Category Archives: Daily writing prompts

Lessons That Last a Lifetime

A few days ago on Best Life Collaborative I wrote How Do You Manage Stress? In this post I wrote about a problem my daughter had sleeping, and how I taught her tools to manage stress. A few weeks ago, when she was having trouble falling asleep she was able to think back to how we solved her problem before and use those skills to help her again. #ProudMomMoment

Take a look at how she manages stress, and then let me know what you do to cope when things become too much! While you’re there, check out what our other members are writing about!

Get paid to write by Ashley Peterson
Moving outside your writing comfort zone by Ashley Peterson
How Essential Oils vs Depression/Anxiety Medication Stack Up in Studies by Kimberly Smyth
Still Elevating: Leadership by Johnett Guishard
Writing my way out: How writing has helped me deal with my mental health issues by Kristian Fogarty

Want to join us? Leave a comment or send an email to gratefulsinglemoms@yahoo.com!

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Lingering.

I Was Robbed!

As I drove into the park I checked the time on the clock. It was 9:36. I was later than I’d planned – by 6 minutes – because I’d stopped for gas on my way. Did the time matter? No, that’s just how I am sometimes. I had hoped to be home by 10:30 but that seemed unlikely. I wanted to run and wasn’t sure how far I’d make it.

Was it more important to be home early or run further? I hadn’t decided yet.

As I pulled into the lot at the back of the park, I mentally debated which spot to take. I pulled into one in front of the bathroom, just to the left of the walkway. Why did I put so much thought into which spot to take? The parking lot only had a few cars in it so it didn’t matter. I was going running so I didn’t need to park close to anything, after all I was there for the exercise. But that’s how I am.

I went into the bathroom and came out a few minutes later to find a black SUV parked in the spot next to my driver’s side. Their rear passenger door was open and I was annoyed because it was preventing me from opening my rear driver’s side door to get my sneakers. A man with dark complexion and black hair stood in front of the vehicle and motioned for me to get into my car. I told him I needed to get into the back, then indicated the open door.

As I did I noticed a woman at the back of their vehicle, the rear hatch open. I caught a glimpse of light brown wavy hair as she moved but I didn’t really pay attention.

The man spoke to me with an accent, his words mostly indistinguishable. He closed the door, and I was able to get into my car. I grabbed my gym bag and went to the passenger’s side to put on my shoes. The woman closed the hatch on their SUV, then both of them got into their vehicle and they drove away.

That’s odd, I thought, annoyed. They were there just long enough to get in my way.

I tied my sneakers and put on my knee brace. Grabbing my headphones I threw the bag back over to the driver’s side, slammed the door and locked it with the key fob. Hearing the double beep of the horn I started off through the parking lot toward the trail. As I half jogged, half walked through the lot I started the activity app on my Apple watch at 9:42, just 6 minutes after I entered the park. Then I picked up the pace a little.

I was moving slowly. I haven’t been running much and was recovering from a chest cold. I’d just finished an hour of yoga and really didn’t feel like going for a jog. I was hoping I’d feel better once I got to the wooded trail.

I didn’t. As I ran I convinced myself that one way or another it would be 2 miles before I got back to the car. I wasn’t going to feel less tired if I was walking and it would take longer to get back. That worked for the first mile, then I gave in. I walked the last mile and headed back to my car. I had been running 5 miles. Now I can’t even make it 2? Something has to change! I shut off the activity app: 10:12. Thirty minutes to go 2 miles?

With a mixture of frustration and determination I got back in my car and headed home. At home I jumped in the shower, quickly washing off the side effects of the run. As I got out of the shower my cell phone rang.

I wrapped a towel around me and answered. An automated female voice said, “Hello, this is Barclay card calling to report potentially fraudulent activity on your account. We must speak to you before you will be able to use your card.”

What? I immediately hung up. I don’t talk to people from credit card companies who call me. They could be anyone.

Looking at my phone I saw several text previews. All had the word FRAUD prominently in the message. I started to panic. Running into my kitchen I grabbed my wallet to get my credit card. I needed the number off the back so I could call them back to see what was going on. I could tell from the texts that more than one card was compromised. How had they gotten both those numbers?

That’s when I realized. All my credit cards, plus my debit card were missing.

Gone.

What? How?

Thinking back, it had to have been at the park. I got gas on my way to the park so I know I had my cards then. I came straight home afterward and I was home alone. It had to have been at the park.

I quickly called the bank to cancel my cards. It took 4 different people to do what had to be done, but they cancelled and reissued the cards. Only 1 transaction actually went through: $832.55 at Target. I wrote down the store number and the time of the transaction: 10:40. A second transaction in the amount of $900 was declined at 10:42. Another transaction for $900 on my debit card was also declined.

I called the second credit card company, regretting the collection of cards I’d accumulated. They had also declined a charge of $900 at Target.

Why hadn’t someone at the store realized this was happening? Self-checkout. As far as the store is concerned, so long as they get their money they don’t really care about anything else. It’s not their responsibility to make sure the credit card actually belongs to the person making the payment.

Once that one was cancelled I called the sheriff’s department. I met them back at the park and walked the officer through what happened. At first he thought I left my car unlocked, until we saw the bent lock and scratches on my driver’s door. Then he was convinced it was teenagers who broke into the vehicle. Apparently that happens a lot and he wasn’t convinced the man and woman I’d seen earlier were involved. And maybe they’re not.

But it seems like too big of a coincidence to ignore. What were they doing there? Why did the park right next to my driver’s door when the whole parking lot was empty? Why was their door open? Why did they leave so quickly?

None of it made sense – unless I interrupted them trying to break into my car. Then it all came clear. If their rear passenger door were open to block what they were doing from the prying eyes of people passing, then the fact they had parked right next to me made sense.

Even the officer had to agree with that logic. Forensics came and processed my car. I’m sure Target has them on video at their checkouts. But will they catch them? They made off with $832.55. My credit card company will reimburse that charge and write off the loss. All is good, right?

Except that they will keep doing this. They won’t stop. They didn’t get as much as they wanted to get but they got enough. I want to yell at the manager at Target for not having better controls. Why aren’t they responsible? When did we go from the cashier doing a perfunctory match of the signature on the card against a signature on the receipt to no validation for any charge?

I’m sure the argument would be that there’s no signature validation on the internet, so there doesn’t need to be one in the store. I’m sure they don’t want to get their staff involved. But how can we stop this if no one wants to be involved? There has to be some sort of validation. The fact that the credit card company has to eat the cost doesn’t fix the problem. That’s not enough.

No one wants to make it harder to buy things, but that’s the only way. There needs to be some sort of validation that the person making the charge is the person authorized to make the charge.

Do you agree?

#truestory

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Missing.

I Had Never Imagined the Possibilities

Get up. Go to work. Take care of the kids. Watch TV. Go to bed. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

For years this was my life. Before kids it was the same, minus the “take care of the kids” part (substitute dog for kids). That is what my life was. Sure, I had friends and sometimes we’d get together on the weekend, or I’d have dinner with my sister and her family. But this was pretty much it.

I dreamed of my life being different. I tried to get my ex husband interested in doing something together other than watching TV (something I regretted each time I tried). I looked into ways to pursue a career that wasn’t the 9-5 grind at a soulless company but was met with resistance from my ex and paralyzing self-doubt. I thought about writing in my free time, but the stories always remained in my head.

And so nothing ever changed.

My divorce 7 years ago was a catalyst for me. I won’t say that suddenly I was free to do all the things I had dreamed of doing, because in all honesty I was TERRIFIED of the responsibility I was shouldering. I felt overwhelmed. I had no idea how I was going to manage everything – a house, kids, work. Worst of all, I lacked confidence in myself to be able to handle some of life’s most basic challenges.

Change was slow in the beginning. But every little success built on previous successes. Every time I overcame a challenge, no matter how small, I gained faith in myself. I started meeting people who were living a life I’d want to live, and started thinking about ways I might be able to make that happen. Instead of telling myself all the reasons I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, follow my dreams I started taking action.

It wasn’t easy. And sometimes it’s still not easy. But I’m getting there.

I published my first book last April: Thriving Not Surviving: Bravely Pursue a Life That Will Blow Your Mind!

It was an achievement I had only ever dreamed of.

Shortly after that I began work on my novel. I won’t lie…writing fiction is just harder than writing non fiction. I love it, and I’m really proud of what I have so far, but I’m just over half way done the first solid draft and other priorities have pushed it to the side.

But that’s okay because I’m still moving toward my dreams. I’m still creating things, still writing.

Tonight I submitted the book my sister and I wrote together. It will be available soon on Amazon. It’s another non fiction: 6 Step Behavior Change Process. It’s a parenting guide to help parents of children with autism (although this process will work with any child). The book is great on its own, however we’re also making a journal available that matches the steps in the book. This provides a convenient place for parents to track their progress through the process.

I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. It’s yet another example of something I never would have imagined possible just a few years ago. And yet it’s becoming a reality.

We really do have more control over our lives than we realize. Even after all the changes I’ve made, all the ways I’ve grown, I’m still amazed at each and every achievement. And I’d like more than anything for you to realize your dreams as well!

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Haunting.

Writer’s Block Isn’t Fatal

After more than three months of struggling with writer’s block I was finally able to write. I posted a short snippet of a story yesterday in response to the word of the day. It’s not unlike something I wrote last year but I posted it anyway. Writing anything at all was the goal. Even better, I have been able to write a whole chapter in the novel I have been working on. (For more on this project see the post: With Eager Anticipation I Watch My Story Unfold)

I’ve also been writing for my sister’s blog (Accessible ABA). As part of that project we have a book that is close to being ready to publish. It will be part of a series titled Understanding Your Child with Autism. The first book is the 6 Step Behavior Change Process. In addition, because the process involves recording information we will be releasing a companion journal that follows the 6 steps. This is truly a project that has required us to combine our skills. She is the behavior expert; I am the writer. It’s not that she can’t write, but that isn’t her passion; it’s mine. So far it’s been a great experience and I’m looking forward to several other projects we have planned.

Over these months I’ve had brief bursts where I have been able to write, so it’s possible this isn’t the end to the writer’s block. But I can feel my creativity beginning to come back; the ideas are bubbling under the surface. It’s not quite as it was when I found inspiration everywhere, but I have faith it will get there. It might even be time for me to start carrying my journal with me again so I can write down my thoughts as they come to me. There are so many good ideas written there already…

Yes, just maybe writer’s block isn’t quite fatal.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Combine.

A Sanctuary from Her Past

“Welcome to the Inn at Bear Creek.” The petite woman at the front desk greeted me when I only had one foot over the threshold. Without responding I looked around the lobby of the small bed and breakfast I’d chosen. It would do. It would do quite well actually. It was quaint, a little too charming and perfect for my taste but then no one would think to look for me in a place with doilies on the tables and an antique settee by the fireplace.
 
I stepped up to the solid wood bar used as the registration desk, running my hand over the wood that had been worn smooth over time. How many women had stood in this exact spot looking for sanctuary? Or maybe the guests here were mostly couples looking for a romantic retreat. Maybe I was alone in my quest for solitude.

“You must be Mrs. Bennett -”

“Miss,” I corrected, without thinking. The name Bennett was fictional anyway. Did it matter if she called me Mrs.?

“Yes, of course.” She looked at a ledger spread out on the desk, running her finger along a list of names. “You will be in our ‘Lilacs and Lace’ room.”

Of course I am, I thought. I didn’t expect them to have a forest-themed room which would be more my style, but lace? Really?

“Thanks,” I said, trying to sound grateful.

“Your stay has been paid in full. I just need you to sign these forms…here…and here,” she said, pointing to the lines at the bottom of each page. I picked up the pen, then hesitated, the point poised over the paper. I’d practiced the signature over and over, wanting the act to look natural. The longer I waited the more nervous I became.

She’s going to notice, I thought. Just do it already!
My hand trembled slightly and I glanced at the woman. She was busy making a note in her ledger. You’re being paranoid. Sign the paper!

Taking a deep breath I forced my hand to scrawl the words Jessica Bennett. It wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped but I finished before she looked up. She tucked the pages into the back of her book, then handed me a key on a large keychain in the shape of a flower. With effort I kept from rolling my eyes. “Breakfast is served every morning from 7 to 9. It will be laid out in the dining room. Just help yourself.”

I nodded, suddenly barely able to contain my tears. This was how it had been since I started running. Even something simple like the thought of breakfast was enough to choke me with sobs. Would it ever get better or would my past keep haunting me forever?

It was too soon to know. There was really only one way out.

I took another deep breath. If I was going to get out of this I was going to have to fix it. I was going to have to change. It wouldn’t be easy, but the alternative was unthinkable.

I forced a smile on my face and said, “I’m sorry. I’m being rude. What was your name?”

Her face glowed. “You can call me Daisy, everybody does.”

I covered my sudden laugh with a cough. Of course her name was Daisy. “Well, Daisy, thank you for your hospitality.” I grabbed the key and turned, only then realizing I had no idea where the room was.

Daisy stepped around the bar, then reached for my bag. I grabbed it before she could get to it, smiling to soften my reaction. She looked momentarily taken aback before saying, “Let me show you to your room.”

I followed her up the staircase to the right of the entryway, the wood treads creaking under our feet. At least I’ll be able to hear anyone coming, I thought. She walked to the end of the hallway and stopped in front of the door to the left. “Make yourself comfortable, and please let me know if there’s anything I can do to make your stay more enjoyable,” she said before turning back down the hall.

The door swung open with a whine. As I entered the room I felt like I was walking into a new life. A better one, I thought with determination. Things are going to be okay.

Or so I hoped.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Haunting.

Is It Better to Follow a Plan?

I always used to be a planner. I believed having a plan and sticking to it was the best way to achieve goals. I studied SMART goal setting and repeatedly tried to follow the process. It never worked for me, and worse I spent more time working on setting up the process than I did following it through.

I had things I wanted to achieve and yet I wasn’t making progress. I was stuck.

Over time I started reading books that led me to realize my real problem was fear. I was afraid of what people would think. I was afraid I would fail. I wasn’t sure if I could do something and so I didn’t try to do it. It was safer that way.

I admit, I still have a little voice inside me that tells me I can’t do things or I’m not good enough. “What if it doesn’t work?” it sneers.

But I’ve gotten better at responding, “What if it does?”

I’ve also found that allowing myself a backup plan helps. While the girls were on winter break I took on the major project of redoing their bedrooms. Normally we would just paint and rearrange things a bit but this time I decided I was going to do it all. I ripped out their carpets, changed their electrical outlets (they were so loose they could barely plug anything in them) and tore down the old shelves in their closets.

At various points that fear would grip me. As I pulled up the rug and thought about how I was going to pull tack strips out of concrete I thought, “What if I can’t get all the nails out?” Rather than letting it stop me I allowed myself a backup plan. If I couldn’t get the nails out then I would hire someone to help. Normally I’d ask my neighbor but he was gone for 2 weeks…but I’d ask someone. The city is full of people who can get nails out of concrete.

But I found out that I could do it. I got every last one of them out. Maybe it wasn’t the best way, or the easiest way. But I did it.

After painting, my daughters and I started laying the new flooring. I had selected vinyl planks, similar to wood laminate but more durable. I had laid wood laminate before, or rather I’d assisted laying it before. I’d never done it on my own, but I understood how it worked. We laid the first row and I had to cut the first plank. The instructions said “score with a utility knife and snap it.” It was not as simple as it sounded and I began to worry about how hard it was to cut.

We pressed on to the second row and found that the second piece in the second row was quite a challenge. Getting it to lock into two sides was much more difficult than one. I started to feel discouraged. The room isn’t huge but suddenly the task felt daunting. “Is this too much for us to take on?” I wondered.

But I knew that things get easier the more you do them and so I pressed on. I should not have been surprised when after the 4th or 5th row we had a smooth process and we were moving along faster than I’d ever expected.

In the end, the first room came out fantastic. The second is done except for finding a place to store all her treasures (no pictures of that room until it’s cleaned up!).

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I’ve done the same with my writing. I was able to publish my first book by taking control of that little voice of doubt inside me. Working furiously to finish before a tight deadline (that I’d imposed on myself) gave me little time to worry and the community here on WordPress helped bolster my courage.

I’m now working on a novel, when I can. It’s probably 1/3 done and I’ve been taking a break to work on another writing project. My sister asked me to help her write for her blog and I now find myself writing about children with autism. This isn’t a topic I know a lot about, but I’m learning. I worry as I’m writing…”Am I saying this the right way? Will people take offense if I say that?” My sister has posted our second collaborative post and although I’m still learning I am getting more comfortable:

How to Help Siblings Get Along When One or More Has Autism

Honestly the things I’m learning I could have used when my kids were little!

We are also working on a book series with the tentative title “Understanding Your Child with Autism.”

This isn’t a direction I’d planned to take, but I’ve decided that sometimes NOT sticking with a plan is the best course of action. Keeping myself open to possibilities might actually help me achieve more than I could ever plan for.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Plan.

Goodbye 2018!

December has been a busy month. I guess that’s not unusual for us but the holidays for us involves traditions that we just won’t give up no matter how packed our schedule is.

Every year we have a cookie making party. This year we had 8 teenagers spend the weekend baking cookies and cakes – okay, mostly cakes because what they really enjoy these days is decorating cakes. There was flour everywhere and they used over 30 eggs. There are still 6 open cans of frosting in my fridge that need to be thrown away.

We also visit the lights at a park with family friends every year. We have been doing this since 2013 and even though the girls we bring are now 15 and 17 they still get excited about going. The 4 girls pose for hundreds of pictures at the same places they’ve been standing for years and looking back we can see how much they’ve changed.

We fit these activities in on top of Christmas shopping, wrapping, decorating and more.

As if that weren’t enough, we fostered kittens, three this time. They were with us for over 3 weeks and although they started off timid and scared they eventually grew to be more adventurous.

My daughter held a yard sale the weekend before Christmas where we sold some of our furniture – 3 book cases and a sectional sofa, making room and clearing clutter. We began renovating my daughter’s room, removing everything including the carpet. I’ve never seen so much sand under a carpet before! Where does it come from? We changed the walls from purple to grey and finally painted the baseboards that have been the horrible yellow that was there since we moved in 8 years ago. I took down the old shelving in the closet to make room for more functional storage. My younger daughter’s room is next…after we finish.

I stuck to running a couple times a week and am up to 5 miles now. I can hold yoga poses I had once thought impossible. I got back out on my bike Christmas day and did 20 miles in spite of the tires being flat. I feel strong and fit.

On top of everything the girls had another trip to NH for their third funeral this year. While it was sad saying goodbye to yet another grandparent this one was not only expected but in many ways a relief. Their dad’s father had been suffering for a long time and he is now at peace.

We have definitely finished 2018 with a bang. I look forward to what 2019 will bring!

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Traditions.