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The Day That Changed Us

11 Sep

It’s been ten years and I still don’t have the right words.  I think we seldom do have the words for the things that change us.I see people online talking today about where they were then, and I find it both touching and somehow almost inappropriate at the same time.  As if it’s too sacred, too personal a memory to just throw out for the world to see.  Yet, they’ve all seen it already haven’t they? Haven’t they lived through the same thing as me?  Maybe it just feels like someone else’s pain that day might cheapen mine.  Make it less meaningful. And mine might feel like a slap in the face to someone who lived through it close up.  Someone who lost people they knew and adored.It’s odd, because it sort of profoundly broke us all.  All of us that were there to remember it…. it broke our hearts, it united us in this shared moment in time.  We all experienced essentially the same thing. It’s our generation’s JFK.  I wonder what other shared tragedies lie in our collective future?So, even though I’m posting this here because in the end I felt I had something to say, however in-eloquently… I wrote this just for me, so I would always remember where I was and what it felt like on that day.

September 11, 2001

I am getting ready for work in the morning when the power goes out.  Not an uncommon occurrence for me.  Most days my hairdryer is more than the breaker can handle and I have to go flip the switch.  I  am living in The Polo Club apartments off of University then, with Jeni I think.  This time however, the switch doesn’t work, the power is off everywhere and I walk out on the patio and start talking to some of the neighbors, trying to figure out what is happening, if anyone has called it in. No one outside says anything about New York or DC.  I don’t think any of them know yet.  It is still quite early in the morning in Arizona.It is my mother who calls just then. From work.  (She must have called, because I’m certain she didn’t know how to send a text message 10 years ago.  That much has changed.)She says something about a plane hitting the pentagon. And the towers. And more attacks, DC and New York, but all she has is her radio at work.  To turn on the news. That is the news at this point.  I immediately feel the numbness of panic. This is bad.  I know nothing except the power is out and the pentagon had just been attacked and my mind makes crazy leaps.  Is the government still there?  Has the white house been hit? What about Phoenix?  I think certainly the whole country must be under attack.  You forget how big the whole country is at moments like that.  I can’t turn on the TV because the power is out, so I get in the car to listen to the news and without really planning to, start driving to my parents house.  I assume the power is out there too, it just feels like the safer place to be I suppose.The radio on the way there is the news of course.  By this time a plane has hit the 2nd tower and the first one has just gone down.  So I try to picture that in my mind.  But I can’t.  I just can’t.

It’s less than a three-minute drive to my mother’s house.

The power is on.

But the house is eerily empty.

Everyone is at work or school.

At some point I must call and say I’m not coming to work or they call and say not to come.  I honestly don’t remember doing any of that.  But I know I never make it to work that day.

Instead, I sit there alone at my mother’s house glued to that television all day long.  I think the majority of the country does the same.

The first tower has gone down by the time I get to a television and the little footage they have to replay at this point is far off and scratchy. There is so much dust on the ground it is already hard for camera’s to get close, and so you just have the faraway shots.  You have the shots from across the river of the skyline with one tower smoking and the other one gone, and you have reporters reporting what people are saying on their blogs, because that is the most reliable news source at the moment.  You have people emerging from blackness covered in blood or thick gray soot, screaming or simply too stunned to speak.

And then in front of my eyes, almost in slow motion….the second tower goes down.  I know there are still people inside that tower and I am bawling and even screaming at this point, clasping my hand around my mouth to keep the noises inside, but no-one is there to hear me.  I realize I’ve probably been crying for a while now but I was too distraught to notice. The reporters, for once are at a loss for words. It goes like this throughout the day, but that moment, watching that second tower fall is etched so deeply into my consciousness that even now, ten years later – writing this, that image cuts at me. My fingers shake and I can hardly breathe.

I try to imagine some of the things they are describing.  People jumping or falling from open windows before that 2nd tower goes down, but I can’t.  I’ve never seen the towers in person, so the scale of it doesn’t quite make sense.There are updates from the pentagon.  I finally hear from someone that my uncle wasn’t there when it happened. He is safe. And I let out that breath I didn’t know I was holding.No-one knows if this is over yet.  There are threats of an attack on The White House.  Another plane down in Pennsylvania.  The world is falling apart and I don’t know if it will ever stop.  If things will ever go back to “normal” again.

People speculate about tall buildings being forever abandoned.  They put alerts out for other targets. Nuclear power plants….. there’s one an hour or so away.  Water treatment facilities…. there’s one literally yards from where I’m sitting.

The nation is successfully terrified that day.  We go to sleep uneasy, uncertain, scarred.

But we wake up and most of us live.

A few years later I move to New York City.  Ground zero remains a huge hole ripped out of the heart of downtown.  I still can’t imagine the towers there.  I still can’t get that scale right in my mind.  I walk by it a hundred times. Each time it is impossible to do without thinking about that day.  And I wonder now how many millions of people have walked that same walk.

On the 3rd anniversary of the attacks, I am there.  It is beautiful.  Not just the names and the stories of the individuals and their families, but the spirit of those of us watching, just a fraction of those who will never forget.  There is a palpable solemness all over the city that day.  People smile more, but there is a sadness behind their eyes.  I wonder how many of them saw this first hand.  Trying to get home that day, I am stopped for nearly an hour as a procession of motorcycles ride down the street.  Thousands and thousands of them.  They are fireman and policeman from all over the country who have come to honor their fallen brethren.  Big tough men, in black leather who remind me of my Dad.  They wear flags around their biceps or foreheads and solemn looks across their faces.  They ride together, but they don’t speak.  Each of them caught up in their own profound experience.  Just like we all felt on that day.

Yesterday, a man on the radio said that 9/11 hadn’t actually changed anything in the US.  It hadn’t really changed the way we live our lives.  Yes, it takes a little longer at the airport, he relented and to get into some buildings, but it hadn’t really changed anything about the experience of being American.

If that’s true, its only because we didn’t let it.  And if we didn’t let it, it’s only because the experience taught us all, individually that we were not willing to live in fear.  We would not relive that day, every day for the rest of our lives.  It made us each stronger, more vigilant, more connected, more determined, more brave.  In short, it changed everything.

At least, I know it did for me.  9/11 forced me to grow up in many ways.  It marked the beginning of me standing up for my own opinions.  It changed the way I felt about my fears.  It made me determined to obliterate them…  a life-long process.  It ultimately made me more aware of the world in general, and feel a need to understand differing points of view. It taught me that people still believed in sacrifice and compassion and doing the right thing.  It helped me to move to New York, despite my fears… and to trust in the spark of goodness in the people around me.

There are still no words for the lives that were lost that day.  Tragically.  Heroically.  Pointlessly.  And I know nothing I say can ever come close to honoring that fact.  But I can remember that their loss changed me.  That I am a better person than I was before that day.  And take comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one.

Because Sometimes Living in a Tree Just Sounds Right

16 Feb

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Seriously, if it weren’t for the high cost of admission I would have figured out a way to live in the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse at Disneyland long ago.  But I’m willing to socialize too.  Set me up in an Ewok village or Lórien from LOTR (yes my geek is showing) and I’d be perfectly happy.

Really the thought of moving anywhere with the least bit of imagination would thrill me right now.  I’m supposed to be packing for my move to Mesa next week and ugh.  Ugh.  I don’t want to deal with it.  Moving to another depressing box.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I’ll be closer to my family.  I think.  I just hate dealing with moving in general.  I’m still not completely unpacked in my current  apartment after two years and the plan was to get something bigger so I had room for everything, but of course I’m ending up somewhere smaller instead. Finances and time and disappointment won out.  I think at some point during the process of searching I just gave up and said, fine…it’s a roof over my head, I’ll take it.  But no matter what I do, I can’t seem to make myself excited about it.  Any suggestions people?!  How do we make moving fun?

This applies to you.

27 Jan

Attack of the iPod Pixies

21 Jan

The iPod family with, from the left to the rig...

Image via Wikipedia

So, before I jumped in the shower today, I turned on my iPod that’s docked in the bathroom like I do every day.  I usually keep it on random and since there’s about 3500 songs on it, I never know exactly what I’m going to get.  But I was in a mood this afternoon, and I decided I needed a bit more of a kick, so I dialed over to my playlists and selected highest rated.  I’m pretty vigilant about rating my songs but admittedly I haven’t used this feature in a while.  I turned it up to full volume and was kind of stoked about hearing some old favs.

But instead…you heard me cursing.  “Who the hell hijacked my iPod!”

What a surreal shower that was.  My only explanation is that someone snuck in during the middle of the night and changed all my ratings.  Not only that, I don’t even remember most of these songs being placed there in the first place.  We’re talking a lot of cheesy disco, some classical (and not the composers I like), a few that were a screechy combination of country and folk, and some really foul-mouthed rap.  I was tempted to step out of the shower and drown the thing.  Sadly, I didn’t.  When I did get out I had to go through 54 songs to get to one I would have rated a 3.  Annoyance.

Obviously it’s time to go through it and clean a few things off, but these had to be songs I rated the lowest NOT the highest, right?  It’s not like anyone borrows the thing.  It’s not like there are kids or pets around to mess with it.  I seriously think it developed a mind of its own and decided to punish me for leaving it there in the bathroom and ignoring it most of the time.  (Well I can’t blame it for that, I’d be pretty annoyed too, were I in its shoes, or err dock.)

The Suspect. This suspicious little pixie was finger painted using an iPod touch. Cool, no? But, I'm pretty sure she used her evil magic to crawl through the interweb and attack my poor defenseless iPod when I wasn't looking. Beware of this face! Credit m1ll3r.

Either that, or the iPod pixies have finally found me, in which case if you don’t hear from me over the next few days, please do call for help!

Where Are the Stars?

19 Jan

night sky

Image by Dave Young via Flickr

When you’re lying in bed at night looking up at the stars, don’t panic when you suddenly wonder “Where the Hell is the ceiling?!”

This quote reminded me of a couple of really beautiful scenes in the book I finished today. The one I can’t even write about yet because I’m rendered stilled, speechless by it. Hopefully tomorrow the words will come. For tonight, I can talk about the stars.

Granted.  For me, usually it’s the other way around.  I’m boxed in my room like a caged bird, staring up at the ceiling and wondering what happened to the stars.  I have to confess to missing the late night stargazing my friends and I used to do when we were younger and had the freedom to stay out all night, and drive out to the river or the lake and just watch the endless sky – a billion stars dancing about, daring me to catch them, name them, beg them for favors.

I still find myself utterly awestruck on clear nights up at the cabin in Vernon or the odd crystalline night in the valley.  They have  the power to stop me in my tracks, hold me prisoner for a time. There’s something calming, soothing about staring at the immensity of the night sky.  And something almost magical too.  A whole universe pregnant with possibilities that I can’t even begin to comprehend.

And oddly, that doesn’t scare me even a little bit.  It just puts me back in sync with that singular question that makes me feel like I’m safe and in my place in this world: It begs me to ask “What If?”

My Night Off

18 Jan

The Head Ache

"Headache" via Wikipedia

“Every time someone breaks a resolution, an angel does a faceplant.” – Unknown

Did you even notice?  The day I was stressing about missing in there? Yep.  Up until two days ago I had a perfect streak going on with my Post  A Day 2011 challenge.  I usually don’t get to posting until late at night so there are a few days where I posted a few minutes after midnight and they show up on the next day, but as far as I’m concerned they still count as successes for me.

But man…Sunday I had a migraine to beat all migraines (headaches seem to be making themselves comfy as a theme in my life right now), and even though I already knew what I was going to write about for the day, I just couldn’t get myself to stare at the computer screen for long enough to do it.

So, you know what I did? I got up the next day and wrote the post.  Kept going.  I didn’t call the thing a disaster and give up in frustration. It’s sometimes hard with goals to find that balance between perfect responsibility, nazi like structure and accountability and forgiving ourselves… and then maybe forgiving ourselves once too often, and then deciding to tell ourselves that we really don’t care at all.

So I just wanted to acknowledge the point, that yes…I’m human (and I plan on staying that way).  I expect that I will miss another day or two during the year.  But having experienced it, and knowing  that I will keep going makes the whole thing a little less scary.  Because life is often one big balancing act and what works for me won’t work for you, and sometimes what works for me today, isn’t what worked for me yesterday.  The point is progress.  The point is, I’m doing this for a reason well a few, actually – and none of them include the word perfection.

Pick your battles. Don’t make your goals more important than enjoying life.  Ok, yes it was pain that drove me away this time. But I’d like to think I’d let myself off for an occasional night if the choice was between blogging and ice-cream with my niece or a date with prince charming.  Otherwise, just who the hell am I working so hard at perfection for?

2011 Writing Goals & (sigh) Schedule (Part 2)

15 Jan

Yesterday I shared my writing goals for 2011.  Today, as promised I’m going to get into the details of my plan for this year.

Six Days a Week

Instead of saying I will sit down and write from x to y o’clock every day without fail, I’m going to try something a little different.  First of all.  I get one day off a week.  If I take it early in the week, it’s gone, used up.  If I don’t use it….it does not carry over to the next week.  Days when I am out-of-town on vacation, etc are not required, (after all, it is a vacation) but writing is certainly encouraged on those days.  Usually I find that when I’m in a different environment writing flows out of me like crazy, so I’m not too worried about this little loophole. The other six days of the week will be word count days.

Words not Time Served

It doesn’t work for me to say I have to write for an hour.  I ramble around aimlessly and write about my mother’s dog or my neighbor’s car but never quite get around to the task at hand. The thing is another 50,000 words over the next 3 months (adjusting for days off) only works out to just under 700 words a day.  Piece of cake for a babbler like me.  But 700 words a day of work on my first draft.  Not side-stories, not back-stories, not essays about my life or my love of Jane Eyre,  or Jake Gyllenhaal, not blogging, not journaling, just plugging along and getting it done.

The Starting Gate & Restrictions

It’s the starting every day that is really the hard part.  Once I start, I get into a rhythm and it’s kinda bliss.  So to instigate the starting I’ve installed an internet filter.  Yup.  Myself is getting tough here.  No internet, no checking emails or blogging until the work is done for the day.  No twitter, no Facebook, no funny pictures of cats in hats (okay really folks, the cat pictures I can do without).  But also no procrastination via the umbrella of “research” ( i.e. downloading pictures of how each of my characters has styled his hair and chosen to wear for the day or casting and re-casting with hollywood celebrities, or even looking up maps of Paris or articles on scientific theories on climate manipulation or brain development.)  Nope.  Verboten.  All of that stuff has to wait until the writing is done.  And for a gal without TV, that leaves – well –  cleaning the house or doing laundry or re-organizing my bookshelves again.  I’m not gonna say that reading is off the list, because quite frankly at this point I could stand to spend some more time doing that as well, but as far as the interworld.  I’m dead until the work is done.

Rewards
Yes. Please. I mean, what’s a challenge without fabulous prizes?
Ok. Obviously getting my interworld and blogosphere back on is a reward in and of itself.  The writing is a reward in and of itself once I get going, but I’m talking about something a little more tangible here.  Something a bit more fun and focused.  I’ll be finalizing these rewards with my “sponsors” *cough*  Mom, Dad, *cough* but for now they stand as such:

Every 1 week of meeting goals = a book from BookSwap & Saturday coffee @ bookstore.
Every consecutive 3 weeks of meeting goals = A massage certificate.

Consecutive 6 weeks of meeting goals = Sexy Writer’s Salon Day (hair cut & color, mani, pedi)

The whole enchilada (a full 3 months of  meeting my writing goals) A new Car! (uh, no?) I’m going to Disneyland! (er..apparently not.)  Ok the grand prize isn’t quite ready to be revealed at this point but I can say this.  It has something to do with BEA 2011 in New York. *squee*

But that’s not all…

Word Count Rewards:
8000 words in a week = $15 Starbucks or AMC gift card
The 75,000 word  mark = $50 Amazon gift card
The 100,000 word mark = $100 gift card of choice
The END = $200 gift card of choice

Punishments:

You didn’t think it was going to be THAT easy, did you?

3 days in a row of no writing =  3 hours of housecleaning for my sponsors.

6 days in a row of no writing =  6 hours of babysitting for sponsors.  (Not really much of a punishment for me, since I love it, but I know it helps them out and that’s the point)

10 days of no writing = completion of embarrassing feat chosen at random from entries submitted by sponsors, friends and followers.

15 days in a row of no writing = sign up and complete a 5k

(note: these are cumulative, so failing to write at all during the 3 month period dooms me to 6 5k’s in 2011) wow.  But the fifteen day period also would include having failed at the 3 and 6 day marks as well, so those punishments would be in effect also.

Competitions, Dares & Challenges

Here’s where it gets fun for you.  Want to play along?  You can.  I have prizes set aside for those that play the game with me.  Or propose a challenge or dare and we’ll settle on terms.  I’ll also be setting up a few mini challenges along the way and inviting people to play along.  If you want to hear about the challenges first and the prizes available, simply subscribe to my blog or follow me on twitter and you will be the first to know.  Hint: my challenger prizes include everything from free books, signed ARC’s , gift cards, movie passes, spa days, and even a BEA registration!  Warning: challengers also face consequences for failure…so if you are looking for motivation, stay tuned to find out more.  Want to suggest a dare or challenge?  Want to sponsor me or my challengers?  Leave a comment or head over to the Aurel & Bex page and send me a message.

That gets us through the rough draft stage of this thing.  Tune in tomorrow for the editing game, accountability and some fun tips and tricks I’ll be using for keeping and  staying on track  in 2011.

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