A to Z Challenge — Before — #AtoZChallenge

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Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Lois consulted her list and glanced at the clock on her SUV’s dashboard. She blew a frazzled breath of air through what her daughter Claire called her “pufferfish lips.” If she caught the green lights, she could make it across town, collect Claire, swing past the church to drop off the donation items for Saturday’s charity bazaar. Then they could rush it home in time to make family dinner before creating the cakes and cookies she promised for the bake sale in the morning.

As she pulled into the school parking lot, she groaned and slumped into the seat, wishing she could disappear. Too late. Sylvia Plachett was already waving, motioning for Lois to park next to her shiny red sports car. Sylvia’s daughter, Ava, and Claire leaned against the red fender with heads bent over their phones.

Dear God, I hate that woman. Lois jabbed unmanicured fingers into her unruly brown curls, attempting not to appear as if she had just rolled out of bed. A glance in the rearview mirror confirmed her hopeless situation and revealed more good news–smudged mascara.

Smartly dressed, as usual, Sylvia’s appearance was flawless. She wore her coal-black hair pulled into a neat bun, and her makeup looked freshly applied. Lois glanced down at her rumpled T-shirt and black yoga pants as she pulled up next to the girls and rolled down the window. I’ll stay in the car. Sylvia’s smiling face appeared in the open window.

“The girls asked to stay and watch soccer practice, and I thought we could grab a cup of coffee. They’ve got the concession stand open.”

“Ah, well, I need to drop the donations at the church.”

“Please, mom?” Claire cupped her phone between her palms and assumed her “Little Angel” expression.

“But the donations…”

“Ava, did you say Justin was going to the church?”

Before Lois could protest, Ava texted Justin, and he arrived to transfer everything to his car.

Suck it up, Buttercup.

Lois slid from her seat, tugging hard on the hem of her T-shirt to smooth the wrinkles and cover the top portion of her yoga pants before joining Sylvia at the concession stand. She fumbled in her oversized purse, packed with a collection of necessary in-case-of-emergency supplies in a futile search for her billfold.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got this,” Sylvia said, handing the pimply-faced teenager a crisp bill.

Lois let h purse drop, the strap dug into her shoulder, and she fought to hold back tears as she accepted the steaming paper cup.

“Oh, hon. What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“How do you do it?” Lois sniffled.

“Do what?”

Lois waved her hand up and down in front of Sylvia. “You. This. You’re always so put together you have a successful business and a wonderful family. Ava is so sweet. I’m an absolute mess. I’m always busy, always running, always behind, and always exhausted.”

“What are you talking about? You are amazing. I can’t believe everything you do,” Sylvia said, leading Lois to a deserted section of bleacher.

“But I feel like I’m going nowhere.”

“Where do you want to go? What do you dream of doing?”

Lois dabbed her eyes with her shirt sleeve and thought for a moment.  Once upon a time, I dreamed of creating beautiful things.

“Before. Before I got married and had kids? Before we bought a house and got buried by all the responsibilities? Before all of that, I was a sculptor.”

“Really?”

“I loved it, and I was rather good too. I won awards, had a gallery show, and I even sold a few pieces.”

“What happened? Why did you stop?”

“There wasn’t enough time in the day. I had all these things to do before I could work.”

“What’s more important than doing what you love?”

Lois blinked.

“Well, there’s taking care of the children and the housework…”

“Yes, yes, we love our spouse and the children, but have you ever seen a gravestone extolling the virtues of the woman who kept a clean house?”

Lois chuckled and shook her head.

“Do you still want to be a sculptor?”

Lois nodded.

“Then it’s time to throw away the list of Things To Do Before you sculpt.”

This time, Lois couldn’t stop the tears. But she still smiled at her new best friend as Sylvia wrapped her arm around Lois’s shoulder.

“I think I’ve just met a Soon-To-Be-Famous Sculptor.”

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Avoiding Medicine Induced Fuzzy-Head Syndrome and Relying on A Regular Joe – Daily Quote

nothing-can-replace-sleep-but-coffee-can-do-it-best.-i-love-coffee.-kelley-ohara

Spring allergies have hit me squarely between the eyes. Stuffy-headed, my red, watery eyes makes the world a blur. Constant sneezing and sinus pressure take their toll when you are running full speed ahead. While allergy medication can relieve the pressure and ease congestion, it messes with my ability to concentrate, form coherent thoughts, and worst of all, it makes me sleepy. In my delusional, drowsy stupor, my mind swirls, dreaming up improbable scenarios. I feel like Alice in Wonderland, attempting to have tea with the Mad Hatter. Maybe a quick nap isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Ah, sweet sleep. It is a rare commodity when your brain is battling a cocktail of antihistamines and decongestants. We, humans, are hard-wired to worry in the dark of night. We spend hours staring at the ceiling, tossing, turning, and entertaining concerns about the lack of shut-eye. The spinning wheels make matters worse. Sleeping during the daytime is a luxury I cannot afford. Coping mechanism number two is multiple cups of coffee. My hot brew helps ease sinus pressure while the caffeine combats a throbbing headache, and viola, no fuzzy brain. Step aside, I have work to do, and I need another cuppa Joe.

What comforts you and makes you feel better?

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

The 2021 Daily Writing Challenge – April 2

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A new month, a fresh start, an opportunity to wipe the slate clean, and consider the limitless possibilities ahead of us as we celebrate the arrival of a brand-new baby boy in the family. Spring is here. Despite the morning’s 30-degree temperatures, the prognosticators assure us we will hit 70-degrees for the weekend. It’s time to finish old business, start postponed projects, and dream audacious dreams about the future we wish to see.

No matter the challenges and the obstacles blocking my way, I maintain the item at the top of my list as a non-negotiable. Yesterday I wrote 606 words.

Did you write yesterday?

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

A to Z Challenge — Aftermath — #AtoZChallenge 

Yellow house at night with the porch light on.
Photo by Keagan Henman on Unsplash

The final bag whizzed past Keagan’s left thigh and landed with a thump on the cracked cement driveway. Just clothes, nothing breakable. The heavy wood door behind her slammed shut, and the deadbolt clunked into place.

“Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.” The words, muffled by the heavy wooden door, lost their bite. Hurled arrows aimed at weakening her resolve came far too late to have their desired effect.

One by one, each downstairs light flicked off, and Keagan heard heavy footsteps. They tread on the worn pink cabbage rose carpet covering the narrow staircase. She felt every nick in the white-painted banister the way her shoulder slammed into the wall as she turned on the tiny landing and the smooth brass doorknob that only stayed latched when you jiggled it.

They are in the past now.

She squared her shoulders, lifted her chin, descended the front porch steps as if she were already someone, and released the screen door. It creaked, echoing the same protest she had heard a million times before it slammed and bounced in the warped jamb. The familiar sound accompanied so many memories. Heated words, accusations, and ultimatums ended punctuated with its creak and bang.

Hours later, a softer, more tentative squeak and thud heralded a barrage of pleading lies, false promises, and bankrupt vows. Belief and hope melted into agony and desperation, and a swirling eddy of dark desolation threatened to consume her. Despite her every attempt, no matter how hard she tried, nothing was ever right. And the repeating cycle left her numb, uncaring, suffocating.

None of it matters now.

Drowning people fight for each precious, life-sustaining breath. Life or death confronted her. She faced her moment of truth and declared war. Small, secret, defiant warfare, with tiny victories, gave her courage to conceive a starting point that began with goodbye. “You’ll never make it alone. Go ahead, throw your life away. You’ll come crawling back. You’re nothing without me.”

Keep moving.

She stepped outside the warm pool of light cast by the glaring, naked bulb protecting the timid from the dangerous night terrors. There was no hesitation when she took the last stride into the unknown. Her eyes adjusted to an alternate reality, and she found herself standing under a canopy of blazing stars. They twinkled, sang, and beckoned with pledges of wonders greater than anything she imagined.

In the aftermath, a sparkling soul opened fledgling wings. Freedom filled her lungs, and she flew.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Here’s to an Uneventful April Fool’s Day – Daily Quote

It's National Drink Wine Day! Just kidding. It's April Fool's Day. Let's Drink Wine Anyway. Anonymous

I’m not an April Fool’s Day fan. I’ve always considered it a bit cruel to play pranks on a person for the amusement of others. A harmless word twist or ingenious subterfuge can make me smile, but those are rare. The best example of a clever April Fool trickery was perpetrated in 1987 in Norway. They posted an announcement saying the government would distribute 10,000 liters of wine confiscated from smugglers. Hundreds of Norwegians turned up carrying empty bottles and buckets. I’m sure I would have been standing in that line, and I can imagine my extreme disappointment when I learned the entire report was a hoax.

It’s not nice to promise free wine and then not deliver. Was there a joke? If so, I missed it. ‘Tis a good thing I have a ready supply in my stocked cellar for such occasions. I think I will serve dinner with a suburb chianti. An enjoyable meal with friends, stimulating conversations, witty banter, and shared laughter is a much better way to mark the first full month of spring.

Do you enjoy pranks, or should I pass you a glass of wine?

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

2021 A to Z Challenge – #AtoZChallenge

I am biting the bullet, taking the plunge, seizing the opportunity, and crossing the Rubicon, ready to start an April that is full of promise. Late. It is my norm to wait until the last minute to commit. Once committed, I will move heaven and earth to finish what I started. Stay tuned because April is going to be an A-to-Z extravaganza.

These past months, I have been thinking about beginnings and endings. What circumstances can transform an end into the start of something new and wondrous? When does an opening conclude? And how do you know you have arrived at the beginning of the end? What happens when you arrive at the final ending?

Are you intrigued?

The story is just beginning, and I hope you will follow along until the end.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Create Your Daily Battle Plan, Engage Your Enemy, and Grab Your Dreams – Daily Quote

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I’m a scheduler, a planner, I live and die by the agenda, and I relish crossing off the items on my To-Do List. Creating my battle plan, devising tactics for reaching my goals, and knowing what to expect given various scenarios keep me sane. Knowing where I’m going keeps my anxiety monster resting in his cage and helps me manage my stress levels. My plans are never perfect. They are riddled with crossed-off appointments, scratched out and rewritten chores, inserted spur-of-the-moment activities, and scribbled notes for when my priorities change.

People question why I bother when everything is subject to modification, adjustments, or deletion at any point during my day. I persevere because it is my drill practice, my training session, and my dress rehearsal. I conceive my strategies, tactics, and plotting with a single purpose—to win the day, moved toward my goal, and reach my objective. Long-term destinations are elusive when you wander along pretty but aimless paths. Fording rivers is much more difficult when you attempt the crossing in the middle of the rapids during flood season, rather than choosing a better season and an alternate location.

I don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict the challenges my day will throw at me. Making plans does not ensure I won’t encounter obstacles, but it helps me to anticipate, adapt and devise solutions on the fly. It also helps me to say no to some fun diversions. While I might enjoy them, I would also regret indulging in them if it meant I missed taking part in a once-in-a-lifetime event. That is reason enough to continue.

How do you approach your day?

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer