Sunday, December 02, 2007

I'm a Finalist!...

It's now official because the list has been posted on various RWA chapter loops and my name is actually there! I didn't mis-read the email! I am absolutely thrilled!

Okay, let me start from the beginning...

I entered the New England Chapter's First Kiss Contest... and... I finalled! It is such a wonderful feeling! Especially since I love the manuscript. Now my entry is on its way with the five other fnalists to editor Beth de Guzman (Grand Central Publishing) who is choosing the winners.

Here's wishing all of us the best of luck!

Woo Hoo! I'm a finalist in the First Kiss Contest! Woo Hoo again, just for good measure!

They say time makes everything better, and talking about stuff helps. Well, I'm not quite sure exactly who "they" are... but they are only half right in this instance. Yes, time will make the experience fade a bit... but right now, talking about it doesn't help.

I heard an interview with a well-known soft-jazz musician who lives in the area and he was relaying his evacuation experience. Like me, his home escaped damage. But listening to him recount exactly what I went through, and knowing that we came through it all just fine while literally thousands of families did not just seemed so shallow.

True, we had to escape. But we both had lots of notice. We had time to pack and take the things that were most valuable to us (and make decisions of what to leave behind--like my mother's teddy bear). While I was part of a small group that was police escorted through an area with fire on both sides of us, I was not in imminent danger of being consumed by flames as were some people.

Bottom line: I had a home to come back to, for which I am most grateful. I did not have to deal with sifting through the ashes, nor did I have to seek assistance from any of the many public agencies that set up camp down the street from me.

But I have been greatly affected by this fire. I drive through one of the hardest hit areas each day on my way to work. Seeing homes that have literally melted into the ground. Trees that were once two-hundred year old majestic olds that are now charred hulls. I weep inside for all that has been lost... for the families that have lost their teddy bears, for the landscape that has lost its beauty for years to come.

For three weeks, each day the landscape looked sadder and sadder. Even while the various utility companies were stringing new wires, installing new poles, the vegetation was crumbling.

But then, last week the cleanup began. Erosion control measures became evident. Many of the blackened skeletons were removed, leaving just blackened ground. But it looks better. It looks more... normal...

Yes, time... even just a few weeks... is making this better. Most of the families will rebuild and have new homes. Nature will regenerate itself and once be green, lush, and beautiful.

But it will all be different. Not necessarily a bad thing, but nothing will be the same again. And I guess that's what life is all about: growing, moving forward... changing.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Fallbrook Fires 2007 - Reflections...

Exactly two weeks, I became a "fire runaway". Fortunately, my story has a happy ending, unlike so many others. Over 200 homes (at least... at first the estimate was over 500) were completely destroyed, with countless others damaged just in my town alone. Close to 9,500 acres were ravaged by flames so hot, vegetation and trees more than 100 years old were killed instantly.

I knew it was going to be a bad day when I awoke about 5:30AM that morning to learn the humidity was only 4%. In all the years I've lived here, the lowest I've ever seen the humidity first thing in the morning was around 30%. Even in the heat of day, the lowest was 7%.

Another sign was I could not only hear the wind howling--one of the things I love about my house is that I cannot hear the wind in most rooms and since I am not fond of wind, this is a good thing--but also could feel the house shaking from it.

Then I turned on the TV news to learn that sure enough, two fires had started at the east end of the area across the freeway. (A bit of geography: if we were to incorporate, in land mass we'd be second only to San Diego.) And since the wind was blowing from the north, probably no reason to worry... except that all emergency forces would be heading that way... so if something else were to start up, no one could come.

Feeling foolish, I decided to pack up stuff. I'd always had a plan of what I'd take: pictures my mother had created, a limited edition photograph from my brother, needlepoint pictures stitched by my step-grandmother, photos from my sister. Certainly important papers and a box of checks. A suitcase of clothes... with lots of underwear. Another suitcase of blankets and towels. Naturally Mac, Dell, and Dana, without question. Lots and lots of Zantac.

Gathering my possessions was not the problem... but I was a bit taken aback at how long it took to pack. An hour. I'd never have made it had I only had minutes like so many people I was learning about who were escaping from what became known as the Witch fire about 30 miles from me. But I had no real reason to worry... in a day or so, I'd be spending hours putting everything back and chiding myself for being such a worry-wart.

By 9AM, the fire had jumped the freeway (eight lanes plus a huge median). Not so good, but still a bit south of me and definitely east. With the wind still rippin' from the north.

By 11AM, they were evacuating the area where I'd made an offer on a home telling them to move west. Decision made: if we had to evacuate, I was takin' my dad and stepmother and their little dog (Suzy) with me... Began figuring out how to get all my possessions into the trusty HIghlander leaving enough room for all their prized possessions and them.

Around noon, my brother called from New York, (about the fourth conversation with two with my sister...) who told me that the evacuation area was now a huge swatch of the east side... moving very close to me. Funny... there was NOTHING on the any of the local news stations about this...

At one o'clock, decided it was time to pack the car and move on out. Best to get to my dad's place as he's located farther north... Said good bye to the possessions I was forced to leave behind trying not to acknowledge the fact that I might not see them again, and telling myself they are just "things"...

As I drove out of my neighborhood, noticed a house about two blocks from me was fully engulfed with no firefighters around. With a sinking feeling, I had to face the reality there was a very good chance I'd have nothing to come "home" to...

By 3PM, had everything else loaded, including Suzy's stuff with just enough room for passengers remaining. The HIghlander was pointed towards the escape route... which we hopefully remained positive we wouldn't be taking. And good news... my answering machine was still taking calls...

At 10PM, the wind shifted and the flames crested the hill in their march towards more destruction. We loaded up and moved 'em out...

to be continued...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hey Summer!!!...

Get your butt back here! It can't be almost the end of you! I haven't had time to enjoy ya yet! I feel ripped off, cheated, gypped.

Here's a quick listing of all things that I haven't done yet:

Gone to the beach... though I do like it much better in the winter when no one is around...
Barbequed... the bbq ran outta gas early June...and just got itself re-filled... so we can probably fire that baby up this weekend...
Sat in the sun... mainly cuz it's been way too stinkin' hot here this summer...
Washed my car... but we shan't even go there!
Planted a vegetable garden... hmmm... maybe we can consider a fall one!
Haven't read 1/3 of the books I hauled home from Dallas...but I did spend a weekend reading Luanne Rice's new one. about great! Currently enjoying Diane Mott Davidson's latest... and next up... hmmm... think I'll ready a bit of Carly Phillips...

And I could go on...and on...and on some more! So, see Summer! You can't flee away just yet..

But here's the good news! August is supposed to be our warmest month here. Cools off in a whole degree! So, yep...though the days'll be a tad shorter, the nights a bit longer... I'll get my licks in! Just you wait ain't fleein' outta here yet!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ain't Called Gators for Nothin'!...

Just returned from the annual RWA Conference held in Dallas this year. It appears my inquisitive tasting-new-foods nature comes out in full force when visiting this beautiful city.

Last time, at the Dallas conference in Y2004, I tried escargot (AKA: snails...) The sauce was good... the snails themselves... they were okay especially the first two. The third one was gritty... yum, yum...(picture scrunched up face here...) I think three escargot are probably enough for me.

This time a group of us boarded DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) and went to the West End. Walked a couple of blocks and arrived at Gators. They serve all kinds of food--burgers, sandwiches, Tex-Mex, pasta. And... alligator. So, an appetizer of deep-fried gator was ordered. Now, I won't lie to you... it did not taste like chicken. Nor like calamari. It was good... had a fairly tender texture, not too chewy, rather tasteless actually. But the coating was delicious as was the sauce! And no gritty experience... Had about three pieces. Think that's probably enough for me, at least for the next few years.

And that's the thing about life in general. It's made for experiencing, for tasting. Sure, not all of it is gonna appeal or be up for a second go-around. Do I think my life was enriched by eating three snails and three bits of alligator? Ha! Not likely! But will I remember it? Definitely! There is nothing like getting together with friends, old and new, and chewing the fat... or in this case the alligator. This first night in Dallas, spent at Gators, set the tone for a wonderful conference to come.

Oh, and the Fajitas I had for dinner... were some of the best I've ever eaten...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Progress Report...

Been a busy week. The first couple of days, those dratted dust bunnies thought they'd won. I had no energy to do a thing. It was an effort to even move from room to room around all the clutter, but I cracked the whip and made myself do stuff. By Tuesday, things were lookin' a bit more positive...and suddenly, my house was beginning to look more like my home.

I no longer had to fear the Health Department arriving unannounced to conduct an impromptu inspection and then board up the joint as a scary health hazard. The furniture was no longer gray but the natural brown it started out as since it was now cleared of dust.

The kitchen floor is again clean enough to eat off of ... and no I won't...and no...I don't really believe in the five-second rule...

Am I done?


Still have my office (horrors!) and the family room (but I did make a dent in it...) and the garage (let's not go there...except to say the car still fits...and we know it's a Highlander not a Mini Cooper...)...

But it's definitely fit enough for habitation that I allowed the plumber inside to fix both toilets that were leaking like sieves and both sink-faucets that squirted everywhere but into the sinks.

So life is definitely good in Brooke-World.

Now... if only I could find the words to write... they now seem to be hiding...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Vacation, Vacation, Vacation...

Well, kinda but not exactly...

True, I have nine wonderful, glorious, free days ahead of me. But I'm not going anywhere. With luck, I'll barely even leave the abode except to pick up viddles... and cleaning supplies.

Yep. I am gonna stay around town and reclaim my home.

Dust Bunnies! You are on notice. Cobwebs and Eight-Legged Friends! Here's your notice as well. Run! Run while you can... cuz soon you are gonna be chased by the Big Red Suckin' Machine... if I can find it amid the clutter...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Brooke is Back!...

Like a bad penny!

Been working like a nut, been to a family wedding, been dealing with family crises, been not havin' a whole lot of fun. But, luckily, all is turning out well.

And while I currently look like hell, and feel like hell, life is lookin' pretty grand. I suppose every once in a while we need that reality check that helps us put the important things back in the frontline.

So...since today is my birthday, and since I got the best present possible finding out that my father is gonna be okay again for a good long time, and since I love brand new beginnings, I am making good on my promise made in the last post.

I am back... with a vengeance... for at least a bit...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Where's Brooke?...

Has anybody seen her recently? Does anybody know where she is? (Seems to be the question of the day.)

Is she lurking? (Nope... stalked the corners, done the sneak-attack-thing of opening all doors suddenly. No Brooke behind them.)

Is she cohabitating under the bed with the DustBunnies? (Ha! That's not possible...she'd have sneezed her head off within three minutes!)

Well, what about relaxing on vacation on a desert isle? How's that sound? (Nice...but negatory.)

Hmmm...maybe she's moving! (Uh... nope... not yet. Still sorting through junk. Who knew one moderately sane woman could have so much stuff...)

Maybe the contest entries crushed her... (Wrong! Perhaps the mail carrier felt the strain, but not Brooke...she's tougher than that! Hopefully...)

Okay...she's probably at work, right? (Alas... the ol' job has been occupying a unfair number of hours these days, but that's not the only place you'll find her.)

Then, back to the original question: Where's Brooke?

Answer: She's on the hunt for another couple of hours for each day. It is anticipated that the hunt will conclude the end of May. Then... Brooke will be back. A little older. A lot more tired. And with a vengeance!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Congratulations, Randy Jeanne!!!...

Yep...Congratulations, accolades, and certainly the writer's traditional favorite, chocolate are in order for my friend...newly published author, Randy Jeanne! Woo Hoo!!!

Her debut novel, STEALING AMY, hit the web-waves on February 1. And I am so excited for her!

I've had the distinct pleasure of reading it along its path to publication. While she says I'm a bit biased (which we all know I'm NOT!), it's an adorable story. It's one of those books that when you put it down, you'll walk away with a really happy feeling. Kinda like waking up in the morning after having a really nice dream, and that really nice dream follows you though all day long. That's what STEALING AMY does.

And I love books that do that for me. That's what reading is all about! An escape from reality.

Since I'm a victim of identify theft, that this book could succeed in making me feel good is really quite a tribute to Randy's storytelling. And to her perseverance as well. More than just me told her that ID theft might not be a good premise for a book, and yet, it totally works.

Wanna know more about it? (Eh, eh, eh...this is why they call it a tease, huh!) Check out these two links:

and this one:

And once again, CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Randy! This is just the first of many!!!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Happy New Year!...

Yeah...yeah...yeah... I know! Year 2007 is already 1/24 over with...and I am finally posting my New Year's Blog. are probably wonder what my NY resolutions are... Right? Well, tough! I ain't telling ya! Suffice it to say, that I don't "do" resolutions, per se. Instead I set goals in each of four categories: Personal, Financial, Career, and Travel.

So...since I'm not tellin' ya my NY Goals, I'll keep in tune with last year's New Year's Blog, and mention stuff I love. Ready? Here goes:

1. I love clouds. Almost any kind of clouds. Fluffy, white ones. Interesting gray ones. Speeding-through-the-air ones. Billowing ones. Clouds are just a really cool thing.

2. I love my dad's little dog. She is this adorable bundle of black fur with tips of white on her front feet and tummy. She'll hear me drive up and meet me at the door...all wiggly and excited. After saying a quick 'Hello", she races off to find the toy of choice for me to play fetch with her. She loves playing fetch!!!!! But, she'll pause to let me pick her up and cuddle her. There is nothing like a dog's devoted, genuine love.

3. I love music. First thing when I arrive home, is to turn on my stereo. I love all kinds of music. There is something about the passion that pulls me, moves me. Whether it's a slow song, a chill piece, or a fast tune, music is something that is just a part of my world.

4. I love running water. Well, as long as it's not the toilet leaking or something. But give me the ocean, a racing stream, a waterfall, a fountain. There is something so primitive, free and wild about natural water flows.

5. I love birds and butterflies. They seem as though they are just flittin' through life, not a care in the world. In reality, they both have pretty tough lives, but they do seem so cheerful.

6. I love snuggling under the covers, reading, and snoozing. There is something very decadent about that.

7. I love the sense of touch... being able to "feel" things. The softness of snow. The silkiness of materials. The hardness of wood. The velvety smoothness of a rose petal. Touch seems to be one of the more overlooked senses, and yet it's so important to the other ones.

8. I love watching kids play. Everything in a child's world is so exciting, so new. They know how to have fun. They know how to appreciate the little things in life.

9. I love the "high" feeling of getting something accomplished that's been a nagging task for far too long. With the completion brings such a sense of elation, a sense of relief.

10. I love anything new. There is so much hope and innocence. With age comes wisdom. The trick is to not lose that sheer joy of the new not let cynicism take over.

And, I love everything I loved last year just as much, but even more I love how my family and friends, who are all so special and wonderful, make me feel special and wonderful…even when I am not so special and wonderful.