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. :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Links link

Being a YA Liberrian, I am always on the prowl for ideas for crafts, programs, etc., that I think teens/tweens would enjoy doing. And that wouldn't be overly stressful for their liberrian. :)  I stumble into one blog after the next (all these crafty blogging folk link to one another and create this spiderweb of craft pages) and then can never find them again, so I've gone 'old school' and made a Delicious account where I'll have all this stuff linked. Should you be in the market for similar links (whether or not for similar reasons), feel free to use my Delicious page as a jumping-off point to find your way into the spiderweb o'crafters!

And, of course, the ones I think are BEYOND cool (that I might want to do) and the ones I do end up doing will be on here, linked directly!

Monday, April 18, 2011

All things Atlantis: Thursday

Thursday was our last day. Or I should say 'last few hours.' We got showered and presentable, rounded up all our stuff, and went down for breakfast, then met the group to board the limos and head back to the US. Boo. All good things must come to an end. Boo again.

The trip was great. The place was amazing, the staff were all super friendly, everything was top-notch in every possible way. The people we went with were all great -- you couldn't have asked for a more fun, friendly bunch to travel with. We ate like queens, parasailed like drunks (hahahaha), got to see two great people become engaged, took a few laps around the 'Crazy River' (the lazy river, but with rapids built in), heard some of David's travel stories (seriously, you've gotta hear his when the hotel had to reassign him to another room because he was in the room that Bono was going to stay in the night of their concert). I saw unparalleled generosity (guests of the trip winners were given $500 VISA Gift Cards; winners were given --each-- an iPod classic with 27,000+ songs loaded, Bose headphones or earbuds, an iPad with case, an iHome docking station, and $1,000 cash.

This was all in addition to an open door policy: eat, drink, be merry, charge it to the room. With the exception of souvenirs and money spent gambling, from the time we boarded the plane in Birmingham, until we deplaned back in Birmingham, we spent not a single dime. (And even the souvenirs were paid for -- gift card, baby!)

It was like something out of a movie, a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I was privileged to have gone, and I am still grateful to my sweet 'baby sister' for taking me along!!

(PS: Watch this space for the additional stories that I know will come to me....)

All things Atlantis: Wednesday

Wednesday morning did not start quite so early, since we realized there is no direct sun on "our area" of the beach yet, and the pool is only open 30 minutes before we were to be at the spa. So we slept in a tad later, and skipped breakfast entirely. Spa treatment #3: teeth whitening. Not a huge difference to my eyes, but whatevs.

Most of the rest of the day was spent poolside. Yes, we spent our time at the pool. The water at the beach was frrrrreeeeeezing, so leave me alone. (Poolside is code-speak for laying out, eating, and having our fair share of various frozen fruity drinks, namely the new fave, Miami Vice -- half pina colada, half strawberry daiquiri, all goodness.)

Somewhere in there we got the marvelous idea to go parasailing. Mind you, parasailing in and of itself: totally great. But when you get motion sick reasonable easy, and you are in a boat going full speed across choppy waters...then when it's time to be reeled back into the boat and you are reeled in about 10' at a time, with sharp jerking stops every 10' or so...that motion sick sets off really easily. Mine hit me airborne. Tossing your high-priced cookies several hundred feet above sea: hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Brooke managed to hold it together until we were on dry land again, which is amazing since she is 10x more prone to motion sickness than I am. You just never know!

Needless to say, we opted to go back to our room and crash for a couple of hours before we met the group for dinner. If you're going to get sick, sea sick is the way to go. Give it a couple hours and you're back on track. I was so afraid we'd still be woozy and be eating bread sticks -- yay that this was not the case!!

Dinner Wednesday night was at Carmine's (totally forgot to take pictures of that one...), and their menu is intentionally family style. We passed around several appetizers, then ordered 5 or 6 entrées (one entrée is food enough for 3-4 people, no joke) and passed them around, too. (Dessert every night was also done family style...this family style is the way to get to try a LOT of great stuff that way!)  Those out there in blog land who might be in the vicinity of NYC...get your butt to Carmine's. If you like lasagna...the. best. ever.

We did our souvenir shopping and then one more night in the casino, plus Jeff (one of Brooke's co-workers and a fellow tripper) gave us a partial tour of the areas we hadn't seen yet (and did not want to give up our time in the sunshine for) around midnight. We saw the rope bridge and some other cool stuff on the end of the property farthest from where we stayed, much of which my memory sees as palm trees, fish, and darkness. Because it was dark, and because I was a little sloshy, too. Once we wandered our way back to 'The Cove' we parted ways and crashed for our final night.

All things Atlantis: Tuesday

When the room service was brought up Monday night, we handed over a request for breakfast room service the next morning. All I knew was I heard the alarm go off at about 7:30 AM, and the next thing I know, I hear Brooke sleepily saying, "That's probably the room service" as she stumbled out of bed, half-awake. I vaguely remember hearing the lady who brought the food up (waitress?) talking to Brooke, and once she was gone, Brooke waking me up to eat.

By about 8:30, we were on the beach. We walked a short way on the beach (from where the big clump of chairs are to where the land juts out into the water) and came back and plopped down on two empty chairs. Two of the many empty chairs. Only to be told they were reserved. And since the pool does not open until 9:00, we sat...somewhere...on the beach with Terri (fellow traveler) and chatted as time passed. Then when 9:00 rolled around, we took in about 30 minutes of sunshine poolside before we returned to the spa for 'service #2': massages. Sweet. Lord. I challenge you to have a 90 minute massage and not doze off. Cannot be done. (Unless, like Brooke, you carry on a convo with your masseuse the whole time and make a new friend, ha!)

Lunch and most of the afternoon were poolside, until time to head back to the room and get ready for dinner. One major exception: going to Dolphin Cay to watch Mike and Ashley (Brooke's co-worker and her boyfriend) get engaged!! He had it all worked out before we even left Alabama, and long story short, when it was their turn with the dolphins, one of the dolphins swam up and pushed a buoy at Ashley. She had to look at it more than once before she really read it and it sank in, then she realizes he's on one knee in the water, ring in hand. Greatest. Proposal. Ever!!

Tuesday night was at Mesa Grill, where the appetizers were family style (my fave: duck pancakes, more like duck soft deliciousness) and dinner was everyone for themselves. I chose the single most politically incorrect thing you can eat: veal. And it was fab, thankyouverymuch.

After dinner, back to the casino! We attempted to go to the nightclub that is above the casino (or something like that) and apparently they open at will. And their will said to not open that night. But for shame.

All things Atlantis: Monday

If you know to check this blog, you know I went to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, April 4 - 7. And when I say went, I mean got to go on the all-expenses paid trip that my sister, Brooke, won by kicking ass at her job!

Brooke and I met the rest of the group at an FBO near the Birmingham airport, and boarded the private jet (!) that we flew down in. We arrived in the Bahamas around noon, checked in at Customs, and split up into three limos and headed to the resort (with a stop-off at the liquor store).

(Sidebar: I could ramble on and on about what a beautiful place it is, how pretty the property is, how bright and beautiful the landscaping is, etc., but that's a given...on to the trip stories! Just don't think ANY of that was taken for granted at any point...I had a hard time not walking around, mouth gaping...)

Our first order of business once we got checked in: food! Most of us herded our way around to the Lagoon Bar and Grill (open air, birds flying around and landing at your feet, no doubt worse before this sign was posted) and had a lovely lunch, before going for our first 'service' at the Mandara Spa. I've never had any 'spa time' and I can totally see why people opt for 'spa vacations'...holy shmoly. (Brooke's and my first appointment was for facials, and while the facial stuff did their thing, the lady massaged my head and shoulders...oh my lawd).  From there, we went to our room, took copious photos, called down to the bellman to request our stuff be brought up, and chilled until our luggage arrived. Then it was time to get ready for dinner!

Dinner the first night was at Nobu, an amazing Japanese restaurant (and that pic is only half the group). We ate 'family style', our waiter bringing out two plates of a different entrée every 10-15 minutes, and everyone got to try a little bit of everything. Conch, cod, tuna steak, shrimp, snapper, kalamari, and sushi rolls of some kind, just to name a few. Did I mention it was amazing?  

Those who know Brooke know she is not a fan of seafood. But she was a trooper! She tried several of the dishes they brought out...and was happy to have ordered a steak. Our first night, we bebopped around the casino a bit, Brooke won something like $80 on her second spin on a quarter machine (yay Brookie!). We also went with a few others and roamed around the marina, ogling the yachts. Somewhere around 11 or so, we headed back to our room, A: for Brooke to order room service cuz she was hongry, and B: to go to bed at a decent time because we knew we wanted to get up earlier the next morning. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011


It's finally done!! I've updated the full story of our cross-country trip!! One missing piece that will soon fall into place: photos! I'll go back in and post in/link in some photos next week (cuz I'll finally have access to the photos next week), and they will all be on my Flickr page, which (PS) does not have any photos on it yet. :)

And now that I've gotten all that on there, I feel like I can keep it more current now. Don't ask. It's how my semi-OCD/writer brain works. I didn't want every day stuff intermingled with trip stuff, I wanted all the trip stuff in there first, I just couldn't make myself sit and do it all in one sweep.

Next round of postings? Bahamas trip!!!  Just to give you photos to look at while you anxiously await my actual trip pix... pix from the website of the suite we'll be staying in...and the view. :)

Road Trip Diary: Sunday, February 6th

Sunday was our journey through the 'heartland' of California. We passed cows, sheep, vineyards, orange groves, you name it. What was so funny was, once we got to Sacramento and checked into our room, we rode around Fair Oaks to find my library and see the neighborhood before we went into downtown/midtown for dinner. And thinking 'we're in the city now...' we were flabbergasted to have to stop in the road in Fair Oaks Village to let chickens, a rooster or two, and a peacock go by. HILARIOUS! And, of course, Brooke had us cracking up making jokes about having chicken for dinner, fresh from the road. "Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and in the road there’s chickens. Mommy ain’t got no money so it’s chicken fingers again...Gonna sacrifice it right here on the coffee table..."

Anyway, once we regained our composure and sufficiently roamed in Fair Oaks (found the library!), we found our way into the downtown/midtown area and drove around a bit, trying to decide where to have dinner. Thinking we'd found a local place, we had dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory. Turns out it's a chain on this side of the country, but the location we went in sits beside railroad tracks and used to be a train depot, so it is super rad on the inside -- even has an old car inside that you can eat in! I actually wondered if it had been a church at one time. Not the be-all end-all Italian food, but decent. I liked it as much for the atmosphere as I did for the food!

The rest of the night was fairly random. Rode around seeing what we could see, bought some junk food at Wally World, and some eat-and-run breakfast food for Mom and Brooke to have the next morning en route to the airport (they had to be there at 5:30 AM..before the continental breakfast opened in the hotel).

Though this continues into the next day... it was odd dropping them off at the airport that morning, but it didn't really hit me, didn't really begin to settle in until I checked out of the hotel at noon and all of a sudden it was like "Okay, the road trip ohmygoshI'mmovingtoCalifornia part is over...I live here now."  Fortunately, one of my soon-to-be colleagues 'took me in' and let me stay in her guest room while I looked for a place. Whodathunk...I found my apartment on my second day of looking. Moved my clothes into the guest room at Jami's Monday afternoon, moved it out and into my own place Friday afternoon. Craziness!

The only time the stress of all I had been through, and was still going through, in the process of a total-life-upheaval, hit me Monday night and I had a self-contained mini-meltdown. The good thing is, I've fought anxiety enough that I could still manage to step outside myself and know "This is why this is happening...this too shall pass...give it a few days, get my own place, start my job, begin to re-establish a normal life, and all will be well with the world." The good thing about having had numerous anxiety attacks -- you have enough of them, you recognize them for what they are and can teach yourself to maintain sanity somewhere in the back of your mind while the physiological effects of the anxiety work their way through you!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Road Trip Diary: Saturday, February 5th

Saturday we hit two iconic Route 66 stops -- the Wigwam Village, though it is not currently operating, so we didn't get to go in one; and the Jackrabbit Trading Post, where we did take turns getting our picture made sitting on the giant jackrabbit! Barring another souvenir/post card stop, we fairly well pushed through to get to Santa Clarita (north of LA) because Saturday was the longest leg of the trip (800 miles in a day!).

We got the giggles along the way because Brooke was determined to see real tumbleweeds while we drove across Arizona, and the longer she went without having seen one, the more she fussed about being out in the desert and not seeing tumbleweeds. Maybe you had to be there, but it was funny!  (PS: I swear, someone moved the western boundary of AZ as we drove, because we damn near never got into California...)

As we approached the state line, the sun was going down, and the sunset was absolutely amazing. (Once the keeper of the trip photos decides to share them with the group, I'll link the word 'sunset' to those photos!) A note to those of you who may someday follow the same path and take I-40 westbound, should you follow this from AZ into California, do yourself a favor, and stop for gas before you leave AZ. Not terribly far from the state line, there is a random sign that warns you that the next exit is the last chance to stop for 55 miles. And *POOF* out of nowhere, you are zooming past that exit.

And they are not kidding. There's no U-turn options, no exits without gas stations should you have car trouble, nothing. Something happens, all you can do is pull over or keep going straight. And the one gas station you finally reach out in BFE, California...insane price gouge. Be warned.

Anyway...once we reached civilization (Barstow), we stopped at a Bob's Big Boy for dinner, burgers and fries, of course. Back on the road, we still had another 140 miles to go. At about 9:00 PM. Lawd. But we FINALLY arrived at the Hyatt in Santa Clarita (swankadoo), though even that was not without a temporary scare.

We pulled up to see teenagers swarming around the place, all decked out in (what appeared to be) prom garb, and were briefly horrified at the idea that we would be in a room on a hall with a bunch of half-crazed, hormonal teenagers. Whether we had already been assigned a room, I don't know. But I asked the girl at the front desk, if it was possible, to please be put as far from them as possible, and we ended up in the far back corner of the top floor, where we slept in blessed peace and quiet. However it came to be, we were thrilled because we were too tired and probably would have been tossed out for kicking some teenage butts had they kept us up! :) 

Road Trip Diary: Friday, February 4th

Glad to have made it through that horrible driving experience, we were also glad to wake up and find, once we were on the road, that it was literally behind us: no more icy roads! Day Two took us through the rest of Oklahoma, across the Texas panhandle, and into Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not without its adventures, though. :)

We stopped at a 'Cherokee Trading Post' and loaded up on souvenirs and postcards, took pictures with a giant statue of an Indian chief, as well as a few pix of live buffalo, and continued on. For those who've seen the movie Cars, we stopped in Shamrock, TX at the 'U Drop Inn' which was the inspiration for Ramone's! Not much else to see in Shamrock, so we were on our merry way. 

We had gotten as far as McLean, where we stopped off to take pictures of the first-ever Phillips 66 Station, and when Mom went to grab her phone to take some shots, only then did she realize she did not have it. Fortunately, some honest soul had found it back in Shamrock (we're thinking it was laid on the car as we were getting back in and slid off when we drove away). The man who answered the phone said he would take it to a cashier at the McDonald's, so back to Shamrock we went. (And, yes, he had turned the phone over to the cashier as promised...crisis averted!)

Headed west once again, we stopped for a second time in McLean and had lunch at the Red River Steakhouse and were not disappointed! Great food, cute place, and in the back room (overflow dining room and also where they have live music) there was an old covered wagon. If only they'd let us get in it...

Our major stop for the day was in Amarillo. All three of us wanted a pair of 'authentic' cowgirl boots, and if buying them in Texas doesn't qualify, what does? Took a while to make our choices, but after trying on several each, we found what we wanted -- Mom's are red!! From there, we set off in search of the Cadillac Ranch.

Nevermind that it was dark by the time we found it, and that the cars are out in the middle of a huge unlit field. We had a local guy tell us about how to find them, and with his directions, my headlights (and illegal parking), and a fair amount of squatting and squinting, trying to see any sign of them in the tiny bits of leftover sunlight...we found them! The field they are in was all rutted and pocked, and did not make for easy walking in what was, by the time we found them, complete darkness, so the three of us locked arms and walked across until we were standing in front of them. Pictures were taken in the dark, so we only saw them in small flashes (literally) when the camera snapped. But we found them, dangit!!

At that point, we still had another 300 miles to go...makes me tired just thinking about we got on the road and with the exception of a pit stop at the Russell's Travel Center (including a quick walk through in their Classic Car Museum, located inside!), we made our way about half-way across New Mexico.

We arrived at the Hyatt in Albuquerque only to be told they had overbooked (despite our reservation) and as such, they would be putting us up at the Staybridge Suites next door. On their dime. Sold!! The room at the Hyatt was a two-bed room..SS only had single king units available. So we told them to give us two rooms, and take it up with the Hyatt. And they did! A free night's stay when you're moving across the country is a welcome thing!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Road Trip Diary: Thursday, February 3rd

Before 'really' getting on the road, we had driven up to Tunica, MS and stayed at a casino hotel there (they charge a lot less and are just as nice as any other standard issue hotel). We didn't get in until late Wednesday night, and knowing that Thursday was our shortest drive distance-wise, we opted to sleep in later than originally planned, as well as going to have breakfast in the buffet area and even did a little gambling! (Mom, Brooke, and me sitting around the Roulette table...good times!) 

As it got to be about noon, I started commenting that maybe we should get on the road. One of the men at the table asked where we were headed and I told him our ultimate goal was California, but for the day, we just needed to get to Oklahoma City. This guy was a truck driver of sorts, and said he was staying an extra night in Tunica because "You can't get to OKC. The roads are too bad."  

 We didn't really have a choice. I don't think we would have attempted driving if the blizzard were still happening, but we had to take a shot at driving through its aftermath. So knowing we might have an uphill battle, we hit the road. Getting through Arkansas was a piece of cake, and en route we saw signs for 'Toad Suck, AR' -- they say you learn something new every day! Somewhere just west of the AR/OK state line, and somewhere around 6:00 we estimated we would arrive at our hotel in OKC around 8:00. This was shortly before Brooke found herself driving an average of 25 MPH because the Interstate was covered in snow and ice. And not smooth ice rink ice. Bumpy patchy potholey ice. For the first 50 or so miles, we were convinced we'd drive out of it, we must have just been in a really podunk county that didn't have the proper resources.

We realized this estimation was wrong when we hit the Oklahoma County line (of which OKC is, of course, the county seat). From the time we began our 25 MPH trek until we were finally on non-iced roads: just shy of 6 hours. We checked in at the hotel just before midnight, four hours later than normal driving conditions would have permitted.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Backing up to go forward

The original plan was, each night I would update this blog from the hotel, sharing details of our trip from MS to Sacramento. But we didn't get into the hotel in time to use the computers and still get a reasonable amount of sleep, so that didn't happen. Add to this that I haven't had Internet access for any length of time on any regular basis, and it has made blogging difficult! So the plan is, I will back up and recount the stories of each day's journey so the things that happened on our trip across I-40/Route 66 will be known to all. For now, I'll give the quick-and-dirty details of life since I began settling in here in Sacramento (or to be technical about it, 'the greater Sacramento area.')

Tuesday (2/7) I began looking for an apartment in towns in the general vicinity of my library (Fair Oaks, Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova, etc.) and wasn't getting very far. On a whim, I decided to ride out to Folsom to see what the area looked like, and was hooked. So, my apartment hunt switched gears and I set my sights on Folsom apartment complexes. The place I went to last on Wednesday (2/8) was far and away my favorite -- great location, rent is reasonable for the size/area, has a much more unique look to it than other complexes (there's a lot of places here that all look the same...this one is not like that), is close to everything I could want at a moment's notice, and only about 20-30 minutes drive into downtown Sactown.

I moved in on Friday (2/11) and was thrilled to have begun settling into my own place before I started work this week (2/14). So far, work has not been much work, which is to say, Monday was the usual first day stuff (paperwork, HR stuff, training about sexual harassment, etc.) and Tuesday was fairly similar. I was at my branch for the first couple of hours, then spent the afternoon at a branch in the Southern end of the system in a session on 'Verbal Judo' (AKA How to deal with difficult people), and some odds and ends at the branch.

Today I actually started some hands-on training (yay!) and spent some time at the front desk (yay!). Tomorrow will be all day at another branch and Friday will be an AM meeting, then at my own branch the remainder of the day.

As for the aforementioned road trip...stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My life, in boxes

Mom and I spent most of today finishing up my packing. Which is to say, doing the remaining 40-50% of the packing that I had not already done. (She's a pro and goes at it full force; I aspire to the rank of 'novice' because I'm too lazy to invest a proper amount of time in the process.) So most of what I own is now in a box of some description. And tomorrow, all of my furniture and those many boxes will be loaded into the 'ReloCube' currently sitting in my driveway, so the moving company can come get it and schlep it across the country for me.

The process of packing revealed to me how much stuff I have and has renewed my need to be less of a pack rat and be more choosy about what I spend my money on, and what I keep/don't throw away when I know I don't need it anymore/won't use it again. Hoarder? No. Unintentional keeper-of-the-unnecessary? Si.  And yet, for all the seemingly endless amounts of stuff we packed, it will all fit in a  6'3" x 7' x 8'4" cube (that's only 336 cubic feet, folks). 

Side note: The mere fact that all of this stuff will undoubtedly go in this fairly small container is due to the hours my mom, The Master Packer, has put into calculating and re-calculating exactly how every single item will fit in that thing. We've measured every piece of furniture and counted all the tubs and boxes, and she has determined the exact order in which each item will go into the cube, etc. Some will go in upside down; the book cases will be filled to the brim with items in smaller boxes and bags (easier to load/unload if you can just yank the bags in and out); the desk is two separate pieces and each piece will be put in separately; etc.). No space will be wasted and I sincerely doubt there will be anything that I have to decide 'toss it or store it at my parent's house for now?' because she has accounted for every literal inch.

We've made a few pictures, but once we get on the road (Mom, my sister, and I), we'll really get picture-happy and my new Flickr account will be put to good use! So check back soon because there will be Road Trip stories to tell, funny Route 66 pix to share, and I'll officially become an 'AlaFornia Girl'!! :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Tomorrow is the end of the line for me on the Batesville train. Well, at least as far as working at the library is concerned. I guess technically it's not the end until I leave town Wednesday night. I know it will take me a while to not wake up with my mind trained on going to BPL during the week, or when I get home at night, not wondering what to do about certain things the next day.

And I've gotten into the packing that you only do right at the end. Plates, bowls, glasses, spatulas, frying pans... I keep thinking this cube thing is going to be sitting out in my driveway and I'm going to have a panic attack at how small it looks and at the idea that I'm going to have to dump a bunch of stuff off on my parents because I won't have room to haul it to Cali with me. Fingers crossed that doesn't happen.  :)

Excited as I am about what life holds for me in Cali, I'm not in a hurry for it. (I know...if you know me and you're reading this, you don't believe me.) I just don't want to rush things. Tomorrow will be the last time I'll see the folks I work with for a while. This weekend will be the last time I'll see all my T-town peeps for a while. Post-road trip, it'll be the last time I'll see Mom and Brooke for a while. So I'll start pinging off the walls about Cali when I get there. For now, I'm just trying to 'maintain'....enjoy the lasts, remember all the "last stuff" about everything/one as it happens.

Picture me like Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown, using my "hands-camera" to take imaginary photos of the images I want to remember that can't always be captured in a real photo. And the ones that can be captured in a real photo will be linked in future blogs, via my Flickr account. Ha!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

24, 66

Considering I have three more 8-hour workdays left, that puts me at '24 hours' (ha) until my brain can refocus fully on the move to California! The latest developments: 

Mom, Brooke, and I will most likely be staying at a casino hotel in Tunica the night before we hit the road and the journey begins. To clarify, as no one seems to get the reasoning behind this...all my stuff will be packed up at this point and we'll have no where to sleep. Tunica is (sorta) on the way to Memphis, which is where we will hop on I-40 West and get rolling. Plus, the rate for the room in Tunica is at least 1/2 as much as any decent hotel between here and there (Memphis included) so them's the plans!

I also learned that a fair amount of the old Route 66 has been taken over by I-40, and as such, have done the Jen Thing, and researched places to stop along the way. I have ALWAYS wanted to travel all of the old Route 66 (or as much of it as still exists) and was beside-myself-excited to find out we will be on it or parallel to it as we make tracks to Sactown.

We are staying in regular hotels (Hyatt, courtesy of a friend giving us the hook-up rate) not the crazy Route 66 hotels, but I do want to pull off here and there and see some of the iconic scenery, eat at a funky little diner, etc. The furthest place off the main route that I'm thinking we might oughta detour for is the Grand Canyon. That will add about 2-3 hours to our day and our driving, so it's not entirely up to me. I guess it depends on how we feel when it comes time to veer north and stop before the big hole in the ground!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Beginning of the end

It is so weird to that think the week ahead is my last week at the Batesville Library. And that in just over two weeks, I'll officially be living in California. Craziness! It is an odd space in life, being at the end of one chapter of your life and knowing it. By that I mean, it's not a sudden change...sometimes life changes the chapter without you knowing it's coming, for better or worse.

But to look to the week ahead and know this is the end of the line for my days as the Head Librarian here in some ways it seems like I haven't been here long and in other ways, it seems even longer than the 2 ½ years it has been. I have learned a lot, some good lessons, some tough ones, but one thing I know for sure: not being the boss is the way to go for moi.  My staff has joked all along when problems crop up 'that's why they pay you the big bucks.' I'll be happy to take 'regular size bucks' and not be the person with whom problems come to visit. 

With this new job in Cali, the thing I look forward to more than 'not being the boss' is, what I've done with a percentage of my time in Bates, will be what I do all the time! And it has been my favorite part of my job here. I've thoroughly enjoyed researching, planning, and actually doing the programs for the teens (and 'tweens') so for that to be My Job...shut the front door!

There is an element of 'Adult Services' in my job description but I've been told that will amount to helping make posters, flyers, calendars, etc., and helping the branch head plan the adult programs, though she'll actually do the programs when the time comes.

I'll also be plugged in with the schools in the vicinity, which should be interesting because I haven't done 'teen librarian visiting the school' before and I've heard great things about this from other YA librarians. (Young Adult, that is)

And...there is a large home school population in the area that they want me to work with and get them more involved with the library. Generally, home school groups have the reputation of being public library lovers, so this shouldn't be too tough.

And...they have a good existing group of teen volunteers that I can work with and get them in on programming and outreach and to be the ones who help me get a teen board up and running.

All in all...I predict good things for Jen-Jen and the new liberry. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pieces of the puzzle

The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place! Rather than having to rent an apartment that I've seen only online, a colleague at another branch of the library is letting me rent her extra bedroom to give me time to find a place once I'm there. (And the rate she's offered me is super fab, thanks Jami!) Add to this that I've worked it out to rent one of those 'cube' things to load and pay the delivery service to move it, then unload it on the other end. MUCH cheaper than paying full-service movers, without forcing me behind the wheel of a U-Haul for 2,200 miles (at 55 MPH...). And my landlords in Batesvegas are letting me pay pro-rated rent for the 3 days of February I'll be living here -- no one does that! All told, this is working out quite lovely and I'm looking forward to earning my stripes as a California girl! (But I'll always be a Bama girl, so as expected, you can think of me as an AlaFornia Girl!!)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

So it begins

With three weeks left to go until I finish up my two-point-five(ish) years at my current job, I get to be off two Mondays in a row. Tomorrow, snow day! Next Monday, MLK Day. Pay me to stay home? Done.  

People keep telling me how different California is from Alabama (and Mississippi). That is the whole idea. One thing I believe factors into this commentary is that most people think California and their mind instantly goes to Los Angeles. Never been to LA, so I cannot make comments on it, but I suspect living in Sacramento is not the same. And let's face it, wherever I go there I am. Do I think this experience will in some way change me? Of course. If you don't change in some way every so often, you're not living. But will it fundamentally interfere with who I am? No. I don't think I'll come home convinced that Scientology is the way to go or anything else people assume California will 'do to you.'

But first things first...deciding who will move me across country. Because the very idea of driving a U-Haul 55 MPH over 2,000 miles with my car trailer-hitched to it is enough to reconsider the entire thing. And once this honor is bestowed on some fabulous bidness, I will get my shit packed and also be deciding where said packed shit will go when said movers arrive wanting to unload it.

I'm thinking the Fair Oaks/Citrus Heights area. At least until I settle into the groove of Sacramento well enough to know if/where else I'd want to live. Or maybe I'll be fortunate enough to land in the perfect place and not be in a hurry to pack it all up and shuffle it across town somewhere.