June 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

June 19, 2021

My peonies and poppies are in perfect balance this year in the potager garden — softball-sized blooms of fuchsia framed by papery petals of burgundy and coral. I’m not as balanced but blooming nonetheless. My timing is off, driven by unscheduled chaos and income opportunities. Mostly, it’s all unfolding but less elegant than my flowers.

Mause is banned from the summer office, having romped through my hummingbird boxes. To her credit, she didn’t step on any flowers but I can’t allow her to chase bumbles and birds in a space I created for such winged critters. Anyhow, she prefers to stretch out across lawn, dandelions, and fleabane (and, yes, this native perennial lives up to its name).

She’s smart about her leash and outdoor cable. She knows the limit of each lead’s length. It’s the exact premise by which we, as writers, accept a constraint (99 words) and create within that framework. Mause can chase a witch’s hat I fly like a kite at the end of a gardening bamboo stick and never hit the end of her leash. It amazes me how she can stay laser focused and yet within her parameters.

Yes, I’m taking notes, Mause.

Sometimes, we have to reconfigure our framework. Maybe we get used to writing 99-words but we want to submit a 1,000-word story, write a novel, or practice haiku. Our first step is to develop a sense for how much space we have to shrink or expand a story. At its most basic, a story begins, meanders, and ends. Someone does something and there is a final consequence. A story take place somewhere — in Italy, on Venus, or in the mind of an ant. If we bemoan our parameters, our limitations, we miss the fantastical creativity that can happen within.

It comes down to balance. Being off-balance doesn’t mean we need immediate remedy. When situations, stories, or surprises leave us feeling lopsided we can explore the experience. So, you might say, I’m learning yoga post-MFA as a veteran spouse in a downward spiral. If ever there was a time I needed my pack, my Warrior Sisters, it is now. No one else has the insight on veteran spouse yoga.

However, the Pandemic has treated us harshly. We lost one of our strongest warriors to cancer. Another lost her husband. Three of us have had struggles with our spouses and no VA support because the system assumes our soldiers are right in the head when clearly they are not. “What the veteran wants,” is a refrain we hear when they refuse meds, treatments, or diagnoses. Three others are hanging on by their fingernails. We have not all met up together in over a year.

Today, my Warrior Sisters gathered and listened to me wail over my loss of Vet Center Services because of my husband’s ill-timed actions, lack of comprehension, and worsening aggression. The system is messed up. The system is not for the veteran families. Even though divorce is considered one of the symptoms of what soldiers experience in service (they are 60 percent more likely to separate or divorce), it’s difficult to find support as a spouse. I can’t get Mary Gauthier’s song, War After the War, out of my head.

Who’s gonna care for the ones who care for the ones who went to war?
There’s landmines in the living room and eggshells on the floor
I lost myself in the shadow of your honor and your pain
You stare out of the window as our dreams go down the drain

Invisible, the war after the war

Mary Gauthier

After all my struggles to complete a novel about a soldier’s wife, in the end, I wrote one about a soldier’s wife who found her pack. “I’m a soldier too, just like you, serving something bigger than myself.” (M. Gauthier) Having other women to share experiences with is akin to soldiers sharing with other soldiers. We might be invisible, but we witness each other. More important, we compare notes. The impact of PTSD and TBI on an aging brain is common yet commonly ignored. Getting to meet outside official doors calmed my despair. I’m still a BAB. And a writer. I told my pack today, I already had the opening line to Danni’s sequel, and we all howled with laughter.

I got this yoga move.

As for stretching myself in other directions, I’ve been updating resumes, CVs, submitting applications, following up on references, following leads on projects and clients, and tackling business tasks. I’m completely revamping my social media strategy, but don’t ask me yet what that is. I had lively debates with peers in school, which has led me to consider different platforms. We have many choices and in the long run, what will work best, how and why. I’m testing my flexibility.

Communities are excellent for networking because we know (and appreciate) one another. I’ve had offers to hand deliver my resume, explore their connections for work, and guide my attempts to branch out. Someone referred me to a family seeking an editor for their 93-year-old father and I mentored their process and quoted my rate for the project. I got the gig. Someone else told a local tribe that I’d be a good person to contact for a three-month project. They offered me the contract. My local SBA rep who has been working with me (patiently) helped me file LLC papers today so that I can clearly delineate between mission-based literary outreach at Carrot Ranch Literary Community and income-based work through Carrot Ranch, LLC.

I’m discovering new tools, too. When I arrived to the Keweenaw, I joined a business for creatives group called Rising Tide. I’m now using their HoneyBook tool to set up my contracts and projects. I’m exploring platforms like Trello to find one I can use for group coaching. And, I’m going through all the resources I gained from school to pull out what’s useful. I’m even practicing with sound recording to develop podcasts to interview Carrot Ranchers and experts to offer advice to the community.

I’m grateful for the supportive environment here. Be patient with me as I stretch, breathe, and seek a new life balance. If anyone were to ask me what I thought my purpose in life was, I’d say that I’m here to lift up others to find their purpose. I know I’m a storycatcher, a writer, a word/bird/rock/garden nerd, and I aspire to publish and teach. But really, it’s all about encouraging others to discover, grow and heal through literary art. That’s my purpose. I’m not timely right now, but bringing you this space at Carrot Ranch is a priority.

What better time, though, to seek balance than at the solstice. In the northern hemisphere, Summer Solstice is June 20; in the southern hemisphere, Winter Solstice is June 21. Around the world, day and night balance perfectly. May that mean something to you, magical or practical.

June 18, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a solstice. What is the era and setting? Use the solstice as a celebration, metaphor, or talking point. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 22, 2021. 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.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

To Dance by Charli Mills

Maia met the girls at the Biting Fly for vodka shots. They toasted her ancestors, the ones who came from Finland with nothing but their knowledge of the old ways and hope for a new Finlandia in this place called America. They worked as mules in the copper mines and stayed after the boom busted. Maia, at 80-something, remembered her grandmother sharing childhood memories of the kokko, the massive community bonfire at Juhannus. Her girlfriends weren’t Finnish but they relished the hippie vibe of a solstice celebration on the beach. They swayed with men, and Maia danced with ghosts.

Author’s Note: The Toivola midsummer bonfires have been held at Agate Beach since the 1890s. This author is going on solstice to catch ghost stories.



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  1. Liz H

    Breathing with you, Charli.
    Just keep paddling; Lady Lake will get you through, even through her moods and storms!

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, she will. She was feisty today, which felt right. I can’t wait to experience Juhannus on her shores. Breathing in…thanks, Liz.

    • thegriefreality

      What a beautiful comment x I know this was meant for Charli, but made me smile as well 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Uplifting and smiles freely shared!

      • Liz H

        Happy to share the good vibes. ?????

  2. restlessjo

    Awed by your industry and inventiveness, Charli. Not least with words. I languish in my indolence as ideas drift by.

    • Charli Mills

      Jo, sometimes we need to watch the ideas drift like clouds until we start to see the shapes they can take. Thanks!

      • restlessjo


  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    In Good Company

    “Wholly shift, Kid! Reckon Shorty’s been puttin’ in some long days.”
    “The longest. It’s summer solstice.”
    “Shorty’s stretchin’ hersef an’ growin’ the CRLC.”
    “Carrot Ranch Literary Community. An’ now she’s got hersef a LLC.”
    “What the /L/ Pal? CRLLC? That extra /L/ stands fer… lite; no Shorty’d never have lit lite. Lift! Carrot Ranch Literary Liftin’ Community.”
    “A LLC is separate from this here literary community, Kid. Has ta do with business.”
    “Leveragin’ Loads a Cash?”
    “Limited Liability Company. But thet’s none a yer business.”
    “Oh. Well this company’s liable ta write with limits.”
    “Yep. Jist 99 words.

    • Charli Mills

      What fun with LLC! I chuckled over Leveragin’ Loads a Cash, but I hear Shorty’s as committed to clients as much as community. It’s all in the HoneyBook, the new Ranch Record-Keeping software. Sweet.

    • Rebecca Glaessner Author

      Never lost it it seems! Great writing, Leanne. I’m sure everyone is glad to see you back on the 99 word horse.

      • Leanne

        Yours is pretty good, too. Leaving the reader wondering what will happen next.

      • Leanne


    • Charli Mills

      You are always welcome here, Leanne! Wow — what an embrace worth waiting for.

      • Leanne

        Thanks Charli! I’ve had a lot of fun and inspiration from reading other submissions, so thank you for setting this up.

  4. TanGental

    Goodness, you must be several Charlis because one cannot cover all those bases, can they?
    Good luck with you many endeavours and here’s to the success of your garden.
    The boys are debating the importance of the solstice this week

    Days of future present

    ‘It’s the summer solstice on Tuesday, Logan.’
    ‘Yes? So?’
    ‘We should celebrate.’
    ‘Why? It’s just another day.’
    ‘No, it’s not. It’s the turning point. The longest day, the start of summer.’
    ‘It’s the beginning of the end of the year. Everything gets darker and colder from here.’
    ‘There you have the difference between us.’
    ‘You’re all airy-fairy and I’m rational.’
    ‘I live in the moment; you don’t.’
    ‘You ignore what’s in front of your face.’
    ‘And you miss the joy in embracing the now.’
    ‘Have you been at the mindfulness muesli again?’
    ‘I think I’ll become a Druid…’

    • Rebecca Glaessner Author

      The life of a druid is the best kind, no? Hilarious piece, just loved it.

      • TanGental

        I can carry off the robe and I’m not allergic to mistletoe but the golden sickle looks a tad dangerous

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Oh it does actually… I was thinking more along the lines of the Druids of fantasy worlds like Warcraft. Connection to nature, animal forms, elemental powers, magic! Your historical Druids are formidable.

    • Doug Jacquier

      Mindfulness muesli. Expecting to find it on shelves in health food shops soon. 🙂

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Celebrate! Logan’s glass shall be half empty, and Morgan’s half full.

      • TanGental

        It shall be this!!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, I need a couple more Charlis! But then, I’m reminded of Norah’s clone story and how they all wanted to read. The garden is popping lots of pinks. I don’t recall planting so much pink!

      Love this great line of pure pessimism: “It’s the beginning of the end of the year.”

      • TanGental

        We’re peak pink too! It must be the angle of the moon, or Jupiter shining on Uranus or something…

    • Charli Mills

      Great use of solstice to explore contributions in balance, Reena.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you!

  5. robertawrites235681907

    Mental health issues are difficult to treat and live with, Charli. Wishing you support and strength. I am glad you are getting some work in and there are lots of opportunities. That is really good news.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for the support and strength, Robbie. It’s looking up in other ways; certainly with the opportunities. I signed two contracts already.

  6. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    As the World Turns

    “Kid, why’re ya changin’ up the Saloon signs? We cain’t be open 25 hours a day!”
    “It’s comin’ up on the summer solstice Pal. The days is gittin’ longer. Pal, if someone has a attitude ‘bout the longest day, d’ya call that a long-itude?”
    “Ever day has jist 24 hours Kid. But summer days has more sunlight on account a the tilt a the earth’s axis. Here in the northern hemisphere we’re leanin’ tawards the light.”
    “Reckon that’s a right attitude, Pal. Or d’ya call that lat-itude?”
    “Ya know what makes fer a long day Kid? Bein’ with you!”

    • Rebecca Glaessner Author

      Naw, Kid is a blast! Though I do acknowledge Pal deserves a break every now and then. The puns can only get one so far before it’s time to break.

      I don’t think I’d cope so well in Pal’s shoes either…


    • Charli Mills

      Keep leanin’ into the light!

  7. Rebecca Glaessner Author

    Mause is wise in unspeakable ways.

    What a powerful piece of lyrics, I struggle to imagine the pain, the loneliness.

    Our hearts remain right here with you Charli.

      • Norah

        I’m not sure why but your post wasn’t responding. I could neither ‘like’ nor comment. But I enjoyed your piece. The visuals you created with your words were totally imaginable.

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Thanks Norah! It’s great to hear the imagery came alive through the words, that’s always a goal for us writers. Especially in sci-fi. And no worries, I think it was a bug on your end as your “like” worked perfectly on mine! I’ve had the same issue before too, not often, but it is frustrating. Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts here instead. I’m grateful and glad you enjoyed it.

      • Norah

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the bug was on my end, Rebecca. It was my reading pleasure.

      • Norah

        Great piece, Rebecca. I was able to respond to this one.

    • Charli Mills

      Mause is wise, and wired, and wonderful. She’s been collecting baseballs this week.

      Hey! Double-inspired, Rebecca! Good job!

  8. Jim Borden

    Happy Summer Solstice!

    • Charli Mills

      Happy Summer Solstice to you, too, Jim!

  9. denmaniacs4

    One Bloody Solstice on June 21, 1919

    “Many of the strikers were demobilized soldiers?”

    “Yeah. There they were, returned from that awful war, Spanish Flu sucking the breath out of the world. Put that together with the allure of the Bolshevik Revolution, the magnificent peoples charge against a dynasty, soldiers, who’d been prepared to die for their country, hungry for payback, their due as fighting men…and when they returned, it was the same old poverty, the same old crap wages, same old profiteering rich bosses.”

    “And that Saturday, the solstice, wasn’t it?”

    “Yeah, the longest day of the year and it and bullets killed the strike.”


    • Charli Mills

      What an insight to an historical event on the solstice. The longest day of the year and the endless battle against profiteers.

    • Norah

      Wow. That’s a powerful story.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m happy when Marlie shows up! Good job, Norah…

      • Norah

        I’d like to take credit, but it was all Marlie’s doing. She’s a gem, isn’t she?

      • Charli Mills

        We learn so much when from our character kids!

  10. Doug Jacquier

    Here’s mine for this time around.

    Going north, going south.

    They met during the Transit of Venus in 2004 and married during the second Transit in 2012. What they’d forgotten was that eight Earth years are an unlucky thirteen Venus years and what they thought was their beginning was, in fact, the beginning of their end. Their lives became a series of eclipses, their different suns blotting out each other’s sky. When the divorce came through, she went North and he went South. Now, come the solstice, across the Hemispheres, their world atilt, her day’s long and filled with light and his short, darkness descending in the late afternoon.

    • Rebecca Glaessner Author

      What a fabulous play on words and the concept as a whole. Thoroughly enjoyed this piece Doug!

      • Doug Jacquier

        Many thanks, Rebecca

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yep, well done Sir. They are worlds apart, this hapless couple.

    • Jules

      Wowsers! Reminds me of a Startrek episode where Mr. Data was turned into a Sun God, and Piccard had to save the ship and Data by convincing the Sun God that the Sun and Moon needed to be kept on a particular cycle. 😀

      • Doug Jacquier

        Thanks, Jules. Just a note in passing that in Australia a ‘wowser’ is a puritanical busybody bent on taking all enjoyment out of life. HL Mencken loved the word and tried to introduce it to the US but failed. Probably killed off by the wowsers. 🙂

      • Jules

        Ah… Well then. How about – I really, really liked it. Your writing is awesome. 😉

      • Doug Jacquier

        Oh, I do like that. Many thanks, Jules. Made my day. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      It wasn’t in the stars with a world atilt.

    • Norah

      Clever and amusing.

      • Doug Jacquier

        Thanks, Norah.

  11. Jennie

    Charli, I’m riding in the car headed to WV to my brother’s funeral. This is long overdue, thanks to Covid. Your post was just the tonic I needed; reflective, life in the midst of change, always seeing the positives in life, from peonies to Warrior Sisters. Don’t ever forget the impact and difference you make on others. Really.

    Did I ever tell you about the Fisher House in Boston? There is at least one in every state, for families of Veterans and current military who are at the VA hospital. They’re like Ronald McDonald houses. My preschool class made a God Bless America quilt, which evolved over a year. It hangs at that house, a story in itself. We made our own God Bless America book, and my dream is to have one in every Fisher House for children and their families. It’s people like you that inspire me to make dreams happen. Thank you for that, Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Jennie, may your travels and grieving be gentle on your heart as you go and return from WV. Perhaps one day I’ll get to see your quilt. Fisher Houses are how we share the burden, wrapping each other up in a quilt, providing food, and giving space for healing. Thank you, as well. Keep dreaming, keep going!

      • Jennie

        Thank you, Charli. The funeral was lovely and brought sisters together. Blog post tomorrow! I’m so glad you know about Fisher Houses. They are very special, as are your words. ????

    • Norah

      Take care, Jennie. May you be wrapped in as much love as that quilt was made with.

      • Jennie

        That’s so kind, Norah. Thank you! ????

  12. Hugh W. Roberts

    I’m sorry to hear about the continuing problems you find facing you, Charli. I’m glad you’re not alone, though, and that you seem to be surrounded by many faces that are all here to help out (should you need it). It’s good to hear that Mause is enjoying the garden. The lawn will be offering her a cool place to enjoy the warm weather and solstice.
    I’ll be back with my piece of flash tomorrow.
    Happy Solstice to both of you.

    • Charli Mills

      Hugh, I’m so fortunate to have a community who can listen to me wail, encourage the hammering on my keyboard, and gently point out different paths. With acceptance and a focus on self-care, new supports have emerged. If I had gone within or isolated myself, I would not have seen other ways to get through. It feels embarrassing sometimes to say life sucks, or make hard decisions, but really, that’s what is real. And we, as writers of fiction and memoir and poetry, write from that place of hard-earned authenticity.

      And I sprawled on the lawn with Mause today, soaking up sun in between bouts of work and writing!

      Happy Solstice to you and the Corgis, your partner, and his garden!

  13. Jules

    Charli, Hope you catch some good ghost stories! 😀

    I played with three prompts and a new syllabic form that inspired a haibun (a single line between the two) Choka verses. There’s a how to at my site.

    nd 6.20 No Obligation Date
    (Choka haibun)

    the white dog’s named Flour
    ain’t going nowhere special
    this summer solstice
    like me, just a green yard romp
    from sunup – till dusk
    we’ll chase all them lightning bugs
    catch and let ’em go
    easy gratification
    when you’ve no special place

    (No deal breaker if you pass us by)

    they say you look like
    your pets; you’ve noticed my
    hair gone pale from gold,
    copper brown to white not grey
    don’t call it silver
    neither, then I’d have to change
    the dogs name – ’cause we’re
    just too old to make changes
    since we’re both in advanced years

    © JP/dh

    • Doug Jacquier

      Nothing less than brilliant, Jules.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I love the tone of this. Chuckled at the second part. And thanks for the education in forms.

      • Jules

        I’m a rebel – I reinterpret forms 😉
        But I do try and ‘splain ’em so others can try and follow 😀

        I know another Choka form that is 6 lines. So I learned sumthin’ new too!

    • Charli Mills

      No ghosts emerged, Jules, but I caught a tree wizard. The sunset and bonfire joined forces. It was an amazing sight. I love this Choka haibun form and your word wizardry with it!

  14. Michael B. Fishman

    “BAB”? Thanks for the link to the song; I’ve never heard it before. And I’m guilty of not thinking of military spouses before and the war they fight. A person can share outrage over the way our vets are treated and not stop to think of the vet’s family.

    • Rebecca Glaessner Author

      Right with you there Michael. I’m not familiar with military families so it’s hard to think of the full scope of emotions they all feel, not just the soldiers themselves.

    • Charli Mills

      Michael, you’ll have to read my novel to find out the meaning, wink, wink! BABs, Warrior Sisters, COWWs, Invisible Caregivers. We give each other names that don’t mean much to others but we wear like badges of honor. I know you appreciate the power of music, and if you listen to
      Mary Gauthier, she wrote those songs on her album Rifles and Rosary Beads in collaboration with veteran family songwriting retreats.

      Can you imagine spending a retreat with veterans and their families, and getting to listen to their experiences and turn them into 99-word stories? It doesn’t solve the problems but art heals, and expression breaks isolation.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Robert!

  15. Mr. Ohh's Sideways View

    Great post
    Here’s Mine

    I look to the solstice more than any other day. I will spend it outside I will absorb every drop of sunlight that the day has to offer. This is my fantasy I have seen the winter and conquered its dismal days. The solstice is mine, paid for by months of depression and hope. I shall seize this day.

    I set an early alarm so I can make the coffee and proceed to the porch and watch most glorious Sol in his rising. When it rings, I am faced with dark clouds and lightning. It’s still a great day
    Laugh It hasn’t been declared an illegal drug yet

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Not what was expected but yes, still a great day. The sun yet shines.

    • Rebecca Glaessner Author

      I must admit I’m partial to a wicked lightning show courtesy of Mother Nature. Though the sunrise is a sight to behold. I hope this character got to enjoy the sunrise on the following day despite the interlude of darkness. Great take on the prompt!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! The sun is still shining behind the screen! I like a good thunderstorm, too. Still worth rising early for coffee.

  16. Liz H

    A little fairytale story of the solstice and the might wee ones who keep the seasons rolling as they ought. Version 2 is here, but a slightly longer one in on my blog page, as well:

    Solstice Story 2

    She clambers atop the cardinal’s shoulders
    Gently hooks soft knees over scarlet wings
    Grasps the longest feathers of his crest

    Her cape of midday flutters a hopeful breeze
    Knapsack packed with morning dew, wild strawberries
    Golden bee pollen

    Time is the essence.

    A sweet request, whispered in a red bird’s ear
    He lifts his wings, ruffles his crest
    Together they soar toward a land
    Far beyond East of the Sun and West of the Moon

    Finally, they reach day’s end
    With all her strength, she pulls its edge

    Time to turn the page.
    Dark-eyed Winter nods, beckons her home.

    [THIS] should bring you to it.

    • Nicole Horlings

      Love it! The poem feels appropriately delicate.

      • Liz H


      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        I agree! Delicate is the perfect word for it. You encompassed the essence of these characters beautifully as they moved on toward winter’s darkness.

    • Norah

      That’s beautiful, Liz. I love the final verse. It all works so well together.

      • Liz H

        Thank you, Norah!

    • Charli Mills

      If ever a story could taste like strawberries, this one does, Liz.

      • Liz H


  17. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    This is my Carrot Ranch version of a response to a D’Verse solstice haibun prompt.
    ( https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2021/06/21/dverse-haibun-monday-sixsentencestory-solstice-season/ )

    We are all familiar with the tale of Red Riding Hood. Now consider it as a solstice tale.

    Grandma’s weakened and wan, but her granddaughter lingers and picks flowers… this is a summer solstice tale, with Lil’ Red representing day and Grandma representing season, the patient and confident wolf personifying night.

    I wonder if in even earlier versions the wolf was less maligned and punished for his necessary and natural role in consuming day.

    Grandma, you know too

    Reflected light in dark eyes

    Cloaks shed without shame

    grown heavy, hung at dusk’s door

    Borne again at dawn; he yawns

    • Nicole Horlings

      I really like this twist on the tale!

    • Liz H

      Wow! Have never thought about Red’s story in terms of the Seasons, or of day. Cool!
      What would the Woodsman represent?

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        An axe-wielding literary device?
        Hmm… probably the huntsman represents the people and their rituals and sacrifices, the witness to the emergence of dawn after being consumed by the night, of emerging spring after summer is consumed by fall and winter. The huntsman or woodsman is in the know about consumption and restoration, of the necessary bloodletting for sustainable life cycles.
        I still think the wolf gets treated too poorly in these tales, shows how desperate people are for the light, despite the necessary balance and rest of night/winter.

      • Liz H

        Yeah, I’ve heard literary folklorists express their ire that darkness and night is too often interpreted as evil and undesirable, rather than restorative in rest, as in the myth of Persephone (for example).

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Look out Liz, there’s more… yeah, the huntsMan represents a fearful people headed towards patriarchy, changing tales to change the role of women, from powerful goddesses unafraid of dark places (oracles and orifices) to maidens who need rescue and chastity.

      • Liz H

        May the pendulum swing back, like the slice of a freshly-sharpened axe thru Snow White’s poisoned apple.

      • Charli Mills

        D. and Liz, I love your examination of fairy tale roles. The wolf is the shadow self we fear rather than face and embrace. Thank you both for the enlightening discussion!

  18. Nicole Horlings

    My story for this week is not a standalone piece like usual, but rather, part of an ongoing story that I am writing called Silver for Sale. I started the story for one of Girlie on the Edge’s Six Sentence Story challenges, and soon realized that it couldn’t be contained in six sentences, so I’ve been continuing it in six sentence chunks ever since, with the exception of this piece that pans the camera over to a side character.


    • Charli Mills

      Nicole, I love when a story grabs us as writers and invites exploration. The way you have used different constraints (to pan to another perspective) is brilliant.

      • Nicole Horlings

        I’m glad to have a space where I feel so comfortable exploring, and where I don’t feel constricted to narrow expectations.

      • Charli Mills

        Exploration is such a powerful part of the writing process. I feel so inspired by the weekly series because I see that dynamic unfolding and it makes me want to create.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      It’s not too late to enter your offering into the story hopper.
      Welcome back. I enjoyed your contribution.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you, Sascha! You are never too late at the Ranch. The Solstice fire is yet burning.

    • Charli Mills

      And then there are the poles! 😉

  19. pedometergeek

    Memories of Grandma

    My grandma’s birthday was the same date as the summer solstice. I’d often stay with her for a week during summer vacation; we’d spend time at the park after window shopping at Woolworth’s. We’d rarely buy anything except for a sweet or two.
    She painted a picture of me when I was young and had a ponytail. It hung on a wall of her tiny house for years, but after she died, the painting was nowhere to be found, only her original sketch. Even now, I wonder what happened to the painting.

    summer solstice
    visits include
    one sugar cookie

    ~Nancy Brady, 2021

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Grandma, Woolworths, and sugar cookies! Package deal! I am there!

    • Charli Mills

      A summer solstice baby! Lovely memories summed up in a sugar cookie.

  20. H.R.R. Gorman

    Charli! I’m so glad several things are in the works for you. I’m excited to see what sort of “revamp” you’ll put forward!

    On that other note, though, it burns my dog hide that the VA is so inefficient (at best). I’m sure most individuals who work there want to do good things, but it seems there’s so much in the way of getting there. 🙁 I’m glad you have a network, though.

    • Charli Mills

      True, H. Most individuals at the VA want to help veterans, but it seems that two themes continue — the unhelpful individuals hold key positions, and no matter how helpful, limited resources only go so far. There’s also the veteran culture to consider. They want independence and often mistrust authority. Caregivers fight both the system and the culture. I have a new counselor outside the system now and she’s far more insightful, asking questions and posing alternative solutions. She also articulated my greatest frustration which is the lack of an action plan for me to manage worsening symptoms. Yes, thank you, I’m glad I have opportunities in the works and a good community network.

  21. Norah

    I’m late popping by this week, though I did read over the weekend, but not comment. I was off celebrating a birthday and enjoying our beautiful Queensland winter weather. It’s funny, to me, to read all the posts about the solstice. It’s not a ‘thing’ down here, or not in my circles anyway. I asked the grandchildren if they had heard of it at school (I collected them on the solstice) and they hadn’t. We know what it is but don’t really mark it or celebrate it in any way as you seem to do ‘up there’.
    Charli, you have so much going on. It makes me tired just reading about it, but I can feel that you are energised and moving closer towards what you want to achieve. I’m so happy for you and wish you great success with all your writing goals.
    I’m not so happy about the situation with your veteran. It doesnt’ sound good and you have some hard decisions to make. I’m pleased you have the support of other Warriors like you.
    I’m disappointed I couldn’t conjure up a flash response this time. There were too many other things ‘on my plate’ and I went decidedly dark – darker than I wished to share. Maybe next prompt I’ll do better.
    I look forward to hearing your news!

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, thank you for reading and reflecting. Maybe you went dark because you are on the short side of the solstice this time (snicker, snicker). “Beautiful Queensland winter weather” sounds mysterious and appealing to me. I’m glad you got to enjoy it and celebrate other events. I don’t recall celebrating solstice in school or as a child. I hang out in womyn’s moon circles and that influences me, as does an interest to explore my unknown Celtic roots. The Finns up here celebrate and, woo-boy, did I hear some fun stories! Like, did you know that if you stand naked before water on the solstice you will see the reflection of your future husband? I didn’t either! I’ll share more in my post. No worries. Sometimes our magic writing needs a break!

      • Norah

        Our winter days are glorious, Charli. They hover around the low 20s centigrade, the skies are usually a deep cloudless blue and the sun is warm but not hot. The bird sing and the flowers bloom. The months from March to October (especially May to July) are my favourites. The nights cool enough to have a couple of blankets on the bed. As I said, glorious.
        I look forward to hearing more stories of your solstice fun. I don’t think I’ll try standing naked before water though. For a couple of reasons. I don’t think the reflection would be too pretty and I have no desire for a future husband. The current one will do. ????

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! We’ll leave naked water husband gazing to the younger bodied ones! Ah, your winter sounds like the definition of glorious.

      • Norah

        I agree to both! 🙂

  22. suespitulnik

    I’m with Norah, Late on the uptake. I too have no connection with the Solstice other than it’s the day of the year with the most sunlight. I’m enjoying reading the stories of celebration and balance.
    Charli, I’m excited about your new contracts and am sad and angry at the same time that you find yourself in such an unbalanced situation with no veteran services. I do hope for the best for all involved. Big Hugs.
    The story I share here is a bit different than the one I submitted. I rewrote it after getting some good feedback on how to improve it from my local writing group…

    Summer Dream

    Michael told Dr. John about a recurring nightmare. “The important ladies in my life are dancing around a fire like you’d see on the summer solstice, but my wheelchair’s in the fire.”
    “Are they celebrating its destruction? Perhaps suggesting you give it up?”
    “I hate the prosthetic legs.”
    “When I’m in the chair, people look me in the eye and notice my upper body physic. When I wear the prosthetics, that’s all they see. I’m more than a pair of metal legs; besides, the chair has become my band’s trademark.”
    “Seems the chair’s more for recognition than comfort.”

    • Charli Mills

      Sue, you made my heart sing with “I rewrote it after getting some good feedback on how to improve it from my local writing group…” Yes! That is productive critique. I love seeing it in action. I grabbed this version if you don’t mind. I need Dr. John. Can you send him over? 🙂

      • suespitulnik

        Thanks for using the revised version!
        How I wish I could send you Dr. John. He is based on a doc I hear my local vets talk about often.

      • Charli Mills

        We have a social worker all the vets and wives adore but we need someone like her as a Doc. People like them make such a difference.

  23. Jules

    I always enjoy Kid and Pal’s inter-personal-interpretations!

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Joelle!

  25. Rebecca Glaessner Author

    Felt the empowerment and joy in this one, Hugh! Fabulous.

  26. Charli Mills

    Courage, and the butterflies took flight. Beautiful, Hugh.

  27. Hugh W. Roberts

    Thank you so much, Rebecca.

  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Anita!


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