The Pokemon Exchange and one elementary success

The #Pokemon Exchange and one #elementary #success - www.alliepottswrites.comIt was a quiet morning. This was most unusual as it was also my turn to escort my kids as well as two of their school aged cousins to the bus stop. Now normally, I would have soothed at least one tear fest, brokered a toy sharing deal that would make a UN negotiator proud, or cleaned up someone’s accident by this point, but none of this had happened. I was immediately suspicious.

I found my eldest, Kiddo and his cousin, Casimir, deep into discussions in the center of our den. Sipping my coffee, I carefully approached, stopping close enough to listen in to the conversation, but far enough away as to not alert them to my attention. The green folder laying next to them coupled with an open white box told me all I needed to know. The source of my peaceful morning was none other than Pokemon.

My brothers, who are a wee bit younger than me, were told under the most severe threats of doom not to discuss Pokemon with my kids. I’d seen the madness that was their individual collections first hand. I’d heard their conversations with my stepmom about rare species and evolved forms. My ears had suffered under the constant refrain of the cartoon’s theme song once before. Not in my house, I’d decried.

But then the unthinkable happened. Pokemon Go became a thing,

Okay, Allie, I told myself, no need to panic. Kiddo doesn’t have a phone or anything (or at least he didn’t at the time). He’s not going to get sucked into playing the app.

And he didn’t. Something even worse happened. Some kid on the bus gave him and his cousin a few trading cards. The kid thought it was no big deal. After all, the cards were his or her duplicates and being apparently a nice well-meaning child, the kid simply wanted to share. Darn you public school system on your new emphasis on empathy, inclusion, and anti-bullying behavior!

Trading card the Pokemon Exchange on www.alliepottswrites.com

Catching them all together truly presents a challenge

Before I knew it, three cards became ten, which somehow continued to multiply to twenty to fifty. Kiddo, as sympathetic as the child on the bus, wanted to share his good fortune with his brother, LT. LT was delighted and their joint collection grew further. Despite my best efforts, I was forced to accept that Pokemon mania had taken root in my house. Reluctantly I raised the white flag.

My stepmom, who is likely overjoyed at the chance to de-clutter her house, was kind enough to divide my brother’s collection into boxes for each of the kids, leaving it up to them to broker individual trades later, which was exactly what Kiddo and Casimir were in the process of doing that morning.

Deal done, Casimir proudly announced to his sister, my niece, Xena that he had secured ten new cards all for a single rare whatsityacallit. Xena looked at the cards in his hands. Her eyes grew wide. “I want ten cards!” she declared rushing into the den where Kiddo still remained.

“Okay,” Kiddo nodded like a retail proprietor, “what will you trade?”

“I want ten cards,” Xena stated again.

“What are you going to trade for them?” Kiddo repeated.

“Trade?” She batted her eyelashes.

“Yeah. Casimir gave me a whatsityacallit. I will give you ten cards, but you have to give me a rare card. That’s a trade.”

“But I want them soooooo badly,” Xena replied.

I took another large gulp of my coffee as way of fortifying myself against whatever tantrum was sure to follow.

“I can give you one card, but I won’t give you ten unless you trade me for it.” Kiddo offered, diffusing the explosive situation. I supposed I might have interceded at this point, but if Kiddo wanted to be generous with his collection and we avoided a melt-down I was all for it. Bless that child.

Xena scanned his collection. Grinning from ear to ear she proudly held out her newest card for all the world to see as we made our way to the bus stop.

Now when I first observed this entire exchange, I thought the lesson worth sharing here was that no one will simply give you what you want just because you state you want it. You have to do the work. You have to make the trade. But now that I’ve written it all out, I realize that while my niece didn’t secure the ten cards she requested, she still managed to leave with more than she started out with, and at no personal cost. All she had to do was simply state her intended desire at the right place, right time, and most importantly of all to the right person.

My niece may have a future on Wall Street.

So I guess the lesson here is this – while doing the work certainly helps achieve an exponentially greater result, if you openly announce your goal, others are more likely to help you on your path to success (however you define the word).

To that end, (and those who know me understand how hard this next part is for me to do) I am announcing that in addition to writing books, I also offer design services including logo design, covers, and book formatting, because apparently writing books, being a mom, and working full-time leaves me with free time in need of filling (yes, I also think my head needs examination). You can check out samples of my work at Logo and Book Design Services. While I do use stock art, depending on budget, I can also offer a quote with custom photography or illustration and I’d love the opportunity to discuss a project with you.

May your goals for the new year be equally successful.

 

The cranberry sauce has landed. A thanksgiving perspective

At the time this posts, I will, hopefully, be well on my way to a tryptophan-induced turkey coma or at least surrounded by the smells of food cooking, children playing, and the near-deafening noise of my family squeezed together under a single roof attempting to engage in conversation over the sound of the football game on tv.

And sure, some of this vision is idealized thinking. In reality, the children’s play has likely descended into high pitched chaos by now. Cans of cranberry sauce may have fallen to the floor adding to the kitchen’s new color scheme and grandpa might say something, well… grandpa-y.

But even this less than perfect vision is still reason for me to be grateful.

The scent of smoke filled the air outside my home last week, caused by several forest fires burning in North Carolina’s Western mountains, nearly 200 miles away. On the other side of the state, flood waters from Hurricane Matthew only recently receded. Power was out and roads were closed for weeks. Many have lost everything due to the rain, and will more due to its counterpart just as the weather to turns cold.

And so I might roll my eyes as I pass the gravy but will raise my glass when it comes time to give thanks and drink deeply. For my more realistic vision of the day, as flawed is it may be, is still filled with food, family, and a roof over our heads.

I hope that you might consider participating in #GivingTuesday if you are in a position to do so, and wish you all, whether you observe the holiday or not, a Happy Thanksgiving.


And for those of you who prefer a little extra reading to football, here is a repost of another of my less than ideal Thanksgiving stories.


Has anyone's Thanksgiving ever gone like this?

Has anyone’s Thanksgiving ever gone this smoothly? (image from wikipedia.org)

I considered myself fortunate. We were traveling for Thanksgiving, meaning I wasn’t going to have to cook (a good thing for all involved – just ask my hubby sometime about my poultry cooking skills). I didn’t have to clean. All I was expected to do was to enjoy time with my family. Silly me. I forgot that I was traveling with a toddler.

I had barely closed my eyes on Thanksgiving eve when I heard my toddler’s cry in the adjacent room which he was sharing with his brother. I immediately sprang out of bed to see what was the matter worried that might wake up the rest of the household. I was ready to once again hear, “Where Monkey Man?” This time however it wasn’t merely a request to locate his favorite toy, he was sick, and not just with the sniffles.

I rushed him to the bath while the hubby took care of the linens. Eventually, we were forced to turn the lights on while I rummaged through his bag looking for his spare set of pajamas. It turned out I needn’t worry about waking his brother. My eldest didn’t even bother turning over. (Man, I wish I could still sleep like that!)

Cleaned up, my toddler clung to me like a life raft. The hubby passed by carrying our travel toddler cot. (You could smell it from a distance.) Even if we had a spare set of sheets, kiddo wasn’t going to be able to sleep on it again anytime soon. I had resigned myself to a night on the couch or rocking chair when the hubby came by again. This time with a pillow in hand. He volunteered to stay on the couch so that our son and I might sleep more comfortably on a bed.

In hindsight, I think in the end he may have gotten the better end of the deal.

It was still a loooooonnnnng a night. At home, my toddler’s bed is near the ground and has guard rails. My in-law’s guest bed, on the other hand, is very tall and all sides are completely exposed. Each time my kiddo shifted, I worried he might slip over the side and plummet to the ground. I was afraid that the cries we had already heard that night would be whispers in comparison. I tried to pull him back closer to me, but that only served to wake him up enough to remind him that his tummy was still upset.

Several trips back to the bathroom later (progressively less necessary),  I realized that what I was doing wasn’t working. Unless I wanted to be completely worthless the following day, I was going to have to find a way for both of us to sleep. I realized I was going to have to give him more freedom of movement. I placed a few pillows near the bed’s edge, just in case, but then I let him go. Soon I heard soft, contented snores and I allowed myself to also fall into a light sleep.

I awoke hours later to the touch of small fingers on my forehead. (Oh no! Dawn is still hours away – please, please try to go back to sleep!) My little boy whispered, “Where mommy go?”

I answered, “Mommy’s here. Are you okay?” (yep, the couch was definitely the better option)

“I better.” Then no more words. Instead, he snuggled next to me, and the soft snores resumed in short order. Even though I knew right then that it was only a matter of time before I came down with whatever illness my toddler turned outbreak monkey possessed (4 days to be exact), I couldn’t help but smile. I’ll take what I can get.

My toddler used to only want to be with me. Then one day he stopped, and now prefers the company of his dad. All too soon, I know this stage will also be over and he’ll only want to be around his friends. I’ll eventually have to let him find his own way in life, but it is good to know that he’ll still look for mommy now and then.

5 ways to be kind while supporting a cause

“People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”  – Isaac Asimov

I stumbled upon this quote on http://www.brainyquote.com recently and the statement could well describe my social media feed, especially since October. It seems that everyone is either an expert on a topic or a misguided fool. But here’s the problem – pick an issue, any issue, the what doesn’t matter. Now pick a side. I know people there. Now think of the opposite side of the issue. I know people there too. Smart people. Good people.

I am also related to a few of them. A fact that has caused me some degree of angst, particularly as the year approaches the holiday season. I would rather enjoy my turkey dinner than be caught in the middle of a debate on xyz. Therefore I’ve tried to remain social-media-neutral throughout it all, choosing to “like” pictures of puppies or children at play and instead of click-bait articles designed to impassionate and/or enrage.

I’ve chosen instead for my actions offline to speak louder than my posts. I’ve chosen to be kind and here are just a few ways you can too.

  1. Give, but give smart

There are as many charities out there, but unfortunately, not all are as giving to the causes they are expected to champion as others. It is important to do your homework to ensure that your hard-earned money has the best chance of reaching those intended. In the US, you can start your research at http://www.charitynavigator.org/

2. Volunteer your time

If your funds are as tight as mine are, especially at this time of year, you can give the gift of your time. Don’t know where to get started? Well, there are groups out there designed to match you with opportunities too, such as http://www.volunteermatch.org/. A quick search at the time of writing this connected me to over 390 opportunities in my area alone.

3. Go out to eat

If kindness and compassion go hand in hand, the best way to understand people who aren’t like you is to occasionally leave home or venture outside your normal social circle. While there are plenty of articles out there such as 10 ways to experience another culture when traveling abroad or 5 ways culture shock is good for you which touch on how to experience other cultures abroad, it can be just as beneficial to try something new closer to home. There is much to be learned about people who might not share your views or have had other life experiences simply by visiting another state/province, county, city, or neighborhood and sharing a meal.

4. Hold the door

I mean this both literally and figuratively. If you see a person in need, struggling to get by, stop and extend your hand. Give the tired your seat. Smile at a stranger. Say thank you and say it often. You don’t have to spend a dime, give up a weekend, or go out of your comfort zone in order to treat another person how you’d like to be treated.

5. Agree to disagree

This one can be the hardest. At a certain point, you will just have to accept that when given the same set of facts, there are those who arrive at a different conclusion. Stand firm if it is something you believe in, but agree to disagree, and repeat steps 1 – 4. Recognize no one’s journey through life is the same and no dinner quite complete without a couple of sides. Understanding this fundamental truth is the heart of compassion and the greatest, and sometimes the only, kindness you can offer.

 

kindnessquotes

 

 

 

We Survive, We Improvise – Conclusion #shortstory #fiction

The below is the conclusion to my short story, We Survive, We Improvise. If you missed the beginning, you can read it here.


wesurviveweimproviseThe engines’ roar seemed louder than usual in the plane’s cabin, likely because the cabin was filled with only about a quarter of the passengers it originally started with. “Let’s go home ladies,” Darla announced in a somber voice over the speaker system as the rest of us readied ourselves for lift off. The look in her eyes as she began making her final inspection down the aisle before giving the pilot the thumbs up sign told me our latest sergeant wouldn’t be looking for another challenge anytime soon.

Home. The word sat in my conscience. Could the place we were going to really be called home? For the first time, I allowed myself to think of the family I’d left behind. Not the fantasy family that had gotten me through so many terrible nights, but the real one. I forced myself to do the math. The daughter I still saw in braids and pigtails in my mind’s eye would be a woman now. She might even have a child of her own. I reached for the harness as an anchor only to recall my right arm was no longer attached to the rest of my body.

Stacy, the not-so-newbie, whose first battle proved to also be our last, pulled the belt across my body, securing it into place before strapping herself into Christie’s old seat. I bit my lip. Home. Would I ever really be able to call it that without these women by my side?

The scent of blood, dirt, and gasoline tickled my nose, causing my nostrils to quiver and eyes to water as I took a deep breath to settle my thoughts. I certainly wasn’t crying.

“Double or nothing?” Stacy asked Darla as my sister-in-arms made her way to our seats.

Darla glanced in my direction and the corner of her lip turned up. “You’re on.” Then she caught my eyes. “We were asked to give our all Ladies,” she shouted to the masses. “And that’s exactly what we served. Never forget who you are. We are the Mother F–ing Army.” Leaning in, she lowered her voice so only I could hear. “We survive. We improvise.”

I nodded as the plane began its journey to the place that might one day be called home again. We do indeed. 

Hooah.

This was a story that was partially inspired by a dream, but also the village that helped raise me – a wonderful group of women known as the Ladies that Do Bridge. While they might never have been sent to war, they’ve never shied from a battle.


Things I am grateful for today:

  1. With the exception of a slight cough, my cold is nearly gone
  2. I made it through my *gasp* eight-year old’s birthday party extravaganza, sanity intact
  3. I have friends and family close by as well as across oceans
  4. I have one complete manuscript simmering and a chapter written for the next one
  5. The knowledge that I am strong, I am determined, and I will make will make the best of whatever tomorrow throws my way. Because I survive even if it sometimes means I have to improvise.

We Survive, We Improvise – A bit of #shortstory #fiction

 

wesurviveweimproviseI waited as the plane’s door latch engaged. Any minute now, I thought. Sniff. Cha-ching. The engines whirled to life, drowning out all but the sounds generated by my seatmates – but I’d heard enough before their roar. “Newbie broke.” I turned to Darla with a grin, “just when I said she would.” We all broke. Darla and I only bet on when.

Darla snapped her harness together, readying herself for the flight. “You said preflight.”

“Yeah, and our wheels are still on the ground.” At least they were for a couple more seconds. Sure, there was a time when betting on when the newest recruit would break down into a puddle of tears would have sounded like one of the cruelest games imaginable, but I’ve long since witnessed far crueller. Besides, only a fraction of the green recruits managed to survive the first few days anyway, and those who did, well . . . they typically didn’t hold a grudge. When the only people between you and certain death are those you flew in with, you tend to become a little more forgiving.

Darla rolled her eyes. “Double or nothing.”

I smiled. I’d won the last three rounds in a row. Easy bet. It was also the only bet I would make against Darla. Back before, she’d once chaperoned an entire field trip of kindergarteners to the candy factory. Alone. The other chaperones having succumbed to a bout of food poisoning from the school’s volunteer thank you banquet the evening before. If that wasn’t medal worthy enough, she’d also somehow managed to do so while simultaneously coordinating the school’s fundraising carnival and spearheading the community’s clean water awareness campaign.

The rumor around the barracks suggested Darla may have had something to do with the banquet too and had intentionally given the other chaperones bad food just because she wanted an extra challenge – but I knew that story was garbage. Darla couldn’t ruin a dish if she’d tried.
In another life, I might have hated her, but in this one . . . In this one, I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d rather have on my side.

“You’re on” It was money in the bank. That is, it would be if banks still existed. Still, the on-going bet helped pass the time and ensured the new faces didn’t blend together.

The plane’s engines roared as we began speeding down the blackened earth serving as the day’s temporary runway. Traditional infrastructure had become a target in the same way as the banks had. “We survive. We improvise.” I repeated our unit’s motto to myself as my ears adjusted to the ascent.

“I always think it is so cute you repeat that phrase each time. It always makes it sounds like we were given a choice.” If it was anyone poking fun at my ritual other than my other seatmate, Christie, I might have been offended. But I owed her, in more ways than one. Decades of mastering a world of pins and ‘grams had gifted her with a number of other life-saving talents. She could disguise a weapon as a tea cozy, disarm a bomb using pipe cleaners, and could trick an eye with any number of camouflages. If I’d only known the various sites would be so useful in my later years, I might have actually paid more attention to them when I had the chance.

The smile left my face, as it always did at the thought of my former life and my kids. Especially my kids. I wondered if they still remembered their mom’s face or if their ‘new’ mom was now filling in for me in that role as well. I knew it was a bitter thought. The women, whose primary civic responsibility was now populating the next generation while caring for those left behind, had about as much say in their assignment as those of us now past their prime, but it hurt to think about all the same. I kissed my fingers wishing I could kiss my children instead. If Christie noticed, she was kind enough not to say anything more.

As the plane leveled off and hit cruising altitude, our sergeant’s voice placed over the speakers. “Listen up ladies. I know the last several years have been hard on us all. When the enemy struck and destroyed all of our military units in one coordinated attack, we might have thrown up the white flag. But we survived. We improvised. When that same enemy released the bio-pandemic and decimated nearly eighty percent of the population, we could have surrendered. But we survived. We improvised. We may be past our childbearing years. We may be of no use in repopulating our once great nation, but we are far from useless. Some of you volunteered. Some required more . . . persuasion. But each and every one of you are now part of the fiercest fighting team the world has ever seen.”

The sergeant’s voice paused allowing her words to wash over the ranks like a wave. Even I was affected and I’d thought myself jaded to these rallies years ago.

She continued, “I am pleased to report our intelligence has located the enemy’s stronghold. Our assignment is clear. It’s now our turn. They may be able to improvise, but rest assured, they won’t survive. Because we are the mother f–ing army.”

Cheers sounded throughout the plane. Even the woman who had been crying at take-off now looked optimistic. Darla slapped my back as the sarge’s words soaked in. Could this really be it? I dared to hope and wonder. Christie grinned like a maniac. If not, at least I’d go down with the best friends a woman could ask for.

“Hooah”

To Be Continued…


October 31st not only marked the day my children manage to bring home their body weight in candy, it also was my self-imposed deadline for my second draft of my current work in progress. I am pleased to report that not only did I achieve this goal, I actually beat it by a couple of days. So now I’m leaving this project to sit and simmer, allowing all the lovely passive voice, clichés, and other typos proper time to rise to the surface before I attempt another round of rewrites and edits.

What this means is that I can finally allow myself to actually contemplate another novel project. Or I could, if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve taken on new responsibilities at work, am attempting to plan Kiddo’s birthday party extravaganza, and have come down with an ugly head cold. So instead, I hope you might enjoy this sample of some of my shorter fiction.