The Middle

Recently, the mid-twenties doldrums have been bogging me down. I feel as though I am not where I need to be, but I lack the courage and confidence to get myself there. But those thoughts of “Get it together!” get drowned out by fear of failure and doubt in my abilities, a dark cloud consuming every spot of brightness I try and scrounge up.

But sometimes, the perfect song comes on the radio at the perfect time. This week, it was Jimmy Eat World’s anthem The Middle, which goes:

Hey, don’t write yourself off yet,
It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on.
Just try your best,
Try everything you can,
And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away.
It just takes some time,
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride,
Everything, everything will be just fine,
Everything, everything will be all right…

This song came on as I was driving home after a difficult day, and I heard it three more times over the course of the week. And it just… made me feel better each time I heard it. Like being stuck in the middle isn’t the worst fate, or even something to be distraught over, because it doesn’t have to be permanent. There is a way out, a lantern to guide your path, no matter how rough or dark a road seems, and it might just take some time until everything is all right. Cliche or not, I think that message rings true.

I think, sometimes, the universe knows what we need to hear, and we need to take it to heart – especially if we hear the same message four times in one week. Or, maybe the local radio stations lack variety, because they also played “Eye of the Tiger” three times this week…or maybe, the message I was meant to receive this week is dual-layered.

It’s okay to be stuck in the middle, but you must have the eye of the tiger to stand up to the challenge of climbing out, and everything will be all right.

…Or something like that, perhaps.

~~~~~

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.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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Allergies

Friday evening, I worked until 7PM and decided to do some grocery shopping on my way home from work, so I wouldn’t have to contend with weekend crowds. I generally loathe grocery shopping, so I ensure I get in and out as soon as possible. The whole “scan it” and bag your own stuff revolution is a marvelous thing.

In total, I had about re-usable five bags full of food and a jug of milk. I wheeled my cart back to the vestibule and weighed my options. I could take the cart out to my car, or I could risk it and carry all my bags with my spindly noodle arms. I think you can discern what choice I made, because I imagine myself to be a moderately self-reliant person who can handle her own groceries. I don’t need a cart. Spoiler alert: I needed a cart.

So, I hooked two bags onto one arm, two onto the other, had the milk jug in one hand and the final bag in my other hand, and my purse over one shoulder. I was somewhat overburdened, but it was manageable. I just had to make the long trek across the parking lot as the setting sun cast an orange-gold glow over the land.

I made it across the crosswalk just fine, and then they struck. The dreaded allergies.

Pennsylvania has had a temperamental spring thus far, as we can’t seem to shake the last remnants of winter. But the last couple of days have been practically balmy compared to some. One might say that spring has sprung. I was fine all day on Friday, but as I was journeying to my car, arms laden with bags of sustenance, my eyes began to water and my nose started to run.

And this wasn’t just a couple of tears and a sniffle or two. It was a full-on assault, both nasal and optical. I also am one of those people who park their car far away from everyone else because I can’t stand the way people drive in parking lots, so my little Nissan was WAY out in the distance. I have never hated my parking habits more than in that moment.

I couldn’t back out, or slow down. My eyes grew so blurry with tears behind my glasses they started coursing down my face. My nose was running so badly I could barely breathe. My arms were weighed down with bags, milk, and my purse, and I don’t exactly give the impression that I am the pinnacle of strength. I am sure, to the strangers who witnessed this event, I looked like I was having a public breakdown on a Friday night in a grocery store parking lot with my weak, struggling arms full of bags. Quite a picture.

When I finally made it to my car, I slammed the milk down on my trunk, dug my keys out of my purse, propped my bags against the side of my car and threw open my driver’s side door and scrambled for my tissues. It took me two minutes to get myself under control, eyes red and stinging and nose stuffy, then I packed up my bags and thankfully remembered to retrieve my milk from the trunk. With a deep breath, I drove off, and made it home without another strike from the dreaded allergies.

But, while this was happening to me, my parents were at a child’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. So, I suppose, it could always be worse.

~~~~~

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.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Mother Nature

Mother Nature chose to celebrate the coming of spring in an unusual way, here in the northeast. She did not bring us flowers, birdsong, or gentle showers and soft sunlight.

She brought us a storm. A long one, at that.

Thus, my tiny pocket of PA found itself buried in a little over a foot of snow on the first day of spring.

Which – to be frank – is bullshit. Mother Nature had all winter to give us weather like this, and she chose to slam us with snow on the first day of spring. It’s cruel.

I mean, in all fairness, we didn’t get socked too hard this winter – not nearly as bad as our northern/New England brethren, who have fared far worse. We had maybe one “big” storm last month, and it was only about four inches of snow, which all melted by noon the next day because it was 60 degrees. Aside from that, all the other wintry events have been brief spurts of flurries or a minor coating to an inch, which typically disappears within the next few days. So I probably shouldn’t complain. I mean, I have lived in the northeast for 21 years, so this weather isn’t new to me, and if I move south the humidity will turn my hair into a perma-fro, so that’s not quite an option at this time.

We’ve had a few close calls this year, up until now. Just a couple of weeks ago the meteorologists were warning us about a potential 6-8 inches… which fizzled to nothing. So I was skeptical of this past week’s forecast, but when I saw the first flakes tumble down from the sky on Tuesday morning, I knew they’d actually called it right. Actually, they initially called for 4-6 inches and it turned into about 12, but whatever.

Mild winter activity like we experienced over this past season isn’t enough to send heartier members of the public scrambling to the grocery store for milk, bread, and eggs, though many will flock to fill their shelves. I once went to the store the day before an alleged “storm” and legitimately needed bread, but it was so packed in the bread aisle I had to settle for corn muffins instead.

I suppose it was too much to hope for that we could escape from winter completely unscathed – not even the first day of spring could stop the fickle Mother Nature from sending a blustery blizzard from sweeping over the region. I blame the groundhogs, honestly.

I had to call out of work for the third time in 9 years because I was buried, spent a good chunk of time shoveling heavy snow and thus destroying my noodle-esque arms, and worked on some writing while sipping mint hot cocoa. So, though Mother Nature decided to be cruel earlier this week, it was not all bad – if it gives me a bit more time to write, it is acceptable in my book.

Besides, the snow is already melting… and soon, spring will be here in earnest. And, after this last storm, that is certainly something to look forward to, so long as Mother Nature doesn’t have any more wintry surprises left for us.

Lucille

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.

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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.

Lacuna

(Thought I’d share a short story I wrote several years ago and only just stumbled across.)

Lacuna

by: Allie Frost

         Café La Bréche was unusually busy for a Thursday morning. Outside, beneath the bright yellow awning, every table was occupied. To foreigners, the café advertised ‘Paris in a cup,’ but to the Parisians it was nothing more than a simple, somewhat tacky café by the Seine, the towers of Notre Dame watching thoughtfully in the distance.

Emery King wasn’t overly fond of the place, but she had picked it out—and so he went. She said she liked the ambience. He preferred to select his breakfast venues based on the food choice and whether or not he deemed the prices reasonable, but Mona would take burnt croissants and exorbitantly expensive espresso as long as the atmosphere was nice.

“Your coffee will get cold if you don’t drink.”

At his warning, Mona obediently took a sip from her mug, green eyes twinkling over the rim. “Cold coffee is not a tragedy,” she teased.

Emery scoffed. “For €4.50 a cup it is.”

Mona laughed. A breeze kicked up, and she brushed some auburn strands of hair from her face. She had changed her color again. She had been blonde the last time he saw her, and brunette the time before that. He didn’t even remember what her natural hair looked like—or if he had ever seen it.

Mona smirked. “You’ve always been too serious, Emery.”

Emery sighed, crossing one leg over his knee.

You are not serious enough.”

“I am known to be serious sometimes,” she informed him indignantly. “For example, when I tell you I am glad you came to visit, I am being serious.”

He dabbed at his moustache with a napkin. The foam from his coffee always collected there. He would probably need to shave soon. He had an important conference in about a week and wanted to look professional. Mona hated the moustache the last time they had met—Berlin, three years ago. It was half the reason he’d kept it so long. But this time she said she loved it.

“I could visit more often if we lived in the same country.”

Mona took the sunglasses from the top of her head and positioned them over her eyes. Emery wished she wouldn’t hide them. Sometimes, when he looked in her eyes, he could almost grasp what she was thinking, or feeling—almost. No matter what else she changed, her eyes had always been the same. Mystifying green.

“I like it here,” she determined. “There is no reason for me to move.”

Emery rolled his eyes. She liked it now. She would hate it in three months and move a thousand miles away, most likely, and he’d only find out when his letters would return to him unopened with ‘Return to Sender’ stamped in red on the envelope.

“You don’t even speak the language.”

Mona laughed lightly. Emery loathed that laugh as much as he loved it. Such a careless sort of afterthought – as though she found no actual humor in his words, but wanted to appease him. A whimsical flippancy. An expression of pity. It frustrated him.

“Precisely why I like it.”

Emery tried not to show his annoyance. She couldn’t even order a croissant in French. Yet she had lived in Paris for at least a year—or was it two? He didn’t remember. She knew ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir.’ Hello and goodbye. She was a creature of constant hellos and goodbyes – it was what came in between those hellos and goodbyes that kept changing.

“What is the point in living in a place where you can’t understand anyone?”

“That’s the point, though.” She stared at him, but he couldn’t quite see her eyes beyond the tinted lenses. “If you don’t understand, then you can pretend. The nastiest insults become the prettiest compliments when you don’t understand the difference.”

             It’s a pretend life, he wanted to tell her. You’re not really living.

But of course he wouldn’t say that. She wouldn’t listen anyway.

He sighed.

“I will never understand you, Mona.”

He had known her for a long time—thirteen years. Since freshman year of college. Every sporadic letter, every fleeting conversation since then always felt like he was speaking to someone he had never met. Struggling to hang on to the image of a person he would never really know, and perhaps, had never known at all.

She smiled coyly. “No, you won’t. But it’s better that way.”

Her coffee had stopped steaming. She had only taken a few sips—the mug was over half-full. €4.50 for a cold coffee. Such a waste—a tragedy.

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 BN.com.

 

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 BN.com.