One of the proudest days of my academic career was being placed in the “advanced” group after a reading assessment in first grade. As such, I was permitted to read books marked with a daunting “5.” The most challenging books set aside for young, aspiring readers – the first small steps on the way to much larger feats, like The Lord of the Rings and To Kill A Mockingbird.

But before I would be able to tackle hobbits and other, more advanced literature, I had to grapple with a purple horse named Lucille.


In retrospect, it’s very clear to me that 5-year-old Allie picked Lucille by Arnold Lobel because it was about a horse, and I’ve been an animal lover my whole life. But 5-year-old Allie should not have picked this book – she should have run far, far away, and made a different selection. And why is that?

Because I couldn’t pronounce “Lucille.”

You would think I’d pick a book with a title I could pronounce with my limited child vocabulary, but nooooooo, that would make too much sense. I’m half-sure I didn’t even look at the title when I chose it, I just saw a purple horse and was like, “YES, THIS ONE.” Kids are so impulsive. And stupid.

It was only after I got home, yanked the book out of my backpack, and scanned the front, that I realized I couldn’t read the title. And my stomach sank, because I knew at the end of the week I was going to have to read the book aloud to the teacher, and being able to read the title is a pretty big part of that. I was terrified I’d get demoted out of the advanced reading group, forever scorned by my classmates, mocked for my lack of knowledge. I’d never be able to look at horses the same way again.

I suppose I probably hoped that it was just the title, and the name didn’t pop up too much in the actual book… but that was not to be. And it’s not like I could just bloop over it, like they teach you at that age to do with words you can’t pronounce. It was like, 50% of the book. Should have watched all those reruns of I Love Lucy on TV Land when I was younger, but I was more of a Brady Bunch person.

So, what did I do? Did I ask my mom for help, which would have been the most logical thing to do? No, no. Stubborn Child-Allie had far too much pride, and that careless hubris was her downfall.

Instead of asking for help, I guessed. To be fair, I used the typically tried-and-true method of “sound it out,” and I was 100% certain that I got it right, so I didn’t bother double-checking with anyone who could, you know… actually read.

Therefore, I called the horse “Luckily.” Which, at least, is a real word. The rest of the book, after that minor snafu, was a total breeze. “Luckily” the horse has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s completely wrong, but not way out in left field. More like… on the third base line. Or in foul territory.

So, I went into my next reading assessment super confident that I was going to nail it… until I sat down in an uncomfortable plastic chair in front of my first grade teacher, Lucille in hand, and the doubts began to swoop in. My certainty wavered, then snapped like a brittle twig. So when she told me to begin, I just sat there, staring at that damn purple horse, and I said nothing for a long time.

Until I finally admitted, “Um… I don’t know how to say this.”

“It’s Lucille,” my teacher explained, pronouncing it perfectly.

And then I read the book through, cover to cover, and didn’t mess up once. No damage to my reading reputation was done by the gaffe, by admitting my weakness. I wasn’t placed in a lower reading level, I continued to foster an intense love of reading and literature, and in the following years, I moved on to bigger books about worlds in wardrobes, dashing heroes, clever young detectives, and a troupe of creative babysitters.

Sometimes, it’s okay to ask for help, or to mess up a bit on an initial attempt. It’s okay to not know everything, especially if you’re five/six years old and only just learning to read proper books. You don’t need to hit a homerun your first turn at bat or score a goal your first time on the field. I might have struggled a bit with a purple horse named Lucille, but luckily, I learned from the experience – and to this day, I’m not afraid to admit when I don’t know how to pronounce a word, or can’t puzzle out a definition.


Sick of It

Now that Oscar season is over, and I’ve returned to my regular style of posting, I had big plans for this Friday blog post. I was going to do something eloquent, compelling, perhaps a story about life or loss, or a pearl of wisdom from my (admittedly shallow) pool of life experience…

But no, that will not happen today. And do you want to know why?

Because I am sick.

And not sick as in the slang term for “cool,” like people used to toss out in the 90’s. Sick as in ill, complete with head-pounding, sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose. Woke up with a sore throat on Tuesday, and hoped – no, prayed to all the deities I don’t believe in – that it was just an allergy-related side-effect due to the crazy weather that’s beleaguered my neck of the woods for the past couple of weeks. Seriously, not too long ago it was 70 degrees, and then two days later, we got four inches of snow, which promptly all melted the following day and caused minor flooding. So my allergies have been a bit of a tizzy.

Alas, it was not meant to be. Tuesday was mostly fine, to the point where I hoped I could just brush it off as a tickle, but Wednesday, in spite of my best efforts to fend it off, I was sniffling and sneezing and suffering from a massive headache by the end of my work shift. It was undeniable, at that point.

I’ve got a cold.

I suppose when some people come down with a cold, as oft happens at the junction between seasons or due to other outside factors, they use it as an excuse to curl up in bed and wallow in their warm blankets surrounded by piles of crinkled tissues, sipping soup and stewing in misery, binging a new or favorite series on Netflix.

Not I – I do not feel miserable when I get sick. No, I get pissed.

I think, in general, that I have a pretty strong immune system. I mean, I eat fruit every day – that’s supposed to help, right? And that’s no easy feat, since I’m allergic to pineapple and recently discovered a mild sensitivity to citrus. I work out at least 5 days a week, sometimes more, though my arms still have the muscle-strength of a pool noodle. I endeavor to get enough sleep, in spite of my cat’s best efforts to foil those efforts. I wash my hands at a near obsessive rate and avoid germs whenever possible, and keep away from folks I know have a contagious illness until they are cleared by a trained physician. So when my health fails, and I am struck down by the snot demons, my rage-meter hits a solid ten.

It’s worse when I can attribute the illness to a specific cause, because then, I have somewhere to direct my rage. One time, in college, one of my coworkers – who was sick – was using our communal computer to do homework. I used it shortly after, assuming that most sick people have the common decency to disinfect the surfaces/items they use when they know someone else will also be using it, but APPARENTLY, SOME PEOPLE ARE IRREDEEMABLE HEATHENS WITH HORRENDOUS MANNERS WHO ENJOY SPREADING THE PLAGUE WITHOUT ANY THOUGHT OF THE REPERCUSSIONS.

But I digress… this time, there is no certain target for the brunt of my fury. I’m pretty sure it was either the wonky weather or the fact that at least half of my coworkers have been sick over the last month, not to mention the fact that I work with the public and so many people don’t cover their mouths when they cough/sneeze, so, though I valiantly staved colds off for the majority of winter, my formidable immune system has at last failed me.

So I’ve been enraged for about two days now. I’ve tried not to let it hinder me – I went to the gym today, did some grocery shopping, and managed some chores – but I have indulged a bit, and have spent the past few hours watching reruns of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown in bed. But I also have a method for combating illness, which has worked quite well for me in the past. And in order to fight the germs, certain supplies are needed…

1.) Water. Hydration is important at all times, but especially when you can only breathe out of your mouth.

2.) Orange Juice. Or other fruit juice, probably. But the good stuff, not stuff like Sunny D. If you have issues with citric acid, there are low acid brands, and make sure to use a straw. The straw is vital.

3.) Comfy clothes. I’m uncomfortably warm at the moment, but sweating it out helps. Fleece-lined leggings and bulky sweatshirts are my go-to.

4.) Tissues. And splurge on the ones with aloe. Your nose will thank you.

5.) Meds. Depends on what works for you/symptoms and MAKE SURE TO READ THE DIRECTIONS. I’m a quil person, myself. Both Day and Ny.

6.) Heating pad. For aches and pains.

7.) Soup. I get won-ton soup for the Chinese food joint at my local grocery store, and I swear it has medicinal properties. It’s become a go-to for other members of my family, now, that’s how well it works.

8.) Sleep. As much as possible.

9.) Hand sanitizer/disinfectant wipes. I try and wipe down/clean surfaces and items that I use when I am ill and know someone else will be touching it. Because that is what DECENT PEOPLE DO. THEY DON’T TOUCH THINGS WITH THEIR SICK HANDS AND ALLOW THEIR GERMS TO SPREAD WITHOUT ATTEMPTED PREVENTION.

10.) Ice Cream. This one is optional, but after spending an entire day taking care of myself and being steamed over the state of my health, some Tonight Dough is necessary. It does help soothe a sore throat, as well.

Following this method, I have at times been able to conquer a cold before it truly has time to manifest in full glory. A few years back, I realized a cold was brewing, so I stocked up on meds, OJ, and soup, partook in all three in acceptable doses throughout the day, and then swaddled myself in several blankets and warm clothes and slept for 12 hours. Pretty sure I sweated the cold out over the course of the night, because I felt fine the next day. I’ve never been able to replicate such speedy results, but following these guidelines, I am usually able to defeat illnesses within a couple of days, so my life can then resume as normal.

Thankfully today (It’s Thursday March 8th as I write this) I didn’t have to work, so I have consumed 2 quarts of magical won-ton soup, two large glasses of OJ, some meds, a whole ton of water, and I’m wrapped up in my GoT hoodie and comfy leggings and relaxing. So let’s hope this cold is quashed by tomorrow, or when I venture out into the world, some folks are bound to face my wrath…

The Dolphin Statue

Every day, on my way to work, I pass a house with a dolphin statue featured proudly in the front yard.

It’s a curious thing. I’m pretty sure it’s made of wood. It’s cute, and the dolphin looks friendly.

But most of the time, when I glance out the window at it as I drive past, I can’t help but wonder, “….Why?”

I mean, it’s not a conventional choice for a lawn decoration. It’s no garden gnome, or one of those goose statues, or one of those fake deer used for archery practice that I constantly think are real. But how did the person who lives in that house come to own such a curious thing?

Is the person a hero to porpoises, and he was gifted the statue for some commendable deed?

Did the person receive it as an unusual present, and, unsure of where to put it, just stuck it in the front yard for passersby to admire?

Is the owner a carpenter of some kind, and the dolphin is a work they are especially proud of, so they put it on display?

Or… does the person just really like dolphins?

I may never have the answers to these questions, and that’s okay. Though, really, I am very curious to know the origins of the dolphin statue.

But even if I’ll never know, it gives me reason to wonder. And when I find things to wonder about – to theorize endlessly on the countless possibilities – I know that it’s still possible to find inspiration, even in such little things, and great stories can come from simple curiosities.

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on



What’s in a Name?

Nicknames are a curious thing. Monikers earned due to a specific event, a casual simplification of a name, or a specific trait. Though I’m mostly referred to by my actual given name, I’ve had a few nicknames over the years, and while some have lingered, others have faded away – for the better, in some cases.

Briefly, in my later years of elementary school, I was called “Alf.” It’s a shortening of my first name and the first initial of my last name. It’s also the name of a furry extraterrestrial sitcom character from the 80’s, to whom I like to think I bear no resemblance. This one didn’t last very long, though – only a year or so, if that.

After an accident during a track meet when I was fifteen, I was plagued by a recurring injury that resulted in the disastrous end to my athletic career, a few stints with crutches, and reconstructive knee surgery. Due to my less than stellar walking ability for those months, a handful of friends dubbed me “Gimpy.” Other variations of this name were used, but “Gimpy” was the most frequent, and that stuck from sophomore year of high school through senior year, long after my limping stopped. Fortunately, I have since shed it, and no one has referred to me this way . Looking back, though the nickname was imposed upon me with a measure of friendly affection, it’s actually pretty offensive, so I’m glad I don’t look over my shoulder at a shout of “Gimpy!” anymore.

In college, a friend gave me the nickname “Allenson.” The impetus of this one is foggy, but I think it had something to do with Vikings? I’m not entirely sure of the circumstances, but I do remember it was hilarious.

I actually used to detest being called “Allie.” I used to think it was too “girly” sounding for me since I was a huge tomboy growing up, so whenever folks called me “Allie” in an effort to be nice or spark a rapport, they were met with my wrath. It’s a variant of my actual name, but none of my family ever called me Allie in my early years. However, when I got to kindergarten there was another little girl with the same first name, and she ended up with the shortened moniker while I got to keep the long version, a distinction which lasted through the entirety of high school. Now, I do not mind being called “Allie” as an adult – I wouldn’t have chosen it as my pseudonym, otherwise. Most people in my life don’t call me Allie anyway, except for the few folks who only know me for my writing – it’s actually made it somewhat easier to separate my personal/business life. As a writer, I also give a lot of my characters nicknames – either due to their actions, or traits, or because I can’t be bothered to type their full name out all the time.

People closest to me (family, close friends) commonly refer to me as “Al.” It’s the kind of nickname that sounds wrong when it comes from the lips of an acquaintance, or from someone I’m not very familiar with. If I go out and meet someone who proceeds to call me “Al” without prompting, or without knowing much about it, it grates on me – in a “You have not earned the right to refer to me as such” type of way. I’m not sure why that is, or why I’m so particular about it – perhaps because “Al” is the most personal nickname I’ve ever had. It’s an “If you don’t know me, don’t call me that” nickname.

Nicknames can be adored, abhorred, earned, given, or inherent – and some carry a unique origin story with them. What’s your unique nickname story?




For a very long time – like, half of my life – I hated pancakes.

I refused to eat them, even at the annual pancake dinner fundraiser held at my church. The very thought of them – and their fluffy, syrupy goodness – made me feel nauseous. Same goes for waffles and any other similar breakfast foods. I straight-up hated them and wouldn’t touch them with a four-pronged fork. Because those are the only legitimate forks, by the way. Don’t come at me with that three-pronged fork nonsense. Four-prong all the way.

Truth be told, I’m not sure where my pancake hatred began, or what the impetus was. I just know that up until a few years ago, the word “pancake” equated to “EW,” in my brain, so I always skipped over them on diner menus and whenever they were offered up as a breakfast option at a sleepover or something.

Then, one fateful day when I was in my late teens, I somehow ended up at an IHOP. And, of course, you can’t not order pancakes at IHOP. It’s the International House of Pancakes, for crying out loud. I mean, it’s not like it’s the NHOP, or National House of Pancakes. It is a force not restricted by national borders – you cannot forsake the cake at an IHOP, end of story.

So I ordered the most generic pancakes available on the menu and figured I could just slather them with syrup, suck it up, and suffer through it. But when they arrived at the table, an odd thing happened. My nose twitched, enticed by the sweet scent of maple. And my mouth began to water, instead of my mind blaring, “EW” over and over again like a siren. My stomach growled, too.

So, I took a hesitant bite. Then another, and another. And wouldn’t you know it?

As it turns out, I kind of like pancakes.

Now, I order them for breakfast all the time! I prefer the oat-bran variety, though, because I am secretly an old woman concerned about my digestive system. But I never would have known this if I hadn’t given pancakes a second chance. Inspired by my quick turnaround in opinion when it comes to pancakes, I have also tried to see if my opinion has changed on other foods, but alas, I still hate watermelon (all melons, actually), pears, squash, pretzels, and animal crackers, among others. But I have made an effort to give the things I once dismissed a fair chance to prove me wrong.

So, what’s the moral of this pancake-based tale, you might ask? Is it to always give those you have spurned a second chance?

In a way, yes. Pancakes deserved a shot at redemption in my eyes, to prove their worth to me. I granted them that chance, and they effectively reshaped my opinion, to the point where they are now one of my favorite breakfast foods.

However, people don’t always deserve a second chance. That would be ridiculous. It’s a case-by-case basis when it comes to human beings – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Some people deserve a chance to right a wrong or mend a bridge or whatever. You’re not obligated to give people a second chance if you don’t want to, though. Because people aren’t pancakes.

Always, always give pancakes a second chance.

If you’re in need of a new read, or need something to spend your holiday money on, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on


It Feels Like Christmas

When I think of Christmas, I think of the candlelight services at church on the 24th, with friends and family coming together to celebrate in the birth of Christ. The Christmas hymns, the haunting thrum of the organ and sailing voices of the choir. Over a hundred tiny candles glowing valiantly through the darkness as Silent Night pours from the congregation. Then, leaving the service and stepping out into the cold winter night, breath clouding through the air as departing friends share goodbyes and good tidings. A steam whistle in the distance, playing some cheery seasonal tune, announcing the arrival of Christmas as the clock chimes midnight.

I have long since ceased to believe in many things, and I don’t attend the Christmas Eve services anymore. I don’t want to go into detail about my loss of faith, but I bear no grudges or animosity toward those who believe, so long as they do not use their beliefs as a weapon, or as a way to push their agenda onto the unwilling.

Despite this, I still think of those nights, standing on the church steps as flurries dance in the sky, when I think of Christmas. They are memories I hold dear, and find comfort in, and I know the church doors are open for me should I have need of them, even though I no longer believe. The place is full of Christmas memories. Being the donkey in the Christmas pageant, then being promoted to narrator. Serving as an acolyte for several years, fearing I would accidentally light a wreath on fire. The beautiful Christmas hymns, my favorites being “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” I still, and will always, contend that religious Christmas songs are far, far superior to secular ones, though I admit that Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is a jam.

Now, I attend a different sort of service on Christmas Eve each year. One that takes place long ago in a galaxy far, far away. New traditions have grabbed hold. Frozen pizza for dinner, a latte or two, and Star Wars to round out the night. And though it’s only been in place for a couple of years, that tradition is starting to feel a bit like Christmas, too. Because really, those nights at church and the nights in the movie theater are not so different. One just has more popcorn.

Family, friends, and a feeling of calm, and of belonging. That’s what Christmas is, for me. In the face of all the things I dislike about the holidays – and there are several – there are some ideas and values that are close to my heart this time of year. Even though traditions might change, memories of old remain.

Happy holidays!

If you’re in need of a new read, or need something to spend your holiday money on, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on


Scary Neighbor Lady

A few years ago, the trick-or-treat night in my neighborhood fell on an evening in which my last college class for the day ended at 6:30 PM. I lived alone at the time, and, as bad as it makes me sound, I had no interest in participating in trick-or-treat. I usually just turn the lights off so the folks walking around with their kids will know not to ring the doorbell. But, since I’d forgotten that I would be pulling into my driveway right smack in the middle of the event, I feared that I would have to suffer through being pestered by eager children hankering for some sugar. Plus, I had no candy in the house, though I did have plenty of carrot sticks, which are not generally a hit with the youth.

Nevertheless, I heated up some microwaveable macaroni and cheese for dinner (I was the pinnacle of health in those days), set up camp in my kitchen, and started to pound out my homework for the night. My computer was located in my kitchen nook, which was, unfortunately, positioned right next to a window. Therefore, from the right angle, the passing groups of ravenous candy-seekers could likely see me sitting there. I was absolutely certain that my doorbell would ring at least a few times and I would either have to ignore it, or tell the poor little ghosts, witches, and Iron Men that I had nothing to give them.

I sat, ate my dinner, and worked on an essay about the movie I’d just seen in film class. Through the window, I could see the kids walking about, going door to door, their laughter and cheer muffled through the pane. Reveling in their Three Musketeers, Hershey Bars, Skittles, and my personal favorite, Bottle Caps. Yet, though I expected it, not a single child rang my doorbell.

My porch light was on (I used to turn it on before I left the house for late classes, and had done so out of habit earlier that day) and I was plainly visible through the kitchen window, eating mac n’cheese and typing away at my desktop, and still, no one rang my doorbell.

In an attempt to pinpoint the reason why the neighborhood folks would be avoiding my house, since I was a relatively reclusive neighbor and spoke only to the people who lived to the right of me and the family across the street (the family across the street were GREAT neighbors and gave me free firewood during Snowtober in ’11,) I remembered an instance where, after seeing some of the neighborhood kids playing in my yard without permission, I yelled at them out the window to, essentially, “Get off my lawn.” There was a sort of “drop-off” in the yard marked with stones that was all-too-easy to tumble off and cause injury, which I did not want to be held accountable for. I mean, I could have been nicer about it or chosen some gentler phrasing, but if you’re gonna get kids who aren’t related to you and who are blatantly ignoring your property line in the first place to listen to you, you gotta be firm. At my behest, they scattered like the soot sprites in My Neighbor Totoro, and I never had to yell at them again. 

I suppose, at that time, I did not realize the toll my reprimand would have on my neighborly reputation. On that chilly October night, as all of the trick-or-treaters avoided my stoop, I came to realize that I had, in the eyes of a humble New England neighborhood, become the Scary Neighbor Lady.

But, instead of lamenting this, I decided to embrace it. So what if I could strike fear into the hearts of children with one bellow of “GET OFF MY LAWN!”? I’d never actually harm a kid, so I figured I might as well embrace my new reputation and use it to my advantage instead of trying to change it.

Although I never had to yell at the neighborhood kids again, they did end up fooling around in my yard one more time that I can recall, only it was the front yard instead of the back. My car was in the garage at the time, so they likely thought I wasn’t home. There’s a stone-lined drop-off onto my driveway that, if a child had fallen off, could cause pretty serious injury, so I definitely didn’t want them playing out there unsupervised. But before I could open the window to say anything to them, I met the gaze of one of the kids through the windowpane, and saw his eyes go wide with terror. I sharpened my glare, and that was enough. He motioned to his comrades to flee, and they sprinted away from my house and down the street, to play in some other neighbors yard, I assume.

I’ve since moved away, and have no such reputation in my current residence, but I like to think I’ve become an urban legend at my old stomping grounds, and that on trick-or-treat nights, the neighborhood kids still refuse to stop at “Scary Neighbor Lady’s” house.


If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on