Life is a beach

It’s been a while. I could explain, but I won’t. At least I won’t/can’t today.

Oak Island collage - www.alliepottswrites.com

Oak Island, North Carolina

Taking a break from the heat (and maybe a few other things I am beginning to associate with June) I went to the beach with my family and my sisters’ families for some much-needed rest and relaxation (or as much rest and relaxation as you can expect when you are traveling with seven kids 10-years-old and under and three dogs).

We’d picked out the home shortly after the new year. That had been a whole stressful process in and of itself, requiring lengthy negotiations and more than a few compromises, but it checked the major boxes. It had beds for us all (or so the ad claimed) with a pool as well as an oceanfront view and beach access.

On paper it was perfect.

In reality, not quite. The beach access was not directly across the street as it had appeared in the photographs and at some point, the owners had replaced bunk beds with queen-size meaning several of the kids would have to enjoy even more cousin time, but it served its purpose.

We arrived in mass with cars loaded up like the opening credits of the old show Beverly Hillbillies. All that we were lacking was our family matriarch riding in a rocking chair up top (she’d wisely driven separately). We divided rooms and filled the cabinets with a week’s worth of groceries while the cousins darted around and attempted to keep watch of the various canines.

The first day went great, the second too (the nights on the other hand – not so much). However, storms rolled in mid-week and the combination of early-week sunburns, over-tired small people forced to share beds, a flare-up of a stubborn ear infection, and more than one instance of a pup bolting from the house very nearly become a decorative hood ornament on a passing car, caused my sisters to consider calling it a week early.

Sunset over the dunes - www.alliepottswrites.com

Sunset over the dunes

I chose to stay and volunteered to watch a couple of my nieces on the beach while their parents packed. Sunglasses on, book nearby, and beach chair out, I prepared the soak in the last rays of stress-free (or at least stress-lite) living. It didn’t last long.

A niece marched up to me crying. Her eyes stung. Hastily applied sunscreen had mixed with saltwater, rendering her blind, and in pain. She couldn’t see or swim. The sand was no fun. She wanted to go back to the house and she wanted to go now.

I looked over my shoulder. I could see the house over the dunes. We hadn’t been gone nearly long enough for my sister to pack their stuff away and clean. I did the only thing I could. I handed her a towel. She complained her eyes still hurt. I grabbed a bottle of freshwater and instructed her to tilt her head, while I splashed her face.

“Now dab,” I said.

“Dab?” she asked.

“Yeah dab,” I said again, gesturing at the towel in her hands.

“Okay…” she replied. But instead of drying her eyes, she lowered her face and swung both arms out, parallel to each other, in pure celebratory fashion.

In short, she dabbed.

I couldn’t help it. I cracked up. Leave it to the younger set to take a perfectly good simple instruction and interpret it in a way you’d never see coming.

It might have been the freshwater rinse. It might have been the trendy move, but in either event, the smile returned to my niece’s face. She turned and the others where they built sandcastles in the surf until noon.

It wasn’t a perfect trip, and it’s been far from the perfect summer, but moments like these prove that there are still plenty of reasons to laugh, even with things aren’t as expected.

chasing the tide - www.alliepottswrites.com

chasing the tide

It also illustrates one final universal truth, which is:

A day at the beach beats a day in the office almost every time.

 

How to remain focused on your goals when life is determined to get in your way

How to remain focused on your goals with life is determined to get in your way www.alliepottswrites.com #writinglife #goalsMy eldest son became sick and not just with a little cold. No, he’d caught the flu. The same strain of flu that was being featured on every nightly newscast. Taking care of him, and monitoring his symptoms was an absolute must.

At the same time, the forecast called for snow. Again. It was in the 70s (22C) the week before, but I live in North Carolina. We can go through a whole year’s worth of seasons in a week. In fact, we add a few more to the list – there’s also pollen season and hurricane season too. (Yes, yes, Colorado – where you can have all four seasons in a single hour – I know we have nothing on you).

But normally it doesn’t snow more than once or twice a year South, which is exactly why my parents moved us here when I was a kid. As a result, most of the people who live around here don’t have a clue what to do when the white stuff starts falling other than to rush out and get milk and bread like it will become the new world currency.

I had just gotten my eldest dosed and settled under blankets when I received word that the school system would be releasing my other son three hours early. Snow hadn’t even started falling, but classes for the rest of the day were canceled.

I received another alert. Not only had the school closed early, the following morning’s opening would be delayed by three hours.

My eldest’s fever climbed to 102.6 (39.2C).

The family calendar showed my hubby would be going out of town the balance of the week.

And then beta feedback for my most recent WIP came back as a solid ‘meh,’ signifying major re-writes were required.

Is it weird that I see a grumpy face in this?

There were doctors appointments to make, prescriptions to fill, dinners to cook, and her royal highness to walk, not to mention the work which needed to be made up from missed school and the day job. While juggling all of this, I needed to re-write thousands of words per day if I had any hope of reaching my writing-related goals.

And yet, during my regular writing time, when most of the house is either quiet or asleep, I found myself staring at a black computer case. I didn’t even have the energy to lift the lid, let alone turn the machine on. I felt I’d broken something. My creative muscle simply refused to work.

Which brings me to the topic at hand – how to remain focused on your goals when life is determined to get in your way.

Give yourself permission to let something go

With the exception of the week between Christmas and New Year, I’ve been posting something on this site weekly for a few years. My posts, on average, are between 500 and 1200 words meaning I’ve published more than then three books attributed to my name on my Amazon author page. I take pride in my consistency. I view it as keeping my promise to you, but something had to give.

Recognize your priorities

As much as I love this blog – the outlet it provides and the community it builds, my number one goal isn’t to be best known as a blogger. Scaling back my efforts for a week, under the circumstances, was an easy choice to make (as was giving up on cleaning my house for a few days). In fact, I may adopt a practice suggested by Diana Wallace Peach over at Myths at the Mirror to take one week off a quarter as a way of refreshing the mind and spending time on the priorities that matter most to me.

Don’t confuse artificial targets with your real goals

What do you mean? Aren’t they the same thing? No. A goal is where you want your arrow to go. The target around the goal just helps you aim. Hitting the target alone isn’t enough. It’s the bullseye you want.

For example, my target was to release the sequel to An Uncertain Faith in May. That target, however, is really nothing more than a release schedule, a deadline to help keep me motivated day in and day out. My goal, on the other hand, is to write a book that lives up to, if not exceeds, the reader’s expectations. Quality, therefore, is my goal, and frankly, there is no way I can achieve that goal unless I am willing to shift my bow and aim at a target more reflective of my current environment.

Ignore the urge to splurge

Once you have agreed to let certain lesser priorities go and/or readjusted your timeline after a period of stress or frantic activity, you may find yourself with feeling like there is this hole you have to fill. I’ve been told others call this strange sensation, ‘having spare time.’ Unaccustomed to spare time you may be tempted to take on additional tasks or responsibilities which sound easy in theory but are not in line with either your priorities or your goals. Don’t.

Life will fill in that time for you just fine on its own. Trust me.

Accept that setbacks happen to everyone

Even to people who’d prefer to present themselves as having it all together.

I am disappointed to be sure, but I am not giving up, nor do I feel bad about giving myself a break. I will still have another book out this year. It may just be after the summer instead of in the weeks leading up to it. I am able to remain focused by keeping in mind a setback does not mean the end. I’m back in my chair, plotting forward once more. It’s all I can do.

Because most importantly, when life is determined to get in the way of your goals, the best thing you can do is:

Never stop trying

Batman’s greatest challenge yet – a tru-ish story

Batman's greatest challenge yet

background image courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com

Gotham city lay quiet. It had been weeks since the Joker had shown his bright green hair or pale white face. The flu virus going around must have taken him out too.

Alfred pulled the curtains open.

“Good day Master Bruce.”

I grimaced as my eyes adjusted to the daylight cutting through my room. The ornate clock on the mantle said it was already past noon.

“Feeling any better today?” he asked bringing over a tray consisting of hot tea and a package of saltine crackers.

My stomach growled at the sight – a distinct difference from twenty-four hours before. It had been some time since I’d last kept down solid food. I scratched at days of growth now covering my chin. “Much,” I replied. The sound of my voice was strange to my ears. My recent illness must have damaged my vocal cords. I wouldn’t be able to maintain the deep, cold distinct tone I used to render fear into the hearts of my enemies for another day or two.

He pulled out a small scanner and held it up to my forehead. “Indeed. You no longer appear to be contagious. Shall I go over your schedule then?”

“That’s alright, Alfred.” I had only one appointment to keep that afternoon.

“Very good sir.” Leaving the tray behind, Alfred exited the room.

I stepped over to the mantle and pulled on a lever next to the clock. The fireplace spun revealing the entrance to my secret command center. I pulled on my suit. It was looser around the waist and chest than I’d remembered. I wondered how much weight I’d lost over the last few days. I made a mental note to double my efforts in the gym for the next few weeks. I reached for my belt, only to notice it was missing from its usual resting place.

“Computer. Where is my utility belt?”

A woman’s voice programmed to sound like my mother answered. “In the field. Shall I activate the retrieval protocol?”

It began to come back to me. My trusty companion had borrowed the belt along with my spare suit when it became clear that I was in no shape to be out fighting crime so that criminals wouldn’t think the city lay unprotected. He must not have returned home yet. “That’s okay computer. I won’t need it for this mission.”

I pulled on my mask and cowl. The rubber tore open in the back. “Computer – damage assessment.”

“There is a large split in the back. The material must have taken too many hits and exceeded its tensile strength during your last battle with Bane.”

Bane! I cursed to myself. “Is a replacement available?”

“Negative, sir. Your spare is out with the other suit. I will instruct the 3D printer to begin work on another, but it will take several hours for the material to cure.”

I frowned. I didn’t have six hours. I didn’t even have three. I tucked the open rubber ends under my cape. It would have to do.

I looked into the cave’s parking bays. “I assume the Batmobile is in the field too.”

“Affirmative,” replied my ever helpful computer.

I couldn’t drive one of Bruce’s cars. They were too recognizable around town. That left only one option. “Computer, inform Alfred I’ve borrowed his car.”

“One moment.”

I verified the address of my destination. Without the Batmobile’s speed, I had even less time to spare.

“Alfred has acknowledged.”

“Thank you computer.”

I turned the key in the ignition, shaking my head at what Alfred considered music as I drove out of the cave and into the city. Beads of sweat formed under my mask and down my back. I realized I must not be as recovered as I thought, but it was too late to turn back now. This appointment was too important to miss.

I pulled up to my destination and walked through the door marked with a single yellow balloon.

batman birthday - www.alliepottswrites.comA small boy sat inside. Seeing me, his face immediately broke into a smile. My biggest fan.

“Happy Birthday, LT,” I said coming to his side.

The smile slipped from his face. His eyes narrowed. “You’re not the real Batman. That’s just a costume.” He nodded to himself. “I can tell.”

I’d thought my greatest opponents were safely behind bars at Arkham Asylum, but it would turn out even the clown prince of crime had nothing on the keen eyes or unfiltered opinions of this particular six-year-old birthday boy.


For the record, LT didn’t buy any part of this story for a second, but to his credit, the Bat-hero attending his party never once gave up trying.

That being said, some tips for other caped crusaders considering taking on the extremely risky children’s party circuit.

  • Drink lots of fluids – that suit gets hot
  • Don’t forget your utility belt – you never know when you’ll wish you had a smoke bomb or a grappling hook to get away
  • Practice your angry voice – it comes in handy answering questions as well as directing activities
  • Don’t forget to shave – the mask will fit much better
  • Have fun – Even if you forget all the rest, you’ve still made one kid’s day

And for that last one, we average citizens, thank you.