Friday, August 31, 2012

Fired Up Friday

I was thinking the other day about how I haven't done a Fired Up Friday post in, well, ages. I'm not sure why I stopped doing them (probably because EFFORT) but I wanted to do one this week.

For those who haven't been following my blog too long, Fired Up Friday is a post where I talk about things that inspired me in some way or the other this week. It could be pictures, song lyrics, videos, etc. We moved into a new apartment about six months ago so now that we're (mostly) unpacked I've been trying to decide how exactly I want to decorate things. This week my Fired Up Friday is about all things rustic and home-y.

I am obsessed with this dining room table. OBSESSED. Like, it's probably unhealthy how obsessed with it I am. The old barn wood on top in contrast with the white frame and legs is stunning. Anything made with reclaimed wood gets my heart pumping. I love the idea of taking something old and worn and making into something beautiful that will be cherished and used for years to come. 

Same with this guy, but he's made with recycled pallet boards. I love the different colors and grains of wood and the little streaks of that sea foam color really pop. 

Can we talk about how amazing this dining room is? What I really love is the mismatched chairs around the dining table. They're all different but they're painted the same sea foam green color. Beautiful. 

I'm really into using things differently from the way they were intended, like with this china cabinet that's been repurposed into a linen cabinet. The way the sheets and towels are so neatly folded on the shelves makes me giddy. 

I'm all about decorating on the cheap, and when I saw my mom pin this on Pinterest this week, I knew I had to do it. I actually already had pine cones being used as decor in our guest bathroom, but I had them in a basket and never really liked it. Glass was 50% off at Hobby Lobby this week so today I went in search for the perfect jar for my pine cones. And I think I found it! 

I wanted to keep the pine cones their natural color. It's silly, but they're particularly special to me. I picked them up from at parent's on my list visit before the tornado hit their house. The trees they came from aren't there anymore, but I can now properly remember them every time I see this little jar. 

That's it for me this week! I found a lot of this stuff on Pinterest, so be sure to follow me there if you aren't already. Also be sure to let me know what's inspired YOU this week! I'd love to see. :) 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hurricane Katrina, Seven Years Later

As Hurricane Isaac makes landfall in rural Louisiana today, I'm reminded of this day seven years ago. August 29, 2005. Katrina day. I will never forget that date. Ever.

We had close calls with storms already that hurricane season. Tropical Storm Arlene hit near Pensacola, Florida on June 11th. Hurricane Cindy made landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana/Waveland, Mississippi on July 5th. Hurricane Dennis hit Pensacola again on July 10th. I think by the time Katrina rolled around on August 29th people were kind of numb to it all. And skeptical. Our local authorities had told us each time, "This is it! The big one! Be prepared!" People prepared and at the last minute the storms turned or it wasn't as strong as predicted. Most everyone was unprepared.

My mom, dad, and I volunteered for the local chapter of the American Red Cross. All three of us had run shelters in the past so when my dad came home from a meeting to say, "We're in charge of a shelter again." it wasn't a big deal to me. Our church had a huge Family Life Center (like a big gym) that the Red Cross had used before, so that was to be our shelter. The shelter wasn't for people in our home town, after all. It was for people that lived on the coast or in the path of the storm. It wasn't for us.

On Saturday August 27th we packed our bags and left for the shelter. My sister stayed behind to watch after the house and the dogs. We didn't think anything of it because this wasn't going to be a big deal.

The word "Camille" kept being thrown around. Camille is a sacred word, a word not often spoken. Being from the Gulf Coast region hurricanes and weather in general doesn't scare me much, but all the talk of Camille made me uneasy.

People trickled in slowly at first from all over the Gulf Coast. Biloxi. Pass Christian. New Orleans. Waveland. Houma. What was just a small hurricane was now a category 3. Over the next nine hours we'd watch it intensify to a category 5, the strongest there is. I remember the Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, urging people to not stop. Keep going north, as far north as you can. The storm is too big. The realization that we weren't far north enough hit me. A mandatory evacuation was finally given and then everyone seemed to arrive at once. Elderly. Children. An insulin-dependent diabetic. A woman eight months pregnant with twins. Even people from our own town were coming in because they didn't feel safe. We were set up for 80 people, and only had about 40 cots. Mom kept turning people away, urging them to keep driving. Keep driving anywhere. But at some point on early Sunday morning it was too late for that, we had to take anyone who stopped because there was no more time. Nowhere else to go. Suddenly we had 130 eyes staring at us, waiting for help. For food.

The day of the 29th and the days following are a bit of a blur. I'm not sure if it's because it's been seven years or because I've made myself forget. Memories are slippery things. Even the moments you think you'll remember forever become cloudy and strained. Even so, there are some memories that will forever being engraved in my mind.

Losing power and realizing that without power and water the toilets won't flush. Eight non working toilets for 130 people. 

Multiple tornado warnings. Having to get all 130 evacuees from the Family Life Center over to a more secure part of the church that was underground. Which meant no air circulation with people who hadn't showered in days. 

Not being able to get in touch with my sister or boyfriend (now husband). I was sick with worry and fear. 

The Family Life Center had taken structural damage at some point, but we couldn't go outside to see. One of the corners of the room was cracked. I could hear the wind sucking at the roof and the side of the building. I could see the angry sky outside through the crack.

A squirrel that had taken refuge underneath the edge of the roof outside on top of a brick column. He was there for two days. 

Trapped. The storm was over, but we had nowhere to go. Destruction was all around us. My dad left to try to go check on my sister but didn't make it a quarter mile before having to turn back around.

Hunger. Hunger was everywhere. I was hungry and so was everyone else. Before the storm hit a local food company in town had donated some frozen dinners. We lit the gas stove in the kitchen with a match and over the course of about two hours cooked hot meals for all our evacuees. It was the only hot meal we had. My clothes stuck to my body with sweat.

At one point we thought we were going to run out of food and water. We sat everyone down to share the news. That night an employee of the Red Cross showed up on a four wheeler with food and supplies. I locked myself in a Sunday School room and cried.  

A member of our church somehow managed to get through all the debris and show up for help. We caught him stealing food out of the kitchen. "We had to have hot dogs last night and I was only able to eat two." he said to me. I didn't tell him about the three saltine crackers with peanut butter that had been my dinner the night before. I lost all respect for him that day and was never able to look at him the same. Even today when I picture his face in my mind anger rushes through my veins.

Heat. We had record breaking temperatures in the days following the storm, which made life without electricity that much more unbearable.  

Love bugs. They were everywhere. Seriously, hundreds of them. You couldn't even talk without bugs getting in your mouth. And because we had to keep the windows open they came inside and died there. When I moved out in 2007 I was still finding dead love bug carcasses in my room. I imagine some are still there.

On Wednesday the 30th the roads had finally been semi-cleared enough for some traffic to get by. We had our first look at the outside world only to find devastation was there, too. The bridal shop where I worked seemed utterly destroyed. My mind went to the girls who were supposed to get married that weekend and how worried they must be about their dresses.

A Red Cross employee came by and said they were combining all the shelters in the county into one big shelter. We gathered everyone up and sent them on their way to the new shelter, but we didn't join them. We went home. We had been away from home for five days and longed for our own beds instead of the hard gym floor.

Miraculously enough there was no damage to our house. Not even a shingle came off. We lost tons of trees in the yard, but that was it. It would be five more days before FEMA would get to our town to deliver water and supplies, and we would have sixteen more without power.

 The first band coming in. The only picture I got of the storm itself.

The church parking lot

 The bridal shop where I worked. Believe it or not it was all outside structural damage and not a single dress was lost.

Two huge trees blocking our driveway, our house is back there, barely visible in the picture.

 This tree came so eerily close to hitting the house

 On the way back from checking on my grandparents we came across this. I have no idea either.

 Neighbors helping neighbors.

My sister sitting on a tree stump

 Me posing with the root system of one of my favorite trees

My mom with one of the fallen trees in our yard

I know everyone has their own Katrina story, but this is mine. It was a long time before I looked at life the same again. Even today sentences are often started with, "Well before Katrina..." It was a life changing event for a lot of people. I know it was for me.

Monday, August 27, 2012

When to Stop

I have a problem with letting thing go. Letting go means moving on and moving on means change and change is BIG and SCARY and DIFFERENT and is often times VOMIT INDUCING. (No? Just me? Well okay then.)

I would like to say I handle change well. I don't. But does anyone? The past few years of my life have been full of change. I got married, I moved 600 miles from my family, I've lost friends and made new ones. I've been through multiple jobs before deciding to take the chance and write full time. I'll be the first to tell you I'm not an overly talented writer, but I love what I do. While writing often makes me queasy (lots of vomit in this post, obviously), it's a constant for me. If I've had a terrible day I know my characters are there waiting for me. (Bad days for me usually mean torture for my characters, so I'm not sure why they're so supportive.) All that being said, I've been neglecting it lately.

I've been working on a middle grade manuscript for the better part of a year. I wrote the initial 55K draft in 19 days (DON'T DO THIS) and I've lost count of how many times I've rewritten it (I stopped counting at five). I've watched it evolve into something I never thought it could be. And while it's not the greatest or the best... it's mine. I created it. No, this isn't my first book, but it's the book I've spent the most time on. It's a book that has brought me great joy but great pain and frustration as well. I cannot tell you how many times I've cried over this book. Actual sobbing, ugly tears and all. My poor husband doesn't know what to do with me most days except pat my head and bring me a cup of tea, which is about all the spouse of a writer can do. It's the book I'm most proud of.

So when I say I haven't worked on it in weeks, I mean that. Haven't even opened the document, but I think about it every day. I look at it on my desktop and hover my mouse cursor over it. The bile churns in my stomach (again with the vomit) and I quickly scurry off to do something else. Anything else. Cook. Clean. Make up errands that I need to run so I can go to Target. Check the mail five times. Wash my hair. Anything.

Why is this? Why do I keep doing this? This book is my pride and joy. What's wrong with me that I simply don't want to work on it anymore? Have I been working on it too long? Have I put too much into it? Have I lost the "spark" that made the book special to me?

Today while working on a craft project (anything so I don't have to look at the book!) it clicked: I haven't worked on it because there is NOTHING ELSE I CAN DO WITH IT. This bothers me. A lot. I know there are things, obvious things, I need to fix. The thing is, I could work on this book for the rest of my life. Literally. To me it'll never be perfect. To me it'll never be done. To me I'll read it and it'll make me want to lose my lunch (...).

I can't work on it forever. Eventually I have to LET IT GO. Whether or not I query with this book and whether or not it ever sells is a mute point. I'm done. Finished. I wrote a book from beginning to end and edited it until I was blue in the face. I've worked on it until I can't anymore. I don't know that I think of it as my book anymore. Yes it's a book I wrote and will always be mine, but it needs to be someone else's too. It needs legs to walk into the hands of a reluctant eleven year old reader who will pick it up because they they think it's silly. It needs to crawl into the lap of a nine year old reader who is obsessed with the written word. It needs wings to sprout from its spine and to live a life of its own. And that's something I can't give it.

So, little book, go sprout your wings. You've been a great journey this past year, and I'm forever grateful for the wild ride we've been on together. I need to sprout my own wings and find my next path. Dear little book I hope you find your own journey and your own path, because I've already got exciting ideas for my next adventure. And I can't wait.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'm a Geek Girl, Live With It! A guest post from Joy Preble

People often ask what my inspiration was for the DREAMING ANASTASIA series. And part of the answer, of course, is my fascination with the tragedy writ large that is the Romanovs. Like so many people, I have always wanted to believe that there was more to it than political assassination and a girl who died before she could be what she could be. 

But then there’s the other part of the answer. The part of me that wrote Anne because I’d grown up with a love of genre fiction and then cut my writerly teeth on the work of Joss Whedon.  That girl is an unrepentant geek. A nerd. And so of course I’d end up writing a book with witches and mermaids and soul jar trope dudes who can’t be killed and a romantic hero who’s handsome and blue-eyed but really kind of a doofus at heart. We geek girls write stuff like that. It’s in our DNA or something. We memorize the titles of Buffy episodes and we go with our friends to the opening day of Serenity and when Adam Baldwin guest stars on Castle with Captain Mal himself, Nathan Fillion, we squeal with geeker joy. And we Tweet that our husband just quipped, “Hey. I hope they run into the Rievers.” And the other million geeks who follow us on Twitter tweet back that this is the greatest line they ever heard.

And stuff like that.

So I present to you: You Know You’re A Geek Girl When. With geeky bullet points and everything.  And yeah, it’s all true. Get over it, folks. This is the real me.

You Know You’re a Geek Girl When:

  • You agree to appear at Comic Con in Austin with your fellow geek authors. In a mermaid costume. For two days.
  • Your favorite moment of the above is meeting James Marsters who played Spike on Buffy. And getting a picture. Signed. (Which you babble about for two days, at least when you can get a word in over Tricia (PJ) Hoover’s rambling about her photo op with Kevin Sorbo.)
  • Did I mention the seaweed boa?
  • You put physics and economics jokes in your manuscript and your agent tells you that maybe this is not as funny as you think it is. But you believe that giving a character a t-shirt that reads ‘Fission Chips’ is hysterical. And that the joke “Two protons walk into a black hole… that’s the joke” is also the funniest thing ever. Really.
  • You Google ‘nerd t shirts’ while you’re eating your lunch. More than one day a week.
  • You still know the titles of every BTVS episode. And can still quote lines. And if someone says anything close to ‘dance of joy’ your first thought is of Season 2 of Angel when the gang went to Pylea.
  • When you realized that you now knew and worked with the blogger who used to blog as Moonrat, you were happy for like a million days. Maybe more.
  • You saw The Avengers on opening weekend.  And you knew that you had to stay seated when the final credits rolled because it wasn’t really over.
  • You also saw The Cabin the Woods. And chatted with your fellow geeks about how it was a meta-horror genre movie. Possibly too meta. But whatever.
  • You played viola in the high school orchestra. And were first chair. And dated the 1st chair bassoon player. 
  • You own a full collection of the paperback novelizations of the original Star Trek series.
  • You used to write Star Trek fan fiction. Before there was the Internet. Yes, you and your geek friends exchanged yellow legal pads of manuscripts. Mostly about Mr. Spock’s love life. You now believe that if only you had titled it Fifty Shades of Spock, you would be on easy street now.
  • You continue to believe that there is such a thing as a tesseract.
  • You wish there were more people who would get excited about the Baba Yaga episode on Lost Girl.
  • You screamed in horrified delight at the end of this season’s Vampire Diaries.
  • You have worn socks with Birkenstocks. In public. But maybe only once.
  • You could continue this list for another thousand pages.

Thank you so much for your guest post, Joy! From one geek girl to another, stay Shiny! For more information about Joy and her DREAMING ANASTASIA series, visit her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter