5 Podcasts That Prove Not All Podcasts Have To Be “Dudes With a Mic Cracking Jokes”

Podcasting is still a relatively new medium, but it is quickly becoming more mainstream. Due to the success of shows like WTF with Marc Maron, it sometimes seems like the only viable format for a podcast is “dudes with a mic cracking jokes”.

This format varies slightly, but it basically boils down to one or two dudes sitting in front of a mic, just talking about life with no real structure. Sometimes, they do this with a special guest (usually a stand-up comedian), and sometimes they do it without a special guest.

Now, there is nothing wrong with these types of podcasts. I love them. There are some amazing shows that follow this format and use it to its full potential. However, just like I wouldn’t want every movie to be a comedy, or a drama, or a documentary, I don’t want my podcasts to all be cookie cutter shows. I want variety. I want originality. I want… more.

And that’s just what the Internet gives me.

I listen to podcasts every day of my life. I walk a lot and take public transportation, so I burn through my podcasts like a box of Girl Scout cookies. It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t listen to them just how devoted you get to your shows, just how invested you get in that weekly fix. It’s different than any other medium. You feel connected to a podcast. You feel like part of a family. You feel like you’ve uncovered a long lost treasure, and you want to share it with the world.

That’s what this list is – my chance to share my treasures with the world. I’ve written about some podcasts in the past that I love, but this list is going to focus specifically on my favorite shows that shatter the “dudes with a mic cracking jokes” format.

1 – Limetown

Limetown is an old school radio drama that plays off of the success of Serial. In the first season, American Public Radio reporter Lia Haddock investigates the mystery surrounding the community of Limetown, which had a strange tragedy strike it ten years ago. As her investigation pries deeper into the mystery, she quickly starts getting answers to questions she didn’t even know to ask.

I don’t want to say anything else about the plot, because it’s far too delicious to uncover yourself. Do yourself a favor. Grab a cup of tea and a blanket, curl up in a comfy chair, and just enjoy the journey.

Intense at times, scary at times, and always intriguing, Limetown is by far the best example of the recent rash of serialized mystery podcasts. It is well-produced, well-written, and well-acted. It is also addictive from the very first episode. Luckily, the entire first season has already aired, so you don’t have to go through the agony of waiting for the newest episode to drop. Now is the perfect time to get caught up.

Of course, we’re still waiting on the second season…

You can check out their webpage at http://www.limetownstories.com/ to start your own listening adventure.

2 – You Must Remember This

If you have any affinity at all for old Hollywood, old movie stars, or history, you have to check out You Must Remember This. Helmed by Karina Longworth, who also narrates, this show takes you on a trip through the fist century of Hollywood, digging deeper into the lives and scandals of the people you thought you knew.

What impresses me most about this show is the depth of the research Karina does on each and every topic. It is truly a passion project for her, and it shows in every episode. She is able to present the history of Tinseltown in an informative, personal, and entertaining way that manages to humanize the revered, and revere the forgotten.

My personal favorite episodes are the series she did about Charles Manson’s Hollywood. They are truly frightening and sad. The episode focusing on Dennis Wilson was particularly moving and poignant.

To listen for yourself, you can check out the website at: http://www.youmustrememberthispodcast.com/

3 – The Arkham Sessions

Okay, I’ll admit it. This one might be a little niche for some. Even if you’re not addicted to all things Batman the way I am, however, I think there is still something to enjoy. If you are addicted to all things Batman, how are you not listening to it already?

Dr. Andrea Letamendi and Brian Ward walk us through Batman: The Animated Series, episode by episode, and dive into the psychology of the characters, including Batman himself and his greatest foes. It’s a fascinating dive into the very nature of the human mind, and I daresay you may just come out on the other side a wiser, more compassionate person.

Who would’ve thought you could do all that with a cartoon show about a grown man in a cape?

I enjoy this show for the serious way they approach the subject matter, and how clinical the discussion is, while never losing the sense of fun and almost whimsy.

You can check out their website at the following link: http://www.underthemaskonline.com/the-arkham-sessions/.

4 – Crime Writers On…

Of course, anyone who has ever heard of a podcast knows about Serial. Its the gold standard against which all other podcasts are measured now. Crime Writers On… started off as a show about a group of crime writers sitting around and talking about the minutiae of every episode of Serial, but it has since evolved into so much more than that.

Rebecca Lavoie, Kevin Flynn, Lara Bricker, and resident naysayer (as they lovingly call him) Toby Ball have done an excellent job expanding a simple concept into an artfully produced show that discusses not just Serial, but all true crime related topics. This includes reviews of crime-related television shows and podcasts, interviews with authors, journalists, content creators, and law enforcement officials, as well as looking at current headlines for (often humorous) crime stories. The charm and chemistry of the hosts really sells the entire show, and the production values are top notch.

Follow Crime Writers On… at http://www.crimewriterson.com/

5 – Read it and Weep

Read it and Weep might, on its face, seem like just another one of the plethora of “bad movie podcasts” out there, but the truth is that it is much more than that. First of all, the hosts tackle bad books and television shows as well as movies, but that variety alone is not really what sets this podcast apart from the pack.

Read it and Weep is truly unique in the way it approaches the pain of enduring bad art. Most podcasts just go through the movie they watched plot point by plot point, poking fun and cracking jokes as they go along. Read it and Weep adds another layer of madness and hilarity by integrating games, elaborate ads, and forced, (mostly) genuine, compliments from each participant at the beginning and end of the show. It also benefits from having a mostly stable cast of hosts, with a variety of returning guests rounding out each episode.

Read it and Weep also allows sponsored episodes, so the variety of bad books and movies they are forced to endure is painful and wonderful. I haven’t researched it so I can’t say for sure, but I’d be very surprised if any other podcast has covered My Immortal, Look Who’s Talking, Fuller House, Star Wars Episode I, all the Twilight books and movies, and 50 Shades of Grey.

Catch Read it and Weep at: http://read-weep.com/

Advertisements

APRIL WINNER- AMBER’S PICK Sunday Afternoon By Rachel Oberg

Throwback Thursday! Let’s Throwback to last Friday, when I should have been posting this amazing story. It’s a great short story worth waiting for, though, so I think that’ll make up for it.

I present to you my pick for winner of the April submission period – Sunday Afternoon by Rachel Oberg. I dare you to read this and not be immediately a) compelled by the story and b) hungry! It’s such a descriptive and captivating piece. Like most good short stories, it’s a complete tale of its own but it’ll leave you wanting more.

 

Sunday Afternoon

By Rachel Oberg

The smell of garlic burning brought her out of her daydream. She swore and clicked off the flame. She dumped the scorched garliac into the compost, wiped out the cast iron skillet and set it back on the stove. She minced a few more cloves, setting aside their papery skins to use in veggie stock. The carrots were in the oven already, soon to be browned at the edges, sweetened by honey, with a touch of salt and pepper and a sprinkle of cayenne. The bread had come out just before the carrots had gone in. When she leaned in close she could hear it crackling as it cooled. She inhaled and closed her eyes.

Freshly baked bread took her back to childhood. Mom pulling out the fresh loaves of her signature bread, ready to be slathered with butter (or margarine, it was the 90’s). It took her to early memories, hazy enough that they could have been a dream. Oma’s hands showing how to shape the Zwiebach buns, her little hands trying to mimic the motion. Praise from Oma, her gentle voice encouraging her young granddaughter as she learned a generations old recipe. Her eyes flitted over to the framed recipe on the wall. Written by Oma’s hand. She would make them again soon aided only by memories this time. She couldn’t call Oma to help over the phone. She missed that.

She turned the stove back on and added a bit more oil. She loved the way it rippled when it got hot. She added a big pat of butter and then another and watched as they sizzled and began to brown. She threw in the garlic and the smell wafted up to her nose. She breathed deeply. The garlic just needed thirty seconds. This time it wouldn’t burn. She added some white wine and turned the heat down to low. It would reduce into a simple sauce, perfect to coat the homemade pasta she’d spent the afternoon rolling and cutting. She didn’t mind. That kind of work was good for the soul.

She opened the screen door and the dog shot past her. Hopping and barking at the tree where he’d seen a squirrel earlier. Then running over to her husband at the barbecue. She smiled. She bent over her garden box to see what was growing. The beans had popped up, some squash plants were flowering, and the tomatoes were getting tall. She snipped off some garlic chives and plucked a big handful of basil leaves. The smell was intoxicating. No wonder the bees wouldn’t leave the basil flowers alone. She walked over to the barbecue. Her husband pulled her over and hugged her tight. He smelled like campfire. “Chicken’s almost ready” he said. She smiled and called the dog to come back inside and keep her company.

She washed and dried the herbs, chopping them with her sharpest knife. They’d be passed around the table for people to sprinkle on the pasta as they wished. The salted water was boiling. Huge rolling bubbles, sometimes jumping over the edge of the pot and making the flame sizzle. She added the pasta, stirring so it wouldn’t stick. It would only need a minute. She tasted the browned butter sauce. It had reduced nicely, but still needed to be seasoned. Just salt and pepper this time. She added a bit of the starchy pasta water to the sauce before draining the pasta, then added the pasta to the skillet. She stirred it gently then tasted it. She sighed. It was good. She took the carrots out of the oven. They needed a pinch more salt. The best way to bring out the flavors of a dish.

She pulled the parmesan cheese out of the fridge and scraped it along the grater, transparent curls falling and melting over the hot pasta. The dog ran over, eyes begging for a taste. She laughed and tossed a chunk of the rind that bounced off his nose and fell to the floor. Her smile widened as she shook her head. As she sliced the bread she heard children laughing outside. Not hers. Maybe someday. Her heart ached a little at the thought. For now, this was enough. She walked to the stove and took another taste of pasta. The cool breeze through the open window mingled with the smell of the sauce. They were like refreshment to her soul. She heard voices outside. These she recognized. Their family away from family. The doorbell rang. She took a breath and walked over to open the door.

 

Rachel grew up in Ontario, Canada, but now resides in Southern California with her husband and dog. She loves everything to do with food (except doing the dishes), could spend all day reading Lee Child novels, and is obsessed with eating French baguettes and croissants.

APRIL/MAY 2016 SUBMISSIONS OPEN!

Hey, all! We’ve picked our April winners. Now it’s time for you to get something submitted for next month!

We accept all fiction and non-fiction pieces, including blog posts, short stories, opinion pieces, thought pieces, clickbait, lists, news analysis, political analysis, general interest pieces, pop culture reviews and opinions, whatever you got, we want it! Send it to UpWriteLadies@gmail.com. This month’s deadline in 11:59 PM PST on APRIL 28. Get writing!

 

APRIL WINNER- SARAH’S PICK A Rainy Day By Susan Belshaw

Below is my (Sarah’s) pick for April, 2016. It’s called A Rainy Day, and it is a non-fiction devotional piece. I selected it because it is a beautifully written example of finding a spiritual depth in your everyday life, an example I personally aspire to each and every day.

A Rainy Day

By Susan Belshaw

“Mommy,” my 5-year old daughter called out to me from the kitchen table, “why doesn’t God make peas M&M green? I might eat them then!”

As I continued with my dishwashing I replied matter-of-factly, “Because that’s not the way He makes them. Now eat up, we have a lot of errands to run.”

I moved into the bedroom to make the bed. I heard Rachel in the living room beginning to serenade me with her banging on the old upright piano. “Mommy,” she called out, “why doesn’t God make it so everyone can play the piano? Then we’d have such beautiful music.”

“Because,” I called out,” He makes everyone special in his or her own way. Now get your shoes on, it’s time to go.”

I was putting on my coat and looking for the umbrella when she asked me, “Why doesn’t God give us whatever we want when we want it so we can be happy all the time?”

I found the umbrella, but couldn’t find the car keys. As I rummaged through my purse I answered, “ God knows what’s best for us, and He always does what is best, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.” Ah, I had found the keys, the umbrella and the answers to some of life’s tough questions all in one afternoon. I was on a roll!

The rain was really coming down. I got drenched trying to help Rachel into her car seat. I was thinking of all the important errands I had to run as I slid into the driver’s seat and hoped the car would start right up. As I put it into “reverse”, I noticed that the windshield wipers did not come on. I pressed the button again: nothing. I put the car back into “park”. I muttered, “ Not today, I need them today.” I repeatedly pressed the button to no avail. Why today of all days, I wondered.

“Mommy.” Rachel spoke up. “I bet God knew we needed to have our windshield wipers break today. He always does what’s best.” she smiled.

I dropped my head on the steering wheel and sighed audibly. The last thing I needed was a simplistic, childish answer to a very real and complex problem I was experiencing. Then it hit me. It hit me so hard, I sat up straight. Had I been giving Rachel simplistic answers to her complex questions all morning?

We all have questions. Life is a journey of ever changing circumstances. Nothing is set for life. There are always changes and with the changes come questions. Many times we offer each other solutions based on our own limited experiences, merely to put each other off instead of seeking after the truth. Look at Job and his friends. They were more interested in tying up loose ends than they were in trying to discover the truth.

The questions in life can be just as important as the answers. Life is a journey, a process, and that process contributes to our growth and produces our character. Why do we try to rush through it? Reaching out to God is as important as holding on to Him.

As I sat back contemplating the morning and the windshield wipers, I looked in the rear view mirror at Rachel. She was hesitant, no longer smiling. I knew she was waiting for a cue from me. The errands could wait.

.” What say you and I go into the kitchen and make some hot chocolate?”

“OK Mommy!” Dashing from the car to the house she squealed at the rain drops. I watched her as she wiggled out of coat and shoes. As she climbed up onto the stool in the kitchen, her eyes danced with anticipation of the hot chocolate. I poured some chocolate syrup onto a spoon and let her lick it while I stirred the pot. For the first time today I didn’t feel hurried or stressed. I was able to stop and smell the chocolate, so to speak, as we waited for our drink to heat. Life is a journey, not a destination. So right then, I decided while watching Rachel, with chocolate dripping down her chin, to enjoy the ride.

Susan Belshaw is an ageless writer and stand-up comedian who currently resides in Florida. She enjoys spending time with her three grandchildren.

Sarah Fights Movie Fights

I am in no way affiliated with or an owner or creator of Movie Fights or Screen Junkies. I’m just a huge fan, and this is meant only as a fun way for me (Sarah) to flex my argument muscles. No copyright infringement or offense or hard feelings are intended.

If you don’t know what Movie Fights is, it’s a youttube show created by Screen Junkies where nerds get to fight about stuff that really matters, namely comic books, movies, and pop culture. Since I, obviously, will never be invited to be on the show, I thought it would be fun to watch their latest movie fight and put my two cents in about what I would argue. Below is a link to the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luWszLI09R0

Just to be fair, I’m not going to take down the other fighter’s answers, since they can’t respond to me here. I’m just going to present the argument for my choice.

Again, I am not affiliated with Screen Junkies or Movie Fights in anyway.

First Fight: Which Actor Has Had the Best Performance in a Bad Movie?

My answer: Hugh Jackman in X-Men: The Last Stand

First of all, you can’t argue that X-Men: The Last Stand isn’t a bad movie. Just saying the title aloud makes all X-Men fans, and all movie fans, groan. It was so bad that they had to make an entire movie just to undo all the damage that X-Men: The Last Stand did to the franchise.

That being said, Hugh Jackman is still really good in it. He gives Wolverine his usual bravado and charm, but he also really makes the emotional scenes impactful. The movie as a whole doesn’t work, but Hugh Jackman really stands above the rest and rises above the bad material with another solid performance. He could sleepwalk through the movie by that point, but he didn’t. All of the other actors seems bored or lost or just phoning it in, but his performance is on a different level. He brought his A game. He is the best part of an otherwise atrocious movie.

Second Fight: Which Stallone Movie Would Work Better With Arnold?

My Answer: Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

Stallone is so his own person it’s hard to recast him. To make it work for this fight, it has to work BETTER than casting Stallone. I would argue that most of his roles are iconic because of what he brings to them. Even if he’s not an amazing actor, he does what he does very well. Therefore, I looked for a movie where he was absolutely NOT doing what he does best (i.e. being tough and punching people). Comedy is not in his wheelhouse. Children’s movies are not in his wheelhouse. He doesn’t understand them, just like he doesn’t understand comedy. Arnold has more experience doing both comedy and children’s movies (Kindergarten Cop, Twins, Junior, Jingle All the Way), therefore I chose SpyKids 3-D: Game Over to replace Stallone.

Think about it. Arnold would have brought the same level of action stardom to the role. Kids know Arnold probably even better than Stallone, so it would have been just as fun if not more fun for them to see him do this part. Plus, watching Arnold play a villain in a children’s movie would be hilarious. The movie would not miss a beat, and Arnold would bring another layer of goofiness and weird charm to the role than Stallone did.

Fight 3: What Superhero Would You Want To Be For An Entire Year?

My Pick: Superman

This is SO OBVIOUS I can’t even believe no one picked him. OF COURSE I want to BE Superman. He’s basically immortal. He can fly, he’s indestructible, he’s as close to being a god as you can ever get. He isn’t emotionally damaged like Batman. He isn’t a raging alcoholic. He doesn’t have the issues that other heroes have. He’s a good person, he’s a good guy. As long as you go into every situation with Lex just ASSUMING he has kryptonite and make a contingency plan, I’ll be golden. I can literally do and accomplish anything I want.

Fight 4: If You Could Punch One Actor In The Face, Who Would It Be?

My Answer: Tom Hanks

I don’t want to punch anyone in the face ever, so I’m picking someone who’s so nice I can punch him and then immediately apologize, and he’ll not only forgive me I could probably ask him for a hug and he’ll say “okay”. It’s well documented that he’s the nicest guy in show business. He’s amazingly sweet and giving, and he’d forgive me for hurting someone. Anyone else would hold a grudge, and how could I live with myself for that?

Fight 5: Which Movie Character Deserves Its Own Lego Set and Lego Movie?

My Answer: Princess Bride.

Another no-brainer. Princess Bride has amazing sets: The Pit of Despair, the castle, the boat, the Cliffs of Insanity… lots of possibilities for fun and building and recreating your own adventures. There are lots of swords and other weapons and props you could use. You also have pirate, knights, “the man in black”, Andre the Giant, the six-fingered man, the list goes on and on. Every character is iconic and would be instantly recognizable as a Lego piece. The movie also has a lot of humor all ready, so translating it to a movie would be perfectly in line with the canon film without changing much.

Fight 6: Pitch a Blockbuster as a Low-Budget Indie

My Answer: The Dark Knight Rises

Everyone loved The Dark Knight. Everyone loved Batman Begins. What went wrong with The Dark Knight Rises? The answer is that the passion for the characters was gone. The passion for a cohesive story was gone. If Chris Nolan had been forced to focus more on the things that made the first two movies so good, we could have avoided the bloated mess that was The Dark Knight Rises. We know that Christopher Nolan is an incredibly creative director. He’s made movies with low budgets before, and he’s made them look amazing. If instead of just trying to duplicate his box office success he had been forced to get creative again and make things work with very little money, this movie would have been more interesting and more fun for everyone.

These are my answers! I didn’t let myself use the answers any of the fighters used, since that’s the rules. What are your answers? Let me know!

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Overall Grade: C-

First of all, there will be some spoilers here so if you care about that kind of thing, see the movie and come back later. I’m not going to go out of my way to spoil things, but I’m not going to avoid it, either. Just giving you fair warning.

You know the characters. You love them. You put a towel around your neck and pretend to be them in the backyard… or maybe that’s just me.

Whatever. Don’t judge me.

Anyway, this is the movie we’ve all been waiting for. Batman and Superman finally on screen together. What could be better?

Turns out, either of them separately.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a terrible movie. There is a lot to like here, and a ton of unrealized potential to be an amazing superhero slam-bang action flick for the ages. Alas, it ultimately falls short.

Let’s start with the positive:

1 – Ben Affleck is actually a good Batman. He’s older and wiser, and a hell of a lot more cynical and jaded, but he still kicks a lot of ass. I like the way this film emphasizes the detective aspect of being Batman, and how he uses each of his personas to the maximum degree to achieve his goals. I also like how secret identities don’t remain too secret to the smart people. It felt right. Also, he uses a voice modifier instead of a gravely voice. Good choice.

2 – Jeremy Irons is a great Alfred. Well, let’s be honest. Jeremy Irons is just great in general. But I like the way this Alfred is always seen doing practical, mechanical things. He’s much more of a partner than a butler. He’s not as quipy as other Alfreds have been, but I’m hoping he’ll have an expanded role in the future so he gets more screen time.

Just let Jeremy Irons be in everything, okay?

3 – The actual Batman versus Superman fight is AWESOME. It’s everything you want it to be, BUT–

(the Bad now)

1 – IT TAKES TOO DAMN LONG TO GET TO THE FIGHT! I mean, come on! It’s CALLED Batman V. Superman! Why does it take almost 2 whole hours to see them go at it?

2 – The movie is bloated and has WAY too much going on. The entire Zod suplot needed to be out of there. The whole focus should have been on the building tension between these two titans, and then their battle, the end. 90 minutes, in and out. A streamlined, simplified script would have been nice. And needed.

3 – Wonder Woman was useless and wasted. Again, that’s because there was too much going on. She should have been integral to the plot, trying to make peace and not wanting to choose sides, even if she has loyalties (which she doesn’t seem to). As it is, in this movie, she doesn’t seem to have a motivation for anything she does. Either give her something to DO, or just cut her out until the next one.

4 – The geography was weird and distracting. It took no one any time to get anywhere, and also since when are Gotham and Metropolis like in eye-sight of each other? Time, space, and scale was all wonky on every level, and it kept taking me out of the movie. I hated that. And you know it’s bad if I’m complaining about it.

5 – When people aren’t punching stuff, it’s boring. When people are punching stuff, it’s confusing.

6 – The chases are terrible, make no sense, and are hard to follow.

7 – Even if she’s played by Amy Adams, Lois Lane is a dumbass that I hate. Always have, always will.

Overall, I wasn’t bored by the film for the most part. It needed to be about an hour shorter, and I’m in no rush to see it again, but it was also uneven and inconsistent. You spend the whole movie thinking you’re building up to one thing, then that happens, then something ELSE happens for another forty minutes. It’s just too much.

Get Your Submissions In Now!

The March/April submission period is almost over, so NOW is the time to get your stories in!

You might have some questions, so below learn more about what we’re looking for:

What Can I Submit to UpWriteLadies?

Anything! We will take your fiction or non-fiction pieces, including blog posts! Write about your views on religion, pop culture, art, entertainment, life, politics, or whatever. Or dust off that old story you’ve been working on for months and send it to us! We want to give YOU a forum to share YOUR voice, in whatever form that takes.

Just be sure to check out our submission guidelines first, then send your file to UpWriteLadies@gmail.com!

Why Should I Submit Something?

There are so many reasons!

First of all, winning submissions are posted right here on the first and third Fridays of the month, so your story and your voice can get out there to a broader audience. This will expand your readership and help you influence a whole new circle of amazing women (and men).

Second of all, the entire point of UpWriteLadies is to give YOU a voice. We want all women everywhere to share their passions, whatever those may be.

Thirdly, it’s fun! Every month, you get to see what we’re reading, what we’re loving, and what your fellow women writers are producing. Join the fun! Join the revolution!

 

– Sarah

 

Everything I Know About Being A Woman, I Learned From Roz Doyle By Sarah

Few female characters in the history of television have kicked as much butt or taken as many names as Roz Doyle, the amazing radio producer on the sitcom Frasier, played for eleven seasons by Peri Gilpin. I grew up watching episodes of Frasier in syndication, but it wasn’t until the entire run was put up on Netflix that I realized how truly awesome Roz Doyle really is, and how much she taught me about what it means to be a woman in the modern world.

Don’t Apologize for Being Good at Your Job

The first thing Roz taught me is that being good at your job isn’t something to be ashamed of. From the first episode, Roz is an amazing producer, and she makes no bones about it. She never cows to male counterparts or refuses to speak up for fear of offending someone.

Importantly, she doesn’t belittle anyone else or pick fights just for the sake of arguing, either. She is just an extremely competent radio producer with ideas and opinions, and she makes sure her male colleagues take her seriously. She will challenge them when they are wrong, listens to them when they are right, and through sheer tenacity and talent manages to be considered a true equal in every respect. From this example, I learned to be confident in my workplace. I learned not to undersell my talents and abilities, but to be proud of my accomplishments.

Men Don’t Define Me

Unlike many sitcom characters, Roz Doyle doesn’t end up married or in a serious relationship at the end of Frasier. She dated a lot and came close a few times, but in the end she ended up single.

And you know what?

That’s just fine.

Roz was happy being single. She had an amazing daughter she was raising on her own, she had a close network of family and friends who loved and respected her, and she had the career and life she had built for herself over years of struggle and hardships. She was not defined by the man in her life. She defined success on her terms. Of course, she battled the same insecurities as all women do, but the important lesson I learned from her example is that I don’t need a traditional life to be happy. I don’t need to wait for a Prince Charming to rescue me.

I can rescue myself.

Just like Roz.

Men and Women Can Be “Just Friends”

Frasier and Roz are friends.

Just friends.

Sure, they’re both tempted to see if their relationship could be more romantic, and even sleep together at one point, but they immediately recognize it was a horrible mistake. They both know they wouldn’t work as a romantic couple, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be close. They refuse to let that fact ruin the beautiful relationship they do have, however. They don’t have to be lovers to love each other. They will always love each other, no matter what.

And that friendship is more important to either of them than any marriage or dating relationship would ever be.

From this relationship, I learned that it’s okay to have platonic friends. I don’t have to feel awkward about being “just friends”. I don’t have to worry about “the friend zone”. The friend zone can be a pretty awesome place to be.

Unfortunately, there have not been many female sitcom characters who are as strong, dedicated, loyal, and independent as Roz Doyle. Here’s hoping the next generation gets someone as amazing to look up to.

THE SECOND FEBRUARY SUBMISSION WINNER: A Christmas Star Wish by Vanessa Martin

 

 

 

 

Below is our second published piece from reader submissions! This week (and only a day late) is Amber’s Pick. It is a fictional children’s short story written by Vanessa Martin.

The reason I picked this piece is ultimately because of the sweet message. Even though it may be hard to get into a Christmas mindset in springtime, once you read the story you’ll be able to feel the chill in the air and the lure of hot chocolate and twinkling lights. I also liked the originality of the two main characters. So here it is. Enjoy!

A CHRISTMAS STAR WISH

By Vanessa Martin

Franklin the Ferret sat all alone in his cage, watching the people walk by. No one ever stopped to hold him or even to talk to him. And if they did look at him, they sometimes would make a weird scrunched nose face. He didn’t understand what was wrong with him. He was friendly, he never bit anyone, and he enjoyed being cuddled. Most ferrets never wanted anything to do with people and some would even nip at their fingers, and those ferrets were always adopted and taken home. But not him!!

Franklin didn’t know why the people were afraid of him. What was so wrong with him that everyone just ignored him?

Well, you see….when Franklin was born, he was born with half a right back leg and he was also blind in his left eye. All the people wanted the animals that were perfect and since he had a handicap, per se, no one wanted him. As the Thanksgiving holiday went by and Christmas grew very near, Franklin would sit all alone looking out the window beside his cage. He started making wishes on the brightest star in the sky, for a family who would love him and want to take him home with them. He wished and wished and wished, and nothing ever happened. No family came and all the people would still walk on by without a glance.

What Franklin didn’t know was that his wishes were heard. They were heard loud and clear at the North Pole by a few of the elves, so they went and told Santa. Santa Claus could see everything happening in the store where Franklin lived and knew that he had to make Franklin’s wish come true. Santa wanted to make sure that Franklin knew and felt the miracle of Christmas. But with Christmas only two days away, he knew he would have to act fast.

***

On the other side of the city, an eight-year-old little boy named Justin sat watching his brother and parents decorate the tree for Christmas. Justin couldn’t participate or get too close because of his wheelchair.

There were only two days left before Christmas and he just wished it was already over. He didn’t believe in Santa anymore-not that he ever had. Getting tired of watching his family do something he couldn’t do made him more depressed. So he turned his chair around to face the window where he could see the snow falling. Glancing up toward the sky, he noticed that the brightest star in the sky was sparkling very intense that night. He just stared at it, too scared to make a wish. Because all the other wishes he had asked for in the past, had never came true.

He always wished that he could walk and play like all the other children, but those wishes never came true. And since he couldn’t walk or see very well, the other kids just made fun of him.

Justin was still hesitant, but he went ahead and made one last wish. Justin wished that he would find someone who could understand what he was going through. Someone who would be there with him through everything that came his way. After making his wish, he turned around and told his parents he was going to go watch one of the Christmas specials that was playing on the television that evening. As he rolled his chair to the next room, he started feeling mad at himself, but also sad at the same time. He didn’t know why he even made a wish; it wasn’t as if anyone would hear it.

What Justin didn’t know was that his wish had made it all the way to the North Pole where a pair of little ears heard it. The elf knew he had to bring this to Santa’s attention. Because no child should ever feel sad at Christmastime.

***

The little elf ran all the way to the woodshop, where Santa was doing inventory for his trip the next night.

The elf spoke so fast that Santa had to tell him to slow down. Once Santa heard about the wish, he looked through his magical snow globe into Justin’s house and could see the tiny little boy with real thick glasses and braces on his legs, sitting in his wheelchair. He could hear the sniffling sounds that were coming from the little boy as he sat watching television, trying not to let any tears fall.

Santa knew right then and there exactly what he was going to do. He could make two wishes come true that holiday season, one for a brave little boy and the other for a furry little animal. He was going to bring Franklin and Justin together.

***

The day before Christmas, Santa walked into the pet shop and went directly to Franklin’s cage, who was watching the people walk by. Santa asked Franklin if he would like to be part of a real family for Christmas. Franklin told Santa that was what he wanted more than anything in the world, and Santa told him that he had heard his wish the night before. Franklin couldn’t believe what was happening. He jumping up and down in his cage with joy. He was finally going to have a family.

Later that evening, Franklin sat beside Santa in his sleigh, all set to meet his new family. He could barely contain his excitement. He watched as Santa made his rounds; all the while Franklin didn’t make a peep. They were almost finished when Santa told him to get prepared.

Santa landed his sleigh on top of a shingled roof and held open his bag. He looked at Franklin and said, “This is your new home. A little boy named Justin lives here. Like you, he has trouble seeing and walking. And I know you will become great pals.” Franklin jumped into Santa’s bag, ready for the trip down the chimney.

Santa filled the stockings with care then ate a few nibbles of cookie and drank a bit of milk, before turning to Franklin and telling him it was time to go under the tree. Franklin jumped out of the bag and into a small cage that had magically appeared when Santa nodded his head. He said good-bye, put his finger to his nose then disappeared back up the chimney.

***

The next morning, Justin made his way to the family room and saw all the presents under the tree. But the one present that caught his eye was a little cage with a bow on it. He rolled his chair over and looked down into it. Looking back at him was Franklin, with his one good eye and his one blind eye. Justin also noticed that the animal only had half a right back leg. Justin yelled out to his mom and dad to come see what was under the tree. They both stood there, shocked, because they knew that the present had not been there last night when they went to bed. The father plucked a card off the top of the cage, while the mother opened it up and took Franklin out. She gently laid him in Justin’s arms and the little boy sat petting him, listening while his father read aloud.

Dear Justin,

I wanted to let you know that your wish was heard loud and clear—all the way to the North Pole. I knew that I had to do something to restore your belief in Santa and show you the Miracle of Christmas, and I hope I have. I would like to introduce you to Franklin. He needs a special friend and I thought of you and how good of a friend you would be. I wish you and Franklin a lifetime of fun and love for one another. Oh and by the way, Franklin really likes apples and to snuggle up on your lap while you pet him.

Love,

Santa Claus – the big guy in the red suit

His parents couldn’t believe what they were hearing or seeing. They both looked over at Justin petting the ferret lying on his lap. And for the first time, in a long time, he was smiling more than he ever had and when they looked down at Franklin, they didn’t know what to think because it looked like Franklin was smiling, too.

From then on, both Justin and Franklin never stopped believing in Santa or that wishes come true.

***

So remember, if you ever have a doubt, that Santa Claus is real and the Miracle of Christmas is very powerful. And if you ever make a wish around Christmastime, on the brightest star in the sky, you can believe…it was heard.

 

 

This is Vanessa Martin’s first children’s story, but will not be her last. She’s working on her first mystery/suspense novel as you read this. Vanessa Martin is 42 years old and lives in Ohio. She loves to read, cook, and write. This story was written for her seven nieces and nephews.