Why Do We Walk on a Hot Summer Day

why do we walk on a hot summer day - www.alliepottswrites.comI went for a walk the other day.

It was hot, even by my southern standards. The mercury proclaimed the temperature to be somewhere in the mid-nineties. The density of sweat on the back of my neck suggested it was closer to triple digits (or thirty-seven for those who’ve long since abandoned the imperial system).

My children walked next to me until my youngest complained once too many that his feet were tired and was scooped up to be carried by his father. We still had at a mile or so to go.

Finally, we reached our destination. At least I thought it was our destination based on the number of people milling around. I honestly didn’t know.

I’d never gone on a walk like this before.

We lingered as more joined us in the square – bodies pressed together in the limited bits of shadow. Although there was insufficient protection from the morning sun, groups of people climbed up on planters, holding up cameras and snapping pictures of the view. More people arrived. Some shouted, some cheered, while others looked – much as I imagined we must have looked – confused and more than a little out of our depths.

My eldest son’s skin reddened as minutes ticked by. I handed him our single water bottle, encouraging him to drink. He looked up at me and asked for the tenth time that morning, “why are we doing this again?”

I glanced around, keenly aware that more than a few ears might hear what I had to say. “We’re here because this is one way to tell the people who make decisions that we think that certain things aren’t okay.”

“Oh,” he said. “Do you think they’ll listen?”

I looked at my son, who is now almost tall enough to meet my eye. I looked over his shoulder at the group of people holding up posters with witty, yet all too ignorable slogans. I listened to the shouts, some leaning more to the uncomfortable extreme. I looked into my son’s eyes once more. “No, sweetie,” I replied after some internal debate and a deep sigh. “I don’t.”

“Then why are we here?” he asked once more, taking another sip of water.

“Because I couldn’t stay away.”

I considered saying more, but then a siren sounded, a police car moved, and we were underway.

My son reached out and grabbed my hand as the crowd clumped and moved. “I don’t want to lose you,” he said.

I smiled, treasuring the moment in spite of the heat. “I don’t want to lose you either.”

We walked together that way – hand in hand – as a drum continued to play and pockets of individuals restarted their chanting refrains. My palms sweat, clutched so tightly by his, but he let go only to take another sip of water.

While we walked, he’d ask me questions, prompted in some part by the signs he read, which I did my best to answer as objectively as I could, considering the reason we’d left the comfort of our air-conditioned house that day. I wondered along the way if I was making any sense. I worried about how he’d taken my pessimism earlier.

A couple of days later the news showed a mother and daughter hugging each other. My son who’d been playing with his brother at the time looked up at me and smiled. “It worked, Mom. We did that.”

Technically, we hadn’t.

Aside from the fact that meeting of mother and daughter had been set up days to a week or so before, our particular contribution had barely registered as a blip on the news – overshadowed or outshone by bigger stories of the day. But as far as my son was concerned, that hug on the screen was his hug. He returned to his play, proud in the belief he’d made a difference in someone’s life that day.

Maybe he didn’t, but maybe he will.

Maybe someday he’ll go out there and truly make an impact, building on this experience, bolstered by the idea that we can make the world a little better even when it seems impossible. And all we have to do to get started is to simply leave our comfort zone once in a while, or get off the couch and try.

And that is why we walked on a hot summer day.

To my fellow Americans, I hope you all had a safe and happy Independence Day.

You Should Experience Change At Least Once In Your Lifetime And Here’s Why

I don’t know how you choose to celebrate the new year, but at my house, we watch the Rose Parade. It is an event which takes place in Pasadena, California each year. Similar to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in terms of network coverage and national tradition, the parade features marching bands and the occasional musical act, but unlike its northeastern relation, this parade relies on drivable “floats” decorated using only botanicals rather than on the same reusable balloons.

As I watch the parade coverage, I am constantly amazed by the amount of detailing that goes into each of these floats. Groups spend a year or more designing these displays, planning the look to the last petal. There might be a dragon that can bat its eye or a giant bicyclist who can tip his hat. You never know what you are going to see until it makes its way down the boulevard. Which is why I’ve gotten frustrated over the years with the trend in network coverage to skip floats in order to have more time to promote their Spring line-up or break for the millionth commercial.

So this year, I decided to do something different. I decided to watch the Funny or Die / Amazon Prime’s coverage (affiliate link) of the event hosted by Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon under the guise of their fake personalities, Cord Hosenbeck and Tish Cattigan.

The coverage was a satire, though the joke was on hosts like themselves rather than parade participants and what made me chuckle the most was a bit they did on New Years Resolutions.

At the beginning of the parade, they talked about the resolutions they’d set for themselves for 2017. Tish’s, for example, was to “put herself out there and let the universe be her guide.” They talked about their relative success. Tish’s felt she’d really taken that risk and grown as a person by attending a wine class. Then at the end, they announced their resolutions for 2018.

They were EXACTLY the same, delivered in a blissfully unaware deadpan voice.

Were Amazon to bring these characters back next year, you can imagine only too well they would be discussing the same resolutions as well as the same results year after year. We can imagine it because when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, that’s the sort of thing so many of us in real life do too.

We resolve to lose the same 15 pounds or eat less of the same junk. We resolve to spend more time on our personal interests or travel more as if by the stroke of midnight on Jan 1st, we can suddenly invent more hours in the day or money in the bank. We tell ourselves it didn’t work last year, but it would this time because this year was different – we were different.

It’s not entirely a lie either. We ARE different. However, the difference usually comes down to one thing – we are older. The rest is pretty much the same. Thus ensuring that the next time the end of the year comes around we will find ourselves in the exact same place we are at its beginning.

Which brings me to my point. In order to truly be anything other than simply an older version of ourselves, we have to be willing to make a significant change at least once in our lifetimes.

I’m not talking about a change in hairstyle or taking a new route to the job. Something significant. Something that challenges what you’ve done before and what you think you know. Something that involves a risk and is guaranteed to make an impact.

Whether that impact will prove to be good or bad, only time will tell, but one thing is certain – you will not just be older after trying, you’ll be wiser too.

To that end, I’m making a few changes of my own this year.

For example, this year, I am inviting other to occasionally add their stories to this site and have added a page under my About menu detailing my instructions for those interested in participating as guest writers. It is my way of saying thanks to those who have similarly helped me by way of paying it forward.

If you have a story in you about a risk taken, a new venture, or an event that set you on the path you find yourself on today, I would encourage you to reach out in the coming weeks.

Because big changes aren’t as scary when we resolve to make them together.

So here’s to trying new things as well as a happy new year.

 

 

 

A birthday wish for my son

Happy Birthday bannerCake crumbs still spotted the table and chairs, remnants from his brother’s birthday party when LT first began asking if it was now time to plan his celebration, an event that wouldn’t take place for several months. Each time he asked, he announced loudly and repeatedly that he was done being three and ready to be four.

Over the next several weeks, there were few mornings (or evenings) in which LT did not ask us for an update on the number of days left until his birthday. This was new for him as he’d never expressed all that much interested in his birthday before. Eventually, I came to realize that he had gotten it into his head that his world would suddenly be made different by the simple act of raising one additional finger when adults asked him how old he was. He told me he was going to get a bunk bed and sleep on the top. He was going to stay up late every night and was going to get to do homework (the boy is actually looking forward to this – proving ignorance is bliss). I didn’t quite have the heart to tell him that no, not all his dreams of big-kid-hood would be coming true, at least not this year (except the part about getting a new bed – let’s be clear, LT, that’s not happening).

Then the countdown was over and it was the evening before his big day. I told him, this is the last day you are going to be a three-year-old. Tomorrow, when you wake up, you are going to be four. His eyes got big as the reality of his situation sunk in. As I pulled the blankets around him and leaned in to kiss his forehead, he looked at me and said, “I no wanna be four. I wanna be three forever.”

I did what most mothers (or fathers) would in this situation. I gave him a bone-crushing hug and told them that I would like him to stay three very much too. Then I wished him good night and snuck into another room to wrap his presents, because, unfortunately, a wish to stay forever the same is about as likely to come true as is him actually enjoying homework once he starts bringing it home on a regular basis.

I adore my littlest boy. I love his hugs, his laugh, and his insanely honest observations. It makes sense that I want him to remain exactly how he is now, but, as I sat there on the floor trying to avoid papercuts while keeping tabs on the tab, I started wondering about that look on his face and what he said. After so many weeks of anticipation, so much yearning to be four, what now caused the about-face? Sadly, the only thing I can come up with is this – he is my son.

I am the kind of person who falls in loves with the idea of things but can then become terrified if there is even a fraction of a chance of the idea becoming reality (I love the beach, but am scared to swim in the ocean for example). It is one of the reasons it took me so long to start pursuing writing in the first place. I have to admit, I take comfort in the status quo. I know exactly where my place is and what is expected of me. I am fortunate. The status quo has thus far been good to me.

But the status quo is not what dreams are made of. It can be like never going hungry but also never enjoying a slice of cake (and oh, how I enjoy a good piece of cake). And so, as he blows out his candles (and I blow out mine because it was my birthday party too), I am promising myself that I will challenge it. It may not be today or tomorrow, but when the opportunity comes I am going to squash the butterflies in my stomach and face it. So then, when it is my son’s turn, he might do the same, unafraid, for no other reason than this – he is my son.

 

 

Do one brave thing today

There is a lot of discussion about the movie, “The Interview,” Sony Pictures, and North Korea. When the news first broke that Sony Pictures was hacked, I thought it had to be a publicity stunt. The story was too ridiculous to be true. The group responsible for the attack had deemed “The Interview” as offensive and were threatening to not only release sensitive company information, but were also vowing to enact physical revenge upon any theater showing the film. The studio caved to the groups demands in order to save billions of dollars (and save face – really what was in those emails?) and/or because they didn’t want to risk their customers’ lives. They agreed not to release the movie as scheduled. The US government has now linked the group responsible for the attack to North Korea and Sony Pictures is being criticised as giving in to a foreign terrorist threat.

I wasn’t going to watch the “Interview” on its opening day. I don’t exactly make it a priority to see first run movies anymore (I have two small children after all). While I do enjoy the occasional low-brow comedy (especially those with a satirical edge), I rarely find them to be worth the hassle of finding a sitter. I find that I enjoy them much more when playing my DVD player in the comfort of my home.

Several weeks ago, one of these made it into my DVD queue. Coincidentally it too starred a Seth. It was “A Hundred Ways to Die in the Old West.” True to its title, characters played by various extras are killed throughout the film in bizarre fashion. The protagonist in the movie has no business living in the Wild West. With all the natural ways of dying unexpectedly, he sees no reason to involve himself in fights that could further decrease his likelihood of survival and is deemed a coward. Eventually he does find something worth fighting for. Yes, there was a scene in which a character tried to participate in a gun fight while dealing with the effects of a laxative but there was still a worthwhile message hidden among the toilet humor. The protagonist learns that while there may be a hundred ways to die, there is only one way to live – with courage and conviction.

When I started this blog a little over a year ago, I really didn’t know what to write about. I didn’t want to write about the writing or publishing process. With only one book to my name I didn’t feel that I was a credible expert. Instead I stuck to safe subjects like leadership, entrepreneurship, positive thinking, or my family.

Then one day I got mad. It felt good putting my feelings in writing, but I hesitated hitting the publish button. The nice thing about writing fiction is that your characters can express any sort of feeling about the world without those feelings necessarily reflecting back on the author. This site is anything but fiction. How then could I write about leadership if I wasn’t brave enough to stand by my convictions?

courage

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I hit the publish button. The piece went out and a few notifications started rolling in. It was being read. Oh dear. I waited for my subscription numbers to start to drop. They grew instead.

I thought I had gotten lucky. Weeks passed. Life returned to normal.

I got angry again and learned by sharing my experience that I wasn’t the only one.

Unfortunately, life once again returned to normal. Normal is stagnant. Normal is what allows us to continue ignore uncomfortable conversations. Normal is what allows us to continue to accept the status quo. Normal is what makes us fear change.

However change can be just as good when done for the right reasons.

Last week, I wrote about my writing goals for 2015. These are necessary if I want to take my writing to the next level. Unfortunately as I haven’t successfully found five to ten extra hours in the week, I have to make some changes in my schedule. As a result, this will actually be my last regularly scheduled Monday post.

I will still be posting every Thursday (expect December 25th as I will be spending the holiday with family). You may start see less of me, but I hope under this new schedule I will have a bigger impact.

I would like to thank you all for your continued support and wish you all the Happiest of Holidays and an equally hopeful new year!