Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's time to unplug

Early morning at the camp site...
I can only hear the sounds of nature

About a month ago, Robby asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday. After a little thought and an outdoor cooking class at Oatland Island, I decided I wanted all of us to go camping. We settled on Ft. McAllister State Park which is about 15 minutes from the house and began compiling our gear.

I wasn’t sure how the camping trip was going to mesh with my school schedule. I try to get all of my homework finished during the week so that my weekends are free, but it doesn’t always work that way. Luckily, my homework load was light and I was able to spend the weekend “unplugged.”
I don't remember the last time I got to read a book
and take a nap in the middle of the day.
I use the term “unplugged with the kids. It means they have to spend the afternoon or day or weekend without turning on a computer, gaming device, or television. They have to be creative and find alternate ways to entertain themselves. They used to hate being “unplugged” but now they have come around to the idea.
We spent Friday and Saturday night at the campground. That was almost 2 full days of being “unplugged.” The kids explored the woods, we took walks, read books in our tents, skipped rocks on the river, and fine-tuned our outdoor cooking skills. I even left my cellphone in the car and ignored my email.

Being a mom, I see the importance and making the kids “unplug.” But it’s hard for me to understand why I need to take my own medicine sometimes. Being “unplugged” forces me process memories and “think about things” that I can normally push to the back of my mind.

Mmmm...biscuits and bacon taste better
when they are cooked on an open fire

But this weekend was different for some reason. Putting up the tents and cooking on the camp stove brought back a lot of memories from the early part of my marriage. My ex and I used to camp a lot. When we were 18, we drove from Texas to Yellowstone and camped out the entire trip. When we moved to Alaska in 1997, we camped at almost every park from Georgia to Fairbanks. We set up our tent in places like the Yukon, British Columbia, and Montana. We camped on the banks of Valdez and caught some amazing salmon that we cooked on an open fire.

But it made me sad to realize that we never shared those types of camping trips with the children. We camped a few times in Disney World with the kids, but it was different. Veronica and Jude never got to see us when we were young and happy—they only got to witness a very sad and frustrated couple trying to make everyone believe that everything was okay.

But I realized this weekend, that it doesn’t make me sad any more to think about those fun times we used to have. As much as I would like to write off my past as a total mistake, I have to admit that it wasn’t all bad. As a matter of fact, some of it was pretty amazing. I mean, how many people can say they camped at the Article Circle or woke up to a family of black bears catching spawning salmon a few feet from the door of their tent?
I’m glad I had the chance to “unplug” this weekend and allow myself the time to let these good memories flood my head and not push them to the back of my mind. I’m glad I took the time to accept that it’s okay to admit that my past wasn’t all tragic.

Skipping rocks and breathing fresh air...

I’m glad Robby is comfortable with me talking about my past—even when I’m not badmouthing my ex. And I’m glad I had all those camping adventures even if they were with someone that I don’t like to think about anymore. But most of all, I’m glad that I didn’t refuse to go camping again in an effort to not be reminded of my past. I realized this weekend that it’s okay for me to think about my past and smile a little—I guess it wasn’t all bad after all.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Taking Stephen King's advice

So, it’s been a while since my last blog—I don’t think I have ever gone this long without posting something. It’s been quite a week. I have to sit and look at the calendar so I can remember what all I have done these past several days.
1.     Valentine’s Day
3.     Veronica’s audition for art school
4.     Stephen King
And of course I had my normal course work with school, delivering the hundreds of boxes of Girl Scout cookies Veronica sold, and sending out resumes for an internship.
Everything about this week was completely surreal. I think it was because there were so many events taking place that I have anticipated for over 3 or 4 months-- to finally see them take place made me feel like I was dreaming.
Robby and I got to spend our first Valentine’s Day together. He took me out on Saturday night to an upscale restaurant in Savannah known as the Mansion. I had never been there and I have wanted to go for years. Robby arranged for the sitter on his own and made all of the plans. We even dressed up.
When Tuesday rolled around, we were both giddy with the fact that we finally had a special someone in our life for Valentine’s Day. There is no doubt that no matter how much you try to tell yourself, “I don’t care about Valentine’s Day. It’s just a made-up holiday,” it is still hard to be alone. It doesn’t help when people call you on the phone and say, “I just wanted to check on you because I knew you were all alone today.” Thanks for the reminder.
After 3 months of constant tagging, posting, liking, sharing, and tweeting, I finally got to see my efforts as the social media intern for the Savannah Book Festival pay off. The event lasted 5 days this year…5 full days of sitting at the computer answering people’s constant questions on Facebook like “Where do I get tickets? Do you still have tickets for Pat Conroy? Can I see Stephen King without a ticket? Where can I park? Where is the festival? Do you know of a hotel that still has rooms?”

No zoom needed, I was really this
close to Stephen King

I got some cool stuff out of my internship though. I got 2 VIP tickets to see Walter Isaacson speak about his best-selling biography on Steve Jobs. I got to finally meet some of the authors face-to-face and say, “I’m the crazy person who has been stalking you on Facebook for the past 3 months” which would lead into some nice conversation that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’m happy with the work I did and the connections I was able to make.

Veronica had her first audition as an artist on Saturday, too. We are trying to get her into the art magnet school here in Savannah. Since she will be in 6th grade, she had to present her art portfolio and draw a picture in front of the school officials. Luckily she inherited my dad’s art skills and not mine.

Sunday ended with my visit with Stephen King. I mentioned in a past post that I was one of a handful of writing students chosen to have a private meeting with the master of horror. Before the meeting with King, Robby and I stood in line with about 500 other people waiting to see King at another venue for the book festival. For about 2 hours, I was able to hang out and talk with some of King’s biggest fans. It was a great way to gear up for the rest of my afternoon.

The meeting with King was surreal. When I describe the event, it sounds like one of my typical weird dreams--I was sitting next to Dr. Lough, the head of the writing department, talking about SCAD stuff with my classmate Jason and my former classmate Amy. Then 2 more of my classmates arrived and waved at me as they sat a few rows back. Then Stephen King walked in and sat in a big leather chair about 5 feet away from me and talked about writing.
King described the moment when he was standing in his rundown apartment alone on the phone with his agent and he told him that the publishers would pay him $400,000 for Carrie. “My knees gave out and I just slid down the wall,” said King. “If you want to be a writer, you just have to fucking write it, man.”
After that, I walked across Broughton St. to the Trustee’s Theater and sat next to Robby and we listened to King talk for another hour. He read us the first chapter of his sequel to “The Shining” which hasn’t been published yet. He talked about writing and how much he hated Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of The Shining and how he thought people would hate “Pet Cemetery.”   
I was able to get my book signed and I walked out of the place feeling inspired. I needed this week. I needed to completely immerse myself in the business of writing and remind myself why I put my life on hold for 2 years to set myself up to be a “real” writer. I wonder how long it will take for these moments to not feel so dreamlike.
Maybe one day I will be able to hand someone my business card which reads “Kim Wade, writer” and not feel like a poser. Maybe one day my agent will call me with a book offer that will make my knees buckle and open up a new world for me. But until then, I just need to take King’s advice and “just fucking write it, man.”