A celebration five years in the making

A celebration five years in the making - www.alliepottswrites.comLT woke to the sounds of his family singing. He grinned a sleepy grin as he stretched underneath the covers, rubbing eyes which weren’t quite as ready to wake up. This was it. His birthday. His fifth birthday. It was the culmination of every wish he’d held most dear since, well . . . since the last one.

If you’d asked him, he likely would have told you that mommy and daddy had tricked him this time last year. Other than dropping the guard rails from his bed, four hadn’t been nearly the magical age that they’d led him to believe. He still wasn’t big enough to cross the street unattended. Or go on the big kid bus to the elementary school. Or do any number of things that he felt were his due.

But five. Five was going to be different. He just knew it.

Still grinning his sleepy grin, LT made his way into the bathroom he shared with his brother, Kiddo, only to stop in front of the colorful staircase that led to his toothbrush at the bathroom sink. He looked to his father. “I don’t need the stairs anymore daddy,” he announced. “I’m a big boy now.”

His father, always the one most likely to indulge the boys, pulled the steps away while answering “Is that so?”

LT grinned again and approached the sink fully expecting that somehow in the middle of the night his arms and legs would have stretched to lengths more fitting of a boy of his new maturity. He reached. And reached. And reached. And yet the faucet remained stubbornly just beyond his fingers’ touch.

“How about we use the steps, just a little bit longer,” his father suggested.

This minor setback was not enough to spoil his mood. At breakfast, LT’s grin might have been seen from space if it weren’t for the kitchen’s ceiling. “I’m five. I’m going to graduate [from preschool],” he proudly announced to his brother in between spoonfuls of cereal.

“Not until this summer, honey,” his mother corrected him. “Soon.” She gave him a squeeze. “But not too soon.”

LT took another mouthful as he chewed on this latest development.

His Nana came to visit that evening, an event that also meant pizza and even more presents. LT, having already enjoyed a cupcake or two at preschool that afternoon, bounced from room to room high on sugary treats and greasy goodness, scattering wrapping paper with abandon. It was his day and he would do whatever he wanted. Or so he thought.

“It’s bedtime.”

LT interpreted the announcement to mean, ‘it’s time to build a blanket waterfall/fort.’

“Bedtime. Now.”

LT threw himself on the stairs in a fit, his body flopping into the same limp dead weight mastered by children around the world in protest at the merest threat that he might be carried to his room like the baby, he knew, he was no longer. Like that, LT’s birthday was over.

There was nothing written on the calendar the following day, a fact that should have meant that life had returned to normal. Gifts were put away. Preschool would resume its regular routine. By all accounts, the day should have been entirely unworthy of note. LT, however, chose not to view the new day that way.

Turning to his mother, he echoed the words uttered unbeknownst to him by one of his cousins the year before, “and now I’m almost six,” proving that while even the best days may include a disappointment or two, and the ordinary days, potentially, even more, there is always something to celebrate as long as you think positively.


The Fair & FoulLT’s big day wasn’t the only one to receive presents last week. I’m pleased to announce that my science fiction/cyberpunk novel, The Fair & Foul – Project Gene Assist Book One, has been gifted with a new cover, and the finalization of the cover of its sequel is not far behind.

And for those who enjoyed my Women’s Fiction/Cozy Mystery novel, An Uncertain Faith, here’s what I hope will be a present for you – I’m on track to finish the first draft of its sequel by the end of March, meaning I may have not one, but two potential book launches in my immediate future.

Like LT and his quest to ride the big kid bus, or even reach the bathroom sink unassisted, I know I still have a number of milestones still left to achieve before any of this can happen, but at least I know I am closer now than I was the day before, and that’s reason enough for me to celebrate.

A Holiday Message from Her Royal Highness

A #Holiday Message from Her Royal Highness - www.alliepottswrites.comGreetings to all,

It pleases us to no end to be able to address you all at this, most joyous time of year. It is a season made even more joyous thanks to the continuing efforts of you, Our most loyal subjects.

The state of the realm remains strong, with the exception of the great pillow drought which has seemingly continued well beyond what might have otherwise been deemed an acceptable transitional period. No efforts, nor resources shall be spared in the coming year to find a solution to this ongoing problem.

The squirrel menace remains firmly in check, if not in a state of full retreat, which may or may not have anything to do with the cooling temperatures. However, the drastic reduction in squirrel related crimes and other offenses does in no way signify that the war against this scourge is complete. We encourage all citizens to remain ever vigilant, as we shall be, and report any and all activity considered at odds with the values of the realm.

However, while there have been battles fought this year, there have been plenty of other victories too. When faced with the dark waters of lakes and oceans unknown, we as a people, jumped in. We repeatedly fought against currents and secured our goals. Returning to shore, we claimed the land beneath our feet with the confidence that only those who have suffered challenge only to triumph can command.

New alliances have been brokered in Our name. Storms may have blown, knocking down Our most ancient fences and causing damage most distressing. However, now, neighbors are no longer isolated from neighbor.  As a result, new and stronger friendships have been given birth in that storm’s wake.

We have made numerous tours of the surrounding territory as our boundaries continue to expand, unfettered. Indeed, Our noble oversight and justice now even extends well into what previously was considered a place to be feared, a no man’s land, a place which may be more commonly known as The Crawl Space, bringing light and rule to where there once was none.

It feels fitting to end this address to you on the subject of light. To quote her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, who reminded us this time last year of an old saying in her address, ‘it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.’

There is much unknown about the coming year. Squirrels could return with fleas. Greater storms may blow. But the sun, with its light most high, can always be counted on to rise, no matter what tomorrow brings. Stay true to the values you hold most dear. Be the candle in the darkness so others may find their way. And do not be afraid, for only in the darkness do we find how brightly we might shine.

We Survive, We Improvise – Conclusion #shortstory #fiction

The below is the conclusion to my short story, We Survive, We Improvise. If you missed the beginning, you can read it here.


wesurviveweimproviseThe engines’ roar seemed louder than usual in the plane’s cabin, likely because the cabin was filled with only about a quarter of the passengers it originally started with. “Let’s go home ladies,” Darla announced in a somber voice over the speaker system as the rest of us readied ourselves for lift off. The look in her eyes as she began making her final inspection down the aisle before giving the pilot the thumbs up sign told me our latest sergeant wouldn’t be looking for another challenge anytime soon.

Home. The word sat in my conscience. Could the place we were going to really be called home? For the first time, I allowed myself to think of the family I’d left behind. Not the fantasy family that had gotten me through so many terrible nights, but the real one. I forced myself to do the math. The daughter I still saw in braids and pigtails in my mind’s eye would be a woman now. She might even have a child of her own. I reached for the harness as an anchor only to recall my right arm was no longer attached to the rest of my body.

Stacy, the not-so-newbie, whose first battle proved to also be our last, pulled the belt across my body, securing it into place before strapping herself into Christie’s old seat. I bit my lip. Home. Would I ever really be able to call it that without these women by my side?

The scent of blood, dirt, and gasoline tickled my nose, causing my nostrils to quiver and eyes to water as I took a deep breath to settle my thoughts. I certainly wasn’t crying.

“Double or nothing?” Stacy asked Darla as my sister-in-arms made her way to our seats.

Darla glanced in my direction and the corner of her lip turned up. “You’re on.” Then she caught my eyes. “We were asked to give our all Ladies,” she shouted to the masses. “And that’s exactly what we served. Never forget who you are. We are the Mother F–ing Army.” Leaning in, she lowered her voice so only I could hear. “We survive. We improvise.”

I nodded as the plane began its journey to the place that might one day be called home again. We do indeed. 

Hooah.

This was a story that was partially inspired by a dream, but also the village that helped raise me – a wonderful group of women known as the Ladies that Do Bridge. While they might never have been sent to war, they’ve never shied from a battle.


Things I am grateful for today:

  1. With the exception of a slight cough, my cold is nearly gone
  2. I made it through my *gasp* eight-year old’s birthday party extravaganza, sanity intact
  3. I have friends and family close by as well as across oceans
  4. I have one complete manuscript simmering and a chapter written for the next one
  5. The knowledge that I am strong, I am determined, and I will make will make the best of whatever tomorrow throws my way. Because I survive even if it sometimes means I have to improvise.

No critter wants that litter, so best be on your way

Litter sign

Image by Wade Tregaskis, courtesy of Flickr.com

I was standing outside, miles from home, with a trash bag in hand. A liquid of questionable make-up was running down my ankle from where I’d accidently brushed a leaky corner of the bag with my leg. It was a perfect morning.

My hubby, a regular member of the local Rotary Club had volunteered us all for a service project on Saturday. All of us. Even her Royal Highness. Our task was to go to a nearby park and walk the trail, scooping up litter along the way. When we arrived, the volunteer coordinator gave my boys a grabbing tool, a pair of gloves, and draped an adult sized fluorescent yellow vest labeled Park Volunteer vest over Kiddo’s shoulders. Then we’d gotten to work.

Kiddo decided it was a contest. Little did the other volunteers know, but they were now locked into a race against the clock to gather the most amount of garbage. It was a contest Kiddo was determined to win. The boy ran down hills, jumped into the brush, and time after time returned with a bottle, can, or cigarette butt clenched in his grabbing tool’s claws as proudly as if the trash were trophy.

Other park visitors were quick to notice, coming over to thank my son for his service. I beamed with every compliment they bestowed upon my son as I clutched our trash bag, now made heavy through his efforts.

Another couple from the club met us on the path. They’d finished inspecting the next section and it was time to head back. We turned to follow with Kiddo still on the lookout for any scrap that might have been missed. LT, more eager than his brother to call it a morning, begged his father to carry him the rest of the way. In order to shield our ears from the full assault of preschool cries, Lamont scooped LT up, placing him on his shoulders while I took charge of holding her Royal Highnesses leash in one hand and the trash bag in the other.

The path narrowed as we rounded the corner to the final bit of stairs leading to the park’s exit and a group of women approached us. I glanced at Kiddo, once again off the path in search of loose trash, as I anticipated the comments that would surely come.

A woman screamed.

Not the reaction I was expecting. I looked over. I realized then I’d let the lead grow too long and in that split second of inattention, Her Royal Highness had decided to make new friends.

The woman screamed again, clearly not interested in Her Royal Highness’ friendship. The group parted and I saw they too had a dog in tow. Only her dog was not idly sniffing around as if she was annexing the grounds as was mine. Hers was on its hind legs as its owner tried to yank its leash up to heaven. The dog barked frantically, mirroring the emotions of its owner. I pulled Her Royal Highness back to my side as soon as I realized what happened. Her Royal Highness, bored by the exchange, came at once without complaint.

So… almost a perfect morning.

I started to head back toward the stairs, but the other dog’s owner wasn’t yet satisfied. Turning she shouted a number of things at me and mine not caring at all who heard her spew, including my children.

I could have returned her righteous anger with my own. The encounter was an unwelcome surprise to us both. I hadn’t seen her dog. Didn’t she see my children? We were doing our part to make the park better, for people like her to enjoy. If anything she should be the one apologizing to them if not to me for her extended reaction.

I could have, but I didn’t say any of those things. I didn’t say anything at all. Instead, I simply looked at the stairs in front of me and decided my enjoyment of the morning would not be ruined by a passing moment. I’d reach the top, dispose of my bag, and be on my way.

I know the bags of mental negativity are far less easy to get rid off once you let them weigh you down. I could see all to clearly their impact on her in her body language as she continued down the path and could hear how she still simmered over my lack of reaction to her words or actions as the distance between us increased. I knew I didn’t want that kind of energy.

She’d tried her best to hand her bags of negativity to me. To spread her anger like the litter we’d collected, but I hadn’t let her. I’d resisted taking anything more than this little scrap for the purpose of telling a story. After all, my hands were full. I realized then I felt sorry for her. Not sorry enough to share her burden, but sorry she wouldn’t have the kind of day I’d had, even if it there had been a scattering of litter along the way.

I felt a cool drip on my leg, reminding me of the mystery liquid, best left unexamined and my need to get home and take a long shower. It was definitely time to make our exit. Kiddo’s face flashed another smile before shouting he’d collected another wrapper. At the top of the stairs, Kiddo announced to the volunteer coordinator he was the day’s winner.

I smiled. He was a winner for sure, but it would seem, I’d won too.

Get a grip: a painful lesson on when to hold on

Grip

Image courtesy of Flickr

The outside temperature had cooled from volcanic rim to a more comfortable Amazonian jungle as I embarked on a walk around the block with Her Royal Highness, my dog. Within seconds of exiting the house, the soles of my flip-flops were slick from the trapped humidity. Still, it was a beautiful day for a walk and HRH was happy enough to trot along by my side.

As we rounded the corner, I noticed a group of teenagers on bicycles approaching. I raised my hand in greeting. As one of the girls passed, she politely said hello. I was thinking to myself what nice kids when WHAM! The next thing I knew I was experiencing the joy of flight. My arm was nearly pulled out of its socket while my feet simultaneously left the ground.  Unfortunately, my air time was only short-lived as I found myself next lying on my back in the grassy area that separates sidewalk from street looking up at a blue sky.

Super hero dog

Able to pull trains and leap buildings in a single bound, it’s Wonder Dog!

Whimper… *blink blink* Owie… It turned out that HRH, having noticed me greet the teenagers decided it would be a grand idea to introduce herself to them as well. Without delay. So what if they were now already several yards away? HRH typically has impeccable manners and so now and then I forget that she also has the natural strength to hoist the remains of the Titanic off the sea bed floor and the speed of a cheetah running from a bee sting. She was kind enough to remind me. She’d taken off at full tilt, ignoring the minor detail that we were still technically attached.

As feeling began to return to my arm I realized that the leash somehow remained gripped firmly in my hand. I had remained strong even though the same could not be said about gravity. I felt the grass by my side as attempted to sit up and had to wonder at my luck to land in the soft earth when my head could have, should have come in contact with the concrete of the sidewalk.

One of the girls shouted from up the hill, “Are you okay?” I guess they’d witnessed my amazing aerial acrobatics and pulled over to assess the situation.

“I’m fine,” I replied as HRH returned to my side and began licking my face. “But she may not be,” I joked as I rubbed HRH’s head with my good hand to assure her I was okay while attempting to look stern and scolding. I turned the leash over as I regained my footing. I realized that hadn’t been a polite response. Though there was still a dull ache in my arm, overall I was okay. Why wasn’t my skull now cracked on the ground much like Humpty Dumpty?

I hadn’t let go.

If my hand had only held the leash loosely and I’d let go at the initial snap, I might not have lost my footing, but HRH could have successfully reached those polite kids on their bikes and who knows what sort of injuries might have resulted. If I had let go the minute I realized my feet were parallel to my head I may well be writing this from a hospital bed. But I hadn’t, and because we were still attached, the momentous force that is Her Royal Highness on a mission carried my airborne body just far enough away from the sidewalk to land in the grass with only a minor scrape to show for my experience.

Of course, I would have preferred not to fall at all, but HRH was a stray up until February and the occasional mistake is still to be forgiven. Although, even if she’d been with us since a pup and had years rather than weeks of training, I know a mistake could still happen. No path is without the occasional ill-advised temptation or other misfortune. The point is, that when these speed bumps happen, you have to keep your grip on that which matters most. While your world may, for a time, seem upside down, if you hold on long enough, you too might just find yourself landing safety.