Greetings from an apartment with power and heat!
What a crazy few weeks! I was planning on writing this post pre-YALLfest, then thought if I wrote a blog post about how lucky I was during Sandy, my flight to Charlotte would surely be cancelled. So thought it best to wait until I was home from all my travels.
A little less than three weeks ago, I was in Wisconsin for my adorable nephew's baptism (I'm the Godmother). I kept hearing about this storm that was coming to the NYC-area, but I didn't start to get concerned until that Saturday. It wasn't that I was worried about my well being or my apartment (because I was stupid), I was concerned that I would get stuck in NYC and couldn't get out to Vegas for the Vegas Valley Book Festival the following weekend. So I decided to stay with my brother, his wife and their two sons and leave for Vegas from there. Not only did I get to be somewhere safe, and have things like power and hot water, I got to be around the two cutest kids ever.
Boy, I have never been so grateful for a decision in my life. I am so, SO lucky. I live in Hoboken, NJ, which got hit really hard. That Monday I kept getting texts from the city that there were mandatory evacuations for some apartments, but then I heard from my neighbors once the storm hit that the big willow tree in our backyard got uprooted and slammed into the building behind us (the tree is being slowly cut apart as I type this). Then the power went out. Our basement got flooded. The road in front of my building was a river. And there was no heat. No hot water. And it stayed like that for nearly a week. I kept being told that I shouldn't even come back after Vegas, that I should just stay away.
But I did come back. Nearly a week after Sandy, I arrived to my apartment. The power was just turned back on in my building and we had hot water, no heat. The first day back I went immediately to the makeshift shelter to volunteer. It was really weird walking around my neighborhood, my home for the past fifteen years, to witness devastation that I've only seen on TV. Even today, there's still trash lining the blocks. Most people with garden or first floor apartments lost everything. Hoboken is made up mostly of young professionals and families. So to turn the corner and see a huge line for free food was heartbreaking. I did my best to hold it together. I was so lucky, the last thing I was going to do is cry in front of these people who have it much worse.
When I entered the high school (that served as the donation center), I was greeted by hundreds of bags of donations. So that's how I spent my first day home: sorting and organizing donations. It was doing this that my despair and heartbreak turned into hope. So many people walked in that day to either volunteer or donate. People wanted to help each other. It really is amazing that the very worst can bring out the very best in people.
It is going to take a really long time until things are back to normal. Every day I'm reminded of the storm's impact when I walk outside my apartment safe haven. I'm very proud to be part of YA for NJ, an auction that Kieran Scott has put together to benefit those affected by the storm (please check out YA for NJ's Facebook and Twitter page for more information). And, once again, I know how lucky I in so many ways. I will never take power, heat, and hot water for granted again!
I also wanted to take this time to thank all the amazing people who came out for both the Vegas Valley Book Festival and YALLfest. Both events were so much fun. And my final encore for Take a Bow. Next year it will be all about Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality. I also wanted to share a few photos from those trips.
The thing I was looking forward to most in Vegas (besides the festival), was seeing the Cirque du Soleil Beatles show, LOVE. I've wanted to see it since its debut five years ago. And I was really excited.
I was, shockingly, able to somewhat contain myself at the Beatles store after the show. Although I did walk around thinking, I already have coasters...and a notebook...and that....and that. So really, it wasn't that hard.
My biggest highlight from Vegas (and possible MY LIFE!) was at a school. I went to Canarelli Middle School for a presentation and like with most school visits, had no idea what to expect. As I got out of the car, I heard someone shout "she's here!" and lots of screaming. So I thought, Okaaay.... The librarian opened the door and said, "We have a surprise for you." I entered the school to a group of 150 girls, all holding a copy of Take a Bow, singing "Walking on Sunshine." At first I thought they confused me with someone who's fancy, but then I went with it. And started singing and dancing with them as I made my way down the aisle they had for me. I did take a picture of this (and there is video somewhere), but since I was at a school, I'm not allowed to post a photo for privacy reasons. But let me assure you, it was AWESOME. I have been spoiled now for life and expect this anytime I go anywhere. Or not.
And then there was YALLfest. Just an absolute blast. I love getting to hang out with my fellow authors, many of whom are dear friends (how cool is THAT?). But of course, I have to brag since my team (TEAM ROMANCE!) won the Smackdown on Saturday night. W0o-hoo!
So with heat, power, and a crown, I'm sending you all lots of love. Hopefully if you were in Sandy's path, you've been able to recover the best you can. And for those who weren't, know how lucky you are. Like me!