May 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

May 2, 2019

Spring demands a pickaxe.

My neighbors chop their remaining snow piles dirty with stamp sand the road commission uses to grit streets throughout a Keweenaw winter. Remnants line the gutters. Other neighbors sweep away the byproduct of 150 years of copper mining. I scour the driveway and sidewalk to the back of the house on Roberts Street with my daughter’s corn-broom, swinging at grit as if I were fighting a battalion of field mice. Maple leaves move along at a groggy pace, damp and matted.

At the edge of the concrete, I discover brick pavers long buried beneath turf, dirt, and moss. In a frenzy of cleaning fueled by spring vibes and the need to move, I focus on excavation. The saturated earth easily tears away in clumps of grass, rooted maple saplings, and webs of weeds. An extended old sidewalk emerges as my reward, ending beneath one of three grand maples where one day I will set up a tea table. I sweep away more leaves to expose a flower bed, bare grape vines, and more visions of a place to call home.

Beneath the maple, glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae) rises like spring’s pickaxe from beneath the carpet of winter’s leavings. Grass-like stems spear so fiercely, they impale mats of maple leaves. Glory-of-the-snow unfold into purple and white star-flowers in the shadows of dwindling snow banks. The cosmos have momentarily dipped to earth. Miners who once drilled beneath the Keweenaw had wives who planted these resilient spring flowers, a baton of strength from the past.

The Finns have a word — sisu. It means something like determination and inner strength. It’s not courage, but rather something elemental in a person’s core. Finnish decendents of the Keweenaw turn to sisu to survive the long winters. It’s not a one-time deal, but a consistent ability to overcome adversity. I’m not a Finn, but I know sisu.

Maybe that’s why I enjoy watching neighbors pickaxe the remaining snow. I feel their determination with each stroke. I swipe away grit and watch flowers emerge, marveling that snow, stamp sand, and floral glory can exist simultaneously. A Keweenaw friend once described local nissu bread to me — “it’s gritty, but sweet; kinda like the Finns who eat it.” Nissu bread is not for sissies, but it takes to thimbleberry jam without complaint.

What is my thimbleberry jam, I wonder? I know my grit, my ability to rise like dough from the pounding. I also know beauty, the sweet spread of life lived in the moment. While worrying about a burgeoning infection surrounding the Hub’s new titanium, we both couldn’t help but gasp in joy as a merlin blew past the front window like a sky-racer down Roberts Street. That’s thimbleberry jam.

The worry passes. Merlins soar eternally. Someone once stood on this hill overlooking the waterway 3,000 years ago, poking around for the metal to make spear points to feed children half-starved from a harsh winter and a merlin blew past. Hope lifts up. Sisu gains root. And the hunter knows winters will come again. So will the merlins. So will the trout lillies and fiddlehead ferns. Sisu makes sure we don’t hang our heads and miss the flying.

As for the Hub’s knee, Doc says it’s “lookin’good.” The increased pain and redness is frostbite. Let’s say, I might have sisu. I’m a terrific advocate, a great encourager, but I suck at being a carer. In my heightened sense of duty, I overachieved on the icing and frosted the Hub’s new knee. Doc chuckled and said, “They didn’t educate you, did they?”

I have no idea who “they” are other than they say lots of stuff about history and politics, too. No, “they” never taught me how to use an ice bucket. I observed that it was used around the clock in the hospital, and when the nurse gave me Doc’s orders, I took them to the word — “ice.” So I iced. Good news is that x-rays confirmed no infection, the skin will heal, and halejuliah, I no longer have to haul ice up the stairs every four hours. I also advocated for a med change and it has made a huge difference, too. Brownie point for speaking up.

And then I threw away the Hub’s wallet. Cleanliness — to prevent infection — and lack of sleep led to a missing wallet. He panicked. I didn’t. After all, it’s not like he’s been gadding about any further than the bathroom. We pulled back the mattress, flashed the light in corners, moved dressers, search every weird place we could think of and no wallet. The Hub said it had fallen into the bedside trash once and he pulled it out. With everything condensed within his reach, it likely got knocked again and I didn’t think to look in the trash before depositing it outside in the can. The can that got hauled away before we realized what happened.

He’s sad. But I remember that the merlins are back. And the snow that hit us this week quickly melted. And that my Brussel sprouts are growing in the eggshells where I planted their seeds. And I have hopes for black gladiolas at the back of the Roberts Street house. We make the necessary calls. I believe sisu can exist because beauty exists.

In July, I’ll be offering my first Carrot Ranch Writing Refuge in Vermont. We will entwine ourselves in nature and writing. One of the lessons I’ve prepared is based on the Navajo “beauty way” as expressed in novels by Tony Hillerman. Another examines the writing of Craig Childs to explore a sense of place and beauty despite natural disaster. And we’ll learn to observe like Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard, and Terry Tempest Williams. Beauty balances sisu in writing.

No matter what grit you might have to brush away from your own writing, and no matter how many times you must rise again against doubt, rise. Look for a merlin of your own, or catch the once a year smattering of flowers named for glories.

And tune into #NaNoProMo over on Twitter and at BadRedhead Media. It’s a month-long gathering of marketing expertise for authors. If you comment on the official post each day, you are registered to win prizes from each of the book marketing experts who offer a giveaway with each post. I’ll be talking about credibilty as part of author branding and offering a free Author Action Plan to the day’s winner. It’s a tool I developed for my book cultivation workshops and I’m pleased with it because it helps me meet each author where they are at to illuminate a path to where they want to be.

During NaNoProMo, I will offer a special consultation for an Author Action Plan (scroll to the bottom of the page).

We are each individual. There is no one plan that fits all.

But what writers do have in common is that determination to get it done on our own terms. Despite the obstacles. Despite circumstances. Despite age and regret, or youth and inexperience. We write with sisu.

May 2, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sisu. It’s a Finnish concept of enduring strength, the ability to consistently overcome. Think long-term. Go where the prompt leads!

Submissions closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

Respond by May 7, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Something Evil in the Night (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Successive gun shots startled Danni from sleep. 2:04 a.m. She reached for Ike’s AR-15 resting between the dresser and wall. Years of Ike drilling her lent a strange familiarity to her husband’s weapon. But he was halfway around the world in Iraq. She dialed 9-1-1. The nearest deputy was 25 minutes away. Stepping outside, rifle cradled in the crook of her arm, Danni watched a silent pack of wolves run like liquid silver across the frozen pond in moonlight. Danni understood: Wolves run with sisu in their blood, outpacing the malevolence that follows – men with no regard for life.

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  1. Peregrine Arc

    This is beautiful. I will use and borrow this Finnish word. The retreat sounds very exciting. ??

    • Charli Mills

      Take sisu and own it! I think it resonates with writers because we have to be in this for the long-haul. This retreat is the beginning! I’ve dreamed of doing nature writing retreats for a long time.

  2. floridaborne

    That word reminded me of my mother — though I didn’t appreciate her talents until later in life. Mom had a HS diploma and my dad had a 5th grade eduction, making it hard for him to find more than a laborers job. I once asked her why she stayed home instead of going to work. She said our father appreciated all the things she did (paint the house inside and out every 5 years, tend flowers, mow the lawn, fix plumbing, cook, clean, sew our clothes, etc.) and she had always hated answering to someone else. Her home was her castle and dad came home to sleep after working 2 jobs every day. She never missed a piano recital, or school event. And yes — she reupholstered ALL our couches and chairs, too. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      That certainly describes sisu, Joelle. The hard work, but also finding some joy in it — your mom got to be captain of her own domain, your dad got to enjoy a place of respite.

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Pal, you been on the ranch yer whole life?”
    “Yep, reckon ya could say so. In thet I cain’t remember nuthin’ afore bein’ here.”
    “Well, that’s a whole lotta hard work, all that ranchin’, day in and day out.”
    “Yep, I reckon. Jist what a ranch hand does, Kid. Roll out ever mornin’ an’ jist do what’s gotta be done.”
    “That’s sisu, Pal.”
    “How is thet Japanese physical combat training?”
    “Finnish. Sisu.”
    “Says you. An’ finish whut? Ranch work ain’t ever finished Kid. No matter the weather or season. But it’s who I am. It’s what I do.”
    “Sisu, Pal. Means yer tough, resilient.”
    “If ya say so, Kid. Jist know I like ranchin’, an’ this here’s a good outfit. Shorty’s good ta work for.”
    “Ya sure ‘bout that, Pal? This job have benefits?”
    “Lots uv’em. Fresh air, wide open spaces, good folks,—“
    “No, Pal. Benefits. Health insurance, fer instance. What happens if ya git hurt on the job?”
    “Reckon Shorty’d take care a me.”
    “Ya’d let Shorty take care a ya?”
    “Now that’s true grit. Heard she heps till it hurts. Might wanna talk ta her Cowboy ‘bout her care givin’ skills.”
    “That’s cold, Kid.”

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha, — that’s cold! 😀

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Ha, she has the skills, just applies them a little differently 😉

  4. Chelsea Owens

    Aw, Charli. You’re amazing. I laughed at the frostbite and felt a surge of resolve at your stories of sisu and grit.

    • Charli Mills

      They said “ice.” I iced! Gotta have some laughs along with the grits, too. 😉

  5. Miriam Hurdle

    Oh no, “they” didn’t tell you how to “ice” your Hub’s knee? Shame on them. Glad there was no harm done, no infection. No more hauling the ice upstairs, that’s great! I used ice pad machine for my shoulders after the surgeries (4 years apart between the two shoulders).

    I appreciate certain words in certain languages. You can’t really translate them to the exact meanings. Sometimes the translations just don’t hit the core of the original meaning.

    Sisu means strength, that’s good. I’ll be thinking about that.

    • Charli Mills

      No explanation on the ice machine other than the instructions to “ice.” It did help keep swelling down, and thankfully, no infections. I have been washing bandages and sheets, and the nurse was changing his dressing daily. Doc said to keep it unwrapped now. He looks like Frankenstein’s monster with a zip knee. Glad the ice machine worked for you and came with instructions! I know what you mean about translations. That’s why I thought it would be fun to show meaning with stories. “Sisu strong,” or “Copper Country strong” are common phrases on the Keweenaw.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        One friend had a knee surgery. Her whole leg was gigantic. She had to be off the floor for three months. She is okay now.

        It sounds like you Hub is getting better one day at a time.
        “Sisu strong” sounds great. Finnish kind of strong!

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, yikes! I do think the frostbite helped to keep the swelling at bay so there is that! Three months. I can’t keep the Hub down already at one week.

  6. denmaniacs4

    I believe my Finnish is somewhat phonetic, or frenetic…

    Says You

    In that moment, he prepared to let go.
    Time had stopped.
    Nothing moved in the room.
    A spike of sun slipped along the ceiling.
    No breeze ruffled the curtains.
    Outside, there were street sounds.
    Metal clanging.
    Life moving.
    Jill held his hand. Steady. No squeezes. Just steady.
    “You’ll be fine,” he thought.
    “Says you,” she said.
    “Says me,” he thought.
    “A lot you know,” she said.
    “I know you,” he thought. “I might waver without you, but you, you have a steel spine. A Viking’s heart.”
    A gust of warm wind blew in.
    A candle flickered.

    • Charli Mills

      Powerful, lyrical, sisu. Beautiful interpretation Bill, I loved the play with the dialog between his last thoughts and her voiced understanding.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I think your Finnish is fine. I think this says a lot.

  7. calmkate

    my what hard work winter is, and icing hubby’s knee … glad the green shoots are sprouting and you have July to look forward to!
    Have heard of sisu before so to use it will help instill this meaningful word 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      You have heard the word! 😉 Yes, much is rising to look forward to. And that’s sisu, the rising, always the rising.

      • calmkate

        yes we have to keep that hope and live your life outside hubby’s as well as with and supporting him … it’s a juggle 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Always new steps to learn in the dance.

    • Norah

      That’s a tough situation to be in.

    • Charli Mills

      The writing workshops have taken off, the Hub is still up and down, but rising each day. Progress! I’m available right now, a narrow window if it works for you, Ruchira.

  8. Norah

    This is a beautiful image, Charli: wolves run like liquid silver across the frozen pond in moonlight. Your words help me imagine. There is so much in your post that is unfamiliar and foreign: sweeping paths of grit and snow, thimbleberry jam, merlins … But there is so much that is familiar too: the need for sisu, the emptiness at having lost a wallet (I hope there was not too much irreplaceable in it), the joy in new life – particularly when you have planted the seed, the inability to provide appropriate care when not shown how. 🙂
    The retreat is going to be wonderful for those who attend, as will NaNoProMo for those who can get there.
    You spring back to life after every setback. Your sisu is firmly in place.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m so pleased you caught the imagery of that line, Norah. From the time I decided to resettle Danni from Bayfield to Idaho, that image has played out in my mind. I’ve written earlier scenes of an incident that I felt I was forcing just so I could bring that image to life! But finally — I had a breakthrough with Danni’s villain and an excuse to place the illegal wolf hunters on her property and causing a tragic incident. I wanted to juxtopose this image of wolves fleeing with a sense of beauty against the vile act of a man who thinks he’s superior to all else, including women. Fun to play with, hard to pull off! But you catching that image gives me encouragement for using it in the novel.

      Yes, you know all about the merits of proper teaching! And one day, I might imagine merlins and birds of paradise racing down Roberts Street. Until I get to your corner of the world, then I get to experience more!

      Sisu is like good dough.

      • Norah

        I’m so pleased my noticing the wolves encourages you, Charli. As I said, I thought it very effective and quite beautiful. Run with the wolves. 🙂
        I look forward to your visiting my part of the world.
        Have a wonderful week. May your dough continue to rise.

      • Charli Mills

        That reminds me to read (again) Women Who Run with the Wolves!

  9. Ritu

    Oh I love when you pepper your posts with Finnish-isms… Makes me feel closer to you, what with my own Finnish connections.
    Actually, I’m off to see my Finndian family contingency tonight ???? they are over for a few weeks and I get to see my nephews, my Finndian babies!
    So excited!
    I’ll be back with my entry at some point. Will use some Sisu to overcome the difficulties of writing, whilst being very busy and distracted!!!

    • Charli Mills

      There are also local Anishinabe that call themselves Finndians, too! I love how even that Finnish-ism is shared around the world, Ritu. My daughter was telling me that back in Finland, sisu is also associated with stubbornness. I’d love to hear your family’s take on the word. Have a wonderful time, loving up your nephews and their parents!

      Ritu, you have writing sisu! You will overcome, I have no doubt. Take this time to “be” and fill your creative well.

      • Ritu

        Thanks Charli!!!

        I was talking to my Finnish sis in law yesterday and she said Sisu is determination.
        My bro said it is very big over there.
        A way of living!

      • Charli Mills

        I’m so glad to asked! Good to know it’s considered a way of living. The Finns here see it that way, too.

    • Charli Mills

      A tasty lunchbreak!

      • Ritu

        A very busy one!!!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Might I recommend a book of flash fiction? Might be easier to get through.

      • Ritu

        Got my flash fiction books too… They still interrupt! *????

  10. Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

    I’ve taken some time off from the Carrot Ranch due to family and health demands (nothing serious – just a virus and lots going on around Easter). So good to read your weekly post today, Charli, and get caught up. I’m sorry you weren’t properly educated about icing your husband’s knee, but relieved to learn there is no infection or permanent damage! Makes losing a wallet a minor concern. And focusing on gratitude for merlins and melting snow is a terrific antidote for worry and stress. Sisu is not a term I’ve heard before, but not surprised it comes from people who cope with harsh winters. I’d dare say I’ve got a measure of this having endured winters in Maine for 65 years! Must get back in the saddle to produce some flash fiction this week.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Molly, good to see you at the Ranch! Hope you had a good Easter and the snow humps are melting away. Yes, 65 years of Maine winters qualifies you for sisu! I think nursing does, too. I look forward to your flash back in the saddle!

  11. Jules

    Charli, I like that word sisu. I do believe I’ve had a few relatives that were full of it…. um. Maybe they did have some constipation too? Anyway I did enjoy reading Danni’s adventure as well as yours in finding that garden path. We are hopefully done with snow for a bit. But the rain is still a real contender so much so that my weekly mowing turned bi-weekly. At least I’m getting my steps in!

    This week I wrote about my neighbor, the Vet who allows me to help him occasionally. Please enjoy:

    Abundant Optimism

    The man has sisu. Very close to living to that century mark. Served his country in the Navy. Got into computers at the git go. Loved his wife for over fifty years with unflappable devotion.

    The Vets Administration told him he was legally blind at ninety five. Sold his car to a local dealership, who then drove him back to his house.

    The man has sisu. He’s lived alone for over twenty years. Refuses to leave his home. Finally accepts help from the neighbors, on his terms.

    enduring strength, life;
    living as you choose daily
    the man has sisu


    • Charli Mills

      Jules, it’s not often I get to introduce the Wordsmith to a new word! I think in some ways, some people are full of sisu and constipation! My daughter just told me last night that in Finland the word refers to stubbornness. I guess all the stubborn Finns came to the Keweenaw and it melded into something more enduring. I love your use of it as your neighbor has endured and with dignity. Great use of the phrase repeating throughout the flash.

      • Jules

        Sisu reminds me of the American English acceptance of the Yiddish word: ‘Chutzpah’ definition is – supreme self-confidence : nerve, gall.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Jules’ sparkling haiku
      mined from abundant sisu
      gems that flash within

      • Jules

        Awe shucks…
        (added it to the ‘k’ page 😉 Thank you kindly).

  12. Pete

    Bricktown Boys

    Mom pulled me into her, holding me as she sobbed. “Sam, I’m so sorry you got hurt.”

    I hugged her back. A stale, bitter smell clung to her shirt, to her skin. I realized it was the smell of our apartment. Of our lives. How we smelled to people. The stench of desperation, mistakes, of dating the same men over and over again.

    She rocked along with sobs and apologies, but I wasn’t about to wait for Troy to hurt us again. I was tired of the stench. Of our lives.

    I would take matters into my own hands.

    • Charli Mills

      Pete, your use of smell in this flash makes it powerful and imparts a deep desperation of the character. Sam has had sisu to survive.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      His sisu doesn’t stink. Neither does your writing. I remember this series!

  13. H.R.R. Gorman

    Keep an eye on that infection! Sounds like you’ve got a bunch of exciting times going on and coming up – hope you’ll find some time for your thimbleberry jam while all this goes on.

    I think sisu has a flip side: in order to persevere, you have to experience adversity. You and hubby, as is obvious, have experienced quite a bit of adversity! Blessings to you on your adventures.

    “What’s this two year gap in your resume?” The hiring manager pointed to circled dates on the paper. “What did you do there?”

    Joaquin clenched his fist. “There’s a Finnish word – sisu. It means to keep trudging through multiple adversities.” He tapped the circled words on the resume. “That’s why I’m here. I want this job because I can overcome my past.”

    The manager scowled. “So you were traveling? To Finland?”

    “No, I…” He coughed. “I was in prison.”

    “For what?”

    “Drug charges,” he squeaked.

    She handed Joaquin his resume. “Thank you, but we won’t be needing your services.”

    • Charli Mills

      We are keeping an eye on that redness and it is lessening! Yes, the flipside of sisu is the adversity part, but sometimes it makes the thimbleberry jam all the sweeter. I’m going in search of some today — first, joining a local group of writers who go to a coffee shop and sit around a big table and write. No sharing, no critiquing, nothing formal. We just savor the writing with others. Then…I’m going to find my way to a rocky beach and see what winter waves churned up for me to hunt. Have a good weekend, H.R.R.!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Hmm. So much for honesty. The adversity continues for this character.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne!

    • susansleggs

      Surviving after the death of a loved one indeed takes sisu. Well written.

  14. Susan Zutautas

    Here’s mine for this week.
    Silly me, I posted it without a title but caught it right away. These days are killing me Charli and I can’t’ wait to be free 🙂 Really like your flash by the way. Will be back soon to read what everyone else did with “sisu”.

    • Charli Mills

      Hang in there, Susan! It is difficult to not get a break from the care-giving, so I celebrate each opportunity to hand over more independence to the Hub. I hope your MIL takes that on, too. I love what you did with the lion pride!

  15. pensitivity101

    Here’s mine Charli:

    His Darling Susi

    Her name was Susi, but to him she was his little Sisu.
    From an early age, she had always been the stronger of the two of them. She had this way about her, would accept anything that life pushed her way and simply deal with it without complaint or fuss.
    He’d read to her that night and like every other night, she told him she loved him.
    ‘Don’t worry Daddy,’ she said snuggling into his chest and pointing to his heart. ‘I’ll always be in here.’
    God came for her that night, his darling Sisu, just ten years old.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Di, I wasn’t expecting that twist. It makes me feel as though the father has had to hold onto to his daughter’s sisu to endure losing her.

      • pensitivity101

        It was a thought provoking prompt Charli, and made me think of all the children we hear about suffering from all kinds of ailments, yet they seem to comfort their elders.

      • Charli Mills

        There seems to be a connection between suffering and compassion.

      • pensitivity101

        Thank you for commenting.

  16. Ann Edall-Robson

    By Ann Edall-Robson

    ?Some mornings she watched the moon set as the sun rose. Night and day blended into each other. Days off became planning time for the days to come. Often the work made her brain weary and physically worn, yet Hanna continued to push herself.

    Mrs. Johnson understood Hanna’s tenacity, her sisu. The older woman had seen it before. There was no doubt why the young woman would not rest until she had accomplished what she had quietly taken on.

    Others didn’t understand Hanna’s attitude, but Mrs. Johnson could see the reasoning in her eyes, her stance, and relentless perseverance.

    • Charli Mills

      It seems to me that Mrs. Johnson is recognizing something that she has, too. Ranch work for women is both physical and mental. It takes a constant sisu all ranchers have. I’m enjoying these new characters, Ann.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        I am enjoying the challenge of writing a new chapter based on your weekly prompts. Where it will lead, only Hanna knows for sure.

      • Charli Mills

        Hanna will reveal it to you!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      This Hanna and Mrs. Johnson… regulars. I like them very much. Just be careful. Characters can be pushy.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        Don’t I know it. Once in the thought bank, they seem to be everywhere wanting to get noticed.

  17. susansleggs

    Charli, I could see the emerging flower sprouts from your description. You are a master at showing not telling; an area I need to improve in. Caregiving indeed takes sisu. I like that word, it covers a lot of area when it comes to different kinds of hardships. So glad Todd is now able to do more for himself. Healing is a funny thing, never fast enough for the one doing it and seems to go by in a flash for those it doesn’t immediately affect. I hope your sleep routine has returned to “normal.” …….

    Living takes Grit

    “Remember when we were teenagers, we thought we had the world by the tail,” Lillian mused.
    “Those were the days,” Maude answered.
    “Guess we learned life wasn’t easy didn’t we?”
    “Yeah, about my 40th birthday I figured out I didn’t know sh*t back then.”
    “Now you’re 90, what do ya think?”
    “The truth; there are only tiny snippets of peace in any one’s life. Responsibilities, hardships, and illness are ever present and only thing means anything is how a person handles all the crap.”
    “That’s grit my friend.”
    “Good thing we both got it. It’s what’s kept us goin’.”

    • Charli Mills

      Sue, we are going to have incredible moments in Vermont that will impact our writing. We will feel our way onto the page and craft images with words. It will be good! And, yes, I’m sleeping through the night! The Hub is even taking out his dog in the mornings and he BBQed tonight, helping me with dinner. Ahhhh! I can’t believe it’s barely been two weeks and he’s getting around with just one crutch.

      I loved your flash and the dialogue reflecting life. Funny how as teenagers we have such a firm grip on what we think we know of life and, yeah, by 40 we know we don’t have it! Grit gets us through old age, too.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I’ve been told old age ain’t for sissies, takes some real sisu. I like fifty and up, the age of “I don’t give a sh*t”.

  18. Jennie

    Just wonderful, Charli. Except for losing the wallet. When one can put that aside and understand the bigger picture, sisu emerges.

    • Charli Mills

      Even losing the wallet takes sisu. Letting go what is lost and rebuilding anew. Teachers have sisu to keep pushing through with their students, too.

      • Jennie

        Charli, I would have to work on sisu on losing the wallet. Yet, working on sisu while teaching is a labor of love. It is very hard and also very rewarding. That I can understand and do and work towards sisu.

      • Charli Mills

        That’s your important path for applying a lifetime of sisu toward.

  19. reading journeys

    Hi Charli
    A great blog. And a wonderful prompt : sisu. Strength, endurance.

    And my FF is in.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Saifun! I’m glad you like the word. It has a good feel to it.

  20. tnkerr
    I struggled a bit trying to wrap my mind around the definition of this word that cannot truly be translated. My piece is more a reflection of my understanding of the concept than it is a story. It might also me more poetic than not. I hope I got it right. I had fun writing it. Thanks.

    • susansleggs

      You explained the word perfectly. Well done.

    • Charli Mills

      I think that’s the best we can do to understand something we might not have a word-equivalent for — take it to the story level.

  21. D. Avery @shiftnshake


    Her little boy and her daughters worked chores according to their size and ability but he, the youngest, wasn’t scolded when he sometimes fell to playing. But this?
    Flinging the stick, she stalked off to the barn.
    “Ma, it was just pretendin’!”
    He had never known his father and older brother who used to do the heavy fieldwork. ‘Back before harvest time,’ they’d said, left together, eyes bright with adventure.
    Pressing her forehead against the horse’s broad neck she confessed her worries.
    She wouldn’t allow another son to play at war.
    She harnessed the horse and hitched the plow.

    • susansleggs

      I don’t think people these days have a true understanding of what life was like in the era you describe. Women and men alike needed sisu just to survive.

    • Charli Mills

      Those left behind had to have the long-enduring sisu which differs from the excitable courage of the moment going off to war as if it were adventure. She’d school the younger one to not be so easily misled.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yep, might be a two pronged fork in this one.

    • Charli Mills

      Glad to see you back at the Ranch, Shane. Go where the prompt leads. Sometimes we have to write out the darkness to let the light in.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Nicole, and welcome to Carrot Ranch! Glad you like sisu — I think it translates as a concept into many different experiences.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for digging down into your sisu, Anurag! Your inner writer will benefit from the workout.

      • anuragbakhshi

        Thanks Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      A well-rhymed promo, Kate!

      • calmkate

        gotta work those ranchers Charli … they seldom respond to my genuine comments!

      • Charli Mills

        Gotta work the crowd, eh!

  22. neeltheauthor- author of WHEN LIFE THROWS THOSE CURVE BALLS

    By Neel Anil Panicker
    It doesn’t take sisu to address a crowd, big or small.
    But it takes sisu to do that and continue to do that when people all around you snigger and throw utterly condescending looks, many even openly voicing their disapproval of just about everything that you do or not.

    Everybody falls, then learns to rise but it takes a special person to keep on falling and yet not give up, a person who taps into his inner sisu and keeps going when the chips’re down.

    For he knows only too well that the game’s
    not over till it’s over.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! It’s pushing through and rising again and again. Great flash, Neel!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kay!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Robbie. He’s healing well. I’m glad this word fit into to your writing this week!

  23. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    I’m mightily relieved you didn’t give your husband frostbite, Charli, but it shows how medical instructions are so easily misconstrued.
    I’m out of step with the majority in freaking out at any hint of celebration of endurance, but your prompt has sparked some further reflections on my suspicions of the hero’s journey and I think my flash just about fits the spirit of your challenge.

    Desperately seeking elixir? #amwriting

    Oh and I’ve got photos!

    • Charli Mills

      “Ice” was too general of an instruction, Anne. I had an interesting conversation with a writer at a local gathering this weekend and we debated the hero’s journey at length. I kept thinking you would have added to the conversation. Her point, and an academic article that she is writing, is that women experience a different heroine’s journey. I don’t follow Joseph Campell’s interpretations exactly — my template is an adaptation to structure a story by. I don’t see it as gendered, so I was curious if I could go back and examine my interpretation in a genderless way and apply it to published works. So! It seems we are still investigating this journey!

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I would have loved to have been part of that conversation, Charli. I haven’t considered the hero’s journey as particularly gendered, but then I’ve never actually read Joseph Campbell, only other people’s interpretations thereof, yours probably being the most helpful. But it ties in with a current literary trend – at least in the UK – of reinterpreting the myths from a female perspective. I suppose the heroine’s journey might account for some of my reservations regarding choice.

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sascha!

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Kelly!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jo!


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  2. More Strength Than Meets the Eye – tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice - […] I wrote this for the May 2nd Flash Fiction Challenge […]
  3. Seeding – Sascha Darlington's Microcosm Explored - […] life is getting back to normal, routine, and I’m once again visiting my favorite places like Carrot Ranch and…
  4. Plow Shares | ShiftnShake - […] Carrot Ranch May 2, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sisu. It’s…
  5. Make It Work – authoranonblog - […] Word Count: 99 Word/Concept: Sisu For the flash fiction challenge at Carrot Ranch […]
  6. Animal Facts of Life | Chelsea Ann Owens - […] in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this week. If there’s one thing I think of with sisu, it’s […]
  7. Claire’s Sisu – aroused - […] Carrot Ranch Challenge, May 2, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sisu.…
  8. Keeping Promises – Flash Fiction Challenge | Jo Hawk - […] Keeping Promises Source:  Flash Fiction Challenge Prompt: Write a story about sisu. Word count:  99 […]
  9. Are We Our Personality Types? | Chelsea Ann Owens - […] May 5: “The Animal Facts of Life,” in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt, […]
  10. Ada | Thru Violet's Lentz - […] at Carrot Ranch. The prompt calls for a piece of flash 99 words in length. Last weeks prompt was…
  11. Paid in Full | Elderberry Tea - […] by this prompt:  In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sisu. It’s a Finnish concept…

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