The Art of You Part1

Sunset on McCall

Sunset on McCall

So, I have refrained from writing anything for a while now. However, I had this crazy dream last night! So, I woke up and recorded some main ideas on my phone’s note pad. After work, I came home and decided to put some thoughts down or I would just go nuts. That’s what happens when you are a writer. The story chooses you, not the other way around. So without going into detail about my dream, I am posting this beginning part before I go work on my school work. Should be pretty interesting! (The places are real, the people are fiction. FYI.)

The Art of You Part 1

I’m Ruby.

I’m a girl from a small town in a small state but I love the big city and I love the ocean. I love looking at the world through a camera lens and showing people that magic does exist all around us everyday…you just haven’t seen it through my eyes yet. I love everything about the past and being a lady as my grandmothers were.

I love pin curls and fingerwaves, saddle shoes and crazy English hats. I march to the beat of my own drum, you might say. I cherish my Hollywood haircut and adore my tattoos.

More than anything, I love my kids. My sons have taught me to love and hurt, but they have brought me laughter and life’s lessons that I had hoped to spare them of. I’m the middle aged widow of a man that changed my life. He taught me one of the greatest lessons of all…to love myself as much as he did. I’m okay with being different now.

I’m a starving artist that makes my living with my camera, selling my perceptions of the world to those who fall in love with my eye and my flair. That’s right…I have flair. No, not little buttons pinned to my clothes, but a personality that is all mine and a way of thinking that defies modern ways. I’m a victim of days that have been gone for a long time and yet I crave the happiness that the images of yesterday bestow upon me.

I firmly believe I got in the wrong line in Heaven. I should have been born in the Middle Ages…or perhaps the roaring 20s…or even the hopping 50s! Here in the 21st century, I’m considered strange when I walk in the store with red lips, black and white hound’s tooth pants and a red sweater all topped with black pumps. I hear the snickers from young girls as I walk by and I snicker back at their baggy pajamas and slippers they wear to the grocery store. These girls aren’t maturing into women. They are simply a robotic by-product of our modern, lazy society.

There is a place on the map of the United States, a very small dot that is called Nampa, Idaho. My home is small, a bungalow style with three small bedrooms and a single bathroom. My youngest son, ready to turn 18 years old and my adopted son almost 15, are all that remain at home from our gigantic family of nine. I rarely see the others or the grandchildren. Family just doesn’t quite mean the same thing these days. People are so wrapped up in their own opinion so often that there leaves little room for things like love and loyalty. Respect is a thing of the past and the only time you hear “yes, sir” is in the military. Forgiveness is a long word that no one seems to know the definition of anymore. It has become such a give-it-to-me-now society that the only person in their view is themselves. How did we fail this generation so badly? Surely the extinction of the spanking didn’t do this. Maybe single parent households that rip through the world like an epidemic have helped?

I am to blame for my part in that. I asked for the divorce from my first husband. He begged me to stay more than once and I still turned my back. Now, I can feel the grudge my children hold whether they know it or not. Then I married into a large established family of five more kids over my four. I was the enemy there, perceived as trying to be a mother when there was already a mother in their life. I was given no credit for just holding it together since there were many times that I wished I would just fall completely apart. Perhaps then I wouldn’t care as much as I did.

Eventually, my smoldering, broken heart cooled and steeled against people. I stepped out onto the stage of life as me, having stripped off the layers that were false fronts and an effort to just fit in with others around me. When my husband died, I merely shut off. I mean powered down until I felt nothing. I wandered aimlessly through my life, always walking, always looking, always listening but never living or moving or seeing or hearing.

Photography melted out of the picture for a long while. I saw no beauty out there anymore. I didn’t care to stir up feelings with images for others. I detested posing families and watching them smile in unison while mine was shattered by death. It wasn’t until the collection notices started arriving and threats were made to levy my bank account that I finally blinked.

My fourth grandchild arrived in February. This was the first one I had any chance of knowing and having a relationship with. I loved my other three, but they weren’t exactly “mine”. In my heart, I was Grandma and I didn’t want it any other way. Once my husband passed, it seemed I became invisible. It was difficult at best to be a figure the children knew since they lived a state away from me. Money was tight for all parties so Facetime gatherings were the closest thing to giving those sweet babies kisses.

This new baby, a little girl with light eyes like her mother and red hair like her dad entered the world. She was the first child of my own blood to grace the world and I cried when I first held her and marveled at her beauty. She made my heart beat again. The world came at me fast and furiously…the magic returned. I wanted to see the things differently for that little baby.

That’s when I picked up my camera again. One day, I would be able to sit down with my photos and show her all the places I went and recorded so she would know them as I did.

So it came to be summer, hot in the valley but cool in the mountains. My favorite place to go for picture taking was a smaller dot on the map: McCall, Idaho. The weather blew in and blew out at such a pace that the same scenery never looked the same. Early in the summer, the tall grasses were deep green and sprinkled with tiny pink and purple flowers. The river was high, gushing and frothing in the beds, the spray creating little rainbows in the bright sunshine.

McCall is a mountain town that parents a ski resort and the Payette Lake that attract tourists year round. It’s a diamond in the world of Mother Nature with the vivid blue skies and tall creaking firs. The smell of warm dirt and pine needles makes me smile and the slight curling of a campfire makes me long for days when we would gather as a family in the state park.

The drive up from the valley is long and winding. If you venture up between Thursday and Saturday, the roads are littered with slow moving campers or people in convertibles enjoying the scenery. You can’t blame them for that. I had been up and down those roads enough that the scenery was noise. I wanted to get up the mountain and just be there. I didn’t care to follow at 20 miles under the speed limit and spend the whole day driving.

In light of knowing this, I decided I would leave the boys home and take a much needed road trip to my favorite place, renting a studio over the lake for a week. I packed my little car with my suitcase, threw on some shades and took off after hugging my sons. I set my camera bag on the passenger’s seat and gave it a pat and a smile. Without wanting to waste another moment, I made my way out of Nampa that Wednesday morning and on toward the highway that would take me up to paradise.

The invisible bands loosened from around my chest with every mile traveled away from home. Soon, I was singing to the radio…the local doo wop station. I was tapping my fingers against the steering wheel and bouncing on the brakes to the beat at the stop lights.

The highway was slightly congested and I had to step on the gas a few times to pass a car with the oncoming traffic lane. My heart thundered in my ears and my face grew warm every time I did it. It was more of a thrill than I had allowed myself to experience in three years. It made me laugh out loud a time or two.

Rolling into the small town of McCall, I took a deep breath of satisfaction. Too long had I stayed away living in the darkness of grief. I came right through the middle of town and made a left when I ran out of street. Just passed the tiny city center was a house that had the studio apartment above the garage. I pulled into the familiar driveway and slipped the keys into my pocket, humming as I walked to the front door of the house.

The master of the abode answered my ring and handed me the key to the empty residence, just waiting for me to fill some of the space. It was probably 78 degrees there at two o’clock in the afternoon. Quickly, I collected my bag from the back seat of the car and slipped up the steps where I unlocked the door and made myself at home.

I set my bag against the wall beside the door and threw open the drapes that covered the enormous picture window overlooking the blue waters of the lake below. Unlocking the sliding door, I stepped out onto the balcony. In the distance I could hear children’s laughter carrying on the summer air. I could hear dogs barking and waves slashing. There were the sounds of jet skis in the water revving the engine as it jumped haphazardly through the wake of a speed boat pulling a water skier behind. This was summer.

I couldn’t wait any longer. It had become a tradition of sorts to grab an ice cream at Ice Cream Alley when my husband was still alive. We would drop our bags and make our way down there, then sit on the rocks to people watch and bask in the sunshine. So, I shrugged into my backpack that contained my camera and took off down the street. It was only a few blocks away from where I was staying and I got there in no time at all.

Happy they were open, I asked for a cup of Rocky Road, paid the gal, and walked across the street to finish our ritual. I felt naked without him with me. A lump started to form in my throat and sadness tried to claim me. So I ate my ice cream.

“Wish you were here, my love,” I whispered low so no one would hear me. “I hope you are eating an ice cream wherever you are.”

A tear tried to gather in the corner of my eye and I stubbornly wiped it away before it could fall and shoved my sunglasses back on my face to hide the evidence of my weakness.

I watched the kids playing in the sand of the beach. There were babies that started bawling when their parents took them into the cool waters of the winter run off. A chuckle escaped me and I remembered a time when the boys jumped off a dock, made one pass between it and the one beside it and decided it was way too cold to enjoy. I could still see the photos I snapped of each of them when wrapped in their towel, the sun glinting off the drops running down their faces. I smiled a lost and far away smile. That felt so long ago.

To my right, there was a man playing catch with his lab and at my one o’clock there were toddlers playing in the fountain that would shoot out water when they would get close enough. They would shriek and run back, their diapers sagging with the weight of the water. One fell on his rear and I winced, imagining all kinds of issues from tears to explosions, but he just got back up and clapped his chubby little hands ready to go again. I just shook my head and gobbled another bite, random giggles escaping me.

Behind me, school aged kids were jumping from rock to rock and I could hear my husband saying one would slip and break their face open before long. I laughed and nodded my head in agreement. Silly kids…going parkour on the hillside.

Standing, I climbed the slight hill that led to a main sidewalk that stretched around part of the lake. I dumped my cup and spoon in the garbage then took out my beast of a camera. The long lens clicked into place and I aimed toward the sandy shore, depressing the button slightly to bring it all into focus.

A little girl, maybe three or four years old, came walking out of the shallow water, her face beet red as she screamed and screamed. Tears streaked her sun kissed face and her hair stuck to her skin in clumps sending trails of water down her cheeks. I could see her little pearly teeth and then her fingers went into her mouth and I snapped the shutter closed. Such a raw display of honest emotion from her. That little girl summed up how I felt inside and she had no idea. How I wished I could just lose it and cry that way and have it be socially acceptable to do so!

The sun was starting to dip to the horizon a bit and it seemed that more people were flocking to the convenient little strip of sand. A slight breeze was picking up and I could hear flag clips clanging against masts on the boats that still sat in the marina ahead creating a rhythm of song. The beams of light were growing weaker and bounced off the metals of the boats tied up. I pointed my camera and zoomed it in until I could see people walking on the docks. Lucky dogs, I grumbled. It was a man and two teens, a girl and a boy. The man turned his face just so as I was about to pull my lens from them and I gasped in surprise.

“That cannot be…” I said to myself and clicked the shot just to be sure.

I looked again. “Well, I’ll be. That looks just like Jack Harrington. What is he doing out here? This is a long way from Hollywood.”

 

 

 

 

If you deserve it, I’m giving you the bird…

a bird in hand

It probably seems like I’m not here at all anymore. Truthfully, I have been pretty frustrated and left with a really bitter taste in my mouth.

I write because I love it. I don’t write for you to tell me how much I suck at it.

I write to clear my brain of the lives and stories that haunt it. I don’t write so that you can make me hate the human race because you are so stupid.

I write to motivate, to empower, to bring your emotions to the surface. I don’t write so that you can dismiss what I have to say like it didn’t take me an entire year to write that book.

Am I licking my wounds? Probably. Am I sick of fickle damn people who don’t know how to be constructive? Am I tired of other authors yapping about how much they want their own dreams to come true with their writing and won’t do a flipping thing for another author? Yep. I’m pissed.

Do I care if I ever write another book as long as I live? Not today. Even for as much as I love to write, my time is so precious to me. Most of the time, I spend more time with other writers’ work than my own and they have no idea the amount of time I lose on their behalf. I spend the extra hours to prepare my own work for all those people who are “dying” for a copy and then have none of them even read it.

So for any of you waiting for that last book in the Aspen Series…I will get to it when I can. When I feel the love. When I know my time means something to another soul on this planet.

I have given this several weeks to chill out and every time I go to get on here, I just get mad again. You know, I have read some pretty crappy stuff in my time and I’m sorry, but mine isn’t even THAT bad on a rough day. But since I don’t beat the daylights out of my characters for fun or have the brain for fantastical science fiction, my work is boring. My work is terrible. My characters are bi-polar. Well, I don’t think so…unless I’m bi-polar, because some of my characters are modeled after my self or people I know. Doesn’t mean we are twins, but we think the same. I put myself in the situations and react accordingly. So if my characters suck so bad, I suppose I’m a rotten person. I suppose I think irrationally. I suppose my own whirlwind romance with my husband means nothing except that I am desperate.

Well, I bite my thumb at all of you who get your pleasures out of being an absolute idiot! It isn’t my fault that you have absolutely no imagination or attention span to read a novel. Go back to the kiddie section and read those, but quit wasting my time with your BS.

In this world we live in, there is no “you scratch my back, I scratch yours”. It is “let me read your book and make it look so much worse than mine”! There is no “Hey! I went to school with you, I’ll read what you have to say”, it is more like “even though we are family, I think your dreams are dumb”. And there is no “Hey! I loved your characters and your story! Let me tell Amazon all about it!”, it is “Uhhh…people will make fun of me for liking and INDIE author, so yeah…no”.

You could say that I’m overreacting. But I feel that writers are subject to abuse no one could ever understand…except maybe actors/actresses. However, the words come from the writers. Actors just bring those words to life. Publishers are so under-appreciated, it is ridiculous! If you actually read my rant to the end, open a new tab and send your publisher, you know, the one who forfeits long hours day and night to read, format, and publish your work, and tell them how much you love them for it. That as an author, you won’t give up on the faith they had in you when they put out your book FOR YOU! Apologize if you were ever a total jerk to them and refused to do your part.

Nope, it is just better that I take the time to regroup. I have no clue how long that will take me. No one even takes the time, hardly, to even visit…if they seem to like it, they do so from the reader page. Well, that doesn’t count. But I do have to shout out to my buddy Arthur. He is about the only who gives a shit about anyone. Thanks Arthur Browne! Your support means the absolute world to me! 😀

Target Audiences: What is yours?

family1

When I worked for a company that really cared about teaching their management staff how to understand their employees and make the environment better for each person working for them, I attended a set of meetings that helped us learn about the different generations and how to best relate to them. So what are those generations and what do the gaps mean?

We will start with the eldest of our generations, the Silent Generation. These people were children of the Great Depression and frugality is a way of life for them. These people were born between 1925 and 1945. At this time, these people don’t care much for reading…the words on the pages are too small. Therefore, appealing to these people is difficult.
Technology is not their friend so digital copies are not very interesting to them. Paper copies work, but it is hard for them to read. Solution? Audio books do well with this generation. You can tell the story and they can take it all in by listening to you.
How do you reach these people? Mailings are the best way, but word of mouth that reaches a family member can work as well.

Next, we look at the Baby Boomers. These people were born between 1946 and 1964. Many of these children learned to be very thrifty from their parents so cost is always a factor when looking into luxury items such as books. Most of these people do not appreciate electronics the way the later generations do so a paper book is much more appreciated. If your book resonates with this crowd and you don’t have your book in print, you are missing out on sales.
This generation prefers to curl up with a great book, to smell the pages and bend back the cover…even dog ear the pages to mark their place. This generation loves to please people, they are loyal and dependable. Once you convert them to being a fan of yours, they will be faithful to you until you do something to destroy that relationship. Unless a parent or sibling was lost to death, most of these families were in tact, two parent families so moving and emotional stories tug at their heart strings.
How do you reach these people? Well, more and more, this generation is using social media outlets like Facebook to keep in touch with their family. If you can capture their attention online, encourage them to “like” you there. Ask them to share their thoughts about your work on Amazon and refrain from using the word “review”. It is a very intimidating word that makes people feel the need to be technical and not sincere. Getting a snazzy mailing will get their attention, but you need to be thoughtful about your price point. There are mailing list companies that will compile lists based on specific demographics and printers such as Vista Print that allow you to create and print items such as postcards to cater to your audience.

Then, we have the Generation X. These people were born from 1965 to the early 1980’s. I think of this generation as the “in betweeners”. Yes, I am aware that that isn’t really a word, it is just an expression I came up with. These people were born and raised around the evolution of computers and cell phones. I am a Gen X kid. While I had two parents all of my childhood, both of my parents worked outside the home. Many of my friends were from single parent families as divorce rates began to rise. We were a generation that raised themselves, yet most of us still had two parents at home after work.
This generation loves to be praised. It is thought to be due to a lack of it when both parents are absent more than present. They need to feel wanted and needed.
Dramatic movies with effects that were the cornerstone of today’s movies started a virtual evolution and a love for fictional stories. These people have learned to adapt to a new way of life, a digital life.
When I read a book, I still love a paper copy in my hand and the way the ink looks on the page. However, I do like being able to download a book onto my Kindle app and have it right there. I am the type that I only collect the paper copies of books that I am most loyal to and others, I commit to technology. When I become a large enough fan, I buy the paper copy.
So, this generation will prefer either type of book. It is a good idea to market a choice of formats for these people as some are very against digital copies while others prefer them. You can reach the majority of your audience by the web as mailings can be boring and add to the pile in the trash can. Things like Facebook ads direct emails will grasp the attention of these people. Placing bookmarks in local bookstores or grocery stores may help them find you.
This group of people used their imaginations as kids. They love descriptive works that are easy to read and hold their attention. For many, the characters come to life and the setting will take them away as a means of escape. If that works for them, the story doesn’t have to be technically accurate for them to be fans. The vacation is what they want.
One thing I have found is that this generation really displays little loyalty. They can love your work and give you a marginal review. They rarely stand up for you, especially if you are new to the publishing scene and shout to the world that they like you. They are afraid of being condemned by their peers for their opinions. Many of these people are happy to follow but not to be the start of great things. (This is not to offend any Gen X people out there…This is just what I have found. My least loyal crowd are Gen Xers.)
Words of appreciation and praise will help them create a relationship with you. Be warned, however, that even my closest friends and family have turned their backs and never “share” my links even though they rave about my work. If this happens, find a new crowd to help you out. Your target may be these people, but the Gen Y people may be of more help to your reputation.

And then there was Generation Y. These people were born early 1980’s to the early 2000’s. They are lovingly referred to as “Millennials”. This was the birth of the technological generation. Everything is digital, everything is virtual, everything is instantaneous, and everyone is a winner. These people are very particular about movies and books…even food. This generation can feel more logical in their thinking. Imaginations don’t exist much and that is a product of their environment.
With a lack of imagination, movies and writing must be very accurate or you lose the interest of this generation. They require precision. Whatever they do, be it movies, gaming, or reading, it must be very real or it immediately sucks.
Cracking into this audience is quite a feat, but if you do, they have the technological know how to reach out to waves of people that can spur your career forward. Catering to this generation can be your ticket to a bestseller!
Gen Yers know the importance of spreading the word for you…but be prepared that it might not be the words you want spread out there. While other generations don’t complain as much, this generation can be brutally honest in giving feedback. They mince no words about the fact that your story had a few typos or a historical discrepancy. For them, it is black or white…they love it or hate it.
More than any other generation, these people use the social outlets like Twitter and Facebook most so they can be your best friend! This generation is big on blogging and can exhibit a “big mouth”. Meaning, they have groups of people in their corner that they have never met in person so they can speak volumes when they give their thoughts on your work. Even being able to post an article as their guest can gain you new followers.
Digital copies work the best for this generation. They are a “I want it now” kind of people…used to microwave food, 3D movies and up close and personal video games. They don’t think about how their words affect people as much. Most of these people are from broken homes and absent parents. They have completely raised themselves. They cannot fail out of school or lose a soccer game. This is a world where no one loses, so they don’t think about how they come across. Respect is not first and foremost with these people as they feel the world owes them a little something.
Reaching this audience will be very much computer oriented. Hooking them with concise advertisements will prompt them to click and could result in a new fan.

There is a name for the newest generation…Generation Z. These kids were born after the year 2000. If your audience is for the younger kids, remember that they are much the same as Gen Y where technology is concerned. These kids can teach you how to run your cell phone before you even pay for it.
Modern stories with real situations they could encounter will capture their attention while old school scenarios will turn them away.
However, with this generation, you must appeal to their parents as well. You don’t want to offend the parents or you get no sales. These parental generations will be Gen X or Gen Y so use of the computer will reach either audience. You can bet that a Gen Z child will read their books from a tablet or another device. If you don’t have a digital version of your book that pertains to this audience, you are losing sales.

This is a lot of information, I know. Are you marketing the right way to fit your audience?

Every author wants to believe that their books do fine with all generations. Don’t cheat yourself! Really work at determining who wants to buy your work. If you write for a Baby Boomer crowd and you market to a Gen Y, you will not be successful. You need to focus on your specific group of people and from there, it could explode on you.

Some authors will even recognize the opportunity to write for the Gen X and Y people as they are the easiest to reach and hook. There is something to this strategy. But I feel that you should write a story that speaks to you, not cater the story to your audience.

This post skims the surface of determining your audience. It is just another way to follow the avenues that will lead you to a marvelous reader base. I could go on for pages and pages…

So, here is the loaded question: What generation is your target audience?
Psst…Mine is Gen X and Y. However, there are many Baby Boomers that enjoy my work as well. But X and Y are my targets. Digital copies and paper copies are a must. Mailings and online activity are my ways of communication. I also write for two of the most difficult audiences that there are.

What about you?

Production Diary: Kickstarter!

Cast Dungeon

I had submitted my project to Kickstarter officially yesterday. I made a video to show my ideas and what the project will be. You can view it on my page on Kickstarter.

They sent me an email with a few ideas to improve my project. I made the corrections they asked for, which were not many, and they emailed me about an hour or two later to tell me that they approved my project.

What does this mean, exactly?

Well, it means I have 30 days to raise a hefty sum to film my project. Supporters are able to donate to my cause through the Kickstarter site and will not be charged a thing if I can’t make my goal. You can donate as little or as much as you would like, or can. Every dollar counts. When you support my project, there are incentives for some different denominations. I think they are quite fun, if you ask me. This is a site where I plan on helping others every chance I get.

So now, I must rely on others to make my dreams come true. My hands are tied until then. If you can’t help at all monetarily, helping with the set, the production, the cast…anything at all will be most welcome!

For all of you who review my project, who become a part of it in any way, and support me as I get this underway, I love you, I appreciate you, and I pray that one day I can return the favor to you.  🙂 So far, I have one backer. One  drop in my bucket of success!  I’m on my way!

Reliving History through a Medieval Christmas

bough and pinecone

As we have settled into our modern day holiday traditions, the history of such traditions becomes lost. If you find that you would like to switch up the holiday experience, bring the family home for a bit of a lesson in how our culture adopted the ways of olde and still celebrate it in the style of yesterday.

Be creative when sending out your invitations (or delivering them) to those you would like to have present. Printed parchment rolled into scrolls and sealed with wax really set the stage. They are expensive to mail, so you may want to hand deliver all of them that you can. Another fun idea is to use the parchment paper like a summons to the lord’s court but instead of spearing it with an arrow in your guest’s door, you can use stickers that look like a wax seal to post it. Don’t knock on the door for delivery, just post it and leave it as a surprise. In the information printed, you should request that everyone come dressed in costume to further the experience.

In the early days, gifts were not exchanged as they are now. It was not until later that the tradition in lieu of the Three Wisemen began. If any gifts were given, it was usually the landlord of the town bestowing gifts on his staff or specific tenants depending on their station. It might have been a meal or a new tunic (shirt), never anything of great monetary value. There were many varying degrees of status in those days. The wealthier you were, the better your gift. That might mean that Jack down the street was privileged to a meal that included a boar’s head! Yet Mike was of a lesser station so he had to bring his napkin and plate with him and eat goose. However, Mike was allowed to take the leftovers with him in his napkin to share with others. Boy, how we have changed through time! How you handle the giving of gifts is up to you. Taking away the burden of finding that perfect gift from the family might make for an even more lighthearted evening!

At one time, it was not allowed to decorate within the home. Many pious people would decorate outdoor trees with hanging apples. Holly and Ivy would deck the entry doors of the home. Both plants are evergreen and symbolize new life that is promised to return in the spring, but Holly is said to begin with white berries that turn red, which refreshes within our minds the moment when the crown of thorns was placed on Jesus’ head. It is considered a very holy plant. The Christmas tree was a German tradition that was practiced in England many, many years later. Yet, medieval England did use the boughs for decoration.

The typical spread for either the Christmas feast or Epiphany (Jan. 6th) was a boar on the table, an apple in its mouth, mincemeat pies, and puddings like Frumenty. Less fortunate families would sport a goose or other waterfowl unless they were not lucky enough to have gotten a boar on a hunt. Turkey is an American bird and was not present on any table until settling the colonies.

Carols went through a time, when religion was cast in dark shadow, that it was outlawed. The carols we sing today took root in those days. However, it was viewed as being vulgar by the church. The carol of “The 12 Days of Christmas” was a learning song of memorization. Each of the gifts that were given by the true love (God) represented values of their church that they committed to song in order to worship and pass the ideals to their children. If you have time, decode some of the carols and trace their origins back in history. Share that with your guests as you sing songs through the night and think of those who were not free to worship God how they felt was appropriate.

 

In all, Christmas was a time of reverence and love. Often times in our day, much of the emotion is lost in the expectation of gifts. Taking a step back in time may take some of the commercialism out of your holiday celebrations. It could very well bring a sense of belonging and unity to your family this year.

Lessons from Death

My heart goes out to all those families in Connecticut. I know how it is to lose something very precious in your life, to mourn and grieve, to be angry. I have learned some very special lessons this week through my own personal tragedy that also happened on 12.12.12.

My daughter-in-law was 21 weeks pregnant when her water suddenly broke out of the blue. We were terrified for her and our son. They were able to stop her labor with medications and place her on bed rest in hopes she could carry this strong little boy for three more weeks.

She was 22 weeks and three days when her labor started again, unable to be stopped. This was on 12.12.12. Our little grandson was born at 5:17pm and tried desperately to take his first breaths, but to no avail. There was no way to save him.

Yesterday, we attended a service to lay his little body to rest, to give us closure and to tell him good-bye ourselves. Our son and daughter-in-law were so strong where I was so weak. I watched them from time to time, their expressions and their silent tears. They held hands, clinging to each other in this time of crisis. I tried my best to draw strength from them but I dried my own tears many times throughout the day. While I was in front of them, I swallowed my grief as I longed to hold that little boy in my arms, and lent them what support I possibly could.

My father-in-law said a very touching prayer, barely able to contain the tears that begged to spill forth. He choked his way through and I could feel such love from this man. He is a great example and father, not to mention an amazing grandfather. He taught me that it is okay to grieve, that everyone in that room felt the same as I did. It was okay.

A man spoke to us and told us what a strong spirit this little one had. He taught me to extend my faith and feel this young baby’s presence around me. Although I never “knew” him, I still feel a bond with him. 

Taking this baby to the cemetery made me think heavily upon my own family. Having a large one between my husband and I, reflected on what I would change if I had that opportunity. My family is the most important thing to me and yet, I found I have regrets. Many of them. Knowing I will never see this child in this lifetime, I thought of how incredibly lucky I am to have such a clan of healthy and happy people. To place any of them into the ground would devastate me, probably even more so than our grand baby did for I have a relationship with them all in some capacity.

I have taken so much for granted all of my life. Yesterday’s events made me all the more pressed to improve relations with those that have become strained, to spend more quality time with my children at home, and to appreciate them for every gift they present to me through life.

I can never let those feelings fade. This circumstance has left me feeling raw and vulnerable. I pray I never heal and forget, but that I take my wounds and cover them with the love and support of my family that is here with me. To use it as an amplifier, not a reason to cry. I know that little boy would not want me to be sad for him, although that doesn’t always help. But to take that severe sorrow and turn it to love and tolerance within our family would make him proud.

Chapter 3 of my NaNoWriMo…

 

Chapter 3

The teller at the window that Natalie stood at looked back at her like she was crazy. Natalie simply walked up and said she wanted to withdraw all of her funds. She shouldn’t have to explain herself, she shouldn’t have to justify it. They should just hand over her hard earned dollars because she asked!

“Look, I’ve been saving for a long time to take a trip. I leave in just minutes and I need my money. I do not want to use my card. It is my right to hold my money in my hands, is it not?” Natalie asked firmly.

“Uh, yes…yes, it definitely is, ma’am. It will just take a few moments to get this amount together, though,” the woman replied not taking her eyes off of the triple digit number on her screen.

“I just have a few minutes so let’s get this going,” Natalie said hoping the girl did not feel the panic in her voice as it bubbled out of her.

The woman disappeared and Natalie looked out the wall of glass windows at the clouds growing even darker, swirling in the sky. Rain was starting to fall again, she could see the drops rolling off the side of her car and onto the ground.

The woman returned with a paper in hand and asked Natalie to sign it. She handed over her identification and pressed her thumb to a plate of glass that scanned it. Then, she was handed her money in a bag of large bills. She had a feeling it had been difficult for the bank to pay her out without notice.

“I really appreciate this,” Natalie offered a small smile.

“We appreciate your business, Ms. Hunter,” the woman replied and beamed at her.

That, made Natalie feel better.

Walking outside, she looked around for anyone who looked like they would mug her. It was very odd to walk out with a bag of money. She felt like every eye was watching her, rubbing their hands together in anticipation the way a dog salivates over a steak.

She made it safely home, parked in the garage, and hurried about the business of packing her clothes for the trip home. She could hear the wind picking up in speed, the raindrops delicately pelting the window turned to sharp rapping noises. She looked through the blinds to find the hail coming down the size of her fist. She couldn’t see Stowe’s town in the valley anymore, it had become completely fogged in. Or perhaps it was just the clouds descending upon it. Quickly, she flung her bag over her shoulder and raced downstairs where she turned on the television. More news was blaring, catastrophes all over the world were happening along all of the coast lines from the huge earthquake in California. Tsunami waters were invading cities everywhere and more earthquakes were happening around the world. Japan, South America, parts of Africa and extending north and south. Tears welled in Natalie’s eyes as she saw the amount of destruction. And then, footage from Yellowstone showed more volcanic eruptions that had sent magma flowing through the cracks in the earth from further quakes in the Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming areas. Natalie’s hand flew to her mouth to stifle a cry. The ticker along the bottom was warning everyone to prepare for safety. Many tornados and hurricane weather had been reported along the east coast heading north at a fast pace and was growing in intensity.

A loud howl from somewhere outside made Natalie jerk away from the screen. She knew that sound. Her windows began rattling, her doors were being sucked in and then out but stayed secure in the jambs. The lights flickered and then went out and her entire house groaned under the pressure. Natalie ran to her front window but she could see nothing more than hail and mist. She ran to the back door that led onto a deck that faced the city below. That was where she saw it, the giant funnel cloud that was trying to decide whether or not to descend upon the inhabitants of Stowe.

“Oh, no!” she cried aloud and ran to grab her bag hastily making it down into the basement in the dark.

She unlocked her phone’s screen, the images of twisters and volcanic matter filling her mind. There was no signal. “Call Mom,” she spoke to it.

“I cannot complete your call, Natalie,” it replied to her and then a screen blinked at her. “No Signal Available”.

She let her head fall back against the cold wall and exhaled am abnormally huge sigh. “Please God, keep them safe. I may not be the most deserving of your grace, but I beg of you to protect the ones I love,” she whispered.

The ground began to shake and the rumbling above the ground became louder…and louder. It was deafening. She could hear windows breaking, thunder clapping, and the structure of her home was trying to fight back, not wanting to give in to the torment of Mother Nature. Yet, with a spectacular groan in protest and a scuffle within the walls, Natalie then heard the familiar smashing, crashing and wood splintering cries from the house and she could only imagine the extent of the damage. In the distance, she could hear her beautiful car crying for help as the panic alarm went off involuntarily. The door closing her into the room in the basement quivered like in the leaves of an autumn tree.

Natalie clapped her hands over her ears and screamed. It was almost too much to bear, the sounds, the images that had conjured in her head, the rumbling of the ground all around her.

It felt an eternity before the shaking stopped and the deep pounding ceased. Natalie was sweaty and shaking. That was worse than any tornado she had experienced before. She just sat there for some time before managing to climb to her feet and reach for the door knob.

The wind was still whipping outside when Natalie opened that door. She could feel it whistling down the stairwell. Dread filled her and a heaviness weighed in her heart. It was like time has slowed. It was difficult to walk forward, hard to see the pool table in the great room of the basement pushed against the far wall from her, one leg rocking back and forth, the table slumping lazily away from her. The light fixture lay in pieces on the carpeted, concrete floor. There was rain on the stairs and when she looked up the flight and where a door used to hang, there was only the elements exposed to her.

She just couldn’t walk up the steps to see her house gone. She wanted to throw up. Feeling weak and lightheaded, she just sat on the stairs, the water in the carpet soaking her behind. She just sat and cried until she felt sated, wishing she had someone to lean on at that point, a man to kiss and know that they could make it through this together. Instead, she was utterly alone, her parents were likely dead, and no one knew if she had lived or died. She had cut herself off from so many people, focused on making her way, defending people who lied, and obtaining material things that had just vanished beneath the scourge of Mother Nature. Now, she had been left to fend for herself, alone in this destroyed world.

Larger raindrops began to fall on Natalie’s head some time later, her brunette hair hung in wet clumps of disarray. Drops feel from her eyelashes like tears, like the ones she had cried out until she ran dry. Finally, as the light was fading and a chill was rising in the air, she wandered up the stairs and into the full force of the storm. She choked back a sob to see that there was little left behind.

What used to be her lovely, blue collar home was now strewn about as rubble. Bits of wood that used to be her walls lay in pieces as far as she could see through the rain. Shattered glass crunched beneath her feet. Her breathing became heavy as she struggled to keep calm after losing everything. Well, everything but her life. Broken dishes, pillows ripped apart, litter that was not even hers had been dropped there, and her car was upside down on the neighbor’s barely affected home two doors down. There was no going home to Wisconsin now. No way to find her parents. Barely any way for her to survive.

Natalie’s brain finally fired up the synapses in there and she began to think logically about her survival. She gathered up pieces of wood and found a random pan lying in the weather. She set it right side up to catch the moisture that she could use later for drinking. She threw as much of the wood down the stairs as she could before the light had all but vanished. Larger pieces, she drug over to the opening and stacked them over the hole in the ground to protect her from the elements. If the hurricane was still coming, she needed all the protection she could find. A large piece of black plastic sheeting flew by and slapped against a stud that was only halfway whole, ruffling wildly and noisily in the wind. She took it and spread it over the wood, keeping it down with some heavy rocks. The pan of water would be full by morning, she assessed and retreated back into the basement, securing the flap of plastic inside with rocks.

The light was gone, it was black as she felt her way down the stairs and into her room. She closed the door, regretting it not being a locked door. Never, had she thought it would become her front door. Opening the closet, she felt around for her flashlight and found it. Turning it on, it lit the room in a weak yellow light. Quickly, she stripped out of her wet clothes and pulled out her thermals from the pack and clean, dry clothes from the bag she had packed that contained her money. Using a towel, she wrapped her head to dry her hair and keep warm. Tempted by the hand warmer packets in the pack, she closed the door, telling herself it could get a lot worse before it gets any better. She may need them more on future days. Taking two blankets from the ottoman, she turned off the flashlight and flopped down on one of the couches. It had been almost 6:30 in the evening when she started fiddling with the tarp so she knew an hour had probably passed. There was little else to do but sleep and prepare for the next morning, so she snuggled down under the blankets and closed her eyes to the world that had forsaken her.