Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Bleeding Love" onto our writing lives

As a writer, you never know when inspiration may strike...a story or scene idea may pop up from part of your daily routine or something out of the ordinary. I have not filtered this scene into any of my works in progress yet, but it sure was memorable for me. It was the first (and only time thus far) that I donated blood. (By the end of this post, you will understand why I have not given since...)

I had wanted to give blood for awhile, but seemed to not be in the right place at the right time yet. I couldn't pass up this opportunity, because the Life Share bus was parked right outside my office building. Here was my chance though. I was nervous. I am usually up for trying new things and since it would benefit someone else I was cheerful upon entering the bus to begin the paperwork.

The most amusing aspect of the experience was the computerized questionnaire. After the initial questions about my medical history, I pretty much hit “no” for everything except one question regarding travel. “Have you traveled out of the country in the last three years?” If “most definitely” would have been an option, I would have clicked it.

The funny part came when the blood drive employee asked me where I had traveled, so I began to list. You see I had never even been on an airplane until I boarded the one to go to Costa Rica in June 2006, but since that month I have been to over a dozen countries across the world. Due to the out of the norm locations I listed, the nurse had to get “the big book” of other travel destinations to see if I was prohibited from donating. I barely passed, but I was cleared to go.

An appropriate song, “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis, wafted through the bus via radio as I settled into the plush reclining chair with my eyes not looking at the needles. The song was too appropriate. The phlebotomist checked my veins, which are really small apparently. She had to end up taking blood from the extreme edge of my right elbow’s crease.

I was doing fine and I could not even feel that blood was being drawn. Because of the size of my tiny veins, it took over 10 minutes to draw it (the nurse said it usually takes around five minutes). Finally, I was almost done with the pint when a sudden wave of dizziness and nausea swept over me. I do not have a weak stomach, so it was not the blood or needles.

I am still not sure of the exact reason I almost passed out. Maybe, though I had eaten a decent lunch, I should have eaten something else before I went or as nearly passing out is not uncommon maybe it was just my body reacting to the shock of blood loss. Whatever it was I hate the feeling, the total lack of self-control and the almost complete disorientation of your surroundings and situation.

Well regardless of the “little episode,” I got my pint and saved three lives as the nurse told me. Those lives made it worth it and continued in worth until I was second guessing the donation about 10 minutes later when I got back to the office and had a worse dizzy spell. The office became a near white blur before my eyes.

I had been trying to eat and drink what the nurse has given me. When the new wave hit me I could not even lift my head or lift my hands to the table to feel forward for my water bottle. I am very thankful for a great boss and co-workers. They took care of me and drove me home.

I know we’ve all had moments similar to mine and worse. You just have to enjoy the ride--whatever it may be--and make sure we eat well prior to saving three lives.

What are some interesting stories you have gleaned from everyday life? Have you utilized them in your writing?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Creating a Bucket List for Life

Goals and aspirations are a good thing. Having things we can look forward to in life helps us carry on and press on toward our goals. In this sense, the--either written down or mental--things we'd like to do become our "bucket list." I hadn't heard that term until the movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson was released. Now...we don't really want to spend our time thinking about when we'll "kick the bucket" so to speak, but it's vital to think about the future.


My best friend and I in Paris
In the movie, Freeman and Nicholson meet when they receive treatments for terminal lung cancer. They become friends and Nicholson’s character finds out about a “bucket list” that Freeman’s character makes. He plans a trip for the two of them to see the world, because, of course, Nicholson’s character is conveniently a millionaire. They end up doing incredible things such as skydiving, flying over the North Pole, visiting India's Taj Mahal, eating dinner in Paris, driving a Shelby Mustang, riding motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, going on an African safari, sitting on top of the Great Pyramids, and traveling to Hong Kong before heading back home. Whew! Sounds like fun.
 
Though I’m definitely not wealthy, my “bucket list” has grown both longer and shorter over the years. It’s ever changing. Naturally, my list is filled with the many travel experiences I’d like to have one day, but there are also other things that I’ve added—some silly and serious. When researching "bucket lists," I came across a neat website, www.bucketlist.org, where people around the world can create an online bucket list. You can view people’s goals and even borrow them for your own list. It's quite fun and definitely interesting.


[Special Note to Writers: Wouldn't this site provide great ideas for characters' lifestyles and goals? I think so!]
 
Meeting Keith Urban in Las Vegas
Some of the things I have been able to do are: Serve the Lord around the world (a continuing goal)/ Donate my hair to Locks of Love/ Take a road trip down Route 66/ Help at an orphanage/ Catch a bouquet at a wedding/ Buy a house/ Support a child in another country/ Write a book / Kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland/ Be a movie extra/ See the Great Pyramids/ Graduate from college/ Have a library in my house/ Volunteer in a homeless shelter/ Have a lead role in a play/ Dye my hair red/ See the Eiffel Tower/ Learn to snow ski/ Become a journalist/ Float in the Dead Sea/ Backpack in Europe/ Meet my favorite country stars/ Learn to scuba dive/ Go on a trip just me and my Dad/ Fly first class/ Ride a camel/ See a volcano upclose/ Make my parents proud.

Me kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Ireland
These aren’t all the goals of my life and perhaps there are many more to add, but I think it’s healthy to have goals whether they are realistic or require a bit of imagination. It puts excitement in our lives and keeps us on our toes with anticipation for we never know what opportunities shall arise. I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to miss them.

What are some items on your bucket list? What have you checked off? Feel free to share below or create your own bucket list and post the link below! :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where were you when the world stopped turning

“Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day…” It is “a date which will live in infamy” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated about the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It fits here too. We will not forget where we were the moment we heard the dreadful news that our country was under direct terrorist attack. We watched the heart-breaking footage that looked more like scenes from a movie than actual events unfolding in our nation eleven years ago today.

It was a Tuesday like today and I was a fifteen-year-old sophomore. Ironically, I was sitting in an American Government class when I found out. One minute we were discussing federal policies and department checks and balances and in the other someone was at the door to inform our teacher of the attacks. His face was serious as he left the room and then came back in rolling a TV cart.

We watched as the towers burned, people fled the streets and the buildings collapsed. We heard the dismay of the newscasters reporting the horrific occurrences. We learned of the attack on the Pentagon and the crashed hijacked plane in Pennsylvania, which was likely headed for the White House or Capitol building. We witnessed it from our small Louisiana town. I remember feeling terror as I watched these great cities I wished to visit one day seemingly crumble in panic. It was sad and very strange to me.


When you hear of attacks in the Middle East on U.S. troops, you feel distant from it all, but it is just as horrifying over there. Then, you witness it on our own soil and that terror we faced on 9/11 is what I realized our soldiers face each day.

I know I cannot begin to understand what the people in New York City and D.C. were feeling, but I know it must have been a hopelessness and anxiety as to what would happen next and how we could combat more attacks.

I do know that in the days afterward, I witnessed the amazing sight of our nation pulling together. I had never seen anything like it in my lifetime.

I believe unity is the soul of a nation—our true strength. Terrorists have unity to plot and carry out acts of terrorism, so the American people as the “United” States can pull together and become more powerful than our enemies. I felt patriotism surge though my veins and seeing the American flag came to mean much more to my fellow Americans and I on that day.

Since 9/11, I know I’ve been more cautious and aware of the dangers in the world. I know it’s easy to relax inside our “American” bubbles, but we must keep fresh in our minds that terrorism is the act of evoking terror into the hearts of a people. We must turn that fear into perseverance and then into a renewed commitment to our nation. I feel we’re so busy fighting a multitude of internal battles that terrorists can just sit back and watch us create self-inflicted wounds.

We need to remember what unity means and that the “United States” are to be united and have each other’s back in a fight. That’s what unconsciously happened after 9/11. No nation will ever be perfect, but its patriotism and loyalty keep it going no matter what. Terrorists are still as active today as they were eleven years ago and our military still combats violence directly in foreign lands. We need to constantly remember them in our prayers as well as our government leaders and the families of those who lost their lives on that tragic day that this country must never forget.

God Bless the USA

Please feel free to share your 9/11 story and your thoughts on this eleventh anniversary…

Saturday, September 8, 2012

WORLD FOOD DIARY: TAKE THREE - Chicago's Pizza

Deep Dish Pizza - Chicago's Specialty

Okay...so you know by now if you've read my other world food diary entries that I'm all about trying some local cuisine, especially the home of an original style. That's why I had to have Chicago's famous deep dish pizza. But I am sad to say I was not a fan. I'm not knocking the way it was made, because we had the best. 

We tried a slice of the pie at the wildly popular Gino's East Chicago pizzeria located in the "Pizza Capitol of the World" - Chicago. Everyone else loved it, but my #1 problem was the over abundance of pizza sauce. Yeah, I know that's kind of the point with this type of pizza, but all I could taste was sauce. 

I might as well have just gotten pasta with the sauce. It was just an overload to my tastebuds, but by all means if you're in the Windy City you've got to try it. It'd be like going to Philly and not having a Philly Cheese Steak! :) You should have the best though! Go to Gino's East Chicago and see the city's sights while you're there!
My first deep dish pizza slice: Hawaiian (ham & pineapple)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"Life is Like a Box of Chocolates"

Sometimes you have one of those days where unbelievable things happen one right after another. I had one such day on Good Friday a few years ago. For the weekend, I had a series of family reunions to attend. I was on my way to my first at my grandparents’ house in Larto Lake (where I grew up) for a crawfish boil when the trouble began.

Before the boil, I had to go pick up a bridesmaids dress in Marksville, the parish seat for Avoyelles Parish with around 5,500 residents and unfamiliar territory for me. I had only been there once or twice when I was a kid.

I had no problem getting there. The problem was getting out, which took me two hours to do so. I obtained directions from my grandfather, who has traveled in the area all of his life. My first mistake of the day was to ask a local for directions as well.

I ended up on a snake-like blacktop country road; the kind with a few sparse houses and no traffic except for an occasional tractor. But it looked like my grandfather had said, so I wasn’t worried…yet.

I found out my first endeavor quickly: I needed gasoline. I was in the middle of nowhere needing gasoline with no idea if a station was nearby. I said a quick prayer and “presto” a gas station appeared around the next curve. I was saved! Well now the mishaps really began...

The station had the old-time gas pumps with actual scrolling numbers and all. I had never used one of them before. It was easy to figure out, except the one I was using was broken.

After the owner informed me of my mistake, I immediately removed the pump from my car. Gas began spewing everywhere! Hastily, I made amends with the owner, paid and got back on the road. The road soon switched to a white gravel one accompanied by only a levy and crop fields. I was really in the middle of nowhere.

I drove for six miles and come to a direct halt at the start of a nasty dirt road - its ruts forming mini Grand Canyons ahead. At that time, I saw a sign that read ‘Lake Ophelia Wildlife Refuge.’ I had never heard of the lake nor had my grandfather whom I called after finding a bare minimum of cell phone reception.
The verdict: I had to go back, which made me just a little frustrated and annoyed.

Already approaching my wits’ end, I pulled on the side of the road and as my tires began to spin, I discovered one can bog down in mud on a dry day. The same moment, though, two gentlemen in a farm truck come to my rescue, which required a large chain and some ingenuity. In 30 minutes time, my car was free. As mud was slinging, my driver side window chose to collapse into my door frame. Yes...you heard right.

All I could do after that was laugh hysterically to keep from crying while trying to recall the day’s catastrophes to my mother over the phone. Days like that one seem meant to happen. All that can be done is laugh and force it out of mind. I cannot tell you I learned a life-altering lesson that day, but I guess the next time I travel I will have a GPS or listen to my grandfather over a local. I eventually made it to Larto after an additional hour and a half detour through Alexandria.

I offer encouragement to everyone who has, had and will have “one of those days.” Forrest Gump’s Mama was right, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get!” All I can say is, Reader, you are not alone.