30 April, 2022

Flash Fiction: Zhang to Ari - #AtoZChallenge

I registered late for the A-to-Z blogging challenge this year, so I have no real theme. In past years, I have done flash fiction inspired by readers' comments, and I'm happy to do that again, but this month the fiction has been peppered in amongst other random topics of my choosing. After A to Z, I intend to get back to weekly flash fiction Fridays, so you can still suggest a story idea in a comment if you have one.


The counter clerk looked expectantly. "Name? For your order?" he finally asked. 

"Oh!" It was her first time at this noodle shop. "Ari," she replied, and scanned the QR code to pay. She smiled a wiggly smile, nodded, and moved to the side, to collect utensils and select a table.

As she was looking around, chopsticks and spoon in hand, a girl came over to her. "You're not from here, are you?" she asked. The newly minted "Ari" spun wide-eyed at her interrogator. She appeared to be a young college student, a few years behind the stranger she had approached. "Are you?" she asked again.

"Um," a startled smile wavered on her face again. "What makes you ask?" She couldn't be found out already! She just got to Korea yesterday. Her new identity was supposed to be secure.

"Your accent," the girl shrugged.

"Oh, yeah, I hear that a lot," Ari bluffed. With a shrug she added, "I grew up in Japan." Was that all? She breathed a sigh of relief. This new identity had not come cheap. In an effort to avoid minority persecution in China, Ari - then Zhang-Li - had managed to cross into Thailand, from where she had bounced around as incognito as possible, finally reaching a contact in Japan who fixed her up with a new identity. Having studied Korean in college, starting a new life in Korea was a natural choice.

Zhang, now Ari, had a new passport, new ID, and a new personal history available for searching online, should anyone choose to do so. 

The hardest part was getting used to a new name. She'd spent a month in Japan, learning about the area her new history said had been her home, and practicing responding to a totally different name. There was no time to mourn the loss of her previous life. Her parents were already dead from the terrible persecution anyway, and she knew they would be happy she was safe. 

After eating her noodles alone in the shop, Ari left in the direction that would take her past a shrine she saw earlier. She'd light some incense and pay respects to her parents. 

No, wait, not her parents, the parents of a former close friend named Zhang-Li. In time, she would see them again but for now she'd pray for blessings in a new life, under her new name.

This short Flash Fiction story was inspired by the prompt "A secret you wish to tell none" offered by Afshan Shaik of The Pensive, in a comment on my U post.  You're welcome to suggest any prompt in a comment and I'll get to it on one of my forthcoming Flash Fiction Fridays.

29 April, 2022

Youngsters - #AtoZChallenge

This post dovetails with my V post, but I don't think you need to have read it to understand.

To catch up, in "Validation in Vietnam" my husband and I had traveled to Hanoi to do some paperwork stuff at the embassy. Our flight home left Hanoi at 8:10 p.m. and we had noticed many young children at or near our gate before boarding. This is about those Youngsters.

It surprised me, because we aren't near a holiday time when families typically travel, it seemed like a late flight to take kids on, and this isn't a school vacation time yet. Although, when I say "Young children" I mean there were dozens of kids aged maybe five or six, and under. Probably not school age anyway.

After we boarded, I realized it seemed many of these parents know each other, as kids traded seats and parental control frequently. Maybe they had all met standing in line at check in, or goofing around near the gate. None of the kids had seemed ornery or trouble-causing - although there was one moment in the terminal where two toddlers met near a vending machine and one reached up to touch the other's face and received a shove in return, but you can't complain about a little girl protecting her space!

So it was a pretty chatty flight. Kids, yes, parents, too. It's a good thing I've seen the safety procedure presentation hundreds of times before, because I couldn't hear him over the low rumble surrounding me!

The lights dimmed for take-off, and the voices seemed to dim with the lights. 

The plane accelerated along the runway, and all was quiet.

The wheels lifted off the ground, and the cabin filled with low squeals from all the kids - some squeals of laughing joy, some of terror that receded into tears for a few minutes. I had to laugh! I've flown so often and for so long that it was "old hat" to me by the time I was a teenager. I've absolutely forgotten that the bottom drops out of my stomach at that "wheels up" moment, too! I felt young again for a beat. 

As we rose to cruising elevation, the cabin stayed dark and relatively quiet. I was relieved because after a long day I hoped to get at least a handful of ZZz's during the flight. My relief was short-lived, as the lights came up and the flight attendant announced they'd be coming through with the carts of snacks for purchase.

As the lights arose, so did the volume. I don't think I've ever been on a noisier flight. Again, no one being bad, not even a lot of crying, but so much chatter! I did get some sleep, noisy or not. When your body needs rest, it will take it!

By the time we were preparing to land it was clear the flight attendants were ready to be done. They did all the normal checks, but when all was dark again for the descent, a girl found the buttons for the reading lights. She was kneeling on the seat pressing the buttons above her - accidentally hitting the call button a couple times - and finally the crew member sitting in the nearest jump seat stood up and motioned that she - and the girl across the aisle who was now copying her - both needed to sit down!

She never came to re-check the seatbelts, probably because we were already in our slow descent toward Danang. Besides, I'm pretty sure the whole crew was just ready to get off the plane. 

It occurred to me that if we ended up crashing, all those seatbelt-less kids would end up bouncing around the cabin like popcorn in an air-popper. Just insane.

Have you ever flown with kids? Either strangers on your flight, or kids in your own traveling party? Any insights?

28 April, 2022

Flash Fiction: Ximena - #AtoZChallenge

I registered late for the A-to-Z blogging challenge this year, so I have no real theme. In past years, I have done flash fiction inspired by readers' comments, and I'm happy to do that again, but this month the fiction will be peppered in amongst other random topics of my choosing. After A to Z, I intend to get back to weekly flash fiction Fridays, so you can still suggest a story idea in a comment if you have one.


"SHE-muh-nah! SHE-muh-nah!" Ximena gritted her teeth behind her smile and waved. She was visiting China, and thanks to the pronunciations associated with pinyin (latin-ized Chinese) everyone thought they knew how to say her name.

It was supposed to be a relaxing vacation far away from her chaotic life in Mexico. And it was relaxing, for the most part, but since her recent marriage to a Chinese national, she now had a wider base of fans here, and they all... ALL. Bar none! ...called her SHEmuhna.

At her lunch meeting that day, she tried to correct the businessman across from her. "Actually, it's pronounced 'He-MEN-uh', you know?" She said it with a smile, trying to be gracious.

"Ah! JiMENa! I see."

Ximena sighed. It was an improvement, however small. Languages were different. She'd have to learn to let it go if she was going to enjoy this trip.

This short Flash Fiction story was inspired by the prompt "Ximena" offered by Liz A. of Laws of Gravity, in a comment on my M post.  You're welcome to suggest any prompt in a comment and I'll get to it during A to Z or shortly thereafter.

27 April, 2022

Wawa Wars - #AtoZChallenge

If you live on the US east coast, you are blessed by Wawa convenience stores. Treasure your Wawa!

(As I recall, "wawa" is a native American word for the Canada geese that commute through the US. Wawa's logo is a silhouette of a goose flying past a sunset.)

(Also, this is not a paid endorsement. Just my very strong feelings about convenience stores.)

The Wawa between my home and work had about 20 pots of coffee going during peak hours, closer to 10 during slow times. Regular, decaf, dark roast, french roast, hazelnut, vanilla... I don't know what all flavors. I usually filled my cup half way with dark roast and topped it up with hazelnut. (I don't use cream, so the hazelnut coffee added a nice flavor.)

Once, when road-tripping through the north-central states, I was flummoxed by the coffee at a gas station there. I had filled my tank, then went inside for some go-juice, and stood in front of the two enormous urns of coffee for long enough that one of the locals noticed me. "We only use the high-octane stuff out here," was his response to my silent staring.

(To my foreign readers, in the US, there are a million euphemisms for types of coffee. "High octane" means regular, not decaf. It's meant to insult someone who drinks the "weak" stuff.)

That's what baffled me! There were no labels, but two identical urns. Both plain coffee.

More than just coffee and (often) gas, at Wawa there were touch-screen customized sandwich stations. Oh, but wait! Not just sandwiches! Soups, sides, chili, breakfast sandwiches, all with a few taps on a computer screen. They had experienced cashiers who kept the line moving so you knew that if you stopped at the Wawa you could be in and out in minutes.  It was clean, well-stocked, and well-staffed.

When I moved to the Midwest, convenience stores were somewhere in between. Most offered hotdogs from a roller-grill. Some had pizza under a heat lamp if you wanted a slice. The coffee offerings varied but none approached the mind-bogglingly extensive smorgasbord of coffee that Wawa provides.One convenient difference (to me) was the ability to buy beer! In Delaware, alcohol is only sold in liquor stores. Period. So it was truly an added convenience in the Midwest.

Now, in China - Totally different ball game! Forget about coffee, unless you prefer bottled iced coffees. Coffee in China has a limited presence and absolutely no game. Fuhgeddaboutit. But there was a 7-Eleven near my subway station where I would often grab a pack of sushi to bring home for my supper. Americans joke about eating convenience store sushi, but it does not apply here! Some of the convenience stores had a sort of hot lunch offering. Not like the touch-screens of Wawa, but you could go to the window and point to what you wanted; they'd package it up for you and take it to the cashier. I usually didn't, because street food was fresher and cheaper. (Made while you watched instead of sitting under heat lamps.)

Here in Vietnam? They have mini-marts that are basically a small grocery store. Nothing like convenience stores in the States. No need! There are five or more local coffee shops on every block with fresh, delicious Vietnamese coffee for you - to stay or to go. And for food, there are small food carts and pop-up noodle shops on any street at the right time of day. It's a different world.

Wawa wins the convenience store wars in my book. If only they had quality, cheap sushi!

How do you get your quick grab-n-go snacks and drinks where you live?

26 April, 2022

Validation in Vietnam - #AtoZChallenge

There I was - again, packing a bag - again, to fly to Hanoi - again, to have documents validated - again.

In the Very early morning, pre-dawn by a long shot, we headed out. No real luggage - just a backpack with some papers and electronics and a couple cans of iced Vietnamese coffee.

Having done this before, we opted not to stay overnight (hence, just the one backpack). This was to be just an hour or so at the embassy. Our appointment was early afternoon. Since flights get delayed - which ours did - and appointments can take longer than expected, we were flying up early and returning late. Even with a quick appointment it would be a long day.

In Hanoi, we had a taxi take us to the embassy's Vicinity, but got out to walk around and find food. Our intention was to find street food, hopefully a Variance from the fare in our town. We were Victorious! Very quick, very tasty, but also with seating where we could waste some of our FOUR hours of free time. We found a dish that is similar to, but a different spin on a dish we can find back home. Vibrant flavors blended together in a unique way.

With no Vehicle, we continued maneuvering through back streets, wending our way toward the office we needed. We knew there was a coffee shop next door to it, and decided to wait there for the last two hours. Luckily, the two comfy chairs had been recently Vacated. We made our home there with coffees, kindles, and occasionally closed eyes. As always, Brett saluted and waved at the kids running around - two brothers, it seemed, whose parents were having a coffee meeting of sorts. He caught a look of support from the dad, so knew it was okay... then the kids got comfortable with him and started sneaking around, trying to poke at him from behind, or crawl under his chair. 

As usual, kids ignore me, so I remained unmolested. They weren't really causing trouble, just bored and recognized a friend in Brett. When I pulled out my notebooks and started reviewing my Vietnamese Vocabulary, they found their Voices. They asked a few questions in English: "How are you?" "What is your name?" and then ran off and came back with some Vietnamese words written on a piece of printer paper. Brett is not learning Vietnamese yet, so this brought me into the game, writing the English words above the Vietnamese ones I knew, and looking up on my phone the ones I did not.

Before we left to get in line outside the Embassy, we said goodbyes to the boys and their mom (moms?) who were now at the table, and who took a picture and connected to Brett on social media.

On to the embassy! We were first in line before the doors opened, which opened an hour before our appointment time. As first in line, first through security, first to complete our Validation form, we were actually done a half-hour before we were to begin! Woot! Now we had more hours to waste.

We Visited the Tiny Cafe - a coffee/smoothie/juice place we'd found on the last trip. But after a while, the feeling of inertia started feeling like drowsiness, so we got up and walked through a park, deciding to walk until we needed to eat something, and then get a taxi to the airport. ('Cause why pay airport food prices if you don't need to?) While walking, we found Vincom Center: a big shopping mall. Glorious! Air conditioned comfort, window shopping, and in the end, having a beer in a booth in a restaurant.

As we left to seek out a taxi to the airport, we did, this time, find street food to eat as we walked, and got to the airport in good time. There were a surprising number of families with small children hanging near our gate, and indeed, they were all on our late night flight! But that is a story for another day (specifically, Day "Y").

Now we are home safe, and when Brett went to turn in the Validated paperwork to our business partner this morning, she asked, "What about XX paper?" 

We had forgotten to print out one of the important documents to be Validated! So I get to look forward to - again - packing a bag - again, to fly to Hanoi - again, to have documents Validated - again. Deja vu, anyone?

25 April, 2022

Flash Fiction: Upside-Down - #AtoZChallenge

I registered late for the A-to-Z blogging challenge this year, so I have no real theme. In past years, I have done flash fiction inspired by readers' comments, and I'm happy to do that again, but this month the fiction will be peppered in amongst other random topics of my choosing. So suggest a story idea in a comment if you have one, otherwise I hope you will find my mental meanderings amusing! 


I found myself falling upwards through the air out of a hole in the sandy ground - a totally unfamiliar terrain to me! At the last minute, I grabbed hold of a root sticking out near the surface and held on for dear life as I felt my legs flail behind me for a minute before they reacquainted themselves with gravity.

My knees landed with a thud behind me. Feeling stable, I finally let go of the root - finger by finger, keeping contact until the last minute.

What the heck had happened?

One second I'm digging a hole to bury my daughter's hedgehog behind our house in Argentina, the next I'm - where? A desert somewhere. Can someone turn off the sun?

As I looked around, I saw jeeps and military personnel skidding to abrupt stops around me. Three men were standing nearby, clearly the first on the scene. "Stop where you are!" I heard before I got any kind of look at anyone behind their riot gear. I've seen movies. Already on my knees, I held up my hands while keeping my head down.

What was going on? 

My husband never agreed with the idea of burying dead pets. Was it a cultural thing? Back when I was growing up in Idaho, my mom buried all of our pets as they died. Or maybe he'd read Stephen King's Pet Semetary too often? But, since I was the one who relocated so he could be near his family, he allowed me this indulgence in my past memories - creating a tradition with our kids.

Now, here I was, but where was here?

A black hood had been pulled down over my head, and after a bumpy ride in what I assume was jeep, I was now in an enclosed, concrete block walled, industrially blank room. The hood was now removed, and I sat on a hard plastic chair facing two men in military fatigues. "How did you get here?" the seated man asked. He was the "good cop", I guessed. 

"I was hoping you could tell me..." I said. I tried to smile, but I doubt it convinced them of my innocence.

"Where did you come from?" the same man asked. The other guy was pacing behind him like a panther in a cage.

"San Luis, Argentina. Where am I now?" Hopefully, giving them information would help them be forthcoming with information for me.

"Hey! We'll be asking the questions here!" came the voice from the silent stalker in the back.

"I'm just -"

He lunged toward me. "You're just nothing! What do you know?"

"Kai, calm down!" My savior the good cop chimed in. To me he said, "Excuse him. He gets sensitive when civilians make their way into his territory."

"So I'm in a territory." I was no spring chicken. Their accents screamed USA but territories are different than states. At least I had the gratifying experience of seeing these two men exchange a glance of recrimination - both blaming the other, if I was reading them right. I took their moment of silence to push my point. "Look, I was digging a hole in my backyard in San Luis, and as I reached in to clear some rocks I was pulled through to here. I don't know where this is, but my family will be looking for me."

As the pacing panther nodded toward a camera in the corner, the more easy-going one leaned in to say, "We'll check on all that." Of course someone was watching this interview. Was my family going to be okay?

Something must have showed on my face. Concern for my family or something, because he shrugged the responsibility over to stalker panther-man, who spun a chair around from a corner of the room and sat on it backwards. Leaning over the back of the chair, he squinted at me.

He said nothing for a long minute, then whispered. "You ever been abducted by aliens, Genevieve?"

How did they know my name? "uh..." I hadn't, but things were starting to click into place. I was in a desert. These were American military personnel. Now, ALIENS? "...no, I haven't." I said.

But I knew. I was in Area 51. The question was, would I ever get out?

This short Flash Fiction story was inspired by the prompt "an ordinary ritual in which something goes terribly wrong" offered by Barbie of Crackerberries, in a comment on my Q post.  You're welcome to suggest any prompt in a comment and I'll get to it during A to Z or shortly thereafter.

23 April, 2022

Truth Be Told... #AtoZChallenge

Truth be told, I can't lie.

I can tell a half-truth; I can stretch the truth; I can't outright lie. 

Is it a gift? Is it a curse?

Even excuses. I realized long ago that giving an untrue excuse to get out of something never worked. People have an answer for anything. 

Last week, at a networking luncheon I saw a friend I haven't seen in a while, but we didn't get a chance to talk. As I was leaving she said to come over later for a "small barbecue"... but I was just leaving a big social event and I can't handle too much socializing in one day. I kind of nodded - already dazed at the concept of going out again - and she said, "message me" and I left, agonizing about whether to go or not. Because I like her, and haven't seen her for weeks, and would love to talk to her, but I was just about maxed out on socializing for the week. 

Twitter suggested "claim diarrhea" to get out of a social engagement. Which wasn't really a social engagement. She was just saying I should stop by later. Totally casual, but I was in a spin.

I can't outright say I had diarrhea. That's a lie! I tell the truth!

So, which truth to tell: "I have moderate social anxiety and as much as I value our friendship, my brain is exhausted from talking to too many people - when I would rather have been talking to you - and I now feel I wasted that luncheon when I should have been catching up with you instead of debating the weather with some other woman"?

Or the truth that "I was utterly exhausted and lost my afternoon and still have things that I need to get done"...Which I did. The meal at lunch was carb-heavy, pub-fare, a lot of fried stuff, and although I did not have diarrhea, I did succumb to a food coma and read/nap in the hammock out front instead of doing my writing and editing.

I told her the second. Truth, and gentler (for both of us) than my confessing to my extroverted friend that as an introvert I can't be "on" all the time. She immediately agreed that lunch was a carb-fest and she, too, had similar issues with her day.

I was right to do so. A couple days later I had to give myself a day off and just stay home doing nothing. My brain, body, and heart were exhausted. This is how it can get for us introverts!

Or is it? Are you introverted? How does it effect you?

22 April, 2022

Starting a School - #AtoZChallenge

We're Starting a School!

I haven't said anything about it here because it seemed so far off, but we've been working on this for Several months and opening day will be pretty Soon now, so it's a perfect S topic!

I say "School" and it is, but to be Specific we are Starting a new English language learning center. In our town there are only three Such Schools, and they are maxed out with waiting lists, so it Seems like a need that we can fill. 

The building is ready, curricula Set for our Start, and Staff is being hired. We will Start with a Summer term, and hopefully be able to add more teachers and classes at the end of Summer for the after School Sessions in the fall.

Our goal is to be the premier language center in town. Keep class Sizes Small to really focus on each Student's learning. Pay well and manage from a western perspective, to attract well-qualified foreign teachers. (Western teachers Sometimes Struggle against Asian direction and rules, so western management is attractive.)

That is what my life is full of these days. 

That, and writing, querying, reading, and trying to Save my Sanity.

Have you ever Started your own business? How long were you preparing for it before Opening Day?

21 April, 2022

Returning "Home" - #AtoZChallenge

When we lived in China, any tiny complaint we made to friends back in the US brought a "just move home! We miss you!" type comment. 

I get that they were trying to say they loved us, but after a while it got annoying. I must admit, I gave a little rant on my facebook wall after that straw finally broke my camel's back. "We sold everything. We gave up our lease. We are here. This is home now. When you have a complaint about your home or job, do YOU just move? No! Please accept that this is our home now."

When we moved to Vietnam from Beijing, for fully TWO YEARS friends and former colleagues in China occasionally messaged us, "When are you coming home to Beijing?" They truly couldn't imagine anyone wanting to live anywhere else.

No. Just no.

China has changed a lot since we lived there and... no. 

Now, here in Vietnam, Brett and I have lived in this ONE house for longer than we have ever shared a domicile in our married existence. We are opening a business in a few weeks. We believe we are settled.

(I say, "we believe" because as non-Vietnamese we are able to live here by the grace of the Vietnamese government, and politics can change. If it's up to us, this is home for life.)

I know people who have "committed" to living the expat life outside their native country, but still keep a house back "home". A safety net? My own brother rented their house in the States for the seven years they lived in Turkey, and when they returned "home" it was there for them to move back in.

When I was a kid and my family moved to Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka was home. I was young, my brain and heart were malleable: Home became Sri Lanka. After the tsunami in 2004 that wrecked so many places between Indonesia and the eastern shore of the Indian subcontinent, I was heartbroken. I felt like it was my own home that was decimated. I talked to my mom and quickly realized that, to her, Sri Lanka was never home. It was a place to live for the time, but home to her had been Iowa, USA. 

Home is different to each of us. Here, when a local asks, "Where are you from?" the temptation is to name the district of the city that we live in. After all, we've lived here almost four years! But I know they are asking about the country of my passport.

We went to Hanoi, and returned home to Hoi An. When we have gone back to the States... after the trip we returned home to Vietnam.

What is "returning home" for you? Going to the town you grew up in? Visiting parents? How do you define "home"?

20 April, 2022

Querying - #AtoZChallenge

Querying: That annoying process that writers have to go through to get their books published. 

I mean, these days it's not as necessary because self-publishing and e-publishing is so easy (or at least, easier). But I have decided to shoot for the moon and go the traditional route to publication. 

My former work in the States was in business writing. For fun, I wrote a one-act play for my theatre, but that was it.

In China, I modified or created short plays for children's drama camps.

Since moving to Vietnam four years ago and finding myself with extra time, I've been writing novels. First I took the one-act play I had written and turned it into a novel. Then I discovered Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and have basically added another new novel per year. But they were all first drafts, with some incomplete editing in between.

A year ago I decided to focus on editing, and since October I've been querying that first book out to possible writing agents. It's one step toward publication, and it's a long slog. Here's why:

First, general wisdom that I read or heard from agents in writing workshops, says not to send to too many agents at once. Because as soon as one agent says, "Hey, show me more," then you have to go back and contact all the other agents still holding your query and say, "Someone's interested, so never mind," or give them an opportunity to show interest, too. Therefore, I've been keeping about 10 copies in circulation at a time. 

Second, not all agents or agencies give a time-frame to expect response. Nowadays it seems quite common that "if we're interested, we'll let you know" is the standard. Of the places that offer a time frame 8-12 weeks turnaround is common, so for every agency that has no turnaround time listed, I consider that query "active" until at least eight weeks have passed. So therefore, I may go weeks without either sending a query or hearing back.

It's a long slog, but I'm not discouraged. Time was, authors bragged about how many rejection letters they received before publication. Now the letters don't always come, but they still count as rejection. The first rejection email I got, I cheered because it meant I was on my way. It's less exciting now, but I still think of one popular author who had her first manuscript rejected for a full year before turning around and querying with a different book and finally achieving publication. It's only been six months for me. I'm good.

P.S. That's one reason I do Flash Fiction Fridays during the rest of the year - just working to keep ideas fresh. Drop a prompt if you have one!

19 April, 2022

Pomodoros - #AtoZChallenge

Disclaimer: If you are familiar with the Pomodoro Technique and I'm misusing the name, please forgive me. I only found out about it recently on YouTube.

I'm a pretty organized person. I get things done. Actually I have an almost pathological need to be productive each day.

After the lethargy of Covid quarantine lingered for a while, I finally got my act together and started making a point to, at a minimum:

  • write something
  • read something
  • clean something / address a household need
  • study

...every day.

My standard had been to study my languages for an hour every day. I had to get back into it. The other three things could be any amount of time. Some days I'd read for hours, and barely write at all. Or the reverse.

Then I discovered "The Pomodoro Technique" through a YouTube recommendation. 

The Pomodoro Technique is meant to improve efficiency. The idea is to focus on study/work for 25 minutes, followed by a 5 minute break. Then another pomodoro (I guess that's the name of the 25 minute parts), another break, and so on. This helps improve focus and productivity. I'm hooked. 

I found a YouTube channel - The Sherry Formula - who does 30 minute pomodoros between breaks, so two of those are my study time; then the next can be to write or read or whatever. What I like about using her videos is it means I don't have to set a timer. Just listen for the dings in her videos.

I'm so much more productive, and I feel like my days are better balanced. Without a 9-to-5, paying job, it's up to me to get on my own case when I'm slacking off. Pomodoros help.

18 April, 2022

Observant - #AtoZChallenge

A moment of life:

Me *poking my head into Brett's office*: Hey, did the orange kitchen shears get back here?

Brett: No, why, are they missing?

Me: They're nowhere!

(Believe me, I searched before asking. I am the one who finds things. More than once, he has asked me to put something on the grocery list because we are "out", only for me to find the item behind something in the fridge. Really, just move one item and there it is. We laugh.)

Brett [calling out as I walk down the hall from his office]: Is it in the pizza box?

Me: What pizza box?

I looked around... no pizza box, not on the kitchen table or out on the porch waiting for the trash to go out. I didn't remember there being a pizza. Then...

Brett *coming into the kitchen and going straight to the fridge*:...

Me: Oh! That's right!

I had completely forgotten about my urge to order a cheese pizza for us to split as a snack the night before. Unusual behavior, unusual night. When a pizza arrives, I use a paring knife to separate the re-melting cheese between the slices; he uses the kitchen shears. 

It's (probably not) the first time he's been the observant one who finds something. Also, I hadn't had my coffee yet, so maybe that's why I didn't even open the fridge, let alone move things around.

He had left them in the pizza box... but I was the one to close the box and put it in the fridge when we realized we weren't going to finish it. So who "left" them in the box? 

16 April, 2022

Necrophilia... #AtoZChallenge

... It was the first word that came to mind when I thought, "Tomorrow I have to write about N... what will that be?" 

Necrophilia is not exactly a word you would want to speak out loud in a public place, for fear that people would judge you - rightfully - or think you were into that.

Not that I want to have sex with a dead body or anything. It's just a fun word, isn't it? It hits a great combination of sounds. After beginning with the subtle "n" you've got that hard C "kuh" but even better, it's a "kruh", and the soft "ff" and "uhl" of the ph and l flows so nicely in "philia". Plus, "philia" is from the Greek philos, which means love! It's a lovely word!💗

I mean, except for the whole "violating the sanctity of the deceased" thing. If you ignore the meaning, it's a cool word. 

Hard to ignore the meaning, though.

Now, sex with the dead... I've watched enough TV cop shows to have seen plots where someone has sex with a corpse simply because their partner died "in flagrante". You can't judge someone for that! Somebody does in a moment of high pleasure and you're angry at the person who gave them pleasure? meh. Grey area...

However, if your kink is breaking into morgues and defiling the beloved (by someone) people waiting there, you deserve stiff punishment worse than I can dream up. 'Cuz EW! Gross!

Although, truth be told, I seem to remember when I was younger, learning new, big words, I used to get Narcolepsy / Narcoleptic and Necrophilia / Necrophiliac confused. If I go with my youthful understanding, necrophilia is falling asleep randomly. So much a better meaning for that word. Narcolepsy sounds dangerous. I think it's the "CR" vs. "RC" flip. What do you think?

Maybe this should be a post about falling asleep at random, unexpected, and inconvenient times!

...Or maybe it is. Maybe I fell asleep and wrote this... 

15 April, 2022

Memories - #AtoZChallenge

I talk to my mom every week. I didn't always, but since my Dad's funeral in early November I started calling more, and then one time she ended the call with "I really enjoy our weekly calls." I looked at my history and... no. We hadn't been talking weekly. More like bi-weekly. So I made a point to call her once a week from then on.

The other night she called while I was bingeing on a TV show I used to discuss with my deceased sister. I'd also been drinking a drink we invented when my sister came here to visit me. So if you had asked, I'd have said I was "communing" with my sister when my mom called. Not wallowing in memories, but remembering. And even though Mom doesn't get the TV show, it was kind of nice to talk her at that time.

There were normal things to discuss: family, health, my current visa situation... and then that discussion turned to breaking down why my siblings did or did not attend the recent family event. Who am I to judge? I stayed home in Vietnam! In the course of the conversation, I mentioned that Dad always used to use the phrase, "put the best construction on everything." 

If that sounds confusing, you're probably not alone. The phrase came from Martin Luther 500 years ago. Even Luther's Small Catechism has updated the wording. (I know, because Mom looked it up while we talked.)

Basically, Luther was advising everyone to assume the best. When someone doesn't text back in a timely manner, don't assume they are ghosting you or angry, but "put the best construction on everything" and think of a logical, positive reason that they may be delayed in answering.

Anyway, the phrase was familiar to Mom, but she didn't associate it with my dad. Honestly, I didn't hear it every day, just occasionally dropped into moments of parental advice. Probably. 

Mom and I don't really talk a lot about my deceased dad. Early on I realized she's doing fine. She's not a "grieving widow" in the manner that the phrase implies. She's busy, she's taking care of things, she's good. So Dad doesn't come up very often.

But it was clear that she was touched to hear that kind of memory. "Put the best construction on everything." She's dealing with some intense stuff that, at 81, should be handled by others but it just isn't. Maybe she needed to hear a reminder from her husband, via her daughter? 

Memories. Good, bad, surprising. Have you ever had a sudden illumination and resurrected your own past because of it?

14 April, 2022

Livestreaming - #AtoZChallenge

I am so glad that this pandemic has made Live-streaming events commonplace.

Since Vietnam closed her borders in March of 2020 (they reopened for tourism last month), I have virtually attended my niece's wedding, my dad's funeral, and another niece's confirmation. Also, more churches live-stream services, so I've been able to "go to" church again.

Not everyone's Live-stream game is at the same caliber, however. 

At first, I was going to my old church in Delaware occasionally. They live-stream on Facebook, but I couldn't always access it in time for the beginning of the service. No biggie, but now that I virtually attend my sister's church, I see the difference. Theirs begins with a video showing the text "The service will begin at 9:00" and some worship music playing in the background, so you can tune in before the action begins.

My niece's wedding was well set-up, because they did it themselves. He set up a youtube channel, posed his own camera (phone?), and it was in plenty of time to watch guests arriving before the service. The audio was kind of terrible though. It was a large, echo-ey space and they hadn't thought to account for that.

My dad's funeral was... well, it was crap for a variety of reasons, but I can't complain about their streaming at the time. I screwed up the time difference and logged into it after it had begun.

However, the confirmation was at the same church, so I bet my complaint would apply to the funeral as well. Here it is: They didn't start long enough before the event. It was on Palm Sunday, and the confirmands - and probably the officiants? - processed in. So I'm told. One of my family members was messaging me beforehand, and wanted to be sure I could see. So she had told me "They're processing in. Video should go live." We were there, ready, keyed in, and missed the processional and the first hymn.

Why couldn't they have started it 10-15 minutes before? Is it outrageous that the few people watching from afar might see some people walking through to set things up, or maybe overhear an usher talking to someone?

But it's easy for me to complain. I've never live-streamed anything. Have you? Is it a huge pain? Have you ever had complaints?

13 April, 2022

Flash Fiction: King-making - #AtoZChallenge

I registered late for the A-to-Z blogging challenge this year, but I'm going to do it. In past years, I have done flash fiction inspired by readers' comments, and I'm happy to do that again, but this month the fiction will be peppered in amongst other random topics of my choosing. So suggest a story idea in a comment if you have one, otherwise I hope you will find my mental meanderings amusing! 


Kendra pushed open the glass doors to the dental office and ushered in her 4 year old son. Kenny clung to her leg with the tenacity of a starfish, so that she had to bend over and uncurl his hands. 

"It's okay. See the toy box over there? You can look through it while I check in." He looked doubtful, but the bright colors of the Fisher-Price set on the low plastic table caught his eye, so he obeyed. Kendra let the receptionist know they were just waiting for her husband, and was told he was currently in the surgery, but should be out soon.

She crossed to a seat near the kids' corner. It was a lucky break to find toys here, since this facility didn't offer pediatric dental services. Looking around, it appeared Kenny was the only one in the waiting area under 25.

It didn't take long for him to drive a plastic truck over to his mom's side. "Where's Daddy?" he asked without looking up. She had told him they were going to pick up his dad.

"He'll be out soon. He's getting a new crown."

Kenny turned wide-eyes to his mom. "I never knew he had a crown!"

"Well, he did, but it broke."

"He broke his crown? Like Jack, in Jack and Jill?" Kenny's favorite book was the old Mother Goose nursery rhyme book, and he had many of them memorized.

"No, honey," Kendra answered with a smile. "Different crown. Jack's crown was the top of his head." They had been over that when he first learned the rhyme.

"Oh. Where's Daddy's crown?"

Kendra looked puzzled as she tapped each index finger alternately at each side of her jaw. "I don't remember. Here..." tap. "...or here." tap. "In his mouth."

Kenny abandoned the car on the floor and crawled into a seat by his mother, intent eyes watching her. "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why there? Why not in front?" And he gave a big grin to show his teeth.

"Well, because that's not where he needs it."

"He needs it? Why does he need a crown?" Kenny was incredulous. "Only kings need crowns." Delight lit up his face. "If Daddy's a king, am I a prince?" His big eyes glittered at his mother. She had to suppress her amusement with a tight smile as she wrapped an arm around her son. 

"Well I don't know about Daddy, Kenny, but yes, you are definitely a prince." She kissed his head and was about to pick back up a magazine when she saw her husband coming toward them.

"I'm all set," he said. "Ready to go?" 

Kenny stared wide-eyed at his dad the whole drive home.

This short Flash Fiction story was inspired by the prompt "A broken tooth" offered by Liz A. of Laws of Gravity, in a comment on my A post.  You're welcome to suggest any prompt in a comment and I'll get to it during A to Z or shortly thereafter.

12 April, 2022

Japanese TV - #AtoZChallenge

I registered late for the A-to-Z blogging challenge this year, but I'm going to do it. In past years, I have done flash fiction inspired by readers' comments, and I'm happy to do that again, but this month the fiction will be peppered in amongst other random topics of my choosing. So suggest a story idea in a comment if you have one, otherwise I hope you will find my mental meanderings amusing! 


Japanese game shows are crazy aren't they? Have you ever watched one? About 15 years ago one was picked up by some cable channel in the US, and dubbed over in English ... incorrectly and hilariously ... and now my husband is finding it on IMDB TV. Have you ever watched "MXC" (Most Extreme Elimination Challenge)?

Personally, I can't. Maybe I would find it funnier without the insane dubbing, but Brett is entertained by the over-the-top trials contestants are put through.

Now that we are in Asia, with Vietnamese Netflix, more Asian options appear in the queue. I decided to try a Japanese ... sitcom? drama? half-hour long, not very funny, but not very dramatic dramedy? It's called "What Did You Eat Yesterday?" and follows a gay couple in Tokyo. 

One is a very good cook, and so each episode includes the cooking of a meal, with details such that if a person were to take notes, one might learn to cook Japanese dishes! The premise is intriguing, and there is some tension by the nature of addressing homosexuality in a culture where it is still somewhat taboo. But it moves incredibly slowly, and therefore I am watching it slowly. There's only 15 episodes so it shouldn't be taking me this many months to get through it, but I have to be in just the right mood.

Then recently, we found this gem:

It's the best: very sweet and wholesome, while still funny to watch. Each episode follows a different 2-4yo as the child tackles his or her first ever solo errand. Apparently the show has been running for 30 years in Japan, but Netflix has only 20 episodes. Cherry-picked episodes, I'd have to guess, since at the start of each episode they list the year that it was filmed: 2008, 2011, 2018... a wild mix. I hope Netflix gets more of this because it is really very fun to watch.

What about you? I know some people strongly detest watching anything that requires them to read subtitles. Do you watch anything that requires subtitles? In which language?

(Note: This post does not address Japanese horror movies, which is a completely different subject altogether!)

11 April, 2022

Flash Fiction: Ice Cream - #AtoZChallenge

I registered late for the A-to-Z blogging challenge this year, but I'm going to do it. In past years, I have done flash fiction inspired by readers' comments, and I'm happy to do that again, but this month the fiction will be peppered in amongst other random topics of my choosing. So suggest a story idea in a comment if you have one, otherwise I hope you will find my mental meanderings amusing! 


Ignatius angled his cereal bowl and peered in. Now that his mom was busy with the cooking show, she always left a message in the bottom of the bowl. Well, not "in" the bowl. The bowl was glass, and she would write a message under it that could only be read after he'd eaten all his breakfast and emptied the bowl.

"Shh!" was the first word that he could see. He'd have to finish the milk in the bowl to get a better view.

"Shh! Ice-cream at 8:00 if you keep it secret!" Ignatius looked side to side. His little sister Imogen hadn't come in for breakfast yet. Dad was probably upstairs getting her. Ignatius immediately wiped the dry erase marker off the bottom of the bowl and put it in the sink. They had a treat coming tonight!

But that meant he couldn't tell his sister. That was the hard part. Could he do it? 

As he left to go get dressed, Dad and Imogen were coming in. "Finish your breakfast, Champ?" Dad asked. 

"I did!"

"You look happy about it. What's the good news!"

"No, Dad! Not yet!" Ignatius wasn't about to give in when there was ice-cream on the line. Little Imogen, turned to him then. "Not what?" she asked. 

"You'll find out!" he sang in answer. It was a mistake, he could tell. Her mouth turned down at the corners and now she'd whine and wheedle him all day. Ignatius hurried to his room to avoid her questions. As he dressed, an idea came to him: Avoid her! If he could get out of the house - go to the park, go to a friend's house - and stay out all day, he could definitely not tell the secret!

It was for her own good. If he kept the secret, both Ignatius and Imogen would get ice-cream. If she made him tell, they'd both lose. Ignatius was just 11. His parents often made him take his sister along when he went to do something fun. How to get around it?

Ready to go, sneakers tied tight, Ignatius blew out a breath and opened his bedroom door. "Going to Isaiah's!" he called to his dad as he passed the living room. He was at the front door when Dad called him back.

"Does Isaiah know that?"

"It's okay, Dad. They're home."

"I'd better call." Ignatius bit his lip as his dad made the call. Imogen was watching a show for now, but in a delay, she might turn and start asking again. The call was interminable! Finally his dad hung up. "Okay, you can go. We'll see you later."

In the doorway, with the door open and outdoors inviting, Ignatius heard Imogen. "Where's Iggy going? Can I go? Why? What's he doing?" He closed the door quickly and ran the two blocks to Isaiah's house. It was impossible to tell if Dad would send her to join him. Best to get out of sight quickly.

In the afternoon, he got home while Imogen was napping. Whew! A little more time to avoid inquiries! When she woke up, he made sure he was in his room reading his comics. Ice-cream was a big secret and he had to keep it!

At 8:00, Mom walked in after her long day on the set. Imogen ran up to her with a hug. "Hey, sweet girl! How was your day?"

Imogen babbled about her favorite show, and helping her dad in the garden. She wasn't expecting anything from Mom, and that told Mom all she needed to know. Mom went back out into the garage, where the big chest-freezer was, and came in with a box of ice-cream treats. "Ignatius?" she called from the kitchen. He came in, and she handed him the first one. "Good job keeping my secret today," she told him, giving him a high-five. "Will you send in your sister?"

Ignatius grinned as he left the kitchen. Success! And ice-cream! From then on, success for him always meant ice-cream.

09 April, 2022

Health #AtoZChallenge

Naturally, after hopping into a challenge that has me writing everyday, my health acts up again!

No, not Covid. Hopefully nothing major at all! The last few days I've just been feeling run down, not sleeping well, sneezy, brain-foggy. 

I was out reading in my hammock, on this beautiful, perfect, Vietnamese spring day, but when the shade got too cool - oh, another symptom: hyperactive internal thermostat - I came inside to sit here and make a halfway attempt at an H post. (G is easier. A lot more g words to fill the body of the post.)

How do you combat your body's betrayal? I'm pretty good at reading the signs, and this could be the harbinger of a cold. HOWEVER... I have the ability to schedule my own time as I choose, and can therefore rest when these things happen, without waiting until things go too far.

Having a schedule that's my own, I haven't had a bad cold in the last few years. Because I can do exactly that: rest.

How many of us have heard that the best thing to do for a cold is rest? ALL of us! That's how many! And I, for one, have found that to be true. 

My apologies for this minimalist horror of a post, but I'm going to have another rest. Stay healthy everyone!

08 April, 2022

Good Gosh Golly Gee! #AtoZChallenge

I don't swear. 

Well, I didn't swear.

"Good Grief" was my go-to. Or "fiddle-sticks" (which I inherited from my mom). And then I started getting creative. My most common expletive now is "fart monkeys". Or maybe just "oh, fart".  But things come out.

Compared to some people, I still don't swear. 

But I do.

It annoys me that I do. Unless it's a really heartfelt "What a dumba$$!" which doesn't even feel like swearing, but I wouldn't use that word around my mother, so I guess it must be. Legitimately being annoyed enough to insert a curse-word into an exclamation is one thing. I might not wish to swear, but I don't agonize over those.

It's the casual "oh, what the f***" for no real reason that always makes me kick myself. Really? Was that necessary? No. No it wasn't. "oh, what now" would suffice, surely.

 Anyway, I'm working on it. In my mind.

Do you have any habits that you are trying to control that just slip away with you?

07 April, 2022

Flash Fiction: Finances #AtoZChallenge

I registered late for the A-to-Z blogging challenge this year, but I'm going to do it. In past years, I have done flash fiction inspired by readers' comments, and I'm happy to do that again, but this month the fiction will be peppered in amongst other random topics of my choosing. So suggest a story idea in a comment if you have one, otherwise I hope you will find my mental meanderings amusing! 


Frieda looked at the small amount of cash from her wallet and frowned. How on earth could she finance this one more thing?

The furnace cut out on them in the night, and Felicia was fixated on finding the right repairman. The right repairman would be expensive, and their funds were almost flushed completely down the drain. Frieda had pulled 15.58 out of her purse, and she knew Felicia was not doing much better. Felicia was at work right now, and they needed a solution before the end of the day. Another freezing night would not be fun.

The problem started when funding fell through on Frieda's film project a few months ago, but Felicia felt they'd be okay as long as no major catastrophes occurred before Frieda found a new project or more favorable funder.

Then Felicia was in a fender-bender, and the repairs made a big dent in the savings. 

The following week, Felipe their fox terrier, was found outside with a fractured leg. The operation and ongoing care cost a fortune. 

Finally, and Frieda hadn't told Felicia yet, but five days ago the basement flooded. Not much, just a few inches, but Felicia never went down there, and with no way to pay for repairs, Frieda cleaned it as best she could and kept it quiet. The furnace was a big one, they both knew about it; there could be no hiding it. How would they pay?

At 5:00, Felicia burst in, in mid-conversation with a man in a name-tagged jumpsuit. "Thanks so much for coming in at the last minute, Federico. It's so cold in here!"

Frieda watched from the hall as Felicia led him to the furnace. When she re-emerged, Frieda pulled her to the side. "How are we going to pay for this?" Felicia winked at her and pulled a fist-full of bills out of her pocket. "Where?" Frieda whispered, wide-eyed. "How?"

Felicia booped her nose with the bills and whispered, "I guess it just fell off the money tree, hm?" and went upstairs to change her clothes from work.