On having it all and a belated Mother’s Day

On having it all and Mother's Day - www.alliepottswrites.com

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The hubby and I have been flirting with minimalism for some time. I say flirting because while we both find the idea attractive, and would absolutely love to get to know it better sometime, it’s just not something we feel we can commit to at this moment, especially as, with two kids under 10, it is next to impossible to keep the ‘things’ from piling up.

There’s the ‘thing’ the youngest made in school – a small clay pot with uneven sides or the hand-drawn book he made describing how a bed is made. There are the ‘things’ the eldest collects – rocks that catch his eye or the projects he completes in cub scouts.

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Those things, at least, have sentimental value even if they take up space, but then there are the other ‘things’: the plastic characters that come with fast food kids meals, the Legos they use to build a model once which later magically transform into multicolored landmines to an unsuspecting parent’s foot, or the toys which cycle through their favor – one minute they are taking up space in the corner, the next minute (which usually coincides with you eyeballing them for a garage sale) they are the be-all-toy of all-consuming obsession.

Their ‘things’ can be a tad overwhelming at times.

Then I came home from lunch on Sunday and found the floors were cleared and all the toys had been put away. It was all I could want for Mother’s Day.

Better yet – I hadn’t needed to ask.

A friend of mine recently brought my attention to an article featured on the Huffington Post entitled: “Why Women Are Tired: The Price of Unpaid Emotional Labor” by a person known as Psyched in San Francisco. The article, which describes one woman’s request for a professional house cleaning as a Mother’s Day gift, goes on to detail how her well-meaning other half missed the point of her request. She wasn’t looking for a clean house, though that was definitely a plus. What she wanted – was a break.

It reminded me of the old analogy of a person looking for a drill in a hardware store. The person isn’t there to buy a tool, even if that’s what it appears to an outsider. The person is really in the store because they need a hole.

The author of the article made a point to say her husband was a kind and supportive partner. He wanted to do the right thing. He wanted to make her Mother’s Day. His mistake was simply not understanding the requested gift’s true value.

Has my other half been sneaking a peek at my browsing history and whispering suggestions into my kids’ ears? Perhaps, but in this instance, I’m not complaining. I simply enjoyed a couple hours off duty. It may not come again for some time.

Yep – this looks about right (Clicking on the image will redirect you to an affiliate link)

Another friend sent me a piece from the New Yorker: “I am the one woman who has it all.” by Kimberly Harrington. By its title, you might think the piece was a judgmental essay about a woman who has chosen to continue to work after having children, when in fact it is an all too relatable (and funny) summary of all the many reasons a mom might actually want a break from it all, if only for a single day.

After reading the piece I now understand I’m a woman who has it all too, but that’s okay. I know it is worth it in the end.

I like to think it’s made me a better person as well as a better mom. I certainly appreciate my own moms more now knowing what shenanigans my siblings and I put them through.

I’m okay with the bad – the mess, the stress, the never-ending head colds – provided it continues to be outweighed by the good.

I tell myself that one day I will come home and there will be no mess to clean – my boys will be out in the world on their own – and so I accept the things around my home for what they are, proof that, for this moment, that time is still far from now.

I’m okay with having it all.

Just as long as ‘having it all’ comes with the occasional unexpected house cleaning and maybe…, just maybe… a couple hours off and a bottle of wine (or two).

Happy Belated Mother’s Day to the moms out there.

 

 

 

If you give your husband a truck continued – The Chuck Box: Part Deux

In my effort to provide a humorous spin on a project taking up space in my garage for far too long, I inadvertently offended the mighty carpenter / do-it-yourselfer / mad-engineer that is my other half by posting an image that did properly convey the amount of hard work he put into his creation, nor its sheer awesomeness.

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Participants were not paid for their time.]

I give you –

THE CHUCK BOX: Part Deux.

Measuring 33.5″ tall, 60″ long, and 24.5″ deep (0.85m x 1.524m x 0.6223m) and goodness knows how many pounds in its ‘closed’ position, the chuck box (which could also be described as a tiny home kitchenette) has everything one might need to create a home-cooked meal, even when you are miles from home including a working sink operated by a foot pump as well as a double burning gas-powered grill with gas storage tank. Utensils are also within ready reach as are (my personal favorite) a trio of travel wine glasses.

But that’s not all.

The entire top flips a mind-boggling 180 degrees thanks to a well-placed piano hinge. A pair of hidden legs then extends to provide this lucky chuck box owner an extra meal prep counter space.

But your taste buds aren’t the only things to get a workout thanks to this monument of epic engineering.

There’s more?

Feast your eyes on an optional audio-visual extravaganza complete with flat screen tv, speaker system, power bar, remote caddy, and over the air extended antenna. This detachable system is perfect for keeping small children (and those full-grown) entertained for hours and is especially handy during long tailgates throughout football season.

How do all these awesome electronics operate? I’m glad you asked. The A/V system is run off a portable solar panel plus inverter (not pictured), which my other half will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about if you ever ask him.

But wait, we’re still not done!

When it is time to pack up, the entire box closes like a traveling steam truck of old protecting its contents until the next time you journey off to create new memories.

Act Now. Limited Quantities. Time is running out!

I wish I could say contact my other half here for questions about what it would take to get yourself one of these marvels, except we have yet to figure out how to lift the thing high enough to fit on the trailer hitch.

However, knowing my other half, he already has a few ideas as to how to solve that problem as well. My guess? Those ideas will be equally awesome, but take up the remaining space in the garage for the foreseeable future.

Until next time!

 

Lessons learned over one hot stove and several cooking classes

lessons learned over one hot stove - www.alliepottswrites.com #valentines #datenight #cookingclassFood.

Food is a magical thing.

Though everyone who sits at a table will have a unique experience, we still refer to a meal as being shared. You can disagree about a particular taste and the other people at the table with an opposing view will actually support your preference so that nothing goes to waste. Love pickles? Here, have my share. Hate chocolate? Please, by all means, pass that my way.

Food brings us together in a way that nothing else can.

My husband and I decided several years ago that we would rather exchange memories than things and so unless there is a specific pressing need, our gifts to each other are typically printed out confirmations of bookings or tickets to an upcoming event. This year was no exception. I’d booked us a couple’s night out at a local cooking class.

Now, not all cooking classes are created the same and so it is always important to read a class description as well as reviews before signing up.

Words to look for:

Home Chef – unless you are trying to learn to be a professional in the kitchen, classes that cater (pun intended) to the home chef typically feature more commonly found ingredients and utilize the types of equipment and/or appliances found in the average kitchen. Meaning there is a remote chance you might be able to recreate a recipe at home on your own. The downside though is you will learn a recipe you can recreate at home – meaning don’t expect a once in a lifetime experience.

Hands-on – If you are looking for dinner and a show, a class that is not advertised as “hands-on,” is the one for you. A hands-off class is like being part of the live studio audience on a cooking show. You get to sit at a bar drinking wine while the chef talks you through what he or she is doing and then you eat the results. At a hands-on class, you should expect to work for your meal. Hmm, now that I’ve put it like that, I am beginning to question my preference.

Class size – The best classes are smaller classes with a high teacher to student ratio – ideally you don’t want to share your instruction with more than nine other students.

Instructor – It should go almost without saying that you want to be lead in your cooking class by someone who actually has formal training in the subject matter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to teach. This is one of those times you may want to pay attention to a person’s resume.

Location, Location, Location

This wasn’t our first cooking class together. We’d gone to one offered by chefs at one of the high-end restaurants in town. We’d learned about wine pairings, how to properly trim (and store) a steak. Though the class hadn’t been quite as hands-on as we would have liked, we still left with more food than we could eat.

We also left with significantly less money in our wallets. That class hadn’t been cheap, nor had the schedule been flexible as this class sells out months in advance with no refunds offered.

The second class we took together was easier on the budget (as well as the calendar) but was located within a cooking supply store rather than a restaurant. As a result, in addition to our meal, we also had to listen to product pitches for the latest and greatest kitchen do-dads. Still, the food we made all by ourselves (four words – black truffle mashed potatoes) was worth the occasional commercial interruption.

This year I tried to find a happy median between the two. I found a small, hands-on class offered by a chef whose primary business model was the cooking school. The advertised meal (Chicken Saltimbocca) looked delicious, the price was right and the schedule, convenient. But the class itself was not entirely what I expected.

Instead of each couple preparing our own meal from end to end, we each were given a specific course along with a recipe card while the chef instructor hovered between stations. If I ruined the chicken, I’d ruin it for everyone. Right – no pressure at all! I decided it was in the best interest of the group to pass that duty over to my hubby while I peeled potatoes instead.

I will admit that I was disappointed not to be at the dessert station as baking is where my talents lie, but that would have meant spending the evening apart from my other half, who is never so happy as when he is cooking, hence the reason for the night out in the first place.

Then it was time to eat.

The eight of us took our plates to an adjacent room and sat down and this is where the real magic happened. I might not have learned how to make a raspberry almond torte, but instead, I learned of one couple’s adult twin daughters now making their parents so proud. I learned of a documentary on wine tasting, I need to check out, and of one woman’s semester abroad.

Food has a way feeding conversation as well as people.

But I also learned that my hubby still makes me proud (and continues to make me laugh) as he entertained the group with our stories both at the table and over the stove preparing a meal we enjoyed together. And that’s a lesson always worth learning more than once.

 

A dose of well-deserved medicine

A story about charitable giving and a response to a Tzedakah Challenge - www.alliepottswrites.com

It was Sunday evening. I was sitting on the couch, enjoying a little quiet time while mentally readying myself for the week ahead. I happened to notice my husband typing on his phone with a self-satisfied grin on his face. I was immediately on alert. To be clear – this is not a look to be trusted. Not when it is on my husband. The only way it could have been worse would be if he had that grin while typing on my phone.

“Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?” – Groucho Marx

I glanced at my phone, but the only alerts showing were a slew of news headlines, which were anything but grin worthy. Nope, we definitely weren’t looking at the same thing. I navigated to Facebook. My feed is set to show my husband’s actions and reactions at the top, so within an instant, I could see he was being particularly active that night. Yeah. This can’t be good. I braced myself for impact as I clicked on the link.

The status update belonged to my cousin advising she was participating in a Tzedakah Challenge. For those not familiar with the word *raises my hand* Tzedakah roughly translates to charitable giving. Per her status update, she had to give to an organization of her choice based on the number of likes and comments she received in a 24 hour period. She pledged to donate $1 for every like and $2 for every comment and would reveal the specific charity after the 24 hour period expired. However, as it was Mother’s Day, she was willing to share that the donation would go toward helping women become better mothers.

Now my husband is a bit of a troublemaker/jokester by nature (and by a bit I mean even our friends’ kids knew by age three to always take what Mr. Potts says with a grain of salt), but he usually means well. Apparently, my cousin’s public pledge provided too good an opportunity to pass up. He commented on her post. Then he commented again, a reply to his first comment. Then again with a reply to his reply. Again and again.

This is who have to live with folks.

A friend of my cousin noticed my husband’s ‘enthusiasm’ and chimed in. What have you done? I shook my head. Don’t you know not to ever encourage him? It’s like saying ‘Beetlejuice’ three times – it sets him free. If she didn’t know what the consequences of her actions were at the time, she does now.

“Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.” – Will Rogers

Either bored with his conversation with himself or emboldened by the (potentially misguided) encouragement, my husband went on to like and reply to more of my cousin’s friends and acquaintances like an internet troll with a one-trick agenda (but a happy, friendly, supportive troll).

The following day, we learned exactly where my husband had spent my cousin’s money. All $150 of it.

She had chosen to donate to Literacy for Life – a regional adult literacy program, but also a program that provides mothers, fathers, and even those without children valuable life skills. In their words:

“Literacy for Life has helped people with numerous individual goals, including studying for and passing the U.S. citizenship exam, obtaining a better job, learning to manage family finances, passing a driver’s license test, effectively communicating with medical professionals, and helping a child with homework.”

There are worse things trolling can do.

However, my husband’s bit of fun (as well as intentioned as it may have been) wasn’t without its own repercussions. After the day was over and the pledge complete, my cousin ‘thanked’ him for his support by naming him as one of her five nominees to carry on the challenge. As I would like to remain on speaking terms with my extended family, I’m here today to ensure he does just that.

I’ll leave the lesson of the day to another:

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” –  Ernest Hemingway

Now, I don’t normally participate in these sort of challenges, but in this case, I am choosing to make an exception (I can be a supportive spouse too after all). If you would like to give my husband a taste of his own medicine or if you just want to support a charity of our choice (up to $150) please feel free to comment or like this post here or on Facebook. I’ll be sure to tell the hubby what he owes.

But be warned, because no good deed goes unpunished, I’m leaving the follow-up nominations to him. If you aren’t careful, you may just earn yourself a new friend.


The official time period for the challenge is up, so you can comment or like from this point on without fear of nomination. Thank you to all who helped me teach my husband a lesson – and helped me support a good cause. I will posting a follow up with the official charity we’ve chosen to support in a later post.

The Supportive Spouse and other writer problems

The Supportive Spouse and other #writing problems - www.alliepottswrites.com

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I’m starting to suspect my hubby’s support of my writing career may not be quite as altruistic as he lets on.

Oh sure, he says he wants me to succeed. He wants us to be in a position to offer our closest friends a spur-of-the-moment place at our beach house or mountain chalet as much as I do. In fact, he probably wants that even more than I do (mountain chalet and beach homes can be dirt magnets after all).

But . . .

Well, take, for example, this past summer. He decided, quite out of the blue, that I deserved a proper writing desk rather than the shared surface I was using. But space in my house is at a premium and the children’s toys seem to multiply even faster than the dust bunnies. So on this day, he decided he would build me one that could be folded up on the wall when not in use. A Murphy desk.

Out he went into our garage with his trusty sidekick, Kiddo, in tow. I heard the saw blades spin and the power tools whirl. Kiddo came back in. Kiddo went back out. Kiddo left the door open. Repeatedly. Whirl. Mommy went a little insane.

Not to be outdone, LT joined the fun, as did Her Royal Highness (the dog) too. LT fell down. Mommy kissed boo-boos. HRH decided to trot down the street and visit the neighbors. Mommy got a call. Mommy wasn’t so sure she wanted this desk any longer.

Then, after several hours of holding what smidgen of rationality remained in my brain together, Lamont returned ready to show me the fruits of his labors. There was my new desk in unfinished wooden splendor.

“Uh, that’s not level.” I pointed at the top joint which could better pass as abstract art than as a right angle.

Lamont frowned. “I can fix that,” he said. “But it will need to wait until tomorrow.”

Murphy Desk - #DIY - www.alliepottswrites.com

It’s wall art! It’s a desk!

The next day came, but the cobbler’s elves either failed to arrive, or they neglected to fix his handiwork overnight. Taking another look at it with fresh eyes, Lamont admitted he was going to need to start from scratch.

Considering it was going to be my desk, meaning I would have to look at it every day, I had no choice but to agree with his assessment even though I knew it meant I would lose my co-parent and general weekend-chore-sharer to the garage once again.

The second try was much more successful and soon the desk was ready for finishing. This time Lamont invited LT to help as it was a painting project. What’s the worst that could happen? White, child-sized footprints adorned my steps. Even better, paint covered my boy’s body from head to cheek as he’d chosen to work on his masterpiece in only a pair of briefs.

I was forced to drop everything except the wiggling paint monster in order to scrub him down in an impromptu bath. As LT splashed about, I realized my husband had stumbled on the most genius plan imaginable for getting out of his standard weekly honey-do list. He’d gotten to play all day in the garage for the last two weeks, and I couldn’t complain as it was all being done for me.

Or at least I thought it was his most genius plan.

It turns out he had one better.

Flash forward. I completed the early drafts of my manuscript, a sequel to The Fair & Foul at the end of October. I knew I needed to let it sit and simmer before I attempted any further re-writes, but I also knew how strong the temptation would be to dive in and start on the edits anyway. Determined not to succumb and edit too early, I enlisted Lamont’s help as an alpha reader. Every day was a challenge not to ask him what he thought until he was done. “I’m at 10%,” he’d advise. “20%. 35.” To him, it was breakneck progress. To me, it was grueling.

The weekend came around again. Lamont held up his Kindle. “85%,” he announced. The children started to bounce off the walls. “I’ve got to finish it.” He disappeared. Sigh. Speaking of percents, it is probably the only time I wasn’t 100% thrilled to hear I’d written something someone didn’t want to put down, but even so, it was still better to hear than the alternative.

I’m happy to report I now have my weekend helper back, which means that I will soon be able to move forward with edits once again. With any luck (and maybe a little more help from my supportive spouse), I might just be able to publish this book next year. And that’s certainly a problem worth having.