The adventure of the improbable boat

the adventure of the improbable boat www.alliepottswrites.com“Dad!” Our eldest son called out one morning from the direction of the garage. “Dad!” He called again.

“What,” his father yelled back from the den where we both sat still in our pajamas, nursing far too little coffee to match Kiddo’s level of activity.

“If it wasn’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsover.”  – David Letterman

“We need your help,” Kiddo called out. “For the boat project! Don’t you remember?”

I glanced at my husband. “Boat project?” It was one of those times I had to debate with myself whether or not I really want to know.

Kiddo and one of his best friend’s recently came across a waterfall only a few short yards from our backyard. I’ve lived in this house for years, but only learned of its existence when Kiddo returned one afternoon drenched from knee to toe. I can only assume that prior to their discovery it only existed in one of those secret magical places that only children are equipped to find.

Like any proud discoverers, both boys had immediately claimed the waterfall and the surrounding creek bed as their own. Now, it would seem, they had decided that it was time to take their exploration to the next level by building a boat.

My husband helped the boys pull down a few supplies, but left them to their work as Kiddo does love to work on his inventions. Occasionally, one would pop in to raid the pantry for a snack. As I cleaned up the kitchen, I heard the distinctive sound of a power screwdriver. Unable to contain my misgivings curiosity any longer, I gave in and peeked at the work in progress. Their eyes lit up at my appearance. “Can you help?” the boys asked holding out a piece of particle board and a pair of mismatched screws from the various piles now littered across the garage floor.

“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.” – Phyllis Diller

I eyeballed their creation. To my eye, its resemblance to a boat ended at – it’s made of wood. “Um, I am not sure how well that will float.” I mean it wasn’t impossible to think it might keep water out by the time they were done, but it appeared highly improbable.

“That’s why we need your help attaching the sides,” Kiddo’s friend replied showing me just how the pieces of mismatched wood were supposed to fit together.

Oh, is that all you need.

I made my exit shortly afterward, no more confident in their boat’s design than I was minutes earlier. I saw a flash of color run past a window. Perhaps, I thought the boys had given up or grown bored and gone to play another game. I saw another flash of color. Both kids reappeared in the garage, their arms now full of bright yellow pull ties and something I could only guess was the rubber shell of a bicycle tire ‘borrowed’ from the other house. Or, perhaps not.

the improbable boat

something tells me Kiddo isn’t going to be invited to work the shipyard anytime soon

By the end of the morning, their creation was no more boat-shaped than it was when they started (it looked more like a ramp), but it was theirs. Undeterred and full of smiles, the pair picked it up and took off toward the woods and the newest adventure, but within minutes they were once again in the garage.

“Didn’t work out like you thought?” I said, my heart full of sympathy. “That’s okay, at least you gave it a try.”

“Yeah,” Kiddo said with a grin. “We just need to build a dock.”

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.” – Mark Twain

I found the boys in the woods later that day with another board, their ‘dock,’ laying on one side of the creek bed and their ‘boat’ drifting downstream, just out of arm’s reach. Obviously, their great plan to set sail across the seven seas to continents unknown hadn’t exactly worked out as they’d anticipated, but just as clearly it hadn’t stopped them from having an adventure all the same. And rather than focusing on the loss of one morning’s effort, they were already planning their next foray.

I am trying to be more like my children. It is the reason I tell these stories. It is the reason I keep coming back week after week even when I sometimes feel like quitting. I remind myself, I wouldn’t have known the creek existed had the children not risked exploring. I wouldn’t have thought there was a need for a boat (or a dock), as the water was only knee-deep on a child. But these children of mine, they never seem bothered by the reasons I might come up off the top of my head as to why not to do something or why something won’t work. They simply try and enjoy the experience.

Not everything is going to go to plan. Not every idea will float. I have to remind myself that is okay. Because while I may lose a few screws along the way, in the end, I know, regardless of the results, the mere attempt can often prove to be an adventure worth having.

*Quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquote.com. Photography is my own.

Contemplating success at the corner bus stop

contemplating success at the corner bus stop - www.alliepottswrites.comIt was my morning with the kids and their cousins. My morning to supervise them as they pulled out every toy I had so painstakingly put away just days before. My morning to ensure they reached the bus stop with backpacks and lunch sacks intact.

Some mornings those tasks are easier than others.

I informed the crew that it was time to clean up. My youngest, LT, pouted. “Now, honey,” I started. He pouted some more. “Five-year-olds are big enough to pick up their own mess.” He grumbled and whined, but I was satisfied to see the toy go back into its spot.

Now typically on my morning, I drop LT off with the wonderful woman who watches him while I work before taking the rest of the kids to their destination. But this morning, one of the kids asked if LT might come to the bus stop with them instead. Another chimed in – they wanted to race. I looked at the clock. We’d have to wait outside longer than normal, were they sure?

Spring has come early to my neck of the woods this year. We’ve spent the last two weekends with the kids outside and the windows open. Already the trees and flowers are budding and small pink petals dot the streets. My concern about a few minutes extra exposure to the great outdoors fell on deaf ears.

Fine. I’d be democratic about it – this time.

I altered our course and soon we were at the stop. The children dumped their bags at the corner by my feet and congregated a few yards away – close enough for me to keep an eye on them, but far enough that they might whisper among themselves unheard. The next thing I knew they were running down the sidewalk back toward me.

Or more specifically, LT ran. Kiddo, my eldest, and my nephew, Casimir, took turns moving in what can only be described as spastic hop, yet tiny tip-toe sized step that might have only impressed a snail with progress. LT, passing them with ease, ran around me, grinning from ear to ear. As LT returned to their starting point/finish line both Kiddo and Casimir tried to one-up each other in exaggerated groans about how fast their youngest competitor now was. It was a far cry from the fits and tantrums we used to experience about ‘unfair’ contests and proof of how mature the boys had become.

Before long other children began to arrive, filling up the sidewalk and preventing further races. One child shouted “Bus,” like a whaler of old spotting a blowhole out at sea as the big yellow vehicle appeared from around the corner. The kids scrambled to pick up their backpacks and gathered in a line as LT returned to my side.

Picking him up, we waved at the faces grinning at us from the other side of the windows. “That’s going to be you soon,” I told my youngest as the bus pulled away. “Are you ready?”

He smiled and nodded, undoubtedly thinking that the coming school year would be filled with fun and games like the time he’d just had.

Recalling the display at being asked to put toys away, I decided to make this a teachable moment. “You know, when you are in school, you are going to have to listen to your teacher when he or she tells you to do things.”

LT looked at me and cocked his head to one side. “Why?”

“Because you don’t want to go to the principal’s office or get bad grades.”

The look of confusion on LT’s face only deepened. He repeated, “Why?”

“Because they will call mommy then or give mommy a bad report. You don’t want that.”

He chewed on my answer for a moment or two. “Okay mommy, I’ll listen to my teacher.” I smiled and patted his head. Then, so softly, I almost missed it, LT muttered, “sometimes.”

LT might think he is ready for school, but I now have to wonder if his school will be ready for him.

Later, our conversation made me think of my own plans for the future and some of the stumbling blocks I’ve already encountered. Often, I complain about how long these plans are taking as patience is not my best virtue. The morning then became a good reminder that while I might achieve the measures by which I currently judge my success, there will always be challenges I have yet to envision.

Therefore, I cannot, will not let those unforeseen bumps discourage me completely. I have to remind myself of those that traveled a similar path before me, of those who didn’t know then what they know now, and how they matured along the way. Every day, as I take another step down that path, I tell myself, I am closer now than ever before, even if I am forced to retrace a few steps or take the occasional detour.

Because that is what I do. That is what I’ve done.

Though it sometimes seems I still have a long way yet to go, I know that when (not if) I finally do reach the future of my dreams, the bigger question is now will my dreams be ready for me?

A part-time job and a lifetime’s worth experience with harrassment

A part-time job and a lifetime's worth experience with #harassment - www.alliepottswrites.com

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

This is not a happy story.

One day, rather out of the blue, I decided that my teenage lifestyle could no longer be supported by the occasional babysitting gig. It was time I found a real job. Within short order, I was hired to work part-time at a nearby bagel shop.

The shop was a franchise with an absentee (putting it lightly) owner. While we saw him occasionally as he walked his dog, he left the day-to-day operations to a pair of men. One supervised the front of the store, let’s call him G. The other was the baker. Let’s call him Paul because that was his name.

Paul was in his late twenties to early thirties. I was in my teens. However, a pesky thing like an age difference or the fact that he was primarily working with minors never seemed to bother Paul. He routinely made comments that made me feel as dirty for hearing them as the dishes I was responsible for washing.

My duties at the store ran the gamut. I manned the cash registers, prepared orders, cleaned surfaces, and shelved inventory. One day when I was in the back of the store, I found Paul already there, facing the wall with his shirt untucked. No, he couldn’t possibly be…, I thought to myself. Hoping beyond hope for an innocent explanation, I asked him what was doing. He smiled at me and shrugged as if what he was doing was nothing out of the ordinary while confirming it was exactly what it appeared.

Stunned, I found G and told him what I had seen. G’s shoulders slumped. Paul’s behavior didn’t surprise him, it was just Paul’s way and I was told there was little either of us could do about it. Paul’s actions and comments were patterned behavior and the owner’s continued silence proved he was either stubbornly in denial or simply didn’t care. Without Paul, there would be no bagels, at least not until a replacement could be found, which would have required work on the owner’s part. However, G and I, on the other hand, were considered replaceable.

I could have walked out, but I didn’t. I suppose my ego got in the way. Why should I be the one to have to quit? The job was a good one – excepting the one co-worker. I suppose I could/should have better investigated my legal rights or called the health department, but I was a kid and that didn’t occur to me until years later. I suppose I might have told my parents, but I didn’t do that either.

Instead, I accepted most of G’s assessment – that very little could be done. After all, I told myself, it really wasn’t as bad as it could be. I accepted that for all his comments, all his suggestions, Paul hadn’t really done anything except make me feel uncomfortable.

I did not, however, let it go. I continued to look for alternative solutions to my problem. A friend allowed me to refer to him as my boyfriend as if my relationship status might redirect Paul’s attention.

It didn’t. If anything the comments became more suggestive.

I took to volunteering to wash more than my share of dishes as it allowed me to frequently carry several knives in each hand. This worked, but only temporarily. When that wasn’t an option, I tried to stay as far away from Paul as the store would allow.

It wasn’t a big store.

One day, while I was wiping down table tops near closing time, Paul came running from the back, laughing to the point of tears. In between giggles, he told me that he’d peeked under the bathroom door thinking I was the room’s occupant only to find that another woman, one he suspected was homeless, there instead. “I saw everything,” he gasped between chuckles. “Everything!” He laughed again like this was supposed to be funny. As terrible as this was on its own, I also had to ask, “Why did you look? If you thought I was in there, why did you look?” His only answer was more laughter.

As terrible as this was on its own, I also had to ask, “Why did you look? If you thought I was in there, why did you look?” His only answer was more laughter.

I wish I could tell you I left that same day and never looked back, but I didn’t. I wish I could tell you that the unfortunate woman called the police or at least registered a complaint, but she didn’t either. Maybe she, like me, was told there was nothing to gain from complaining. But most of all I wish this hadn’t been the first (or last) time I’d been made to feel at risk in surroundings which should have been expected to be safe.

I can’t go back to that time and demand Paul, the owner, or even G be held accountable for what they said, did or didn’t do. I still feel sick to my stomach knowing when I finally said enough – when I finally did walk out – my absence left another, even younger girl, alone in that store without a friend. I can’t change the past.

But I can help shape the future.

And you can too.

This wasn’t a happy story, but this doesn’t have to be a common story.

If a person tells you that they feel scared, threatened, or abused, don’t belittle them – believe them. Do what you can to understand their fears. Recognize that there might be a problem, even if it wasn’t your experience. Ask. Observe. And above all, listen. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Lend your voice and let those in charge know it isn’t okay. Show the person affected they aren’t isn’t alone and strive for a day when a story like this is the exception.

But whatever you do never, ever, accept you are powerless.

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet

When life throws you lemons, make lemonade. That is unless you are a multimillion dollar food conglomerate, in which case why are people throwing lemons your way? Can’t you pay for high-quality reusable shipping cartons to minimize the risk of bruising? But I digress.

Happy Lemon

This weekend ended much like any other weekend. The kids were tucked into bed dreaming dreams of firetrucks and / or monkeys while the hubby (who has now requested I refer to him as Lamont – my apologies to Lamonts) and I enjoyed a few hours of child-free television. Lamont was kind enough to pour me a lemonade. It wasn’t the fresh squeezed, homemade variety, but it would do. Ahh, I thought as I took a sip. Spring had finally arrived. I’d better enjoy the weather now as all too soon neon yellow pollen would fill the air and coat every surface in sight. I took another sip, savoring the sweet and sour taste.

I shifted from my spot on the couch. I couldn’t get comfortable. A weight seemed to press up against my lungs no matter which way I sat. It was almost like being pregnant without the hormones. I took another sip while I sought a position that would relieve the pressure.

No amount of movement seemed to work. My breath became more shallow, my skin more hot to the touch. I turned to Lamont and calmly said, “I can’t seem to breathe.”

“What do you mean you can’t breathe?!” (I have a long history of understating things with regards to my health.)

“Is my face red? My skin is on fire.”

I looked in the mirror. Sure enough, both cheeks were brilliant lobster red. Another red stain spread down the center of my chest.

“I think I might be allergic to something in the lemonade.” (I am also a master at stating the obvious. It really should be on my business cards.)

Up until this point, if you had asked me if I had any allergies I would have said yes, to bee stings (something else I learned from an unfortunate experience), but now I know my body is still able to learn new tricks. Yay!

Confused LemonWe read the juice label as I took a Benedryl. Ingredients listed were water, sugar, and lemon juice. All words I could pronounce. All ingredients I enjoy in other forms on a fairly regular basis. Definitely nothing I expected to trigger an allergic response. The product advertised that it was all natural. Was it possible that some bees were accidentally ground up (naturally of course) in the manufacturing process along with the lemons?

The next morning (thank you Benedryl) I fired up the computer to see if anyone else might have written about a similar complaint. I learned my reaction is considered rare (lucky me!), but I also learned a few things about the juice manufacturing process that aren’t exactly advertised. Being the great moderately acceptable parent that I am, I feel it is important to practice sharing (even if it is a little off my usual topics).

For example, I learned that as part of the preserving process all chemical that give a naturally squeezed juice its flavor are removed leaving behind a tasteless liquid that no one would buy. The manufacturers then put in flavor and scent packets to give the juice back its, umm… err… juiciness depending on the tastes of a specific market. They don’t have to declare the specific make-up of these packets on the labels because they are supposed to be based on derivatives of the base ingredients (It’s a Fruit Loop-hole). A little citrus by-product here, a pitch of black magic rind there. Voila! Bon Appetit!

lemonscaryThese flavor packets can change depending on where the fruit is harvested and when and can be created by third party designers. Therefore not only do I still not know exactly what it was that caused the reaction, I also have no idea whether this was a one-off reaction or if more products could affect me in a similar fashion. Breakfast could become my own version of Russian Roulette! (Don’t ever leave me, coffee…)

You aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover (except for mine because my cover is awesome), but I didn’t realize you weren’t to judge a product by its label too (up until now I thought that was the point of the thing). Maybe one of these days I’ll learn a lesson the easy way. Here’s to truth in advertising!