Sunday, August 29, 2010

Katrina Remembered

When I think of the year and a half I lived in Louisiana, I most often think about the people I came to know and love. So when Hurricane Katrina hit, I felt sick--literally sick--with worry. And then in the aftermath of the storm, power lines were down and getting through by phone was a pipe dream. And of course, the little community I spent the majority of my time in was right in the path of the storm.

The only information I could find were pictures of the forest I had once spent so much time in, laying like matchsticks along the river.

"The Pearl River floodplain forests sustained 120-mph winds during Katrina that sheared off the tops of towering cypress and tupelo trees and decimated some areas. The state estimates that it lost 719 million board feet of timber valued at approximately $335 million dollars -- and that loss may be permanent." (FOXNews)
And I can't even begin to tell you about the panic I felt when after more than a week I still hadn't tracked down many of my friends. Even pulling up every press contact I could find and cashing in on every favor I possibly could, I still didn't have the peace of mind I needed.

The best I could do was get in contact with a good friend of mine just outside of Baton Rouge, whose husband was from the West Bank and still had family in that area.
"One night we had as many as 25 people in our house. Wherever they dropped, that's where they laid...There's a feeling of helplessness in the air. The people just feel so devastated...It's just like a bad dream, a really bad dream." (Tina Coleman) 
It was months before I finally reconnect with many of my old friends in Pearl River. A tree had crushed the roof of one woman's house--a tarp was placed over the hole and the bedroom door was kept closed until workers could make the repair almost a year later. Another woman had just received her nursing degree, which was being put to good use with people taking shelter in FEMA housing at the local trailer park. And several other families had moved on with no plans to return. Although my heart goes out to the loved ones of the nearly 2,000 people who lost their lives during Katrina, I felt blessed knowing my friends were safe.

I hope to go back to Pearl River someday. It probably won't be the same small town I remember where everyone knew everyone else and no one had private business. Disasters and tragedy have a way of changing people. I know it changed me.

If you wish to help with disaster recovery projects, consider giving to the Red Cross or Make It Right.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Confessions of a Shakespeare Fangirl

I'm a fangirl about a lot of things--especially YA Lit and indie music. But my original fangirlism started with Shakespeare. From the first time I read Mcbeth my freshman year in high school, I have loved Shakespeare.

I used to read Shakespeare plays on the bus to work, and one day I accidentally left my book on my seat. When I realized what I had done as the bus pulled away, I knew I'd spend the day wondering what would happen. Would Rosalind and Orlando end up together? Would Phebe be devastated to find out Ganymede is lying to her? Would I be able to find another copy of the play at the library after work? But I didn't need to worry. My morning bus driver had found my book and given it to the evening bus driver who handed it to me as I got on the bus that night. "We don't see a lot of teenagers reading Shakespeare on the bus every day."

My favorite play has to be A Winter's Tale. Misconceptions, forgiveness and love. It is achingly beautiful and speaks to my soul every time I read it. When King Leontes thinks he sees the statue breathing and longs for his wife to live...just thinking about it makes me want to cry.

And now, confession time:

Although I have read the majority of Shakespeare's plays, all of the sonnets, dozens of critical works and countless derivative works, seen about 100 movies and videos based on Shakespeare's plays, been the "Shakespeare expert" on my high school scholastic bowl team, and taken two Shakespeare courses in college, I have never actually seen a live performance of a Shakespearean play. We never even performed one in high school drama club.

How sad is that?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Five: The Canadian Edition

When I was a kid, I used to always love finding Canadian coins mixed in with the American ones. They were so similar to American coins, yet I couldn't spend them. It really blew my five-year-old mind. But Canada is much more than just useless (at least to me) coins and vast tundra. So in this edition of the Friday Five, I give to you five things that blow my mind about Canada.

1. Slings and Arrows--I've been thinking a lot about how comedy and drama go hand in hand. Even Aristotle recognized their relationship. And somehow, this Canadian TV series manages to balance comedy with drama as well as the real with the fantastical. Plus, the first season featured a pre-Notebook Rachel McAdams. How wild is that?

2. Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton--People often forget that Canada has produced vocal artists outside of Celine Dion and Alanis Morissette. There's also Leslie Feist and my personal favorite Emily Haines. The first time I heard "Doctor Blind," I had to replay it three times just so I could listen to Haines' deeply soulful voice. I mean, wow, just wow.

3. Constitutional Monarchy--Whatever that means. It's a sovereign state (technically a parliamentary democracy), but it is still somehow rules with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state just like Australia. But it's not a part of United Kingdom. Maybe I've been indoctrinated by the American prospective, but I don't get how that works. Then there's also the fact that it has two official languages even though only about 5% of the population speaks French.

4. Hockey and Curling--Again, it's probably my Americanization, but I don't understand half the rules of either of these ports. Despite becoming and "curling expert" for my college newspaper to cover the sport during the 2006 Winter Olympics, I still don't get it. And then moving to DC just in time for the Capitols to be in the running for the Stanley Cup, yeah, I don't get that sport either.

5. Eh--Or is that Ay? I always thought this was just a stereotypical Canadian joke. And then I got a Canadian roommate. Rachel was from Cardston, Alberta, and she said "Eh?" all the time pretty much every other word. I was amazed. Fiction became fact that semester, and my life has never been the same.

(Apparently Lady GaGa is also from Canada.)

So thank you, Canada, for being our peaceful neighbors to the north. Except when you're playing hockey. And curling.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Where Has the Week Gone?

Oh, yeah. To places like this:

And this:

And you can't forget this:

But most importantly, my time went to this:

This was kind of a mini ten-year reunion for Brittany, Liz and me. Brittany was my very first college roommate, and Liz lived right next to us in the dorms. We've all lived a lot life in the past few years, but somehow, ever time I see these girls, it feels like no time at all has past.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Traveling with the Friday Five

1. Broadway, here I come! I'm so excited to see Promises, Promises while I'm in NYC next week. We were originally going to see the revival of South Pacific but had a last-minute change of plan. We're also going to the Guggenheim Museum, which I really wanted to see the last time I was in NYC but didn't have time for.

2. It's official: I will be touring the White House with my sister and her boyfriend when they come to visit in September. I know this is not technically travel as I drive past the White House every day, but I will take the day off work to spend time with my sister. Plus, I haven't been to the White House since I was 12 years old. Not that anything has changed since then.

3. I'm not going anywhere in October (so don't ask me to, not even over Columbus Day Weekend). The Mid-Atlantic SCBWI Fall Conference is in October, and I'll be busy helping out with that and then making revisions and putting out queries for the rest of the month.

4. Despite plans to participate in NaNoWriMo once again, I'm also going to be at the beach for Thanksgiving. It might be a little cold to go swimming at Virginia Beach, but it's never too cold to sit in the sand with a notebook and write. Plus, I'll be surrounded by adopted family and kids and food. No better brain fodder for a writers than, well, fodder.

5. Less than five months until Christmas. Yes, I'm one of those crazy people who thinks about the holiday five months out. But I can't wait to see my family again, especially since my little brother will be there this year. Just thinking about it makes me want to make a trip to Chicago before then to see everyone. Columbus Day Weekend is open...

Monday, August 2, 2010

When three farmers met in a field

Yesterday was Swiss National Day, and as we have a friend from Switzerland visiting with us for the month (yes, they get a lot of vacation time over in Europe), we decided to do something special for the day. So we made a huge feast (including some of the best peach crumble I have ever eaten), and headed to a local park.

From what I understand, Swiss National Day commemorates these three farmers who got together in a valley in the Alps to talk about peace and escaping Austrian rule. Though Switzerland didn't have an official constitution until the mid-1800's, and it wasn't even recognized as an independent country until the 17th century, the Swiss celebrate the beginning on their country all the way back around 1300 AD.

We didn't have an Alps surrounded field to meet in, and the city doesn't exactly approve of personal fireworks, but we did enjoy a great picnic surrounded by tons of fireflies. We even made Erich sign the Swiss Psalm (their national anthem) and explain how Switzerland can stay neutral during every modern war.

Sometimes it's nice to remember that America isn't the only great country in the world.