Monthly Archives: September 2016

Garden Victory – A Flash Fiction Story in 422 Words


Stella stood among the sunflowers, daisies, peonies, hydrangeas, and roses.  The tears that rolled down her face hit the ground.  She looked around to see if her sorrow had been absorbed into their roots.  But the flowers didn’t wither and die.  Instead, they stood tall and luscious; the sun showering them with vibrancy and life.

“Traitors,” Stella muttered. “It’s like you don’t even care that he’s gone.”  Stella reached down and pulled her gardening apron to her, wiping the remaining tears from her eyes.  As she did a pair of shears fell out of the pocket.  She knelt down to pick them up, but stayed on the ground paralyzed by the flowers towering over her.  Were they really as callous as they seemed?

Stella turned the shears over and over in her hands.  The ground felt hard underneath her, but somehow that did not encourage Stella to get up.  What would Matthew say about her sitting in the garden, she wondered.  Would he behave in typical Matthew fashion and call her silly, laughing as he pulled her up? Give her a hug and a kiss on her forehead?

Well I’ll never know, Stella thought.  Matthew is dead and I’ll never know what he would think about this.  I’ll never know what he would think about anything again. 

Stella continued turning the gardening shears in her hands.  As she did, the words, Matthew is dead, turned over in her mind.  The words and movement both seemed involuntary and she didn’t know how to stop either.  She started squeezing the shears together, just for something different to do.  Then, as another torrent of tears was unleashed, Stella began hacking the flowers closest to her.  Down came the roses.

“Bravo,” they seemed to shout, taunting her with every snip of her shears.  “Now you’re getting somewhere.”  So, she kept going.  Down came the hydrangeas, then the peonies, and the daisies.  Last, came the sunflowers.  She did not stop until every flower laid on the ground, their remaining foliage and stems at half-mast of where they had once been.

Stella looked at her work.  “There,” she cried, sobbing into her hands.  “Now you’re dead, too.”  Stella wasn’t sure if she meant the garden or herself.  She sank to her knees again, but this time the ground wasn’t so hard.  The flowers cushioned her like a bed, soft and welcoming.  Stella laid down.    Maybe if she lay there long enough, the summer sun would somehow bring her back to life.  So she closed her eyes and waited.

Memoir Monday – September 26th, 2016


Let’s just get this out of the way – No, I do not personally know Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, their children, their lawyers, or anyone who knows the ins and outs of their family.  In fact, since Jennifer Aniston wrote an essay about the shaming that goes on under the guise of journalism for the choices that she has made in her life (oh, the irony for her to be included in this essay), I vowed not to read celebrity gossip news story anymore and I’ve done a pretty good job of sticking to my commitment.

But, headlines are everywhere and I am on social media so here’s what I know about the situation: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are getting divorced.  Here are how the responses play out, as I’ve observed:

1)      People are mad that we spend any time discussing celebrity news stories in a world where poverty, war, hunger, and climate change are just a few of the issues we really should be concerned about.

2)      People are indifferent; they could not care less at this couple getting divorced.

3)      People are gleeful.  It could be because they were team Jennifer (which for the record I was; I doubt I will ever love a show as much as I loved Friends) or it could be a case of schadenfreude, which is when we find pleasure in others’ peoples misfortunes

4)      Other

You’ll notice that my fourth option is rather generic and it has to be because I taught statistics and research methods for many years and the recovering academic in me cannot have a list of options that is not exhaustive (meaning every possible alternative is given).  So in this option, we have a whole spectrum of possible responses including excited that Brad or Angelina may now show up on Tinder or, in my case, broken heart.

Yes, I am heartbroken over this divorce and here’s why: I have never been divorced, but I know what it’s like to have a relationship end.

Some have been amicable and some have been awful.  But no matter what type of breakup there is, I always feel a sense of loss.

For the amicable splits, it could be like saying goodbye to pumpkin spice when spring returns (even though we now know pumpkin isn’t really pumpkin).  It’s not too hard to say goodbye because we have fond memories and the promise of new scents out there, like lilac and fresh mown grass.  Besides, pumpkin spice always comes back, right?  If we just wait long enough…. And who knows?  You might have moved on to peppermint by then anyway.

For the awful splits, well, most of us know how that feels.  The worst was always that first morning after a breakup.  You wake up feeling exhausted and drained, with a hollowed-out sensation behind your eyes which also feel prickly, but you’re not sure why.  There’s a sense of something not being quite right and then it comes back and hits you like an elephant sitting on your chest – you are now alone and no longer in a relationship.

So can you imagine suffering that sense of loss and then being reminded about it in the newspaper, on the television, or the internet?  Not because there was a reference to a song the two of you shared or a book or movie the both of you enjoyed, but because there is an actual story written about your breakup for others to read and comment on as they see fit.  People who don’t even know you get to call you names and make assumptions about who said/did what and how the other person felt about it.

I want you to seriously imagine what that would be like.  Go on, close your eyes at the end of this paragraph and picture it happening to you – you feel vulnerable, pessimistic, and unloved, and millions of people know it. 


So that’s why my heart is broken.  Because I can imagine what that feels like and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, let alone two people who made a commitment to love each other and raise a family together only to see that commitment come undone years later.

I am now going to offer a fifth option for a response to Angelina and Brad’s divorce.  For those of you who believe in the power of prayer, pray for them and their family.  For those of you who do not, simply hold them in your mind and wish them well.

Imagine if everyone reading Angelina and Brad stories did this!  Let’s guessitmate that’s 10% of the US population.  We would get a new equation that looks like this:

(Angelina – Brad) + 32,000,000*<3 = <3  to ∞

Angelina and Brad would cancel each other out and we would be left with an abundance of love.  Simple, I know, and idealistic, yes.  But I’m okay with that because I also taught the rule of parsimony in research methods which tells us that we need to keep things simple.

So what do y’all think?  Should we try this?  Think it will work?  I would love to hear your comments.

If you enjoyed this post, I’ve got plenty more where this came from and it can all be delivered right to your inbox.  All you have to do is subscribe to my blog.  Parsimony strikes again!

Worker Bee – A Fable in 868 Words


In the morning, the bees set out from their hive.  They buzzed with anticipation.  Soon, the sweet taste of nectar would be on their tongues. They would then bring the nectar back to the hive.  They had to sustain their queen and each other with the honey they produced.

One bee however, lagged behind the others.  This Worker Bee sighed as her sisters took flight.  They all had the same job to do.  It was the same job they had yesterday and the day before that.  It would be the same job tomorrow and the day after that.  Nothing ever changed for the worker bees and this particular bee knew it.  Oh, how she wished for something different with her life!

The Worker Bee flew a mile or so and finally made a stop at a rose bush.  Without thinking about what she was doing, she went about her task and in just a few moments, she was on her way home.

Back at the hive, her nectar was received with thanks and appreciation.  But as she flew away, the Worker Bee heard a whispered exchange among the other bees. “It’s like she doesn’t even try.  She hardly had any nectar to offer.”

Who are they to criticize me? thought Worker Bee.  That’s not fair!  I never asked to spend my days chasing down nectar and feeding the hive.  They just assumed I would do it.  Well, I’ll show them.

The next day the bees again took flight in search of nectar.  But not Worker Bee.  She headed towards the lake and spent the day frolicking among the lily pads.  On the way home, she picked up just a touch of nectar from the same rose bush she had stopped at before.  She deposited it in the hive and did not care to listen to anything the other bees had to say about her.

Worker Bee spent the next two days at the lake as well and each day when she came home she offered just a touch of nectar.  The other bees looked at her in irritation.  She thought she heard comments such as “lazy,” and “no good,” but Worker Bee averted her eyes, pretending she could not see or hear them.  What did she care?  She did not want to be doing this work.

After another day at the lake, Worker Bee was summoned before the Queen.  This request was not something she could ignore.  Worker Bee bowed before her majesty and waited.

“You do not like the work you do for the hive?” asked the Queen.

Worker Bee looked up in surprise.  She had not expected this question.  “No, your majesty,” Worker Bee admitted.  “I do not think this is the work for me.”

“Perhaps not,” said the Queen.  “But it is the work you have been given.  Why do you not do your best at it?”

Worker Bee thought about the Queen’s question and offered one in turn.  “Why should I do my best when this work isn’t for me?”

“I see,” said the Queen.  “In that case, you are free from your duties.  Go and find the work that is suited for you.”

Worker Bee flew away from the Queen as fast as she could.  She didn’t even thank the Queen, for she was afraid her majesty would take back her offer.  Worker Bee was free!  She could finally do whatever it was she wanted to do.

For the next few days, Worker Bee played at the lake.  She buzzed to and fro, stopping on many lily pads and marveling at all the fun she was having.

After a few more days, Worker Bee was ready to move on from the lake.  She buzzed around, taking note of all the different flowers she had somehow missed while working for the hive.  She stopped at each one, taking in its beauty for the sheer delight and pleasure of it.  She licked up the nectar from one yellow one in particular which looked like spun gold.  The nectar was so sweet and delicious, Worker Bee wanted to share it with someone.  But there was no one around and Worker Bee suddenly felt lonely.

Worker Bee decided to return to the hive with her nectar.  As she returned home, no one seemed to take much notice of her, but she couldn’t help but buzz with excitement at the sweet treasure she had found.  Soon the other bees were tasting the nectar and in no time at all, Worker Bee was again summoned by the Queen.

“Yes, this nectar is particularly tasty,” the Queen told Worker Bee, who gloated at her find.  “I don’t suppose you would be able to bring us back more tomorrow?”

“Oh, yes, your majesty!” said Worker Bee.  “I’d be happy to.”

Worker Bee went out the next morning to her yellow flower and returned with the nectar.  It was just as sweet as the day before.  The bees delighted in the nectar so much, that Worker Bee continued bringing back the nectar to the hive every day after that.  Worker Bee never complained about her job again.  Now that she  found what she was looking for, it didn’t quite seem like work.

Memoir Monday – September 19th, 2016


A funny thing has been happening lately.  I keep telling everyone I have a PhD.  Ironically, when I had two sets of business cards made in the last few years, one personal set for when I went on my sabbatical and one professional set for when I was promoted to associate professor, I forgot to include my doctoral degree on both.

When I realized these omissions, it occurred to me I could not care less about them.  I thought, A-ha!  I have finally gotten over myself and now I can move on. 

It was one of the best break-ups I’ve ever had

and I didn’t even have to gaze longingly at my ceiling while playing Jewel’s You Were Meant For Me on repeat to get over it.

Since then, I’d certainly say I’ve moved on, what with quitting my teaching job and maintaining I never want to conduct another statistical analysis again in my life.  Yet, here I am day in and day out trying to work my degree into conversations with my customers.

Oh, did I forget to mention I got a new job?  One that has customers?  I know, crazy, right? For those of you who know me, you have heard me say over the years, “I could never have a service job.”  So imagine my surprise that I am now working in a service job.  And an even bigger surprise – I am loving it!

It all happened rather by chance.  The wife of the couple my husband and I are housesitting for in Connecticut showed us around town before they left.  We were at the local grocery store when we turned around an aisle corner and bumped into a woman who owns a café in town.  She lamented her college students had gone back to school and she was without help.  My husband and I volunteered for the job.

Six days a week (I get Wednesdays off), from 11am to 2pm, I now assist in a café.  I greet customers, make sandwiches, wash dishes, and perform various other duties, but most excitedly for me I get to make change using an early model cash register!  You may not think the previous sentence warrants an exclamation point, but one of my favorite toys as a child was a cash register (first a fisher price one, then an upgraded model that came with fake credit cards and an electronic display).

I also loved basic math as a child and just for fun when I finished exams early in grade school, I would flip them over and calculate long division problems like

576869707078685747475869 ÷ 12

So getting to use a cash register which adds up the prices of lunches, iced teas, and brownies, with the punch of a few buttons, then makes delightful cha-ching sounds when I give the customers change is somewhat of a dream come true for me.  Of course, it’s not the same sort of dream coming true as being a published writer, but in the meantime, I’m pretty excited about it.

I must have some insecurity, though, about being in this job because I bring up my PhD often.

Why does it matter?  I suspect it’s because deep down I sometimes take to heart what other people think of me.  Or more accurately, what I think other people think about me.  Here’s how it goes in my mind: Oh, did you hear?  Dr. Kandra is now working at a café?  So much for her writing career! 

On the positive side I am aware of what happens when we assume and a lot of the time I am able to stamp out my ego and get back to actually living my life instead of getting caught up in my head.  It turns out I actually like this job and I honestly don’t think it minimizes my goals of being a writer in any way.

There’s also the fact that in this new job, I am doing things that I’ve always taken for granted as easy.  Maybe for some people they are.  For me, not so much, and even though I am incredibly enthusiastic about it (DID I MENTION THE CASH REGISTER?!?!) and what I bring to the café, I keep making mistakes.  For example, today I learned that mayonnaise does not go on a traditional Italian tomato and mozzarella sandwich.  EVER.  In case you want to know, use olive oil.

These experiences have been incredibly humbling for me and I think I’m having a hard time accepting not being inherently good at something.

Time will tell if I can embrace this humility and maybe learn something from it.

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy my cash register and making sandwiches. I only have two short months here.  Come November when my husband and I head to our next housesitting job in North Carolina, this may be an even tougher breakup than with my PhD.  I will have to get my playlist ready just in case I have a hard time saying goodbye.  I’m thinking Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion.  I’m also welcome to suggestions.  Please feel free to leave any in the comments below.

Play – A Flash Fiction Story in 692 Words


“Wanna play?”  Eli asked.  He didn’t wait for a response then said “What’s your name?”

“Chrissy,” the girl replied.  Eli took that as confirmation they were now playing together. 

“Come on,” he shouted as he ran towards the playground.  He looked back over his shoulder and saw Chrissy look at her dad, who nodded. 

“Okay,” Eli said taking charge.  “The first one to the top of the mountain is the winner.”

“What mountain?  Chrissy looked around.

Eli eyed her as if she had just asked where the sun was.  He threw his arm out in the direction of the big bales of hay, stacked high enough for playful climbing, but not too high for catastrophic falling. 

“Oh,” said Chrissy.  She stood there as Eli charged her.  She shrieked, then stepped aside. 

“No, no, no,” Eli told her.  “You’re doing it all wrong.  You’re supposed to stop me.  Where’s the fun in you just stepping to the side.”

“I dunno,” shrugged Chrissy. 

“Okay, we’ll try it again.  Let’s start back here.”  Eli grabbed her arm and pulled her maybe 20 yards back near where their parents were sitting on benches.  Eli noticed Chrissy’s father staring at them and he waved, then turned his attention back to Chrissy.  “Ready, set, go!” he took off like a rocket.

It only took Chrissy a moment to get her bearings then she tore off after him.  Eli was nearly to the haystack when Chrissy caught up with him.  But she was not faster than Eli, who with the finesse of a panther had already jumped up two bales, so Chrissy just stood there and watched.

“Come on!” Eli prodded when he noticed she had stopped.

“I can’t catch you,” Chrissy said. 

“So?  You can at least try!” Eli jumped down from his bales of hay.  “Let’s try one more time,” he said, dragging her back to the benches. 

When they got there, Chrissy’s dad was waiting for them.  “Mind if I give Chrissy some pointers on this go around?” he asked.

Eli shook his head.  Chrissy’s father pulled her to him by the elbow and then whispered something in her ear.  Her eyebrows inched closer together until they almost looked like one long caterpillar.  “Are you sure?” she asked her father. 

“Definitely,” he said.   

“Ready?” Eli asked her and then he counted “One, two, three, GO!” This time they took off for the haystack together, but Eli again got there first.  As he was just about to jump up on the first bale he felt Chrissy come up behind him.  WHOMP!  Chrissy tackled him into the hay so they bounced off and tussled to the ground. 

“Yeah!  That’s the way to do it!” Eli shouted.  He hopped up and grabbed her hand.  “What’d your dad tell you?”

Chrissy smiled.  “He said I should imagine what you would do if you were the one running behind me and then just do it.”  She seemed really pleased with herself. 

“Good,” Eli said.  “So now that you really know what you’re doing, let’s do it for real this time.  All the way to the top.  First one is the winner!” 

Eli and Chrissy ran back to the benches where her father stood smiling.  “I’ll count,” he told them.  “Three, two, one, GO!”

It started out with Eli in the lead, then Chrissy grabbed his arm and threw herself forward.  Then they were neck and neck.  Finally, Eli broke free and in three, two, one, he had scrambled up the hay bales, leaving Chrissy in his wake on the ground.

“I’m the winner!” came his cry of victory.  Then he held out his hand to Chrissy.

“I can’t come up there,” Chrissy told him.  “You’re the winner.”

Eli shook his head.  “Just because I won doesn’t mean you can’t come up here, too.  Besides, then we can be explorers.” As he said this he circled his hands together and held them to his eye as a telescope.

Chrissy climbed to the top of the haystack.  They stood together looking out around them.  “You’re right,” she said, making her hands into her own telescope.  “We’ve got a lot of exploring to do.”   

Memoir Monday — September 12th, 2016


There I was chugging along with my novels, when CRASH!  I hit a metaphorical brick wall.  There are two layers to this wall, first and foremost being my husband and I spent 10 days with my parents.

After years of therapy, I now find spending time in my childhood home enjoyable.  The only problem is my mom likes to indulge my husband and me with all kinds of yummy treats.  This past visit included a dozen artisan cookies from the Wegman’s bakery, as well as their ultimate white cake, 18 double-chocolate chunk cookies, a 6-pack of cupcakes, Rice Krispie treats, ice cream, and a hamburger cake.

My husband and I ate all of the above with abandon and glee.  Our bellies are evidence of these facts, as they have gleefully abandoned us by expanding like balloons.  More than that, though, we felt AWFUL, with all the sugar, gluten, dairy, preservatives, etc., as the leading source of fuel for our bodies; essentially, we laid around on the couch a lot.

Consequently, I did not do a lot of writing on my novels.  Other writing, yes, but the novels, no.  I kept trying not to be too hard on myself, but let’s face it – it’s impossible to be a novelist without having written a novel.  In addition to having my children’s stories and short stories published, published novels are up there on my list of writing goals.

But the food and laziness was not my real problem.  That was the second layer to my metaphorical brick wall. In one of my novels I had plotted out the major points and I knew where I wanted to go.  I did not necessarily know how I was going to get there.

Some of you may know this as a classic debate in writing: are you a pantser (meaning writing by the seat of your pants) or a plotter (meaning you outline your story)?  I was content to fall somewhere in-between.  Until, I wrote myself in a direction I had not anticipated.

As it turns out, the main character in my one young adult novels is about to start junior high…which I did NOT realize when I started writing.  Oh, sure, I knew she was thirteen because her thirteenth birthday is how the book begins.  But it never occurred to me that she would have to go to school at some point during her thirteenth year… DUH!!!!  But that meant thinking about a class schedule, teachers, friends, enemies, etc.  All points I had not even thought about when plotting out the storyline.

I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of having to create a junior high and all the freaks and geeks glory to it.  I also wondered if I even had to include all that anyway.  It’s not as if we know what characters do every single day of their lives after all.  So I let the ideas of what I was writing sit and marinate while I ate myself to oblivion at my parents’ house.

Once my husband and I got to our new housesitting job, we got started right away getting our lives back in order.  And when I say right away I mean right after we finished that last super-sized bag of M&M’s; although we did end up throwing the rest of it out only for one of our new charges, a black Lab named Smudge, to dig it out of the trash can when we forgot to lock it.  Thankfully, we caught him before he got very far.

So better eating.  Check.  Less laying around and more exercising.  Check.  Back to writing.  Check?

Again, I was doing some writing, but no novel writing.  I reached the point where I was thoroughly frustrated with myself so I did a classic psychology move which has been shown to improve productivity – I got started on the task, even if it was just a baby step.  In my case, this was write 100 words in my young adult novel.

Something so simple and yet, it worked!  Not that day, but the next day when I was putting my shoes on it hit me how I could write away chunks of time in a school year once I introduced the school to the reader.

Then, I came across a book in my Kindle library that I had purchased several weeks ago from Amazon’s daily BookBub email (if you have never checked these daily e-book deals out, I highly encourage you to.  Some of the book are even free!) entitled, Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing: Revised Edition by Libbie Hawker.

I have found the book to be incredibly useful, especially because it directly addresses the problem I was struggling with in ending up somewhere unanticipated.  I admire writers who only “pants” it, but with the way my mind works that style of writing just seemed to leave me overwhelmed and frustrated.  But with the skills and techniques, I’ve gleaned from this book, I’m again feeling invigorated with novel writing.  Yahoo!

This book is not the icing on the cake, however (metaphorical cake, that is.  No more real cake for me until I feel healthier and less jiggly).  The real treat is that as I wandered around the public library here I came across a young adult novel, Fat Angie, by E. E. Charlton-Trujillo.   This entire book takes place in the life of a high school freshman, yet there are very little specifics about her day-to-day school schedule.  It’s an excellent model for how to only keep the relevant and delete the mundane because it’s not like anyone wants to read the mundane, anyway.

So it feels like I now have enough ammunition where I can blow up my brick wall.  I’m excited!  I don’t really care for explosions but I think this will be the good kind.  Only time will tell…well and I’ll tell, too.  I’ll make sure to update my progress in the coming weeks.


In the Morning Light – A Fable in 637 words


“So beautiful,” came the woman’s voice.  Rose almost didn’t hear her.  The sky had turned from bright blue to streaks of soft pinks, purples, yellows, and oranges.  For a fleeting moment, jealousy stabbed at Rose’s heart as Mother Nature turned the horizon into a watercolor painting.  It didn’t seem fair, she thought, that she was relegated to the same colors day after day, yet the sky offered a blank canvas for the most spectacular of creation.

But then the woman’s voice broke through Rose’s indignation as she called to her friend, “You have to see this one.”

“Wow!” came her friend’s response, leaning over Rose to get a better look.  “Just gorgeous.”  She was so close, Rose could feel the woman’s hair slightly tickle her.

Rose felt mollified by these words, though she often heard the same sentiments every day from visitors.  From the time she was a bud, Rose had always been showered with praise: people photographed her; traced her satiny petals with their fingers; inhaled her sweet scent.  She knew she was the most beautiful flower in the garden, but instead of feeling grateful for this honor every morning and night Rose cast her gaze upward and compared herself to the beauty she saw in the sky.  Her only solace was she knew if she could never win this competition, then no other flower would either.   Rose relegated herself to second place status and stayed that way for a very long time.

Then one morning as Rose stewed about a particularly glorious sunrise, with fluffy purple, pink, and yellow clouds, she heard one of her usual compliments, “I’ve never seen such a beautiful flower!” What was unusual about this compliment, however, is it was not directed at Rose.  The voice came from three bushes over.

“How dare you!” Rose thought and she straightened up her stem and fanned out her petals in defense.  Only she didn’t straighten up fully – there was a slight droop to her – and some of her petals now crinkled with brown.  She couldn’t even see the other flower that had received her compliment.  How do I compare? she wondered.

The uncertainty ate away at her for the rest of the day and deep into the night.  Rose didn’t even notice the sunset that evening.  But she couldn’t ignore the sunrise the next morning, for she was again greeted with compliments directed towards someone else.  “Perfect,” said the voice.  “See how the morning light hits the petals?”

“Yes,” Rose heard another person say.  “I bet this photograph wins first place in the garden’s annual contest.”

Rose recoiled at the words.  Never once did anyone suggest she would win first place.  She again tried to puff herself up, but it was in vain as even more of her petals had now withered.  Rose’s stem slumped even further than the day before, but that could have been due to the realization of what was happening as much as it was due to time.

“Oh, please,” Rose begged as the sun ascended higher in the sky.  “Just let me go back to how I was.”  She kept it up all day and into the night.  By the next morning, nothing had changed, though, except for a few more withered petals.  So, she tried a new tactic.  “Please, give me back my beauty.  This time I’ll appreciate it.”  Again, Rose pleaded with Mother Nature for the rest of the day and throughout the night.

The next morning rang out with a sunrise so rich and beautiful it reduced Rose to tears.  She no longer begged, as there was not much left to her – just shriveled petals and a limp stem.  But her tears were no longer of sadness.  “Thank you,” she said.  “I’m so glad I got to see such a beautiful sunrise one more time.”