365 Challenge: Day 285 – Fortitude (Author Alert: Cathleen Townsend)

Fortitude: (a) courage in pain or adversity [may we all learn to grow in this area, so we can also rise to life’s challenges when necessary] or (b) 365 Daily Challenge word for today’s author alert — Cathleen Townsend

bio pic with dogs.jpg


If you are new to the ThisIsMyTruthNow blog, the 365 Daily Challenge, or the Author Alert segment, check out the About Site section from the main menu. Below are some key things to know about this author, but at the end of this post, you’ll see the permanent page I’ve added to my blog. You can return to check out more on who she is, what she’s writing and how to buy her future work. 

I am pleased to present the very talented Cathleen Townsend. She and I met about 3 months ago through our blogs, probably a comment on one of her books or my 365 Daily Challenges (sometimes I don’t remember how it all started!). As we chatted during the first few weeks, I developed a good bond with her over inspirational messages and reading great literature. Cathleen and I talked about sharing our work with each other’s followers and readers, and from there, it’s taken off. She wrote a wonderful review and interview during the launch of my book last month (check it out here). I downloaded two of her books and just finished reading the first one last week. You can check out my review here, but I will be reading more in 2018!

I always try to take a different path with each author, and today’s is definitely an extra special one… just wait til you see how generous Cathleen is being with her latest book of short stories, as well as a few other offers. And knowing how many dog-lovers follow my blog, you must be pleased to see the wonderful photo on this post of Cathleen with her dogs! I’m so glad to connect with her, but it’s time to let her do the speaking with a brief background on the word ‘fortitude’ to share:


When Jay and I talked about a word for “The Gift,” I suggested fortitude, a quality we’re somewhat lacking in these days. It’s a trait the “greatest generation,” the survivors of WWII, had in abundance. Several years ago, I sat down with my grandmother, her older brother, my father-in-law, and my husband’s aunt, and I transcribed their life experiences, both in the war and afterward. I came to have a great respect for the strength and utter dedication they had, whether building P-57s in North Carolina, stringing anti-submarine netting off the California coast, or coping with the wreckage when your test pilot husband has crashed and you’re stranded miles away with a baby daughter. Two of those four have since passed, and the world seems a less safe place without their wisdom.

{Alert Interruption: As an avid genealogist, I absolutely connected with Cathleen’s story about fortitude and can only imagine what her family went through. I can only imagine how wonderful those sessions were when she collected their experiences!}

As a VERY SPECIAL TREAT, Cathleen has graciously shared one of her amazing short stories from this collection. Please take a few minutes to read it, as it’s quite inspirational and heartwarming.

 The Gift

Alisha set the table and lit her red candles, her dark, wrinkled hands quivering as she blew out the match. A roasted chicken filled her nicest platter, and she’d arranged her silverware on a red cloth napkin. She was doing her best to make the holiday special, but the entire day had been a series of going through the motions.

She’d gone to mass that morning, smiling at all the people with families and radiant faces. She could have stopped for coffee afterward, but she didn’t like making other people work on Christmas.

When she’d eaten, Alisha washed the few dishes. Treacherous memories reared their heads as her fingers dipped into the warm, soapy water. Watching her children open their gifts as the joy from their laughter filled the house. Feeling their arms tighten around her as they said how much they loved her. It had always been a day-long marathon of love, food, and gifts. There had never been enough time—the hours flew past on reindeer feet.

No more. When Ed was still alive, it had been…okay. That’s when the two of them had started having chicken instead of turkey. What would they have done with a whole turkey? Afterward, they’d watched movies together, played cards, and opened each other’s gifts.

She’d have never guessed she would miss his snores so much. If nothing else, they’d masked the sound of her neighbors. While grateful for the roof over her head, Alisha fervently wished the walls were thicker. She turned on the television and played A Christmas Carol to drown out the man in number six calling his girlfriend a slut.

It was a relief when the sun set—now she could get ready for bed. She carefully hung up her thrift store find from last week, a still-pretty floral skirt with only a small stain near the hem. She turned the shower on as hot as she could stand and sighed as the water relaxed her back muscles.

When she returned to her small living room, clad in blue flannel pajamas, a box wrapped in green paper with a bright red bow sat on her coffee table. Alisha gasped and leaned against the door frame, her eyes darting around the room. No one else had a key except the manager, a young gal in her forties who minded her own business. Alisha’s breaths came hard and fast, and she staggered to her old tweed couch.

No one else was in the bathroom or bedroom—she’d just come from there. Her tiny front room and kitchen held no hiding places. She was alone. The knowledge was both a relief and a crushing despair.

Her eyes devoured the gift. She’d bought a present to donate at church and told herself that was enough. Christmas was a time to give. Besides, the one thing she truly wanted she couldn’t afford—an apartment that would let her keep a small dog or cat. Someone to love again. She turned her mind firmly away from thoughts of her children. That way led only to tears.

Slowly, with trembling hands, she untied the velvety bow. The nap caught against her fingers, and she brushed it against her cheek. Grandma had used ribbon like this. She’d always had the knack of making perfect bows. Alisha had tried, but she could never quite equal Grandma’s display. She could still hear Grandma’s voice as she plucked a gift from the beribboned pile, saying, “Now, Alisha honey, it’s your turn. I hope you like it.”

The brightly wrapped package had always contained clothes, often a hand-knitted sweater or poncho. And she’d always kissed Grandma’s cheek and told her she loved it. Grandma would smile as Alisha put the ribbon back in her hand to be used next year. Grandma would iron it later.

Funny to think that Grandma had been younger then than Alisha was now.

The box’s lid was wrapped separately. All she had to do was lift the top off. Her heart thudded, and she scrubbed a tear from her face. It was just a gift. A small kindness. Nothing to get so worked up about.

She lifted the lid slowly and sniffed. Cinnamon. And…spring grass? She pushed the lid aside and her lips curved as the warmth of sunshine caressed her face. Was that a tree swing on that hill behind the cottage? A dog barked, and Alisha stood. She took one halting step into the scene and then another. A collie bounded up and licked her hand. She stroked its soft fur and followed it to a gray shingled house, where the smell of spiced cider wafted out onto the porch.

Back in the apartment, the lid rose and settled firmly on the box. The ribbon tied itself back into a perfect bow. The package paused for a moment, as if regarding the neat, shabby room.

And then it was gone.



{Interruption from Jay} How often do you get an opportunity to hear from the author exactly how a story came together… this is a truly motivational message…

This story actually grew out of a hot summer’s day. I had been helping my husband waterproof some elevator pits (our day job), and I’d walked to the nearby grocery store to buy a cup of coffee at the indoor Starbucks kiosk before it grew too hot to drink it.

 As I sat down to wait for my decaf to brew, my attention was caught by an older woman sitting across the aisle. She was black, her dark hair shading mostly to gray, and her hand rested on a wire handcart, the kind you pull along behind you, with a single paper sack of groceries sitting in it. She obviously cared about her appearance; her white blouse was accented with a nice paisley scarf tied in a complicated knot that I couldn’t duplicate. But her yellow skirt was stained—and not from coffee spilled on it that morning, but the sort of stain that someone has tried to scrub out and this is the best they can do.

 My heart went out to her, and I wanted to do something, anything—put more groceries in her cart or at least offer her a cup of coffee—but I didn’t want to offend, either. She carried herself with a quiet dignity. I dithered until my coffee came up, and when I turned around with it, she was gone.

 And since I didn’t know what else to give her, I wrote her this story. I also pray for her now and again, but I still wish I could have done more.


I also offer Dragon Hoard and Other Tales of Faerie and Stolen Legacy free at my site: https://cathleentownsend.com.     (WOW – More free books!)

Both are on my list to read in 2018! (Jay)


Cathleen’s Latest Book: Twelve Tales of Christmas

Christmas isn’t always “Jingle Bells” and “Ho, ho, ho.” In these Twelve Tales of Christmas, even Santa has to deal with unexpected German Shepherds and reindeer who suddenly want to learn the tango. A dryad works feverishly with a teenage boy to save her tree, now in a stand in his living room, and everyone begs Death to hold off for just one more day.

And nobody knows what to do with the fire-breathing dragon. He’s not going on the Christmas card list anytime soon.

Come enter worlds of beauty and dread. Join a house hob as he raises his cup of eggnog high, and enjoy yuletide yarns delicious enough to tempt even St. Nick.

Twelve Tales of Christmas cover copy copy

{Alert Interruption: If you loved the short story, The Gift, you’ll love this entire collection. I read all 12 and struggled to pick my top 3 favorites as there were at least 6 contenders… check out my review here!}



An avid reader, Cathleen Townsend discovered fairy tales as a child and never outgrew them. Along with her husband Tom, she lives in the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills of northern California, which is fortunate because this encourages her to leave her computer and take her dogs for walks. She firmly believes the oak and pine studded hills are also home to dwarves, brownies, and trolls, but so far they persist in lurking unseen.

Her short stories have been published in numerous trade anthologies and ezines, and Cathleen’s short story collection, Twelve Tales of Christmas, rose to #8 in its category, making her an Amazon bestselling author.

She loves to chat with readers on her blog (https://cathleentownsend.com), and she tweets @CathleenTowns.

Therese portrait 2010--med


To see more about Cathleen Townsend on ThisIsMyTruthNow, check out her dedicated author page where future content and books will added as she publishes them and I review them. Thanks for stopping by this edition of the Author Alert.


About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon @ http://mybook.to/WGS. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Writing is peculiar–so private when you’re creating it, but it doesn’t mean much unless you can share it later. There’s always that “heart in the throat” moment when you go to actually publish. This it–the moment of truth. Time to step forward and have your work judged.

      So it’s always a relief when people like my stories.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Cathleen, I love that you’ve sat down to make a written record with your family about their experiences in WWII.. I actually did this when I was in my late teens with my Grandpa (who served in Korea in his twenties), and my Grandma’s lifestyle living here in the states through out the depression. Listening to each of their stories and making record of it was an experience I’ll never forget. I turned it in as a ‘report of choice’ in school and it was sadly lost!!! I was devastated and my Grandpa is a suborn man who refused to recall it all over again lol. I did the best I could to replicate everything I had put down, but loosing my original paper was such a heartbreak.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can see how that would be such a loss. I, too, got the feeling when discussing their experiences that this was a one-time event. Fortunately for me, this happened in the digital age (2009-2011), so I have digital recordings of their voices and manuscripts saved in numerous places. One of them I even self-published back in 2011–it sold its expected 60 copies, which was fine. It was mostly about having it packaged well, so that it felt like a “real” memoir.

      Liked by 2 people

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