The one with the radioactive sea glass

Longtime readers of the blog know that we’ve been obsessed with sea glass for many, many years. I was first introduced to the idea when we visited Bar Harbor, way back when we were a family of four. My bloggy friend Phantom Scribbler introduced me to collecting tiny pebble-sized bits of glass as we wandered along the sea shore.

By sheer chance, our next major family vacation in 2010 brought us to a beach near Lunenberg, Nova Scotia that was so rich in sea glass that we filled our pockets to overflowing each time the tide went out, and an addiction was born.

Four of the last five years, we’ve scoured the beaches of Prince Edward Island, and especially the coastline near Souris, picking bits of joy out of the sand. I’ve made sea glass jewellery, key chains, mobiles and even a sea glass lantern, and I’m sure we have more than five kilos of it stashed in various containers around the house. By some weird fluke, though, this is the year that we found our most unusual and precious pieces.

The first was this purple coil. Purple is a rare colour for sea glass, and this crazy curl is quite unusual. In fact, we couldn’t help but enter it into the “best shard” competition at the Mermaid’s Tears sea glass festival that happened to be taking place in Souris when we were there last month. It took honourable mention, and the judge said its only drawback was that it was a relatively young piece and didn’t have much pitting or other signs of aging. We wonder what it could have been?

sea glass

It wasn’t until we got home, though, that we realized the other treasure we’d found. Beloved was scanning through our haul with a black light flashlight and one piece glowed unmistakably: we’d found not one but TWO elusive pieces of radioactive sea glass, also known as UV glass, Vaseline glass or uranium glass, because it is in fact made with trace amounts of uranium. Yes, THAT uranium, the one they use to make nuclear bombs! It’s not overtly visible to the naked eye, and we had no idea these were a pieces destined for my ‘favourites’ jar until it glowed smartly and obviously when Beloved skimmed the black light over them.

Uranium glass, or UV glass

Apparently, uranium used to be a commonly used ingredient back in the day to add certain colours to glass tableware. In doing a little research, we found out that the flourescence of UV glass is totally unrelated its radioactivity, which is actually measurable with a Geiger counter. However, since only small amounts of uranium were used during the manufacture of the glass, the amount of radioactivity in uranium glass is not considered harmful.

Isn’t it amazing how it looks completely unremarkable under normal light (left photo), but glows neon bright under the black light? Note to self, bring black light flashlight to PEI next vacation!!

comparison between UV uranium glass and sea glass

From a long but fascinating delve into the science and art behind Vaseline glass: “Regardless of who did what first, we know that [uranium] itself was identified in 1789, when German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth named it after our solar system’s most recently discovered planet. Back then, uranium was seen as just one more mineral to color clear silicon dioxide, the main constituent in the sand glass is made from. Chemists like Klaproth knew that cadmium turned glass yellow, cobalt made it blue, manganese produced violet shades, and certain compounds of gold went red when heated, blown, and cooled.”

So now we’ve added to our collection a small fragment of red (one tiny fragment in boxes and boxes of sea glass!), a lovely frosty marble, a bit of milk glass, quite a bit of the more rare cobalt and purple glass, and now this fun discovery. Isn’t that the coolest thing? We just love wandering the seaside like magpies, looking for shiny bits, and treasures like these make the search that much more fun — and addictive!

Have you collected enough to have a favourite shard of sea glass or a fun story to tell about how you found some? And now for the really hard question: WHAT should I do with it???

The porch: A photo-story collaboration

We’re back with more stories! In case you missed it, the adorably amazing Christine Hennebury and I have been playing a game that we’ve recently opened up for anyone who wants to play along. Each week, I take or choose a photo and share it with the players, each of whom use it to craft a piece of flash fiction. We’ve moved to a bi-weekly schedule to accommodate the madness of June and what I hope will be a lazy summer break. I like how this week inspired a lot of the players to riff on the theme of relationships, and quirky ones at that!

Photograph of a rocking chair on a porch

Worth the Wait
by Christine Hennebury

“I’ve heard that’s all she does, just rocks in her chair and watches the road. She’s waiting for him to come home.”

“Ah, well that explains it then. I heard that he was getting released this afternoon. They must be inside.”

“At their age?”

“What does their age have to do with it?”


“Listen, why don’t we finish painting this porch another day?”

“Yeah. Good plan.”


Click through to read:
The Old Rocking Chair
by Gal Podjarny


Sunday Morning
by Mimi Golding

He picked up her knitting that she had left on the porch and moved to the rocking chair.

Holding her last project in his lap, he looked out across the veranda, his mind drifted to the past, to the images of her working the garden, her apron filled with the bounty she collected for the soup pot. With it came the memory of scent, of the aromatics cooking in the morning’s bacon renderings.

Chubs, their skinny marmalade barn cat, rubbed up against his legs, bringing him back to the present.

“Woman! Get me a beer!” he shouted over his shoulder.

And that was the last thing he remembered.


by Bob LeDrew

The rocker was moving. By itself. Again.

He looked over. Just the wind. A strong breeze making its way around the house, finding the objects that could be moved, leaving those to heavy for its ephemeral power.

But it was pleasant to imagine otherwise. That had been her rocker, as this was had been, and still was, his. It hurt to sit there alone. But it was also necessary. He needed to experience the pain, over and over, like a tongue poking at a gapped tooth’s absence, like a teenager, cutting herself to feel the pain as familiar.

He sat because if he was going to be reminded she wasn’t alive anymore, he might as well dive into her absence, to drown himself in the pain that her death had brought. One man, sitting on a porch, with an empty rocker rocking. Out of balance and asymmetrical, like the rest of his life since the day he’d come back from the hospice with a large paper bag full of her few personal items.

The rocker rocked. It was a beautiful day, and the wind coming around the house cut the heat of the sun nicely, vinegar to the sun’s sweetness.

And then he heard the wind whisper his name.

Want to get in on the game? Write your story and leave it in the comments, or leave a comment and I’ll add you to the list!

Read previous stories here:
The school bus: A photo-story collaboration
The workshop: A photo-story collaboration
The gate: A photo-story collaboration
Perspective: A photo-story collaboration
Patience: A photo-story collaboration
Anticipation: A photo-story collaboration
The Plan: A photo-story collaboration

The school bus: A photo-story collaboration

Over the years I’ve developed a fondness for photos of random things, photos that beg you to ask the question “why?” Lucky for us, the question “why” makes great inspiration for flash fiction. Each week, I send a photo to a growing list of players, and they riff on it with a piece of flash fiction. Here are this week’s contributions (be sure you click through to read the ones hosted elsewhere, too!)

Stories by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

by Christine Hennebury

Leaving the bus in the field was supposed to be lesson to us, but, for years, we all walked to the high school without complaint, rain or shine.

Back then, while the rest of the world was getting more and more connected, everyone showing up in each other’s pockets all the time, our town had slammed the gates shut.

Not literally, of course, people could still come and go as they pleased, but no one in town had access to the internet. No one had smart phones. The Council had decided that those things weren’t good for the town, especially for the children, so they passed a by-law against them.

If Lorne hadn’t needed to see a specialist in the City, we might never have known about the talks. He brought a poster back for us all to see, a free event with speakers from all over the world. Big thinkers, big ideas.

Once we saw it, we knew we had to go.

I don’t remember whose idea it was to steal the schoolbus to drive us all to the City, but I know that Jenny drove. She knew how it all worked because her Dad drove the bus every morning before heading to his shop.

There were only 14 people in our high school, we didn’t even fill up a whole row in the auditorium. We drank in each speaker’s words like we had spent our lives in a desert. We chattered excitedly the whole way home. We were going to do things, we were going to make changes.

Jenny got us safely there and most of the way back but about 10 minutes outside of town, we saw Sheriff Rolfman’s car parked across the highway. Since she didn’t think she was going to be able to stop in time, Jenny veered off into the field. The momentum carried us pretty far, and the bus got firmly stuck, but none of us were hurt.

We were all grounded for weeks but that just gave us more time to think.

Leaving the bus in the field was supposed to be an extra punishment, something to drive the lesson further home, but, for us, it was a sign of our triumph and we reveled in it.


Click through to read:
by Lynn Jatania


Click through to read:
The Magic School Bus
by Gal Podjarny


by Mimi Golding

We were parked out in the middle of the field. It was a lark.

We sat there for hours, sitting in the very back, where all the bad kids sat, where you get the highest heights when the bus wheels fell into those deep pot holes and then climbed out again.

The hours passed. Talking to him was so, utterly, ordinary. His speech was like listening to a water fall.

The dew fell on the bus as night time enveloped us.

We told each other our stories well into darkness and stars.

Feel free to write your own piece of flash fiction and add it in the comments, or post it on your own site and link back to it in the comments. If you’d like to join in, leave a comment and I’ll add you to the list of players. There’s no obligation – drop in and out when you can. You can read previous stories here:

The workshop: A photo-story collaboration
The gate: A photo-story collaboration
Perspective: A photo-story collaboration
Patience: A photo-story collaboration
Anticipation: A photo-story collaboration
The Plan: A photo-story collaboration

The workshop: A photo-story collaboration

We have three players this week in our ongoing photo-story game. Each week, I toss out a photo to a group of players, and whomever has the time and/or inclination sends back a story inspired by the photo.

I find it interesting that these stories have varying vibes of darkness and melancholy, despite the bright sunshine streaming in the window. Is this a melancholy photo to you?

by Christine Hennebury

I have the feeling that I’m done here.

I’m not finished, it’s not complete, but I am done.

Sometimes you have to recognize that you aren’t the one who will finish it. You can do your part, take it so far, and then you leave the tools for someone else.

I thought about putting everything away, leaving it all very tidy, but that seemed a bit too cold, too distant. I wanted to leave somewhere for them to start.

Even if they are just tidying up. By touching the tools, the wood, the bits and pieces of a project in progress, they can feel their way toward the next step.

I wish I could see them learn but that’s not how this works.

We do what we can and then we leave enough for them to find their way, just as we found ours.

It’s not complete but, but somehow, it is whole.


Click through to read:
The Workshop
by Gal Podjarny


by Mimi Golding

She put the tools down, looking over her progress that she had made.

Time for that Gin and Tonic, she thought, as she picked up the glass of liquid pain relief. Care was needed to craft the intricate design. Thoughts kept drifting, “Would it be good enough?”

“Bah!”, she thought to herself. That self-criticism was Walter talking again. Walter, her so-called black dog of depression that followed her everywhere. Her loyal companion, always shadowing her actions, nipping at her self-confidence.

“Walter, I don’t have time for you today” she said, as she finished off her beverage, turned towards her work and picked up her tools. “Time to crank up the jam!”

Feel free to write your own piece of flash fiction and add it in the comments, or post it on your own site and link back to it in the comments. If you’d like to join our little cabal, leave a comment and I’ll add you to the list of players. There’s no obligation – drop in and out when you can. You can read previous stories here:

The gate: A photo-story collaboration
Perspective: A photo-story collaboration
Patience: A photo-story collaboration
Anticipation: A photo-story collaboration
The Plan: A photo-story collaboration

The gate: A photo-story collaboration (Now with more players!)

Well this is wickedly fun! If you’ve been following along, for the past month or two, Christine Hennebury and I have been playing a little collaborative photo-story game. I send her a random photo, and she riffs on it with a piece of flash fiction. Last time, we invited others to join us and LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED! We have a veritable treasure trove of flash fiction pieces. Some are here and some are hosted on the writer’s own sites – make sure you see all six of them!

Ready? Here we go!

Photo of a gate and concrete steps by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

by Christine Hennebury

“The story is that her whole family just vanished one day. She was reading in the living room, the sounds of the house just kind of floating around her. Next thing, total silence.”

“Seriously? Total silence?”

“Yep. Like a tomb.”

“What happened to them?”

“No one knows. And she had the house taken apart, brick by brick, trying to find out where they had gone. Never found a thing.”

“So, why’d she leave the gate there like that?”

“It’s a open door, so they always can get back home.”


“Yeah, I know.”


Click through to read:
by Lynn Jatania


by Mimi Golding

I used to live here, not so long ago…before we were evacuated.

They filed into the field of remains, looking in awe, exasperation, sadness and curiosity, but mostly nerves. Would they find it before the light faded? This was their last chance before the dam would be opened and all would be lost again … under all that water.


Click through to read:
Stairway to Heaven
by Gal Podjarny


by Julie

Every now and then the wind would catch the metal gate. And even though I’d heard that clang at least a dozen times while I laid stiff in bed, it still made me jump. I wanted to escape to sleep. But my mind was thinking thoughts that I could never even whisper out loud … what if I woke up and she was dead?

But it never failed; I would wake to the sound of the kettle boiling and then the clink of a china cup onto its saucer. Slipping out of bed, I was warm to about mid-calf. That’s where my Nana’s nightgown reached. Her slippers were so tiny that I couldn’t even stuff my 9-year-old feet in them.


It’s all tiny. So very tiny.

Yes, yes, I nodded.

And musty.

Yes, I agreed.

And isn’t it quaint … these old fashioned tea cups and saucers?

I led her outside of the house and down the front path. She took one last look around and handed me her business card. Sharon, real estate agent.

She turned quickly and walked away, pausing only briefly to check her cell phone.

The gate clanged.


And it makes me wonder
by Kev Needham

It was a fall holiday.

Nothing was open, and I had nothing to do.

I went for a walk.

The leaves were like gold upon the ground, birds were singing, and the odor of woodsmoke ringed heavy amongst the trees.

I ran into a lady who said I was familiar and, while certain we had met, she couldn’t place me.

We talked.

About double meanings, the wonder the world throws in front of us daily, and how the West was broken.

She was looking for something, but couldn’t find the word that described it.

We walked.

Along the brook back to the tree that was my plot.

Taking the fork from the path through the field to a place long forgotten.

The “For Sale by Owner” sign, while faded, still bore my name.

“This is it” she said.

I asked her if she was sure.

She was.

I sold.

I hope she gets to heaven.


So good, right? It’s so fun to see where everyone goes with their interpretation. And did you catch that two of the posts make completely random reference to Led Zepplin songs in the title? Feel free to give the writers a little love in the comment box.

Feeling inspired? Christine wrote this tip sheet on creating flash fiction. (In addition to playing along here, she’s writing a piece of flash fiction every single day for the month of May!)

Feel free to write your own piece of flash fiction and add it in the comments, or post it on your own site and link back to it in the comments. If you want to get on our email list, let me know in the comments and I’ll add you. No commitment required!

You can read previous stories here:
Perspective: A photo-story collaboration
Patience: A photo-story collaboration
Anticipation: A photo-story collaboration
The Plan: A photo-story collaboration

Perspective: A photo-story collaboration

Are you ready for the latest installment of the ongoing photo-fiction game that Christine Hennebury and I have been playing? Each week, I take a photo and send it to her, and she uses it as inspiration for a piece of flash fiction. We’re enjoying it so much that we’re inviting others to play along too – see details below.

But first, this week’s story!

Photo of a chicken


I probably shouldn’t have agreed to read her book.

And I definitely shouldn’t have told her that the part I did read was awful.

Meeting her in that dark parking lot to return the manuscript was not my brightest moment, and turning my back on her was a monumental mistake.

As she hit me on the head with that shovel, I thought ‘This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me.’

I woke in the barn, sneezing and sniffling, surrounded by hay, my shoulders aching from the way my hands were tied behind me, and I thought ‘No, THIS is the worst thing that has ever happened to me.’

Then, when she came in wearing that robe, carrying the book, it seemed she was going to read more of her so-called novel to me, and I thought,

‘Oh, no, THIS is the worst thing that has ever happened to me.’

I couldn’t even cover my ears.

When her gibberish turned out to be a spell, it was a kind of relief, really.


You can read previous stories here:
Patience: A photo-story collaboration
Anticipation: A photo-story collaboration
The Plan: A photo-story collaboration

I know I have tonnes of friends who like to write, and we’d love to have others join in and play along. Inspired by the photo in this post? Write your flash fiction in the comment section. Or, drop a comment to be included in the mailing list for next week’s photo. We’re big on fun but short on rules – help us make it up as we go along!

Patience: A photo-story collaboration

This week, I tried to throw Christine Hennebury a curve-ball in our ongoing game where I send her a photo and uses it for inspiration in a piece of flash fiction. Joke’s on me, as I think this is her best story yet. The last line totally left me wanting to know what happens next!

Christine and I are having so much fun with this, we want to invite you to play along too. Details below!

Photo by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders


At first, I used to pretend I was doing something else. Enjoying the night air or whatever. Anything to get out on to the patio.

He never goes out back so he didn’t catch on, didn’t insist that everything outside be as ‘spic and span’ as he wants the inside of the house kept. I could just leave everything in a pile, a secret protest.

These days, I find he pisses me off so often that I can’t go through the pretense of a breath of fresh air. There’d hardly be time to get back inside before I headed out again.

So, now, I just keep my cigarettes tucked into a pink, plastic soap case in the planter outside our bathroom window. After that last soothing draw, I toss the butt down on to the patio and close the window.

You’d think he’d smell the smoke on me but I guess his lousy cologne has dulled his senses because he has never mentioned it. And I know he would mention it.

Another 384 days and the terms of our pre-nup are fulfilled.

For that kind of cash, I can outlast him.

You can read previous stories here:
Anticipation: A photo-story collaboration
The Plan: A photo-story collaboration

So, would you like to play, too? Christine gets one new photo a week, but I can send it to you, too, if you’d like to play along. We’re making up the rules as we go along. Post it on your own site or social media channels, send it to me and I’ll post it here, or you can post it in the comments – however you’d like to play along, but please link back to the original post here and Christine’s site. I think it would be super fun to see everyone’s different takes on the photo of the week. If you’d like to be included, leave a comment below and I’ll get in touch!

Anticipation: A photo-story collaboration

Last week, I introduced a new game that my friend and fellow blogger Christine Hennebury have been playing. I take a picture and send it to her, and she takes it as inspiration for a piece of flash fiction. I love this photo on its own, because it was random and unposed and real, and some day I’ll miss the days when I look up to see a cardboard box running past. Her story makes it that much more perfect, don’t you think?

Photograph of a child running in a cardboard box


I know I probably shouldn’t but I keep ordering them online.

It’s the anticipation that gets me.

First I never know when my shipment will arrive, that depends on the incubation time, I think. Then, you never know when they will hatch. So you end up just watching the top of that cardboard cube like the miracle within will emerge any second.

Of course, if I want to meet the hatchling, I have to follow the instructions to the letter –

1) Remove the packing tape from the box but do not open the flaps.

2) Leave the box in a warm place – sunlight is ideal but near a heater is fine.

3) Drop chocolate and fruit in through the feeding chute every second day – they like oranges and Lindt bars best.

4) Sing or tell stories nearby daily and use a soft voice – that’s so the little one feels connected to you.

5) Leave a plate of chocolate on your kitchen counter – that helps draw the little one out once they’re ready.

Then, I wait and I wonder.

When will they hatch? What adorable ‘grow-with-me’ clothes will they be wearing? What snack will draw them out?

I ache from wanting to open the box early but I know these things have to happen in their own time.

I wait and wait, and sooner or later, I hear that strange snapping sound of the box-top opening and the slap-slap of those bare feet on my wooden floors.

That’s when I run forward, my heart thumping with joy as I watch my hatchling take their first steps toward the kitchen.

It’s just precious, the way they always burst out feet-first and head right for the snacks – their little heads still stuck in their hatching-boxes. It brings tears when I think of it.

Parenting joy is like no other happiness.

If you’d like to read more of Christine’s writing, visit her site. Stay tuned for another new photo and another new story next week!

The Plan: A photo-story collaboration

Once upon a time there were two bloggers, who were also mamas, and who both liked to tell stories. They found each other in the big wide blogosphere, which was really not so big in the mid-2000s. One blogger felt the pull of words, and she became a writer. One blogger felt the pull of photos, and she became a photographer. Both loved, above all things, to tell stories.

Several years went by, and they each appreciated the other’s craft. And then, one day, like a bolt out of the blue, they realized that there was much fun to be had and maybe some mischief to be found and definitely some stories to be told if they were to come together and collaborate. And here we are!

Welcome to our new project, which needs an appropriately pretentious but as-yet unrevealed title. The game is simple. I supply a photo that holds the potential for a story, and the inimitable Christine creates a piece of flash fiction inspired by the photo. Ready? Let’s begin!

A photography game by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

The Plan

Lying in the forest of legs, I tried to look relaxed. I was playing the part of a stuffed animal and I was determined to pull it off.

I mean, I *am* a stuffed animal, so I already have the right look. I just have to pretend that I am just a stuffed animal, that this adorable face hides only a pile of fluff instead of a magnificent brain.

My client wanted the blueprints for their rival’s new office building so she could wire surveillance equipment in during construction. Her attempts to hack into their cloud had been unsuccessful, so a more hands-on method was needed.

Their company retreat at this downtown hotel provided the perfect opportunity. The CEO always brought her husband and daughter on retreats so they could turn them into a family getaway.

The plan was to ‘lose’ me at the retreat so the only kid there, her daughter, would find me and bring me back to their room. Once I was alone, I would grab the jump drive with the blueprints on it, conceal it in my stuffing, and then wait for my opportunity to escape.

It was a flawless plan that hinged on my acting ability. I relaxed every inch of my fur and thought about listening to my client explain the plan again. My eyes glazed over with boredom.

I was ready.

Fun, heh? If you’d like to read more of Christine’s writing, visit her site. Stay tuned for another new photo and another new story next week!

Dog and Cat are Friends, A love story in seven acts

One day, Willie the cat found himself trapped between the curtain and the window when Katie, the large and smelly but largely benign dog, dropped down for a rest.

Dog meets cat, Act 1

For a while, Willie pondered various plans for his escape. Finally, he had an idea! “Pssst, dog… c’mere, I have a secret!”

Dog meets cat, Act 2

Katie, benign and benevolent creature though she was, once lived with two evil cats, and was naturally suspicious of Willie’s intentions.

Dog meets cat, Act 3

“Dog! Hey, dog! I may be small, but I’m tough, and I’m gonna get you, dog. Come a little closer and I’ll give you the what for!”

Dog meets cat, Act 4

“Hey you, dog! I’m talkin’ to YOU!”

Dog meets cat, Act 5

And then Katie looked at Willie with her best puppy dog eyes. “Do we have to fight? Can’t we just be friends?”

Dog meets cat, Act 6

And so they were. *smooch*

191:365 Dog meets cat - finale (the kiss)

And they lived happily ever after.

(Written with love for my Beloved, on the 12th anniversary of the day we were married. Ours may be the greatest love story of all, but this one is a close second! Happy anniversary, my love — and thank you for all of it!)