Making the Best of the Heat of the Moment

making the best of the heat of the moment - www.alliepottswrites.comDo you ever have those moments … the ones that make you realize everything you’ve done over the past several weeks if not months was preparing you for this one specific day or hour?

I had one of those moments recently.

To properly tell you about it though, I need to go back to this summer. We’d invited another family over and decided after the sun began to set, we’d send the kids upstairs where they could watch a movie while the adults continued to chat downstairs.

I escorted the kids to the top of the stairs where I walked into an invisible wall of sauna-like heat. It quickly became apparent that our heater had taken it upon itself to rise up and rebel against the shackles of its thermostatic-overlord’s imposed peace treaty and instead do battle against its arch-nemesis the air conditioning unit. When I’d walked into the fray, both climatic titans had been doing battle for some time, however, the AC was now in a state of retreat.

We shut the unit off and opened all the windows, hoping beyond hope that the artificially heated air could find its way to the greater outside. It was too much to hope for. The ninety-degree temperatures lasted much of the night, and well into the following morning.

We called an HVAC repairman who let us know that a wire had gone bad. A few moments later the AC was once again running as it should. I thought peace had returned. I was wrong.

Fall decided to cut its time with us short this year, hopping over to winter before the leaves could even finish changing their colors. My husband grumbled and moaned about it but after listening to the children and I complain about the chill he begrudgingly went to turn on the heat. Only the heat didn’t come on.

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How is it already November?

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A day passed. Warmer than the last. Then another day. The chill returned. After a few more days of the atmospheric roller coaster, I asked my husband when he’d scheduled the follow-up appointment with the repair service. I learned he hadn’t. Then it grew colder.

My doorbell rang, sending Her Royal Highness into a frenzy. It was the same technician as the one who’d serviced the unit in the summer (who was deathly afraid of dogs – which of course meant HRH wouldn’t leave him alone). He told me it had to be the thermostat. I questioned that as I’d noted the thermostat wasn’t getting power so thought there had to be another problem.

Then he told me it could be the control board on the furnace or maybe still the wiring. He could fix it, he said, but it would be a two-man job and so he’d have to come back another day – which could be a while as they were rather backed up at the moment with other job orders.

I reluctantly agreed and found a sweater. What other choice did I have?

The downside of working from home is the fact that you don’t have the benefit of escaping to another location when things like this happen. While my kids got to thaw at school during the day and my husband was able to work up a sweat running his business, I, on the other hand, spent the next several days trying to write while I huddled next to an ancient space heater.

The weekend arrived. We’d agreed to go camping with the kids’ scout troop back when we thought we’d still be experiencing a Fall this year. It was in the sixties when we arrived at the site and set up our tent. The sun began to set as the troop built up a fire. The temperature dropped. And dropped. And dropped some more.

It was cold enough to allow me to see my breath inside my tent as I burrowed deeper and deeper into my sleeping bag and still the night grew colder. The temperature inside my home, unpleasant as it was, was nothing compared to this. What had we been thinking, agreeing to go camping in mid-November?

But we survived the night and returned home with memories of s’mores, camp songs, and a new pack of dental floss (an award from a campout game), so it wasn’t all bad.

The house was still chilly when we returned home – but it was far better in comparison to what we’d just “slept” through. The technician came back – this time with help. Unfortunately, even with help, the overall the system was still broken. I soldiered on. After all, I’d been through worse.

That is not to say I gave up and accepted my lot. Instead, we called another service who actually managed to correct the problem, though it cost a little of the extra money I would have rather spent on Christmas gifts. However, ten minutes later, I heard the magical whirl of a fan coming back online as heat descended from the ceiling vent. It was glorious.

When I stood around the campfire that night, I’d joked with the other campers that our heat situation had helped acclimate my body to the cold – as if all the days of shivering by my computer were leading up to this moment. However, the hours that followed, proved me wrong. This story doesn’t end with me being able to grit my teeth and deal with larger adversity thanks to a series of trials leading up to this grand event.

No, instead, what I’ve realized is it’s not enough to deal with and work through unpleasant surprises. You also have to be able to keep yourself from settling for less, when it truly matters, even if that sometimes means starting over. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again, and each time it has gotten a little less scary. And that’s a thought that may just keep me warm for many more days to come. (Though finally having a working HVAC system sure helps too.)

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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.

A celebration five years in the making

A celebration five years in the making - www.alliepottswrites.comLT woke to the sounds of his family singing. He grinned a sleepy grin as he stretched underneath the covers, rubbing eyes which weren’t quite as ready to wake up. This was it. His birthday. His fifth birthday. It was the culmination of every wish he’d held most dear since, well . . . since the last one.

If you’d asked him, he likely would have told you that mommy and daddy had tricked him this time last year. Other than dropping the guard rails from his bed, four hadn’t been nearly the magical age that they’d led him to believe. He still wasn’t big enough to cross the street unattended. Or go on the big kid bus to the elementary school. Or do any number of things that he felt were his due.

But five. Five was going to be different. He just knew it.

Still grinning his sleepy grin, LT made his way into the bathroom he shared with his brother, Kiddo, only to stop in front of the colorful staircase that led to his toothbrush at the bathroom sink. He looked to his father. “I don’t need the stairs anymore daddy,” he announced. “I’m a big boy now.”

His father, always the one most likely to indulge the boys, pulled the steps away while answering “Is that so?”

LT grinned again and approached the sink fully expecting that somehow in the middle of the night his arms and legs would have stretched to lengths more fitting of a boy of his new maturity. He reached. And reached. And reached. And yet the faucet remained stubbornly just beyond his fingers’ touch.

“How about we use the steps, just a little bit longer,” his father suggested.

This minor setback was not enough to spoil his mood. At breakfast, LT’s grin might have been seen from space if it weren’t for the kitchen’s ceiling. “I’m five. I’m going to graduate [from preschool],” he proudly announced to his brother in between spoonfuls of cereal.

“Not until this summer, honey,” his mother corrected him. “Soon.” She gave him a squeeze. “But not too soon.”

LT took another mouthful as he chewed on this latest development.

His Nana came to visit that evening, an event that also meant pizza and even more presents. LT, having already enjoyed a cupcake or two at preschool that afternoon, bounced from room to room high on sugary treats and greasy goodness, scattering wrapping paper with abandon. It was his day and he would do whatever he wanted. Or so he thought.

“It’s bedtime.”

LT interpreted the announcement to mean, ‘it’s time to build a blanket waterfall/fort.’

“Bedtime. Now.”

LT threw himself on the stairs in a fit, his body flopping into the same limp dead weight mastered by children around the world in protest at the merest threat that he might be carried to his room like the baby, he knew, he was no longer. Like that, LT’s birthday was over.

There was nothing written on the calendar the following day, a fact that should have meant that life had returned to normal. Gifts were put away. Preschool would resume its regular routine. By all accounts, the day should have been entirely unworthy of note. LT, however, chose not to view the new day that way.

Turning to his mother, he echoed the words uttered unbeknownst to him by one of his cousins the year before, “and now I’m almost six,” proving that while even the best days may include a disappointment or two, and the ordinary days, potentially, even more, there is always something to celebrate as long as you think positively.


The Fair & FoulLT’s big day wasn’t the only one to receive presents last week. I’m pleased to announce that my science fiction/cyberpunk novel, The Fair & Foul – Project Gene Assist Book One, has been gifted with a new cover, and the finalization of the cover of its sequel is not far behind.

And for those who enjoyed my Women’s Fiction/Cozy Mystery novel, An Uncertain Faith, here’s what I hope will be a present for you – I’m on track to finish the first draft of its sequel by the end of March, meaning I may have not one, but two potential book launches in my immediate future.

Like LT and his quest to ride the big kid bus, or even reach the bathroom sink unassisted, I know I still have a number of milestones still left to achieve before any of this can happen, but at least I know I am closer now than I was the day before, and that’s reason enough for me to celebrate.

An unexpected lesson on never giving up

An Unexpected Lesson on Never Giving Up - www.alliepottswrites.com

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

I elected to take AP English in my final year of high school. For those not as familiar with the American, specifically, North Carolinian education system, at least during the [decade redacted], an AP class was an advanced course you could take leading up to an exam at the end of the year which could translate into university credits depending on scores. I say ‘elected’ because while all students must pass senior English in order to graduate, no one said you had to do so at the AP level. What can I say? Peer pressure.

I knew from the very first second I stepped into that classroom that this course was not going to be like the ones I’d previously taken. The cinderblock walls that made up the main buildings of my school’s campus, were painted in a mural of literary characters. It was bright and glaring and took a while for my eyes to adjust looking at all that color considering all the other walls around campus were stark white.

The class was barely underway when our teacher began handing out a list of books we would not only be required to read in addition to our regular coursework, we’d be also expected to analyze. I remember thinking repeatedly as more titles were rattled off, what have I gotten myself into?

The question only grew louder in my brain as the class went on. I thought of the rest of my schedule and the demands of my other courses. Classes like science and math. Classes, which I thought would have a greater impact on my future career.

You could still ask to change your schedule during the first two weeks of school, and so after the second class, I approached my teacher to tell her that as much as I liked her style, I was worried I would be overwhelmed and would she mind signing my transfer request.

My teacher listened to my concerns but didn’t pick up her pen. Instead, she looked me in the eyes and told me she thought I had what it took. She asked me to think about it a while longer and if at the end of the second week I still wanted to move to another class she would sign the request without argument. Considering she didn’t know me any more than the other students in the class, I wondered briefly if she had said what she had out of some form of self-interest. Would she get dinged for her performance if kids transferred? I wondered. Then again, I argued, she’d probably get dinged more for kids not passing. Wouldn’t she? Mostly, though, I found myself wanting to believe what she said. I wanted to be that person she thought I was.

I agreed to her suggestion. In the scheme of things, what really, was another day or two?

At the end of the year, we entered the room only to find the mural all but gone with the majority of walls painted the same white as the rest of the campus. Our teacher explained then that for those final days she wanted us to fill in the blank spaces. She would supply the paint and we could pair up however we wanted, but we were to create a mural of our own based on readings we’d done throughout the year for next class to enjoy the following year.

I left behind a piece of myself on the walls of that classroom, if only for as long as an extra year, but I took with me much more.

I’ve blocked out the majority of my high school experience, but not her class, and not the lessons I learned there. For it was there I learned that, while I will be tempted to quit when the work gets difficult or otherwise overwhelming, if I press on the end result will likely prove to be worth the sweat and tears. I also learned that while I might not always believe in myself, there are others out there who are willing to believe enough for the both of us. The trick is to trust them.

It is important to find mentors in life, people who believe enough in you to coach you through the tough times. A simple nod of encouragement by these people can be enough to make the difference between success and failure. And there is no rule to limit a person to just one. You can build yourself a team of mentors if that’s what your path to success requires.

And if you do find yourself one day looking into the eyes of someone considering giving up, think of the people who once believed in you. Look them in the eye and tell them to give it another day. Who knows what a difference your words can make.

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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.