A lump of intestinal fortitude

Kiddo jumped out of bed this morning almost as if his body was as connected to the light switch as was the lamp. As I lifted him up to give him a hug I was hit once again by how long his legs have grown. With his eyes level with mine, his feet dangled only a foot or so above the floor. He grinned and hugged me back.

Kiddo came to my book launch with a flower in hand. He has seen my name on the cover and my picture in the back. Kiddo loves that mommy wrote a book. He wants to one day write one too. He knew that mom had been celebrating, but this morning wasn’t about mom. Today is Kiddo’s 7th birthday.

volcano birthday cake
I lava birthday cake

Even though this week we are celebrating big time in the Potts household, I am reminded of another birthday when things weren’t going quite our way.

I wasn’t sure I was ever going to post this, but here goes – sorry in advance mom.

It was the day of my nephew’s birthday party. Both of my boys were eager to join their cousin and several of his friends at a nearby indoor playground. Within seconds, my eldest was running in between the various bounce houses and jungle gyms, having adventures with kids. His brother, LT, on other hand, made no effort to join their games.

Instead, LT walked over to me with his arms outstretched, a wordless request to be picked up. Once in my arms he rested his head on my shoulder while the rest of the world partied around us. There are so many people out there who want their children to be special, but special isn’t always all it is cracked up to be.

It started back when the hubby and I noticed a large lump in LT’s lower left abdomen. We had detected a similar lump the year before and had rushed to radiology only to learn that the lump’s source was nothing more than a hardened brick of fecal matter. We were told how to treat it and after a few long days it eventually passed. It wasn’t the last time. He has a chronic condition, so when this new lump formed, we thought we knew how to make it better, only what worked before didn’t seem to completely do the trick.

His doctor told me in no uncertain terms that we weren’t working hard enough. Triple his dose (like a colon blow for kids). Eliminate potential food sources like dairy and bread (the only food he enjoys – natch). Increase his fluids and his level of activity. Don’t give him a choice in the matter (oh – that’s what I’ve been doing wrong all this time). “You have to brace yourself to go to war.”

He wasn’t kidding (perhaps he has met my son after all). It is a wonder we haven’t had a knock at our door from a concerned neighbor considering the frequent sounds of pain coming from the bathroom. Finally, just as I was beginning to wonder if we needed to schedule surgery, it happened – a major crack in the dam (just in time for the party). We were exhausted. LT, from the process, the rest of us from watching the tears stream down his face as he begged for it to stop all the while pretending it was anything other than completely heart-wrenching (you’re doing great honey!).

He cried when we returned to the restroom later that day. I fought back my own tears. But we got through it because we had to. Eventually, his cry tapered off and he looked at me and said, “I a brave boy?” I nodded and told him how proud I was of him. The next day was easier, as was the day after that.

I apologize to my mom who I know reads this blog, but I cannot think of any better way to say the following:

Shit happens. Shit hurts. Shit doesn’t always make sense.

It doesn’t matter if it is in the form of an earthquake, a riot, or the very literal variety. Shit makes us scared. Shit makes us angry. Shit makes us question everything, including our beliefs or our resolve.

And yet if we try to avoid it or ignore it, we grow weaker and when it hits (which it will) it is ten hundred times worse. There is a reason we refer to a courageous person as one who has intestinal fortitude. Adversity may make us cry, but we have to find a way to push through, to seek answers, make adjustments, or offer comfort where we can.  So that the next time it hits, we are braver, stronger, and faster to respond. That is the only way to ensure that next time, it too will pass.

Breathe in and breathe out

We were swimming at a local pool featuring a pair of water slides which were accessible from a single tower. After watching a series of children enjoy the ride, I asked my eldest, “What do you think? Do you want to give it a try?”

“Do you think I can?”

Funny fish meme
Click images for attribution

Kiddo swims like a fish. By that I mean he can paddle quite effectively with his whole body underwater, but flops and flails about if he attempts to swim with his head above the surface. While delaying answering, I noticed that the pool depth at the slide area wasn’t any deeper than where we were. My eldest favors his father in personality, but even more so in appearance. No one will mistake him for one of Santa’s elves. Standing in the pool next to me, his head and shoulders were well above the water.

“Sure honey. When you get to the bottom, all you have to do is put your feet down.”

“I don’t know…” I could tell he was nervous about the slide’s height.

“I’ll go with you!” I said.

That was all the convincing it took. Splash. After struggling for a few moments to escape the water slide’s current, Kiddo took a breath, planted his feet, and smiled as he said, “let’s do it again!”

Kiddo saw his brother watching and asked, “Can LT go down the slide too?”

I try to limit my quasi-endangering of offspring to less than one child per day (most days). “LT has to learn how to swim first.” LT isn’t tall enough for the slide either, but it got the hubby and I thinking. It was probably time to enroll LT in swim class, and Kiddo could likely use a refresher as well.

The day of their first class, Kiddo went with his instructor to one end of the pool while his brother followed me to another. By coincidence, LT and his teacher share the same name, but rather than this endearing the teacher to LT, LT went the way of TV’s Highlander (“in the end, there can be only one!”) From the moment he stepped on the swim platform, it was clear he did not trust this person who dared assume his name. He began screaming as I tried to sneak away, “I scared! I scared!” and LT’s voice carries (so now you know what that sound was on Monday).

Stewie Griffin

I froze, looking at his instructor in alarm, but his teacher hadn’t flinched. I guess when you teach pre-schoolers you get used to stranger danger (now scratching off children’s swim coach from my list of career opportunities). He asked LT to put his face in the water and blow bubbles. LT could do that! Splash. Bubble. Bubble. Spit. Splash. “Okay, LT, try again. This time without getting the water in your mouth.”

LT was happy mimicking a drinking bird and forgot his fear until his instructor asked him to try something else. The screams resumed. We only made it through the class with our sanity intact by stopping and repeating the bubble/breathing exercise in between each new challenge (but where was the first place he wanted to go after class? Another pool).

This summer hasn’t just been trips to the pool or family vacations. I’ve also been querying. I enjoy being a member of the independent authors’ community, but the idea of becoming a hybrid author is appealing too. A cash advance or additional help in the form of a professional final edit and cover design would allow me a larger budget for promotion. I don’t mind reduced royalties provided it is with the right partner. I decided to test the waters by putting myself and this manuscript out there.

Pushing the send button on the first query was terrifying, but as time passed I found myself feeling rather zen about the whole process. I’ve published independently before and can do so again if that proves best for me and my work. I know I can choose not to move forward with them as easily as can with me. When the response arrived (which was very supportive, but a pass), I accepted it for what it was – a step in the process and a learning opportunity (que sera, sera). I took a breath and hit send on another query.

“A journey of one thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

“The first step is to just breathe.” – Bobby Umar


There are sharks in the water

One of the benefits of my day job is that I get exposed to any number of gadgets and electronics through customer interaction and trade journals. Last Fall, I came across a device (essentially a big magnet you strap onto your wrist or ankle) designed to repeal certain species of sharks, especially in shallow water. As I have no intention of going deep-sea cage diving with Great Whites (why does anyone do this?), I placed the device on my Christmas wish list as more of a joke than anything else. The hubby, however, obliged (this year give the gift of peace of mind) and the device joined our beach bag supplies.

Shark Attack Prevention Infographic
If you must swim in the ocean at least swim safely

I was enjoying my vacation when I heard the news about a shark attack off the coast of North Carolina – a few dozen miles away. This sort of headline alarms most people (myself included), but I must confess, this time, a part of me was somewhat relieved to hear it (although I do still feel terrible for the victim). Sharks terrify me (and yet I am obsessed with them). Acting and plot aside, Sharknado is my worst nightmare. I have to remind myself every time I visit the ocean how unlikely an attack is just to dabble my toes in the water (see infographic below). Therefore, because there had already been one attack, I convinced myself the laws of probability would protect me and my family for the balance of our trip. Confidence bolstered by statistics and ankle decorated by the newest (yet affordable) tech money could buy, I stunned my hubby by grabbing a boogie board to join the rest of the family in the waves.

On the way home, learned about the additional two separate nearby attacks. It would seem the laws of nature trump the laws of probability. The news made me glad that I had my ankle based backup plan, until I realized that the fact I didn’t demand my son (who hasn’t inherited my healthy fear of the ocean) wear it while swimming rather than me potentially cost me the mother of the year award (there’s always next year). I am now tempted to buy one for the whole family.

For the moment, I am fighting the urge. I remember that the summer of 2001 was dubbed the Summer of the Shark (I am a tad obsessed with my phobia) before the September 11th attacks gave us all something larger to fear. That year, just like this year, there were multiple attacks in a relatively short period of time in relatively similar locations, however, there weren’t really any more attacks than previous years with more sensational news stories like a presidential election or the Simpson murder trial. In fact, there proved to be fewer attacks in 2001 than there were in 2000.

The nightly news this week is beginning to sound much the same way. Thinking positively (which is what I try to do) this could mean that we are entering a slow news cycle. What a relief! After the last several months, a slow news cycle is good news indeed. With how the news has been lately, it is a wonder more people haven’t bunkered down in their homes and stocked up on years worth of canned foods and toilet paper. But while bad things can happen to even the best of us, life has to go on.

The beaches are still open. Yes, there are sharks in the water drawn to fear and or weakness, but just I am not going to allow my fear of these prehistoric killing machines keep me from enjoying future vacations, just as I do not allow the news to prevent me from enjoying my life.

Shark Attack Infographic



What do cloudy days and rejection have in common other than being dreary?

File photo of the chikccraft books
File photo of the childcraft books (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shortly after my son was born my parents decided to use the excuse of our new addition to rid themselves of some of the clutter around their house. We came back from one visit with a crate full of children’s encyclopedias which sat in my son’s closet for the next several years. I found myself just as unable to throw them out as my parents even though they were definitely out of date.  They had been my encyclopedias after all, from a time before the internet. It just goes against my nature to throw out books.

Then my nephew turned four. He had a dinosaur themed birthday party and all guests including my son were given dinosaur hunter themed goodie bags. My son came home eager to learn more about them. As a child I had wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up, so I latched on to his enthusiasm. He asked if we had any books on dinosaurs. I remembered the crate and a short time later we were dusting off its contents.

English: Clouds over Carnoustie Bay A towering...
English: Clouds over Carnoustie Bay A towering cloud formation over Carnoustie Bay. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we were going through the collection, we discovered a book wedged between the encyclopedias titled, How to make a cloud. My son was intrigued. He asked us to read it to him. The book turned out to be all about weather and types of clouds. I thought my son would be bored after the first chapter, but he insisted we finish the book.

I have to admit I learned something, or at least I re-learned something I’d forgotten. For example, I learned that clouds don’t just form because rising vapor cools in the atmosphere. That vapor must first come in contact with dust, dirt, or other imperfections in the air.

I recently received a rejection letter. My work was either deemed not a good fit for their present direction, or they believed they had access to a better option. I don’t have huge amounts of spare time to engage in idle inquires. I wouldn’t have sent my inquiry if I didn’t think I offered what they were looking for. But for whatever reason they had seen a flaw and moved on, and my self-esteem took a hit.

If there were no imperfections churning and blowing throughout our atmosphere there would be nothing to catch the rising steam. Nothing to condense it and transform it back into the liquid water so necessary for life to continue. Nothing could grow and nothing could survive.

Rejection hurts. There is no disputing that. But it also serves as a vital component in our growth. I may take a day or two to lick my wounds and soothe my pride, but I can’t dwell on the rejection itself. I also live with my little lord tyrant, my two-year old. Every other word out of his mouth is no. No is an incredibly easy word to say. I hear it everyday. It is his answer to everything whether or not he understands the question. But that doesn’t stop either my husband or I from continuing to try to find a way to sneak vegetables into his meals.

I have to remember that while there is always room for improvement, the reason for my rejection could have nothing at all to do with me. I have to tilt my head back and drink in the rain. I have to focus on how this stumbling block can aid in my personal and professional transformation. I have to keep trying.

I have to remember that I even if I hear a million nos, all it will take is a single yes by the right person.

Growth (Photo credit: AdamSelwood)


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