March Madness

March Madness makes me think of basketball and my alma mater, Murray State. It also makes me think of tornadoes. I’ll never forget cleaning up after an F4 tornado hit my friend’s house on April 27, 2011. Laura and her family survived the direct hit while riding out the storm in their basement. However, the rest of the house didn’t fare so well.

As I pulled into her driveway, the trees were a dead-giveaway, or what was left of them anyway. Most were beheaded, snapped like matchsticks. The ones left standing were naked. The pressure from the tornado exploded the bark and left the trees to die a slow death. Laura had mentioned the pressure during the tornado too. During the storm, her children had held their ears in pain while Laura checked hers for bleeding-the intensity was that bad.

The house appeared to be intact from the road, but upon a closer look, the gap between the garage and the house was askew with a giant, vertical crack running the length of the two-story home. The tornado literally split the house in two. But still, Laura’s family was alive. Others, just down the road, didn’t survive. And her home, well, you could still decipher that it was a house. It would mean six months in a hotel, but at least it wasn’t wiped clean from its foundation as others in the area were.

Her neighbor’s home was one of those that went MIA. The only thing left standing in the field was what appeared to be a refrigerator, but was actually the storm shelter which saved her neighbor’s life. Laura and her husband found the neighbor inside of it, pinned inside by a massive Doppler radar ball. The radar was the one mounted on the highway stand, a half mile away. It looked much bigger on the ground as it barred the door to the storm shelter. And it felt much bigger when they pushed it a few feet to rescue their neighbor.

Despite the demolition, there always seems to be something quirky in the midst of the debris that pulls through a violent tornado. I noticed a familiar Styrofoam cup on the outside of Laura’s windowsill. Inside the cup was a new planting of a tomato which we received from our Master Gardener class, the week before the tornado. While multiple tempests destroyed miles and miles of Alabama, the little Styrofoam cup did not budge from the outer window ledge. Weird, huh? The mighty oaks were no more, but Laura could still look forward to fried green tomatoes.

It’s getting to be that time of year again-for tornadoes, not tomatoes. If I sound flippant, it’s just me getting nervous. While researching for Tornado Valley: Huntsville’s Havoc , I heard many storm accounts and personal stories. My heart beat faster as I listened and cried along with the victims, but even had a few laughs over bizarre experiences. I compiled them into a book, not to relive the moments, but to learn from those who lived through them. The tornado stories continue to fascinate me. I’d like to hear yours if you have any to share.

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon ($0.99)

Finding Time When There’s No Time to Find

How do you find time when there is no time to find? Surely this was one of those questions the Ancients asked their oracles. Today, we’re still wondering the same thing. Time management tools and plans abound, yet we still find ourselves muttering, “I don’t have time.” Of course we do. If we have the breath to utter that we don’t have time, obviously the present time is something we do have.

What we really mean to say is that we don’t have time to do what we want to do or what we know needs doing. It’s this ‘me’ time that gets lost in the shuffle, the time that matters to us. For me, my ‘me’ time is the ‘write’ time or finding time to write. This is what I want more of-not the ‘I need more time to do chores’ kind of time.

Outside of paying for a chore boy, a cheaper way of finding more time is to milk the time we do have. Milk it for all it’s worth. Thankfully, multi-tasking was last millennium’s trend which I’m relieved went out of style. If anything, multi-tasking created more attention deficit disorders or made current ones worse. I’m suggesting that instead, we eek out all 60 seconds of every minute. The Urban Dictionary defines eeking out as “letting your leg hairs grow long enough so it doesn’t hurt as much when you eventually shave them.” How’s that for a word picture?

Even I could think of a better definition. To clarify, we all have what could be called wasted time. Whether it’s the car line, the grocery line, driving time, waiting for the bus time, kids at karate time, daughter’s dance lessons, or what have you. I’m proposing that we find more ‘me’ time from our wasted time. Most of us can claim to have plenty of wasted time, so why not sneak some ‘me’ time out of it? In fact, our wasted time could be the only place to find it.

I waste a lot of time in the car, so this is when I use the time to write. No, not while driving-that would be considered multi-tasking. When the gear is in PARK, I am safe to write. Sure, I battle wasps with the windows rolled down, but a wasp sting is nothing compared to socializing with other soccer moms. During oodles of practices, which are wonderful physical and social time for my children, but wasted time for me, I write. I can write and still watch my children compete from my vehicle while keeping two things in mind: never park behind the soccer goal if auto insurance has already replaced the windshield, and secondly, sometimes the only thing separating a pit bull from a soccer mom really is lipstick.

Think about planning some ‘me’ time during your wasted time. Eek out those seconds. Who knows? They could even be found while shaving or putting on lipstick.

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon