Challenge Old Beliefs – Feeding the Drive to Self-Actualize

The pandemic we find ourselves in has done more to upend our lives beyond health and economics. Staying occupied with thoughts of these two survival necessities has held us all captive to the internal strife within. Much like clinging to a 2-inch railing so we don’t plunge off a 60-story building. The obsession allows for little more. The result is a stalling of our true purpose – the drive to self-actualize.

It is important that we continue our progress despite our current state. I am not saying that you should disregard either your health or your money needs. These must be taken care of to maintain and support life. But when this is all we accomplish during the day, life grows stale. Without realizing it, we soon find ourselves fighting the inevitable listlessness that such striving produces.

The Road to your future starts now. You’ll find beauty around the corner. (“Newfound Gap Road – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN” by pvarney3 is marked under CC PDM 1.0.

Breaking free from the drone of lack, slack and indifference is no easy task. It takes courage, fortitude, and determination. It takes a strong-willed effort to move freely through the concrete bonds of apathy to return to full purpose and discovery. Sometimes we need a little push, a little emotional jumpstart.

It is my hope that this blog will give you that jumpstart. That here you will find help on your way back to the path you were born to take. To the goals you were meant to accomplish. To the life you were meant to live.

We will explore new ways of thinking, inspiration, encouragement, and guidance to life’s mysteries. Our topics will include self-discovery, mind-body connection, perception, critical thinking, emotional healing, and much more. Motivating insight and knowledge to personalize. Open-minded differences of opinion are welcome.

If you are ready to:

  • Take back your life from the clutches of disheartenment;
  • Start or restart your personal growth journey;
  • Boost your day with a shot of optimism;
  • Find solace in a community of like-minded folks;
  • Expand your insight and intelligence; or
  • Open your mind to a deeper understanding of the world in which we live . . .

. . . make yourself a promise to tune into this online journal for five minutes a week.

I hope to see you jump on board. I’m looking forward to our journey together.

Copyright 2021, Monica Nelson

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Love to the Rescue (Mini Romance), Part 1

Lorinda sunk down in the bus stop bench. It had been a long day at work and all she wanted to do was go home. She was looking forward to a hot soup dinner and a good book, followed by a bath and bed. The late October day was cool and breezy.

The incident at the end of her call center shift made her cringe, even now. The caller was angry, swearing at and verbally abusing her. She had very much wanted to help the gentleman. She thought he had a valid point, but no matter how hard she tried, she could not get him to settle down long enough to have an intelligent conversation. She had had to call in a supervisor, who in turn called in another supervisor. She was expected to “listen in” to “learn how to handle” these types of customers.

The situation only got worse ending in threats of retaliation from the customer and litigation from her company. She learned little, and was so rattled from the hours-long fiasco that she seriously considered quitting on the spot.

The answer was so simple. Stop and listen. If people had, it could’ve easily been avoided. Was there no patience and kindness left in the world?

Now, she sat absorbing the din of white noise around her, comprised of rushing traffic, street sounds, and muffled crowd noise of a distant football game. Out of the barely perceptible conglomerate she sensed a tiny sound. An innocent sound. She couldn’t hear it well, but she could distinguish it from the noisy hum. It happened again. She leaned back, straining her ears with all the effort she could muster. There it was again. Small mew sounds.

She turned around and stepped up on the bench placing her hands on the top of the tall fence lining the sidewalk. Between that fence and the stone structure on either side of the park’s entrance was a thick growth of bushes. That shrubbery, with the beginning of fall, now lay nearly bare. Through the tangled brush she glimpsed a tiny ball of gold and white fur knotted together. The ball moved like a kaleidoscope presenting different image patterns. Every so often a tiny head would pop out displaying a kitten mouth wide open in begging despair. This is where the sound came from.

Image courtesy of INKIE on Pixabay.

She quickly ran around the entrance gate and peered over the bricks at the end of the structure. The kittens were dirty, huddled together against the chill. She reached down into the tangled branches in an attempt to grasp the kittens. Her arms were not long enough. She ran around the end and lay on the ground reaching as far into the small space between the bush trunks and the brick wall. No use. They remained out of reach. She sat up in frustration.

They were cold and probably hungry. Where was their mama?

She looked about her. Tiny lives were at risk. To help them, she would have to find a way to reach them. Think, Lorinda, think. Nothing. She sighed heavily.

“Are you on a rescue mission?” she heard a male voice say.

She turned toward the voice, and he came into view around the corner of the structure. He had a sympathetic but authoritative demeanor. Authentic concern seemed to saturate every part of him.

“Yes,” she said, “how did you know?”

“I saw you reaching over the fence when I drove by. Then, I saw what appeared to be a deceased mother cat in the road. I put two and two together, and figured you were attempting to rescue the orphans.” He dropped the box he was carrying to the ground. “I’d like to help.”

“I know where they are but I can’t reach them,” she said, trying to keep the panic from her voice. Her heart broke anew when she heard him refer to them as orphans.

“Let’s have a look.” He knelt beside her and peered through the opening behind the bushes.

“They’re a little too far for me to reach,” she said.

He sat back on his heels. “I have an idea, but I need your help. Okay?”

“Yes,” she said quickly, “Whatever you need from me.”

“Good,” he said, pulling out a snipping tool from his belt, “I’m going to make my way through these bushes to the kittens. Then, I will pass them up to you one-by-one. The box should keep them safe. Got it?”

She picked up the box from the ground. “Yes,” she said. She made her way to the middle of the stone structure and hoisted herself up to where she was slightly leaning over the edge, her feet dangling a few inches from the ground.

She watched as he snipped away at the branches that hindered his movement, all the while inching his way further and further into the line of bushes toward the screaming kittens. When he got close enough to reach over his head, he picked up the first kitten and slowly moved it through the tangle of prickly bushes, into her outstretched arms.

Image courtesy of Kadres on Pixabay.

She grasped the kitten firmly but gently and pulled it up to her. After all the kittens had been rescued, she counted them in the box. Five. Still making hungry noises. She took the box around the corner of the stone structure just as the man was pulling himself out from behind the bushes. He stood up and tried to brush the twigs, dirt and debris from all over himself.

“Hello,” he pushed an arm in handshake mode out for her, “I’m Tom.”

She shook his hand, “Lorinda,” she said. “Look at these precious little babies.”

He looked down at them with the tender gaze of a new father, “That they are.” He looked back at her, “But we need to get them to a vet and have them checked out. I know a good one. Do you mind helping me with them to my car?”

“No problem,” she said, “I’ve already missed my bus.”

“In that case,” he beamed, “You can come with me to the vet’s office, and I will get you home.”

Normally, she would not accept a ride from someone she barely knew, but this man was different. In the short time she knew him, she determined that he was a good man. Kind, compassionate, caring. And handsome, now that she thought about it. Also, she couldn’t abandon the kittens now.

“Sounds like a plan,” she said, stroking the kittens with tender motherly comfort.

Continue story

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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Opening the Door to Love (Mini Romance)

“How’s your love life these days, dear?”

Katie stared over the top of her tea mug at her mother.  She was sipping her coffee, eyes cast down, her other hand playing with her spoon, spinning it gently on the table. Katie’s mother had asked her to meet her for coffee this morning which was the first indication to her that something was up. Her mother’s evasive behavior was not unexpected. Now, she’s asking about my love life?

“Okay,” Katie leaned back in her chair. Her mug hit the table with a little more force than she had intended. “What’s up?”

“Can’t a mother take an innocent interest in her daughter’s happiness? Her mother’s steely eyes appeared on the surface to be concerned.

Katie paused a moment. Her mother definitely had a scheme in mind. But what could it hurt? Whoever her mother had in mind had to be better than what she had gone through recently.

“Well,” Katie said, bracing against her better judgement, “The last guy I had a date with couldn’t stop talking about himself. I don’t think he even asked one thing about me. And, the one before that spent more time on his phone than he did anything else. How’s that for a happy love life?”

“Oh, Katie,” her mother purred, “I think it’s time for a change, don’t you? To some nice guy rather than those losers.”

“I thought those guys were nice guys, Mom,” Katie sighed. She couldn’t help notice her mother holding back a smile. “I suppose you have the perfect ‘nice’ guy in mind for me.”

“As it happens . . . “

Image courtesy of geralt (Gerald Altmann) on Pixabay.

“Noooo,” Katie tried to sound confident without pleading, “Please don’t set me up with some random guy you met at the doctor’s office, the market, or some other place like that.”

“Would I do that?” her mother shot back at her, “I talked to Margaret Clarkson last week. Do you remember her?

Katie froze in her chair. “Yeeeesss,” she said hesitantly.

“Then you remember her son, Zachary . . . “

“Her obnoxious son? Yes, of course, I do,” Katie said as she set her jaw to stubborn. “You can’t be serious.”

“Zach has moved back here, and he’s single. Margaret and I thought that maybe you . . . ”

“No, absolutely not,” Katie said. “He used to tease me mercilessly, pull my hair, and call me names. Is that really who you want me to go out with?”

Her mother gave her a pleading look, “You were kids. All kids do things like that.”

“Once a cad, always a cad,” Katie rebounded angrily, caught herself, and softened her voice, “I’m not interested.”

“Margaret says he could do with a friendly face to help him adjust to the new environment. He hasn’t lived here for twenty years. It’s like it’s all new to him,” Katie’s mother said, “You wouldn’t have to think of it as a date. And, you know, he could’ve changed a lot.”

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” Katie sighed. Her memories stirred childhood pain.  Probably because she liked him. She was a kid, but she was drawn to him, tried to be nice to him, and all he did was chide her to no

Her mother smiled, “If you could open yourself to the possibility that he’s changed, you might open the door to opportunity.”

Katie opened the door to her apartment to find Amber, her roommate, still dressed in her running clothes, sitting at their kitchen counter. Gleaming from exertion, she picked up her water bottle and took a swig. Then, peering at Katie, she said “You look like you’ve had bad news. I take it the meeting with your mom didn’t go well.”

Amber always looked good, even now. She had nice guys falling at her feet. She never lacked for male companionship. Some women have all the luck.

“She and an old friend of hers are plotting to get me hooked up with the friend’s son,” Katie sighed.

“And this is bad news because . . . ?” Amber ran the bottle across her forehead, condensation from the bottle mixing with the sweat on her brow.

“Because,” Katie said as she shut the door, “Because he’s a jerk. I knew him when I was 8 or 9 years old. Our families spent a lot of time together, and he was always awful to me.”

“Like how?” Amber said.

“He used to like to scare me. Come up behind me when I wasn’t expecting it and grab my hair. I wore braids a lot. It would always scare me so bad that I would run away. Sometimes so bad, it would make me cry. Then, he would tease me for that.”

“Wow, really,” Amber said lifting an eyebrow, “You used to wear braids? Ms. Fashionista?”

Katie laughed. “Really? That’s what you got from that whole thing?”

“All I’m saying is that you’ve changed, right? At least your choice of hair style has. Maybe he has too. How old was he?”

“I think he was 11,” Katie’s tone turned solemn.

“Yes, a guy’s personality is pretty much set by that age,” Amber said with a hint of sarcasm. Pausing, she continued, “People change. Don’t throw away an opportunity to maybe meet the man of your dreams because he once was a jerky kid.”

“You’ve been talking to my mother, haven’t you?” Katie said.

“I’ve never met your mother,” Amber smiled, “but if she says ‘open the door to change, then you open the door to love’, I would have to side with her. I’m going to go take a shower now.”

Katie reached for a kitchen stool and sat down. Maybe Amber, who had her pick of any man she wanted, and her mom were right. Maybe she was being too hard on him. If she did change her attitude toward him, she might find he had changed his attitude toward her.

“Amber,” Katie caught her just before she entered the bathroom, “If it were you, would you do it?”

Amber grinned back at her, “In a heartbeat.”

Katie pulled out her phone and dialed her mother. “Okay,” she said when her mother answered, “I’m ready to open that door to opportunity.”

Time had come. She sat outside the restaurant feeling both anxiety and a sense of excitement. From the moment she spoke to him on the phone, she had sensed a feeling growing inside her. It was a flicker from the childhood attraction she’d felt long ago. It fluttered about her body, bubbling underneath the surface. And when it would flair beyond her inner nerves, it caused her mind to wander back to those days in her past. She would then have to quash it with all her mental power to keep it from expanding into real hope.

Better to get it over with. If she had this one evening with him, and he proved himself to be who she knew him to be, then it would be easier to push the attraction back where it belonged – into lost childhood memories. With new resolve, she opened the car door and headed for the restaurant entrance.

As she approached, a handsome, nicely dressed man opened the door from the inside allowing her entrance. “Katie,” he said, “I wasn’t sure you would show up. It’s me, Zach.”

Before her was an older version of her memory, exuding a quiet confidence and courteous demeanor. “Why wouldn’t I?” she said with a tentative smile.

He laughed nervously. “I was so awful to you when we were kids,” he said, “I used to make you cry.”

“That you did,” she said, “I remember.”

“Boys tend to be cruel to the girls they like,” he said shyly, “Thank God I’ve grown up. I hope you will give me an opportunity to show you just how nice I can be.”

Katie’s tentative smile grew more relaxed and genuine, releasing some of the repressed feeling she had banished not five minutes earlier. This just might be a good night after all. “I look forward to seeing you prove yourself a changed man.”

“I’m up for the challenge,” he said, closing the door behind them.

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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Breaking the Language Barrier for Love (Mini Romance)

“I know it sounds crazy,” Marie said, enthusiasm spilling from her every pore. “You don’t understand how sure I am of this.”

Callie picked up Marie’s suitcase and tossed it into the open trunk of her car. “I know you. You’re just excited. You’ve just come back from France, having had a wonderful time, and now you’re filled with the romance of Paris, Fracais.” Marie winched as Callie spoke the final two words in a clearly atrocious faked French accent.

“You’re my best friend. I would think you would be supportive of this. It’s like the most important thing to ever happen in my life.”

Callie laughed, “I am supportive of you. Who else would come out to the airport at this time of night to pick you up? Strap in your seatbelt.”

Marie pulled the seatbelt over her and clicked it safely into place as Callie stepped on the gas.

“I am grateful to you for that. Truly, I am,” Marie said sincerely.

They sat in silence as Callie exited the arrivals area. “I just don’t see why you want to pick up and leave your home where all your friends and family are, to go live in a foreign country,” she finally said.

Marie plopped down on the couch next to Callie. “Whew,” she said, blowing out the air in her lungs at the end of the word.

They both watched the dust from her landing fly into the air and swirl in little curlicues around them.

Marie spoke first into the dust-filled silence. “Are you sure you don’t want this old couch,” she said, “It would look great in your apartment. Hint. Hint.”

Image courtesy of Rdlaw (RD Law) on Pixabay.

“You couldn’t pay me to take it,” answered Callie. “So, you’re almost ready to go, huh?”

It had been two weeks since she returned from her vacation. The remaining belongings she had were boxed up and ready to ship. All she had to do was finalize her destination details, firm up her travel and shipping plans, and find a new home for the couch. “Pretty close, I’d say,” said Marie, “I’m so excited.”

“I still can’t believe that you are leaving your home, family, friends, career, and entire life behind on some whim you got while on vacation. Why do you have to move so far away?”

Marie sighed. “You don’t understand,” she said as she clutched a fist to her heart, “I feel it in here.”

“What? Heartburn.”

Marie rolled her eyes at Callie’s attempt at a joke. “No, I’m serious. Haven’t you ever felt something so strongly that you knew it was your destiny?”

“Ah, no.”

“Well,” Marie continued, “It wasn’t just a feeling. I mean it was a strong feeling, but I also saw it in my mind’s eye. My future. A special man who would become my husband, whom I would love forever. We would go to wine tastings together, have cheese and bread picnics while discussing philosophy, and ultimately raise a French-speaking family.”

“Yeah, about that . . .” Callie said, “You don’t even know that much French. Do you? How are you going to be able to communicate well enough to live there?”

“Yes,” Marie said thoughtfully, “I spent three weeks there and I picked up a lot. I think once I immerse myself in a new life there, I will pick it up just fine.”

“What if there is an emergency? And you can’t tell someone because you don’t know the words, and they don’t speak English? You’ll be there all alone.”

Marie pursed her lips. “Okay, maybe I should learn a little more French before going?”

“Here,” Callie said, holding out a business card. “This place has a good reputation for teaching you enough of a foreign language to make you fluent enough to get started.”

“You really do have my back, don’t you?” Marie said, taking the card. Below the name were the words “Small Classes” and “Individual Instruction.” “Okay, I’ll look into it.”

“Destiny – humph. Maybe you get into one of those classes and you’ll see that your destiny is really here, not in France.”

Marie smiled and tapped the card against the thumb of her other hand, “Yeah, maybe,” she said sarcastically.

An overly zealous receptionist greeted Marie at the door when she arrived at the business address listed on the card. “Good morning, how may I be of assistance to you today?” she said in a distinctly southern American dialect.

Marie briefly wondered If she learned her accent here, or if it was real. She banished the thought, and its surrounding comical musings, as she reminded herself why she was here. “Yes, I have an appointment for a series of individual French lessons.”

“Why, yes,” the receptionist said. “Your instructor will be Mathéo, who just became free. I’ll show you to his room.”

Marie followed the woman down the corridor to one of the smaller rooms that lined the hall. She stood in the doorway. A handsome man with a sculpted five o’clock shadow and tightly-groomed mustache stood to greet her. Marie stood still, her mouth slightly open, trying not to stare at the man. A déjà vu type feeling swept over her keeping her entranced to his every move. It was him. The man in her mind’s eye vision. Right down to the very clothes he wore.

“C’est un plaisir de rencontrer une si belle femme,” Mathéo said as he motioned to her to come into the room.

She recognized enough of his greeting to know that he had paid her a compliment. She said, a bit slower than he spoke, “Vous êtes trop gentille” in her best French pronunciation, hoping she had gotten every word right.

“Ah, the beautiful lady knows some French,” he said smiling directly into her eyes. “We shall get along just fine.”

The receptionist said, “Then I’ll let you get to it,” and closed the door behind her.

“Oui,” Marie said, “I do.”  Maybe Callie was right. Maybe it was a good thing she didn’t get rid of her old couch after all. “How do we start?”

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

Posted in Fiction, Mini-Romance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

30 Candles and Love (Mini Romance)

“I hate birthdays,” Ciara muttered to herself as she ripped down one more copy of Annette’s invitation on the wall. The sign said, “Ciara is 30 years old today. Come celebrate with us at The Pub in the Basement tonight at 6:00.”

“Hey, hey,” She could see from the corner of her eye her best friend, Annette, running up to her. “What are you doing? Leave those alone.” Ending her request just as she reached Ciara, she placed a hand over the top edge of the sign.

Ciara dropped her hands in frustration. “You promised me you wouldn’t make a big deal of this. Remember?”

“It’s your birthday,” Annette said, “An event to celebrate.”

Ciara sighed heavily. “I don’t want to celebrate.”

“C’mon, girl,” Annette moved her hand from the sign to Ciara’s upper arm. “How many times in your life do you turn 30?”

“That’s just it,” Ciara turned and started to walk away. “Thirty is no longer 20.”

Annette jumped in front of her, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m going to my cubby now.” She tried to walk around Annette. She was in no mood to discuss it now. Get to work, face down the day, and get it over with.

“No, not yet,” Annette swayed to her side to block Ciara’s path. “I have to warn you first.”

“What now?” Ciara growled.

“Okay, here’s the deal,” Annette said, concern building on her eyebrows. “You can tear down every sign you see around the office, but you are not touching the cubby until tomorrow. Got it?”

“What have you done to my cubby?” Ciara pushed her friend aside and rushed to her work area.

Ciara stood in front of her cubby, feet glued to the floor, mouth open, red rushing to her cheeks. A large streamer was draped over her area reading “Ciara is 30 TODAY.” Underneath it a sign that read “Come celebrate with her tonight at The Pub in the Basement: See Annette for directions.” Crinkled streamers of all colors fell like rain from the top, curling their way to a large bow on the bottom. Glitter lined a path around her desk.

Inside, a brightly colored Happy Birthday sign was taped to her computer monitor. Her inbox had been emptied and a mound of greeting card envelopes with her name on them overflowed within its walls.

Annette caught up to her as she stood staring at the decorated space. “I think I outdid myself. What do you think?”

“Lovely,” Ciara sighed, “You really shouldn’t have.”

Image courtesy of Jill Wellington on Pixabay.

“Okay,” Annette said, grabbing her by the arm. “What’s the matter? It can’t be the birthday thing because you’ve never had a problem with birthdays before.” Pushing Ciara gently down into her chair, she continued, “What’s really going on?”

Ciara paused to gather her thoughts, “The last three men I’ve been involved with have dumped me for 21- and 22-year-olds. Maybe, it’s not so much I hate birthdays, as I hate that as I age, I lose more and more ground in romance. I can’t turn the clock back, and all I ever run into are men who want younger women.”

“Those guys are not worthy of you. You need to stop trying to please them, and find Mr. Right for you.”

“Easier said than done,” Ciara said resigned.

“Look, you need to go to our celebration tonight. My friend, Jordan, owns this place and I’ve told him to go all out for you. It’s going to be great. And, you never know, you could find your Mr. Right tonight. They’ll be lots of eligible men there.” Annette was off in a hurry, yelling back at her, “I’ll bring Jordan around to meet you. He’s coming in to square up the details.”

“I’m not in the mood to meet anyone today,” Ciara said, mostly to the air around her.

As the afternoon wore on, Ciara buried herself in her work, ignoring as best she could the festive nature of her desk. She, on more than one occasion, got up to rip the decorations down. But Annette had gone to so much trouble, she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

“Ciara, I’d like you to meet Jordan.”

Ciara whirled around in her chair. Annette and a striking gentleman were standing just behind her. She stood up, “Oh, hello, Jordan,” she said extending her hand in a professional greeting.

“This is the birthday girl.” Then, looking at her, Annette said, “This is the owner of The Pub in the Basement, where we will be having the party tonight.”

Jordan smiled warmly at her. “Ahh, you’re having a special birthday today. I’m honored that you will be celebrating in my establishment.”

“Yeah, well, time marches on,” she said with as much of a smile as she could gather.

“Come, Jordan.” Annette, who always seemed to be in a hurry, was off again. “We still have some things to discuss.”

“It was nice to meet you, Ciara,” Jordan said, “I’m looking forward to your party tonight.” He started to follow Annette who was out of sight by now, but turned back toward Ciara, “For what it’s worth, I think that women gain a certain elegance and sophistication when they turn 30 that they are incapable of in their younger years.”

Ciara watched Jordan walk away, her mouth falling open, unable to respond to his compliment. Maybe she would go to the party after all.

Annette led Ciara into the doorway to The Pub in the Basement. “We’re in a private room in the back,” she said.

There was a line of tealight candles running along the wall leading to their private room. Inside, along the back wall were a row of 30 candles. Starting on the left was a small tealight, followed by a single votive. As the line progressed, each candle grew increasingly more detailed and ornate. The final and 30th candle was exquisite, delicately detailed with tiny flowers and fine silver netting. Three wicks flared with a brilliance that illuminated the room. Standing beside it was Jordan, smiling intently into her eyes.

“What the . . .“ Annette said. “Poor decorating choice there Jordan.”

“No,” Ciara said gazing back at him warmly, “It’s perfect.”

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

Posted in Fiction, Mini-Romance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Li’l Shop of Hope . . . and Love (Mini Romance)

Calista rushed around behind the counter. In the lull between the time following lunch and the after-school rush, she had to get her supply restocked. Pretzels to make, dipping sauces to replenish, and she had to retrieve more cups from the backroom.

Her busy little shop was her pride and joy. Her realization of a long-held dream to own this business. One day she hoped it would be successful enough that she would have to hire employees. Until then, she had to do everything.

Emerging from the backroom, arms full of paper cups, she saw two little girls standing in the opening between the mall and her shop.

She smiled. “Can I help you?”

The two leaned into each other and giggled. They looked to be about six-years-old, with pink cheeks and blond curls to their shoulders. Twins, Calista thought. They looked identical.

“We want to buy something,” one said as the two in unison stepped into the shop.

“You’ve come to the right place,” Calista smiled at her young customers. “My specialty is pretzels. Do you like pretzels?”

Image courtesy of NoName_13 on Pixabay.

“Yes,” they chimed together. “But that’s not what we want to buy,” said the second little girl.

“What does that sign say?” the first said pointing toward the writing next to the shop’s logo on the wall.

Calista reeled around to look. “It says Little Shop of Hope,” she grinned. Looking back at them, she said, “If you don’t want pretzels, I have candy or popcorn or . . . “

“I told you that’s what it said,” said the second.

“We’re not hungry,” said the first.

“Oh, I get it,” Calista said, “You want something to drink? I have about every flavor of soda you could want.”

The two girls’ eyes grew wide, and they looked at each other. “You tell her.” “No, you tell her.” The two traded the demand back and forth.

“Somebody tell me,” Calista finally said.

“We want to buy some hope,” the first said looking at Calista earnestly.

“For our Daddy,” the second said.

Calista, startled, said, “Hope?”

The girls, with renewed fervor in their step, came closer to Calista. “We don’t have a momma,” the first said.

“So, last night, we asked Daddy if he could find us a momma,” the second said. “And, he said that someday he hoped we would have a momma to come live with us.”

“But he didn’t think it would be soon,” said the first.

“So, we thought we would get him some hope to help with that,” said the second.

“And your shop sign said ‘hope’,” said the first.

Calista stifled a laugh as best she could. Looking at the earnest little faces she said, “Come sit down a minute.”

The three took seats at the little table in front of the counter. As Calista sat down, she noticed an exasperated, but attractive looking man standing just outside the shop entrance. He was staring at the girls, “So, this is where you went.”

“Daddy,” the two girls sang in unison, jumping from their chairs to run to their father’s side. As they hugged him, he looked down at them and said, “You’ve given me quite a scare. I’ve told you before not to run off like that. I’ve been looking all over for you.”

“Hi, I’m Calista,” she extended a hand toward the man, “I own this shop.”

“Hi,” he said reaching toward her hand, “I’m Declan. And these are my two daughters, Maisy and Daisy.”

Not only was he easy to look at, he seemed to have a friendly, easy-going manner. No wonder his daughters were so charming and outgoing.

“Please, come in and sit for a moment,” Calista said. “I was just about to explain something to Maisy and Daisy.”

“We don’t want to bother you any further,” he said, but guided the girls back to their chairs and pulled one up for himself.

“How about a few pretzels and something to drink?” Calista said, “On me.”

Declan looked at her earnestly, “You are too kind.”

After munching on their snacks for a few minutes, Calista cleared her throat. “It seems your daughters were searching my shop out to buy hope.” Then, looking at the girls, she said, “Hope is something you have inside of you, not something you buy. Like sadness and joy.”

The girls looked at her with wide eyes. “We know what hope means,” said Maisy.

“We just thought we should see if you had any to share,” said Daisy.

Declan closed his eyes briefly before looking directly into Calista’s. “As you can see, my daughters have a very vivid imagination.” He held her gaze a little longer.

Calista blushed. They were a charming trio. So innocent, but compelling. She longed to spend the rest of the night talking to them, but the after-school rush was beginning and she had to go take care of customers. “Please stay as long as you like,” she said, “I am the only one here so I have to go attend to business.”

“Calista, Calista,” Maisy and Daisy called out to her as they ran behind the counter. Normally, she didn’t let anyone behind the counter, but these were her special girls. Followed, of course, by their irresistible father.

Since their first meeting, they had visited her two to three times a week. Now, weeks later, she had gotten to know the little family and spent many hours talking with Declan during their long visits. She had learned that he was a web entrepreneur who worked out of his home, so he could spend time with his children. Her heart ached for them when she found out that the girls’ mother died when they were two years old.

Calista wrapped her arms around the girls, “How are my two favorite girls in the world?”

“We’ve got something to ask you,” said Maisy.

“Do you like spaghetti?” said Daisy.

“Girls,” Declan said, “You were going to let me do the talking – right?”

Maisy and Daisy turned uncharacteristically bashful. “Yes, Daddy.”

“Calista,” he said looking intently at her, “The girls and I would like to invite you to dinner. Our family favorite is spaghetti, and the girls help prepare it. We know your early evening is Sunday. How about it?

Her heart swelled with happiness. This could be the beginning of something wonderful. “Yes, I’d love to. And I’ll bring the pretzels for dessert.”

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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One Plus One Equals Love (Mini Romance)

“I have our students’ best interests at heart,” Mylah said immediately after their first teachers’ meeting of the year.

“I, too, have our students’ best interests at the forefront,” the defiant Ron Edwards said coolly as he eyed her playfully.

Mylah stood silent for a moment. As much as the situation steamed her, it was hard to keep her anger focused on the outrage she felt. How dare this new math teacher enter their schoolyear, knowing little about their middle school, as only a part-time teacher/full-time boys’ basketball coach, and call her out in front of everyone, including the principal, for her teaching style.

At that meeting, she had spotted him immediately. Tall, handsome, with his irritatingly powerful presence, all female eyes in the room seemed glued to their new authoritative coworker. He oozed charisma in all directions. So much so, that she became flustered when their principal asked her to give a short talk on how she had overhauled the mandatory curriculum followed by a compliment on her great results.

“Um, uhhh,” she had stammered, “ahh, yes . . .” Don’t look at him. Focus, Mylah. She pushed her lips together, then continued. “At the beginning of last schoolyear, I went through the entire year’s studies and identified areas where I could apply creative ways of engaging and teaching my students. I used tools such as games, real-life applications of difficult concepts, and dramatic activities, among many other creative approaches to engage students.

“Excuse me,” the handsome new teacher said, “Are you saying that you used the arts to teach a concrete subject like math?”

“Yes,” Mylah, flattered by his attention, smiled in his direction, “with great success. The students’ comprehension increased approximately 22% that year. And, I saw much more class participation.”

“I find it hard to believe that you can ‘creatively’ teach a concept so solid as math,” he said, “One plus one always equals two. Does it not?”

Image courtesy of NoName_13 on Pixabay.

Mylah felt her face start to burn. She took a deep breath. “The concepts in math are concrete. One plus one does equal two, but the way you learn that may take different approaches. I am simply using more engaging activities to reach the more apathetic youth. Boredom is the greatest challenge to overcome. You have to break through that disinterest to make the subject fun and interesting.”

“I happen to think math is a fun and interesting subject,” he smiled coyly, almost like he was baiting her. Why was he so compelling? He had to be a jerk of the first degree. She would not give him the satisfaction.

“The results speak for themselves, Mr. Edwards,” she said.

The principal cut into their back-and-forth, “Perhaps the two of you would like to continue this discussion at a more appropriate time. We have other business to attend to.”

“Perhaps we shall,” Ron said, flashing a toothy grin her direction. Was he flirting with her, or simply showing off his arrogance?

At the end of the meeting, she wasted no time in following him to his classroom.

“You say you have your students’ best interests in mind, but you remind me of the tired old professors I had when I was young,” she said. “Offering nothing better than memorization to the aid in the study of math and science. Great for the students who enjoy it, but an uphill battle for those who don’t.”

His response was a broad smile. There was a twinkle in his intense eyes. “I do admire your passion.”

The compliment caught her off-guard and she relaxed into an involuntary smile.

“I think we got off on the wrong foot here,” he continued. “Can we call a truce?”

“Okay,” she said hesitantly, “but you’re not getting off that easily. I believe in my method, and I fully intend to work it into the school’s official curriculum.”

“I trust you will.”

In the span of a couple of hours she had gone from a first impression of “absolute hunk” to “smug schmuck.” Now she wasn’t sure.

“I suppose I have my work cut out for me trying to win you over,” she said.

“I won’t make it easy for you, but you are wrong about me being like your ‘tired, old’ professors. I really do have an open mind.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it,” she said.

“We can start right now,” he said looking deeply into her eyes, “Let me take you to dinner, and you can start your crusade tonight. I can be a mighty ally. If you can convince me, you can convince anyone.”

If she was going to know what he was really like, there was only one way to find out.

“Alright, I’m up for that challenge,” she said. “Let’s do it.”

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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Flying High for Love (Mini Romance)

Sara blinked away the blinding sun. The last thing she remembered was climbing the tree to retrieve Mindy’s kite. She and Mindy, who was 10, were spending the afternoon in the park flying the kites. When Mindy’s kite went off course and landed in the tree, it stuck. Against her own better judgment, she had climbed to the branch that would not give up the kite. She stretched and stretched and stretched . . .

When Sara’s awareness began to return, she could hear the murmur of voices gathering around her and the distant wail of a siren.

She swallowed hard and gripped Mindy’s hand tighter. Sara was responsible for her. How could she ensure Mindy’s safety when she was in this condition herself? It was a mistake to climb the tree to retrieve the kite. Not only did she set a bad example for Mindy, but she ended up getting hurt. Her evil fate for doing something so uncharacteristically dumb.

The first to arrive were a group of firefighters. Through the blinding sun, she watched as a tall, handsome man wearing a turnout coat and warm smile knelt beside her. As he leaned over her, his almond-colored eyes looking intently into hers, she felt a sudden rush of attraction run through her. It temporarily displaced the physical pain that plagued her entire body.

The man touched her shoulder lightly and said, “Hi, my name is Flynn. I understand you took a fall. My colleague, Jill, and I are trained as paramedics. Jill will be taking some vitals while I check you over for broken bones. Is that okay?”

Sara managed a weak, “yes” as he looked toward Mindy. “Young lady, did you see what happened?”

The next few moments remained a blur, as people buzzed around her like giant bees attending to their queen. She became lost in the activity, going in and out of consciousness. The next thing she knew she was being wheeled into the back of an ambulance.

Her first thought was of Mindy. “Flynn, Flynn,” she cried.

Flynn flew to her side. “I’m here,” he said.

“It’s Mindy,” Sara could feel her eyes welling up. “She is my responsibility. I have to get her home to her parents.”

“Don’t worry about it, Sara,” he smiled, “I have it covered.”

Sara relaxed as they shoved the gurney into the open doors of the ambulance. Mindy must have told him her name. Their short interaction was enough for her to create a trusting rapport with the firefighter. He would see to it Mindy got home safely. She was sure of it.

Later, in her hospital bed, Mindy could not keep her mind off the handsome firefighter. The pain killers the doctors had given her were working their magic and her thoughts had time to wander. The staff had told her that she had no serious injuries, but that they wanted to keep her overnight to make sure.

She looked toward the door when she heard someone enter. Expecting a nurse, instead she saw three people enter the room. Mindy, Jill and Flynn, who was carrying a bouquet of spring flowers. Mindy skipped over to her side, “I brought friends,” she said. “We brought you something to brighten your room.”

“How are you feeling?” Jill said as Flynn arranged the flowers on her bedside table.

“Sore,” Sara said, smiling at their presence. “Thank you so much for the flowers.”

“It was Flynn’s idea,” Jill said, as Sara’s cheeks took on a rose color.

Flynn looked at her and smiled, “I thought you might like these.”

Jill looked toward Mindy. “How about some hot chocolate?” she said to Mindy. “I think we can get some in the cafeteria,” she said as she gave Flynn a stealthy smile.

She took Mindy by the hand and they left the room.

“So,” Flynn said pulling a chair up to the side of her bed. “You like kite-flying and falling out of trees. What else should I know about you?”

Sara took a cautious breath. Maybe the fall wasn’t such an evil fate after all.

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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In the Springtime of Love (Mini Romance)

In my 50’s and solo, I know that love is a young woman’s game. The stars we reach for in youth elude us when we grow tired and unsentimental. But when the pull of nostalgia rises, as it so often does when I walk to my favorite park bench for an afternoon of reading, I long for the thrill that love can bring. I look up from my book to see a stately gentleman work his way toward me. He stops and catches my eye, a twinkle in his.

Image courtesy of Danutaniemiec55 on Pixabay.

He is older, like me, but he walks with ease. He pauses just in front of me. A touch of gray at his temples, he runs a quick finger across the area just in front of his ear. The tingling of attraction that surges through me has been absent for so many years. It now brings a touch of heat to flush my cheek. I look away momentarily in the juvenile hope he won’t notice.

He smiles, and I feel the sensual surge of youthful first meetings.

“May I sit beside you?” he says as the surge renews itself within me.

We are alone in the park as it is winter, and cold. The snow lies about us adding emphasis to the chill.

“Absolutely,” I say with too much enthusiasm. I catch myself and tone down my fervor. “In fact, you can have the whole bench if you like. It might be a bit too much winter for me to be reading outdoors.”

“Please stay,” he says, “at least for a minute. I want to enjoy the company of a lovely woman, if even for a short time.”

I blush at the word “lovely.” How can I turn him down? My legs don’t move as I watch him take a seat beside me, not too close, not too far. I deduce he must be a gentleman.

“I’m not sure I would characterize myself as “lovely,” I say. “The bloom, as they say, is long gone from my flower.” I laugh in the hope that I might engage a laugh from him too.

His expression remains serious. “Why would I want to sit with a girl?’ he asks. “When I can enjoy the company of a more sophisticated and seasoned woman?”

His demeanor turns whimsical and he reaches his hand out, “Hi,” he says, “My name is Henry.”

I’m not sure what to make of him at this point, but my inner hope overcomes my reticence. I pull the mitten off my right hand and grasp his in a solid grip. “Hi,” I say, “I’m Delores.”

We converse as old friends might. He is easy to talk to. We both love nature, working with the soil, and entering gardening competitions. Exotic coffee is a secret passion. We move onto more personal subjects.

We both have lost longtime partners, but unlike me, he believes in the power of love to overcome heartbreak. He is optimistic about the possibility of love and fully intends on finding the second love of his life.

I agree to meet him a few days later, in that same park, at “our” bench. My lonely heart skips home, and I wait like a schoolgirl for her prom date, until our appointed time to meet. All the while fighting the fear that meeting Henry was much too good to be true.

When the day arrives, I approach the meeting place, only to see an empty bench in the distance. As I get closer, I spy a spot of yellow on the bench and quicken my pace. Tied to the bench are beautiful spring flowers, with a note attached. I pick up the note fully expecting it to relate a full spectrum of excuses.

Instead, it says:

Image courtesy of Geralt (Gerd Altmann) on Pixabay.

I hear a distant “Hello,” and turn. Henry is coming closer with two cups of steaming coffee in his hands. Warmth rushes through me, and radiates to my face. Maybe there are stars that can be touched at any age, as long as we are open to them. Romance can bloom in a winter soul.

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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Love is a Disguise Away (Mini Romance)

Berri looked about the room in its twinkling splendor. The decorations were perfect: Foil streamers gently blowing in the fanned air; glitter placed strategically along the edges of the tables; masquerade mystique (her very own creation) aligning the walls. She had transformed the great room at the country club in such elegant fashion that the room took on a magical touch.

She smiled to herself. Berri had accomplished a great feat on this party-planning job, even if she said so herself. The evening was going to be magical, and the environment was going to add to the success of the charity’s fund-raising cause. It was also going to launch her new business into success at last.

Her mood took a detour to pensive. Now, maybe she could pull off something magical in her own personal life. It had been six months since her rather disastrous breakup with Brent. Never have a relationship with someone you work with. If he turns out to be a jerk, you’re the one who will have to leave your career behind and jump into unchartered territory as a small business owner.

Berri suddenly became aware of someone staring at her. She glanced in the direction of the sensation. Looking directly at her was a handsome, sandy-haired man, with a whimsical smile. The flutter of first-glance butterflies tickled her. She returned a smile in his direction just as the caterer stepped up next to her announcing her presence and saying, “Are you ready for us to set up?”

“Uh, yes,” Berri answered somewhat flustered by the interruption. She glanced back in the direction of the handsome man, but he was gone. She turned back to the caterer, smiled, and taking her by the elbow, led her to the serving tables. After giving instructions to the woman, Berri looked toward where the handsome man had been standing. He was gone.

No matter. With the caterer taken care of, everything was in place. She had to go get herself ready for the evening.

Standing on the edge of the great room, Berri scanned the environment. The romantic lighting showed off the colorful decorations and made a stunning contrast with the formal black-and-white dress of the guests. It enlivened the room.

Her thoughts ran back to the afternoon when she had spied the handsome, sandy-haired man across the room. She briefly wondered if he would be attending this event. No, she reminded herself, he was probably one of the country club’s many members there for an afternoon of golf.

She pushed the whiff of regret that accompanied her memory toward the back of her mind. She had so few opportunities to meet possible love interests that she hated to squander even one. Maybe she was meant to keep her focus on her new business. Fate seemed to guide her away from any pursuit of love.

She quashed the negative vibe from her mind just as she saw Lynette Lauritsen, the charity’s Marketing Director heading her way. Beside her was a masked gentleman.

“Hello Lynette,” Berri greeted her, “I hope you are enjoying the evening.”

Lynette grabbed her by both hands and enthusiastically said, “It’s such a lovely party and it’s turning out to be a great success. We owe so much to you.”

Image courtesy of JuliusH on Pixabay.

Berri could not contain her reaction. Relief filled with delight at the compliment burst from her smile. “I am so glad you are happy with the results.”

“By the way, Berri,” Lynette said looking toward her companion, “I’d like you to meet Mr. Alexander Hughes. He is one of our largest benefactors. He so wanted to meet you.”

Berri reached her hand to meet his. “Hello, I’m Berri Woods, Sparkling-Spotlight Events. I’m pleased to meet you, Mr. Hughes.”

The man took her hand in a firm grip, “You can call me Zander,” he said as he removed his mask from his face to reveal familiar eyes and sandy-colored hair. “I’d like to talk to you more about your work here.”

Berri exchanged glances with Lynette, who smiled briefly then turned and left.

“I’d be happy to talk to you, Zander,” she grinned, “Is now a good time?”

He motioned toward two empty seats nearby. She took a seat across from him. Maybe fate had not forgotten her after all.

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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Introducing a New Feature – Mini Romances

If you love romance . . . if you love the joy that new love promises . . . if you are fascinated by the possibilities of what can happen after an initial meeting between potential lovers . . . you’ll love this new feature.

Mini-Romance is a new category where I share a new meet cute between destined lovers. What is more romantic then that first interaction between two people meant to be together?

You can experience, along with two very special soul mates, the exhilaration that is the first time they come in contact with the love of a lifetime.

Get started here.

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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