A vindicated truth and the downside of being right

A vindicated #truth and the downside of being #rightEarly in my high school experience, I had the joy of returning to my locker only to discover that someone had broken in and stolen not only my bag of gym clothes but a stack of three ringed binders as well containing all my homework.

Afterward, I took to carrying the full day’s notebooks, other day-to-day critical supplies in my backpack all day rather than trust the locker with anything that might affect my grades. Unfortunately, this left little room for my larger textbooks, which I would then have to load up in my arms and carry home separately as needed.

Therefore I was thrilled when it came time to study Shakespeare in my English class. My mom was (and is) a bit of a British History buff and possessed a huge volume of Shakespeare’s complete works, meaning I wouldn’t have to lug my textbook home for weeks. Oh, happy times!

The selection was Romeo and Juliet, specifically the balcony scene, and the assignment was simple; memorize the entire speech. For the next several nights, I read my mom’s book over and over, practicing the words out loud. On the day of the test, my pencil flew across my paper as I recited the lines in my head, and though I wasn’t the among the first to turn in my paper, I was fairly certain I’d aced it.

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. – William Shakespeare

Only when the tests were handed back, a large X crossed through a full section of my response. The words I’d used, well, they weren’t supposed to be there. Comparing my test with the others in the class, my response an entire extra paragraph and more. It was as if I had invented the lines, except, I know I am NO Shakespeare.

Flabbergasted, I took my paper home. Compared to my mom’s book, it to be a word for word copy. What in the world? I dusted off my textbook and opened it to the same scene. Sure enough, the words that I saw so clearly in black and white in one text were missing in the other. My jaw dropped as I realized my fellow students and I were being censored.

I struggled in light of this discovery with what to do. Surely my English teacher had to know the real contents of the play? He was supposed to be teaching it after all. But maybe not. Would he really accept that my version was the correct one? I’d have to admit then that I wasn’t using school approved books and the assignment had been to memorize the scene from the textbook.

In the end, I did point out to my teacher that my version was from another source, but didn’t challenge the grade further when my teacher didn’t immediately whip out his grade book in light of this evidence. It was okay, I told myself. It wasn’t like I was in any jeopardy failing the course over a few missed points.

Later, once we’d finished the section, our teacher rewarded us by playing the movie. The class sat back as the lights went down while the Montagues and Capulets exchanged verbal barbs. Juliet walked out on the balcony. A girl in my class started speaking along with the actress followed by another. I bit my tongue. The movie was suddenly exponentially more interesting.

The girls in my class stopped talking. However, Juliet didn’t. Instead, lines which appeared on my test paper, but not on theirs, poured from Juliet’s mouth. A general sound of huh? went up in the room. And there it was. I was vindicated.

But still my grade remained exactly as it was.

I found myself in the midst of another quandary. I knew I had just been indisputably proven right, but the only other person who knew that was my teacher. I could push again for a grade adjustment and shame him with the video evidence backing my claim, but in doing so I would have also proven the rest of the class, those that didn’t go rogue (for the sake of convenience) and memorize forbidden uncensored text, were as wrong as our teacher was. In short, I might get an A on one test, but I would have turned the entire class, as well of as the teacher, against me in short order.

I learned a long time ago the value of picking my battles, and this wasn’t one of them. Validation (this time) simply wasn’t worth the price.

I may have abandoned an unwinnable fight, but I didn’t, however, abandon my truth. The experience, so early on in my high school career, taught me the fallacy of believing everything you read, or trusting in one single source, no matter how credible they might seem. The truth is we are all human and humans make mistakes. And humans, even those with an education, a position of authority, and/or the best of intentions, can be equally lead astray.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates

In the age of post-truth, it is easy to lock yourself in a bubble, surrounded by mountains of evidence that support all the reasons you know your truth to be right. So I challenge you this year to occasionally play devil’s advocate. Allow yourself to try out being wrong from time to time and see how it fits. Ask yourself, is your version of the balcony scene complete, or might there be other lines, unwritten?

While I don’t expect anyone to change their mind from the experience, I hope that by doing so you might be able to identify the gaps in your truth and become more willing to ask questions than accept a story at face value.

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future. – George Bernard Shaw

* quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquotes.com. Image courtesy of http://www.pexels.com

Never doubt a dog in the snow

Never #doubt a dog in the snow - www.alliepottswrites.com

“Don’t knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while.” – Kin Hubbard

The white death dropped over the weekend, covering my home and the surrounding area in a blanket of ice and snow, which melted and only to become more ice. Lamont and I debated how or dog would take the change in weather. I maintained that having spent the first few years of her life as a stray, she would turn a nose up at the stuff now as there are reasons I refer to her as Her Royal Highness.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time - aka before

It seemed like such a good idea at the time – aka before

Opening the door, it was my intent to take a photograph of her reaction to the wintery mix and quickly return inside. I stepped out on our porch wearing only a set of pajamas. Her Royal Highness followed. She took one dignified step forward. Then another. Her nose touched white stuff on the ground. There was no bounding around. No rolling around, digging, or otherwise acting mystified. I knew it! Snap went my camera. “Okay, let’s go back inside,” I called and turned expecting her to pass me, only too happy to return to the warmth indoors.

Her Royal Highness had other ideas.

The frozen ground crunched as she trotted down the street as if it was a beautiful 80 degrees F rather than 20. “Where are you going?” I called. “Get back here now.” I should have saved my frozen breath.

“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” – Mark Twain

With no other choice in front of me, I took off after her, bare feet and all.

Her Royal Highness looked up and wagged her tail misinterpreting my presence to mean this stroll around the grounds was now sanctioned trotted further. I shouted her name a few more times. She sniffed a bush. My feet burnt with the cold as I closed the distance between us and could only imagine what I must look like to my neighbors – my hair, still wild from sleep, was now covered in ice crystals and bit of snow. My toes leaving tiny naked prints where I ran. I called some more, repeating the command to return while infusing my voice with my best mom tone. Her Royal Highness, still the embodiment of confidence, sniffed another bush as if she hadn’t a care in the world.

“Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking tartar sauce with you.” – Zig Ziglar

Great. This is what I get for thinking she wouldn’t be able to handle a bit of cold.

dog in a blanket

After – aka blankets that weren’t offered to me

I was still several feet away when she suddenly turned around and walked, most regally, back to our yard, up the stairs, and inside where she promptly buried herself under a blanket. My boys, celebrating her return, joyously covered her with even more blankets. She burrowed deep and was asleep long before the feeling completely returned to my toes. Clearly, I won’t be making a living wage on the casino floor anytime soon.

“A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.” – Marilyn Monroe

There are a few lessons to be learned here. There are the obvious ones: don’t let you pet off leash in an open space, even if cars aren’t driving and only nuts like yourself are out and about, unless you are confident they will respond to voice commands or always wear proper footwear even if you only think you will be in the elements for a split second, but the bigger one here is there is no glamour to be had in publicly doubting another and even less fame in doubting one’s self.

*quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquotes.com. Photography is my own.

My unauthorized BuzzFeed interview – aka fun with quizzes

my-completely-unauthorized-buzzfeed-interviewaka-fun-with-quizzes www.alliepottswrites.com

Donkey Kong

Just imagine if Donkey Kong’s falling barrels were boogers and you get the idea.

Kiddo was kind enough to gift me this holiday season with a head cold I can only describe as boss level bad. Just when I thought I had it licked, back it would come even more powerful and three times more angry. Hopefully, I am over the worst of it by the time this posts, but I’ve been fooled before.

As most of the creative energy I can muster outside of the cold-induced fog is being directed at my current works (yes plural!) in progress, I decided to turn this post over to the good folks at http://www.BuzzFeed.com who, unbeknownst to them, were kind enough to interview me via a series of quizzes.

So Allie, as this is the beginning of the new year, let’s talk goals.

Will you be able to keep your new year’s resolutions?

Well, I rather thought I covered my opinion about resolutions last week, but here goes…

You got: You probably haven’t even made a resolution.

You think resolutions are stupid and just a way of setting yourself up for disappointment later.

You misunderstood. I’m not judging here. New Year’s Resolutions just aren’t for me. I definitely don’t think they are stupid provided the person who makes them attempts to follow through. However, I prefer to set a scattering of time-sensitive and achievable goals throughout the year rather than load up all at once on January 1.

Well, how about we ask something easier.

If you were a dog, what kind would it be?

Ha. That’s like asking me where my favorite place is to travel. You think it’s an easy question, but then you start thinking of all the great options to choose from – I love the beach, but not in winter, and I had a great time in Australia, but the food in Italy is everything you’d expect it to be and more. It’s hard to limit myself to just one answer. But back to your question. I’d like to consider myself a wolf – fierce, strong, and loyal to its pack, but if I am honest with myself I’m probably more like a Dachshund.

You got: Poodle

You are ridiculously good-looking, so you are quite popular with the opposite sex. And, of course, you also need to be pampered. You always get what you want.

If by ‘popular with the opposite sex’ you mean my boys like to say my name over and over and over again when they are trying to get my attention and by ‘get what you want’ you mean as long as what I want is an excuse to play with LEGOs endlessly, then sure. In any case, thanks for the compliment, even though I now can’t help thinking of Zoolander, gasoline fights, and a building a Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good.

What kind of introvert are you?

Hmmm… the writer kind? What else would you call a person who will overshare online but would rather chew its own arm off than be forced to walk into a room cold and network face-to-face on a daily basis?

You got: Social Introvert

You tend to prefer solitude, or keeping your social contact limited to one-on-one interactions or small groups. You’re not shy, per se, but strongly prefer to be on your own.

Tomato Tomahto.

What type of villain would you be?

Not sure what you are implying here. I don’t think wanting to have a little me time now and then makes me a bad person.

You got: You’re the evil mastermind villain!

Victorian VillainYou’re the embodiment of the “crazy scientist” stereotype. You were probably quiet and studious in school and now your hard work is paying off as you spend your days in your underground laboratory. You’re not the type of villain who wants to hurt people but wants to bring down society as a whole to create a perfect utopia.

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

Have you ever considered what your true destiny might be?

Becoming a literary darling with a beach house and/or a mountain chalet. Nothing fancy. Just a place I can go when I need to recharge my social batteries (or plot the perfect utopia).

You got: You’re destined to be a trailblazer and an inspiration.

You’re going to triumph over adversity and follow your dreams no matter how unlikely they seem. Not just that, you’ll inspire others to do the same and be an example of what someone can achieve if they really put their mind to it.

Sold.

And on that note, I am going to end this interview while I’m ahead and go restock on tea and chicken soup.

How about the rest of you? Any other poodles or mad scientists out there? What is your destiny?

*images are courtesy of http://www.flickr.com

What Rogue One can teach about writing and resolutions

 

What Rogue One can teach about #writing and #resolutions

background image courtesy of www.Flickr.com

I’m not entirely sure how it happened, especially as I’ve been held hostage this week, or as my children call it, celebrating winter break, but the hubby and I actually managed to sneak out long enough to watch Rogue One.

Yeah, I am as stunned as you.

And it was awesome. But I’m not here to divulge spoilers. Nor am I here to write a tribute to Carrie Fisher, as deserved as that might be. No I want to talk about what Rogue One can teach us about story telling and life in general.

Work toward an ending

The premise of Rogue One was simple. It exists to answer the question as to how the rebels got the plans to the Death Star in the first place, a catalyst event that sets off all the events of the next three movies in the original franchise. The ending of their story was clear, the beginning – not so much, forcing the screenwriters to work backwards. And it was a effective technique. It worked so well, I found myself surprised as well as satisfied by the ending, even though I knew full well what it would be before I purchased my ticket.

This same concept can be applied to planning any goal, not just writing.

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. To me, they are far too easy to make and therefore far too easy to break. So I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions. Instead I set one to three wildly optimistic End of Year Goals.

Then I work backwards, setting smaller monthly and weekly goals for myself, all in support of the larger ones. So that at year’s end I am not disappointed by how many resolutions I have broken, but instead motivated by how much more I have accomplished.

It is okay not to have an answer for everything

There are certain questions Rogue One doesn’t answer, such as what was the rift between factions the Rebel Alliance wants to mend so desperately or who keeps awarding the Imperial console button contracts to the most lost cost industrial switch manufacturer the galaxy has ever seen when they obviously utilize high-end contracts for sleek exterior ship design. There could be spin-off on spin-offs of stories if the writers choose to answer everything, but in this case I think it is a better experience to let the viewer’s or reader’s imaginations fill in the blanks. A few loose ends can keep a story interesting.

Likewise, even with my goals, I’ve accepted there are certain areas of my life, both personally and professionally, I don’t have mapped out, at least not for this year. That’s okay. A little bit of unknown now just means I have choices to explore later, or goals still out there to achieve.

Rebellions are built on hope

This is a line used a few times in the movie, a somewhat tongue in cheek reference to the title of the next movie in line in the series, A New Hope. But it is also true. In order for any well written story to progress, a character must first believe that change is possible. They have to believe deep in their core that they can evade a vastly superior military force, complete a foolhardy mission, or otherwise avenge a loved one. Otherwise what is the point of leaving home in the first place.

The past year will not go down as a personal favorite of mine for a number of reasons. But that is no reason enough for me to believe the coming year will be more of the same. I will instead continue to focus on what I can change, whether that change be big or small, rather than what is out of my control. I may not achieve all my big goals this year, but no matter the outcome, I will be closer tomorrow than I am today for trying. Because I am one with the force, the force is with me.

May you all have an equally happy and force-full New Year

A Holiday Message from Her Royal Highness

A #Holiday Message from Her Royal Highness - www.alliepottswrites.comGreetings to all,

It pleases us to no end to be able to address you all at this, most joyous time of year. It is a season made even more joyous thanks to the continuing efforts of you, Our most loyal subjects.

The state of the realm remains strong, with the exception of the great pillow drought which has seemingly continued well beyond what might have otherwise been deemed an acceptable transitional period. No efforts, nor resources shall be spared in the coming year to find a solution to this ongoing problem.

The squirrel menace remains firmly in check, if not in a state of full retreat, which may or may not have anything to do with the cooling temperatures. However, the drastic reduction in squirrel related crimes and other offenses does in no way signify that the war against this scourge is complete. We encourage all citizens to remain ever vigilant, as we shall be, and report any and all activity considered at odds with the values of the realm.

However, while there have been battles fought this year, there have been plenty of other victories too. When faced with the dark waters of lakes and oceans unknown, we as a people, jumped in. We repeatedly fought against currents and secured our goals. Returning to shore, we claimed the land beneath our feet with the confidence that only those who have suffered challenge only to triumph can command.

New alliances have been brokered in Our name. Storms may have blown, knocking down Our most ancient fences and causing damage most distressing. However, now, neighbors are no longer isolated from neighbor.  As a result, new and stronger friendships have been given birth in that storm’s wake.

We have made numerous tours of the surrounding territory as our boundaries continue to expand, unfettered. Indeed, Our noble oversight and justice now even extends well into what previously was considered a place to be feared, a no man’s land, a place which may be more commonly known as The Crawl Space, bringing light and rule to where there once was none.

It feels fitting to end this address to you on the subject of light. To quote her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, who reminded us this time last year of an old saying in her address, ‘it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.’

There is much unknown about the coming year. Squirrels could return with fleas. Greater storms may blow. But the sun, with its light most high, can always be counted on to rise, no matter what tomorrow brings. Stay true to the values you hold most dear. Be the candle in the darkness so others may find their way. And do not be afraid, for only in the darkness do we find how brightly we might shine.