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.

 

A Holiday Address From Her Royal Highness – 2017 Edition

A Holiday Address from her Royal Highness - www.alliepottswrites.com

Her Royal Highness fell asleep while posing for this year’s royal portrait.

It gives us great joy to address you on this, the shortest day of the year. Though this means the longest night is upon us once more, We say joy, because from this point on, darkness will only grow shorter.

While winter has begun, blanketing half the world in cold and gray, We take comfort in the knowledge that the season, for all its cruelty, is in a state of retreat at its very beginning, and that summer is present, if only on the other side of the world. While winter may yet show its bite, the growing days are the constant reminder that winter’s worst is never more than temporary.

Is it any wonder then, the word following the beginning of winter, the world solstice, is so close in form and sound to solace?

And so we fight back against the approaching cold with blankets, cookies, and candles, confident in the knowledge we have the upper hand. We refuse to give into the darkness and instead, celebrate the joy that is this season by opening our hearts and homes to strangers as well as those held most dear.

Winter may represent the end of the year, but with it also, a beginning. It is a chance to start over, to forgive, to change, to add more pillows, or address past mistakes.

So go forth, and do not be afraid of the darkness that surrounds, for it has already lost. Cherish the traditions that brought you this far, but dare to do something different from time to time. Make this coming year everything you wished the previous year could be. For our time in the summer’s sun is all to short and winter will return again.

Therefore always remember to look for the joy in the everyday, whether that day be winter, spring, summer or fall. Know that all days have within them the potential to be shiny and bright. The only difference is the season.

Warmest Regards,

HRH, The Princess Royal V.C. Potts, the first of her name


Although this is my last regularly scheduled post for the year, I do have one more post planned – the conclusion to the short story mysteries series I’ve been running on Saturdays since November. If you’ve missed them, you can read the first in the series here. Fair warning – they have absolutely nothing to do with the holidays, so do not expect warm fuzzy feelings.

I’ll still be checking in from time to time, but will be spending most of the next few days deep into mugs of hot chocolate (with the occasional eggnog) while I plot and plan for 2018.

I hope each of you also gets some time for rest and relaxation as well however you choose to celebrate the changing of the year.

-Allie

Why I don’t mind being compared to a piece of meat

The Hamburger: An American Tale - www.alliepottswrites.comI was working in Hong Kong when a client from the United States came to tour factories and visit the corporate office. After a day of meetings, we invited him out to dinner, which he accepted. My colleagues, being the polite hosts they were, asked him if he had a preference. He suggested TGI Fridays, a US-based casual dining restaurant featuring American dishes. I guess after the long flight and the day of tours, he wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous.

I didn’t necessarily blame him. While I do try to eat as the locals do when I travel and pride myself on being willing to try most foods (excepting those starting out as animals I view as pets), I’d been working there long enough for the novelty to have long since worn off. I decided to take advantage of the situation and ordered something I’d been craving.

Hong Kong and China had recently celebrated Handover day, also known as the day in which the British government turned control of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) to China. There had been parades in the streets. Some were pro-China while others called for greater independence and a truer democracy.

While we waited for our dinner orders to arrive, the client asked my colleagues how they viewed themselves. Did they consider themselves as Chinese or Hong Kongers / Hong Kongese? I got the feeling that this question might fall into that area deemed outside of polite conversation – like asking about a person’s salary or political leanings – but I will admit I was intrigued to hear their answers.

Most at the table answered that they viewed themselves as Hong Kongers, but chose not to elaborate. Our orders arrived – mine being a burger with a side of fries. Perhaps the client sensed their discomfort, but he couldn’t let the topic go. As the others focused on their food, he turned to me and asked, “How about you? What does it mean to you to be an American?”

www.alliepottswrites.com

A bag of chicken feet – not what I am used to seeing in a hotel snack tray

I picked up my burger, allowing the juices to run down my fingers as squeezed the buns together – an act that you really don’t appreciate until you’ve been eating with chopsticks for weeks. The smell of its greasy goodness filled my nose as a drop of tomato sauce (it’s sooooo not ketchup elsewhere so let’s not even pretend it is what it’s not) slipped onto my plate below. “This,” was all I could say, enjoying the sensation of my teeth cutting through the soft bread and breaking through the crispness of the lettuce as I bit into its side. It would only have been more delicious had it been a slice of pizza.

I’m not sure my tablemates, even the other American, understood my point.

It was enough to move the conversation along to other, less hazardous topics, and gave me the opportunity to savor my dinner relatively uninterrupted. However, the point I was trying to make was this – America is a big juicy hamburger. It’s huge. It’s two to four times larger than any health professional worth his or her license would recommend you attempt to consume every day in a single sitting. In fact, some might recommend abstaining altogether, but that can be hard to do as a burger’s flavor tends to carry over into other dishes, especially where cooking utensils are shared, reminding you of what you could have ordered.

It’s full of fat and salt and can absolutely break your heart if you let it. And yet, when done properly, it can be the most delicious mix of protein, carbohydrates, and side of salad.

American symbols - www.alliepottswrites.com #fourthofJulySure, you might get a less than ideal burger experience from time to time. Meat cooked too much, or not enough, stale bread, the unexpected pickle, or vegetables left too long under the sun. You might be embarrassed to find an errant piece of green on or tooth later in the day, or frustrated by a lodged string of meat that simply won’t be chewed and go away. You may occasionally be made to feel like a glutton for eating the whole thing, but that’s the risk and price you pay when you stick with it versus picking something else from the available menu.

 And yet, I find myself ordering a burger again and again, especially after a period of travel, because a burger feels, quite simply, like home to me. It’s not just a meal. It’s memories of cookouts in the back yard and at family gatherings. It’s the choice we have to stay where we are or the opportunity to eat on the run. It’s the freedom to experiment with new combinations of flavors or make the best of what we are given. Whether you prefer to make it gourmet or with what you can buy with pocket change or use beef, bison, turkey or veggie, a burger is a variety of taste and experience. But above all, a burger can represent optimistic possibility.

I’ve eaten terrible burgers over the years, but I’ve savored some great ones too. I know a burger’s flavor is never certain, but I’ll keep risking the order anyway. Because I also know a bad burger’s taste lasts only so long and all it takes to make the next the best it can be is a bit of patience, a source of warmth, and a great mix of ingredients.

And that is a dish worth celebrating.Happy #fourthofjuly - www.alliepottswrites.com