Fly robin fly – taking a chance in a whole new direction

People talk about kids leaving the nest all the time, but what they don’t always mention is how the momma bird occasionally has to leave the nest too.

Her babies are hatched, though because they not self-sufficient, it is critical that she spread her wings and brave the unknown in order to ensure everyone, herself included, reach their full potential. Baby birds have to eat, but also they need to be shown how to be the best sort of birds, which means, eventually, Momma bird has to get over her fears, remember how to fly, and lead by example.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” – Robert Fulghum

People aren’t all that different. More specifically, I’m not that different.

My nest, however, isn’t made of sticks or straw. My nest is a series of jobs I managed to pick up over the years and a career I built up along the way. And I’m not complaining about my nest. The people I’ve met along the way have been great. I’ve traveled the world and got to see first hand how things were made. It gave me opportunities I might never have imagined for myself. I am as proud of what I built as I am of my other accomplishments.

However, my nest no longer fit like it once did. While it still kept the cold out, the straw I’d grown so comfortable in over the years no longer provided the same amount of cushioning. The sticks I’d woven together itched my feathers in ways I couldn’t fully explain and the gaps in my nest’s construction were no longer something I could ignore.

“Don’t get too comfortable with who you are at any given time – you may miss the opportunity to become who you want to be” – Jon Bon Jovi

Friendly neighborhood office courier - www.alliepottswrites.com
Just another normal day at the office.

I was left with two options: rebuild it by re-weaving together bits and pieces of my existing nest, hopeful that the results would prove adequate for my needs, or I could take a chance, stretch my wings, and try something new.

An opportunity appeared and I took it.

This month, I am starting a new job with a company I’ve never worked with before. It is the first time I’ve been able to say that in more than fifteen years.

I am frankly terrified. What if I am making a mistake? What if it doesn’t work out? What if I fall?

“Too often, the opportunity knocks, but by the time you push back the chain, push back the bolt, unhook the two locks and shut off the burglar alarm, it’s too late.” – Rita Coolidge

I don’t know how these new sticks will fit together or how well they’ll prove to keep out the rain, but I’m excited to say that I’ve tried.

When people ask me what I do, I will be able to say I’m a full-time writer (though I’ll always be an author, engineer, project manager, designer and a self-professed geek too – once you have the knack, it never leaves you).

What will this mean for my blog?

Hopefully nothing other than my blog becoming an on-going example of someone who chose to take a chance on themselves, which in a way was the point of me starting in the first place and why I’ve always been drawn to topics about goals, and risk, and determination.

But that’s the thing about chances – only time will tell which way they’ll go. You have to take them anyway if you ever want to grow. One thing’s for sure though:

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

I will be taking next week off to give myself time to say my goodbyes in and around the office while preparing for my next step forward, but I hope to report back from the other side very soon.


quotes provided by http://www.brainyquote.com

 

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.

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.

 

 

To wait or not to wait, that is the question

The number 4 stares back at me on the computer screen.

It is my eldest son’s waitlist position for the school he is currently attending and the number meant he had only moved up one position in a month’s time. When I first learned that he was placed on a waitlist I thought there must be a mistake. I mean he is already a student there. Why wouldn’t there be a seat with his name on it? I called the school and was told I would have to talk to the county representative managing student assignment, which I did.

The county assured me they would look into the matter.

To be fair, everyone I have dealt with thus far has been extremely polite and considerate, my son’s placement is nothing personal. Which is the problem. The existing system is based on numbers whether they be data points or funding dollars, rather than students and their families.

The county school system lists a multitude of options. There are public schools operating on the traditional calendar, charter schools, magnet schools, and schools that have year round calendars. Thus far, the year round calendar has been a wonderful experience. We only had to plan for three weeks of additional care at a time and could space out our vacations accordingly minimizing the impact on our jobs. At the end of each three to five-week break, my son would be itching to get back to his friends and could actually still remember many of the lessons he learned before the end of the break.

Therefore I was annoyed to learn that the county had arbitrarily placed my son in a school operating on a traditional calendar with a three-month summer break, especially at a school not even fully constructed yet. I was invited to apply to transfer my son back to his existing school. Five minutes after the web portal was opened, I had uploaded my request. A counter at the bottom told me I was the ninth request of the morning.

At the time, I wasn’t too concerned he wouldn’t eventually get back in. I had done some reading on the selection criteria and everything seemed to indicate that his transfer request would only be a formality.WCPSS School Selection Criteria

I later learned that the site left off some small print. The county is trying to fill the new school and this guarantee was really just for rising fourth or fifth graders. My annoyance turned quickly to anger mixed with helplessness. I had to watch as my son’s eyes welled up as I told him he might not be with his friends next year and unless four other children are placed elsewhere, and couldn’t do a thing about it.

I try to make the best of any situation I can’t fully control. I am a firm believer that things work out the way they are supposed to, but I also believe you have to take a stand from time to time, which is why I am now struggling. It’s a lot harder to be easy going when it’s your child being affected. Should I continue to fight for where I think my son belongs because it makes the most sense for our family today? Or is this a sign that I need to embrace other changes?

red or blue pill
“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” – from the Matrix, image courtesy of flickr

I am a fan of the show Mad Men, now in its last season. I will avoid spoilers for those who haven’t yet seen this week’s episode, but the entire episode was about the life not lived. It was purely coincidental that I watched it the night I learned that my son is now number four on the list. It is also coincidental that the number four is the least lucky number in the Chinese language. It is a good thing I am not overly superstitious…or is it?

But what if it isn’t coincidence? What if, like my son, I have been stuck on a waitlist, only unlike him, my number is being called? What if the universe has practically put up a neon sign and I’m just too illiterate to read it? If so, how long will the universe wait before moving on to the next in line?

“If you want something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done” – Thomas Jefferson

But what do you do when you’d also like to keep the something you had?

It’s a breakout!

An Uncertain Faith

I am about to suffer monstrous indigestion, and no, it won’t be caused by excessive food or drink…Okay so maybe some of it will, but the majority of my discomfort will be caused by nervous butterflies resulting the re-release of my book An Uncertain Faith. The e-book version will be going live on Friday, November 28th on Amazon and Smashwords (pre-order is available), with the print edition making its way onto the shelves shortly afterwards.

As way of saying thank you for your support over this last year, from now until December 24th, you can download a free copy at Smashwords using the coupon code PK82H.

 


Several of my business books talk about the importance of identifying the one thing that you want to be great at and then design your business practices and product offers around that niche. My dentist office has not read any of these books.

The practice I go to has a massaging chair in the waiting area as well as marble tile floors, soothing music, and a fireplace cheerfully burning. If it wasn’t for the sounds of drilling and spitting in the background, the spa-like conditions might make you might forget that you are about to be shamed for not flossing enough.

I was back for the second time in as many weeks as my dentist had found cavities during my last cleaning. Joy. The cavities weren’t very deep, but needed to be addressed. She told me I wouldn’t even need to have my teeth numbed as if the idea of having a drill in my mouth without a painkiller was somehow less scary than a shot to the gums. One side was done, but rather than finishing the job, my dentist was called away to look after another even less fortunate patient. I sat in that chair, staring at a sign reading use of cell phones are prohibited. Soft music continued to play in the background. It occurred to me that I had the opportunity to do something I rarely have the chance to do. I could take a nap, or at least close my eyes and relax while I waited.

Several minutes passed. Finally my dentist and hygienist returned. They explained that one of the other dentists had been hospitalized that morning and they were trying to make sure that her patients still were seen. They wanted to let me know just how much they appreciated my patience. I had just experienced fifteen glorious minutes of uninterrupted me time. I was hardly put out by the ‘inconvenience’ and told them as much.

I must not have reacted as they expected. The hygienist brought in a warm scented neck pillow, but it didn’t end there. After the last cavity was filled she also brought me a pair of gloves filled with Paraffin wax on the house. (Seriously – how many dental practices do you know that offer beauty treatments as a supplemental income stream?)

Then they left again. More minutes passed. I felt the wax and the neck pillow begin to cool. Tick. Tock. I had only expected to be gone from the office an hour, an hour and a half tops. Now it was getting close to two. I tried to move – to gain someone’s attention. The pillow around my neck limited my head’s range of motion and the gloves on my hands prevented me from addressing the problem. I had allowed myself to become literally trapped in my comfort zone. I realized then that I was only going to be able to get on with my life by finding a way to break free.

As I typed this after the fact, know the gloves did eventually come off. I broke free. But I know this won’t be the last time. I will have to escape my comfort zone again and again because, as the saying goes, that’s where the magic happens.

Preparation can only take you so far