Empty Chairs

artem-maltsev-aSscHG6lvko-unsplash

Photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

There will be two empty chairs at our table this year.

One, left just as the party was really getting underway. While the other wouldn’t have surprised me had he stayed well past closing time.

Someone new will have to carve the turkey this year. Another to be among the first to nurse a glass of holiday wine.

No one will worry this year if I take too long in the shower. No one will judge if I go back for another slice of pie.

Two empty chairs, once filled by two very different people.

We’ll be raising our glasses in remembrance this year. However, I’ll try not to dwell on all the reasons to be sad.

In between courses, I’ll gaze out the window. I’ll see the waves on the lake ebb and flow. And like those waters, I know other guests will join us as the years go by. My family will continue to grow.

I am thankful there is room still at our table.

Even if today, it also means there are two empty chairs.

A season for gratitude: A short and simple, but just as honest Thanksgiving list

A short list of things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving. www.alliepottswrites.comA pair of Thanksgiving trees now stands at attention in the center of my dining room table. They were a project my boys worked on one day with their Nana. They consist a foam trunk with a scattering of bare branches. Red, yellow, and orange leaves, attached by glue, proudly proclaim all the things my children are grateful for this year.

Kiddo’s lists all the things you might expect from a sweet and sensitive nine-year-old. On it, there is mom and dad, his brother’s name, his grandparents, and his cousins.

Then there is LT’s tree and all the previously unsung heroes of my youngest’s truth.

As much as I wanted to laugh at what he chose to be grateful for this year, I can see the kid’s point for each and every one of his selections. And so this year I am attempting to follow his lead and give thanks to my own semi-ridiculous, but no less true, list of things that have made life that much better.

1. Her Royal Highness’s ‘Royal’ Sensibilities

It is a generally recommended that one does not do one’s business where one eats. I believe my dog, Her Royal Highness has this stitched on a pillow somewhere as she would prefer to drag us out in the snow and rain to do her business down the block than within the perimeter of our yard. This, of course, has necessitated many a walk resulting in many of my favorite posts, as well as the occasional swear words.

2. Mexican Restaurants

Specifically the Mexican restaurant close to my day job. While technically a sit-down establishment, the food arrives within minutes of me sitting down no matter how full the dining area is which gives me the ability to eat with time to spare for writing, editing, brainstorming, and other creative ponderings.

3. Bulletproof coffee

I love breakfast. Its one of the few meals I can be trusted to cook in its entirety (most of the time), but I love sleep too, and as a mom with a day job as well as novels to write and designs to create, I sometimes have to choose between the two. When forced, I choose sleep. Who knew that by adding a bit of butter to my morning brew, the drink would tide me over until lunch while giving me a few extra minutes of zzzzs?

4. Turn by turn navigation enabled by GPS

I have gifts – a natural directional instinct is not one of them. If left to my own devices, I can get lost pretty much anywhere. I’ve even managed to get myself lost on a battleship which is no small feat considering you are pretty much restricted to a defined parameter and a handful of decks. If it wasn’t for that lovely voice saying re-calculating when running a quick errand, I might have found myself several states over by now.

5. Podcasts

If I am going to be stuck in traffic, I at least can listen to something as entertaining as it is educational. My personal favorite is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast, which is geared toward the indie author, and I enjoyed getting into the Halloween spirit last month listening to Lore and Spooked. This month I’m giving This American Life a try and already have learned quite a bit about US copyright law simply by hearing about how an Indonesian monkey sued a British photographer in our courts.

6. A broken air conditioner

Raleigh, NC isn’t exactly known for its moderate summers, so when our air conditioner broke down not once, but twice this summer, we decided a change of scenery was in order. We spent the weekend in the mountains hiking and hunting for waterfalls. While her Royal Highness wasn’t a fan of the thunderstorm that kept us up all night (nor was I), we all agreed that the steak dinner cooked over campfire flames was one of the best meals this family has ever eaten together.

7. The neighbor’s trampoline

This one was on LT’s list as well and is a story in and of itself. The neighbors down the street had a trampoline and a son who’d recently graduated from high school.

One evening, they asked my husband if he would like to take it off their hands. A week of backbreaking work later in which we’d removed clay and pebble-filled soil over a 14-foot diameter, the corner of our newly leveled backyard became our kid’s (even Her Royal Highness) new favorite hang-out.

It may be old, and it may not be the prettiest, but bouncing and laughing under a blue sky while shaded by more than a few towering trees beats video games most days of the week.

8. Net Neutrality

This is not a joke. In the US, there is a serious concern that regulations currently on the books preventing internet service providers from being able to treat one site’s traffic differently than another’s may be overturned in the coming weeks. While currently, the major internet providers have publicly stated that they remain committed to the concept of net neutrality regardless of legislation, there is no guarantee that this will remain the case in the future.

Those not in the US who generate content should also care because, without net neutrality, US audiences will be further segmented as people opt not to pay for (or are otherwise unable to afford) access to sites the ISP wishes to restrict, disincentivize, or otherwise categorize as premium or exclusive content. This means marketing, which is already tough enough for a small business owner (like an indie author), is going to be even more difficult to navigate and connecting with an audience, an even bigger challenge.

So I am grateful for the net neutrality I’ve enjoyed thus far and would prefer to keep it.

And on that happy note, I will leave you, as Thanksgiving has taught me over the years that you can rarely feast to excess without experiencing at least a little indigestion.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I continue to be grateful for all of you year round and wish you and yours all the best.

He should be grateful for his smile. It’s the only thing keeping him out of trouble some days.


The Watch & Wand Update:

My advance proof arrived last week and it is every bit as wonderful to hold in my hands as I imagined. Going on sale December 5th, 2017, you can read an excerpt here or pre-order for kindle here.

The cranberry sauce has landed. A thanksgiving perspective

At the time this posts, I will, hopefully, be well on my way to a tryptophan-induced turkey coma or at least surrounded by the smells of food cooking, children playing, and the near-deafening noise of my family squeezed together under a single roof attempting to engage in conversation over the sound of the football game on tv.

And sure, some of this vision is idealized thinking. In reality, the children’s play has likely descended into high pitched chaos by now. Cans of cranberry sauce may have fallen to the floor adding to the kitchen’s new color scheme and grandpa might say something, well… grandpa-y.

But even this less than perfect vision is still reason for me to be grateful.

The scent of smoke filled the air outside my home last week, caused by several forest fires burning in North Carolina’s Western mountains, nearly 200 miles away. On the other side of the state, flood waters from Hurricane Matthew only recently receded. Power was out and roads were closed for weeks. Many have lost everything due to the rain, and will more due to its counterpart just as the weather to turns cold.

And so I might roll my eyes as I pass the gravy but will raise my glass when it comes time to give thanks and drink deeply. For my more realistic vision of the day, as flawed is it may be, is still filled with food, family, and a roof over our heads.

I hope that you might consider participating in #GivingTuesday if you are in a position to do so, and wish you all, whether you observe the holiday or not, a Happy Thanksgiving.


And for those of you who prefer a little extra reading to football, here is a repost of another of my less than ideal Thanksgiving stories.


Has anyone's Thanksgiving ever gone like this?

Has anyone’s Thanksgiving ever gone this smoothly? (image from wikipedia.org)

I considered myself fortunate. We were traveling for Thanksgiving, meaning I wasn’t going to have to cook (a good thing for all involved – just ask my hubby sometime about my poultry cooking skills). I didn’t have to clean. All I was expected to do was to enjoy time with my family. Silly me. I forgot that I was traveling with a toddler.

I had barely closed my eyes on Thanksgiving eve when I heard my toddler’s cry in the adjacent room which he was sharing with his brother. I immediately sprang out of bed to see what was the matter worried that might wake up the rest of the household. I was ready to once again hear, “Where Monkey Man?” This time however it wasn’t merely a request to locate his favorite toy, he was sick, and not just with the sniffles.

I rushed him to the bath while the hubby took care of the linens. Eventually, we were forced to turn the lights on while I rummaged through his bag looking for his spare set of pajamas. It turned out I needn’t worry about waking his brother. My eldest didn’t even bother turning over. (Man, I wish I could still sleep like that!)

Cleaned up, my toddler clung to me like a life raft. The hubby passed by carrying our travel toddler cot. (You could smell it from a distance.) Even if we had a spare set of sheets, kiddo wasn’t going to be able to sleep on it again anytime soon. I had resigned myself to a night on the couch or rocking chair when the hubby came by again. This time with a pillow in hand. He volunteered to stay on the couch so that our son and I might sleep more comfortably on a bed.

In hindsight, I think in the end he may have gotten the better end of the deal.

It was still a loooooonnnnng a night. At home, my toddler’s bed is near the ground and has guard rails. My in-law’s guest bed, on the other hand, is very tall and all sides are completely exposed. Each time my kiddo shifted, I worried he might slip over the side and plummet to the ground. I was afraid that the cries we had already heard that night would be whispers in comparison. I tried to pull him back closer to me, but that only served to wake him up enough to remind him that his tummy was still upset.

Several trips back to the bathroom later (progressively less necessary),  I realized that what I was doing wasn’t working. Unless I wanted to be completely worthless the following day, I was going to have to find a way for both of us to sleep. I realized I was going to have to give him more freedom of movement. I placed a few pillows near the bed’s edge, just in case, but then I let him go. Soon I heard soft, contented snores and I allowed myself to also fall into a light sleep.

I awoke hours later to the touch of small fingers on my forehead. (Oh no! Dawn is still hours away – please, please try to go back to sleep!) My little boy whispered, “Where mommy go?”

I answered, “Mommy’s here. Are you okay?” (yep, the couch was definitely the better option)

“I better.” Then no more words. Instead, he snuggled next to me, and the soft snores resumed in short order. Even though I knew right then that it was only a matter of time before I came down with whatever illness my toddler turned outbreak monkey possessed (4 days to be exact), I couldn’t help but smile. I’ll take what I can get.

My toddler used to only want to be with me. Then one day he stopped, and now prefers the company of his dad. All too soon, I know this stage will also be over and he’ll only want to be around his friends. I’ll eventually have to let him find his own way in life, but it is good to know that he’ll still look for mommy now and then.

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, or if you are part of the 95% that makes up the rest of the world, Thursday. That is unless of course you aren’t reading this on a Thursday. Technically it isn’t Thursday for me either as I am writing this well in advance of my near certain tryptophan-induced turkey coma. I digress.

By the time you read this, my turkey day celebrations will be underway. My children have likely spent the last hour complaining about how mean I have been for not giving them snacks when all I was trying to do is ensure they have room in their tummies for a no thank you helping of green bean casserole. It’s delicious! Trust me! My dad and Lamont are likely outside debating the merits of smoking a bird with charcoal versus electricity as they monitor the meat thermometer’s readings while holding a beer in hand. Meanwhile, my stepmom is probably barricaded behind a kitchen counter covered in heating pads and Pyrex.

My teenaged brothers have likely been tasked with setting the table and filling glasses with water but are more interested in coordinating an afternoon meeting with a girlfriend or two. I will notice fewer place settings filling the room as both my sisters (and their families) are attending meals elsewhere this year. Left to represent the daughters of the family, I may even be invited to sit at the grown-up table.

Even so, the house will hardly feel empty. My grandfather and his wife may join us or they may not. At 100, grandpa doesn’t really worry about things like advanced planning anymore. The dogs will run underfoot hopeful that someone will drop something tasty. Phones will ring off their hooks as various relatives check in and at some point, my step-aunt and uncle will arrive with rolls (and maybe a pie), signaling that the time for celebration has come.

The grown-ups (and big kids) will eat until our stomachs reach their limit. LT will likely experiment with gravy and cranberry sauce as hair care while his brother runs off to re-discover their uncles’ old toys. Before long, it will be time to pry Lamont away from the football game on TV and herd the children into the car so that we can repeat the entire process at Lamont’s parents’ house.

Or none of this might happen. My Thanksgivings are delicious, messy, loud and at times chaotic affairs. It is a day steeped in tradition, but flexibility too. It’s a holiday like no other. I surround myself with family, but someone else might prefer a quiet meal for two. We’ll cook a turkey, but the house across the street from us may serve ham or tofurkey instead. There are very, very few wrong Thanksgiving traditions. It is a holiday that allows you to celebrate as you see fit as long as you simply remember to say, thank you.

So here’s wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to you all no matter how you celebrate. Or Thursday. Or whatever.

And thank you.

 

Thanksgiving away from home – what could be better?

Has anyone's Thanksgiving ever gone like this?

Has anyone’s Thanksgiving ever gone this smoothly? (image from wikipedia.org)

I considered myself fortunate. We were traveling for Thanksgiving, meaning I wasn’t going to have to cook (a good thing for all involved – just ask my hubby sometime about my poultry cooking skills). I didn’t have to clean. All I was expected to do was to enjoy time with my family. Silly me. I forgot that I was traveling with a toddler.

I had barely closed my eyes on Thanksgiving eve when I heard my toddler’s cry in the adjacent room which he was sharing with his brother. I immediately sprang out of bed to see what was the matter worried that might wake up the rest of the household. I was ready to once again hear, “Where Monkey Man?” This time however it wasn’t merely a request to locate his favorite toy, he was sick, and not just with the sniffles.

I rushed him to the bath while the hubby took care of the linens. Eventually we were forced to turn the lights on while I rummaged around his bag looking for his spare set of pajamas. It turned out I needn’t worry about waking his brother. My eldest didn’t even bother turning over. (Man, I wish I could still sleep like that!)

Cleaned up, my toddler clung to me like a life raft. The hubby passed by carrying our travel toddler cot. (You could smell it from a distance.) Even if we had a spare set of sheets, kiddo wasn’t going to be able to sleep on it again any time soon. I had resigned myself to a night on the couch or rocking chair. when the hubby came by again. This time with a pillow in hand. He volunteered to stay on the couch so that our son and I might sleep more comfortably on a bed.

In hindsight, I think in the end he may have gotten the better end of the deal.

It was still a loooooonnnnng a night. At home, my toddler’s bed is near the ground and has guard rails. My in-law’s guest bed, on the other hand, is very tall and all sides are completely exposed. Each time my kiddo shifted, I worried he might slip over the side and plummet to the ground. I was afraid that the cries we had already heard that night would be whispers in comparison. I tried to pull him back closer to me, but that only served to wake him up enough to remind him that his tummy was still upset.

Several trips back to the bathroom later (progressively less necessary),  I realized that what I was doing wasn’t working. Unless I wanted to be completely worthless the following day, I was going to have to find a way for both of us to sleep. I realized I was going to have to give him more freedom of movement. I placed a few pillows near the bed’s edge, just in case, but then I let him go. Soon I heard soft, contented snores and I allowed myself to also fall into a light sleep.

I awoke hours later to the touch of small fingers on my forehead. (Oh no! Dawn is still hours away – please, please try to go back to sleep!) My little boy whispered, “Where mommy go?”

I answered, “Mommy’s here. Are you okay?” (yep, the couch was definitely the better option)

“I better.” Then no more words. Instead, he snuggled next to me, and the soft snores resumed in short order. Even though I knew right then that it was only a matter of time before I came down with whatever illness my toddler turned outbreak monkey possessed (4 days to be exact), I couldn’t help but smile. I’ll take what I can get.

My toddler used to only want to be with me. Then one day he stopped, and now prefers the company of his dad. All too soon, I know this stage will also be over and he’ll only want to be around his friends. I’ll eventually have to let him find his own way in life, but it is good to know that he’ll still look for mommy now and then.