Flash non fiction

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Photo by Martha Himes
  1. Its crisp, unblemished exterior and empty pages are a beacon of hope: the new bullet journal that will change your life, the brilliant words you’ll write, the groundbreaking art you will draw. This will be the notebook you tell your secrets to, the secrets that will draw readers into your fantastic world. This will be the notebook where you solve the unsolvable equation, where you name the fruit fly you’ve discovered. You will travel down the Amazon with this notebook on voyages of discovery. There are no masks or social distancing where this notebook will take you.

The price of fame

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Aimee Semple McPherson by Albert Witzel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Britney Spears documentary “Framing Britney” has ignited a discussion of the way famous women are treated by the media and society at large. The unrealistic standards of expected behavior and the outrageous intrusions into their private lives make both normal development (in younger women) and personal relationships (in older women) impossible. But none of this is new, and it goes beyond the music and movie industries.

Canadian Aimee Semple McPherson became an evangelical minister in 1915. She rapidly mastered the art of promotion. By annually touring America in her car, leading tent meetings as she traveled, she became nationally…


I now understand why Joan Didion wrote “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

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Photo by Syarafina Yusof on Unsplash

He had a hockey game that evening and would be home late. She took an Advil PM so he wouldn’t wake her up when he rolled into bed at midnight, after a few beers and burgers with the team, probably turning on the TV so he could fall asleep to the newscasters’ voices. And he didn’t wake her when he got into bed; he didn’t wake her until he started groaning.

Through her fog of sleep, she thought, “He’s having a nightmare.” It wasn’t unusual for him to make nightmare-related groans in his sleep. …


Flash Fiction

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Photo by Reuben Mcfeeters on Unsplash

Five pies were lined up on the table. Lola’s was in the middle, a coconut cream made entirely from scratch, topped with fluffy soft clouds of whipped cream. She’d gotten the recipe on last year’s tenth anniversary trip to Aruba, from the chef at the local café. In return, she’d paid him $20 and promised she’d only make the pie in the state of Vermont and never for sale.

She’d known the pie was a winner with her first bite: the sweet chewiness of coconut meat embraced by a fragrant vanilla pudding and punctuated by the Caribbean tang of lime…


Easy ways to beat the wintertime blues

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Photo by Martha Himes

February is the cruelest month. It doesn’t have the “New Year, New You” shininess of January. Now you’re in the slog, keeping those resolutions going (or not). You thought January weather was bad? February says hold my beer. The days may be getting longer but that just gives you more time to look out at the gloom.

I was raised in a sunnier clime than the one I now live in. I had a lot of difficulty adjusting when I moved here, and spent several years looking for ways to make winter tolerable. I don’t have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)…


Piecing together the truth of childhood

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The lies started with Hymie, our gentle, docile ram. He lived in our chain-link-fenced-in city backyard. As small children, we used to ride him around the yard. One morning when I was about 5, I came down to breakfast to be informed that Hymie hadn’t been happy living with us, and Mom had sent him to live on a farm.

Ah, the old “live on a farm” fib, you’re thinking. Not me. After my mom’s funeral when I was 25, I mentioned Hymie to my sister — six years older than me — who replied, “You still believe that? He…


A Golden Age of Church Shopping

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Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash

For the unchurched but curious, the pandemic has made it easier than ever to find your religious fit. Yea, we are verily in a golden age of church shopping.

Pre-pandemic, choosing a congregation involved interacting directly with church members and staff. In a small town, there was no hope of anonymity. The swarm of welcome after the service could be overwhelming. Any time I visited a church, I felt like I was letting them down by not joining — even if it was my sister’s church six states away.

I’m not complaining about being embraced by a community. It’s one…


Don’t know your past, don’t know your future

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Photo by Spenser on Unsplash

In his novel “Exit West,” Mohsin Hamid depicts the start of civil war as a series of street battles, with territory claimed block-by-block by the rebels. First, his protagonists hear gunfire from afar while dining and see refugees camping on their sidewalks. After a few months, the bullets and bombs come closer and closer, until they rain on Saeed and Nadia’s house.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the past few centuries, it’s that civil war kind of sneaks up on you. Gradually a portion of a community becomes so distressed that they pick up arms. Local battles spread…


No New Year has ever been this happy

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Photo by Seyedeh Hamideh Kazemi on Unsplash

I’m one of those annoying people who makes plans for the upcoming year. I’ve made page-long lists of resolutions, set lofty goals, debated One Little Word.

I can’t even tell you what my goals or word were for 2020. Any intentions I had for the year got blown out of the water with my husband’s fatal heart attack in early February. Instead of thriving, I began what Katherine May describes in her new book as “wintering,” hibernating and taking care of myself. Not self-pity, exactly, but rather resting and re-gathering my strength.

My life shrank still more a month later…


Why gratitude? Why now?

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Tree at the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, Hyde Park, NY. Photo by author

I’m a bit of a crank, a Hobbesian “life is nasty, brutish and short” kinda gal. When I learned about that line from Leviathan in high school, I felt like I’d found my personal philosophy. A couple of years ago I got tagged when that ten days of gratitude meme was rolling through Facebook. I posted ten days of crabbiness instead. I’ve been described by a dear friend as “a small, bitter woman” (SBW for short). When friends gloat on social media, I comment “Oh, shut up.” I wear irascibility like a badge of pride.

So no one was more…

Martha Himes

Motto: “Weirdness is magic turned inside out with the label showing.” Mark Feeney, Boston Globe 11/26/20.

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