A dose of well-deserved medicine

A story about charitable giving and a response to a Tzedakah Challenge - www.alliepottswrites.com

It was Sunday evening. I was sitting on the couch, enjoying a little quiet time while mentally readying myself for the week ahead. I happened to notice my husband typing on his phone with a self-satisfied grin on his face. I was immediately on alert. To be clear – this is not a look to be trusted. Not when it is on my husband. The only way it could have been worse would be if he had that grin while typing on my phone.

“Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?” – Groucho Marx

I glanced at my phone, but the only alerts showing were a slew of news headlines, which were anything but grin worthy. Nope, we definitely weren’t looking at the same thing. I navigated to Facebook. My feed is set to show my husband’s actions and reactions at the top, so within an instant, I could see he was being particularly active that night. Yeah. This can’t be good. I braced myself for impact as I clicked on the link.

The status update belonged to my cousin advising she was participating in a Tzedakah Challenge. For those not familiar with the word *raises my hand* Tzedakah roughly translates to charitable giving. Per her status update, she had to give to an organization of her choice based on the number of likes and comments she received in a 24 hour period. She pledged to donate $1 for every like and $2 for every comment and would reveal the specific charity after the 24 hour period expired. However, as it was Mother’s Day, she was willing to share that the donation would go toward helping women become better mothers.

Now my husband is a bit of a troublemaker/jokester by nature (and by a bit I mean even our friends’ kids knew by age three to always take what Mr. Potts says with a grain of salt), but he usually means well. Apparently, my cousin’s public pledge provided too good an opportunity to pass up. He commented on her post. Then he commented again, a reply to his first comment. Then again with a reply to his reply. Again and again.

This is who have to live with folks.

A friend of my cousin noticed my husband’s ‘enthusiasm’ and chimed in. What have you done? I shook my head. Don’t you know not to ever encourage him? It’s like saying ‘Beetlejuice’ three times – it sets him free. If she didn’t know what the consequences of her actions were at the time, she does now.

“Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.” – Will Rogers

Either bored with his conversation with himself or emboldened by the (potentially misguided) encouragement, my husband went on to like and reply to more of my cousin’s friends and acquaintances like an internet troll with a one-trick agenda (but a happy, friendly, supportive troll).

The following day, we learned exactly where my husband had spent my cousin’s money. All $150 of it.

She had chosen to donate to Literacy for Life – a regional adult literacy program, but also a program that provides mothers, fathers, and even those without children valuable life skills. In their words:

“Literacy for Life has helped people with numerous individual goals, including studying for and passing the U.S. citizenship exam, obtaining a better job, learning to manage family finances, passing a driver’s license test, effectively communicating with medical professionals, and helping a child with homework.”

There are worse things trolling can do.

However, my husband’s bit of fun (as well as intentioned as it may have been) wasn’t without its own repercussions. After the day was over and the pledge complete, my cousin ‘thanked’ him for his support by naming him as one of her five nominees to carry on the challenge. As I would like to remain on speaking terms with my extended family, I’m here today to ensure he does just that.

I’ll leave the lesson of the day to another:

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” –  Ernest Hemingway

Now, I don’t normally participate in these sort of challenges, but in this case, I am choosing to make an exception (I can be a supportive spouse too after all). If you would like to give my husband a taste of his own medicine or if you just want to support a charity of our choice (up to $150) please feel free to comment or like this post here or on Facebook. I’ll be sure to tell the hubby what he owes.

But be warned, because no good deed goes unpunished, I’m leaving the follow-up nominations to him. If you aren’t careful, you may just earn yourself a new friend.


The official time period for the challenge is up, so you can comment or like from this point on without fear of nomination. Thank you to all who helped me teach my husband a lesson – and helped me support a good cause. I will posting a follow up with the official charity we’ve chosen to support in a later post.

Let’s go to the place where the sidewalk ends

The place where the sidewalk ends - www.alliepottswrites.com A story about a boy and a waterfall and the small differences we make which can add up to a big change.

LT sat on the tire swing in our backyard, alone. His brother had gone to play with a friend leaving LT to amuse himself while his father and I completed our chores. His legs were curled up as they wouldn’t touch the ground even if extended. As a result, the swing was nearly motionless except for a gentle sway with the breeze. I watched as his mouth move and wondered what the conversation he was having with himself might be about. He looked content, but it was a lonely image.

The last of my cleaning could wait. “Do you want to go to the park?” I called out, thinking there might be other kids he could play with. LT beamed, eagerly accepting my offer and soon we were walking down the street to our local playground. LT chattered about things like clouds, giants and other friendly monsters, smiling at everybody we passed along the way. Never once did I have to tell him to hurry up, or stay with me, or explain why he shouldn’t be carried. Who was this child?

a day at the park - www.alliepottswrites.At the park, the sun shone down with only a few clouds breaking up the brilliant expanse of the otherwise blue sky. I settled onto a bench inside the playground as LT climbed up on the play set designed for the bigger kids. “Look at me,” he shouted as he crawled through the plastic tunnel connecting a pair of slides.

I wondered why on earth we were the only ones at the park on such a lovely day. LT went down the larger of the slides. “It’s too hot mommy,” he advised as he reached the bottom. I realized the kid wasn’t exaggerating as I touched the plastic. The equipment might serve as a skillet if it was much hotter. I now understood why the playground was empty.

LT’s brother wouldn’t return for another hour or so. “How about we go on a waterfall hunt,” I suggested. The greenway was not too far away. We just had to go to the end of the sidewalk. LT beat me to the gate.

Raleigh greenway - www.alliepottswrites.comThe temperature dropped a good five to ten degrees (F) as we made our way down the gravel path connecting the trail with the outside world. As always, I felt as if we’d been teleported to some distant place as the canopy of trees stretched out above us. “This way,” LT requested, pointing in the direction of one of his favorite places along the path – a small bridge arching over an even smaller stream.

Leaving the trail, we descended down to the stream below. Large rocks enabled LT to step halfway across where he dipped his fingers into the water at the top of the small falls. “Can a waterfall move?” he asked.

“I suppose it can,” I answered, “but it takes some time to move on its own.”

We ventured further along the stream bed to where the bank was broken up by a myriad of smaller rocks and pebbles. LT reached down and grabbed a handful of dirt. Throwing it into the water, we watched as it dispersed into a ribbon-like cloud as the current took it downstream. LT grabbed a larger rock and this one too went into the water with a plunk, but unlike the dirt, the rock remained in place. You could almost see the gears turning in his head.

“Can you make a waterfall?” he asked.

Raleigh hidden gem - www.alliepottswrites.comOnce again I nodded and soon he was grabbing rocks, twigs, and bits of dirt. The water bulged where LT had added his obstacles, rising over the additional rocks as it rejoined the existing flow. It was hardly Niagara Falls, but it was enough of a difference in height for LT to declare success.

I knew by this time his brother was likely home and would be looking to share his own adventures with us. “Are you ready to go home and tell Daddy all about your waterfall?” I asked.

“But it’s not my waterfall, mommy,” he answered with a smile. “It’s ours.”

“All I did was stand here,” I countered as my heart did a little flip-flop as it tried not to melt.

“But you were here with me,” he replied.

It was a comment that probably kept him from getting grounded for life when he decided to lock himself in his room later that night in protest rather than get ready for bed. Ah, kids. And like that he was once again the child I recognized.

I’ve thought about the stream and our waterfall. He only moved a few rocks, true, but even so, the stream will never be exactly the same. The newly formed eddy, as small as it is, will cut into the stream bed creating new paths for the current to flow. These underwater paths, these series of small adjustments, might go for years unseen but will continue to trigger more changes. Another rock might shift. Another eddy form. Until one day, years from now, someone might dip his or her finger into the top of a waterfall where one did not previously exist – all thanks to LT and the difference he made at the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow, and we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go, for the children, they mark, and the children, they know the place where the sidewalk ends.” – Shel Silverstein

And it will be our waterfall because you were here with me. We’re never as alone as it seems. I know we can move waterfalls. All it takes is to first be willing to make a small change.

Framing Your Story – Book Formatting Basics: The End – Guest Post by Allie Potts… | Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

monkey toys

LT’s friends approve

Today I am visiting with Chris Graham, The Story Reading Ape, talking about formatting books for print using Microsoft Word. For those who aren’t as familiar with Chris, I encourage you to check out his site – not just because he was kind enough to turn it over to me for a bit but because it is full of great information about the indie publishing industry as a whole, author highlights, as well as jokes anyone in any profession could enjoy.

I know that not everyone who reads my blog is an author, aspiring author, or uses Microsoft Word, but I hope that you might still be able to find a time-saving tip or two you can use in the future.


You’ve been toiling for hours upon hours. Edited to a glossy shine, your manuscript is finally complete. Unfortunately, a complete manuscript is not the same thing as a book interior. The difference…

Click here to read the rest: Framing Your Story – Book Formatting Basics: The End – Guest Post by Allie Potts… | Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

How to close a killer deal – how I got tricked by a 5-year-old

How to close a potentially killer deal - www.alliepottswrites.com #salestips“If you lost all your skin …, would you die?”

Up until that moment, I’d been enjoying a few minutes of downtime with some light reading after a long work day. LT’s latest five-year-old pondering caught me off guard. He had to be asking someone else.

Putting down my magazine, I looked around the room, attempting to locate any other member of my family LT could be addressing. Of course, neither my husband nor my eldest son made eye contact. It would appear I was on my own. “Er … um … as in, if I lost all of it? All at once?”

He nodded.

“Then, yes,” I answered with caution, somewhat worried about what must be going through LT’s head to prompt such a random question.

“Why?” LT asked, elongating the word as only kids can as he took a step closer, eliminating any chance for my escape.

Once again I looked around the room for anything at all I might use as a diversion. “Because without my skin my insides wouldn’t stay inside.” We’re a very technical household.

I could see LT chewing over my answer in his mind as I braced myself for another round of questioning. Instead, he only smiled. “I am going to give you more skin so you won’t die.” He hugged my leg, satisfied with his solution.

Occasionally I wonder if my youngest may be a wee bit off unique.”Um … thanks …?” I replied as he wandered away, but all I could think about was the line by Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs – ‘It rubs the lotion on its skin.’

A day or so later, LT approached me with an orange. “Do you need me to help you with that?” I asked. Once again LT nodded. Within short order, I handed him the peeled results. “Here you go. Now throw the peel in the trash, please.”

“That’s for you, mommy. It’s skin,” he replied with a smile before shoving the fruit into his mouth and hopping away.

I looked at the peel in my hand and remembered our earlier conversation. It was skin. It hit me then – LT had indeed figured out a way to keep his promise (even better, no humans were harmed in the process). That’s a relief, I thought as I walked his ‘gift’ over to the trashcan.

kid's tea party

Good evening, Clarice

As I closed the lid on the trashcan, another thought occurred to me – not only had LT gotten me to throw his garbage away for him, he’d managed to do it in a way that made me grateful for the opportunity. It almost made me wonder if this was the end result he’d had in mind from the start. LT is no budding Buffalo Bill but he could yet be the next Hannibal Lecter (minus the serial killing and cannibalism).

Or he might just be a really good salesperson.

Why? Because at five, he already knows how to close a deal. Lucky kid. Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned from watching him (and this goes for selling goods such as books, services, or tricking your parents into doing chores for you) –

  1. Never open with the hard sell

Just like if someone walked into a room and announced without preamble, buy my stuff if LT had given me his orange peel and told me to throw it away for him, I would have said absolutely not. First, because that’s rude, and second, because I know he has two good feet. Instead, he managed to reframed the conversation by priming me to think that orange peel in my hand was a good thing.

But how?

2. Connect on an emotional level

Even those who consider themselves fact-based decision makers, make decisions based on the facts that make them feel like they made the smart and rational decision. The prospect needs to feel good about the decision – not obligated. If he’d dropped the peel at my feet and run away without first reframing the conversation, I probably would have thrown it away for him. Once. But rest assured my youngest would be regretting that poor choice in the not too distant future.

But how?

3. Highlight the potential benefits

Will the reader be entertained, learn something new, or think about life in a new way? Will the prospect save time or money? Will mommy live longer thanks to an extra layer of vitamin C goodness? Your book, service, or product should exist for a reason other than to only make you rich. Don’t be subtle about it. If you leave it up to a potential reader / client / customer to connect the dots, there is a chance they won’t.

But how?

4. Identify the pain

In other words, take the time to really get to know your audience. You know who they are and where to find them, but what is it they wish they had more of? Why don’t they? It is also just as important to find out why they’ve tolerated less up to this point so you can anticipate how to overcome obstacles and objections. Tailor your pitch accordingly. You don’t want to risk dying, mommy, do you?

But how?

5. Keep your promises and follow-up

LT’s seemingly random question may have been mostly forgotten after an amusing conversation shared between friends and family, and a statement on twitter, if it weren’t for his follow-up as well as how he kept his promise.

While he may not have successfully sold me on throwing his garbage away for the rest of time, by this simple act, he has ensured I’ll never look at his leftover orange peels in the same way ever again, and that’s no small deal.

Dinner with a side of distress – Flash Fiction

My mind is still reeling from a weekend of holiday hosting duties, so instead of one of my usual essays, I decided to take another stab at writing some short fiction as prompted by the ever so handy dandy Writer’s Toolbox.

For those not as familiar with the Writer’s Toolbox, it prompts you with a first, middle, and last sentence as well as a series of descriptions to include and a protagonist. I hope you enjoy it –


Dinner with a side of Distress - www.alliepottswrites.com

background image courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com

Dad gave me a wink like we were pals or something. Then again it could just have as easily been a bit of pollen or dust caught in his eye. It always took a while for the orbiters to get reacquainted with uncontrolled wilds of earth-bounding living again. Gazing up into the twilight sky at the stars above, I thought I saw a circling bat. They had no idea what they were giving up, living up there. He had no idea.

“Where is your sister?” he barked the question out between coughing fits.

So definitely the dust then. How silly of me to think he was actually trying to reconnect. “I haven’t seen her,” I replied returning my attention to the meal in front of me. It was the truth, but then again I rarely saw anyone outside of the lab. For some strange reason, people didn’t seem to think that my passion for paleoclimatology combined with my charming personality produced the most stellar party guest. It was also why I agreed to this open-air dinner in the first place. I bit into a slice of apple savoring its juices. At least the food was good even if the company was less than ideal. “Last I heard, she had her eye on some bartender from Seattle. Maybe she’s taking up stalking?”

This time, I suspected the resulting frown on Dad’s face didn’t have anything to do with his allergies. “This isn’t a joke, Bill. Your sister is listed as failing to report to the launch deck this morning and I only have so much influence I can spend.”

I fought the eye roll by focusing on the straggling cuticle on my right thumb. Dad could never resist the opportunity to remind any of us exactly why he was living in space while the rest of us were on the ground. As if I’d ever want to. “Well then, I don’t know what to tell you other than I haven’t seen her since last week.”

“And you aren’t concerned?”

I shrugged. “She can go off for a few days if she wants too. She’s an adult – unless you hadn’t noticed.”

“I’ve noticed. I’ve also noticed that she has started taking up a lot of bad habits. Habits I would prefer weren’t associated with the family name.”

I waved his concern aside. “Lucky for you, I’ve been using Mom’s name for years.”

Dad’s frown deepened so much I briefly wondered if it might cause his entire face to collapse into his crisp uniform. “Listen, I’m not trying to be combative here. It just would be better if I found her before command does.”

“What? Are you that really that afraid of what her AWOL designation might do to your reputation?” I snorted. “I’ve seen you smooth over worse.”

“No, I’m afraid because as much as either of you might not like to admit it, I am your father. And because I found this in the briefing room.” Dad shoved a piece of fabric at me featuring a vaguely familiar looking pattern.

“Have they taken up quilting?” I asked with a smirk, picking up the fabric. “Well, that’s a relief. That group really could use a hobby other than making the rest of us miserable.” I couldn’t help adding just to annoy Dad as I rolled the piece of cloth around in between my fingers. The jab wasn’t strictly necessary, as Dad knew full well what I thought of his cronies, but it was always fun to remind him that this apple had fallen far from the proverbial tree. As in two hundred and fifty miles, give or take a mile.

“Bill, for the last time, this isn’t a joke.”

“Fine. No jokes.” I replied holding up my hands before examining the fabric more closely. Where had I seen it before? “So what is this then?”

“Something that has no business being up in command if your sister is still on the ground. It’s from her dress.”


Was that really a bat circling overhead, or was it a drone? Did Bill’s sister get mixed up in a larger conspiracy or did she simply run off with a bartender from Seattle? And will Bill’s experience with paleoclimatology actually play a part in the plot, or is that a throw-away detail? Who knows!