Small Things


Tonight I’m making a roast.

I work four nights a week. While the hellions are in school I edit Old Souls, which means the nights and weekends I do get to spend with the boys are typically quite busy. 68d87662123424c6b65f8fa98cdb0b02Meals are rushed. There is homework to contend with, chores to be doled out, and music lessons to practice between futsal, basketball, and physiotherapy appointments for the youngest hellion’s clubfoot, which has recently begun to turn back in as his quickly growing bones seem to be growing a little too quickly for his muscles to keep up.

*takes deep breath*

Sometimes I look at my family and marvel at how fast life moves.

My husband and I often pass like two ships in the night: occasionally able to enjoy each other’s company in the workings of everyday life, but usually high-fiving at the door for “shift change.” We exchange texts and calls throughout the day, highlighting all the pertinent information like what’s going on at work, or that one of hellions needs to be monitored a little more closely on his newly acquired social-media privileges, or a message from the principal about the middle one fighting at school.

10574475_10154745387315105_7369288588171330962_n

Should have seen that one coming . . .

This is our life. It isn’t the neat and tidy undertaking I envisioned with that first positive pregnancy test: where my husband and I would be home to enjoy family meals at night, and my career would fit neatly into a 9-5 package. Sometimes I feel like I’m just treading water: my book will never be finished, I’m not devoting enough attention to my job, house, or marriage, and I’m a terrible mom.

I hear those feelings are normal these days.

Our life is messy, and oftentimes not ideal, but it works. Our family works. Our life works.

And it’s often only when tragedy strikes that we realize it.

On Friday March 8th, one of the oldest hellion’s good friends lost his mother in a horrific car accident on her way home from work.

I didn’t know her.

It was snowing. Her son was waiting at home. And instead of meeting his mother at the door, he was greeted by two police officers who took him to the hospital to meet his father.

Even though we weren’t friends, I have been affected by this woman’s passing in ways I could have never anticipated. It’s as if the world has been spinning like a top the last few years . . . and has suddenly come to a halt. It’s as if this moment stopped us to stare at the stars.road-3168803_1920

And all I can think of is this boy and his father.

And all I can think of is my own beloved hellions opening the door to find two police officers with terrible news.

Tonight, it’s supposed to snow again. The winds are going to blow. In fact, I can hear them now, railing against the front windows, growing in force. Tonight, we will be together, safe indoors with absolutely nowhere to go.

So tonight, I’m going to make a roast.


 

Top 5 Lessons From Bad Writer

I’m proud to call Allison Maruska one of my writerly besties.

She writes YA Urban Fantasy, and Adult Mystery & Suspense stories. Her first novel, The Fourth Descendant, has rocked Amazon bestseller lists for the last THREE YEARS.

You can check it out here:
https://www.amazon.com/Fourth-Descendant-Allison-Maruska/dp/1507809840

Her sense of humor is dry and witty, and her Twitter alter-ego is a truly special brand of cut-throat hilarious. This post had me in stitches.

Allison Maruska

I have an alter-ego on Twitter. Her name is Bad Writer.

BW page

She doesn’t have a million followers or viral tweets or anything like that. She exists merely to be the public face of my sarcastic side. And since I talk to writers a lot on Twitter, she focuses on writing.

Since her creation in July, she has tweeted 643 times, according to that screenshot. That’s a lot of bad advice being doled out. Some of those are quoted Retweets from Nat Russo’s #HorribleWritingTips, Sam Sykes’ joke tweets, Tweeps who reply, and other parody accounts, but most are her own content based on things that I read she reads. Sometimes, the content overlaps a little. I thought we could use those instances for learning. And since Bad Writer says the opposite of what a writer should do, the lessons will be actual constructive things with her non-examples.

Lesson 1: Stop abusing…

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Under Pressure


After an brief summer break from the blogging world I’m excited to share a fantastic piece written by Lari Burgos–who followers of the Sunday Scribble Challenge may better recognize under the name Larisanjou.

I’m sure you will enjoy the post as much as I did. And hey, don’t forget to check out her site today!


(More specifically this post, women–as a gentle reminder we should ALL be paying a bit more attention to our funbags.)


–J.A.


mokpoThere are unavoidable moments when ice-cold shock wakes us up from our complacency.  Our priorities become clearer and more urgent than ever.  When the impossible seems within reach, thanks to our desperate, unyielding hope.  It turns us upside-down, dispels the cobwebs and shines renewed clarity on our inner truth, the unshakeable purpose of our being, our raison d’être.

I’m one week out from greeting my thirty-first year of existence.


One year ago


I was in Spain with my F, laughing into the sky, and saying good-bye to my twenties. Turning 30, that mystical, perfectly round number.  That age, as it’s widely considered, to be the “end” of my prime.  When we’re supposed to have it all together, and to part the seas for the younger, more viable women, that moment when we reach our social expiration date.  One week before greeting my thirty-first year, I can say I’m just getting started.  Time flows, and I’m following it right along.


January, 2015


Stark text, black-and-white.  My father’s near-fatal car accident.  An ocean away, there was nothing to do but feel, go to work, and continue living. And he survived.


October, 2015


My mom’s first visit to France.  The energizing scent of travel hung around us as I joyously tugged her suitcase full of American goodies past that envelope by the door.  As an afterthought, I opened the banal envelope that contained a bombshell:  my deportation order.  Stomach turned to lead, heart rushed up to my throat.  My immediate thought:  Oh, hell no.  I’m not going anywhere. And I didn’t.  All thanks to an overwhelming support system, whose reach extended further than I realized at the time.


abstract tuned heart.jpgThere is always pressure.


The kind we artificially manufacture within ourselves, and the kind that is universal and ever-present, underlying everything we do in our “normal” lives.

My pressure emanates from within, a tactile reminder of my need to love, to express myself, to write.  The love for my dearest people, for all humanity, is frantic to escape from me, in the best way I know how.  I write.

The lump in my left breast compels me to release that love that desperately overflows from my heart, that my ego is often too afraid to reveal.  It inspires fear, and yet defiantly releases me from that same dread.

Fear is our torch in the darkness.  It’s our intimate friend, because it illuminates that which we treasure most.

Because behind the fear, there is nothing but love and acceptance.

I want to give joy and laughter to my loved ones.

I want to nourish people with my food.

I want to love my husband-to-be, my darling F, until the end of time.

Pressure boils within from this unwanted interloper, pushing my own raison d’être to the forefront.

Strip the fear away, and what does it mean?

To me, it means careful attention to each word, each gesture, each meal, each moment that becomes vibrant with urgency. Each moment I share with my students, my friends, my loves.  When words fail, it comes out in song, in a smile, in food prepared with intention, in carnal desire for my F.  Love finds any way it can to escape from my heart, despite my cowardly attempts to hold it back.  What will people think if I go around, writing, loving, and speaking all willy-nilly?  Normal people might find it strange.

But despite it all, in the face of fear, I have this undying urge.

What do you choose to do in these moments?


thon-e1362450105949.jpgLari is an ESOL teacher and avid traveler.  Writing, cooking, foreign languages, and art keep her mind active, and she’s guided through life by her sense of curiosity.  She blogs at larisanjou.com.


​Dum Scribo Spero – Guest Post by Sarah Clegg


Sarah Clegg is the final winner of this year’s series of weekly challenges to contribute a guest post to Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins. She’s also a new blogger! Join me and check out her new site, “Stay at Home Socrates.”

–J. A. Allen 


untitled.pngAt the start of May I entered the unfamiliar world of blogging, and set-up “Stay at Home Socrates” on a whim. By the end of the month, I had won J. A. Allen’s Sunday Scribble Challenge to the prompt “Show a Mother’s Twisted Love.” A tad concerning for the mother of two young children. Nevertheless buzzing with the validation of online strangers, I sought undisturbed moments with my laptop like a drug, fingers racing over the keys in a word-fuelled binge. The rest of the time I tested out material in my head, sniggering at my own jokes and tweaking my creations, whilst I just about managed to hold monosyllabic conversations with my tiddlers. For the first time in a while there was a spring in my step.  I had a hobby.

Then as spontaneously as the blog had started, it juddered to an emergency halt.

My body betrayed me and all words, inspiration, puns, and footnotes, were ejected faster than the streams that poured forth in my first episode of gastroenteritis that month. Survival became my only pursuit as I navigated a constant cycle of toilet sprints, bleaching, languishing on the sofa, languishing on the floor and attending only to the most primitive of my children’s needs.


In a conscious act of desperation I send a futile message to my husband, knowing there was no way he’d even consider coming home from work, conscientious to the end.


Note how long it took to get a reply.
At one point I must have nodded off on the sofa, exhausted from wretching and googling ‘catabolysis’.  I came to with a start when the Small One (S1) whacked some Duplo in my face. I allowed her to continue, even when she upgraded to a phone charger as her weapon of choice, rather than face the task of sourcing another form of entertainment.  I then took a selfie to check whether I looked as bad as I felt  and was satisfied with the result.



A quick scan of the room revealed relative destruction.  The Big One (B1) had managed to unlock the iPad and was watching videos of plastic dolls doing pretend poos in potties.  S1 had spread soot from the fireplace throughout the vicinity.  It was at that moment that I knew what I had to do. Whatever it took, I had to summon the strength to deliver B1 to Preschool and get S1 to nap at the same time. The promise of solitary toilet trips and three hours of lying prostrate was too alluring not to at least attempt the gargantuan task ahead.

Even now, with time to reflect, I can’t say how I managed it, but somehow, head pounding, buttocks clamping, I stumbled out into the light of day, and deposited B1 at the hallowed gates. I can only recall key moments of that trip – the despair at having to make small talk with other parents, quickly followed by surprise that no one recoiled at the sight of my blood-stained sclera and emaciated body.


I said nothing about my predicament; had anyone inquired as to how I was, I’m certain my reply would have been a sunny ‘Good, thanks.’


However this approach came at my cost later, when having found slumberous respite , brazenly my phone rang out, re-alerting me of my mortal coil.  Seconds later, the inevitable message arrived with an unwelcome buzz – a child care request from another mum.  For a moment I almost considered accommodating the third child, worried that the confession to my true state would seem implausible; my performance at drop-off had been just too strong.  I bolted back to the toilet, improvising with B1’s Frozen step-up to allow relief of both ends simultaneously, knowing I had to come clean, even if it looked suspect.  The mere hint of germs was always sufficient to deter another parent from sending their child to your home.

It took about a week to recover fully from this episode and to start inspecting food without suspicion.  I even thought about the blog again and worried I had lost my momentum – could I write again, would my audience  have given up on me?  Then the unthinkable happened.  Three short weeks since the first digestive attack, I was struck again.  The injustice was almost as difficult to deal with as the physical symptoms.

Undeterred by my failed first attempt, once again I sent an SOS to my husband when things became too terrible to bear – I worried for the safety of myself and my offspring when I failed to even keep water down. Screenshot_2017-07-14-14-23-53I genuinely wasn’t certain my body, already malnourished from round 1, could survive another onslaught so soon.  He returned home triumphant at 5.30pm.  When S1 failed to sleep that evening, he flung her back to me and proceeded to work until midnight to make up the time lost by coming home early…

I’d like to say I took it with good grace when days later my husband, becoming afflicted with a mild version of the illness, retreated to bed for the foreseeable and indulged in a 100% bona fide ‘sick day’.  However the injustice smarted almost as much as the chilli-laden meals he cooked up following B1’s birth.  As my own bile and diarrhoea abated, pitiless prose started re-circulating in my shrivelled grey matter and I knew I was well on the road to recovery.


Dum scribo spero.


#SSC Wrap-Up

 


pabloWe’ve reached the end of the Scribble Challenge season.


It’s been a lot of fun! But, it’s not quite over yet. We need to announce the winner of the 14th Scribble Challengepablo.png! A big congrats goes to: Allan G. Smorra. His response to the prompt?


Sharon noticed the tall bearded man walk into the lobby of the restaurant, stop and slowly glance around the dining area. He fit the description on his dating site and she raised her hand to catch his attention. Joe noticed the movement out of the corner of his eye, smiled and headed in her direction. Halfway there he caught the leg of a chair with the toe of his shoe and stumbled towards her table. “First time with the new foot?” Sharon quipped.

Joe pulled up the leg of his pants to reveal an artificial leg. “As a matter of fact, it is.”


I’m sure everyone is just as excited as I am to read your guest post, Allan!


And hey, Scribbles is now accepting votes for Last Week’s Challenge. Because it’s the end of the season, we’re opening the voting polls to EVERYONE. Just check the responses to the prompt below and email your vote to: SundayScribbleChallenge@gmail.com.


LAST WEEK’S PROMPT:


angel-1891440_960_720“The challenge is based on something our family has been experiencing. One of the hellions talks in his sleep. It’s generally limited to sentence or two, most of which is completely unintelligible.

It’s the same for the characters of the prompt. But, one night the child says something the parents understand. Something entirely unexpected. They come to realize their little one isn’t sleep-talking at all, but rather, a being is speaking THROUGH them.

The submission should contain the line (or two) of dialogue, as well as the parents’ reaction when they realize who–or what–has been attempting to communicate for so long.”


Rachel Forsberg:


49f1fef829369cd622d0b66e911c0257.pngI don’t know why I woke. The house was quiet, the weather calm. The kids were sleeping. I stared out the window, thinking about all the things I’d have to do the next day, wishing I could fall back asleep.

And then heard the whispers. They were soft at first. Fleeting.

I shook my husband awake as they grew louder, coming from just across the hall. “It’s Keiran,” I said. “He’s sleep-talking again.”

It was an old habit. Usually the words came in just a sentence or two, that we rarely understood. But lately the murmurings had become something close to fervent. He lay in his bed, tossing and turning as we came in, pale skin gleaming in a thin sweat. I sank into the bed. Goosebumps rose along on my arms and up my neck.

My husband knelt beside us, eyes still puffy with sleep. “What’s he saying?”

A gust of wind filtered in through the open window. Kieran’s whispers had become words, loud words I couldn’t understand. They were clear, crisp, and urgent, and completely foreign.

I shrugged at my husband, eyes wide.

Trees swayed violently out the window. A light spread over the yard. Kieran jerked upright in the bed, his gaze wild and lurching, coughing and clawing at his throat as the light grew bright outside. Blood trickled from his mouth when he spoke again.

“I told you we were coming.”


Allison Maruska


0ec5e6b6a9fd960893ba80993bf75090.jpeg“I’m happy,” Connor mutters in his sleep. As usual, his eyes stay shut, but not as usual, his words are completely clear.

I haven’t tried to reply before, but what the hell? It could get us a good laugh. “What are you happy about?”

“Where I am. I’m happy. I like the brown doggie with the white spot. He plays with me. He likes to chase.”

“Brown doggie?” I glance at my husband. “He’s not talking about-”

“I think he is.”

I sit on the end of the bed. If he means Trigger, our brown Pit with an adorable white spot on his head, then he’s talking about the pet we had before he was born. Had Connor seen a picture of the dog?

“Connor,” I ask. “What’s the dog’s name.”

“Not Connor.”

“No, that’s your name. What’s the dog called?”

“Hunter. I’m Hunter. And I’m happy.” After a long sigh, Connor rolls over, pulling the covers under his chin.

“What?”

Shaking his head, my husband rushes out of the room.

I haven’t heard his name in so long – Hunter, our baby who died at three months old. The older brother Connor never met.

I can’t leave this bed. Connor may talk in his sleep again.


Juliet Nubel


.kjbThey sat on each side of her pink, princess bed. Sue stroked her daughter’s sticky, tousled, blond head, watching intently as her beautiful rosebud mouth moved, making a series of strange, loud sounds – ‘Ant, ant, ant.’ Always the same noises, almost every night for the last six months.

‘It’s getting worse, Sue. It’s much louder and she seems really perturbed now.’ He took Emily’s tiny hand, his brow creased deep with concern.

Short, quick gulps replaced his daughter’s calm breathing.

‘Ant, can you hear me? Ant, are you there?’ This was no longer their little girl speaking. Antony’s eyes flashed in recognition. Only one person had ever called him by this childish nickname.

‘I’m here’, he replied gently. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘You need to tell your Dad that I hid it. It’s in a nylon stocking taped to the back of the top drawer in my dresser. He must find it before he signs the papers for the house and all the furniture tomorrow. It’s for Sue. He must give it to Sue. I can’t get through to him, Ant. Call him now, please.’ The voice faded to a low hum, and Emily returned to a deep, dreamless sleep.

‘Mum, are you still there? Mum, I miss you so much!’ Anthony bent over the pink and white checkered quilt and wept silent tears of pure, undistilled grief.

As Sue looked over at her husband, he lifted his head, slowly wiped away the tears, then dialled his father’s number.

‘Dad, sorry to wake you. I know where to look for Mum’s diamond ring…’


Chocobosage


9058ded50c754de4a391838b659ab882.jpegThe baby monitor let out the usual random babbling of their kid as she slept, a bit of laughing and some murmured half words. Then the dog sat up on alert, staring at the monitor intently. A low static came from the speaker which startled the parents, then silence. They both went to check on the baby and upon opening the door, found the window open and several different birds in the room surrounding their child. Watching her like they awaited instruction.

Then the child said: “Hello my friends, I hope you’re all keeping well?”


Dysfunctional Womans Digest


7aa4829822a87fcabacd52f76d77fd3fTonight he would be prepared. Climbing into bed with a pencil and pad of paper, his plan was to have these items ready as soon as the child was asleep and her lips began to move. The child’s sleep-talking had begun a few weeks ago and he didn’t pay much attention to her gibberish at first but over the following weeks the noises had turned into an intelligible form of discourse. Her audible murmurings were beginning to reveal things that a child of four, his child of four, should not and could not know. Her mother had been equally disturbed.

“I don’t know when all of this started but I am not getting any rest since Daphne starting sleeping in our bed,” she had said. “First it was your insomnia and now it’s her talking and rolling around and I am exhausted.” She pointed to the bags under her eyes as confirmation.

“I know, honey,” said Paul. “Let’s start a new bedtime routine tomorrow and we will make sure to wear Daphne out at the park in the afternoon. It shouldn’t take but a few days and then we will be getting a good night’s rest again, OK, honey?”

Paul secretly hoped that tonight he would be able to jot down what he was certain was an intelligence from another dimension. Somehow, someway, a transmission was occurring through his child and he could swear that he had been specifically chosen for this revelation. He just wished that his wife would not interfere until he could accurately transcribe the mysterious knowledge.

Paul reached to turn-out the light as his wife rolled over with a deep sigh and said goodnight. Setting the pad of paper and his pencil next to the bed, Paul made certain that his unopened refill of risperidone was still carefully concealed.


Larisanjou *New Entry*


1403112ec2638062f7b2a1e1ffb54d27.jpegOur beautiful child, the image of angelic perfection.

Just a short while ago, she’d been stomping her feet and crying in frustration. I thought bedtime would be the solution to her little temper tantrum.

From behind the pile of work on my desk, I’d heard the rustling of tossing and turning from her room. I tiptoed over to peek in on her. Cool full-moon light cut across her rosy tearstained cheeks. Her smooth brow contorted into a tangle, and she whimpered like an injured puppy. Fat tears pushed out from her tightly-squeezed eyes.
My heart cracked.

What could my child, my innocent daughter, possibly be disturbed by? What monster is chasing her through dreamland? At that age, dreamworld should be a lovely place of magic and infinite possibility.

“Do you still love me?”

I felt a painfully familiar hot stone forming in my stomach.

“I know I’m not good enough, I’ll never be…”

Through the mouth of my child, I heard the voice of my own demon.

How many times had she seen me, ripping my hair out at a project gone wrong? Crying over yet another rejection letter? Mentally flagellating myself, repenting for the sin of being myself? I was teaching her the art of self-loathing.

I removed her crumpled drawing from the trash. She had thrown it away in a blind fit, screaming, “It’s not good enough! I hate this! I’m bad!” The air had vibrated electric yellow.

Now, in the deep blue light, I unfurled it.

A single tear dropped onto her drawing.

It was a family portrait. Two smiling parents holding hands with their child in the middle, standing under a rainbow.

She had scribbled over her own face.

“Come to bed, honey.”

My husband’s gravelly whisper muffled the sound of my guilt. I turned to look at him, eyes overflowing with a lifetime of shame and overdue apologies.

“We’ll do better tomorrow.”


Good luck to all our participants. The replies were some of my favorite submissions of the season. The winner will be hard to pick!


 

The Whys and Hows of Guest Blogging

Dan Alatorre - AUTHOR

jenny1 

jenny3 author J. A. Allen

Dan Alatorre recently invited me to post a guest blog while he vacations with his family in England. I jumped at the opportunity to fill the opening.

Why?

To newbie bloggers, expending the energy to write a post for someone ELSE’S site can seem like a lot of work with little reward.

So, I’m visiting DanAlatorre.com to talk you through it.


stock-vector-welcome-to-england-red-round-ribbon-stamp-285269771 I’m still vacationing! – Dan

Writing a guest post is a great way to build relationships with other bloggers.

Forging strong connections with other bloggers/writers is highly beneficial to everyone involved.

I’m happy to write this post for Dan, because he’s a great friend to my site: Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins. And, as a conscientious guest, I will promote this post on HIS site on Twitter, share it on Facebook, stick around to reply to comments after the piece goes live, and re-blog…

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Going Up

J. S. Mueller wrote a short piece inspired by the latest Scribble Challenge. While the story is too long to be considered for voting purposes, it’s certainly a pleasure to read!

I’m happy to share it with all of you.

Blood, Fire & Grit

A little thing inspired by a prompt on J. A. Allen’s blog.


The elevator door opened. Matt surveyed the space inside. A metal box with walls painted to look like wood grain, a stainless steel hand rail wrapped around three sides at hip height, dirty red linoleum on the floor. He contemplated taking the stairs. What’s eight flights anyway?

“Hold that, please.”

He put out a hand and held the door. A woman strode past him into the elevator, turned and smiled. She looked like a young Rosario Dawson, but with a pixie cut. She was dressed like she might have been coming from a job waiting tables, black cotton pants and white collared shirt.

“Thanks. You comin’?” she asked, cocked her head to the side.

Matt blinked and stepped into the elevator without giving it another thought. That was a mistake. The moment he turned and the door bumped…

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