Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting my essay on

I have always had the brain of a writer. From a young age, I have always written things with the internalized expectation that someone would read it. I can even remember using the names of male relatives if I wrote a story, because I did not dare use the name of any male classmates, for fear of ridicule. I was supposed to think boys had cooties, right? I certainly couldn't name a character after any of them!

I think it is because I am wired this way I have had such a tough time writing down what I consider to be "my story." It is difficult to write about yourself and your experiences in a first-person way, much less when you do so from the mindset of "what if someone reads this?" And for most of the time my story has been circling my brain, it has been one that I would not want to share openly. With a chosen handful, at my choosing and in my own way, certainly. Broadly and where anyone I know (or don't know) may well have access to it? Oh, but no.

But in the last few weeks, somehow, that part of my brain has shut off. Well, mostly. I still find myself writing and editing as I go, in the way I would if I intended it to be for public viewing. But somehow the wall in my brain that has stopped it from forming into words and taking shape on the page has finally collapsed. Will I put it out for public view one day? Time will tell. Will I finally get it out of my head and onto paper? I'm well on my way already. And I can't help thinking, maybe that will open the door to future writing. Maybe not having written something that has been so important a project in my own mind has blocked me from other work. One day soon, I hope to see what has been on the other side of that wall all this time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Great idea!

Quick post...just saw this, never seen it before. Such a simple, basic idea (that has never occurred to me, ha!). Had to share it!!

Monday, June 20, 2011


I've always wanted each thing to have its own place. I keep separate notebooks for separate things: story ideas, books I want to read, lists of things to buy, recipes, songs to download, websites to check out, etc. So it only follows suit that, where this is something I occasionally update about share-worthy events in life (and occasional soap-boxing), I would want a different place to post stuff I find online and want to get back to one day.

Following my usual pattern, I went elsewhere entirely for this purpose: Tumblr. I didn't want to just keep a list of 'favorite websites' to go back to, and have to click each link to remember what they represent. I wanted a way to keep track of things I've come across I'd want to try to make, do, cook, bake, places I'd want to go if I got the chance, etc. and that others could look at and maybe go 'Hey! I wanna try that, too!' And whether anyone else uses it or not, it would be easy for me to scan through and find something, because I'm putting in a photo of each finished product, location, what have you...

So check it out! It's called One Day I Wanna... and each individual post has a short title (and some have a quick description) with a linked photo below it! Easy to peruse, and more fun to look at!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pix online

I know that not everyone uses Facebook. There are at least 4 people in America who have not signed up. ;) So I've been putting pictures in Flickr so anyone can see them, and not just FB friends. But you can only put so many on there without paying for it (or else it only shows the 200 newest pix). Well, boo on them. So I just uploaded new pix to a Picasa album, and will eventually migrate the Flickr pix over, too. But I have some links set up to the Flickr pix that I'll have to change, so I'm not so much in a hurry for that. :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I have always fancied myself a writer, though I was more prolific in my pre-college years. I think college, then grad school, and all that life brought with it, pushed me off track for the most part. Inspiration was rare, and when it hit, it was a basic idea or sometimes even a title that I thought "This would make a great title...I wonder how I could flesh out a story from that..." but I never get past the first few paragraphs or pages.

The idea for "Town Square" came to me a few years back (the original document shows having been created in March 2006!), and it's something I just never could get moving off the first flickers of the idea. Over the last couple of days, it came back to me and something told me to sit down and poke at it, see what happened. This time, I scrapped what I had originally put down and started over, and within about four hours, I had the whole thing done.

Anyway, to the few who read this blog, I hope you like the story and I welcome feedback! :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Come together, give back

Sometimes it takes the worst of circumstances to bring out the best in people. And occasionally, the worst of circumstances brings out the worst in people, too, but I will not glorify this element of society by detailing their actions here. Since the tornado of April 27th, my hometown (and home state) have been inundated with volunteers: people who call Tuscaloosa and Alabama home, and chose to make use of their good fortune and in turn give back to those who were not so fortunate, and people who had never been to Alabama, or likely had never heard of Tuscaloosa before the large-scale destruction across a huge swath of the city. Celebrities have used their fame to bring attention (and money) here. Newscasters abandoned the previous top news event of the week, the royal wedding, to come to Tuscaloosa and report live. (Even the President and First Lady flew down to visit the affected areas!) Fans of the in-state rival college created a network through social media to bring together individuals and groups from all over the state and country to get supplies and volunteers where they were (are) needed most, via an almost minute-to-minute series of updates. Churches and vacant stores are now donation and distribution centers. City recreation facilities are volunteer check-in and assignment points. Businesses parking lots have been converted to make-shift restaurants, with grills and smokers set up to supply volunteers and those affected by the tornado with food to get them all through whatever each new day brings. Area farmers set up tables on public thoroughfares offering fresh fruit to anyone who stops by. Students were released early, the semester ended almost immediately, and yet many stayed behind to help, or returned to their homes to organize fundraisers and start local donation centers.

It is at once humbling and a source of pride to see this unfold after what this town has suffered. To see people -- especially those with no ties to this community or even this state -- give of their time, their resources, their lives, in this reminds you of what most people are truly capable of. We see those who have lost friends or family, whose homes have been damaged or even destroyed, who may be newly unemployed because their place of employment no longer exists, or who no longer have a livelihood because their small business was reduced to a pile of rubble. We see those people who have been directly impacted in a way that will never leave them, will always be a fresh memory in their mind's eye, and instead of hearing countless stories of heartache and loss, you often hear gratitude borne out of the idea that "it could have been worse." For some, it was. It was the worst it could possibly be. Mothers and daughters who will never celebrate another birthday. Fathers and sons who will never share an afternoon at a ball game or on the lake. Children who are too young to comprehend and will soon outgrow the memory of a parent lost. Young parents who will never forget the child taken from them at a tragically young age. And yet, in the midst of all the heartache, the loss of life, the loss of homes, in the midst of the chaos that is the near-unidentifiable landscape of this town, of many areas of this state, people have chosen to see the good. To know how much worse it could have been. How much higher the death toll could have gone.

In no way do I intend for my next statements to take away from anything I have said to this point. Rather, I am simply sharing what has rumbled around in my mind since that day, and since I have been home to witness these things firsthand. There was a sense of unity following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, because people from around the country came together to take care of our own, and to honor the fallen. A similar unification followed Hurricane Katrina's devastation along the Gulf Coast. And countless other tragedies have caused us to abandon our differences, come together, and give of ourselves to improve the lives of those whose lives have been destroyed. What will not stop echoing through my brain is simple: why do we only reach out to one another when mass tragedy strikes?

Granted, not everyone can abandon their jobs for a week at a time to run a donation center, or drive a big-rig across five states to deliver hundreds of gallons of water at their own expense. Not everyone can routinely make major financial donations to the charity of their choice. But if we can give all day Saturdays and Sundays for weeks on end after tragedy strikes, why can't we all invest 2-3 hours a week back into our communities? Why do we not collectively see the value and the impact of the spirit of volunteering as a part of our normal routine? If the amount of volunteerism currently in progress, in terms of the 'good intentions' therein, were parallelled in every day life, how much better would our cities and towns be? How much more would we be able to reconnect in our communities if we were more willing to reach out to our neighbors?

What do I mean? Pick a night when you know you will usually be at home parked in front of the television -- designate that to be the night you work at the soup kitchen, or be the leader of a scout troop. Train to be a literacy volunteer and teach an adult who never learned to read the skill that will open new doors and change their life forever. Do you usually sleep in on Saturday mornings? Sign up to work with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and spend Saturday morning exposing a young child to parts of life they might never see otherwise, and open up new opportunities to them. Are you creatively/artistically gifted? Volunteer your skills with area non-profits to help them design shirts to sell at fundraisers, or donate your works to charity auctions. Know your way around a computer? Be the unpaid webmaster for a non-profit that does not have the resources to maintain a great web presence. Skilled in performing arts? Round up your dance/theater friends and offer classes to inner-city kids who cannot afford to pay for them in a traditional venue.

Think about how you truly spend your free time. Surfing the web? Refreshing Facebook or Twitter every 60 seconds watching for new posts or tweets? Maybe even consider altering your family's schedule. Do your kids have too much on their plate? Negotiate what extracurriculars they will give up and volunteer as a family at a permanent shelter or food pantry. Raise your children to include volunteering in their regular schedule just as they would school, work, sports, church, etc. What about how you spend your money? What if once a week you had a frozen pizzas instead of taking the family out to Pizza Hut? Do you pay for 500 channels on your cable TV, when you rarely turn the TV on for anything other than background noise? Could you save the $40 you spend on a night at the movies and get a $1 movie at the Redbox instead? How many of us think we do not have money we can donate in some capacity, and if we truly picked through our spending habits, we would find simple changes we could make that would free up $25 this week, $75 next month, etc.? 

We all know what pitching in and trying to get a hurting community back on its feet does. It benefits those who have suffered, it reinstills a sense of togetherness among those involved, and as is always the case with selfless giving -- you will walk away from it feeling better for having given of your time and your resources, and for having done your part. My challenge to all of us is simple: audit your days and your dollars, and find ways to give back. And challenge yourself -- don't just write a check; your hometown will be all the better when there are more 'boots on the ground' pitching in, too! 

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Life has been pretty good to me. I didn't come from money or privilege, but my parents loved me, kept me fed, clothed, and sheltered, and they saw to it that I got a good education and did their best to point me in the right direction. I grew up in a house full of siblings, neighborhood kids, friends, and others, and have rarely been alone or without a friend. I have never personally suffered a major tragedy, save the untimely loss of a young relative and a friend in his 20's. All told, I have made it to this point with little in the way of real complaints.

Yesterday, a mile wide EF4 tornado slowly plowed its way through my hometown, Tuscaloosa, Alabama and leveled not just homes but entire neighborhoods; not just businesses but entire shopping centers. The extent of the damage is so severe the National Guard was called in and are having to turn away would-be volunteers because there is too much destruction and the emergency responders have to handle it. They have to get it to a point that the public can come in and be of help. Last I heard, the death toll for Tuscaloosa was in the range of 32-35, and they are now going through systematically and tagging homes in the way they did in post-Katrina New Orleans.

I have no doubt that was the worst tornado ever to go through Tuscaloosa, and some have said it may be ruled the worst ever to hit Alabama. To my knowledge, my family and friends are all safe and accounted for, some with damage to their homes, but no loss of life, no major injury. We are blessed with their safety, we are deeply fortunate by their continued presence in our lives.

My younger brother, Blake, was in the Starbucks at Midtown Village, just off the intersection of McFarland Blvd. and 15th Street when the tornado came through. As is usually the case when you're in a public place and the sirens go off, they send everyone to the restrooms. He and several others were locked in when the tornado went by. (My estimation would be that the section of Midtown Village they were in missed being in the storm's direct path by a few hundred yards at the most. The side of the street they were on suffered severe damage several hundred yards back and complete destruction further down. The other side of the street was complete destruction in both directions and back behind.) He was so close to the edge of the tornado, he could feel the wind under the door, and heard the door rattling against the lock as the tornado went by, but when it passed, they all walked out shaken but unharmed.

There are many families out there who do not have a story with a happy ending to tell tonight. They will be among the many visiting loved ones in a critical care unit, or standing at a graveside in the days to come. Many are sleeping at make-shift shelters for an indeterminate amount of time until they can find better housing, and that's those with home owners insurance. Huge sections of public housing were leveled -- I can't imagine what those families will do.

Being 2,500 miles away in California and watching the local station's (Birmingham, ABC 33/40) weather being broadcast live online was so scary, such a feeling of helplessness waiting for all the tornadoes that went anywhere near my home and family to finally pass.

It is very easy to let the routine of life get in the way of the reality that we are all aware of but we all keep tucked safely away in the back of our minds: we are not promised our next breath. When you end a conversation in anger, that could be the last words you speak to that person. When you leave home and don't tell anyone goodbye, that could be the last chance you have to see those you left behind. I could have spent the day flying home to visit my brother in the ICU, or worse...I can't even type it...and would at least have the tiny comfort of having spoken to him on the phone a few days prior, having gone out for a drink together a few weeks ago, rather than having had a huge gap of time since we had last spoken or seen one another. A minuscule comfort, but something I would have always held on to. (And am unspeakably thankful that I am not holding onto now.)

I recently started a gratitude journal, and the level of gratitude I feel for the safety of my family and friends in what could have been a mass tragedy (and what has been a mass tragedy for others) makes what I have said here or could say in the journal seem trivial by comparison. But to pin all that I have felt in the last 24 hours down to one word: grateful.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New look, for now

Google Chrome kept warning me to change the template of my blog because the website I'd gotten it from was in some way malicious. After some digging around, I haven't found any I like, so I decided to use a picture my brother took, and let that be my background for a while.

For those who have driven behind City Cafe and out onto 5th Street this way, you'll recognize it. And if you haven't, it's still a pretty cool picture. (And proof he should spend more time taking pictures...ahem...)

(Now that I've changed the background pic, I direct you here to see the photo I'd used when I posted this!)

The truth.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Writing about writing

I was supposed to go to a writer's workshop tonight, and it's been rescheduled. Part of me is bummed because I was looking forward to doing that at the end of my day off, not at the end of a crazy work day. The other part of me is glad because maybe I can feel inspired enough to finish the next chapter of my book. Or what will be a book when it grows up.

A couple of weeks back, I sat and started writing about the story. Where do I want it to go, what is the point of the whole book, at least as I view it from this vantage point, etc. I read somewhere it's a good idea to write a page or so on each of your main characters so you better know how to have them react to any given situation. Maybe that's what I need to do next, and then use that 'information' to get me back on track with the story again!

Either way, feel free to read Chapter One, at least as it currently exists. :)