Frozen Memories

Time has slipped by, and no matter how hard I try to reach back and hold on to it, I can’t. Sleepless nights with crying infants… gone. Toys scattered across the floor… gone. Sticky fingerprints on the refrigerator door… gone.

And I don’t know where the time went.

My baby, my beautiful boy, is now a young man. And as he closes out his last year in middle school, I have mixed emotions. Pride. So much pride for the smart, kind young man he is. But it’s bittersweet because I know one day he will spread his wings and venture out into the world… without me.

There’s a fear that once he leaves, he won’t come back. That he’ll be gone forever. But I push that fear aside because I know no matter what path my son takes, he will always come home. He will come home because our house was built on a strong foundation. A foundation of acceptance, of love, of hope, of dreams.

So I take a deep breath and I blink back the tears as I stroll around my home, stopping at one frozen memory hanging on my wall for a moment before moving on to the next.

Painted faces.

Sunshine-filled laughter.

Chocolate-ringed mouths.

One tear slides down my cheek, then another. Because no matter what the future holds, the past was beautiful. It was ours. And the future? It’s his. And I have no doubt that greatness awaits him. He is going to take life in the palm of his hand and own it.

But his mama? She will be here on the sidelines, cheering and snapping new frozen memories.

Death’s Near

Death whispers.

Its voice wraps around my heart and squeezes. Soon, another loved one will pass, and a piece of my heart will leave with them. Because no one left behind loses someone and goes unscathed.

Death stays with them.

Forever.

As time slips away, wrinkles form, hair grays, joints creak. And with every wrinkle, with every gray hair, with every squeaky joint, I am reminded of how precious time is. Because as I get older, my loved ones get older—grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles. And hiding in the shadows, Death is waiting and watching.

Sometimes I can feel Death closing in, and the fear is debilitating.

A world without my mom… without my dad… is unimaginable. Even though I know one day, Death will come, and I will be without both. So I cherish today. I cherish every moment. And when the time comes for them to leave this world, I will not have any regrets. Because although I have failed many times throughout my life at many things, I have never failed to tell them I love them. That I appreciate them. That I am thankful for them. Because without them, I would not be the woman I am today.

A woman who is relentless in pursuing her dreams, no matter how unattainable they may seem. And most of all, a woman who loves her children and always puts her family first.

Death’s near, but so is life. So is love. And that’s what I hold on to. Today. Tomorrow. Always.

The Sidelines

Life is hard.

Beautiful, exciting, frustrating—but so damn hard.

In one moment, a person is on top of the world, then in the very next, they are at rock bottom, wondering how they got there. And as I walk the path of life, a path unique to me, I experience the highs and the lows. But now that I’m a little older, and maybe a little wiser, I see things through a different lens. A lens experience has given me, which doesn’t make my path any easier or any prettier, but I know that in the end, things work out the way they are meant to.

And yet, as I watch my father-in-law deteriorate from alcoholism, I try to find the meaning, try to find the purpose, and I fail.

Every.

Single.

Time.

Because I can’t understand how something can consume a person so much that they lose sight of what is important. That they say horrid things that destroy their kids’ hearts as it tramples on their souls. And for me, it’s personal, just in a different way. It isn’t my father drowning in addiction, but I see the impact it has on my husband, on my sister-in-law, and those are the arrows that pierce my heart.

And I find myself being angry.

No, not angry, furious. Furious at my father-in-law for the years of pain he has caused. Furious at him for getting drunk on a day of a family barbeque. Furious at him for not knowing his grandchildren. Furious at him for saying he has no regrets when he has been absent from his children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

Logically, I know alcohol changes people. I do. But right now, he’s sober. Not because he wants to be, but because the alcohol has stripped him to bare bones. And he’s not grateful for the months his children drove him to and from work in the middle of the night, for the time his daughter spent completing insurance paperwork and making appointments as he battled throat cancer, for them being there when his house burned down.

So here I am, still trying to find the meaning, the purpose.

But I don’t understand how he can say such villainous things when he doesn’t have a drop of alcohol in him. And I wonder if he was always selfish.

Then I remember a time when we sat on a riverbank for hours casting a line into the water, a time when we sat across from one another playing Rook, a time when he would tell a joke just to get someone to laugh. And I wonder if the alcohol has forever changed him… even when he’s sober.

Sadness dampens the anger, and I feel hollow.

Because no matter how much I wish I could give my husband and my sister-in-law a father who is present, a father who cheers them on, a father who encourages their dreams, a father who knows his children… I can’t. Instead, I’m on the sidelines watching the destruction alcoholism has created, and the only thing I can do is be here, be present. And maybe that’s enough.

Al Cinder & Princess Charm WIP

Rays of the morning sun filter through mangled blinds, and Al turns onto his side, blocking the annoying sunlight with his arm. A breeze taps him on his backside, and he grumbles as he sits up. His blanket was a size meant for an infant, not a young man on the verge of adulthood, but complaining to his stepfather or his bull-like half-brothers was pointless. Even though they lived off of the money from his mother’s death, they did not share it with him, nor did they use it on the house.

A rat pushes hole-riddled slippers towards the foot of the bed. As Al tries to get up, the mattress sinks further in the middle until his eyes are level with his toes. Pink beady eyes peer over the wooden rail followed by another. Pinky and The Brain had been with him for years. Most of the time, they were helpful creatures. Today…not so much.

Al reaches for the rail, smiles when his fingers fold over it. “Aha!” But his victory is short-lived as he tries to pull himself up, and the mattress sinks until his hind end is on the floor. “Really?” he grumbles. 

Pinky and The Brain squeak at one another, then dart off. 

“Where are you going?” Al fights with the mattress, but he can’t quite get in a position that will allow him to pull himself out. 

A few minutes later, just as Al’s grumbling under his breath, a short, balding man waddles into the room. Not far behind is Pinky and The Brain. The cigar almost falls out of the man’s mouth as he chortles. 

“What’ ave ya gotcha yourself into, Al?” He wiggles his caterpillar-like eyebrows. “You’ve been tossin’ in the sheets with a lady?” He grabs Al’s hand. “It’s about time if you ask me.”

“No one’s asking you, Leo,” says Al as his feet finally hit the floor. 

Leo tucks his thumbs underneath his suspenders, stretches them out. “Maybe they should.” His eyes scan the room, stopping on Al’s slippers. He picks one up, waves it in the air. “Is this the best they’ll do?” Al doesn’t say anything as he snatches it out of Leo’s hand and slips it on. His big toe peeks out, and Leo’s rugged face turns crimson. “Those no-good, sons of a pig. Your mama would be appalled! I bet she’s a-rollin’ in her grave, God rest her soul. After everything she did to make sure you were taken care of, and this,” he grabs the small, hole-ridden blanket off the bed, “is how they honor her memory?”

“It’s fine, I—”

Leo’s brown eyes turn black as he rolls the blanket into a haphazard ball and slams it onto the bed. The bed shimmies and groans, then the headboard caves in as the rails smack the ground. “That’s it,” Leo says, “I’m callin’ the Godfather. And you, my friend, are going to the ball.”

Fear’s icy fingertips crawl down Al’s spine as he sputters. “B-b-but you c-can’t do that! Riccardo will have my head, and probably yours, too.”

Leo shrugs, unconcerned. “It’s a masquerade. They’ll never even know it’s you. Trust me, Signorino.”

Before Al can protest any further, Leo leaves the room, whistling a merry tune as if he wasn’t angry just moments ago.

 

Later that morning, Al urges Murray forward with a light click of his tongue. The mule brays as it tosses its head in annoyance. The red-clay field was hard as a rock, the rusty cast-iron plow didn’t slice easily through it, and when it did, the soil stuck to the moldboard, which Al then had to cleanout. It was a long, slow process, and the sun shows no mercy as it heats up the back of his neck. The straw hat he’s wearing is useless. There are more holes than a strainer. But he doesn’t complain. Not like Murray. Instead, he methodically tills the ground until the sun begins to lower on the horizon. And with it, so does his stomach. There are still several rows remaining. Rows he’ll never finish before dark.

As he takes a drink from his canteen, he almost jumps out of his skin as a voice breaks the silence.

“What’re ye doin’, Carrot Top?”

To Be Continued…

I decided to start sharing short stories as I wrote them. They’re nowhere near to being perfect. But I wanted to start writing down fairytale retellings where the princess doesn’t need to be saved by a prince. And no, Al is not going to be saved by Princess Charm. Just wait for me to finish the story. I promise, it’ll be worth it.

~Tiffany~

Haunted

The chipped asphalt stretches for miles. Miles I’ve walked hundreds of times. Ghosts of my children stand in front of the old grocery store—five-years-old, seven-years-old, ten-years-old—and a pang of sadness wraps around my heart, squeezes. Toddlers turn into children, children turn into teenagers, teenagers turn into young men.

And I can feel them slipping away.

So I cling to the memories. Memories of little, chubby hands wrapping around mine. Of giggles serenading the sunlight. Of wet kisses smacking against my cheeks.

I closed my eyes one day, a mom to two small boys.

I opened them the next, a mom to two young men.

Time slipped away. And no matter how much I want to reach back, to hold onto them being babies, I can’t. Life happened. My babies grew up. And now I stare at empty seats, and I wonder where the time went.

Their heads now tower over me, their hands envelop mine. Men. My boys are young men. And they will take many paths in their lives. Some will even be the wrong paths, but they will learn something valuable from each. And I will be here, waiting and watching, with my arms held open wide to welcome them back home. To hold them when they fail, and I’ll whisper words of encouragement. And when they succeed, I will be here, waiting and watching, with my arms open wide to welcome them back home. To hug them and congratulate them.

As long as I’m alive, I will be the sunlight in their darkest moments. And I will be their biggest cheerleader in their greatest moments.

Because one day, I will be nothing more than a ghost. Nothing more than a memory. And I hope that what I do here on this Earth carries them through the rest of their lives. For there’s been no greater accomplishment in my life than my children.

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〰A Non-Linear Life〰

I’ve been in this weird period of my life where I’ve been reflecting on everything. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. It’s exhausting. But I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m just getting older, my kids are growing up, and when I look around me, my eyes turn into leaky faucets. Because regardless of the moments of chaos in my life, I know I’m beyond lucky.

Not only do I have two great kids (who sometimes get on my last nerve), but I have two parents who love me, a brother and a sister who think I rock the world, and an amazing partner that I get to tackle life with. A life that has been full of twists and turns.

And yet, there are people who think life is a linear line. You’re born, you live, you die. Start at point A, end at point B.

But life isn’t a linear line.

It’s full of ups, downs, and curves.

And there are times when you stop and wonder if you will ever get ahead.

It can be frustrating, maddening, and a host of other negative emotions to where you want nothing more than to throw yourself down and have a good tantrum. But listen, I’ll let you in on a little secret—we all have those moments.

Moments of despair.

Moments of defeat.

Moments of failure.

But when shit gets hard, it is the people who you surround yourself with that will be there to lean on. Choose the people who choose you. If there’s someone in your circle who isn’t present, cut the tie and let them go. Don’t fight for someone who isn’t willing to fight for you. You deserve more than that.

What I have learned during the course of my life is that there are constants holding me up during the darkest of storms. My best friend. My other half. My ride or die. My life partner. He is one of those constants. Whenever the wind goes out of my sails, he blows the wind right back into them. There have been so many moments I wanted to give up. Call it quits. But my husband was beside me, encouraging me. He believed in my dreams, no matter how crazy or impossible they seemed.

Never once did I rise from the ashes of defeat on my own. I had help. Which maybe that sounds crazy, but it’s true. The positive reinforcement I received from my circle, that’s what saved me. I came back swinging because I had people I loved who were cheering me on. They were my inspiration. They were my fuel. And I love them all the more for it.

If you don’t have that in your life, I hope you find it. Life is too short to be surrounded by negativity. It’s okay to choose you, to choose your own happiness, and to find a circle that brings light into your life. Because life isn’t a linear line, it’s a non-linear line. So find the people that will ride that rollercoaster with you.

I promise, it’ll be worth it.

~ Ms. Write Life~

 

Pitch Wars & Team Velvet Steel

Oh, how I love Pitch Wars. But mostly because of the awesome Discord group I gained from tossing my manuscript into the mentoring program. Team Velvet Steel is a group that is a riot. From obsessing over Rhys in the ACOTAR series to Cardan in TCP to mulling over dark characters, they keep things entertaining. And amid all the stabby-stab characters, they create spreadsheets and praise each other’s work.

In the query trenches, it is essential to find a group, or groups, of people who understand the emotional turmoil of putting a manuscript into the world. It isn’t easy. It isn’t for the faint of heart. It doesn’t happen overnight. And waiting…it’s torture.

Every member in Team Velvet Steel pitched their manuscript to Pitch Wars between the 26th to 30th of September. Their pitch consisted of a query letter, a synopsis, and the first chapter of their manuscript. Over the next several weeks, mentors can request more pages and ask questions. And then, it’s radio silent.

Having a group to commiserate with, celebrate with, and hold on to hope with helps fight the mental battle. It is a rollercoaster of emotions. So why not ride it with a group instead of riding solo? I promise it is much more entertaining.

There are a little over two weeks left until the chosen mentees are announced. And even if I’m not picked, I will celebrate those who were—especially those from Team Velvet Steel. They will take the world by storm…one word at a time. And I’m here for it.

 

Writing Group Shenanigans

If you are a fellow writer, you have combed through Twitter and other sites searching for quality critique partners. Don’t get me wrong, having family who will read your manuscript is freakin’ fantastic, but writers speak a different language that only other writers understand.

Case and point #1: If I asked my dad how my pacing was, he would say it sucks. He’d think I was asking about my jogging pace, which is atrocious at best.

Case and point #2: If I asked my sister about the MC in my manuscript, she would blink a few times and ask what the f*** I was talking about. Not kidding. That’s a friendly version of her typical sentence structure.

Anyway, you get the point.

A few months ago, I signed up to join a writing group thanks to the wonderful Bianca Marais’s Tweet.

Best. Decision. I. Ever. Made.

Y’all, I found a group of phenomenal ladies.

They catch stuff that leaves me blinking in a stupor at my computer screen. And we all bring something different to the table. I like to think of us as dynamic dynamite. Even if it is kinda cheesy.

Crystal has a smokin’ hot character, Slate, who we all drool over. Not to mention her strong, caring cliff diving protagonist, Luren. Her story has a really cool concept with steamy scenes. Keep cold water nearby. You’ll thank me later.

Defne has a genius character, Roya, who has been stepped on and plotted against from an early age. The political intrigue and tension between characters are killer. In addition, her story has a unique concept that gets my brain cranking.

Then there’s Joy. Joy has impressive descriptions (I’m not jealous, not at all). Her character, Fen, is cool, calm, and just might knock someone off. Assassin much? Yes, please.

On top of their amazing stories and fresh concepts, Defne pops into Slack with memes she created. And I died. On the spot.

For your viewing pleasure:

Defne shared her meme-making secret with us, and y’all, she created a meme monster. Me. I’m the meme monster. I’ve been memeing all day long.

And to add a little more sugar to the topping, Joy throws this at us:

Luren – Joy’s Amazing Drawing

Whaaaaat?! Girl has serious art game. If I could steal that ability from her, I would do it in a hot second. Instead, I resort to buying artwork I can hang on my walls and drool over.

And then…Joy turned into a meme monster and created these:

If you haven’t joined a writing group, I highly recommend checking into it. It can be scary because you’re putting your heart and soul out there for others to critique, but you will become a stronger writer. You will learn from your group members, and you will chase the same dream…together. They will understand you in a way no one else does.

So take the scary leap, find your writing people, and see the magic unfold.

~Tiff~

Love Fights Through It

Not a single picture hangs on the eggshell walls. A faded couch and recliner fill the cubicle-sized room. Legos are scattered across the vinyl floor.

Living paycheck to paycheck. Fighting for their family. Fighting for their dreams. Fighting together.

An official letter sends one a thousand miles away. The other is left carrying their hopes, their future. Phone calls, emails, and letters fill the void. Together, they fight. Together, they hold on.

Land, oceans, and sand separate them. One fighting for his country, the other fighting to bring their son into the world. One fighting for freedom, the other fighting emotions as their newborn son fights to breathe.

Machines beep. Machines breathe for their son. Machines keep him alive. Weeks feel like years. But phone calls keep them from falling apart, from giving in. Together, they fight.

Six months pass. A father meets his son. Holds him. Holds his wife.

The eggshell walls are still bare, but it doesn’t matter.

Love fights through the rain, through the storms, through the battles of life. And they’ll continue to fight. Together.

It’s a Wee Bit Gremlinly

Raising boys is like raising gremlins—cute and sweet one minute, razor-sharp teeth monsters the next.

In the midst of submitting to Pitch Wars, my gremlins decided to be a wee bit more gremlinly than usual.

As I was spit shining my submission package, my youngest gremlin mentioned he had written an essay in one of his classes, and his teacher was happy the movie Freedom Writers changed his perspective. I stop typing, my head turns sideways, and I ask him to show me. He ran off to grab his Google Chromebook, and I had a million thoughts zigzagging through my mind.

This gremlin is rule-oriented. Everything is black and white. There is no gray area. So what did my gremlin write? Please, please…let it be nice.

He comes back with his laptop and hands it to me.

I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants, grab the gadget, and dive in. The words veer by as I skim to the meat of his essay. And then I see this:

What. The. What?!

I read the last sentence out loud to my husband, and he dips his head to hide his smile.

This isn’t how we roll. My husband and I help people, and we try to instill it into our kids. But, somehow, we missed the mark with the youngest gremlin.

This was me the rest of the evening:

👆🏻Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a brighter note, the eldest gremlin started working this week. Here’s a tidbit from our conversation last night:

Being an adult sounds like fun. Until you go to work.

Welcome to the real world, eldest Gremmy.

<-insert evil laugh here->

I hope everyone else has had a phenomenal week. And if you submitted to Pitch Wars, you, my friend, are a rock star. Go celebrate!

~Tiff~

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