Back to the writing prompts for Day 21. After writing this I realized it’s not so much about someone who has lost their home as it is about a fictional version of me.

21. Foreclosure: Write a poem or short story about someone who has lost or is about to lose their home.

“I thought the state had put a stop on mortgage payments and foreclosures during the pandemic?”

“I thought so, too.”

We stood at the curb, looking at the house. It looked like any number of the houses in the surrounding neighborhood. Probably four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms. It was set into a hill, so like the nearby houses it had a walk-out basement. The front was brick, but we knew it to be decorative. All these houses are made of wood. A little portico covered the front step and a walkway led from the front door to a two-car garage, attached to the house. If I had to guess, I’d think it probably cost about $650,000. I’d seen other houses in the area for sale on Zillow.

Unlike the houses around it, a sign was sticking out of the front lawn. FOR SALE. Nothing unusual about that.

What was heartbreaking was the smaller sign dangling from the large one, with one very telling word: FORECLOSURE.

We often walked through this neighborhood. We would leave our development where we rented a townhouse and walk the leafy streets lined with single family homes.

This was the first time we’d seen a sign like that.

As we waited for our kids to catch up, we wondered about what was going on behind that front door, on the other side of those curtains. Just visible around the side of the house was a play set—slide, swing, seesaw. A glance at an upstairs window showed pink curtains, the back of a teddy bear’s head propped against the pane. One garage door was open, and we could see two children’s bikes inside. They were about the same size as the ones our children were riding on.

It was terrifying to see how very much like us this family was.

Maybe we’d passed them on one of our walks. Had we nodded politely, each family stepping off the path on either side to let the other pass? Had we intervened to stop the children from getting too close to each other?

I looked at that horrible word: FORECLOSURE. Are they legally obliged to put that on the sign? Why else would they hang it there like a badge of shame? Broadcasting your misery to all your neighbors. It seemed to me like adding insult to injury.

We walked on. I put my hand in my husband’s and gave it a squeeze. “There but for the grace of God go we,” I whispered.

He gave my hand what I thought was supposed to be a reassuring squeeze.

Great Minds

Day 19 in my daily writing challenge. Feeling pretty good about how quickly I’ve made writing daily a habit.

19. Great Minds: Write  about someone you admire and you thought to have had a beautiful mind.

There are few people who combine greatness of mind and greatness of heart.

An intelligent, discerning person who is also kind and caring is a rare person indeed.

The Dinner Party

You know that game, where you’re allowed to choose four people (alive or dead) to share a dinner party with you? The dead are miraculously brought back to life in the present time and you can have them all over to dinner.

Who would you choose?

I have thought of this game before, and thought of historical figures I’d like to meet. Jane Austen is usually my first pick.

But the more I think about Austen’s sharp commentary about the people around her, I wonder if I wouldn’t be disappointed to find her heart to be a little less soft than her mind is sharp.

Sharp Wit, Hard Heart

It has been my experience that sometimes the wittiest, funniest, smartest people can also be the cruelest. I don’t like cruelty and unkindness. I always feel bad whenever I find myself laughing at the expense of other people.

Why is it that great capacity of thought is often paired with a reduced capacity for empathy?

To me, the presence of both is what truly makes a mind great.

The Great Mind I Knew

I knew a person like that. She was interesting and interested. She had a lot to say, but also listened a lot. She had great superiority of mind, but was humble, caring and kind. She could speak with information on a wide variety of topics, but she also loved to learn and would absorb new ideas with delight.

Long-time readers and family members may have guessed by now who I mean.

She had her flaws, this is true.

But the greatest gift my mother gave me was to model both intellectual curiosity and compassion.

A Role Model Still

This is probably why, nearly three years after her death, her influence on me remains strong. Her death has allowed me to see some of the flaws in her character, and some of the less healthy aspects to our (rather co-dependent) relationship.

As I slowly take apart the stones of the pedestal on which she stands, I am delighted to meet her eye-to-eye.

And I am most delighted to learn that despite her flaws and despite her shortcomings, she is still a person worthy of admiration.

A person who had a heart as great as her mind.

The Housework Lament

18. Cleaning: Hey, even writers and creative artists have to do housework sometimes. Write about doing laundry, dishes, and other cleaning activities.

Even writers and creative artists have to do housework sometimes? Oh, please. Give me a break. I spend so much of my time doing housework that I’d really rather not spend the time I have to write even thinking about it.

Damn it, I’ve spent so much of today on housework that I’d nearly forgotten to do today’s writing challenge. I was sitting, folding laundry when I realized I hadn’t written today!

I’ll tell you about housework.

The worst part about housework, is that whether I am actually executing the work or not, I am responsible for it. What is so exhausting is not how much of it I actually do (a lot) but how much I have to think about it.

With some exceptions, if I do not ask someone to do a piece of housework, it will not get done.

I could elaborate. In fact, I had written nearly a page griping on about it.

But I’m tired. Any homemaker knows what I mean. The person who carries the family’s entire schedule and inventory of home supplies in their head is going to be exhausted.

A Vicious Cycle

The conversation that my husband and I have over and over again is how hard it is, what a weight it is, to be the one harping on everyone to do their chores.

But perhaps it’s a vicious cycle. Perhaps because I remind everyone of their chores, they figure they don’t have to remember because I will tell them. And I know that if I don’t tell them, the chores won’t get done.

How do I break the cycle? Can anyone tell me?

Dictionary Definition

Day 17 of my daily writing challenge. I realized something horrible: I do not own a dictionary! Instead, I opened a book and chose a word at random.

17. Dictionary Definition: Open up a dictionary to a random word. Define what that word means to you.

cor·​ner | \ ˈkȯr-nər  \
transitive verb
1a: to drive into a corner
the animal is dangerous when cornered
b: to catch and hold the attention of especially to force an interview

Cornered. Trapped. There was nothing for it. My lunch break was ruined.

I’d waited until his desk—the one by the kitchen door—was empty. Perhaps he was in a meeting. Maybe he’d gone to the toilet.

Now was my chance!

I grabbed my Tupperware and made a dash for it. If I was lucky, I could get to the kitchen and close the door behind me before he got back to his cubicle.

I was nearly at the kitchen door when he pounced.

“Hey! You having lunch? Great! I’ll join you!”

My heart sank.

Turns out he’d been lurking in the printer room, waiting for a victim. Too late now. He’d seen the Tupperware.

“I was just going to warm this up and—”
“Oh, I’ll just keep you company.”

Cornered. Trapped. My lunch break was ruined.

I smiled wanly and meekly submitted to having my ear talked off on some tedious topic. As I stood there, waiting for my meal to warm up, I prepared to zone out.

Something in his tone, though, caught my attention.

There was a different note in his voice. A halting, hesitating manner. Normally he droned on, not seeming to care whether his victim listened or not. Today, though, he paused frequently. At a couple of points he trailed off, staring into space.

Eventually he stopped talking and just stood looking out the window. The microwave beeped, but he didn’t hear it. Instead of pulling out my meal, making my excuses and dashing off, I looked at him.

“Brad?” I said.

He was looking away from me, but I could see tears in his eyes.

“Brad, are you okay?”
“Oh! Oh, hey. Yeah. What was I saying?”
“I just asked if you were alright.”

He looked straight at me for a moment, then looked to the window again. He mouthed something, and I stepped closer to hear him.

His words were practically a whisper.

“My mother died last weekend.”

His mother. I cast back to see what I could remember him telling me about her. I seemed to remember he’d lived with his elderly mother. When he wasn’t at work he was her primary caregiver.

My own heartlessness filled me with shame. Here was a man cornered, too. Cornered by his grief and loneliness.

“I’m so sorry, Brad.”

I moved to the kitchen table and pulled out two chairs. I sat down in one and gestured to the other.

“Will you tell me about her, Brad? Will you tell me about your mother?”

He looked at me again. A weak smile came over his face. With a sniffle, he sat down. I passed the stack of napkins to him across the table, figuring he’d need one for a tissue. I took one for myself, just in case.

My lunch sat forgotten in the microwave.

Hopelessly Addicted

16. Addict: Everyone’s addicted to something in some shape or form. What are things you can’t go without?

Tea. I cannot go without tea.

Can this article be done?

What, you need further explanation? Fine.

Coffee vs Tea

Think of coffee. It has caffeine, it gives you that boost you need to kickstart your day. Its bitter flavor and strong smell combine to activate your get-up-and-get-going mode.

Now think of tea. (I am speaking, naturally, of the only tea worth drinking. That is Yorkshire Tea, produced by Taylor’s of Harrogate, Yorkshire. If you disagree, stop reading immediately and just go away.)

Sure, it doesn’t have as much caffeine as coffee. And it doesn’t have the energizing smell of coffee. And though it can be bitter if left to brew too long, it doesn’t have the same tangy bitterness as coffee.

So what is so wonderful about it?

Simply everything.

Tea Time is Me Time

My best friend once told me that life gets 10% better when you put the kettle on. Time and again, I have found this statement to be true.

In these times of social isolation and spending seemingly endless days at home, the one thing that lifts my spirits without fail is when I hear my beloved husband put the kettle on to make me a cup of tea.

(A quick side note to say that the saintly man does not even drink tea himself, but he brews a mean cup of tea. He’s got it down to a science, and now I almost prefer a cup of his brewing to my own. He also seems to have a sixth sense for knowing exactly when I need a cup of tea.)

Tea, since it’s made with boiling water, is much hotter than coffee and stays warm longer. When your tea is ready, you know that you have probably 10 to 15 minutes to enjoy it while it is still warm.

That’s 10 or 15 minutes for you to sip, close your eyes, and enjoy the warmth spreading through your mouth, down your throat and into your belly. The warmth then spreads from your core, slowly through your body, finally reaching your outer extremities. You curl your toes in response to it, and inevitably you take a deep breath and let out a sigh of contentment.

Characteristics of Tea

Just the act of wrapping your hands around a warm mug of tea is addictive. The calm that then descends on me in that moment is what I crave.

Coffee tastes like a swift kick in the butt saying, “Get up! Get to work!” But tea… Tea tastes like a best friend saying, “Come on over and sit a spell.” It’s inviting, it’s kind. It’s comforting and caring.

It also stains your teeth something fierce. Oh, well. I guess that’s the price of addiction.

Defining “Work”

15. Eavesdropper: Create a poem, short story, or journal entry about a conversation you’ve overheard.

This morning, while my boys were having their breakfast, I overheard the following conversation:

“Papá went to work.”
“And mamá went to work.”
“What? Mamá doesn’t work!” (Laughter.)
“[Giggles] Mamá doesn’t work, yeah!”
“Mamá doesn’t do any work!”
“No, mama doesn’t do any work!”

Uproarious laughter. As if they had said something extremely witty.

I had been slicing an orange and I appeared (somewhat menacingly) next to them at the table, orange and knife in hand.

The dark, glowering look on my face (paired, perhaps, with the knife) must have been enough to tell them that Mamá was not happy, because they immediately fell silent.

“Let me make one thing very clear,” I said through clenched teeth. “Mamá does work. She may not get paid. She may not leave the house. But let me assure you that your mother does, in fact, work.”

Awed silence.

Then, a tentative question. “But Mamá… What work do you do?”

What work do I do? What work does any homemaker do? The list of the tedious, thankless jobs I do ran through my head. Scheduling, meal planning, shopping, cooking, tidying, cleaning, washing, folding, ironing (occasionally), wrangling, finding every lost item in the house, activity planning and coordinating, and so many, many more.

So in answer to my son’s infuriating question, I said, “I am CEO, operations director, head chef, chief medical officer, and various other positions, all in the home.”

Puzzlement. I added, “If anyone asks you what your mother does for work, you can tell them, ‘She works in the home.’”

Another little voice piped up. “Mamá, you’re not going to poke me?”

I looked at my younger son in confusion. Then I remembered the knife. I dropped my hand to my side.

“No, of course not my love.” Sweet smiles spread across their faces.

As I went back to slicing my orange, I couldn’t help but feel that I had inadequately addressed the situation. How does a homemaking mother teach her male children to value and appreciate what she does? How do I help them understand that what I do is not to be taken for granted?

How do I teach them not to assume that every mother does what I do? Not to assume that I work at home because I am a mother?

Heavy questions. I sighed. “Just another Thursday morning,” I thought to myself.

The Found Poem

At first I thought this was dumb. I thought, “I’m not gonna do that. It’s stupid.” I thought about writing about three books that had a significant impact on me as a reader. But then I randomly opened a page of the book I am reading now, and so many wonderful words sprang out at me. So I changed my mind.

14. The Found Poem: Read a book and circle some words on a page. Use those words to craft a poem. Alternatively, you can cut out words and phrases from magazines.

A series of Haikus formed from words found on pages 294 and 295 of The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (2020, Henry Hold and Company, New York.)

Walter is scoffing.
Everybody’s indifferent
Eyes on the gallows.

He never did thrive
To speak truth. Courtesy was
Always beyond him.

He wasn’t hanged; but
Anybody sad or lost
Is swimming upstream.


Day thirteen in my daily writing prompt exercise. This one filled me inexplicably with rage. I looked up famous letters, read some wonderful letters from history, thought of every historical biography or 19th century novel I’ve read and mourned that we don’t write letters like people used to. It’s a lost art. And I’m just as responsible for that loss as anyone.

13. The Letter: Write a poem or story using words from a famous letter or inspired by a letter someone sent you.


Oooh! A letter! I love a letter! Never mind that it’s arrived by email. It’s a letter!

Dear, huh? It must be someone I know! JANE KENNEDY. Hmm, this must be serious. You can only mean business if you address me by my whole name, in all caps no less.

Your bill is now ready to view!

Ah. So it’s a bill. I ought to have suspected as much. But why the exclamation point?

An exclamation point indicates excitement! It means joy! It means delight and exhilaration! Why finish that of all sentences with an exclamation point? Could there be more to this letter than I had first thought?

Oh! Be still my beating heart! I shall read on!

Your bill for the amount of $54.75 is due on 04/08/2020.

What?! What roller coaster ride is this?!

You follow an exclamation point with this?! What cruelty! What heartlessness! Why would you raise my hopes with an exclamation point only to dash them down again with such functional, cold and distinctly pecuniary language?

To login to your account, go [this website] or copy and paste the URL into your browser.

Okay now you’re just INSULTING me. Copy and paste the URL into your browser—ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

What kind of idiot doesn’t know how to click on a link?! Why would you assume I am a digital incompetent? You’ve written me an email, for God’s sake! I’ve signed up for automatic online billing! I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING, DAMNIT!


Customer Relations

“Sincerely,” huh? Sincerely? Sincerely.

Well. I’ll give you sincere, buddy! I’ll show you sincerity, pal! You want sincere? Well, you got it.

Okay fine I’ll just log in and make sure my payment details are up to date.

A Sonnet Called Hello

I’ve never made any pretensions at being a poet. I’m terrible with rhymes, and each attempt at poetry sounds stilted and downright bad. But here’s a stab at a Shakespearean style sonnet.

12. Greeting: Write a story or poem that starts with the word “hello” or other greeting.

Hello, may I have your name?
No, this isn’t she, this is her daughter.
Yes, our voices do sound the same.
Yes, I’m sure I’m not her.

Yes, you’re right; it’s true.
Many people have made the same mistake.
I look a lot like her, too.
No, no, you’ve no apologies to make.

Sometimes I remind myself of her.
Other times I want to rebel.
Often times people compare me to her—
Negatively or favorably, I can’t always tell.

And sometimes I think how nice it would be
For someone to mistake her for me.

St. George’s Dragon Rant

This is Day 11 in my writing prompt essay series. I’ve actually made it further than I ever thought I would. I may have to start writing at a different time of day than evening, though. I’m starting to forget what my Chico looks like…

11. Dragon: Envision a dragon. Do you battle him? Or is the dragon friendly? Use descriptive language.

Theodore and Demetrius were useless fellows. They would tell you not to believe in dragons!

You’ve probably heard they were valiant warrior saints. Helped out the European crusaders in the first crusade, etc., etc. Poppycock! They never fought alongside any crusaders! If anything, all they did was drink alongside the crusaders!

And when it comes to identifying dragons? Worse than useless! Ask Theodore to describe a dragon (forgive me if I forgo the honorific of “saint” when speaking of both of them—it simply goes against the grain, I don’t mind telling you), and he’ll tell you it’s nothing more than a serpent. Not even venomous! But can you really expect more from a man whose only claim to sainthood is that he was thrown into a furnace?

And Demetrius? Don’t even get me started on Demetrius! He was nothing more than the troublesome son of rich parents who packed him off into the army to be rid of him. Sure, he was Christian, but how did he defend the faith? By getting run through by spears. Laughable.

Anyway, he would tell you a dragon was nothing more than an eel. An eel, for Pete’s sake!

An Introduction

My name is Saint George, and I know all about dragons. And I am here to tell you that dragons are very, very real. They are just as real today as they were in my day.

I, too, am a warrior saint. But while Theodore and Demetrius did nothing better than get themselves martyred, I actually fought the beasts. I once saved a town from a dragon’s reign of terror, and secured fifteen thousand converts to Christianity in the process! Say what you will of Christians, you’ve got to admit that’s some smooth operating.

Allow me to present myself to you, dear reader, as an eminent authority on dragons.

Dragon Problems

When a dragon plagues a town, first of all he starts by picking off sheep. Then he helps himself to larger livestock. Before long, however, he craves warmer blood, and that’s when he starts eating people.

Worse than a plague, is a dragon. The more he eats, the hungrier he gets. And he always starts with the most vulnerable, the poorest of the town. Pick off a couple of peasants, and hardly anyone notices. It’s only when he’s eaten a dozen that the nobles—the so-called quality—start to notice.

Up to this point, royalty looks at the dragon as a useful population control. Keep the rabble down and they won’t clamor for better working conditions! But a dragon soon acquires a taste for bluer blood. He moves up the echelons of society, picking his way through the merchant class once he’s had his fill of serfs. Next, he moves up to the landed gentry, onwards through the lower nobility, and before you know it he’s picking off dukes, duchesses and even princes!

The Dragon That Made Me Famous

That’s what happened in this one town I came upon in Cappadocia, in the country you modern-day folks would call Turkey. I’d been doing some campaigning with my ne’er-do-well colleagues (tiresome fellows! How I longed to be rid of them!), and we broke our journey in this quaint little town.

While Theodore and Demetrius patronized the local watering holes, I looked for lodgings at a respectable inn. It was there that I learned from the innkeeper—a wonderfully informative species of person, in my experience—that they had dragon troubles in town.

It had gotten to the point where they’d agreed to leave the dragon a victim each night, as a kind of—you know—sacrifice. They drew straws for it. Earlier that day, the local princess’s straw had been drawn. She was to be tied up and left for the dragon that night.

I vowed to save the princess from such a fate. Theodore and Demetrius laughed at me heartily and said they wouldn’t wait up for me that night. (Couldn’t wait up for me, more like it. Soused as a pair of eels by sundown, the pair of them!)

At the Lake

My unease grew as I approached the spot where they’d left the princess. I found her bound at the wrists and the ankles, gagged, and tied to a stake on an island in the middle of a small lake outside of town. With what barbarity had the townspeople left her to her fate!

(Forgive me, dear reader, if I do not go into rapturous descriptions of the maid. I am, after all, a saint.)

I motioned to the maiden to remain silent, not to betray my presence. Then I maneuvered my steed into the trees and waited in the nearby shadows.

The moon shone brightly that night, the clarity increased by that celestial body’s reflection in the waters. As I crouched in wait, I was aware of every ripple, every disturbance to the water’s surface. Close to midnight, one ripple appeared from around the lake, and a dark shape moved purposefully towards the island where the maiden was captive and where I, unbeknownst to the beast, lay in wait.

The Beast

Its awful snout emerged first. A pair of large, cavernous nostrils broke the surface of the water, followed by a cruel and crooked horn. A long, thin snout followed, with whiskers dripping as they rose from the water. Its eyes caught the glint of the moonlight before ever surfacing, and the beast never blinked as it lifted its vile head from the depths.

Vile it was, dear reader, and adorned with two more curving horns of ivory, which cut against the reflected moonlight on the lake. Down its neck and across its back it had venomous spines, and its long, writhing reptilian tail curved this way and that behind it as it dragged its low and foul body up onto the shore. Its four legs were stout and strong, and each sported five vicious, curved claws. Its tongue darted in and out of its mouth, and the light of the moon glinted off of long, sharp fangs.

The Attack

I didn’t wait to learn if it was a dragon of the fire-breathing variety. Before it had taken another step towards its victim, I crossed myself and charged from the darkness, brandishing my lance. The beast was entirely surprised, and had no time to react before I plunged my weapon between its shoulder blades, narrowly missing what must be the creature’s heart—if such devils indeed have hearts.

A terrible cry burst from its throat. Although it was mortally wounded, the beast did not immediately perish, and indeed looked ready to turn and fight. I acted without thinking and turning to the maiden, cut her free from her bonds. Seizing the ropes, I threw myself on the dragon, holding its jaws shut. There we wrestled until I was able to tie a rope tight around its muzzle.

Before I could think what to do with its claws, the maiden had removed the girdle from around her waist, and in an extraordinary act of bravery, she approached the dragon. Calmly as though she were approaching her spinning wheel, she slipped the girdle around the dragon’s neck.

For a moment, the beast continued to writhe. But then, feeling the silken fabric of the girdle, it slowed and eventually lay still. Its great, horrid eyes continued to stare at us, unblinking. We only knew it to be alive from its glance, darting from the maiden to me.

Suddenly, the dragon was like a tamed spaniel. The maiden took up the other end of her girdle, and tugging gently on it, she coaxed the dragon to its feet. I stood and watched in utter amazement and she walked to the shallow ford that lead off the island and to the village road. The dragon limped behind obediently.

I spurred my horse and galloped after them.

All’s Well That Ends Well

To make a long story short, we made our way back to the town, the maiden perched on my saddle, the dragon following on the lead.

I won’t go into the details of what followed—I’m not terribly proud of the extortion I performed next. I threatened to release the dragon on the townspeople unless they converted to Christ.

I know, I know, I was heavy-handed. But believe me when I say I meant well. In the end, no one came to any harm, and after they’d all been baptized at the fountain in the town square, I obligingly chopped off the dragon’s head.

Modern Day Dragons

As for dragons today… You do have them, dear readers. Your dragons may not be visible. They may be called by other names. Plagues, dragons, pandemics. They’re all one.

Whatever you call them, just as they did in my time, they pray first on the lowest of the low. Then they move through the population and strike down rich and strong alike.

These modern dragons cannot be ignored. They will decimate your populations and grind trade to a halt. No one will move from home for fear of encountering the dragon.

And just like the beasts of my day, modern day dragons must be managed by competent authorities. Modern St. Georges, if you will. Not clowns like those buffoonish fellows Theodore and Demetrius.

My Fellow “Saints”

But where were Theodore and Demetrius, you ask? How is it that they cannot identify a dragon, even after such a spectacle as this?

The simple answer is, my dear readers: they were drunk. They’d drunk the innkeeper out of his best ale, and had fallen asleep under their stools.

Is it any wonder they met the ends they did, dear readers? I ask you!