On my birthday last Tuesday, my birthplace of Denham Springs, Louisiana, was 90 percent underwater. My grandparents’ house in Baton Rouge—to which my parents took me when I was only a few hours old—was empty and destroyed, filled with feet of mudflow and floodwater.
My grandparents were safe. In the boat of a neighbor escaping his own home along the flooded street, they evacuated the house they’d lived in for almost 50 years, leaving just as water began to flow across its floors. When the floodwaters receded several days later, they entered their house only to learn that they had lost almost everything they owned.
This past Sunday, my grandmother called me at my home in the Midwest and together we worked through her online FEMA disaster assistance application. One of the first questions to answer was something along the lines of, “where are you staying?” I knew the answer: she and my grandfather are staying with one of their daughters, an aunt of mine whose home didn’t flood. But my grandmother had a slightly different answer. “With family,” she said. “And we couldn’t be better taken care of.”
I was floored that she could think of her situation so positively. But that sort of resilience, gratitude, and generosity has marked the response to the recent natural disaster in Louisiana. As tens of thousands of homes were destroyed by rising floodwater, civilians with boats—the so-called “Cajun Navy”—have rescued thousands of neighbors and friends and strangers. They’ve brought supplies where cars couldn’t go, traveling in the flat-bottomed boats that seemingly every sporting household owns. (My dad hasn’t lived in Louisiana since 1990, but he still has his pirogue.) And then there’s the response from the people of New Orleans, who know better than anyone about the heartbreak of a flooded city. The headline of this article—“Dear Baton Rouge: New Orleans has your back”—says it all.
Louisiana will recover. It always does. But the process will be long and difficult, and people will be leaning on one another, because there’s no other way to survive when you don’t have power for weeks and there aren’t any groceries in the stores. Or when power returns and store shelves are stocked, but you have four feet of black mold in your house. And so on.
The day after my grandmother and I went through the disaster assistance application, my brother’s wife (who does not live in Louisiana) delivered a healthy baby girl. My aunt in Baton Rouge, exhausted from helping my similarly-exhausted grandparents figure out the process of recovery, said upon hearing of the birth: “Wonderful news to welcome new life in this old tired world.”
It does seem tired. Tired and numb. I’m so sad for my relatives, and all the thousands who lost everything, and for the people who even lost their lives. But when I saw pictures of my baby niece, sleeping in the arms of her loving mother and father, it didn’t seem so tired anymore.
The state song of Louisiana is “You Are My Sunshine.” It’s melancholy and hopeful at once—and so it seems as good a way as any to end this post. I haven’t been thinking of much lately except for my first home state, so there was nothing else I could write about today. Thanks for reading. And thanks, always, for being here.
August is almost over and I for one am not ready for it. I think I may have said that about a few other months this year. 2016 is kicking my butt. I seem to running behind every month. But since it’s the end of the month its time for my Five Things.
- Sunshine.I used to take a nice sunny day for granted and if I still lived in Florida or Texas I’d be complaining about the heat and the sun, but in the UK we don’t get as many super sunny days and while August has had it’s share of overcast and rainy days we’ve had some really great sunny ones. In fact I even was able to sneak in a trip to the pub on a sunny day with my kiddos.
My daughter has been visiting us this summer before she goes back to Florida and starts a new job and my son has been home from university and I’ve been very aware that this might
be my last summer with both of them in the house with me where we can just enjoy being us. I’ve had books to finish and deadlines to meet but I have enjoyed the long summer days where I can take walks with the kids after I’m done with my pages—we’re all playing Pokemon Go.
- Peaches.It’s ridiculous how much I just love peaches. I’m not sure if we have these in the US (I’m sure we do!) but I am a huge fan of “donut” peaches. They are smaller, easier to eat and I don’t end up with a chin covered in juice when I bite into the peach.
- Friends.This is a big one. Because everyone is on a slower schedule it’s much easier to talk with my friends. I use FaceTime pretty much to keep in touch with everyone back in the States and I have been video chatting with two of my very best friends almost every week in August. I think of these things as Artist Dates. It makes me happy to laugh, talk about writing, talking our kids and just be myself. These calls are a gift to myself and I cherish every one of them.
- Olympics.I enjoyed watching the competition every day while it was one. My kiddos and I watched the Olympic recap on BBC during our lunch every day, which was great. I was a competitive swimmer from 7th grade through high school and really swimming is my favorite sport. I love watching all of the heats and then the finals. I also love that it gives me and my old swim team friends, especially my childhood bestie—Tina!—a chance to relive our ‘glory days’ when we were swimming.
That’s it! My Five Things For August. Tell me your top five and I’ll enter you to win one of five copies of NO LIMITS. The first book in my Space Cowboys series, which will be available on September 1st.
Lately I’ve been thinking about household chores more than usual. Little Miss R turned 8 recently, and my husband and I want her to take on more responsibility around the house.
“But I don’t like doing chores,” she whines.
That’s fine, we say. You don’t have to like them. You just have to do them, because doing chores is part of how we take care of each other as a family.
Although to be honest, there are some chores I’m happy to do. Making the bed? It takes two minutes, and it makes the whole room look neater. Same with cleaning off the bathroom counter or finding homes for the random things that make their way onto our table every day. (Little Miss R’s half-finished art projects, I’m looking at you.)
Mr. R has a different feeling about it. He hates making the bed. He doesn’t mind mowing the lawn, but he hates pushing a vacuum cleaner around inside. Same movement, totally different feeling. Me? I hate changing the sheets. Somehow we need to figure out how to get Little Miss R to take over on these things!
That’s still a while off, though. For now, the vacuum is too heavy for her to push, and she doesn’t have the strength to stretch a fitted sheet over a mattress. Sweeping is tough for her because she’s shorter than the broom. She’s good at dusting everything she can reach, and she makes her bed (that would be at my insistence), and she unloads the dishwasher—again, everything she can reach. She helps sort and fold laundry, too.
But I feel like she should be learning more and helping with more. The earlier she gets in the habit, the more natural it’ll be for her to help out. When I was a kid, my siblings and I had a daily chore schedule. I resented it and grumbled about it, but I really did learn what it takes to keep a household running. (Belated apologies for my bad attitude, Mom and Dad.)
What do you all think? Did you have chores when you were a kid, and did that change how you approach them as an adult? Do you have ideas about other tasks Little Miss R could help with until she—hallelujah!—gets big enough to vacuum and change the sheets? To one random commenter, I’ll send a print copy of my historical romance A Gentleman’s Game, in which the heroine is from a family that runs a coaching inn and knows all about Regency chores. Open internationally; winner announced on Sunday.
Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m hooked. It started when my niece picked me up at LAX for the RWA conference in San Diego. I spent two days with her and my sister and Katie (said niece) was already playing. I had texted my kiddos a few days earlier to alert them about the app since they had both been huge Pokemon fans back in their elementary school days. I never thought I would download the app or play it, but Katie wanted to find out a few things and she needed someone who would let her play on their phone as well as her own.
So I downloaded it and the addiction began.
- Walking. Even though I know that I should get up from my desk and walk every 30 minutes for better health, I don’t. But with the Pokemon app I do get up. There’s a Poke-stop right near my house and I go up there on my breaks to reload on pokeballs and other cool things like potions.
- Social dialogue. My sister, niece and I all went to get a pedicure before they took me to San Diego for RWA and while we were having our toes done the news was filled with stories of Pokemon Go. Everyone in the nail salon was chatting about the new app. Even while I was at RWA I had several conversations about the app. J
- Parent-kid bonding. There aren’t a lot of things online games or apps that families can do together. My kids and I are lucky in that we nerd out on a lot of the same things so talking isn’t ever a problem in our house. But the Pokemon Go app is reminding us of the time we stood in line to see the Pokemon movie with Lugia, when Coco got a gold Pokemon card from Burger King (it was her prized possession for a long time) and how many hours we all spent in the game room watching the TV show together.
- Addicting. Once you start playing, you want to keep playing. I think this is sort of a pro if you factor in the walking. Last night I went on two separate 30 minute walks so that first my hubby and then my daughter could finish hatching an egg (you have to walk several km to do this).
- Common sense. I’m trying to think of a nice way of saying this but sometimes in the fever of playing a game, common sense goes out the window. No matter what rare Pokemon you think you might find remember to put safety first.
- Catching them all. What if I never catch them all??? Just kidding. J I don’t mind if I never catch them all. I’m just having fun playing with my hubby and kids and texting my niece to find out what she’s found and get her tips.
What about you? Are you playing Pokemon Go? Are you sick of Pokemon Go?
You know old saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”? When I was a kid, people used to say that about my sister and me, always giving my parents a conspiratorial smile, as if they shared a funny secret. Though I adored my mom and dad and really did want to be like them, I wasn’t always thrilled. I could fall as far from the tree as I darn well pleased, I growled inwardly. I am no clone! I am my own, unique person, captain of my own ship, master of my fate, etc.
In my heart, I knew, though, that some things are handed down, whether you want them or not—like blue eyes or fine, flyaway hair, or that irritating chin thing that makes you look like you’re balancing a golf ball.
Within the family, we had a slightly different way of referencing the genetic heritage. If I bombed a math test, for instance, my parents would sigh, share guilty grins, and say, “Well, I guess what you inherit you don’t steal.”
I have no idea where that expression came from. But through the years, I’ve heard lots of different, wonderfully colorful phrases that mean the same thing. In one of my favorite books growing up, Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting, the heroine fears her love interest might be as ruthless as his father, because “tigers breed true.” I loved that one, because it made even the hero’s DNA sound delightfully dangerous.
And once, on a plane to Ireland, I overheard my seatmates talking about a little boy they knew who was a real charmer, flirting with every female he met, of any age. The two women chuckled, and one of them said, “Ah, he didn’t lick that off the ground, did he?”
Most recently, at a big get-together, a family friend met my daughter for the first time, though she’d known my sister and me for years. Later, she wrote us about a phrase in her native Spanish that says, “Todas estan cortadas con la misma tijera.” It means, she said, “You are all cut with the same scissors.”
I’m not sure how Girlchild reacted, but I have to admit…it’s pretty great, hearing those things from the other end of the generation gap. Next time she has difficulty doing higher math, I’m going to just remind her about those scissors.
What about you? Did your family have its own version of the “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”? And if you heard someone say it, were you glad, or were you fussy, feeling you should be allowed to forge your own path?
Is there some trait you’ve inherited that you perhaps didn’t appreciate as a child, but have come to value highly?
I’m giving away a $10 gift certificate to one poster today, so I hope you’ll join the conversation!