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December 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

December 16It’s beginning to look a lot like a lonely time of year.

Christmas, any major cultural holiday, can be a stark reminder of those who are not around the tree this year. I’m not going to try and make analogies for other December holidays because they are not my area of knowledge. Regardless, I know that no matter if you have a tree or not, you have traditions, memories, foods and favorite trimmings. And when you are missing someone, those associations can feel empty.

Kate and I had a tradition of gifting…later! We were both classic where-did-the-time-to-mail-go kind of friends. In fact, we both exchanged gifts at the hospital because we each had something special for one another lurking in our desks or to-do boxes. She always knew how to touch me with the simplest gift, and every gift came with a story. I will cherish the baby book she gave me most.

Yes, my best friend gave me a baby book. You know, the first-book types, chunky and printed on cardboard strong enough for a teething baby or enthusiastic toddler. It’s “On the Night You Were Born.” She forewarned me not to let her three-year-old granddaughter see it because she’d think it was hers. She has one, too. This one (and I say it like a grown three-year old) is mine!

We all need people who know us deeply. It helps alleviate loneliness, especially for a woman who did not feel cherished on the night she was born and many nights afterwards. My only-child-syndrome yearned for a sister and that was Kate. She knew it. I knew it. And now she’s gone.

It’s funny, and I say this with sincere humor, because if Kate were alive I still would not have a gift under the tree from her! It’s easy to pretend she’s alive and intending to send me something or call. If she were, I’d get a gift later and so would she. But this year, I get a gift that frightens me with its fragility, and I don’t want to drop it. I get one of her granddaughters, a 15-year old full of teenage angst. Her gift? She gets to be an only child for Christmas vacation.

I’ve been a sucky Grandma-substitute, and it makes me feel guilty. The only person who’d really understand is not here to cheer me up about how I feel. I’m fairly certain I’ve called or written to her grandchildren, oh, zero times since I left Kate’s funeral. One daughter with the teen girls and a younger boy has visited with her family and I that was enough for me to be short-listed for where to go when one teen, Longboarder, wanted somewhere else to be. I’m happy to fill that role. Anxious, too.

My tree is bare. No chance of getting swept away by materialism here. It has lights and ornaments with a past, just no gifts to open. The stockings are hung, empty but full of memories from when my kids were kids. I like seeing them, though. I thought about getting Longboarder a stocking and sharing that tradition with her, but I’m still waiting to get paid. I was feeling low about that today in town. If I had money, I’d be buying gifts left and right.  Instead, I walk a straight line and try to remember the real meaning of Christmas, and that I can gift people with a smile, acknowledgement, patience and kindness.

Imagine my surprise when I came home from town today and discovered a package from New Zealand. NZ? I was mystified and excited. I grabbed a kitchen knife and carefully sliced the plastic and bubble wrap open to discover stunning bling. Something glittered like a mushy Zales Jewellery commercial, and when I released the glamour from the red gossamer bag, I stared at something vaguely familiar. Where had I seen this?  My God, it’s stunning. Who sent this?

For someone who is supposedly engaged in community, I can be disconnected (distracted?). I was vaguely aware of a sun-catcher give-away-blog-thingy, but didn’t pay close enough attention. Geoff Le Pard…I had no idea you nominated me as a friend to receive this amazing gift! I’m weeping, which is why my writing is probably blurry and sappy. I did go back and discover what you wrote, and I am humbled you would do that. Thank you. You have no idea how touched I am.

Okay, yes, I’m probably “touched” in another sense of the phrase, but Kate would be the one to say and laugh at it. How in the world that sun-catcher would arrive on the same day I was missing Kate so terribly, on the same day I actually considered giving up on my veteran out of frustration, on the same day I wondered if I mattered to anyone else. I don’t often share my down days and doubts. I try to always lift up and encourage others because I know how real and painful struggles are, whether it’s at home, on the page or in life.

On my new cherished treasure — which is hanging in the window by my tree, waiting to shine forth light — has two amazing details. One is the angel. It’s the same angel that hung in Kate’s van with the warning, “Don’t drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.” I laughed (and cried some more) when I saw that angel! Further down the strand was Kate’s clan — she was a “Ferry” and there is a fairy on the sun-catcher.

One last gift from Kate was a bookmark one of her student’s made for her. When I started to say I couldn’t take such a special item, she gave me her best “Oh, come on…” face and reminded me she wouldn’t be taking it with her. It’s a message I want to share with all of you, especially if you are struggling this season for any reason:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  

Forgive them anyway.

 If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  

Be kind anyway.

 If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. 

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. 

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. 

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. 

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. 

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. 

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.

~ written on the wall where Mother Theresa cared for Calcutta children

This sun-catcher will remind me that there is always something we can be to others: Be the light. Thank you Geoff, and thank you one and all who make this a community of writing light, a place to shine in our craft, to illuminate possibilities and encourage one another on the writer’s journey.

Perhaps appropriate, the post I intended to write had to do with expanding the flash fiction challenges. Now I’m thinking of such expansion as catching and spreading the light for writers everywhere. What’s interesting about a rural place is that many are creative, but what one might call “closet writers.” When I was putting up posters for the BinderCon viewing event, everyone knew someone who loved to write, but their writing or efforts do not see the light of day.

I thought about the amazing connections we’ve made at Carrot Ranch through flash fiction. Could that be accomplished in rural northern Idaho? Well, I proposed a program to our library last month, agreed to training as an adult education volunteer and today I received my official volunteer badge and once-a-month program: Wrangling Words. Instead of a 99-word online constraint, it will be a 15-minute in-person constraint. I’ll give a 20-minute presentation (kind of like a live “Tips for Writers”) and stay for up to an hour to mentor anyone who might want to go the next step, either personally or professionally.

This program connects back to the Rough Writer Anthology Vol. 1. Sarah Brentyn has shared her own light and inspiration, taking on the editorship of the book, as well as holding a vision for how such an anthology can be used in a group or classroom setting. I look forward to one day expanding this library program to include what this Anthology becomes.  If you are ever amazed at what your writing is like in the weekly compilations — a dynamic part of a whole — I hope you will be amazed at what it will look like in an Anthology. Thank you to those writers who have stepped up to be on teams. Sarah and I are breaking ground on what tasks and timeline will look like and we’ll be sharing updates soon.

Thank you for your light, your writing, your gift of presence at Carrot Ranch. Whether you read, write or comment, you are all shining stars here.

We will extend the deadline over the Christmas holiday. I look forward to spending time with Longboarder, but I will be checking in daily at the ranch. This next prompt is to honor the generous gift of light and hope from Pauline King in New Zealand, and in remembrance of Kate and any loved ones who’ve passed you want to honor.

December 16, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “spreading the light.” You can use it to honor or memorialize a loved one.

TWO WEEK EXTENDED HOLIDAY! Respond by December 29, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Locked Away by Charli Mills

Gossipers. Chattering prairie-dogs. Mary steadied her hands and steeped tea in her only bone-China pot. Chipped. They’d notice that, too.

“Tea, Ladies?”

Straight-backed they sat on the hickory bench Cobb carved. She rocked. China clinked, heads bobbed. They all stared at the crayon drawing behind her.

“Mrs. McCanles, why hang such…a … violent…portrait?”

“Hard to profess his innocence…” They nodded to one another.

After they left she took it down and locked it away in her trunk. They’d never know the man she did, but she’d be damned if she let them judge his portrait, too. Miss, you Husband


Author’s Note: not exactly the “spreading the light” flash I though I’d write. Let me explain where my mind jumped. In a way, I feel like I’m shedding light on an old mystery and also giving light to the wife of a man sorely judged by history. This is a true, although imagined, story. Mary took down the portrait of Cobb and it wasn’t found until several generations later. Her son had the original photograph. Hers was a “crayon” copy.

This is the photo of Cobb the McCanles Family shared with historians:


And this is the copy of the original (uncropped) photo from a newspaper clipping I found just weeks ago:



  1. Hello Charli, what a beautiful post! I am so touched to read about your dear friend Kate and your friendship – which I feel survives death. Geoff wrote so beautifully of you and all the inspiration you give so freely to others and I can see that clearly here in this post. Thank you for your pingback and the honour of having a series of flash fictions for the light catcher – this makes me ridiculously happy! 🙂 I am not a writer, just a reader and a maker of things, but I will enjoy to follow along quietly. Merry Christmas! Pauline

  2. Annecdotist says:

    Ah, Charli, what a moving post. It’s easy to feel down at Christmas when one’s experience doesn’t fit the stereotype (and let’s face it, not many do) but how lovely to have the light sent to you that way. I clicked on the link and read Geoff’s beautiful endorsement of you and would echo every word.
    I love that Kate bought you a baby book and is now sending you her granddaughter. Personally, I’d find that terrifying, but I guess you have to trust that your home is where the girl wants to be.
    But sometimes we need to protect ourselves from the shadows that others might cast over our own light, which think is what Sarah is doing when she’s putting away the photo in your brilliant flash. And indeed, you’re shining a light on a neglected part of history as well as supporting others to bring their light to the world through flash fiction.
    Looking forward to another illuminating you in your company.

    • Charli Mills says:

      The teenage part is a bit scary, but I know we’ll have a good time. I plan on taking her around to some of the outdoor spaces for ice skating and viewing lights. She’ll get lot’s of focused attention! I really like how you summarize Mary’s action (gets a bit confusing between Sarah and Mary in relationships with Cobb). Yes, sometimes we do protect our light from the shadows. And sometimes we need to shone it on the shadows of history. When I go out for interviews for article writing, I ask locals if they’ve heard any stories about women working in the labor camps. The old time loggers affirm that they did or say that their Grandma “knew a women” or sometimes a camp boss let his daughter work. But I’m surprised by how many men are affronted by the question and say, “No way!” This is why I feel compelled to find, research and write women’s stories. I don’t believe the no-way-sayers! Thank you for your comment, Anne!

  3. This is so touching and familiar, to many I am sure! Like you I approach Christmas with a mixture of hope and sadness. Let hope win this year.

    British hedgehog hugs!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hope always wins, especially when we share it! Thank you! My first British hedgehog hug! Kate went to the UK and she really wanted to see a hedgehog, but everywhere she went there was some reason why the hedgehogs were not there. She never saw one and always joked that they are mythological! 😀 <3

  4. Norah says:

    Ah, Charli. Sending hugs across the ways. Christmas can be a sad and lonely time of year. I’m assuming your own young ones won’t be around since they were just recently.
    It is amazing how everything piles on top of us at once leaving us gasping for air and struggling to get out. But when you thought things were as bad as they could get you received two wonderful things to pick you up. Pauline’s beautiful light catcher as a result of Geoff’s lovely honest words. There is no one else his words could describe and I am so pleased that Pauline’s light catcher winged its way to you in your time of need, perhaps carried on those angel’s wings. I think Pauline is one herself.
    I wonder what surprises having the Longboarder stay will bring, for you and her. What a beautiful gift she is unwrapping in your home – your warmth, acceptance and love. I’m sure you will find gifts in her being there as well.
    I love the poem on the bookmark from Kate. I have read it before and it brings tears to my eyes every time. Sometimes it is difficult to do it anyway, but we try, we try.
    And the book that she gave you. You have mentioned it before. I saw it in the bookstore when I was shopping yesterday and immediately thought of you. I had to stop and read it. It is beautiful. The eyes that did not at first see it was about you have been replaced by many who do. We were just waiting to meet you.
    How exciting to get your project with local writers off the ground, and a badge to boot. I know just how fortunate those writers are to have you as mentor. I am very excited to see what you and Sarah are cooking up for the Anthology. It is indeed an exciting project.
    Another fabulous flash. Poor Mary, grieving for her husband and having to suffer the criticisms of others. How sad that she felt she must remove the crayon drawing to protect Cobb, even in his passing, from their scathing eyes and remarks. But what an interesting story it is with the photo only discovered generations later. Seeing the original photo and a copy from a newspaper article is awesome. It must be wonderful to see your work bring so much to light.
    And talking about light, I wish you and yours a lightness of spirit and happy times during the Christmas season and through 2016. What you say about Kate is true. You may not have her presents under the tree, but you do have her presence in your heart. She will always be there.
    Take time for you and your needs. Enjoy. 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Norah, you always show up and shine you light, too! Thank you! You actually say the baby book? That’s amazing. It is a touching story and one that every child (no mater our age) should feel. We do matter to one another. My children are elsewhere, though I loved getting them here last month. Longboarder will sparkle here and notch up the energy! I’m looking forward to learning how to best support her to grow into the young woman she’s becoming. I’m going to clean and bake cookies today! And I feel Kate’s presense strongly. Yes, Paulina must be an angle, too. The timing and symbology was all so uncanny and right on. Much light and joy to you and you family, too this Christmas season! <3

      • Norah says:

        Thank you Charli for you kind and encouraging words. #SMAG! I’m sure you and Longboarder are going to have fun together. She has a great role model in you. What’s to not like? (semi-quoting Seinfeld’s mum). Enjoy your cleaning and baking. At times it can be therapeutic, but you have to accept it’s what you are meant to be doing at the time and not resenting it because you’d rather be doing something else! (That’s a reminder to me!)
        I look forward to hearing tales of the adventures of the Rough Writer and the Longboarder. It’s going to be historic for both of you, I’m sure.
        Best wishes to you all.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Ha, ha! Thanks, Norah! We have her after a sketchy drive on snowy roads and she’s a delight!

  5. Oliana says:

    Thank you, Charli, for sharing the light of your dear friend, Kate. I feel I know her and her story brought tears to my eyes as I was bobbing my head or wiping my tears, thinking, “she knows!!” This is a time of year where we feel rushed even if we are not going anywhere. I feel there are so many things I need to do to get “ready” and yet I am not even hosting any dinners this year. But you are so right in acknowledging your Kate and how many of us do have that someone who made this time of year special. The memories you share are still so alive and I wish you light and glitter (the fairy kind) this Christmas.

    I’m so pleased I found your home here through Jules. Even if I don’t have time or my mind draws a blank, I can enjoy your story before you present the prompt…you are a gifted writer that engages the reader from the first sentence. I feel as if I had a nice visit with my cuppa before getting ready for work. May you inspire us throughout 2016 as well.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m so pleased you found your way here through Jules! Carrot Ranch has a good synergy that comes from those who gather here. Thank you for understanding and welcoming my story of Kate. She continues to be a blessing in my life. We do need to hold to those moments even if we have a mixture of pain and joy. Ultimately, hope does win out. Thank you for being here!

      • Oliana says:

        Years ago, I started volunteering at a Bereavement for children’s group. I was newly single again, and my father was dying. I sat down in the lounge and told the volunteer co-ordinator, “It feels like I’ve come home.” I find that in the WP community on so many levels.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Life transitions and losses are hard, but we do find renewal through service and others. 🙂

  6. […] December 16, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “spreading the light.” You can use it to honor or memorialize a loved one. TWO WEEK EXTENDED HOLIDAY! Respond by December 29, 2015to be included in the weekly compilation. […]

  7. julespaige says:

    I think it is fascinating how the photo was ‘edited’. It reminds me of how when I go to make copies of my own photos that now I can add borders to my pictures to edit some of the background. And makes me want to get my own family photos back up on my dining room walls. When we had our floors done we also painted and everything came down… that was years ago. Time to honor those who will always be family in our hearts. Especially those who are no longer with us.

    Best to you Charli and to the relationships that you build going forward with your ‘family’ and community in your neighborhood and the community here.
    Thank you for the opportunity be accepted as a ‘writer’. Some of us still struggle with that title because we took so long to ‘get’ where we are. And here is a very fine place to be 🙂

    I didn’t want to forget or be late… so:


    When there was no light, Hope looked for the contrast of
    ink on paper. Often writing in large letters by the light of
    the moon, because her lamp was supposed to be out.

    Sleep doesn’t come easy thinking of lives that mattered
    to her. The mother she never knew or the grandparents
    that moved away. Siblings and parents, that even though
    they took breath, couldn’t share her deepest thoughts.

    Light came from outside sources. It was her teachers;
    they were the ones who fanned her creative flames.

    Hope just had to believe. Someday, her words would see


    See the post here:

    • Charli Mills says:

      Like you, I have a wall intended for family, but in need of printing and framing more photos. For some reason I tend to forget about that project. Maybe if it involved writing…

      I’m so happy you are taking ownership of your writing. As to craft, we practice mastery until the day we no longer write. As long as we write, we are writers. It is good to have you here!

      Your flash took my breath away! You capture that sense of longing which I believe drives writers and artists to express, yet is often countered with the knowledge that creatives are not always understood or accepted. A beautiful flash and reach for the light!

      • julespaige says:

        I think the ‘Hope’ episode is one many can relate to. If not writing, reading under the covers with a flashlight 😉

        We capture what is in our hearts 🙂
        Thank you for ‘this’ home away from home.

  8. […] (no more, no less) about “spreading the light”.    Check out the post  and prompt here where the writer shares a moving story about her friend as well as beautiful message for those […]

    • Charli Mills says:

      Two lovely stories of light! Your mother had me laughing. I can see how she must have been such a dazzling light in your life. Thank you for sharing her and your wonderful flash with us!

  9. […] (no more, no less) about “spreading the light”.    Check out the post  and prompt here where the writer shares a moving story about her friend as well as beautiful message for those […]

  10. A beautiful post, Charli…bittersweet-relatable. Christmas is (and always has been) my favorite time of year, but this year I’m approaching it with incredible mixed feelings… the excitement that, for me, never really goes away (no matter what life and/or losses throw at me) and a deep, incredibly deep sadness.

    Your Kate sounds like a wonderful person/friend, and this was a lovely share. Thank you!

    Wishing you a peaceful Christmas, Kimmie x

    • Charli Mills says:

      Kimmie, I think you’ve expressed what it is to truly live — life pulses with an undercurrent of excitement, yet washes us with sadness. It seems a contradiction, but the beauty of it lies in the full expression of both joy and sorrow. Kate was both a wonderful friend and person. Thank you your for sharing in this season and I’m wishing you much peace, too!

  11. Lovely, Charli. Just lovely. Thanks for spreading your light.

  12. Marigold says:

    You are such a sweetheart Charli. I feel like I’ve been away from your blog too long, letting the previous months consume me. Yet here you, setting the example for all of us. Your friendship with Kate has also brought light into my heart, and for that I thank you. Thank you for sharing 🙂 Merry Christmas.

  13. kaykuala says:

    This is my first foray into this. Best wishes to you Charli


  14. Annecdotist says:

    My light, as you might expect, has an edge of darkness, and I’m also celebrating the short story on the shortest day of the year:

  15. […] week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “spreading the light.” While she suggests it could be used it to honor or memorialize a loved one, I thought I would […]

  16. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I’m adding mine, trying to shine a little light on the Santa myth. I hope your holiday is going well. 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Norah! As you might have guessed by my silence, it’s been going well. I’ve gifted my time to the wonderful girl in my home who is so unlike me in every way, yet we’ve found ways to bond. Mostly through feeding her. They all fall to my cooking, eventually. I’m back at my desk and she’s missing her friends but catching up on sleep and enjoying her privacy without siblings. I hope your holidays are going well, too with family and friends.

  17. Sherri says:

    Oh Charli, how can I add to what everyone else has already said so eloquently? I have tears from the baby book and it’s title, to the quote on Kate’s bookmark (oh if only we could strive to live with those virtues alive in our hearts what a better place this world would be…), to your sad heart at missing your dear, best friend at this especially poignant time of year. No words can make it better, but you know that as you shine your beautiful light here, you have created a most treasured light-catching community…and now with a real light-catcher all the way from New Zealand to remind of you this 🙂 Geoff said it for me, for us, in his wonderful nomination, every word spot on. You, who have given so much, deserve so much from all who know you, and we are here to make sure that happens in any way we can. Your flash is moving and wonderfully written. And the photos at the end fascinating. I will try and return with my flash, although I won’t be blogging for a little while, so will post it here. Meanwhile, sending you love and hugs and the happiest of Christmas wishes with your full of beans teenager and all the joy that comes from remembering Kate with the love of a best friend through her family, which is your family also 🙂 <3

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you so much for being a part of this light-catching community, Sherrie! The sun-catcher reminds me that a single crystal to reflect the light is pretty, but a full strand is dazzling. Community can be like that. The teen has been fairly quiet, but I think she likes having the silence of no siblings. She likes watching me cook which is about as entertaining as I can be. It’s been peaceful and I’ve had the chance to share some of her Grandma Kate’s stories. Many wonderful holiday wishes for you as we pull out of this season and get back to the revisions! <3

  18. A. E. Robson says:

    Each year during a visit home, Dad and I would go for a walk or horseback ride and pick out the Christmas trees. One for Mom and Dad and one for me. When the weather got cold, Dad would cut them down and send one across the country to me by Greyhound bus. It was that piece of home that filled the room when we couldn’t be together at Christmas time.

    As my own family grew, he would send little tree toppers for each of the children so they could have their own tree to decorate in their rooms. He made tiny stands out of small tree burls for each of them.

    The children are grown, Dad is no longer with us and some of the traditions have changed. Now, one of the favourite Christmas traditions includes telling stories about how “The Christmas Tree Arrived by Bus”.

    The Christmas Tree Arrived by Bus
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    “Shall we ride or walk today?”

    She slipped her grown hand into his. “Let’s walk, Dad.”

    They strolled past the barn out into the trees. This was so much better than their telephone visits.

    “This one?” He pointed to a Fir tree about 10’ tall.

    She nodded and he tied the plastic ribbon to its branches.

    Snow was on the ground when she got the call to pick up the parcel. A 6’ tube encased the tree wrapped tight with binder twine. Through tears and laughter she unwrapped the precious memory gift. The start of a tradition was born.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, Ann, what a kind and treasured gesture by your father. I can just imagine the scent of that tree filling the bus and lifting everyone’s spirits. And what a beautiful way to continue the tradition with mini-trees for your children! That definitely spreads light!

  19. […] This is the latest prompt from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. […]

  20. […] on Geoff’s blog and thought I’d have a go. The prompt comes from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch and the challenge is to write a piece of flash fiction of exactly 99 words on the theme of […]

  21. I saw this prompt on Geoff Le Pard’s blog. Here’s my piece. I hope to make this a regular visit 🙂

  22. Happy New Year to all!

    In my contribution to the current challenge, Ed “spreads the light” like no other:

  23. […] In response to Charil’s Carrot Range Flash Fiction Challenge: Spreading the Light […]

  24. Charli, you couldn’t have tapped into my thoughts better than you have. Lots of love goes to you as we remember. Hope you had a lot of fun with longboarder.
    Hope you have a Happy New Year and all the wonderful plans are achieved.

  25. […] Mills’ Carrot Ranch December 16th Flash Fiction Challenge:  in 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about “spreading the light”. Here is my […]

  26. Charli, you are like a candle spreading light with the work you do with Carrot Ranch. I hope you had a good holiday. I found myself very rusty after my long break, but nevertheless, here’s my contribution to ‘spreading the light’.

  27. Pete says:

    This post gave me chills (happy chills not the creepy kind). I knew i’d stumbled along a special place here but this post only further reminded that people are still good. Lovely gift, great job Geoff!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha, ha! Glad it wasn’t creepy chills, Pete. Thank you. I’m so glad to have you spread your writing light here. You express deep compassion and goodness in many of your stories. You have a story-tellers gift and a tender heart. You all gift me with writing at the ranch!

  28. jeanne229 says:

    Charli, I tried to post this several days ago but the site wouldn’t take it. Here are my thoughts on your post:

    Wonderful post Charli, a lovely word-present at Christmastime. I’ve read it three times now, pausing each time to reflect more deeply on a different part of it. It makes me want to meet you in person and give you a hug. You describe so well how Christmas brings a welling up of deep sadness, even as the pretty lights twinkle and cards arrive and aromas fill the air. Hoping that your sun catcher reflects your own bright light back at you, that it brings peace to your aching heart. Kate has left a hole that can never be filled by another, but I wish you many comforting returns on the love you put into taking care of people and teaching and writing. Very exciting news about the library program and the progress on the anthology. Merry Christmas Charli.

    And once again, the prompt has been rolling around in my head. But it seems that it stuck there… 🙁

    Happy New Year to you and yours..

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hmm, you and Pat both had that experience. I told Pat I looked under the blog hood and didn’t see anything obvious. Maybe it’s a glitch but I’ll look into it more.

      Thank, Jeanne. You gift me deeply with your reading and understanding the communication. No greater gift than relating to another. I’d very much like to meet you one day and take you up on that hug! I have very special family in Arizona and I will make it down south one day. And the Writer’s Room on Elmira Pond is always open to you. Thank you for the light you spread here. And don’t worry about getting something stuck in your head; writers can always roll around ideas for later use with surprising results.

      Happy New Year to you and your family, too!

      • jeanne229 says:

        Thank you Charli. Worked on my little piece last night. I don’t expect you to include it since the cut off was yesterday and you posted this morning. But your inspiration goaded me into finally evolving that little kernel of a story.

        The Source is Not Spent

        I saw her two days before Christmas. Ragged, shriveled, toothless. Gray hair whipping in a cold wind.

        She stood where I had seen her before. On the northwest corner of a busy intersection. At rush hour.

        The traffic light lingered on red. Already a line of cars purred behind me.

        I fumbled for my bag. She saw me. Our eyes met. She stepped into the turn lane that separated us.

        The light changed. A horn blared. She backed up. I shrugged—a sham of helplessness. She nodded and smiled.

        Emitted a light that has blessed and haunted me since.

      • Charli Mills says:

        I have felt that same fumbling to meet the light to try and dig into my purse for the person standing on the corner. Your flash goes deeper into that intersection of humanity. To receive a smile and nod from someone who has nothing else to give is a light spread. I’m glad you worked out the kernel. It’s a good story! And it’s was easy to add to the compilation. 😉

  29. Sherri says:

    Hi Charli! Hope you’re having a good day 🙂 Here’s my flash for hope and joy and of cherished memories:

    Star of Wonder

    Maria gazed at the Christmas tree and smiled at the dazzling display.

    Homemade ornaments created lovingly by her son, faded and worn and hung by a thread, reminders of Christmas past and of precious memories cherished.

    Others shimmered brightly, telling of Christmas today and of new joy.

    And then she realised she had forgotten something.

    “My daddy always puts the star on top of the Christmas Tree” her little boy had written years before in Kindergarten.

    Maria swallowed.

    “I’ll do it,” smiled James.

    Her boy now a man, and still the light of Christmas burned with hope and promise.

    Light to you my friend <3

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sherri, that’s so beautiful! That’s a right proper tree, dripping with joy and the memories attached to faded string. Then the boy steps into his role as a man. Almost a coming of age story in 99 words! Thank you for sharing your light!

    • Norah says:

      I love the image of your tree with the homemade ornaments and the gorgeous son, now man, adding the star to keep alight the hopes and joys of Christmas. A beautiful piece of flash. 🙂

  30. rogershipp says:


    “He has candles in his room again.”

    “I know.”

    “There aren’t candles anywhere else in the house. Why candles in his room?”

    “That was all he asked for for Christmas.”

    “Don’t you think that is a little strange?”

    “Did you talk to him?”

    “Come on, honey. How do you talk about candles? Did you?”

    “Yes. It’s because of all the kids we allow to stay here. We seem to have a different child every weekend.”

    “So… candles?”

    “He says he can’t save children, like we do… So he lights a candle and prays for each of them every night.”

    99 words …

  31. Pat Cummings says:

    Trying to duck under the wire with A Little Light Reading ( )

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ducks are welcome at the Ranch! Thanks for sharing your light reading memories! It brought back to mind ones I hadn’t thought of in years, and deserve to be remembered!

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