Monday, June 27, 2011

Really, Jenji Kohan??? REALLY??

You robbed me! BRING BACK ESTEBAN!! I don't care how you do it, but it must be done. This is merely a repeat of last season with Nancy adventuring through the world of Manhattan rather than across the United States. The Esteban plot was the richest thing you had going in a long time. So NOT resolved!


I have few pleasures in my life. I only had my corrupt Esteban for two episodes last year...and now I don't have him at all. Work your t.v. magic and bring him back!!! PLEASE!!!


WEEDS!!! So excited!!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Emma Watson:

In a recent interview, Emma Watson was asked:

You have all the opportunities in the world, you could have taken a year or two off but you’ve decided to study. What’s the reason for that?

She answered:
I just love learning. I’m like addicted to learning. I just want to know as much as I possibly can. It’s never enough for me. And I’ll never stop. I just really love knowledge. Addicted!

Yet another reason to love her.

Here is the entire INTERVIEW.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


POTTERMORE is coming!

Yes, I do realize that it is a self-serving business decision on her part (at least in my opinion), but I understand why she has to do this. The digital world is fraught with dangers for authors/publishers, and this is the perfect way to keep some control over all of that and to keep the franchise alive.

But, most importantly: IT IS JUST FREAKING EXCITING! Because I LOVE Harry Potter!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Five years ago today...

Five years ago today, my dad survived cardiac arrest--a very rare thing to survive, for those of you who know. He was substituting for a bass player in a "battle of the bands" contest, a completely spur of the moment thing...and it saved his life. I have never written about that day/time on the blog (except for one brief post in July of 2006), and it is still difficult to do so now. But, today is a celebration. And I am going for it. (And, this post, long as it is, isn't even the entire story. There are so many moments that I can't record...just because they are still too painful/emotional to relive, or because they are too private to talk about.)

I remember everything about that day.

I was working for the Institute of Reading Development in Birmingham and got home around six or so. I was so tired and I was sitting at the kitchen table when dad kissed me goodbye and told me he loved me.

That evening, as I tried to unwind from the day, mom and I were talking about how it probably wouldn't be long before dad had another heart attack. I know. That sounds too weird to be true, but that is what we discussed. He usually lasts about two years before needing to go back into the hospital for either an attack or for more work. It had been over two years, by then. We just sighed and talked about how we needed to be on the lookout for signs.

I went to bed early, and the next thing I knew mom was opening my door and telling me to get dressed because dad was being taken to the hospital. No one gave us many details and it was horrifying because it was the first time we had not been with him when something happened. Also, I just felt that something was different.

We made it to the hospital (after I broke every traffic law known to man) and waited in the emergency room. He wasn't there. We must have waited close to fifteen minutes before an ambulance pulled up. It was dad, but no one would let us see him. For me, that was the real indication that something was different. They also put us in that scary room off to the side--the one where they put families when someone is dying or about to die. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I panicked because I had forgotten my cell phone at home and I couldn’t reach people.

But people started showing up, including my dad's friend who was with him (and actually caught the whole thing on video—one I still have not watched to this day, and I never will). He told us it was really bad, and that dad just collapsed without warning. According to our friend, dad was in the middle of playing a song and just collapsed. He was also having a seizure, because they had a hard time getting the bass out of his hands.

But being at that contest saved my dad's life, because he was right downtown, close to a fire station. And the people around him in that These are the things I heard happened: One lady, a stranger, popped a nitro in his mouth, in case he was having a heart attack. Everyone cleared the space and they remained silent, out of respect for him. A huge security guard did chest compressions and mouth to mouth, his strength at least keeping oxygen flowing through dad's body even without a heartbeat. The firemen all worked on him, shocking him four times.

But most amazing was this: a fireman's intuition. After the fourth shock didn't work, they tried to cover my dad with a sheet. One fireman, a man who showed up to my dad's hospital room several days later, terrified that he had done the wrong thing, said that he had to try one more time. He got out the really big paddles and shocked dad one last time.

He got a heartbeat.

From there, they rushed him to the hospital, but dad was still unconscious and in a constant state of seizure.

The doctors came out and told us that he wouldn't live. That if he did live, he would be in "a vegetative state."

Finally, once it became clear that he had made it past the immediate moment of death (though by no means out of the woods), they let mom and I go back and see him. His coloring was good, but he was still seizing and he was on life support. As horrible as seeing all of that was, I was glad to be with him, even for a moment. The worst part for me during that time was knowing that he was all alone back there. And even if he wasn't alone, he was with strangers. Even if he was going to die, I wanted to be there with him. The separation was torture.

But they only let us stay with him about two minutes and then they moved him to a room. Up in the trauma unit with the glass rooms, where they took him, a nurse, who had worked three straight shifts, told us to go ahead and make our decision about continuing life support. We should consider just turning it off, she said. She didn't have a great attitude, but it really wasn't her fault. She was exhausted and overworked. We told her we couldn't do that at this point. We had to know more. She kept telling us that he would never wake up, and that even if he did he would never speak or function in any normal way ever again.

We just let her talk, but my mom was close to losing it. Again, we told the nurse we weren't prepared to discuss that at this point and she finally left us in the private room meant for making that decision.

For twenty-four hours, dad was in a seizure. I can't even tell you what a relief it was when that stopped. But, it couldn't be a good sign that he had been doing that for so long. The brain damage from the original event coupled with the damage accrued during the long seizure...well, you get the picture.

But the next day, a man came along and did a brain scan. He couldn't give us the results because he wasn't a doctor, but he pulled us to the side and said that the results looked surprisingly good in his opinion. There was definite damage, but it wasn't nearly as bad as expected. The doctors thought so, too, but they still weren't hopeful that he would wake up.

What made me incredibly angry during the first 48 hours is that so many doctors would come into the room and speak as if he wasn't there. They would also say such horrible things in front of him. I don't know what he heard or didn't hear, but I became upset that there was the possibility that he was hearing such things.

I can't tell you what a relief it was when Dr. Anne Lewis, my dad's heart doctor, came in and started talking to him. She was upbeat and cheerful and kind, telling him her plans for treatment and what she was going to do. Dad lay unresponsive, but she kept on. That was love, people. Love of profession. Love of humanity. Whatever. But it was love. She has my respect until the day I die. Yes, I have told her all of this.

Three days post the original event: I am in dad's room by myself while mom goes to a room to take a shower. We are all exhausted. I have spent so much time in hospitals over the years that I can read monitors and do all kinds of minor things, so I stayed with dad and watched him, along with the nurse, who sat in the little chair near her own monitor outside of the room. I kept talking to dad, telling him about God knows what. I know I was laughing about nearly fainting earlier that morning, as I watched a nurse draw his blood. It was funny because I had never had that reaction before.

I held his hand as I talked to him. I rubbed his fingers. And, then, I felt something. I felt his index finger just slightly move across mine. I remember not being able to breathe and trying to convince myself it was just a reflex. I asked him to do it again. Nothing. But a few minutes later, there it was again.

I continued to watch him closely, and every few minutes I asked him to open his eyes. I watched so closely that my head hurt. I didn't feel or see anything again.

The next day, I walk into the room and see my dad's friend Dave talking to my dad, who is also named Dave. Dad was still seemingly unresponsive...except that he had his hands in the air in a strange position.

Always in the background of our lives for the last couple of years was Dave. Over six feet tall and outweighing my dad by at least one hundred pounds, they shared many things, including the same name: Dave. Dad was "Big Dave" and the friend "Little Dave"--kind of like naming a miniature poodle Zeus. But the names only referred to age difference. My dad, significantly older than "Little Dave," was a music teacher, mentor, and friend to "Little Dave." And "Little Dave" had been there with him the night all of this happened. Three days later, he hadn't gone to sleep yet--he was completely traumatized.

When I walked into the room, Dave looked at me and asked me what was going on with dad's hands. At that point he got a page or something (he worked at the hospital), and left the room for a moment. When he did, I tried to get dad to lower his hands. He did, but it was a struggle to get him to do it. But the minute Dave walked back into the room and started talking, dad lifted his hands again. We both jumped and then I realized what dad was doing. He was holding his hands in position as if he was playing the bass. Obviously, hearing Dave, his bass-player student/friend/brother, caused a reaction.

Later, that day, I was alone with dad again, and asked him to open his eyes. And then I saw it: just a tiny bit of blue peeking out, so fast and then it was gone.

The nurse came in and I told her what had happened, but she said it was only reflex. "They do that."

But I knew what I had seen. He did it in response to command, and, as the hours passed, he did it more and more until his eyes were fully open. Now, when I say "open," I don't mean focused. There seemed to be nothing there. He wouldn't look at me or squeeze my hand, but he would open his eyes and sort of look ahead...but it was an empty gaze.

But there was something else going on during all of this...

Amazing friends and family showed up and provided for us in ways that I couldn't imagine. I have never seen such support. Food; hours and hours of waiting for us in the lobby, not caring if it took hours to see us; coffee; hugs; prayers; love.

Incredible doctors and nurses. Custodians who were so kind. Strangers coming by to offer help.


By day four, dad had come out of the coma. He fought the breathing machine and was eventually taking more breaths on his own than the machine was doing for him. He would open his eyes on command. Everyone was amazed, including our exhausted nurse who cried and cried, and she apologized for trying to get us to turn off the machines (which, by the way, we would have done if necessary). Doctors, specialists, strangers: all came to see the "miracle."

Even more amazing? Dad started to talk--well, once he was off the ventilator. (And, he really hasn’t stopped since then…which is really funny because he was always so quiet!) He made sense and asked questions. He was confused because he thought he was living about thirty or forty years in the past, and there were some hard moments (like when we had to tell him about several people being dead, and the fact that he didn't know me and thought I was his sister). But this didn't last long.

Around this time, the paramedic--the one who decided to shock him one last time--showed up. He was in tears, feeling as if he had made the wrong decision and that dad was in a vegetative state. He was terrified to go into the room to see what he "had done." My mom put her arms around him and convinced him to go in, where dad smiled and said hello and thank you to him (once mom told him how the man had saved his life).

After several more days, the fog started to clear, at least in terms of knowing who people were. I don't break down easily in a crisis, and the only time I cried was when my dad didn't know me. I remember sobbing in the hallway, feeling so ungrateful because, even though dad had beaten the odds and we had so much to be thankful for, I was sad because dad didn't know me.

And you know who pulled me through that moment? The nurse. The one who knew she had been wrong. She held me and told me that he would know who I was. And, she was right. The next day, he greeted me and she was as excited as I was.

The rest of the hospital stay was great (except for the nerve-wracking morning where they put in his defib. and pacemaker...I knew it had to be done but was terrified for anyone to touch him or put him under anesthesia again...he came through fine).

Dad was moved to a regular room, where he excelled in his physical therapy (no one could believe that after what had happened he was walking down the hall after only six days since the original event). He could do things for himself and could recognize family members.

His only problem: short term memory. Wow, I remember those early days! Repeating myself every couple of minutes, telling the same story over and over.

Things weren't a bed of roses once we left the hospital: we all slept in the same room downstairs for days, because dad would get up and wander around. There was the stress of preparing and giving medications. His mood swings (dad was always the calmest person in the world...this was a new challenge). His memory loss. My shattered nerves. Ugh.

And life has totally changed. He isn't the same person, so I don't want to imply that he magically woke up and all was well.

No, he isn't the same. But that is okay. The first year was really rough, especially with the alterations in mood and how his brain damage revealed itself in strange ways. But there were beautiful moments, too, like:

1. Helping dad each night with his cognitive therapy homework, and him doing such a great job that they "graduated him" out of the program much faster than many others.

2. Holding his arm and walking with him through Target, getting "our exercise," as we put it. (Too hot outside to walk in the neighborhood.)

3. Taking him for coffee at Books-a-Million, where the employees, knowing what had happened, never lost patience with him and always were so nice to him.

4. The acceptance of friends and family of the new Dave...and even those who didn't accept him and faded away.

5. The million little things people did in acts of kindness. Only a few mentions and thank-yous: Melanie bringing me Starbucks and being there for me in countless ways...I was never so happy to see someone in all my life; Jeff and Jess giving me bear hugs and going with me to feed my dog; my Grandmother Frances and Larry rushing to the hospital and staying with us all night; Denny and Ronna, though I haven't seen them in so long, rushing from Huntsville in the middle of the night to be with us; Wayne and Melanie Foster showing up at the hospital in the middle of the night; John Hall and his wife, for staying with dad when it happened, too...and his wife, especially, for riding with dad in the ambulance; for Dr. Anne Lewis, for giving us hope and making my dad her personal mission; for my dad's neurologist, Dr. Potts, for understanding; for James Stephens, for bringing food and remaining my dad's friend, even after all of the changes; my Aunt Ginny and Uncle Ron for coming down and helping and visiting so much; my cousin Laura for coming to the hospital and calling me so often--and T., too; for my Grandmother Jean and my Uncle Chuck, for rushing out and keeping calm; my dog, Casey, for staying with me every night when I would go home to take care of him while mom stayed at the hospital...for staying by my side all night when I was too traumatized to sleep in my own bed and, instead, slept on the couch for eight nights in an empty house; our neighbors who brought food over and who still have such patience with dad; for everyone at Books-a-Million in Tuscaloosa for being so great to dad; for my Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Theron for rushing up and keeping us laughing and comforted; for the nurses that helped us in difficult and frustrating moments; for my Aunt Mary, for bringing food and fun; and for everyone else...I haven't forgotten you...believe me. I am just running out of time.

6. Personal to me: seeing that everything that happens in life is connected. That all of my experiences up until this point had prepared me for this phase. It has been extremely difficult--I won't lie. I have had times where I wanted to run away. But, I have also gained far more from this "life event" than I ever lost.

7. I also realized that I have an incredible amount of strength and will. I have tried all my life to be respectful of authority, but I realized that I do have the power to stand up for myself and those I love when I need to do so. Others may not like it, but I will always do what I have to do to keep those around me safe and secure. (This lesson in particular played out in my actions at the hospital at times and since then. It bothered me to do some of the things I did, but I wouldn't change a thing.)

So, things are different. It has been five years and I now find it hard to remember life before this happened. It altered my way of living forever, but that is fine. There have been challenges and heartbreaking moments and anger and all of that. But we are human.

Still, above all, there has been love. A hell of a lot of love, too. This didn’t just happen to dad. It happened to all of us. And we have come out better for it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Such a nice article about beloved Wayne Greenhaw and our magazine:


About Wayne Greenhaw...
In addition to being disci­plined and steadily productive in his creative craft and career, Wayne Greenhaw was an avid encourager of colleagues and others in the local and regional writing communities. I looked up quotations about that rite of passage, and this one, which is credited to Henry David Tho­reau, seemed apt for Wayne: "Live your life, do your work, then take your hat."

About Alabama Heritage...
The most elegant magazine on my coffee table, Alabama Heritage, combines luminous photography with illuminat­ing essays about people, places and incidents in the state's history. Published quarterly by the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the Alabama Department of Archives and History, this periodical, now in its 25th year of existence, provides entertaining erudition and enlightenment.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Dating: I've been around the block a time or two.

No, I still am not in the mood to post a review of The Chronology of Water...not sure how long it is going to take me to do that.

No, today, I must alert you to the book I picked up last night:

(Source: A review is on that site, too.)

Oh, wow. Now, I can't say for sure because I haven't finished it yet, but if this book continues to draw me in as much as it did from the first page, then we have a winner!

And that is my subject for today: book dating.

I have decided that buying books is a lot like dating. You search and search for the perfect book, one with which you share a perfect chemistry.

Those of you who are readers know exactly what I am talking about, right? The book doesn't have to be literary or anything--it just has to connect with you and feed you in some way. You fall into it, becoming totally absorbed to the point that you forget time passage. It is like the perfect date or conversation or something.

Some of the books I had this experience with in the past are:





As you can see, lots of genres. Something about each of these really made me connect with them...I could go on, but I won't. There are many other books I could add, but there just isn't a lot of time!

I read. A lot. I read wildly and with abandon, rushing here and there, not caring about genre or author or anything. I just want to find that next rush of connection with the printed page that will allow me to totally dissolve into it. Maybe reading a really good book (however you define it) is like the ultimate sensual experience.

If my dating life mirrored my reading life, where I search constantly for that elusive rush of euphoria that I get when I find just the right one...well, I would probably be considered promiscuous. :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Scheduling is my nemesis.

Really. I need to get in a better work routine. Once I figure it out, I will be so much more productive.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Must read:

My friend Elizabeth's article on "Where I Write" -- featured on The Rumpus site:

Where I Write: A Table Meant for Dining

Yes. I know.

I haven't been good about updating. Let's just say that I have a lot on me right now. Crazy pressure: lots of writing projects, a sickly dog, a full time job, etc. But I will be back as soon as I can manage. Meanwhile, shorter posts will have to do. :)

I haven't slept well this weekend for worrying over my dog. If you have read this blog long enough, then you know how attached I am to Casey. He is really old, and he has been through just about everything with me. If you aren't a dog/animal lover, then you don't know what I am saying. But Casey and I...we have a bond! It is going to kill me when the day comes.

That being said, I have to learn to enjoy the good things and the good days. But I am sick of feeling loss.

Other than that--which has dominated the last week of my life--I have been trying to write on three different projects, including editing the chapters I have of my dissertation. I have started the Tumblr...which isn't really a commitment of any kind, but I do enjoy it...and I have been swimming in the seas of a crazy production cycle. The tornado really put us behind schedule and it is driving me mad. But, I have a great intern, and she is helping me get caught up on the next issue. So that is an excellent thing!

What else...what else? Hmmm. I am almost ready to write a short review of The Chronology of Water. Talk about an intense book. I just haven't had the strength to tackle that one just yet.

I am still researching the pirate.

I picked up some Willa Cather novels because I have never read anything by her (sad, I know). So, I plan to jump into those soon, along with George du Maurier's Trilby.

So, that is about it...except for the fact that I found out this morning that Kathryn Tucker Windham died. Wow. Talk about an Alabama legend. Along with the phenomenal Harper Lee, Windham was one of the greats.

I am so glad that I and so many others had the privilege of hearing her tell stories...and, of course, the ghost stories were my favorite. :) Rest in peace, Ms. Windham.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Just because my dad was such a cute kid:

Photo of my grandfather (William Neville Reynolds) with daughters Sharon (left of him) and Jeanne (right of him), my grandmother (Jean Galloway Reynolds), and my dad David (far right).

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Amaryllis in Blueberry (By Christina Meldrum)


Very bad and brief synopsis: The story revolves around a family of six that begins to crumble in their suburban 1970s existence. The father, desperate to regain some semblance of control, packs everyone up and moves them to Africa. Much chaos ensues.

Seriously. Read a synopsis here or here.

As for my overall opinion: hmmm...this is difficult. I really loved it until the last 1/4, because I felt as if the author was suddenly playing the drama card/gotcha card to amp things up. In other words, she took a perfectly meaningful story (beautifully written, as well) and then, at the end, popped in WAY too many surprise moments (which, honestly, weren't that much of a surprise, but they reeked of trying to surprise you...and I found this annoying).

Still: I really liked the book and I would recommend it.

Reading it has been a strange experience. I read a review of Amaryllis in Blueberry before I bought the book (something I usually never do because having the weight of another person's opinion often makes the reading experience unpleasant for me). But I have to agree with S. Krishna (who wrote the review in the link). She said:

Amaryllis in Blueberry is an ambitious novel, and it’s difficult to say how well it succeeds. On one hand, it’s a book that kept my attention and kept me reading. But when I was finished, I felt uneasy. The picture of the book in my head was very vague and I felt as though there were some dropped plotlines and the story wasn’t as fleshed out as it could have been. That being said, it kept me reading from beginning to end and went very quickly, as I was swept up in the story.

After reading this one, I too felt "uneasy." But, another odd thing happened with my experience of this book. If I picked up the book, I fell into it (the writing is very well done), but if I left it alone for a while, I felt completely detached from it. Now, S. Krishna attributes this to secondary stories that seem incomplete. I guess that could be one issue. But, for me, there was just a fundamental disconnect. It doesn't bother me if things are left unsaid or if I don't get the entire story. But I found it unsettling that the world of the novel didn't accompany me into my post-reading thoughts. I mean, usually, if I really like a book (and, I DO really like this one), I think about it a lot, imagining the characters in my head, perhaps in new situations or reliving the ones the author has discussed in the novel. But with this one? No. Nothing.

...AND YET: I think that this may actually be a strength of the book. Feeling the disconnect, I mean. Because that is the point, in my opinion, behind the story. This entire family is disconnected--from reality, the world, one another--everything. So, if the author's goal was to accomplish the same feeling in the audience, then well done Meldrum.

Still. Very, very strange. Maybe the first time this has ever happened to me. If I don't enjoy a book or if I don't connect with it well, then I don't necessarily think about it outside of the pages. But I did connect with this one. I did like it. Oh, well. Not all questions, as someone I know says, have answers. :)

Friday, June 03, 2011

Oh, well: I have a Tumblr

Yes. I did it. I started a "Tumblr" blog page, too.

However, it is more graphics/short entry oriented--and it is ALL about Victorian literature. So, it is in no way a new version of this blog. might want to stay away, because it is named after and mentions Augusta Webster, specifically. Sorry, sweetie, but I love her. :)

Susie's new Tumblr: The Snow Waste

Taylor/Burton: the movie

It is official: Scorsese to direct Taylor-Burton movie.

I don't feel good about this, even with Scorsese directing. There are some things that should not be touched. This is one of them.

Besides, who is the world could pull off the acting???

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

AH Field Trip: Moundville and the Pie Lab

Today, I took my first field trip as an employee with the staff of the magazine. We had an excellent time. :)

We all piled up in the van around 8:30 a.m. and made our way to Moundville State Archaeological Park. Upon arrival, we watched a video about the park (Moundville is amazing...have blogged about it before). Basically, this archaeological park is one of the most important in the southeast. It isn't that the mounds are larger than other mounds, but the significance of the community here (the last Native Americans left sometime in the 1400s, I believe) is impossible to overstate. At first, it was an important political center, and then it turned into a hugely significant spiritual center and city of the dead. The park just underwent a huge renovation and the museum now houses (temporarily, at least) some amazing artifacts--like the Duck/Serpent Effigy Bowl that I will show a picture of below...

Anyway, after the video, Meredith and I wanted to climb to the top of Mound "B," the largest and tallest mound in the complex.

(Source: My photo. Mound "B" has the hut on top.)

(Source: My photo. The stairs leading to the top of Mound "B.")

So, all of us ended up doing it! It was really hot, but we made our way to the top:

(Source: My photo. AH team atop Mound "B.")

(Source: My photo. Me and Sara, after climbing the mound.)

After climbing Mound "B," we drove around to the Indian village, to look at the huts, but the weather was so hot we decided to go ahead and go to the museum. The museum is fantastic, and the Native American community made all of the items for the exhibits. But, there are many original artifacts to see as well, the most spectacular of which is the Moundville Duck/Serpent Effigy Bowl, possible made around 1200 or so. It is officially the property of the Smithsonian, but it is on display at Moundville at this time:

(Source: My photo. Duck/Serpent Effigy Bowl.)

This bowl is absolutely amazing. It is carved from a single piece of stone and is so smooth and perfect. It has been called the most perfect of the Native American artifacts in existence...and it really is.

There are so many great things to see, and the gift shop and cafe are amazing now, too.

Anyway, after Moundville, we made our way to the Pie Lab in Greensboro, Alabama. Greensboro is an amazing town, with several homes built in or near 1820. The Pie Lab (see Pie Lab web site) is an amazing community project organized by "Project M". You can read more about them in this great article about Pie Lab in the New York Times: New York Times Pie Lab article. It has been a huge success...and the food is great.

I had a sausage quiche and a slice of coconut pie for dessert! :)

Anyway, it was a long and fun day; and, as we drove the back roads of Alabama back to our office, I was once again reminded of how amazing and resilient our state can be.