Writing Prompt 98: The Last Thing You’d Want to Do

“The last thing you’d want to do.” 

I spent a couple of seconds wondering why this prompt called out to me. What it was about it that woke up the little writing bug in my brain. My pre-caffeinated conclusion is that it reflects a bit of why I’m writing this post in the first place.

I started a new job a few weeks ago (yay!) and the positive change in my work life gave me a moment to consider how I could also better my life outside of work. There are so many things that I want to do in my spare time…I want to finish the knitting project I’m working on; I want to practise my singing more; I want to become more proficient in playing the guitar, and in speaking Italian, and French, and Russian; I want to read more; I want to cook more; and I want to make sure I’m still writing.

So often, when I think of this list, I get overwhelmed by how many things are on it and wonder where on earth I’ll find the time to do it all. It doesn’t feel feasible. But—and this is where I tie it into the prompt—the last thing I’d want to do is get so overwhelmed that I don’t do any of it…

So, I’ve decided to tackle this intimidating mountain of projects in a methodical way. I’m going to try and designate specific time every week or two for each of the items on my list and put it in my calendar so that I can’t ignore it. For example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings go to a new blog post for the day.

I know that life happens and I won’t be able to keep to my calendar every day, but at least this way I’m keeping myself somewhat accountable, no?

Any other suggestions are more than welcome!

Prompt 97: The Sound of the Ocean

“Describe the sounds you heard the first time you swam in the ocean”

I grew up by the ocean. Not right next to it, but a not-too-far drive away from it. In the summer, going to the beach was a Sunday event. Between the days of harvest, my father would take the time on late Sunday mornings to take us all to the sea(ocean) side so that we could have a dip in the water before having a bite to eat at the restaurant poised at the top of the dune.

When I was a little girl, the ocean seemed vast, far bigger than I could even imagine. I would play at its edge, filling my pail with water so that I could trudge it back towards the dry sand and create puddles that would quickly vanish into the cool, dark depths of the earth.

The first time I swam in the ocean was with my parents. As each wave came towards us with the sound of the wind on its crest, I would imitate them as they turned their backs towards it, letting the water crash and splash against their backs. As I got older, I traveled further into the water, leaving behind the sound of people hovering at the shoreline behind me and traversing longer distances toward the deep quiet of swells that could not yet carry the name of ‘wave’.

I only got there a few times, perhaps not more than five. When I did, my ears would fill with the silent but perceptible movement of water and air.

Soft but constant. Never still. Quiet. Eternal. Not quite a sound that can be described, but one easily recognized.

Writing Prompt 96: What I’ve always wanted to say is…

“Finish the sentence that begins with ‘what I’ve always wanted to say is…'”

What I’ve always wanted to say is that I think I’ve been blessed by the universe when it comes to the people that are in my life. In family, friendship, and in love, I have somehow managed to land among people that are loving, supportive, fun, and so capable of receiving love themselves.

When it comes to my family, I’m lifted by a rich history, parents full of stories and wisdom and uncles and cousins that exude a special sense of joy. While our childhood might have been riddled with silly squabbles, as we’ve grown up my siblings and I seem to have developed a camaraderie based on inside jokes and shared experiences that I treasure.

In my friends, I feel that for each stage of my life I have managed to cultivate dear friends that are built to last a lifetime. We share history, stories, love of words, passion for good food and travel, and I would never be able to trade any of them in for the world.

How lucky am I?

Writing Prompt 95: My Favourite Recipe

“Your favourite recipe”

My favourite recipe is one I have been trying to perfect since the first time I attempted (and semi-succeeded) to make it: my mom’s lasagna.

It may take a while to make, but it’s pretty easy, making it a great meal for those cold wintry nights.

Recipe:

Meat Sauce

  • 1 kg of ground beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
    • Cook these together until the meat is brown
  • One big tin of tomatoes
  • One tin of tomato paste
  • 3 small tomato-paste tins of water
    • Add to the pan with the meat
    • Sprinkle with dried oregano and basil until covered
    • Stir the sauce and cook slowly for two hours

Cottage cheese

  • 1 tub of cottage cheese
  • Splash of milk
  • One egg
    • Mix together

Mozzarella

  • 2 balls of mozzarella cut into slabs

Putting it all together

  • Butter a pyrex glass dish
  • Layer with lasagna noodles, meat sauce, cottage cheese and mozzarella. Do this three times
  • Cover the top layer with breadcrumbs and sprinkle with parmesan cheese
  • Place in oven at 350°F and cook for an hour

And voila!

You’ll have a magnificent meal that should give you leftovers for a week. That is, unless you’re feeding a pair of teenaged boys that can eat most of it in one sitting.

Writing Prompt 94: The Perfect Meal

“The perfect meal”

This is what I would pick as the ideal menu for a brisk autumn evening like today’s. Just a combination of my favourite pieces of comfort food.

  • Bruschetta or fresh guacamole (with a tonne of coriander) to start
  • Lasagna as a main, with a fresh buttery lettuce salad with a balsamic vinaigrette on the side
  • Dessert is hard, there are so many wonderful ones! But for a cool October evening, a peach crumble, with a rivulet of fresh cream would be a perfect ending to a perfect meal

Bon apetit !

 

Writing Prompt 93: My favourite spot

“Describe a room in your house”

One of my favourite spots in the apartment is the dining area. It’s right off the kitchen and technically part of the same ‘room’ as the living area, but it’s its own defined space, really. The dining table, with its four matching chairs, is a light coloured wood surface supported by white legs. One of its narrow sides is leaning against the window that looks out on the city and lets in the morning sunshine. Quite the perfect spot for morning coffee. The table is usually adorned by the clutter of daily life: food, notebooks, forgotten headphones, or one of our laptops playing music while food is being prepped. The only permanent fixture is a light blue fruit bowl often filled with the green and yellow from apples and bananas.

To the right of the table is the wall adjacent to the kitchen. On it are mounted four photographs in black-bordered frames, each of flowers either pink or purple against backgrounds of green. There are two structures posed against the wall. The first, a trolley of sorts, extends the kitchen by offering space to our slow-cooker, the sky-blue KitchenAid mixer, the toaster, and pot holders hung on ess-shaped hooks along the side. Right next to it is a wooden bench-like structure. Its bottom shelf hosts our recipe books, piled up by order of size. A mortar and pestle of dark grey stone to the right of the pile, three mason jar vases to the left, currently bereft of flowers. On the top of the structure are three plants, all different shapes, sizes, and hues of green. A flowerless orchid, a growing money tree, and a succulent that resembles the top of a pineapple.

Another money tree, twice the size of the first, has been placed diagonally from its relative, next to the opposing wall. Against this side sits the pride and joy of the apartment (at least in my eyes): the bookcase. On its shelves there are books, of course, but these are accompanied by dried flowers, knick knacks of all sorts, and pictures. It is a mixture of words, colours, and memories that helps make this part of our home so special. Less special, but still quite important, is the black metal and glass wine rack that is hidden in the corner next to the bookcase. It’s criss-crossing of black wires makes for diamond-shaped storage units for each bottle while on top of the structure live the non-vino bottles (there aren’t many of those) as well as my stack of The New Yorker magazines filled with stories and profiles I have yet to read.

And that’s it, in a nutshell. My dining, writing, reading, Netflix-watching, ironing, cooking, coffee-drinking, clothes-drying, puzzle-making area. You are welcome to visit whenever you feel like it!

Prompt 92: Learning through podcasts

“Something more you’d like to know about”

I’ve started listening to podcasts on my way to work. What used to be 20 to 25 minutes of silent transition between one place and another is now filled with informational ramblings about interesting things that I would never have known to investigate. I started with Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I sincerely recommend it. His soft tone is soothing, for one, but the connections he makes between seemingly random things that then build together to a powerful message–be it about inequality, distribution of power, or simply why something is the way it is–is amazing. I can’t wait for the third season.

In the meanwhile, I’ve started listening to the Freakonomics podcast, which also targets topics not usually explored. Today’s topic was the Esperanto language. Have you heard of it? It’s a language created by Dr. Ludwig Zamenhof as a proposed ‘second language for everyone’. The concept being that it is an easy-to-learn language that everyone–people from any country–would be able to speak among each other as human beings, building on that shared experience. His original albeit ambitious vision was to have the language spread across the world. Instead, what the language has done is create a community of 2 million people that speak it and share in a collective wonder over what the world has to offer and wanting to know as much about it as possible.

Isn’t that a wonderful concept?

Anyway, that is the thing I learned today that I would love to learn more about!

 

Prompt 91: Dear Santa

“You are a fifty-three-year-old woman living in Chicago. Write a letter to Santa.”

Dear Santa (Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Mr. Claus, whatever it is you call yourself these days),

I’ve never written to you before. Isn’t that odd? The thing is, my father didn’t believe in you. Well, he didn’t believe in making the world magical for children. On Christmas day, he would give me a small gift, sure, something he had picked up from the convenience store. I think the last one was a jumbo pack of Skittles. Thanks Dad.

I made my own traditions once I left that house. Even though I usually spend Christmas on my own, my tree is filled with little presents to myself, and the entire house is covered in every decoration you can imagine. My own winter wonderland on the outskirts of Chicago. That’s where I live.

Sorry, I’m rambling. I know you have lots of letters to read, so I’ll get to the point.

It’s Christmas time again. The city is covered in snow, my house is once again decorated, and the gingerbread scent is wafting around me. Usually that’s enough. Every other year before this one, that has satisfied me; it has filled the vacancy, the hole that I let grow within me for years under my father’s roof.

This year it just isn’t the same. As I sit in my house, in the same place that has always given me so much comfort, I feel that something is missing.

I’ve thought about it from every angle. I think this is what loneliness feels like.

Isn’t it funny? All these years I’ve been alone, but never lonely.

Since this is your time of year, I figured that you might be the one to help me solve it. So here goes.

Santa, this Christmas I would like you to bring me someone to share it with. Anyone. I’m not picky. I promise that I’ll add a special present or two under the tree for whomever you send.

Pretty please?

There’ll be some of my famous (at least to me) gingerbread men cookies waiting for you, too.

Yours, still a little unbelievingly,

Joyce.

Prompt 90: Your Dog’s Last Dream

“Your dog’s last dream”

This time. This time I’m going to catch it. That rabbit things it’s so smart, pretending to ignore me as it munches grass and hippity hops around the yard. I know I’m being extra quiet and still—I am an awesome hunter after all—but still. I know he knows. He knows I know he knows. I just know it. I feel it in my guts. I feel it from the tip of my ears down to the end of my tail that quivers slightly as I wait. I just have to wait until he gets close enough and then I can pounce on him. Just a couple of hops this way. That’s it. One more. Come on. This way. Nice and easy. And go! Why does he have to be so fast? He got to the other end of the garden in no time at all! I can still catch it. I will catch it. Yes! Almost there!

Human?

What are you doing here?

Where’s the rabbit? Why am I in the house? Did he escape again? Darn it.

I’ll get him next time.

Walk time?

Hello, hello

Hello! Yes, it’s me. Long time no chat!

I’m three – almost four – weeks into a new job where I get to write full time (eek!) developing content for a group that writes investing news. To say I’m thrilled is an understatement, but what it also has meant that I’ve had to establish a new routine that I’m still getting used to. From now on, I’m going to be posting two to three times a week, with the same concept of responding to writing prompts. I need to make sure that I still have access to my creative writing side after days of writing about mining companies!

Thank you all for your patience!

A

What a week

It’s been quite the week, I’ll tell you. I started a new job, got to watch Del Potro play not one, but two fantastic tennis matches, and, most importantly for me at least, my story, Dear Friend, won a short story competition and has been published on Reedsy’s blog. It’s a special story to me, because I tapped into a past self of mine. It’s scary to do that sometimes, but it also taught me that I am not that self anymore. That somewhere along the way I reached some sort of sense of acceptance. So I share this with you, my friends, asking only that you read it for what it is, a story, and that you share in my giddy happiness that someone, somewhere thought it was worth people reading. Much love.

———

Dear friend,

Tomorrow it will be ten years. Ten years since my life changed. It was a cold day; I remember that much. The sun was shining and glinting in the snow, but the air held a sharp nip to it that never let you get quite comfortable, no matter how many layers you were wearing. The snow looked perfect. Smooth but firm. It was a few days old, but the tireless workers at the resort had worked all night to level the tracks out for another day of skiing. Do you remember that?

We had breakfast together, you and I. It’s funny: there are so many details that I remember from that day, details that refuse to leave my mind, but it’s impossible for me to tell you what I had for breakfast that day. Perhaps it was some toast. Maybe cereal. Do you remember? In any case, it was the last meal I would have before the accident.

You and I were in the same class. Not quite beginners, but nowhere near advanced. We were meant to meet with our instructor soon after eating, clad in the skis and poles we had rented for the week. My skis were bright yellow and yours pink. I still remember how the light of the sun bounced off the fluorescent hues as we went up and up and up on the ski lift.

We were trying a new slope that day, weren’t we? One that looked tougher than all the others we had been on so far. You reassured me, telling me that I’d be fine. This was only another hill for us to go down.

I should have listened to you. If I had let your words reassure me, then maybe that added ounce of confidence would have steadied me just the right amount as I sailed down towards the base.

In just a few seconds — it can’t have been much longer than that — I was on my back. I’m not quite sure how it happened, only that despite my mind and the instructor screaming at me to slow down, to break, I just couldn’t make it happen. I lost control and fell. I stared up at the bright blue sky from the cold ground, confused, wondering why I couldn’t move my legs. At first it was just a realization, a fact. But soon after, as that fact sunk in, this awful sense of panic began to grow from within my chest, making me want to scream.

A woman came and bent over me, staring straight into my face. Someone I didn’t know. As the voices I recognized began to get nearer, she asked me questions that were simple, but I kept getting them wrong. I couldn’t remember which cabin I was staying in. It was the name of a Greek or a Roman god. Apollo? Athena? Something with an “A.” I gave the name for yours instead of mine, I think. It’s the angriest I’ve ever been about getting an answer wrong. Why do you think that is?

From there, I was pulled down the mountain on a stretcher of sorts. It was bright yellow as well. A lone skier was tethered to me and guided me down. I remember rushing past other people on the hill and I can still feel the bumps of used snow and ice against my back. In any other circumstance it might have been fun.

In the small health center, they cut my clothes off, piece by piece, trying to expose what was wrong with me. What hurt? Where? Could I feel this? Could I feel that? The answer was no. That feeling of panic that hadn’t quite left me came back with a force.

They had to transport me elsewhere, and I stayed in a small hospital in the mountains for a night before they air-lifted me to the city, only to have it confirmed that I would not move my legs again.

That was the day it happened. It only took a moment or two, and that moment was ten years ago tomorrow.

Tomorrow scares me, friend. The notion of making it to ten years is frightening. Terrifying. Think about it. In ten years, how many opportunities have I missed by not being able to use my legs? How many moments with you, with family, with other friends have I lost? How many things have I not been able to see? I fear that if I begin counting, if I let myself imagine all I have been barred from, I will lose all the good I have seen in these ten years, too. Because there has been good. Lots of it.

Somewhere within myself, I found the strength to take on a different life from that one I had been planning. And thanks to you, friend, always there to remind me that life is simply what you make of it, it has been a good life so far.

Ten years is such a long time, though, isn’t it? It’s a marker of time I held at a distance, always secretly hoping that there would somehow be a magical cure that would change everything before that haunted anniversary came to pass. Did you have such hopes for me? Did you, friend? I know you’ve always wished the best for me.

This fear feels irrational now that I’ve put it down on paper. After all, tomorrow is just another day. I find myself wondering if it will even feel any different. What about in fifteen? Or in twenty?

Why is it that we let these anniversaries toy with our minds so? They are arbitrary moments in time that serve only to mark the passing of time, but we let events taint dates with meaning, making them important only in our own memories. I know I can’t explain it. All I know is that I dread tomorrow. I dread it terribly. I’m only thankful that I have you, friend, to bear it with me.

Thank you for that.

Your friend.

 

Prompt 89: A man in red

“What a character wearing something red is thinking”

Lucius was anxious. For the first time in his life he was waiting for a date whom he had met on an online dating site.

It had taken him a while to transition from online interactions to a real date. Unfortunately, he was of a generation where when his name was read, people automatically added a ‘Malfoy’ to the end of it. That didn’t seem to encourage the ladies to want to meet him. And yet, he just couldn’t face transitioning into the more casual, the more common, ‘Luke’. He had tried the short-form on for size once, and he just couldn’t shake off the feeling that by not using his full name he was inviting people to be more more informal with him than he was comfortable with. He just could not have that.

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