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.

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.

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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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~

Carrying You With Me—Always❤️

Grams,

It feels like you’ve been gone for decades instead of a few years. There are so many times I want to pick up a phone to call you. To rant and rave. To gush about my plans, my hopes, my dreams. Instead, I take a walk and speak to the sky. The vehicles that whiz by probably assume I’m softly singing to myself. But I’m not. This is where I talk to you.

Sometimes, Grams, I feel like I’m on the edge of a cliff, teetering as I stretch out my fingers a little further—reaching for my dreams. And if I just stretch a bit further, I can grasp them and hold them close to my heart. But if I go too far, I will fall into the rocky valley below.

So I learn to balance. I learn to breathe. And, most of all, I learn to believe. Believe in myself. Believe in what my life’s purpose is. Believe in the woman you envisioned I’d be. Because you knew it would take strength and endurance to chase a dream. And I kept that two-sentence email from almost a decade ago to read when I needed to pick myself up off the ground after being defeated. I needed it as I brushed my knees off and dug back in. You gave that to me.

 

As I go into the Pitch Wars site and upload my submission, you will be right there with me. Just as you have been for every single word I’ve typed since you left this world for a better one. But no matter what happens, Grams, I won’t give up. Ever.

Love,

Your Tiffy

 

Never Give Up🏆

Y’all, today I feel accomplished. Today, I harbor hope in my heart as I stare at the typed papers in front of me. I finished editing my next novel, which I am pretty stoked about.

*insert screaming girl who’s jumping up and down like an idiot*

Yeah, that excited.

I’ve been working on my craft for a few years, and I have grown in leaps and bounds with each story. Some people might move on if they didn’t catch a break with their first manuscript, or their second, but if you love doing something, you don’t quit. It’s that simple.

You see, dreams aren’t a sprint. They’re a marathon.

Dare to imagine the impossible. Chase your dreams. Even if you’re wheezing along the way.

In life I’ve learned there will be doors you knock on that will never open for you, but just because those doors stay closed doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t knock on the next one. It’s during the moments that you stand in front of a closed door that determines how much you really want something.

Keep moving.

Keep improving.

But most of all, keep believing.

~Tiff~

Lonely Estrogen

Y’all, the testosterone in my house runneth over, and I am the lonely estrogen outcast. I feel like I have a gang of gremlins living under my roof that gang up on me. There’s a ride by farting near me, which is uncool, and I 100% blame my father for it. So we, my angelic self and my gremlin husband, try to teach them manners, which my father finds joy in blowing to smithereens. Gotta love grandparents, right?

I had a sentimental, estrogen-filled moment this week. I had handwritten notes to both my boys, attached them to their bedroom doors, and then returned to work. I thought it was a sweet gesture, and I think it’s important to let our kids know that we love them, believe they are awesome, and blah, blah, blah.

 

As I’m finishing up my workday, I hear the bus roll by outside, then the gremlins enter. Backpacks fly, shoes are kicked off (next to the shoe rack – lord help us if they ever actually put them on it, I might stroke out), and the TV is turned on full blast. I finish my work a little while later and stroll out of my den, then I casually wait at the kitchen table as I browse through a magazine. I just know they’re gonna love the notes. I was the epic, loving mom today. I’m so great. Yada, yada, yada. All those thoughts are rolling around in my mind as I sit there.

A little while later, the youngest gremlin goes to his bedroom and comes back to the kitchen with the note in his hand, and I smile, which quickly fades as he crumples it up and throws it in the trash. I pointed at the trash can, an incredulous look on my face as I told him I took the time to handwrite him a note, which he just threw away. Finally, the gremlin looked at me with a serious look on his face and said, ‘Mom, we’re not girls. We love you because you feed us.’

My mouth pops open and shut a few times like a fish, then I realize I still have the other gremlin to count on. He’s older and wiser, right? I walk to the hallway, and I see the note tossed carelessly on the floor, and I stop mid-stride, gaping at the paper. &#U+1F926;

 

That’s when I realized the youngest gremlin was probably right. The only thing I need to do is feed them, and they’re happy.

Maybe the old saying was right after all. Perhaps the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Pfft. Whatever. Where’s the estrogen at? These testosterone-filled gremlins make no sense to me.

The estrogen in this household is lonely at times, but there are moments when a light from heaven shines down, soothing my soul. Last night, I secured the youngest gremlin’s fealty when he’s older for $20,000 a year if I happen to make it as an uber-famous author. You see, the youngest gremlin is proud because he scored a 98% on his state test, which is amazing. I just like to remind the gremlins when they are older that no matter how smart they thought they were, their momma was smarter.

 

To make my week a little brighter, I stumbled upon the video of the grandfather gremlin learning how to twerk. *rubs hands together* <insert diabolical laugh> So, for your enjoyment, here is a video of the gremlin patriarch twerking after my niece showed him how. Yep, this is my dad. (If you see zero blog activity over the next few weeks, he might’ve killed me for this.)

Twerking Gremlin Patriarch

~Tiff~

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