because I was helping kids with online school. Despite having to cancel my daughter’s Christmas present and not let her fly to her Uncle and Aunt’s house for spring break. Despite my kids not being able to have friend birthday parties. Despite not having our traditional July Fourth party where our group of friends fly in and celebrate with us for a week. Despite a fire that threatened our neighborhood where we had to evacuate! Despite having my transmission die and be without my car for weeks (I still don’t have it). Despite the weeks – months! – of helping all of us figure out how to mentally handle not being able to leave our house!

Last year was good.

Perspective is everything.

I’ve been engaged in politics, the problems of our time, and in possible solutions more than normal last year. What a whirlwind but also a blessing to expand my own knowledge and to engage in conversations with my spouse and children. To examine beliefs, to consider ideas, to ask questions, research, gain a foundation but then be open minded to change it – and do! I mean, what an opportunity all brought on by Trouble.

We’ve been able to grow together as a family. Not perfectly. Not everything is always hunky dory where no one ever fights and everyone always uses their manners and is completely understanding. Not that. Not perfection. But we’ve been there for each other on the days that count the most and enjoyed each other’s company during a strange time instead of taking out the circumstances on one another. I call that a win.

My husband got to work from home and that is a HUGE reason to say this year was good. And I even did pretty well on not interrupting him during working hours. (Also a win)

Books were read, movies were watched, games were played, letters were written. Virtual Conventions were attended! (A post about World Fantasy will be in the future. I’m still on a high from that experience!) I learned Zoom! Animal Crossing was played! And more Animal Crossing was played. And more Animal Crossing… (It was a huge help when it came out so soon after having to stay home!) Our neighborhood didn’t burn down! Not a single house lost – Woot!

And hey, I got a short story up here, that also makes this a good year.

There are a dozen other little things that made it a good year. And you know, despite some uncertainty in the world, good will continue to come. It’ll show up. We just have to keep learning, keep making the best of things, and Trouble will get tired and go take a nap for a bit while we revel in the good and the peaceful.

We got this. Let’s go 2021.

Photo by Elisha Terada on Unsplash

Short Story: A Blessing And A Curse

                It was meant as a blessing, but it was far from it.

                My parents meant well.  They loved their “darling daughter” and wished to make her life better than their own.  They did not have much.  My father was a laborer, my mother a seamstress whenever she could get work.   They saved every penny so they could grant me a gift. 

                The sorceress came through the village once a year.  If you offered her enough money, she would bless you.  My parents speak of the day with a kind of religious reverence.  Humbled they were that the sorceress even stopped to speak to them.  They offered her the coins — shiny — they had stayed up all night scrubbing them clean.  She took them and did as they asked.  “Bless our child that she might have a greater life than our own.”

                I live in a castle now with beautiful gowns and never an empty belly.  By all reckonings, the sorceress fulfilled her side of the bargain.  She blessed me with the ability to see intent.  Yes, intent.  It was great at first, especially when I played with other children.  If a child was teasing me, I could feel if they meant it maliciously or if they were just following the other children.  I could even sense the deep emotional patterns of someone who was deliberately trying to be mean.  Underlying their words, I saw their pain and their intent – which was simply to dispel that pain somehow, no matter how cruelly, or how little it helped them as time went on. 

                Knowing such things helped me not to hold a grudge.  Even if I wanted to, like now.  I want to be angry with my parents as I stand by the king’s side.  But I cannot.  Their intent was pure. 

                I listen as the man before the king speaks of a great grievance that has fallen upon him and how he wants justice.  I lean in and whisper into the king’s ear.  “He wants revenge and deep down there is a sense of shame.” 

                Yes, that is my job.  Stand here and listen to everyone who speaks to the king.  Tell him if they are friend or foe, or if their complaints are worth looking into or not.  Day in.  Day out.  I am not allowed to leave. 

                My name is Seraphina and I am the king’s slave. 


                It was meant as a curse, but it was far from it.

                My parents own the tavern in our little town.  I was just a boy, three years old.  I hear it was quite the scene.  Stories are still told of the witch who came through.  It is said she was unstable from the moment she walked in to get a drink.  Mother says the witch seemed distraught.  The more the witch drank the more Mother thought something had happened to her, but you do not pry in the affairs of witches.  Unpleasant things happen if you do.  Witches are not that powerful, unlike a sorceress, but they do have displeasing personalities that show up when you get on their nerves.

                The witch became erratic, murmuring things under her breath.  A glass turned into a frog.  One of the guests toppled to the ground as their chair shrank.  A man’s long beard vanished.  Songs are still sung of his great weeping.

                To avoid further chaos my parents asked her to leave.  She disliked that, so she cursed them.  Or rather, cursed what was most precious to them.

                The witch had seen my mother check in on me between rushing drinks to her patrons.  I was in the corner, asleep by the serving area, the noisy crowd my lullaby every night. 

                “Throw me out?!” she screamed.  “Then I curse your child, I revoke his vision in the day and make it so he will only see at night! Ha ha!”

                  She passed out a moment later.  My parents carried her out of the village, wrapped her in a nice warm blanket on the edge of the road, with a basket of food by her side. 

                The next day my parents let me stay up late.  Those patrons from the night before returned out of curiosity.  My surprise was evident.  How was the witch to know that I was blind, and she had actually blessed me with sight? 

                My name is Warrick and I am the night Gatekeeper.    


                The evening wind whipped around him as he clutched his cloak, pulling it tighter against his form.  The gate was tall.  Steps led to the top so Warrick could sit and observe outside Valente for anyone wishing entrance.  He became the gatekeeper when he turned seventeen.  That was nine years ago.

                Laughter and movement still lingered on this side of town, the tavern several paces from where he sat.  He could imagine his parents inside, bustling about, keeping everyone happy and in line if needed.

                Warrick was vigilant in his task as Gatekeeper, ever watchful, despite the black which rolled out past the gates.  The forest that lined the path appeared like shadows of giants.  He squinted as he saw motion. 

                The brightness of the woman’s dress shone like a beacon in the night, a thin shawl across her shoulders the only thing between her and the chill.  She rushed for the gate and raised her arm to pound on the door, but Warrick was already there.  He opened the slot in the middle of the gate’s door.

                “What is your business here?” he asked as he did every person who begged entrance.

                “Shelter for the night,” she said, her voice elegant and refined despite her chattering teeth. 

                “Enter,” he said as he closed the slot and opened the door.  The woman stepped inside, her body half frozen.  She appeared unsteady, as if her journey had required many miles.  The hem of her dress was filthy, and pieces of fabric torn despite the refinement of the apparel. 

                “There are rooms available at the inn,” he said.  He removed his cloak and put it around her, which startled the girl, yet she did not object as the warmth eased her shivering.  “The inn is to the right, four buildings down.  Once you are settled by a fire you may have one of their messengers bring me back my cloak.”

                “Thank you.  I will hurry there, so you get it back quickly.”  Warrick watched as she hastened toward shelter.

                Despite his long-sleeved shirt, goosebumps already appeared on his skin. He walked the steps and sat, once again taking his post.  Minutes later, his cloak was back around him and he wondered how she had managed so long without one as his bones were already like ice.

                As hours passed Warrick did his best to not think of the girl, but the scent of lavender was on his cloak.  How peculiar her arrival had been, and he hated his desire to see her again.  To see her.  But by the time morning came and she arose, there would be only darkness for him.  He chuckled, laughing at himself.  What a gift, to see anything at all.  How ungrateful I must be, he thought, shaking his head in self-disappointment. 

                Warrick sat up straighter and leaned over the gate.  Having one person come to town late in the night was worth noting.  Yet now another approached.  No, not one.  A group on horseback.

                A knock pounded.  Warrick answered.  “What is your business here?”

                “We are servants of the king.  We have orders to search everywhere for a runaway maiden who has wronged the king and must be brought to him.”

                Warrick did not hesitate.  “No one has passed through here, but please, come and rest yourselves and do your search.”   He opened the gate, letting the men in.  “My parents’ tavern is just there; they will give you food and drink.  Tell them I sent you and they will take care of you.”

                “Thank you, Gatekeeper.  We have travelled for many days on this search.  A good meal and some ale will do us well.”

                They made their way to the tavern.  Warrick knew his parents would not flinch at his sending the unexpected visitors.  Whenever something was amiss, they knew they were the first point of contact to keep the uncertain company occupied. 

                With earnest steps he went to the inn.  “Where is the woman that came tonight?” he asked the innkeeper. 

                “Upstairs, third door.  Is something wrong?”

                “Maybe.  If men come looking for her, do not tell them she is here.” 

                “Of course.”  This was the joy of growing up in the same place all your life.  There was trust and loyalty.

                Warrick took a candle to light his way up the steps and knocked on the door.  No answer.  He knocked louder.  No answer.  He called out, trying not to wake the other guests.  “My lady?”  It was then he heard a faint reply.

                “Come in.”

                He entered but the room was empty.  He heard her voice at the window.  “Here, please help me up.”

                Warrick went to the open window and saw the woman, hanging by her fingertips.

                “What are you doing?” he asked as he took hold of her arm and brought her back in. 

                She took a moment to catch her breath.  “I got scared.  But I heard your voice and I knew you meant me no harm.” 

                “Running away from a problem rarely helps.”

                “Neither does doing nothing.”

                He nodded.  “Men arrived.  They are in search of a woman.  Are they looking for you?”

                She sat on the bed slowly like she just aged in an instant and pulled the blanket over her shoulders.  “Yes.  They have been after me for weeks.  But I must keep going.  The moment they catch me, I know I will never be able to escape again.”

                “Escape?”  His brow furrowed.  “Did you wrong the king?”

                Her eyes flashed to his and Warrick expected to see anger there, but instead they were soft as if she knew his heart even though he had not spoken it.  She told him why she ran.  He paced back and forth in the small room as he concentrated on her words.

                “It is not a job,” she continued.  “I do not get to go home.  I must be there for any moment the king deems worthy.  I have been pulled in the middle of the night to verify if the queen is lying to him.  The queen!  The queen who is so good.  He has grown paranoid and used to having the comfort of knowing everyone’s intention.  He will never stop looking for me, so I search for the one way to relieve my suffering.  I search to rid myself of this blessing.”

                “How can you do that?”

                She gave a disheartened laugh.  “I went to the sorceress and she told me, but it is very difficult.  The only way to get rid of a blessing, is to find someone with a curse.  The sorceress said they cancel each other out.  A simple spell and they are both free.  But only lowly witches give curses, and most of them are not even powerful enough to do that.  It is so rare; I fear I will be on the run forever.  Better that though, than to not be free.”

                Warrick froze, swallowing hard.  “Would that be strange to you?  You say the king has gotten used to it, but have you as well?”

                “Yes,” she whispered.  “I have.  The only reason I speak to you now is because I heard your intent when you spoke and knew I would be safe.  I will have a difficult time trusting people at first.  But I am willing to go through that struggle to be free.  After all, everyone else lives without it, I can learn too.”

                Warrick sighed.  “What is your name?”


                “I am Warrick.  Come Seraphina.  The men will be here soon to rest, and no doubt will check every room.  You may sleep at my house.  They will search it tomorrow, but we can hide you before then.”

                She stood, the blanket still around her, and stepped closer to him, puzzled.  “You are going to help me break the blessing.  How will you do this?”

                To speak it aloud… It was too soon.  He needed to come to terms with his own decision.  “Do not worry about it for tonight.  Let us go.”


                Seraphina laid in Warrick’s bed.  Last night he gave her explicit instructions.  “Do not move anything.” 

                When she woke, he was still sleeping in the corner on blankets he had laid out.  She pulled out the bread from a basket and brought it to the table, slicing two chunks off for their breakfast.  She laid the knife by the bread and checked the cupboards for butter, but found none.  She took a deep breath trying to manage the anxiousness that rose within her.  The king’s men would be there soon.  Warrick’s home is on the edge of town, she told herself, so they most likely will search it last. 

                Warrick stirred.  She grabbed the pitcher and poured him a glass of water.  “Good morning,” she said as he stood.  He nodded to her and took a step forward, pulling out a chair to the table.  As he sat, he moved his arm to rest on the table, but it caught the knife that laid there.  Flipping, the knife cut Warrick’s arm before toppling to the ground. 

                He swore as Seraphina jumped in surprise.  “Rag!” he said in urgency as blood dripped down his arm.  She grabbed one from his cupboard and held it out, but he did not reach for it, instead just leaving his hand extended.  She placed it in his hand, and he moved it to his arm.  When he spoke, his voice was calm.  “I told you not to move anything.”  

                “I am sorry.  I was just…Warrick, what happened to your sight?”

                To Seraphina’s surprise, he laughed.  “Please put the knife away and have a seat.”  She bent down, brushing up against his leg as she retrieved the item, wiped it off, and put it back in the cupboard.  “Did you move anything else?” he asked.

                She shook her head, but then realized her error, and spoke.  “No.  I mean, there is bread on the table.  I cut us each a piece.  And a cup of water and the pitcher.”  Warrick held out his hands, the rag now tied around his forearm, and she put the bread into one palm, the cup in the other.  It was then that she got a clear view of his eyes.  No longer the rich brown, instead, a ghostly white.

                “Please put everything away,” he said as he began to eat.  She did so, and then sat at the table beside him. 

                “Warrick?” she asked confused.

                “All is well.  I was meant to be a blind man and I know how to be…especially when no one moves things around in my house.”  His voice was teasing.  “The witch who cursed me did not realize the gift she was giving.  I see in the night only because she thought she was blinding me in the day.  Wording matters, and she, in her drunken stupor called upon powers she might not have usually possessed.  At least that is what my father thinks.  I will travel with you to the sorceress and free you from your blessing.”

                “No, I… it is supposed to be a curse, but this is … I cannot ask it of you.  You barely know me, and you would give up your sight?”

                “You know, when I was a boy, I wanted to be a hero.  A knight even, like the men who search for you.  But that is not possible with half sight.  I am the Gatekeeper because I wish to use my vision in service of my home. To watch over them while they sleep and not let anyone pass who brings trouble.  But I always felt like it was borrowed sight.  Borrowed time.  I am a blind man and I can work as such.  I know how to make rope and nets without being able to see, and I know how to make ale on my own. 

                “Yes, I just met you.  But if I can help grant you your freedom, then I should.  I was never meant to be like this, and it is the right thing to do.”

                “I cannot accept.  It is too much to ask.”

                “You are not asking.  I am volunteering.”

                Never had Seraphina felt an intent as strongly as she did in that moment.  It was a fierce resolve mixed with a pure longing to do that which was honorable. 

                “When do we go?” she asked softly.

                He smiled.  “I will travel better by night than by day.  The king’s men should be gone by then.  We will go to my parents and get some new clothes for you before we leave.  Besides I wish to see them one last time.”


                “We will go through the forest instead of taking the path,” Warrick said as he adjusted the satchel on his shoulder and picked up his walking stick.

                “Are you sure?  It is so easy to get lost, especially at night.”

                He chuckled.  “Trust me.  I know the night and I know the forest.  Hopefully the king’s men will continue on horseback and get ahead of us instead.”

                “We can hope.  They have been on my heels for so long, it would be a nice reprieve.” 

                “Just a little longer and your burden will be made light.”

                They stepped into the forest.  Warrick heard the scurrying of little animals, inhaled the earthy scent, and felt the soft ground underfoot with a sense of familiarity.  As a boy he wandered these lands, going as far as he could, with just barely enough time to return home before he no longer could see.  As a young man, he wanted to travel and see other places.  His parents took turns running the tavern alone, so the other could take him to villages and towns around the area, and to see the wonders of the land.  To climb cliffs, to swim in great waters, to ponder existence while in awe of the stars.  They had wanted him to see everything he could.

                “Warrick,” Seraphina said.  “You move too quickly.  I can barely see and fear I might walk into a tree.” 

                “My apologies.  Here,” he said, holding out his hand.  “Let us avoid such a fate.”

                Seraphina took his hand and Warrick was surprised with how easily they fell into a rhythm as they walked.  Their shoulders brushed against each other as they ventured the dark forest together. 

                “Your parents are nice,” Seraphina said.  “I am surprised at how easily they accepted your decision.”

                “They do not have your gift, but they do know me, and they trust me.”

                “Yes, I could feel that.  A sense of trust and faith in you.  It is not as common as you may think.  Someone may say in words but have doubts in their mind.  They had no doubt.  That is very rare.”

                “What does it feel like?  Is it more like words?  How does the impression come to you?”

                “It is like a subtle wave of emotion.  I usually feel it in my feet first, as if the intent is being drawn down from the person and then up into me.   Not yours though.  When you came to my door and spoke, I felt it in my hands first.  And with the knights that chase me their intent is like murky water, surrounding me.  Probably because it is all of them at once.”

                “I thought the person had to speak for you to feel it?”

                “It is just easier, much clearer.  With the knights speaking amongst themselves about the chase, with all of them being of the same mind, it comes when they ride.  They want to gain favor with the king.  They know I am valuable.  And, I know there is a little fear underlining it all.  If they go back empty handed… the king will not be pleased.”

                “Do they fear for their lives?”

                “Yes.  Like I said, the king has become paranoid, always wanting me to verify who he can trust.  And then I wonder why he trusts me.  I could easily lie to him.”

                “But you do not.”

                “No.  Lies are nasty things.”

                “Yes.  My mother used to say ‘lies are like quicksand.  You think you are on stable ground, but they quickly drag you down.’”

                Their whispered conversation turned to silence as Warrick held up his hand and paused, bringing her down to a crouch.  Seconds later a fox ran past them and Warrick breathed a sigh of relief.  He had worried it would be something more dangerous.  One thing he knew, he was not a fighter.  Sure, he could throw a few punches and take a few hits, but he was not the caliber of a knight.

                They continued their journey.  Seraphina now wrapped one hand around his upper arm.  She shivered and pulled the cloak tight that his mother had given her. 

                “Seraphina, if they discover us in the night, we will be better off sticking together if we can.  But, if they discover us in the day, you must run.  I will not be able to flee.   Promise me that you will get yourself to safety.”

                “No.  You are giving up your sight for me and you want me to let them kill you?”

                “They might have mercy on a blind man.”

                “If that blind man is with me, I doubt it.”

                The wind picked up as the night carried on.  They conserved their energy by withholding conversation, instead clinging to one another so they could share their warmth and lean on each other when the wind beat too hard upon them. 

                When dawn approached, they welcomed the reprieve from the wind and anticipated the warmth of the sun. 

                “The cluster of trees here,” Seraphina said.  “There is some brush by them too.” 

                Warrick looked around.  “Yes, it is a good place to hide and to sleep.”  He took off his pack and pulled out a cloth, laying it down between the brush and trees, tucked away.  “I will sleep out here in the open.  I doubt they know yet that I am with you.  I will merely appear as a resting traveler.” 

                “They will still find it suspicious.  It is their job to.”  She stared at the ground, almost like she was embarrassed.  “We can fit if we are…close.”

                “Let me look around, perhaps there is another good spot nearby.”  He set the pack down and took several steps before stopping.  He let out a heavy, defeated breath.  “Seraphina, I cannot see.”


                It was snug but Seraphina was content.  Her head rested on his shoulder as she laid on her side, half her body practically on top of him.  He had been such a gentleman as she laid down, being very careful with his hands, which he usually used in place of his sight, but this time he just let her place them down so he would not accidentally offend her. 

                He was warm and comforting, making her feel safer than she had in a very long time.  After weeks of running, it was nice to no longer be alone. 

                She thought of Warrick’s parents.  She had told him the truth of their intention.  That they believed in him, trusted him.  But there was something else. Woven so delicately in their intent that she could have missed it, but she had too much practice in recognizing the intention of others, of deciphering the impressions she received.  Their intent held the tiniest of hope that maybe Warrick could love this woman he was willing to sacrifice his sight for.  That maybe she could love him, too.  She wondered at it.  Why?  Warrick was too good to be overlooked by any woman even with his sight being only half there. 

                Maybe they thought if he gave up his half-sight then it would be harder for him to find a wife.  To marry.  To have a family.  She wondered if perhaps this hope came from that fear, a fear they probably had when he was first born blind. 

                How could she do this to him?  He was honorable, so how could she take something this impactful away from him?  Her stomach twisted inside.  She had lived in a castle.  He lived in a small town.  She had had plenty to eat.  She wondered if he ever missed a meal.  Her room had been larger than Warrick’s home.  She wanted to be free but at what cost?  She had been willing to simply run away, forever running.  It was selfish to agree so readily to Warrick’s offer.

                Why did she do it?  And yet, she knew why.  She felt it when he spoke to her.  A desire to help her.  The intent to do the right thing, knowing he was never meant to see.  But was it the right thing?  She used to think so, but not anymore. 

                The temperature dropped as the moon rose. 

                “We can go,” Warrick said.  She shivered as she removed herself from him.

                Warrick retrieved a loaf of bread from the satchel before gathering their bed cloth and shoving it inside.  He broke a piece of bread off for her and took one himself.  “If the sorceress lives in the mountainside as you say, then it will take about a fortnight to get there.  Three villages between us.  We can resupply at each village.”

                “I have changed my mind, Warrick.  This is wrong.  Let us go back.  The knights are up ahead now, and I can find some rest back in your town before departing.”

                He raised an eyebrow at her and gave a half smile.  “That is not happening.  You will just be on the run forever. You said it yourself, the king will not stop.”

                “But –“

                Warrick took her by the arm and pulled her onward.  “Come now, there will be no talk of such things.  Let us continue.”


                Seraphina tried more than once on their travels to convince him to go back.  He just kept walking.  At one point he thought perhaps she would be stubborn enough to stay sitting by that trunk, but eventually she came.  They already made it past two of the villages.  Things were moving along smoothly, and Warrick hoped the knights were far beyond them, their horses pushing them forward to catch up with the girl who was actually with him.

                Morning peeked, and Warrick’s walking stick became his guide as he moved it back and forth to direct him.  “Perhaps we have been taking too much of a risk.  Walking in the sun,” he lifted his head to the sky.  “It feels good, but a bad habit.”

                “Do you lack trust in my ability to find an appropriate spot?  I have been on the run longer than you and I have done a pretty good job the last few nights.” Her voice was light, teasing him as it floated in the air. 

                “Yes, you have.” 

                She had done well.  They had been walking in the daylight until Seraphina noticed a spot and Warrick was glad of it.  It was better to utilize as much time traveling as possible, get there as quickly as they could before Seraphina just decided to leave him altogether.   He knew she was troubled, but words failed him.  How do you comfort someone who feels like the price for their freedom is too much?  You do not speak.  You just move.  Move toward the destination and show her how comfortable you are being a blind man.  It was not such an awful fate, especially when given the curse of sight and he could conjure up her image in his mind, along with a thousand other images he had spent his life acquiring.   And the colors!  Oh, the vibrance he could bring up in a moment’s desire. 

                He remembered darkness, before he had any sight.  He remembered distorted images because he lacked understanding, being so young at the time, gaining depictions from what he held in his hands.  Now though he had an array of beauty in his repertoire; he could return to his blindness with gratitude.  But how do you tell a woman that?  Especially a woman like Seraphina.  Who knows your sincerity but disagrees with your sacrifice?

                “Let us eat,” he said.  He used his stick with ease to find a tree to lean against.  Running his fingers along the trunk to the base, he sat.  He pulled a couple apples from the bag with ease and held one out in her direction.  He knew basically where she was, he had heard her footsteps follow him, but she still stood.   He tilted his head toward her. 

                She gave a light disbelieving chuckle.  “I am always amazed you know where I am.”  He felt her fingertips slide along his palm as she snatched it from him before sitting down. 

                “I told you, my other senses do well for me.”  The crunch from the apple and the flooding of the sweet juice onto his tongue made him sigh.  It almost felt like they were already free, that their vigilance was unnecessary.  Just two travelers.  “Seraphina, the king could just pay the sorceress to give a blessing to a willing servant, right?”

                “No.  Sorceresses are very particular.  There is an unspoken rule that they do not take money from people in positions of power.  They do not wish to feel an allegiance to anyone.”

                “That is wise.  How do you know this?”

                “She told me, when I visited her the first time.”

                “Was it scary for you?  To go alone to see such a powerful being?”

                “Of course.”  He heard her shifting. 

                “Was she nice to you?”

                “She was distant.  I suppose she must be, or she would be taken in by every sad story at her door.  It is not like a sorceress has endless energy to expend.  She cannot help everyone.”

                “I suppose —“ he stopped, holding up a hand to let her know he had heard something.  His voice went to a whisper.  “We are no longer alone.  Hide.”

                She moved like a black shadow along his already darkened vision.  The shuffling of her dress and the scraping of her shoes along the bark told him that she climbed the tree he leaned against.  

                Taking hold of his stick he pulled himself to standing as the beating of hooves came through the trees.  Not many went off the path.  The clinking of metal confirmed his fear, the knights who searched for Seraphina.  They should have been long past us.  They must have turned back around when there was no sign of her.  They came to a halt at the sight of him. 

                “You there,” the one said.  “Have you seen —“ He stopped himself.  Warrick recognized the silence in the air, it tasted of disregard.  “Never mind.  Let us go.”

                The knights began to move past him, but then pulled up once again.  “Wait, have we met?”

                Warrick froze.  “I doubt it good sir.”

                Metal sang in the air, sliding from the horse, and stopping right in front of him.  The knight smelled of sweat and sage.  “I do know you.” 

                His comrade called from his horse.  “We have only seen blind beggars.  Let us go.”

                “No,” said the first knight.  “No, I do recognize him.  You are the Gatekeeper from that town.  But you were not blind then.”

                “My brother,” Warrick said.  “My twin.”

                “I doubt that.  You said your parents were the tavern keepers.  They spoke of their only child.”

                “Perhaps your memory is incorrect, sir,” Warrick continued.

                “It is my job to remember such things.  Anything could lead to the one we search for.”

                “I am sorry, you are mistaken.”

                Warrick could feel the grin on the man’s face as he spoke.  “No, I am not.  Very odd for a Gatekeeper to be so far from his post.  Where is she?”


                “Please, no games.   You will lose.  The last trace of Seraphina was in Valente.  A piece of her dress clung to the outside of a window in the inn.  Now you are here?  It does not make sense unless you are helping her.  Where is she?”

                “I am afraid I do not know.”

                As Warrick fell to the ground, the rusty taste of blood in his mouth, he wondered.  Does it hurt more when you cannot see it coming or less?  If you do not know you are about to get hit, you do not tense yourself which could very well make it hurt less.  Or does it hurt more because you have no warning to brace yourself for the pain you are about to experience?  He suddenly wished he had gotten in more fights to find out. 

                “Just tell us,” the knight said, looming over him.

                Hooves clopped on the ground and the horses whinnied, wanting to continue their search.  One of the knights, still atop his horse, sounded annoyed.  “Let us go.  He is just a blind man.  Are we so infuriated with this girl and the king that we take it out on the unfortunate?”

                “It is him and since I am in charge you will hold your tongue while I interrogate him.”  The knight pulled Warrick to his feet, his walking stick fallen from his hands.  “I know it is you.”  Spit flicked onto Warrick’s face as the knight held his collar tightly. 

                “Alright,” Warrick said.  “I was with her.  But she decided to go off on her own.  A blind man is less than suitable company when you are trying to get as far from the king’s men as possible.”

                “He could see before.  How is he blind now?” Another knight asked. 

                “Tell us,” the knight demanded as he still held on to Warrick.

                “An accident,” Warrick said.  If they did not know already then that meant his parents, and everyone else in Valente, had kept the story to themselves.  He might be able to use that to his advantage. 

                “Which way did the girl go?”

                “How am I supposed to know?”

                It was with less force this time, but the back hand that hit his cheek stung.  “There is no talking back to me, Gatekeeper.  We have been searching for this girl for weeks.  We are unable to go home to our families until we find the traitor.  We are done being nice.  We want her.  Where did she go?”

                Warrick swallowed, blood trickling down his throat.  “She left when we were at the village to the north.  She went east.  I have no idea where she is going.” 

                He could feel the hot breath from the knight.  “Bind him up.  We will take him just in case he is lying.”

                The shuffling of men began.  Warrick pulled away as hands took hold of him.  “Please, do not take me.  I am not lying.”  He struggled and felt a few jabs in his ribs from the men now surrounding him.  If he was taken, how would he find Seraphina again? They needed to be together to break the blessing and the curse.

                “Please,” Warrick said.  “I am headed to the next village.  I will be staying there for a while.  If you think I have deceived you, just come there to find me.”

                “Do we look foolish enough to take chances?  Besides, it will waste time.” 

                Warrick flung his fists in the air, guessing where his mark was.  He hit flesh, not metal.  He was grateful at first, until he was suddenly down on the ground being pummeled by his captors.

                “Stop!”  The cry rang in Warrick’s ears and pained him more than the blows that suddenly stopped. 

                “Well, well, well.  You are quite the liar.”  Warrick felt a kick in his stomach.  “Come down girl. It is time to go home.”

                “I will come willingly,” Seraphina said, surprisingly calm.  “Just promise you will leave him alone.”

                “My men have punished him enough.  We will let him be.”

                “Your word, sir.”

                The word of a knight.  Honor.  He hesitated but finally agreed.  The sliding on bark and a slight pounce on dirt, then metal on metal as Seraphina came down and was captured.  Warrick sat up slowly.  He was powerless.  He could not overtake them. 

                “You should have stayed quiet,” Warrick said, but even to himself he sounded defeated.

                “May I say goodbye to him?” Seraphina asked.


                Moments later they were gone, the racing hooves headed back to the castle, making her a slave once more.   The sound echoed in his mind mingled with her shouted goodbye.  “Thank you, my friend.  It is alright.  I will be alright.”


                There was no fighting from her.  No trying to escape.  Seraphina had felt guilty for days, walking toward her hope of freedom.  Now that she was no longer stealing anything from Warrick, she was at peace.  Though trapped in a life of servitude, she would remember a time when the intent of someone to help her was so genuine he was willing to give up something precious. 

                She had wanted to say more to him.  But it was probably best the knights pulled her away, tearing her from his presence.  What would she have said?  That the idea of being away from him made her stomach feel empty?  Hollowed out and alone?

                She closed her eyes as they rode, trying to impress upon her mind every conversation.  Every moment she clung to him in the chilled night.  Every time she laid against him.  Every touch of their hands.  She missed him already and needed to solidify every memory so she could call upon them in her times of despair.  She knew she was doing the right thing, but that did not blind her from the ache she would feel trapped in the castle.  She had experienced too many years of it, but she hoped the memory of Warrick would ease her suffering.

                It took several days to get back to the castle.  Days of being bound, her wrists raw.  She wondered what kind of wrath the king would unleash on her when she returned, but she found his fury directed elsewhere; instead he was angry that she had been bound so tightly.  He coddled her.  Clung to her, his eyes wild, his movement sporadic.  Yes, paranoid and now completely eager for her to resume her position and tell him who was against him and who was not. 

                He put her to work immediately.  First in his counsel as they discussed the affairs of the kingdom.  Then to handle the dozens upon dozens of grievances that were brought before him.  He had made everyone wait while she was away.  At the end of the day she laid down and the despair, which she knew was coming, covered her like a suffocating blanket.  She turned to her side and pretended the pillow she laid upon was the strong shoulder of the one she ached for. 


                Warrick ran through the forest, walking stick in hand.  It had been three days since Seraphina was taken by the king’s knights.  Morning would come soon.  He already passed through the village.  If he hurried, he might be able to make it before daybreak. 

                There, an opening.  He stepped out of the forest, a mountain before him.  Tall and strong, a silver door encased in it.  He pounded on the structure with all his might.  No answer.  He pounded again.  And again.  And again.  Minutes ticked by and still he waited, refusing to leave.  Refusing to be ignored. 

                A sliver of light.  Then darkness.  He felt his eyes change in an instant.  He raised his head up, his shoulders back, and lifted his walking stick to the sky in defiance.  “I will not leave, Sorceress!  Rid me of this place with your magic if you wish, but I will just return.  Forever haunting you until you give me an audience.”

                A voice pierced the air.  “The spell on you is not mine.”

                “No,” he said, slowly lowering his staff.  “It is not.  But I need your help just the same.”

                There was an eerie silence, but he felt the wind from the pressure of the door against him and knew it had opened.  Her presence brought the scent of roses and he could feel the warmth she radiated. 

                “What brings such persistence to my door?”

                “A woman came to you.  You gave her the power of intent.  You told her how to undo the spell.”

                “Yes, I remember her.  Ungrateful for my gift.”

                “It came with burdens no one could have expected, not even you.  I have the curse she needs, but the king’s men have taken her back.”

                “I told her; I cannot undo it unless you are both together.”

                “We know.  We tried.  Please.  Would you come with me to the castle?  If we meet her there, you can reverse the spell and tell the king she is of no more use to him.”

                “Castle grounds are forbidden for my kind.  It invites other sorcerers to make assumptions.  There are rules.”

                “Then what should we do?  I cannot leave her there a slave.”

                Silence.  Her presence felt different than when others were near him.  Without her voice he was uncertain where she was, her warmth seemed to be everywhere.  “Are you still there?”

                “Your curse, it feels… familiar.”

                He felt her fingertips on his cheek and a tug as she removed them.  He blinked, then blinked again.  For the first time in his life, he could see during the day.  It was bright and made him squint, unsure.  The vastness of the light made everything more vibrant.  Beautiful, he silently sighed in awe.  The sky was blue.  He had never seen blue skies.

                The sorceress was older, though her voice sounded young.  Her black hair streaked with ash laid over her shoulders and hung down to her hips.  She wore an elegant silver gown made of lace with sapphire accents.  She rubbed her thumb over her fingers and a purple shimmering light appeared.  As the color dissipated, his vision withdrew once more into darkness.

                “I know this magic,” the sorceress said quietly.  “Fate can be a strange creature, but it must favor you.  This magic belongs to my sister.  The age of it feels of the time when she left us.   Even as I say it, I know that is not really what happened.”  Melancholy.  Warrick’s black vision seemed to hint of a blue hue, as if the sorceress’s sorrow was penetrating his view.  She continued.  “She left willingly, but our parents were displeased that she would not have the power of a sorcerer like them…like me.  A mere witch.   How heartbroken she must have been.  But here you are with a spell that a witch could not have given, at least not given and then sustained for so long.”

                She cleared her throat as if she realized she gave too much information.

                “My parents,” Warrick said softly.  “My parents treated her kindly.  They have always spoken of her with respect.  And our town, they too.  You cannot witness a miracle and not honor the one who gave it, even if she meant it as a curse.”

                He felt the sorceress’s arms around him.  It seemed out of character with all he knew about her.  She whispered into him, “Thank you.  I loved her dearly.  I miss her still.”  She pulled away from him.  “Now, you.  Your spell was cast by my sister, which means our magic comes from the same source.  If the magic is from the same source there are two ways to break the spells, and both can be done without my presence or my sister’s.  One, each of you cut a palm, let the blood pool and then press your hands together.  The intent to disperse the magic must be felt in that moment.”

                Warrick breathed out his disbelief.  They had the power to break their blessing and curse all along.  “We can do that.”

                “Ah, well, I think you will prefer the second method.”  Warrick felt the smile on her lips through her words.  “You know, fairytales have such improbable endings, but they do get their ideas from somewhere.”


                Seraphina sat on the right side of the king.  His queen to his left.  One by one people were escorted in.  They were still making up for the time of her absence.  It was getting late.  They already paused for dinner but continued afterward because the king insisted.  “We must get caught up.”

                She did not mind.  She wanted to avoid going to bed where her mind would wander. Thinking of Warrick helped her to know she had done the right thing to return but thinking of him and wishing… that was another thing.  One she was not expecting.

                She leaned in and whispered to the king, the two women before them, waiting.  “Both of them are certain they are right, your highness.  Neither are malicious, they just want their children cared for.”

                He nodded before addressing them.  “One grew the wheat, the other made the bread.  Together you paid for the medicine.  Now there is only enough left for one child.  You are good subjects to work together as you did.  Both of you go to my apothecary, tidy his shop as payment, and then you shall be given the medicine you still need.”

                “Thank you, your majesty,” said one.

                “Thank you, sire.  Thank you,” said the other.

                They left with smiles on their lips and relief in their countenances.  Seraphina smiled, too.  He was paranoid without her.  But with her, he felt confident in his decisions.  Indeed, he was a very good king when he did not doubt anyone’s motives.  She wished he trusted himself.  She wished he trusted his wife.  She wished Warrick were there.

                She stared at her hands in her lap and took a deep breath as she heard the king call for the next person in line.  When she looked up her heart skipped a beat.  She almost stood but stopped herself. 

                “Your highness,” Warrick said as he was being guided by a servant on one side and using his walking stick on the other.  The blind and lame were always taken first, and not made to wait in the line.

                “What is your grievance?”  The king asked.

                “Forgive me.  I wish for an audience with Seraphina.”  His head turned toward her, and she wondered, could he smell the lavender soap she used? 

                The queen sat up straighter.  The king shifted in his seat.  “How do you know my Seraphina?”

                “I met her, while she was away.”

                “You are the blind man in the forest.  The one who tried to hide her.”  The king said, his voice hard.

                “Yes,” Warrick said.  He shrugged.  “But a blind man cannot do much damage, can he?  You have her back.  I merely wish to speak to her.”


                “Please, your highness.”  Seraphina could not keep the pleading from her voice.

                “Darling,” the queen said.  “If they stay in the castle, what can it hurt?”

                His brow furrowed.  “You may speak, but only if you do so in my presence.”

                Warrick grinned.  “Of course, sire.”

                Seraphina willed herself to walk to him despite her desire to run, not wanting the king’s possessive nature regarding her to flare. 

                “Hello,” she said once she stood before him.  What could she say here?  In front of her king?

                She glanced at the throne and the king leaned forward, watching carefully.

                Warrick reached his hand up and felt her face.  Not uncommon for the blind to do.  His thumb rested on her chin and he stepped forward.  It seemed as if time slowed down as he came closer to her and then he stopped as she watched his white eyes regain their color.  His eyes penetrated hers with such intensity.  His intent…a desire for her to be happy.  To be free. 

                “Night,” he said.  “What good timing.  So, I could see you one last time.”

                In her peripheral vision she saw the king and queen’s bewilderment.  The king stood and started toward them.  But she soon forgot of their existence as Warrick pressed his lips against hers with such fierceness, his desire for her freedom becoming a clear intent for the magic between them to vanish.  And for a moment, his intent became her own.  If only they had met without a blessing and a curse…

                Just as quickly as his lips had been there, they were gone.  She felt herself get thrown back, a force more powerful than any man’s.  Seraphina stared across the room, Warrick several feet away from where he had been standing.  The king stepped back, shocked. 

                “What happened?” she asked.

                “That is what I would like to know!” the king bellowed. 

                Seraphina’s eyes widened and she let out a cry.  Warrick was on his knees, feeling for his walking stick.  She ran to him and when his eyes met hers, the color was gone.  “Warrick…”

                “It is alright,” he said as he found his staff.  He stood.  “I spoke to the sorceress.  You are free now.”

                “But how?”


                “What do you mean she is free?”  the king asked as he came toward them.  Suddenly he stopped, a silver light twirling in front of him as a parchment appeared.  It floated in the air until he took hold of it.  “It cannot be.  No!” 

                The queen went to him and read.  “The sorceress has confirmed.”  She looked at Seraphina.  “Your power is gone.”

                “No, no, no!  What will we do now?” the king asked wildly.  “How will we know who to believe?  What is right to do?  You!”  He stepped toward Warrick, but his anger turned to hopelessness, turned to exhaustion and he collapsed to his knees in despair. 

                The queen motioned for Seraphina and Warrick to leave.  Her voice was tender as she knelt beside her husband.  “Darling, you have always been capable of discerning for yourself.  It may not be perfect, but you can do it.  You…”

                Seraphina held Warrick’s arm as she guided him out of the throne room.  He told her how the spell was able to be broken without being with the sorceress.  She could hardly believe it.  “I am speechless.   I do not know whether to be angry you gave up your sight or grateful you came back for me.”

                “You can be both,” he said with a half-smile.

                “Thank you seems trivial.”

                “How miserable have you been since you returned?” he asked.

                She sighed. “More than I would like to admit.”

                “Then it was worth it.  How do you feel now?  Now that you are void of feeling intent as one speaks to you?”

                “Off balance, but also peaceful.  I did not realize how much noise intention made until now.  It is almost too quiet.” She swallowed.  Without feeling Warrick’s intention, it now made her more vulnerable.  And that made being alone with him more — intimate. 

                “You will get used to it,” he said softly.  He paused but then leaned forward, using one hand to guide him; he kissed her cheek.  His face lingered inches from hers for but a moment before he stepped back.  “The hour is late.  I suppose I should head to an inn.  Rest up before my journey home.”

                Seraphina’s eyes began to sting, and she blinked back tears.  She inhaled a steadying breath before she spoke.  “I should gather my things and settle back into my parents’ home.  I imagine they will be less than pleased at what we have done, but I am.  So, thank you again.”

                Warrick gave a slight bow.  He paused a moment, as if he were gazing at her, before leaving the castle grounds.


                He dreamt of Seraphina and laughed at himself for it.   A half blind man would have little chance with such a woman, an actual blind man, none.  He smiled sadly. He had kept his intent pure, so that would be all she felt.  It was easy.  Sure, he felt a desire to be with her, but there can be no intent to make it come true when there was no possibility in the first place. 

                Still, as he went toward home, walking stick in motion, he remembered the kiss that released them from the magic they were under.  Her lips were cracked, still chapped from the nights of travel in the cold.  Yet, they felt perfect just the same.

                He tilted his head, fast footsteps taking him away from his thoughts.  Running.  Then the sound stopped beside him, heavy breathing as the person tried to catch some air. 

                “You left earlier than I thought you would.”


                Warrick tried to shake himself from his surprise.  “I…um…” 

                “Do you mind company?” she asked eagerly. 

                He shook his head.  “No.”  He hesitated for a moment as hope rose in his throat, but he could not let it overtake him.  “May I ask for how long?”

                He could sense her shifting, unsure, and then it halted as if confidence had pushed all reluctance aside.  “Is always long enough?”

                A grin slowly spread as the meaning of her words took hold in his chest.  “It is a start,” he breathed as Seraphina put her arm through his.

Art by Sarah E. Harder

The Art of Listening

Have you ever spoken to a child and, as they talk, they have a long pause between words or ideas?

I’ve seen two main reactions to this.  One, there’s an impatience that happens.  Either for the kid to finish up because you know what they are going to say anyway, you want to quit being interrupted, or you just don’t care that much.

Then there’s the second reaction, where someone waits patiently, perhaps even finding the beauty of watching the child form the words and share their thoughts.

There are days when I fall into the first reaction.  Usually when I am on a tight schedule and I need to be somewhere.  But I do my best to give the second response.  We all want to be heard.  We all want to finish our thoughts and not be talked over.  Kids included… or maybe kids especially.

I find talking to children to be a great opportunity to practice the art of listening.  It’s what they want.  It’s what they need.  Particularly teenagers.  They don’t want you to fix their problems or give them advice.  They just want you to listen.  In fact, I literally have written in my goal-oriented planner “Listening is better than talking.”


The art of listening has impacted me tremendously.  Not just doing the listening, but to have people in my life who hear me.  Everyone needs a turn to be heard.  I have a friend who is excellent at listening and it is noticing how she always listens that I realized I did most of the talking!   Oops.  So, I decided to be quiet more and, in the process, I find our relationship to be even better because now she has an opportunity to be open and heard, allowing there to be a flow both ways.   This experience is just one that has illustrated to me the benefits of practicing the art of listening.  So, I decided I’d share some of the benefits I have noticed over the years.


Benefits of listening:


  • Gain patience. Like with the example of kids above or even with adults.  Not rushing in but instead making sure they have finished their thought can often take some patience.
  • Going hand in hand with that. Getting comfortable with silence.   Allowing someone to take a moment with their thoughts and then continue allows you this opportunity.  And getting comfortable with silence when with someone transfers to being comfortable with silence when alone.  And often that silence can bring a spring of creativity.
  • Knowledge! There are a lot of people around us and we can learn from their experiences.  Asking questions is one of the best listening skills.     Ask.  Ask.  Someone willing to listen to another is invaluable to most people and brings a likeability toward you to boot – which is a bonus!  You gain insight that you might not otherwise receive.
  • An opportunity to practice empathy. You don’t have to agree with what someone is saying to do this either.  You just need to let them know that you understand they are feeling a certain way.
  • Observe! Particularly in a group.  Man, you can home in your observation skills when you stop talking and start listening.  Which, as a writer, is huge.
  • I mentioned it already, but it bears mentioning again.
  • It is why the likability is a factor.  When you are willing to listen, it brings an opportunity to connect with someone on a deeper level.
  • With that, when you are genuinely hearing someone, and it is time to respond you can allow a pause and ponder yourself before generating a response. They might talk to fill the silence if they can’t stand it but pausing and then answering will show that you sincerely care about what they had to say.  And, it shows you weren’t just waiting for them to be quiet so you could talk.
  • Builds your self-respect. Not having to be the center of attention, being comfortable with silence, and looking out for others helps facilitate self-respect.


Now that we’ve covered some benefits.  Let me share with you a few tricks to help you get into the habit of listening.

Practice in a group setting.  Remind yourself before you leave that you aren’t going to jump in with your story or comment first.

Pay attention to the group.  Has someone started a story but keeps getting derailed because everyone else is chiming in.  Bring it back to that person and ask them a question relevant to the topic.  Even saying to the group, “Wait SoandSo didn’t finish.  Go ahead.”  That sort of encouragement is awesome and once again shows you are paying attention and ready to listen!

I’m going to say it again.  Ask questions!  Over and over.  Even prepare some ahead of time.  Did one of your friends mention going to a movie?  Ask them how it was.  Did they mention going on a date, or did a pet die, or are they having trouble with a relative, or got a promotion at work?  Ask them about it!  But you can only ask them IF you are already making effort to remember the things going on in their life.  Which is what a good friend does.  So, pay attention – listen! – and ask for updates!  Then listen some more.

Now, all this listening doesn’t mean you aren’t participating.  In fact, it shows you are actively engaged, and can respond and share as well!   But you’ll have a better idea of when, how, and what to respond with.  If you think you are doing great with listening, then awesome.  But if you aren’t sure, ask yourself one of these questions.

When my kid/colleague/friend came to talk to me, did I just give advice/lecture/start talking about myself?

Do I talk over people?

Last time I went out what did other people talk about?  If you can only remember what you shared or how other people responded to what you said, then maybe consider taking a step back and letting others have a turn in the spotlight.

When someone is talking to me, do I look at my phone?  Or give my entire attention?  Do I look them in the eye, nod, and give those physical signs that I am present?


I do want to make a special note about listening to those you live with.

Family members need your attention and that listening ear.  When a spouse/partner or kids come home be prepared to hear all about them FIRST.  Or even a house mate!  Let them get it out.  Ask those clarifying questions and give some empathy.

At my house, that usually means my teenagers talk and then go do stuff.  My youngest talks about his day and then double checks if I’m busy or if I can play games with him (yeah, he’s adorable and I do deliberately try and make sure I can play games a few times a week.  Why?  Because I listen and he’s telling me what he needs from me by that continual asking.  The gaming isn’t about games, it’s about connection.  Taking the information seriously is important.)

The husband, he gets to share is accomplishments, or his frustrations, or his plans for a project, etc.

All the tips I mentioned earlier, I use on my family.  Even the preparing beforehand.  Remembering that a kid has a test or an audition or was going to mention something important to a friend, or give a gift to a teacher, etc.  Ask questions about how things went or how they felt in the moment.  Show interest.  Give empathy when it is a tough day.  And when they interrupt each other, go back and make sure your family members get to finish their stories.


Now, here’s the hope I have for all of you.  That you have a spouse or kids or a housemate, who then asks you how your day has been.  Listening to others can be a lot easier when you know you’ll get a chance to share because there are days when YOU need a listening ear.  A rant.  An applause for a job well done.  A moment to feel valued, just like you’ve provided for them.

Listening is a gift you are giving.  If you take care of yourself (a topic for another day), you are better equipped to take the time and energy to really hear the people around you.  Watch the difference it makes with those in your circle.  You won’t be disappointed.


Happy Listening!


Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash


Drained, But Doing It Anyway

I don’t feel like writing today.  Like at all.  That is an odd thing for me since I’m pretty geared up to write most of the time.

I am an introvert, which means I recharge when I am by myself.  The holidays, having the kids home, visitors, etc is all catching up to me.  I haven’t had a real, good, long stretch of time by myself for several weeks. Which means my patience is thin and my energy is just not there.

All I really want to do is go back to sleep.  Or sit and veg out until it is time to go to bed.  And when I say “veg” you better believe I mean watching a tv show or a movie, not picking up a book which takes more brain power.  This is a definite sign that I am depleted and need recharge time.

Three days ago, I was fine.  Managing my energy with my patience still intact.  I was even pumped up and ready to go for the new year with a new planner, new goals – all eagerly jumping up and down until I said, “Go!” Anticipation for the awesomeness that would go into the new year, even as I continued to do my best to finish out 2019 strong.

But I can only keep up for so long before my introvert self throws a fit to remind me that she has needs, too.  I know it, but I also know how the next few days will go.  I won’t really be able to give attention until after the weekend.  A little bit here and there, but overall, that big recharge is on back order.

So, that’s a bummer.   Which means today I must focus on the discipline I’ve been cultivating the last year.  Sitting in this chair to even write this thing was not sunshine and roses.  There may have been more than one sigh, but that’s okay.  Words are on the page.  I have my idea notebook out (since I don’t like the other two things I started to write on the first and the second).  So, I’ll pull one from the list and start writing.  Why? Because it’s my job, too.  And one day, hopefully soon, I’ll get paid for it.  Until then, I’ll practice all the habits I want to have when I go pro.

And for the record, I’m going to deliberately post this in the evening.  That way you can see my one million words 2020 challenge update at the end and know how disciplined I really was, and I’ll know too.  Gotta be accountable to myself.

Evening Notes: Below is my overall update.  For the record, today I wrote 3,189 words.  Not too shabby.  I did decide to keep going with one of my ideas from yesterday, so that’s good.  I even have a story line all plotted in my mind for the entire book, which is a plus and will help with the next round of writing.  This is what happens when you sit down and write even when you don’t feel like it.



One Million Words Challenge 2020 Update: 9,350


Photo by Sarah Youthed on Unsplash

One Million Words 2020 Challenge

One Million Word Challenge 2020 has commenced!

One of the best decisions I ever made was two years ago deciding to attend my first writers conference.  That conference gave me information on more conferences.  My first LTUE (Life the Universe and Everything) conference was in February of 2018.  Who knew that such a decision would change my life for the better?  I made new friends at that conference.  Friends where, each time we get together, it feels like a sweet reunion because we all understand each other and the very thing we have chosen to devote our attention to.

It’s one of those very friends who issued this challenge.  One million words.  One million words in a year.  It’s quite the project.  Luckily, I was already planning on many more posts here on my website, but even with those, it’ll be quite the task to get all my word count in.  But I have to give a huge thank you to my friend, Troy Lambert, for pushing us as writers to reach for more.  To expand ourselves, to tighten our discipline, and to create more fully.  You are a rock star and help us all to shine.


Here’s the breakdown of the challenge with MATH!

1,000,000 divided by 52 weeks = 19,230

19,230 divided by 7 days = 2,747


Like my buddy Troy I am going for 4,000 words in a day so I can get a buffer and not have to work on the weekends.

The most difficult part of this challenge will be summer when the kids are home.  In the past I have been good to still write during the summer regularly, but I think I’ll have to really pull a Flash and make my fingers run quite speedy to hit my goals daily.

There will be lots of pondering and getting in the headspace of writing and what I’ll be doing before I even sit down so I can move in with ease.  I think a lot of people think writing is just sitting at the computer and facing the blank page, which is definitely a big part of it.  However, you can do a lot in your mind before you even sit down.   Go through scenes.  Sort out problems with character or plot.  It’s a lot of thought and creativity before you pull out the tools to get it on paper.  That process itself is quite beautiful and so enriching when you’ve done the work before hand and then get to put it down and SEE it.  (Though I admit sometimes it’s better in my head than on paper, but better to have it on paper than to have it vanish completely)

I hesitated at first to accept the challenge.  The writer in me sat up eager, but the wife and mother in me doubted.  I have found a balance in my writing and in the other important parts of my life, but this sort of challenge demands disruption.  I slept on it.  I discussed it with my husband.  We talked it through, and he was more supportive than I had anticipated.  He wants my dreams to come true just as much as I want his to.

In talking to him I realized I could do it.  I’d proved to myself already that I had the discipline.  I know how to utilize my time and how to cut things, how to enhance my writing time, how to stay on top of household duties, how to GO TO BED EARLY AND GET UP EARLY.

That last one is so key for me.  Critical.  If I get up early (6am) and exercise, then by the time the kids leave for school, I can shower and be ready for the day by 9 am.  Work until 2:15 -30 pm.  With walking breaks in there for good measure.  Then it’s all MOM.  Do laundry, do errands with whatever kids want to go, homework, dinner, gaming, bedtimes, after bedtime chats with teenagers, and then a quick time to relax before bed by ten.  Asleep by 11pm. If I’m lucky, I’ll get more writing time in the evening, but let’s be real here, relationships take time and I’m willing to leave my evenings open for my people.  Especially since they’ve always been good about giving me my space to work.

So yeah, this challenge is a beast.  But I like challenges and I like proving to myself that I have more in me than I thought.  I did that last year.  I’ll do it again this year.  Each year building upon the last.  I make no promises that every word will be elegantly lined up, but I know this process will help me grow more than just as a writer.  Instead, enhancing me as a human being.



One Million Words 2020 Challenge Update: 6,161 words


Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Overwatch League-When a non-gamer gets invested

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a gamer.  I live with gamers, but I’m not one.   My husband, Tod, and four kids are huge Overwatch fans.  The three oldest play with their father while the youngest watches, eager for the day that he too can take his ranks among them.  It is great bonding time as they are actively doing something together.

When Tod first told me that Blizzard (the creators of Overwatch) was creating an Overwatch League, a competitive e-sport, I didn’t have any real feelings on it either way.  We began to watch the First Stage of the games and I could see that it was really important to him.  I was completely lost though.  I had no idea who any of the characters were, their abilities, the objective of the game, or anything.  But my husband wanted me to watch it with him and the kids (family time!).  So, I sat and watched for a couple weeks, often fairly bored, not getting it, and only watching because I love him and our children.

I wanted to get more into it, but didn’t know how to do so without actually playing.  (I have a lot of feelings surrounding my experiences playing games so decided it wasn’t a good idea right now).  While discussing this with Tod, he informed me that Blizzard actually created story-line videos, with specific vids for each character.  As a writer, this is where I knew I’d find my love for the League.  We watched as a family all the videos for every character.

This really helped me to begin integrating into the Overwatch League world.  Just knowing the backstory of the characters got me more engaged in what I was seeing.

Now, the competition environment/set up is important here.  There are twelve teams, each with coaches, a manager, and an owner.  Every team plays against all the other teams during each Stage.  There are four Stages in the regular season.  At the end of the four Stages the top teams go to the playoffs until there is an overall winner (think football with their Super bowl).  Best part?  There is a Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles where every game is played with an audience and casters!  There is something called the Desk, where they break down the game for you.  During the game play there are casters talking about what is going on.  And, interviews with a player from the winning team at the end of every match.   Lots of moving parts that really add to the experience.

Once I started to really be active in the watching experience, several things happened. One, I would focus on what characters were being played and notice the fighting abilities I saw in the videos, which made it more fun.  Two, I started to really love the casters.  I began to get my favorites and enjoy the banter between them.  Third, I also started to recognize the players, whose on what team, and again, favorites started to emerge.  We have our family team, which I’ll talk about in a moment, but then there are other teams that I root for.  The underdogs, Shanghai Dragons!  The ones who had a rough patch but came out stronger like the Boston Uprising.

You also begin to build a relationship with the various players!  Like Jjonak who looks like my brother in law in Korean form aka Korean Tim, or Pine who had to leave for a few weeks to visit his family cause he was home sick (so sweet!), or Rawkus whose dad died so he dyed his hair green cause it’s his dad’s favorite color, or Mickie who is just a goofball, or Geguri the only female player and who is fierce, etc.  The human aspect of the game is hugely compelling.   Particularly because this is a sport which means these guys have to be high performance players which adds a great deal of mental, and physical, stress!  They are impressive in their skill, in how they handle losses, and in how gracious they are with their wins.

Now to promote the greatest team in the league.  Our family team is London Spitfire.  The first players I really started to know were London players, Birdring and Profit.  These guys are magic together.  As I continued to watch I’ve come to appreciate all the players on this team.  Though they will “trash talk” the other teams, they are so humble about it!  Which just adds to the like-ability of these players.  In the standings they are currently in fourth place.  We just started Stage four.  I now understand the emotions of sports fans!  I want London in the finals so bad!  I watch them play and am on the tip of my seat with held breath waiting for the outcome.  It can be emotionally exhausting!

Am I now an expert at the game? No.  Do I still get lost sometimes?  Yes.  Do I enjoy watching the games and getting to know the players/casters?  Absolutely.  I had to step out of my box, but I’m so glad I did.   It’s brought a whole new appreciation to sports and to gaming.

P.S. Now onto the finals!  These will be played in New York at the Barclays Center.  London Spitfire against Philadelphia Fusion!  Aces High!