Huh. This is a screen shot of a photograph. Weird.
Five seconds before we put our Chicagoland house on the market, we had a plumbing issue so dreadful that a crew of five had to dig a 7-foot pit in our front yard. After they filled in the pit, we were left with a huge mound of dirt and instructions to water it and stomp on it every day until it was level with the grass. The girls loved it, but what a nightmare.
I had completely forgotten about that until today. Also the tree that fell on the garage the very next week.
Screen Shot Sunday: I take lots of screen shots. Too many, really. Every few weeks, when my desktop is cluttered, I throw all my screen shots into a screen shot folder. On Screen Shot Sundays, I choose one at random and explain it.
I believe my friends wanted to keep their promises. We weren't a bunch of liars. I'm sure I also wrote, "Love ya forever," and "Best friends forever," and a slew of sloppy quasi-romantic notions in their yearbooks.
So what happened?
We aged. We grew apart. We moved on and other things became important. I understand that, I do, but why make promises at all? Isn't life full of change?
Maybe the best we can promise anyone is to love them in this moment. "Best friends for now!" doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but at least it's honest. Maybe it's enough to remember that, at one point in our lives, we loved each other enough to promise forever. We hoped that our friendships would last forever.
Maybe that's enough; I'm not sure.
(Several people wrote variations of, "please don't ever change." I'm so glad I didn't promise that. Shudder.)
Photo Credit: fabulously40.com
If you haven't read Kathryn Schulz's New Yorker article, The Really Big One (formerly titled The Earthquake that Will Devastate Seattle,) about Seattle's impending megathrust earthquake, go ahead and read it: http://nyr.kr/1fpxN1r
Here's the tl;dr: Seattle is screwed.
General reaction from friends and family has fallen into three camps:
--You're going to die!
--That's total horseshit.
For the record, the science behind the article is good. So yes, there's a 10 percent chance of a huge earthquake devastating Seattle and the rest of the Pacific Northwest within the next 10 years.
But every city has some sort of extreme weather. Tornadoes have been ravishing the Midwest for weeks. I would melt in the tropics. Tsunamis, hurricanes, lava.
Then there's health. Each of us has a 1 in 7 chance of Death-by-Cancer, and we have virtually no control over that. A 1 in 5 chance of death from heart disease. (Also, a 1 in 61 chance of dying from pneumonia. I got the good drugs last week and am breathing much better, thanks.)
I don't want to live my life being afraid.
I love Seattle. We moved here from the Midwest via New Zealand, and I couldn't be happier. There's no other way to put it: Seattle is gorgeous.
We have a huge working port, ship yards, and the Chittenden Locks to stoke small people's curious minds (and, you know, mine.) A volcano in the distance. Mountains all around. Beaches and playgrounds and parks for days.
Within walking distance of my house, there's a small intersection from which I can look east to the Cascade Mountains, west to the Olympic Mountains, and south to the Puget Sound. Who needs to choose between mountains and the sea? We have both!
Seattle boasts a lively music scene. And coffee shops. And child-friendly, dog-friendlier businesses. And the REI flagship store.
Within walking distance of my house, I have Secret Garden Books, my great independent book store:
And the Ballard Branch of the amazing Seattle Public Library:
Yeah, it has a "green roof!" Seattle is one of America's greenest cities. We recycle and compost and bike everywhere. We stay out of our cars whenever possible. We're building more greenways, working on better public transportation, and using smart energy.
Seattle's politics are great, too. Like every city, we have our problems, but it's a mostly live-and-let-live city. Socially, Seattle is super liberal. People keep their religion to themselves. I love all of these things.
I'm not saying Seattle is the best [insert accolade here] in the whole world. You might be happier somewhere else.
But when family begged us to come home, all I could think was, "We are home." We're working to ensure our family and our home are prepared for a massive earthquake, but in the mean time, we're living. And happy*.
*Except when I think about Kathryn Schulz's demonstrative earthquake exercise. Here, you can play along at home:
"Take your hands and hold them palms down, middle fingertips touching. Your right hand represents the North American tectonic plate, which bears on its back, among other things, our entire continent, from One World Trade Center to the Space Needle, in Seattle. Your left hand represents an oceanic plate called Juan de Fuca, ninety thousand square miles in size. The place where they meet is the Cascadia subduction zone. Now slide your left hand under your right one. That is what the Juan de Fuca plate is doing: slipping steadily beneath North America. When you try it, your right hand will slide up your left arm, as if you were pushing up your sleeve. That is what North America is not doing. It is stuck, wedged tight against the surface of the other plate.
Without moving your hands, curl your right knuckles up, so that they point toward the ceiling. Under pressure from Juan de Fuca, the stuck edge of North America is bulging upward and compressing eastward, at the rate of, respectively, three to four millimetres and thirty to forty millimetres a year. It can do so for quite some time, because, as continent stuff goes, it is young, made of rock that is still relatively elastic. (Rocks, like us, get stiffer as they age.) But it cannot do so indefinitely. There is a backstop—the craton, that ancient unbudgeable mass at the center of the continent—and, sooner or later, North America will rebound like a spring. If, on that occasion, only the southern part of the Cascadia subduction zone gives way—your first two fingers, say—the magnitude of the resulting quake will be somewhere between 8.0 and 8.6.That’s the big one. If the entire zone gives way at once, an event that seismologists call a full-margin rupture, the magnitude will be somewhere between 8.7 and 9.2. That’s the very big one.
Flick your right fingers outward, forcefully, so that your hand flattens back down again. When the next very big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west—losing, within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries. Some of that shift will take place beneath the ocean, displacing a colossal quantity of seawater. (Watch what your fingertips do when you flatten your hand.) The water will surge upward into a huge hill, then promptly collapse. One side will rush west, toward Japan. The other side will rush east, in a seven-hundred-mile liquid wall that will reach the Northwest coast, on average, fifteen minutes after the earthquake begins. By the time the shaking has ceased and the tsunami has receded, the region will be unrecognizable."
In Life Before, my YA novel coming out next spring, Xander Fife has a secret, and I built his whole character around it. He also has passions (soccer, Gretchen Taylor, wings from Quaker Steak & Lube) and quirks (a charming inability to wake up on time, a long history of first dates, and a weird relationship with junk food,) but his whole character started with that secret.
At some point, I started thinking of Xander's physical character. Looks are generally the least important aspect of character for me, but they're still important to my writing. For that, I go straight to Google Image Search. For Xander, I googled for "young actors, brown hair."
Googling for characters always makes me feel like a creeper. Seriously, who else Googles "young girls with freckles and long brown hair" or "teen boys with washboard abs?" When I wrote my first novel for adults, I printed photos of heads and body parts and Frankensteined them together before pinning them to my bulletin board. That's what we writers call "procrastinating."
For Xander, I chose the picture of Logan Lerman above. Logan isn't right on the money, but he's pretty close to the Xander in my head, so keeping that photo nearby helped me stay on track while writing. I invented a voice and his manner of moving. I gave him insecurity.
For my current project, I started with a story that needed a character, so I had to work backwards. What kind of woman would throw her whole world into crisis?
Once I have that hook, that one big thing, I'm off to the races.
My very, very favorite way to develop a character is to have someone interview him or her. For an hour or so, I get to be the protagonist while my friend delves into my character and motivations. It's really difficult to find a friend with the patience for this, but it's super helpful and really fun.
And, once I know my character inside and out, I can start writing.
*I was in elementary school with Jerry Green, and though I never uttered that name out loud, I still can't get it out of my head. It's the kind of name you can shed when you switch schools (if you stop picking and eating your dried mucus) but it has to color your life a little, right? I would never actually write about Jerry Green, but someone else with a horrid childhood nickname? Sure.
Photo Credit: That's an uncredited photo of Logan Lerman that I pulled off of IMDB when I needed a face for Xander Fife.
Attention YA writers: I have found the mythical portal to the teen years.
The bad news: it may summon feelings of inadequacy and regret.
The good news: it's probably in your house. You may even have more than one!
Break out your high school yearbook, and everything you need is right inside; your young self is full of ideas and hormones and angst.
My yearbooks made an unexpected appearance this week (read: the toddler raided my book shelf) and I can't stay out of them.
And my heart again is aflutter for that teenaged boy who made me feel like I belonged on this planet. He's married now, and so am I, and we haven't been in love for well over 15 years. But looking at teen him, I am 18 again, full of love. . .and utter insecurity.
Gold Mine. My memories are fresh now, and tapping into those genuine feelings can carry me through 70,000 words. Easy.
And then there are the messages.
They're rife with hope, innuendo, and long-forgotten nuance. I remember scraping that lipstick off my cheek at speech tournaments. I can feel the heat of my synthetic marching band uniform during sweltering August band nights. We were, ironically, The Unruly Ones, and our ditties about love and loss dance in my dreams. I remember what RAL was hinting at when he wrote, "You know how I feel." Yeah, I still know how he felt. And how I felt.
Excitement! Confusion. Hope. Dread. I can feel it all. Because technology changes. Fashion changes. Music changes. But a teen heart still beats in excitement or fear, just as it did 20 years ago.
I still wish I had hugged that guy whose heart broke as his beloved ran away, giggling like a third grader. I wish I would have been a better friend. I wish I would have had more fun and broken more rules. Hell, I wish I had broken rules, period! I wish I had known that everyone harbored embarrassment, insecurity, and fear. I wish I could change my worst memories.
And that, my friends, is golden. I can write a book on wishes.
And so can you.
In our family, we talk a lot about fairness. We talk about luck. We talk about putting kindness out into the world. We talk about social justice.
But we're not talking about the Supreme Court decision.
Both of my school-aged daughters had gay teachers this year: one in a longtime partnership, and one who leveled up from "girlfriend" to "fiancee" just this spring. My girls have friends with gay parents. We have gay friends and gay family.
I don't want to plant a seed in my girls' brains that ANY of their relationships are lesser than mine. I want them to continue to believe in fairness. Telling them that the Supreme Court had to mandate recognition of gay marriage will make the little wheels of their brains spin wildly. They already know that their is hatred and meanness in the world, but I don't want them to know that some of that hatred and meanness is showered on people they love.
In my girls' world, every couple can get married, because that is fair. Anything less is simply ridiculous.
So yes, we talk about homelessness. We talk about school funding. We talk about famine and disease and death and sex.
But for now, in my house, there will be no discussion about prejudice against same-sex marriages.
It is so ordered.
I blog rarely, because I'm busy writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: