Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hal Postponed for Tactical Tuesday~On Boldness

You'll just have to wait one more day for my rant about Hal Brown, Marin County Supervisor. I feel much less hot-headed today, and here's the reason:

I got back to my writing.

Now, of course, I promised to myself, and to a whole bunch of other people who are counting on me, to postpone the writing until I could get more flood clean-up done. And to tell you the truth, I felt a little relieved to be off the hook. After all, I had produced a Really, Really Shitty First Draft. Did I want to face that? Hell no! Besides, I had A JOB TO DO. I was GREATLY NEEDED AT HOME.

But yesterday, it was raining.

And I can't do flood clean-up in the rain. Right now I'm spreading out art, photos, and memorabilia to dry. It doesn't really work if you're getting all the stuff WET in the process.

So the answer was obvious. It's raining, and I can't do flood clean-up, and I'm a writer who's been complaining like hell about her lack of writing time these days, so of course I...


And it rained.


After a few days of wallowing in the sea of self-pity (a particular vice of mine), I looked out the window this morning and saw the first sun in several days. Tomorrow, and much of the rest of the week--spell rain. This was my chance to spread out some photos! I had no good reason to drop everything and work on the book today. 'Cept this:

I desperately didn't WANT to work on the book today.

And I was determined not to. But this morning, I had coffee with a circle of friends who have the wonderful quality of calling bullshit, bullshit. No one's mean--we each only talk about our own bullshit, but since we all pull the same particular brand of bullshit, we split our sides laughing in recognition, and usually get something bigger and deeper than social companionship out of the conversation.

Any-HOO, one of these friends called herself on the same bullshit I had been pulling. Mainly, the Poor me, everything's going wrong all of a sudden, everything was going so great for so long, and now the house of cards has all fallen down, so I'm just going to sit in the middle of it and cry.

Well, duh. Is that the most self-defeating thing you ever heard? The biggest guarantee that the house of cards won't be built again any time soon? (And of course, life is, for all the control we THINK we have, just a house of cards that could fall at any moment. Ask anyone who's had a child diagnosed with diabetes, or had a flood pour through their home, or had a vacuum cleaner explode in their living room, or been plagued with a giant zit on prom night, or... you get the idea. Fortunately, I am not Andy Richter and I Do Not Control The Universe. Whew! What a relief!)

In the end, she said, I realized despite my problems, (& everyone has them), my life is pretty great. Period.

What my friend said hit a nerve even though our situations are totally different. After some get-the-hell-out-of-the-way and LISTEN thinking (which is hard for me, I tend to think I know everything, when I really don't), the answer came.

What I needed was the opposite of what I wanted. What I had been avoiding was the very thing that I needed to do.

(Isn't it funny how it works out that way so often?)

And therefore, I went to the library later on and just sat with my blob of scrawled-upon papers and notes and my Really, Really Shitty First Draft that was so rank it made me want to cry, put on a set of headphones and tuned to WOXY Vintage, and...

The magic happened.

The Really Shitty First Draft of Chapter One turned into a Kinda Okay and At Times Pretty Damned Good Second Draft of Chapter One. I was SORRY when my writing session ended. A far cry from what I'd pictured, the two hours of boredom so intense I'd have to resort to nose-picking to entertain myself, because I was so fucking out of practice with this writing thing. Nope. The fingernails are clean. :o)

It was so wonderful. One of the best writing sessions I've ever had.

I once had this pinned to my wall:
“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius and power and
magic in it.”
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
But I lost it. Funny, I'm sort of a dolt that way. I forget this good stuff unless I write it down and I have so much trouble with the physical world (couldn't find my way out of a paper bag) that I always lose all these inspirational quotes and shit that people give me. I could never work like Anne Lamott does, with her index cards. Good Lord, they'd go through the wash, or just evaporate (like stuff always does with me) and then where'd I be? Back at Oh, Ain't It Awful again. Because I tend to lose most every physical thing into which I come in contact, I take most of my novel notes with a Sharpie on my hand and forearm. Won't lose them! (Prolly)

I got passed this one recently, too. Nice for when you catch yourself giving a critique of the universe and not paying attention to your own shit:
"Life is too short to waste
In critic peep
or cynic bark,
Quarrel or reprimand:

"Twill soon be dark;
Up! Mind thine own aim,
and God speed the mark!"

~Ralph Waldo Emerson
This one, too, is nice and succinct:
"Statistically 100 percent of the shots you don't take
don't go in."

~Wayne Gretsky
Better make copies of all three, and pin them to my forehead. Or tattooes?

So... is this a Tactical Tuesday post? I'm calling it one.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Remember This Author!

Check tomorrow for a very provocative post about Marin County Supervisor, Hal Brown! Hal was put on this earth to make my life, and the lives of all residents of our neighborhood, miserable, following the Ross/Kentfield/San Anselmo/Fairfax Floods of 2005-2006. Hal gives new meaning to the word "incompetence." Our beloved, late neighbor had a sign in his yard with the photo of a horse's ass that also looked like a downward pointing thumb. It said "HAL" on it. Brilliant. Once in awhile I see the Peter Principle in action.

The theory that employees within an organization will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent.

I have never seen it more clearly demonstrated than with "Horse's Ass Hal." Do you know there is a Peter Principle game?

I'm sure "Horse's Ass Hall" (I refuse to dignify him with his so-called title, "Supervisor") would be very good at this game. Be on the lookout also for lovely art featuring "Horse's Ass Hal" by a very talented anonymous artist. Ah... but I'm ranting ALREADY, and therefore getting ahead of myself!

Today, though, is the day to welcome fellow Girlfriends Cyber Circuit member, Laurie Stolarz, to the blog! Poor Laurie has had to read all of this mini-rant about "Horse's Ass Hal" before finally reading her own interview, so let's give her a big round of applause just for her patience!

Laurie is the author of the teen magic/suspense novels, BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES, WHITE IS FOR MAGIC, SILVER IS FOR SECRETS and her newest novel, RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE.

  • WHITE IS FOR MAGIC, Reluctant Reader Quick Pick Nominee, 2006, American Library Association
  • SILVER IS FOR SECRETS, Reluctant Reader Quick Pick Nominee, 2006, American Library Association
  • BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES, Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, 2005, American Library Association
  • WHITE IS FOR MAGIC, COVR Award Finalist,2005
  • SILVER IS FOR SECRETS, Quill Award nominee, 2005
  • BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES, Top Ten Teen Pick Nominee, 2004, American Library Association
  • WHITE IS FOR MAGIC, Top Ten Teen Pick, 2004, American Library Association
LAURIE'S BIO (in her own words)
I grew up in Salem, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston and widely known for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. People sometimes ask me what it was like growing up in a town whose name conjures up images of cauldrons and broomsticks, but it was simply home for me—the place where I went to school, worked part-time jobs, and hung out at the beach. People also ask me if I myself am a witch, especially after writing BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES. But, alas, I am not. Witches do exist in Salem as well as all over the world. They’re everyday people, who work regular jobs, lead regular lives, and go about their regular business; I suppose being open to understanding that is the biggest influence Salem has had on me.

I currently teach writing and French at a local college. I started learning French in high school and loved it so much I decided to pursue it further in college. I had a fabulous French professor at Merrimack College, Dr. Sylvie Pressman, who inspired a love of French culture and language. With her encouragement, I ended up studying abroad in Cannes and Paris, and then traveling around Europe.

I started writing before I could even hold a pen. When I was little I would tell these enormous tales to whomever would listen. I would also spend hours acting out stories with my dolls. Then, when I actually could write, I would develop scripts for my Barbies and put on plays. I wrote my first book at the age of seven and I still have it—-it fills the pages of a 3x5 black and white steno bound notebook.

In college I started getting into writing more seriously. I knew it was what I wanted to do. And, with the inspiration of one of the bestest English professors on the planet, Dr. MaryKay Mahoney, I pursued it fully. After my undergraduate education, I went to Emerson College where I got an MFA in Creative Writing. At Emerson, I worked with some amazing writers: writer/illustrator LISA JAHN-CLOUGH, authors JESSICA TREADWAY and STEVE ALMOND, and screenwriter DEBBIE CHAPEL, to name just a handful. When I first arrived at Emerson, I didn’t know I wanted to write for young adults. I started in screenwriting and my first screenplay became a finalist in the Massachusetts Film Office’s screenwriting competition. My love of screenwriting sprouted, I believe, from my love of movies and TV shows geared for young adults.

In addition to working with great teachers, I was also able to attend classes with many talented student-writers: LARA ZEISES, author of BRINGING UP THE BONES, CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE, and ANYONE BUT YOU; TEA BENDUHN, author of GRAVEL QUEEN; and STEVEN GOLDMAN. Lara and I first met in an adolescent fiction writing workshop. In addition to being an amazing person, friend, and critique partner, Lara is an incredible writer. If you haven’t already read her work, I suggest you run to the bookstore ASAP. I met Tea in an adolescent literature class. She is a fabulous individual whose work is wonderfully poetic—ditto my comment above about running to the bookstore if you haven’t already checked out her stuff. Steven is another amazing writer and friend. He writes both essays and young adult fiction. His work is truly insightful, humorous, and wonderful, and has appeared in such publications as the Gettysburg Review. Lastly, though I did not meet her until after graduating from Emerson, KIM ABLON WHITNEY is another Emerson alum whose novel, SEE YOU DOWN THE ROAD, was nominated for Best Book by YALSA. Her new book, IN SERVICE TO THE HORSE, comes out November 2005. Kim, Lara, and I have done readings together at bookstores. We've also been involved in a writers group, along with Tea and Steven.

(from the publisher)
Since Jacob's disappearance, Stacey has been trying to move on with her life. With a full scholarship, she begins classes at Beacon University, which her best friend Amber is also attending. But Stacey still misses Jacob and can't quite accept that she'll never see him again.

The president of Beacon introduces Stacey to his fourteen-year-old daughter Portia, who is struggling with her own nightmares that foretell murder. The two become friends as Stacey helps the young girl cope with her frightening premonitions. They work together to find the boy in Portia's dreams - locating him in a cult-like community. Despite their innocent goal to live peacefully without technology and material goods, there's a dark side to this community. And one of the members, Shell, looks remarkably like someone Stacey used to know . . .


MO'C: How did they come up with your covers? They're wonderful, and
my daughter ADORES the blue one.
LS: It came out of a launch meeting and the owner of Llewellyn suggested the shadowy background with the catch phrases. I love the Blue cover as well. The covers have really worked with the whole color candle theme.

MO'C: How were you inspired to write the series? Was it clear to you
at the beginning that it was going to be a series?

LS:No, I had no idea I would create a series. I first started Blue is for Nightmares in an adolescent fiction writing workshop at Emerson College. I knew I wanted to write a mystery/thriller. I loved suspense novels as a young adult and I really wanted to write something that would have appealed to me at that age, adding in elements of humor, romance, and drama. I wanted my main character to be relatable for teens; I wanted her to be flawed, to have secrets, and to have lots of opportunity for growth. When I started the novel, I had no idea I would delve into the world of magic and witchcraft. That is until I did a free-writing exercise in my workshop class. I had no idea what I wanted Stacey, my main character to do, so I had her meditating in front of a blue candle, looking for answers. Because I had made Stacey originally from Salem, MA, like me, people in my writers group made the witchcraft connection with the candle. They encouraged me to go in that direction. That one scene ended up being the inspiration for the novel and now the series. Even though I grew up in Salem, I didn’t know too much about the formal practice of the Craft, though I had heard growing up that my grandmother had experience with the sixth sense. I started doing research and asking lots of questions. I learned a lot this way. I learned of passed down home remedies, interesting family superstitions, tea readings, card readings, and specific experiences with the sixth sense, some of which find themselves in the novel.I also researched the more formal practices of Witchcraft and Wicca, as well as other folk magical practice/home remedies that pass down within families. Having done this research and seeing the way that Witchcraft is so often negatively portrayed in the media, I wanted to show the true peaceful nature of this earth-based religion, without the hocus-pocus. I wanted to weave an education into the story, using Stacey Brown as a reflective, self-empowering young woman. After writing Blue is for Nightmares, I knew I wanted to create a trilogy, which I did, however, I also knew that the ending of Silver is for Secrets begged for a sequel. That is how Red is for Remembrance came to be.

MO'C: Most of us were interested in magic as a teenager or a child,
and many of us retain that fascination. Can you please comment on
what draws us to the world of the unknown?
LS: I think people like the idea of being able to tap into some greater power within themselves.

MO'C: What do you have in common with Stacey? How is she unlike you?
LS: We're both have a grandmother who had experience with the sixth sense and we both wear the same amathyst ring. We think a lot alike and we both practice home remedies. I am not a practicing witch, like Stacey. I also don't experience premonitions.

MO'C: Do you have any tips for maintaining an organized writing day?
LS: Having an organized husband helps. Organization is a tough one for me, but I try and follow his lead as best I can. Also, I think having a space you're excited about helps. Loving your desk, your chair, your bookcase - it makes you want to keep it looking orderly.

MO'C: You teach college level writing. What's the biggest challenge
your students seem to come up against? As a writing teacher, how do
you help them break through their problems?
LS: For composition courses, I always try to teach students about the importance of maintaining their own presence in writing essays. I think it's important to establish a voice, a presence, a tone in an essay that's your own. Too often I find students trying to hide their presence, using language and texture that isn't their own. It isn't as interesting.

MO'C: As someone who went to school with Steve Almond, can you please comment on the infamous Mark Sarvas/Steve Almond controversy?

LS: I had no idea there was a controversy. All I know is that Steve Almond was a brilliant teacher who gave it straight. I learned so much from him in just one semester. If Steve spends much of his time marketing and promoting his work, so be it. He's brilliant.

MO'C: Who's your pick to win the 2006 NCAA Basketball Tournament? (A little time spent on my blog will reveal my own) :o)
LS: I'm from Boston - the Celtics, who else:)

MO'C: Thank you very much!!! :o)
LS: Thank YOU very much!

I'm sure you'll agree that this was a particularly magical interview! Visit Laurie's website here, and buy RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the bestest choice, your local independent bookseller.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Inhaled Insulin-All You Need to Know

The news world has been abuzz about inhaled insulin, but I'm skeptical about its promise for type 1 diabetes. It's difficult to measure this type of insulin accurately and seems to be more appropriate for type 2's whose pancreata still make some of their own insulin. There's also serious concern about long term effects of inhaling a substance so often, over a lifetime for our kids. In addition, for insulin-dependent people with type 1 diabetes, long-term insulin such as Lantus would still be required. And it's questionable whether control would be even as good as Lantus+Humalog/Novolog, let alone a pump. I'll keep my party hat in the closet, for now.

As usual, Jeff Hitchcock of Children with Diabetes is on top of it...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sugar Free Bubble Tape

*Langorous, satisfied sigh*

For a little boy with Type 1 Diabetes, life is now complete.

Buy them here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tactical Tuesday~Words Are the Voice of the Heart

Before we head into Tactical Tuesday, here are a few pieces of Blogosphere/Internet News:

Kristin Nelson of The Nelson Agency is now blogging. Watch out, Miss Snark! Actually, both blogs give a nice snapshot into the publishing industry, and I read them both, but I must give Kristin's a hearty Official O'Connor Endorsement because I know her, because she backs her blog with her credentials, and... because she's a sweetheart.

Also, authors MJ Rose and Anne Frasier have come up with an intriguing idea for book promotion... VIDEOS.

MJ's Vidlit
Anne's Video Trailer

And on to Tactical Tuesday...

"Words are the voice of the heart." ~Confucius

Soon after I signed my book contract, I had lunch in San Francisco with my fabulous editor, Jen Enderlin of St. Martin's Press. While we were walking around Union Square, Jen said, "One of the things that drew me to your book was the unique voice. Voice is essential to my wanting to read, and make an offer on, a novel."

Writing teachers seem to agree: a compelling voice is crucial. They'll add one more heartbreaking caveat: It can't be taught. Mystery novelist Sheila Barrett (A View To Die For) says, "You can't teach 'voice' at all, of course, just compliment people and encourage them when they hit on their own particular way of telling the story."

So what's a writer to do?

One of the most wonderful authors of early chapter books for children is Barbara Park, author of the Junie B. Jones series. Junie, an intrepid kindergartener (then first-grader) possesses the most intriguing, child-like voice I've ever seen in fiction. Junie uses words like "bestest" and "beautifuller," describes clothing as having "puffery sleeves," and complains when her mother "grouches" certain oft-repeated phrases. Here's an excerpt from Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren. Check it out--lots of fun. Hilariously, one mother at my children's school won't permit her daughter to read Junie B. books because "they teach poor grammar"! (File that one under "misses the point entirely...")

The Grammar Police notwithstanding, the Junie B. books have sold over 35 million copies. Why do children and librarians and parents (except the uptight ones) adore these books? It's because Junie has a unique, compelling, and genuine voice.

So how do YOU create a unique and compelling voice? Well, I can't guarantee you'll sell 35 million copies of your book, but here are a few tips to get you started.

1) Don't consciously try to copy a voice someone else has used successfully. If you read a dozen Junie B's and then try to write just like Barbara Park, you won't create a unique voice--it'll make you come across like a copycat of Barbara Park.

2) Don't fake it. If you find yourself going overboard, inventing words or affectations and muddying up your writing with gimmicks, backstep for a minute. Publishers say they want "original" voices, but I think what they really want are natural, likeable voices. Somewhere inside you, you already have a compelling way of expressing yourself. A solid voice ought to be as easy and natural to write as it is to read.

3) Be consistent. Don't start a piece sounding like Jeeves and finish it sounding like Huck Finn. Seems obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many authors shift voice from the beginning of a piece to the end. Voice is very often tied to character--so think of what an actor does. He or she stays in character throughout the entire play--even offstage!

4) Play. A good way to get yourself in the practice of creating and sticking to different voices is to practice writing scenes featuring very different characters. Try writing several different scenes, from the point of view of a tortured heiress, a Brooklyn janitor, a South Seas pirate, and a precocious four-year-old. In all likelihood, they'll choose different ways of expressing themselves.

5) Avoid dangerous overdoses. If you tend to absorb certain authors' voices when you write--don't read them when you are writing. Southern author Joshilyn Jackson says: "I do not read Southern Lit when drafting as it screws with MY voice." Jackson's debut novel (the fabbo gods in Alabama) hit the Southern bestseller lists, so she knows what she's talking about. EDIT--Shriek! Joshilyn said almost those exact words today, too! ("While Southern Gothic is my favorite, I can't read southern when I am drafting---it screws with my voice.") Great minds think alike, and all of that!

6) Lastly, and I think most importantly--Be honest! Don't be afraid of the voice that's pushing through. If it's loud and demanding--great. Listen to it. Write it. In my own book, my characters littered their speech and thoughts with four-letter words. Although I've taken some heat from people who simply don't like those words, I stand by my characters, and by my voice. How far would Barbara Park have gotten if she'd said to herself, "Hmm... lots of parents might not like it if Junie used improper grammar. I'm going to go back and correct all of it!"? As an author, you have to laugh at people like the Grammar Police and the Four-Letter-Word Brigade. If you can't... get out of the business.

That's it from me! Today my voice will be used in dealing with insurance companies, contractors, and accountants, not to mention the *expletive deleted~I'm sure I'll be on the phone with some of the Four-Letter-Word Brigade today* County Supervisor's office who couldn't be bothered to call me back. I would not wish a flood on my worst enemy--BUT, someday my voice will be used for crafting fiction once again. Have a great day, everyone!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Scary? Nah, He's Sweet!

As y'all know, I've been looking forward to last night for a LONG time. We went to see Adam Morrison and the 7th ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs take on USF. Just a little background, we LOVE Adam because he has the same type of Diabetes our son has, takes care of it very responsibly, checking his blood sugars several times per game, and oh yeah--BEING THE #1 COLLEGE BASKETBALL PLAYER IN THE NATION.

We got there VERY early, and watched the players practice for awhile. This was maybe an hour and a half before tipoff and there weren't many fans there at all. There was Adam, taking perfect three-point shots, practically dancing around the court. We didn't have the best seats--we were up in the "reserved" section--but we scooted down to the railing to see him and shouted, "HI ADAM!" He looked up and waved. Then we noticed some people waiting on the side of the court for autographs. We dashed downstairs and barged our way into the expensive section--and stood next to the others, waiting on the court.

After awhile, Adam headed over to the Gonzaga bench to take a break and speak with his coach. After a few words they stopped talking, and Adam sat by himself. (There weren't any other players on the bench.) We grabbed our programs (a big article about Adam was inside) and walked along the front row of seats until we were behind Adam and his coach. I explained to the coach that our son had diabetes like Adam and wanted to say hello, was it OK? The coach just laughed and said, "Sure."

I tapped Adam on the shoulder and he turned around. I introduced ourselves and said our son had diabetes. Our son asked, "Can I have your autograph?" Adam smiled and wrote GO ZAGS, Adam Morrison, #3 on his program. Then I introduced our daughter and said, "She helps our son a lot with his diabetes." Adam mumbled something which I didn't hear (somehow he strikes me as a little shy or something! But in a cute way) and then repeated himself: "With diabetes, you can always use the help." He signed her program too, the exact same way. Then I thanked him for being such a good role model and inspiring so many people, and our son wanted to know what kind of insulin pump Adam used. (He uses a MiniMed.) Our son showed Adam his own CozMo pump, and then we wished Adam luck and waved bye. In less that an hour, the game would start and Adam was destined to set the court on fire, scoring his third-best career game with 41 points.

What a game! Here's an excerpt from the SF Chronicle story:

Zags, Morrison too much for Dons
Nation's top scorer torches USF for 41

Bruce Adams, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

USF point guard Armondo Surratt had a career night, scoring 30 points and leading a defensive effort that often had WCC-leading Gonzaga confused and out of position.

Still, it was a loss for the Dons, and all Surratt could do was shake his head.

"I can't even explain him," he said. "He's scary."

Surratt was referring to the Zags' Adam Morrison, who stole the show -- and the game -- scoring 41 points as No. 7 Gonzaga beat USF 84-75 Monday night at a packed and boisterous Memorial Gym.{{{MORE}}}

Packed, indeed. Someone had opened a side door a quarter of the way into the game and the crowd poured into the aisles, stairs, and doorways. Had there been a fire we would've been in dire straits. The capacity of War Memorial Gym is 5300--I'll wager there were EASILY 6,000 people there.

We tried to find Adam after the game to congratulate him--but he was nowhere to be found. The other Gonzaga players came out the front door of the court to go to the locker rooms, but we didn't see him. He did give an interview to the Chronicle reporter, but maybe he left through some other door soon after that. ???? Anyway, it was good we got our autographs in advance. What a great, classy, and interesting guy. :o)

I'll scan one of our autographs later--and after I muck out the back porch a little more, I'll come up with a Tactical Tuesday for you! I will... I PROMISE!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Sewer Rat Speaketh

A few people have called and emailed to see if I was OK. Yes, I'm OK. Thanks. Remember when I was a river rat? Now I'm a Sewer Rat. Really the worst of this whole clean-up is opening a box of ruined items (i.e., kids art) so they can be sorted through, only to be assaulted (through a breathing mask, even!) with an odor which leaves absolutely no doubt that yes, the sewers did back up into the creek water. :o(

There's a community meeting at the end of the month. Sponsored by the police and fire departments who DIDN'T warn us this was going to happen, and the County Supervisor who offered us "debris boxes...." nearly A WEEK after the flood, when we were all well into our cleaning up process, and had hired our OWN boxes. I'm bringing tomatoes... not to mention some plastic boxes full of river/sewer water.

My San Anselmo friend said that the newspaper report that 25% of the businesses were up and running was wishful thinking. She said they must have been counting all the offices on the second floor. She's right--I went there and aside from the coffee shop, a few restaurants, and a few brave businesses... it's like a ghost town.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


The devastation of this flood just hit me today, after several solid hours of spraying muddy/crappy sludge from ruined toys (which I don't care about~they can be replaced), books (which I don't care about, even the first signed editions), and old writings of mine and my husband's (like from high school and college~I care a bit about them, just for archival purposes~and many of mine are quite embarrassing~if there's a blacklist for certain publications, I'm on it for submitting such garbage... in those cases the flood may have been a blessing).

But the children's artwork~I care deeply about that. The artwork, most of it, just disintegrated when touched. We may be able to save 2-4 pieces per kid, per school year, by drying it and photocopying it. It is so sad picking up a beautiful valentine that says "I love you Mommy," and seeing it fall to pieces. Wet, tiny pieces, halfway digested by river mud and sewer seepage. You can't even tape them together. They're just gone.

It is just so fucking depressing. People have been generous and kind, and until now I haven't really burst into tears about it all (but some of my neighbors/friends have), but the kids' artwork--that's what really got me.

And I feel sure I won't be getting back to my writing until sometime in March. This stuff is just.. endless. Mud after mud after mud after...

I fucking hate this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Lively GCC Interview!

Welcome, blog readers and Girlfriends Cyber Circuit aficionados! Today we've got a fun and LIVELY interview with Sheila Curran, author of the hilarious novel, Diana Lively is Falling Down.

As any of you who are writers know, humor is quite difficult to catch in fiction. Sheila does it so well... check out this excerpt!

THE AUTHOR (in her own words)

I am a Food Evangelist, pressing recipes on my friends until they cry for mercy (click here for my salsa, salad dressing and pasta sauces).

The longest I’ve managed to stay on a diet can be counted in hours and on one hand.

I am terrified of making phone calls to people I don’t know, even if it’s to get my washer repaired or my teeth cleaned.

I once successfully gave up drinking for three days until my children and husband begged me to just have one beer.

I have been kept alive, literally and figuratively, by the affection and support of my family and friends, whose sum total is my proudest boast and matters much more to me than my bank balance or intelligence quotient.

To make money I've written grants, waited tables, tended bar and worked in the admissions office at an alcoholic treatment center. I have two children, a Master's degree in Comparative Literature, a standard poodle who gets suicidal when I leave the house, and an annoying habit of either talking-too-much-while-speaking-too-loud or having absolutely nothing to say, sometimes within the same five minutes. If 1950s children had been tested for their sense of direction, I’d have been institutionalized at a tender age, which would have made for a great memoir, but nixed the happy childhood, the serial wardrobe of plaid, pleated Catholic school outfits, and many other aspects of growing up in a loud, loving family that moved too often.

I am the sixth of ten children. My father's job, first as a fighter pilot and then a professor, meant we moved a lot. Eight times in eighteen years -- to be exact -- which may account for the extraordinarily closeness of the extended Curran clan, as well as our openness to new ideas. If moving does nothing else, it certainly shakes you loose of pre-conceived notions. I remember moving from Athens, Georgia to Youngstown, Ohio in ninth grade, and quickly discovering my Southern rules for social life weren't going to work too well in an urban, ethnic Midwestern city.

Solidifying my fate as a rolling stone who desperately yearned for moss, I met my husband, an aspiring academic, in college. Despite my fantasy of staying put, I followed him to graduate school in Chicago and then to various teaching jobs in New York, Virginia, Boston, Arizona, England, and Florida.

As an Air Force Brat, and then Trailing Spouse, I've observed the many ways one's identity can shift depending on random circumstance and networks of support from friends and family.


Once upon a time, in a modest suburb of Oxford England, lived a fair and noble woman who had slowly lost her powers. Married to Ted Lively, noted Arthurian scholar and internationally-recognized knave, Diana has forsaken her promise as an architect. She busies herself with her children, with her cottage practice as dollhouse maker, but mostly, with the illusion that her marriage is not nearly the prison her eldest son and best friend are constantly urging her to flee.

Deliverance arrives in the unlikely form of Wally Gold, Arizona’s “Ammo King,” who has journeyed to the College to dedicate a small library of Arthurian texts to his late wife’s memory. Shortly after meeting the Livelys, Wally has a vision. He will sell his ammunitions company and build the King Arthur Theme Park and Museum, in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, next to the London Bridge.

As he knows nothing about King Arthur, or theme parks, for that matter, Wally decides he must have Ted Lively as on-site technical expert. Using the promise of an endowment as incentive, Wally brings Ted and his family to Phoenix. After lodging the family in an empty mansion built shortly before his wife’s death, Wally discovers Diana’s training in architecture. He encourages her to submit a bid for his park, his confidence in her buoyed by a series of affirmative Signs from his dead wife. The professor, meanwhile, sabotages Wally’s efforts, seeking only to return to England. Diana struggles between listening to her husband’s many objections, some explicitly protective, others subconsciously competitive, and embracing her own exhilaration in getting a second chance at something she’d long ago given up. Diana’s quest is supported by her son, Humphrey, an eighteen-year-old domestic diva, who takes on his mother’s reclamation with a fervor usually reserved for the latest peppermint sea-kelp pomade or the newest collection of Laura Ashley linens. Humphrey’s machinations are aided in turn by Audrey, Wally’s seventeen year old daughter, an environmental activist whose blond hair and blue eyes have not dissuaded her from believing she’s Native American, and whose developing crush on Humphrey appears to be similarly delusional. This cast of characters is rounded out by William, 10, a genius with numbers, Eleanor, 4, kleptomaniac-at-large, and Mary Kate, the ghost of Wally’s late wife, whose personality emerges to counter the idealized version her affectionate husband continues to sculpt, despite abundant evidence to the contrary.


Beautifully detailed and rich in exceptional characterization, Curran's novel gently reminds readers that fantasy has a place in everyone's life. Uniquely uplifting and never didactic, this is a gem.
~“BOOKLIST,” Starred Review

DIANA LIVELY IS FALLING DOWN is a terrific pick-me-up. You couldn't find two more disparate landscapes than Oxford, England and Arizona, and that's exactly what one British woman discovers when she crosses the Pond to find herself a fish-out-of-water -- only to realize that for the first time in her life, this means she can stand on her own two feet. Filled with characters who make you laugh out loud even as they break your heart, this is a funny, warm, inventive, original book.
~Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of VANISHING ACTS, and MY SISTER’S KEEPER

Brilliant, touching, and funny as hell, Diana Lively packs a powerful punch. A poignant and biting satire... this spirited romp through an Englishwoman's Arizona deserves a unique place of honor on any bookshelf... Wry, engaging, and wise beyond words, Diana is bound to delight and amaze. ~Carlos Eire, 2003 National Book Award winner for WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA

Captivating, fast-paced, no-holds-barred storytelling, Diana Lively is Falling Down defies pigeon-holing. Wrestling the complexities of motherhood, loss and betrayal, politics, the environment, and theme parks, it is at once intimate, domestic, and worldly. A debut to celebrate!


Diana Lively's First Annual Vile Husband Contest~

Send us your account of the absolutely worst husband you have encountered or heard about. The story must be true. Sort of.

Vile husbands come in all shapes and sizes. The species we’re hunting here is that subtle miscreant whose behaviors haven’t landed him in jail or divorce court. Nevertheless, he’s the sort of chap who inspires observers to fantasize longingly about an unfortunate bus accident, a humiliating demotion, or even the heart-break of psoriasis. He is the kind of guy you love to hate.

Contest Rules

No real names, please.

Submissions must be between 1 and 3 pages (750 words maximum).

Stories (or essays) must be true, or must make us believe they’re true.

A winner will be announced in each of the following categories: Comedy, Psychodrama, Theatre of the Absurd.

Winning essays will be published on this website December 1st, 2005, and circulated via blogs and e-mail subscriptions to throngs of readers eager to discover just how much worse they could have it when it comes to romantic entanglements.

Winners will receive a signed first-edition of DIANA LIVELY IS FALLING DOWN, publication credit, a static-cling rear window decal, and the eternal admiration of throngs of gentle readers.

And... (Drumroll, please~)... THE INTERVIEW!

MO'C: Sheila, thanks for agreeing to this interview
SC: You're welcome.

MO'C: First things first. Where did you get the idea for this novel?
SC: I was living in Oxford, England with my husband, who was visiting at one of the colleges. One night, towards the end of the term, he invited me to High Table, a lovely butler-served meal in an elevated setting. Next to me was an older woman, married to another esteemed professor, both of whom were guests at the college. She saw my name tag and commented that it was a good thing I had a different last name than my husband. "Why?" I asked. She replied that wives weren't encouraged to attend high table. "How does that make you feel?" I asked. She paused and then responded that she had thought about it, and realized that the purpose of High Table was the exchange of ideas. "And," she added. "Women who are home with their children all day, what could they add to the conversation?" You can find the longer version at either my website http://www.sheilacurran.com under Real Life Roots of Fiction or M.J. Rose's backstory.

MO'C: Describe your writing day/process.
SC: Wake up, put puppy out to pee, water to boil for coffee, construct lunch for daughter, wake daughter, remember puppy has probably been stolen, go outside to find her tangled in bushes, remember that I didn't put white load in dryer, thus no socks. Make lunches, make coffee, drive to school with puppy on front seat. Drop daughter at school, drive home, inveigh puppy to poop and pee and make half-hearted attempts to play. Drink gallon of French Press coffee and sit in lovely armchair with ottoman and puppy tethered to me. Read emails, try not to surf, read the writing from the day or two before and take it from there. Get up many many times to take dog to pee, self to pee, self to eat, self to clean, self to tweez unsightly and impertinent hairs from inappropriate facial areas. Remember that load of whites now must be run through with vinegar to prevent it from smelling like nearby wildlife refuge. Call friend to ask how much vinegar. Stay on phone for too long discussing the causes and cures of inappropriate facial hairs, spots and wrinkles. and so forth.

MO'C: Are any of the characters like you? Why or why not?
SC: Most of them are, to a certain extent. I'm similarly high strung near insects, like Diana, I have a very microscopic genius at remembering certain numbers like William, I love linens like Humphrey, I'm impulsive, like Wally and acquisitive, like Eleanor. And Ted, like, I love martinis.

MO'C: You received a good many excellent blurbs and reviews for the novel. How did you manage this?
SC: Wow, I didn't know I did. I never knew Jodi Picoult and sweated bullets while it sat with her, I asked Carlos Eire to read it, and Julianna Baggott offered to look at my first chapter, then my book, then offered to blurb it. The booklist was a lovely surprise. I didn't get covered by PW or Kirkus or the NY Times or the Post, so I felt rather shabby.

MO'C: Can you comment a bit on the use of humor in novels? How do you use it, and do you have any techniques or tips for would-be writers?
SC: Hmnn...I don't know know how I do humor. I guess I'd say there's a lot of humor in simple everyday life, things we all do and are either annoyed at or just tickled by. But I'm not sure how it works, except to relax and think about what is funny to you. Very sorry...terrifically bad at this question.

MO'C: What's your best piece of advice for aspiring novelists?
SC: Don't take rejection personally and just write everyday and pat yourself on the back for that alone. Don't worry about what sells and what doesn't.

MO'C: Which team is your NCAA basketball pick for the 2006 tourney? (My pick's the Zags...)
SC: Yikes. Okay, I used the "Ask a friend," and asked my husband. His pick is Duke. I'm hopeless at any sport except my own...and that would be tennis and I'm a choker, hack and loser but I do love it.

MO'C: What's next for Sheila Curran?
SC: Immediately, a trip to Florence with two of my sisters. I'm working on a novel about women friends in a small southern town, with the philosophical question being, where do one's obligations to the group begin and to the self end?

MO'C: It's been most interesting, Sheila. Thanks so much for visiting the blog!
SC: Thank you for inviting me.

Check out Sheila's site, and order her book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the bestest choice, your local indie bookseller.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Few Photos of the Aftermath~

I've finally uploaded some photos of the aftermath, on our property, of the Marin County floods. As you might remember, we were able to evacuate just in the nick of time, so most of the water's gone in these pictures. The cars were totalled too.

Our insurance doesn't cover the damaged possessions, only the rehab on the structure itself. It may or may not cover landscaping. The cars are covered for bluebook value.

Additional dramatic pictures can be found in our neighbor's photo album (scroll back a few entries). These photos, however, for those who know us and our neighborhood, paint a picture of the destruction the flood left in its wake.

These two photos show what we saw when we drove into the driveway. This used to be our front yard. You can see some of the trash that washed up into the yard.

Most of the trash and large debris ended up here, at the side of the house.

This is someone else's trash bin. It washed into our yard and crushed part of our fence. Now the neighbor's puppies are coming over all the time! So it has its advantages... :o/

Our front porch and steps were covered with river mud and sewer sludge. The water was almost 5 feet deep and left this rank residue all over everyone's home.

You can see the waterline on one of our doors to a storage/play area. Inside this area was stored some antique dressers, bicycles, and a computer/copier.

Most of the water is actually gone from this picture. The children had a play/clubhouse area here, and this is where their toys were. You can see a large heating pipe has fallen down.

Here's the pool/airhockey table the twins played with for 5 days solid before it was destroyed. The brown layer on the top is creek runoff and sewer sludge. It was completely underwater. The writing community and others via Backspace took up a collection to pay for new toys for the children. Thanks to them we'll be able to buy them nearly all of the toys that were down in their area. Thank you, everyone!

This was the mini-fridge the twins were keeping sodas in down in their clubhouse. It was completely underwater.

Here's what we saw when we were finally able to open the door to the other storage area. So much debris was jammed against it, we had to get help to open it. This area contained a number of first edition collectible books, aswell as personal items and family photos/children's art.

The backyard. Most of the water is gone here, too. Not visible in this photo: A propane tank had floated onto the top area of the slide.

A small sampling of the drywall that had to be cut away.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

And Now for Something Completely Different

I figured it was time to flash some HAPPY pictures on this blog--after all the bitching and moaning about the San Anselmo/Ross/
Kentfield/Fairfax floods. We still don't have hot water... UGH. Big, BIG contractor problems... TRIPLE UGH. Insurance? Hahahahaha....

Oh, was I supposed to stop bitching and moaning?

This article and these photos may make you smile:





Adam Morrison of the intrepid Gonzaga Bulldogs is supposed to be the best basketball forward since Larry Bird. A 6'8" junior, he is widely regarded as the best college player in the nation. This is most likely his last year in college basketball, since he's almost certain to be drafted by the NBA. I wrote about Adam a year ago, during the NCAA tourney, when I heard about how he successfully managed his Type 1 Diabetes. Not only that, but I just learned he's a lefty, like me... and I DON'T mean left-handed!


And, guess what? We're going to see him play! Yes, the Zags are playing in the Bay Area this month, and we've scored some tickets. The members of my NCAA B-Ball Pool know who *I'm* putting my money on this year....

Here's a great article about Adam from the San Jose Mercury News... THERE IS INDEED NO STOPPING HIM. Go ahead and read the full article... it's SO inspiring.

By Jon Wilner
Mercury News

It's tough to take your eyes off Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison, what with his shaggy hair, adolescent mustache, awkward jumper and otherworldly game. Morrison, who leads the Bulldogs against Santa Clara tonight, is the nation's top scorer and the best college player to perform in the Bay Area this season -- and that includes all the locals.

But the 6-foot-8 junior is just as intriguing during timeouts, when Morrison pricks his finger, tests his blood-sugar level and, if necessary, gives himself an insulin shot in the abdomen. A Type 1 diabetic, Morrison has become an inspiration to those with the disease.

``If he can play major college basketball and be the best player in America,'' Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said, ``then anybody can do anything with it.''...

Good as he is on the court, inspiring as he is off it, Morrison might be most interesting when he opens his mouth. The future NBA lottery pick is one of the most thoughtful, well-read college athletes to come along in years.

His favorite books are ``The Art of War'' by Sun Tzu, the ``Autobiography of Malcolm X,'' ``The Wealth of Nations'' by Adam Smith, anything about Che Guevara and, um, ``The Communist Manifesto.''

Yep, Morrison has been fascinated with Karl Marx since he studied the Russian Revolution at Mead High School in Spokane, Wash. -- to the point that he has a poster of Marx in his bedroom. Once, after a bad stretch on the court, he ran past Few and apologized for ``playing like a communist.'' Another time, after Few encouraged his players to attend church, Morrison wrote on the grease board: ``Religion is the opiate of the masses.''

Morrison, 21, is not a communist, but he has a fondness for stimulating debate and an internal compass that points well left of the mainstream. His favorite band is Rage Against the Machine -- what did you expect, 'NSYNC? -- and he shed a few tears when the group broke up six years ago.

``Not that I'm a ticking time bomb, but you want to live life to the fullest,'' he said. ``I don't think I picked up the stuff I did because of diabetes, but it has led me to figure out what I like and dislike.''{{MORE}}

Sunday, January 08, 2006

More Flood Photos

A kid up the street took these photos. They're maybe half a block away from us. You can see, 39 inches of rushing water can do some damage. The lamps on the pillars in front of their home? Those are about six feet tall. You can also see many of the ruined cars. A deer was seen floating down the street as well. Later, the police went by in motorboats to check on residents.

Flooding Photo Album (a slideshow of all his photos will play)

Thanks for your continued good wishes--they really help! We should have hot water by tomorrow (cross fingers!). And the furnace is working really great~in the bathrooms! In the bedrooms & in the living room, not so much... ah, well. We're told that'll need replacing too.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Ratteths Returneth

Hi everyone, we have returned to clean out the remaining afterbits (read *shovel sewer shit*) from the San Anselmo Flood/Ross Common Nightmare of 2005! We got back late this evening, with no waterheater and a dying furnace, and the cleanup isn't really done, but I personally just couldn't take being gone any longer.

I haven't gotten the photos off my camera (both cars are totalled, there were 4-5 feet of water and 11 foot swells in front of our house, the basement was entirely flooded and we lost the water heater and most likely the furnace too), but someone who has a store in down town San Anselmo took some really good photos as well as Quicktime video of the rushing waters here (this is about a mile away but you get the same idea--same creek, different name) Bill's photos of downtown

Bill's movie #1 (apx. 7 sec.)

Bill's second movie (apx. 8 sec.)

OK, time for bed. :o)

Friday, January 06, 2006

The River Rat Gazette Issue #4

This blog is a flood-free, mold-free, stress-free zone. Unlike our home. Yes, for at least another three days, we will be out of the house, which flooded in the Marin County floods on December 31, 2005, destroying much of the structure as well as many of our personal possessions. Mold has gotten into the heating system, so the entire pipe/vent system has had to be dismantled and mold amelioration done on the whole house. The house is quite cold and the foreman of the job has asked us not to return to the home. They have also had to remove additional drywall and sheetrock up to the ceiling of the storage unit in order to prevent further mold damage. It's getting a little old, being here in the hotel, but it's warm and safe. As I said to a friend, they're still taking the credit card, so it can't be too bad-- (When the bill comes, we will all change our names and escape over the border. Or maybe thet's where our insurance agent is off to... more on that later. *winky thing*)

Our County Supervisor's office has adviced us to keep our ears wide open to find out when President Bush declares a state of emergency in the California counties affected by the floods. (Surely the man can do SOMETHING useful in his term in office, no?) Gov. Schwarzenegger has asked the President to do so, and Sens. Boxer and Feinstein are pushing for it as well, but Bush hasn't yet made a move. Hopefully he will and then we can apply for aid from FEMA. Not clear yet on just what the aid is that's available, it may just be a low-interest loan, but it is worth it to apply, just to have the option. And you need to apply QUICK because with any FEMA relief it's first come first served. So when we hear the news on the radio or wherever, our plan is to pull off the highway to the nearest public computer and APPLY. I hope Bush comes through soon. People here are really hurting. Don't get me wrong, we got it bad, but a lot of people did, and there were people who got it worse. A lady two doors down had to be evacuated by boat for medical reasons. That could have been our son. It's scary.

We are continuing to try to deal with insurance. There aren't enough adjusters in the area for all the claims that have been filed. (Everyone is in the same boat--Ha, Ha, Ha.) Both auto dealers expressed to us when we spoke with them about the two (likely totalled) cars ~three days ago that they each had approximately 30-40 flooded cars/claims ahead of ours in their shop. We have names of supposed claim agents, but they do not answer the phone and do not return calls. So we were thinking they might be fictional people.

We are going to fight the agency all the way to get our contents covered. Fortunately, we have some much needed advice from a few individuals within the industry who have given their input gratis. I have a feeling this battle will drag out for months, but we have prepared to come out with both guns blazing.

As for our own insurance agent, he's decided to take a few days off "to spend some much needed relaxation time with his family." So, he's not even in the office. His secretaries, whom we don't blame for any of this--aren't the secretaries always the ones left holding the bag in situations like this?-- have informed us that the company has called back some agents from Katrina and Rita and are setting up a special emergency claims office 30 miles north of us. However, we've yet to see an adjuster. They're perhaps busy starring in Jonathan Franzen's latest novel, or, and here's where *I'd* rather see them, in that violent, gut-churning, torture laden Quentin Tarantino movie that's been advertised so heavily lately... Forgive me, is my cynicism showing?

However, the real life human beings we've dealt with have been SO kind. People at the hotel have given us free movies on the TV. Two local pharmacies have done rush deliveries and transfers of our son's insulin pump supplies (we were caught short of EMLA cream yesterday--Yikes! But Longs drugstore saved us...). Our video store waived all our late fees and told us to return the DVDs at our convenience, in any condition, and even if they are all lost they won't charge us a thing. And of course, our neighbors have been so kind and helpful. Crises like this really make people pull together.

The writing community have been great also, particularly Backspace (founded by authors Karen Dionne and Chris Graham), who are doing a fundraiser, so many fellow authors being so so nice in a dreadful situation. It really helps buoy the spirits, you know? The first thing that that fundraiser is earmarked for is replacing the children's Christmas gifts that were destroyed, their air hockey/pool table and and card table and the other smaller items like their Boggle game and Monopoly and darts and so forth that were stored in their "clubhouse" in the basement that is now a "mold house." It is really kind, and I don't know who thought of it, but we are SO grateful. The kids, especially, were stunned to hear that people they had never met would even care about what had happened, much less do a fundraiser. So {{{{HUGS}}}} to everyone who is helping out with that.

In addition, many of my diabetes friends have stepped in with offers of help, insulin, childcare and anything else. Legal advice, ideas for wrangling with insurance companies straight from industry professionals... it's all SO APPRECIATED. Thank you ALL.

So don't color me cynical, quite yet.

It's all an interesting illustration on human nature. Human beings are like the little girl with the little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When they're good, they're very very good, and when they're bad, they're...

where's Quentin Tarantino when you really need him?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The River Rat Gazette Issue #3

Hi everyone, I've decided to retitle my blog temporarily to The River Rat Gazette. Our street is not a river any longer--more like a muddy, sludgey river bed. But hey, close enough.

Well, we are still in the hotel, and will be there another two days at least. The furnace is not running because there's mold in the furnace vents. So it's still unsafe for us to return to the house to do more than grab a few things here and there. The kids of course are thrilled. No cleaning of bedrooms, indoor swimming pool, movies, fast food... ah, it's heaven for them. We're pretending we're in Paris. It works if you don't look outside!

The property losses from the basement and storage area are total. In addition the drywall and sheetrock have had to be removed to the water line as well as the stucco. Also, in all likelihood, both cars are totalled. The insurance adjuster hasn't been to see them yet (they're overwhelmed) but from what the service shops said to us that will pretty likely be what happens. We will then get low blue book value on both cars. For one of the cars, that basically covers the remaining payments, so that's a wash (pardon the pun). No more payments but no more car either. For the other, it's only a few thousand dollars, since the other was a 1999 van and we receive the lowest blue book number.

We've lost tens of thousands of dollars worth of items in the property and the hotel bills are adding up. The insurance company is being so difficult. I can't even begin to tell you. But we refuse to lie down and take it. We're going to fight for our rights and our property. I can't say a lot else about the insurance situation now, but we are in contact almost continually with many others in the industry and will be contacting some attorneys who handle this type of thing. I could very well go ballistic here in public on the blog, and I just can't do that. But, if you want to hear the skinny, you can email or call me. I'll reply when I can.

For those who've been writing to and phoning us, we are so grateful. I am flooded in email (ugh, another bad pun) now but hope to get back to all of you at some point. We are so grateful to Karen Dionne and Chris Graham at Backspace and all their members (usually their url is here, but they may still be offline--so you can also find them at their blog at Publishers Marketplace),for their amazing support and generosity. And my fellow bloggers at The Girlfriends Cyber Circuit have been so kind and supportive as well~There are just so many people who have been so wonderful~too many to count. (And doesn't THAT say something wonderful about all of you! We are really blessed.)

I'm still in shock that this happened. What gets me is that public safety gave NO ONE any notice WHATSOEVER that this was about happen. Had we known, we would have moved stuff out of the way, moved the cars and gotten out. We had 10 minutes notice, and that was only because we happened to be up and moving at 4:30 AM. We got our kids, our insulin, some clothes, and got the hell out. Most of our neighbors awoke to a river outside their window, puppies wailing in crates in the basement as they were about to drown (both puppies were saved, thankfully), or dogs splashing toward their beds. What's more, a neighbor down the street called the sherriff at 1 AM to ask if they should evacuate and move their cars. "No, go to sleep. It's fine." Next morning they had lost both cars, their entire contents of their garage, and were marrooned on their second story.

Sorry, but there are so many things about this that are so ridiculous, not least of which is the behavior of the insurance company. I've just printed tons of information about flood damages and we've got several numbers for attorneys who take on these kinds of cases. That'll be the rest of the day. Please email me if you have legal expertise on these types of matters or if you know someone who does at either my personal email address (if you have it) or my writing address at theresnoforgetting((AT))yahoo((DOT))com. And please put Attorney or something in the subject line as I have a lot of messages. (Everyone's been so supportive!)

Thanks again to all. I will write to you when time permits. For now, it's off to the desk and phone.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Flood Update

Thanks for all the emails and blog comments about the flood. All your good wishes, offers of help, and prayers mean a lot.

We returned to the house today to survey the damage and were there all day. We'll be here in the hotel for at least another few days. As I mentioned before we didn't get water in the house, so most of our furniture and the computers, etc are OK (unlike our neighbors). But we had 4 feet of rank sewer water sitting in our yards, and in our storage basements, and in our car. The reason they want us out for the next few days while they cleanup is that the mud is toxic with microbes, bacteria and mold spores. It is sewer water and very dangerous healthwise. I'm just glad we got someone, our neighbors up and down the street are frantic. No one is answering the phones because everyone is innundated.

By some miracle we were able to find a flood cleanup crew to come and help us and they were able to open the jammed storage room. What they discovered:

We lost two large antique bureaus (standing in 4 feet of water, large pieces of the furniture warped and buckled), a good deal of books (some of them first edition collectible versions), papers, toys (including the children's brand new Christmas presents, a pool/airhockey table~played with only a few times, and dearly loved~! and a cardtable/chair suite for games and the brand new Boggle game sitting out, waiting to be played and never played, and tossed against the walls, mud and dice everywhere).

I wish I could upload the images from the digital camera. It was like 27 large dumpsters had been unloaded into our storage room, they had been covered in sludge, and stomped on. That was where many of the above mentioned items were (even in socalled "waterproof" boxes).

Worst of all we lost many boxes of irreplaceable children's art work and school papers, at least a couple full years' worth of the children's creations from the early years of elementary school. Apparently they can try to "freeze dry" them for about $500 per box, which may or may not be covered by insurance.

It's depressing, I burst into tears today. Both cars are likely to be declared totaled. The one we drove out of the flood, that took on water, started to smell like a sewer pit this morning. We drove it anyway coz we didn't have anything else. The van, parked in the driveway, had taken on 4 feet of water. We drove it to the dealer late this afternoon and they are renting us their very last fleet car, a Town and Country van. So, we are counting our blessings.

I don't know when I will be back online, but we won't be back home from at least a few days. We didn't grab any more clothes from the house, we were so busy on the phone and in storage. SO, I'm thinking of going to a laundromat tomorrow to try to wash some of our mildewey, river-water clothing, rather than send it out for $50-$100. The kids start school tomorrow and I told them that anything dry and not muddy was school clothes.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Washed Out

We've been washed out of our home in Marin since yesterday morning at 5 AM. We live across the street from the Corte Madera Creek (although the caption on the IJ photo says the San Anselmo creek--the creek changes names right at the bridge that is pictured) which hasn't flooded since the 80s but we were always aware it was a possibility. However, we had little to no warning of what was to come yesterday morning.

Having gone outside at 4:45 to check something in the car, I happened to see 10 inches of water in the driveway and 18 inch water rushing by in the street. My husband asked a passing firetruck what to do. "If you have kids and want to get out, go NOW." We took 15 minutes to pack up insulins, any clothing we could find, vital pices of identification and miscellany into large trash bags and headed back into the driveway with the kids. By that time the water was to our knees, to the kids' waists. We opened the car door and water rushed in, then we began to drive on the middle of the road, which had become a rushing river. Cars floated by us but somehow we stayed the course, though the car took on a foot and a half of water and there were moments I thought we would have to abandon the car and swim. We finally got out though. If we had left even five minutes later we would have haad to leave the car and be rescued.

We arrived at a hotel bedraggled and wet, but grateful to be somewhere warm and dry, where we had all of our son's insulin, and a hot complimentary hotel breakfast.

We went back to the homesite yesterday. Although we didn't take on water into the house (both our neighbor's did!) we have several feet of water in our basements and storage areas, the backyard is a lake, and the frontyard is a muddy wasteland filled with other people's debris and trash. Both cars are wrecked, although at least we have the other car to drive. (The hotel people let me shopvac out the water we'd taken on from the creek and I had to empty the thing 3 times). The kids' new Christmas toys that were in the basement toy area have been wrecked. In addition to many things we've stored there (we can't even open one of the storage areas as the items were shifted so much by the flood). But we are alive.

It was a strange confluence of heavy rains and extraordinarily high tides. We received no warning other than the "in 15 minutes your street is going to be a full blown river." When we returned and spoke with the neighbor (who'd been forced to ride it out on her second floor) she informed us that the waves had crested 11 feet up into her pine tree.

Authorities had to evacuate the woman two doors down from us, along with her two sons, via boat, since she has special medical needs and can't be without medical access. Local businesses are devastated. Fences have come down, cars have floated down the street and crashed into other cars, a hundred year old oak crashed down in the local schoolyard, crushing the backstop to the ball field--I can't even describe it.

There are some photos here of the devastation. I could not make them paste into this entry as they're copyrighted. Here they are though. The river that swolled over its banks is the bottom picture. This is before it overflowed and turned our neighborhood into a river. Article

And if you go here and click SWIFT WATER RESCUE you can see a video shot nearby where we live; another flooded street-turned river but similar situation.

It remains to be seen how much insurance will pay and how long cleanup will take. We're out of our home at least through tonight and part of tomorrow. The furnace and water heater are flooded so it may not be safe to return.