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A Word About Irma

When I was a senior in high school, I went through my first significant natural disaster.  I was watching a high school volleyball game at Seaside High School in the town of Seaside, Ca.  I was rooting for the Salinas High School JV team who were getting beat pretty good.  Then, the earth shook.  I ran from the bleachers and headed for the door outside.  Being inside a gymnasium during an earthquake is a scary experience.  The ground stop shaking by the time I got to the door, though I remember seeing one of the lights at the football field shaking for a few minutes.  This was the Loma Prieta earthquake that many people watch happen live, as the World Series was directly impacted by the earthquake.  It caused a lot of damage in San Francisco and Oakland, including several collapsing freeways and a section of the Bay Bridge’s top deck falling onto the bottom deck.  But down where we lived, we had gotten lucky and only lost power for a couple of days.  But, at the time, I didn’t know any of this.  I knew we had had a significant earthquake and I drove frantically to get home.  It had been a scary situation.

Bay Bridge after 1989 Earthquake
San Francisco after 1989 Earthquake
Cypress Freeway after 1989 Earhquake

This past week, I was in a scarier situation.  I live in western Florida and we had a hurricane that the models couldn’t decide where it would go.  And it was a massive storm that was causing massive devastation to the Caribbean.  Now, the good thing about a hurricane over an earthquake is you can see a hurricane coming and prepare.  The bad thing about a hurricane is you can see a hurricane coming.  You do your preparation and get yourself ready, but there comes a point where it is wait and see.  And for me, that was the worst part of Irma.  I would watch where the models were taking the hurricane and it would have a direct impact on how I felt.  The models took it up the east coast of Florida and I breathe a sigh of relief.  Then, the models slowly started taking it back towards the west coast and my anxiety level would increase.  The worse time was Sunday morning.  I woke up that morning with the models taking the center right over where I lived as a Category 3 hurricane.  My family had decided to bunker down at my place and we had boarded up the windows.  But, my mind started going to a dark place.  Could the house handle Cat 3 winds?  I was starting to doubt.  I was worried about the safety of my family.  The stress made me ill.

House boarded up before Irma. Sept 2017
Shot down the street before Irma. Sept 2017.
Sunset before Irma. Sept. 9th, 2017.

I finally stepped away from the hurricane coverage on TV and took some time for myself.  I prayed and I calmed myself down.  I played some card games with my family.  Finally, I went back out to the storm coverage and things had changed.  Irma was heading north and our local weatherman that we trust a lot was thinking that it was going to keep going north.  The storm now looked to make landfall around Naples and go straight up the state.  Being over land would weaken it and it would pass through east of Tampa and away from us.  And we would be on the west side of the storm, which would be the weak side.  Hope welled up in me.  Yes, it would be bad for those in the central part of the state, but somebody is going to draw the short straw.  And I don’t care who you are and how nice of a person you are, if a powerful storm is bearing down on you and then decides to veer away, you count your blessings.  I was relieved.

We watched landfall and the storm passing through Naples on the Weather Channel, with Mike Bettis standing outside in the heart of the storm.  Then, we occupied ourselves on other things, occasionally checking back in on the storm.  My wife found the Avengers playing on FX and we sat down and watched that as best as we could.  The wind started picking up outside and the power started flickering.  I think I counted 7 or 8 times where the power flicked off for a second before coming back on.  And every time, we had to reboot the cable box, which usually took about 3 or 4 minutes.  We finally switched it back to local coverage of the storm as it moved up the state and was affecting areas near where we lived.  Finally, the power went off at 11:15 pm and stayed off.  We turned on the lantern and pulled out the battery powered radio, which I had already tuned to a station simulcasting our favorite local news coverage.  And we listened as the wind howled outside.  Having the radio on was very helpful, as it was good background noise that drowned out the winds outside.  Occasionally, we could hear something hitting the storm shutters, particularly after the winds shifted to coming from the west.  But, I just listened to the radio and drifted in and out of sleep.  We mostly stayed in the living room that night, listening to radio and the winds outside.

Asleep while the storm rages outside. Sept. 2017

The winds eventually died down and morning came.  My wife and I ventured outside to a windy and rainy morning.  There was debris everywhere.  A tree had come down onto the street in one direction.  A neighbor across the street had two trees in their front yard come down, including one over their car, yet not seriously damaging the car.  We walked around the neighborhood, checking on one of my wife’s co-workers house while we were at it.  It was an eerie walk as there was hardly anyone out or any cars on the streets.  That would change in a couple of hours after Pinellas County was opened back up again.  A lot of trees and fences down, but that was about the extent of it.  We had gotten off lucky.

Our car after the storm. Sept. 11, 2017
Our street after the storm. Sept. 11, 2017
Neighbor’s car under tree. Sept. 11, 2017.

Shortly after returning home, a vehicle comes down the street, clearing away any debris that was blocking the street.  The driver hopped out at one point and pulled out a chainsaw to cut off the top of a palm tree that had spilled out into the street.  And then he continued on his way.  Vehicles started pouring back into the neighborhood as people returned to check on their houses.  There was no power, but we have a gas stove at our house.  We offered our neighbors the use of it, which they accepted mostly to make coffee.  By mid-day, people were starting to clean up their properties and piles of debris piled up on the streets, which are still there as I write this.

Pinellas Trail after the storm. Sept. 11, 2017.
Business on Alt 19 in Palm Harbor. Sept. 11, 2017.
My parent’s front yard. Sept. 11, 2017.

We got lucky where I am.  It could’ve been a lot worse.  Instead of homes uninhabitable and devastation all around, we have some debris and minor damage here and there.  Power returned after two days and things are starting to get back to normal.  Gas and supplies are still scare as restocking gas stations and grocery stores is taking some time.  But, we are alive and it wasn’t as bad as it could be.  I look at the pictures coming out of St. Marteen, the Virgin Islands, and the Keys.  It is devastating.  What breaks my heart even more is I have visited many of these places.  The islands in the Caribbean will never be the same again.  Tourism is a major part of their economy and they won’t be getting any tourists for a long while.  It’s just so hard to imagine.

I don’t know what I will do next time.  Will I evacuate?  Will I bunker down and ride out the storm again?  I really don’t know.  I am also only one vote out of five.  I pray for those who were hit harder than I was.  But, I am confident that we will get through this and things will get back to normal.  That is my hope.

2016 Holiday Letter

Another Christmas production has come to a close and I now have a little time to breathe and reflect as the end of the year approaches.  And it has been quite a year.  So, a little holiday update on the Ruxes.

I’ll start off talking about my better half, Michelle.  Over the course of the past year, she has grown in the position she took at church in the second half of 2015, which is Director of Connections.  Basically, her job is to help people who come to our church connect with the church and each other.  Sounds simpler than it really is.  Well, this year, she went from being on a year-to-year contract to a permanent staff member.  She really loves her job, even when it is frustrating her.  And I can’t wait to see how she grows more into it in 2017.

New L.A. Book Cover

As for me, in March, I self-published an ebook.  And that was a huge step for me.  As most of you know, I’m not one for putting myself out there, and this was putting myself way out there.  I’m glad I did and every time I hear somebody has read it & enjoyed it, it really makes me day.  And quick shameless plug, if you like sci-fi adventure, or know somebody who does, you can buy a copy on Amazon here and read it on the free Kindle app.   Ok, shameless plug over.  I’ve spent a good portion of this year writing a follow-up novel, which is still in editing.  Hope to get that out in early 2017.

Sunrise over Yuma, Az

I’ve had other adventures this year.  In May, I flew out to California and drove back not once, but twice.  A friend of my mother-in-law moved from Newport Beach, Ca to here and I flew out and drove her car, loaded down with her stuff, across country to Florida.  Then, I was home for a week before I flew back out to California.  My parents decided to buy a house in Florida while out here for Spring Training and so I helped them move across country to about seven miles from my place in Florida.  It’s nice having them out here, but May was a tiring month.

May was a rough month in other ways.  One of my favorite aunts took a turn for the worse and ended up passing away in May.  Fortunately, I was able to detour up her way on my first cross-country trip and got to spend some time with her.  I still remember my last tiny interaction with her.  It was early in the morning when I was leaving and continuing on home to Florida.  I had just run my Dad out to the airport so he could fly back to California and continue packing for the big move.  I came back to pick up the car I was driving across country and grab a quick breakfast.  I walked in the front door and I see my aunt in her room at the end of the hall looking my way.  I said, “Morning!” and she smiled.  I went on to grab breakfast and saw she was out again when I was ready to leave.  So, I quietly slipped out and headed on my way.  But, I will always carry the memory of that little moment in time.

As can be seen above, Michelle and I are planting some deep roots here in Florida now.  Over the course of the last year, we both have let go of our lives in the theatre.  For her, a big moment was when she decided not to keep up on her Equity dues and let her membership slide.  For me, I was finally able to let go of the bitterness I felt about the end of my theatre career.  It didn’t end as I hoped and I had a lot of regrets.  Writing this now and looking back, I realize I went through the stages of grief and this year, I finally got to acceptance.

Little Mermaid, Jr.
Christmas in Our Neighboorhood

Besides, I get to scratch the theatre itch occasionally.  This year, our church renovated the main sanctuary, giving it a more theatre feel.  And this included upgrading the sound system.  I love the new sound board at church.  It’s my baby.  And occasionally, we’ve had some productions in there where I tend to handle sound.  In addition to the Christmas production we just finished, we had a kids theatre group put up a production of Little Mermaid, Jr.  So, I’m still able to use those skills and scratch that itch occasionally.

Church’s Behringer x32

Lastly, I wanted to introduce you all to the newest addition to our family.  In November 2015, we lost our cat, Corey.  And we have spent the past year mourning, not in a hurry to get another pet.  Well, long story short, last week, Michelle ended up rescuing a kitten from the middle of a busy road.  After much discussion, we decided to take the kitten in.  So I would like to introduce you all to Hope, our new cat.

Hope

Anyways, I hope everyone has an awesome Christmas and may 2017 be better than 2016!

Bad About Updating

So, I’m bad when it comes to making posts.  I get distracted by other things going on in my life, and this website falls by the wayside.  Anyways, I’m just going to give you all a quick update on where things stand with my books.  My second book, The Mirror Initiative, is still in editing.  The primary editing pass is done, but the second & third ones are a little held up due to busy lives.  I’m hoping that progress will be made during the Christmas holidays and hopefully be available for purchase late January.  That is my current hope.  I’ve been working on working out the plot for the third book and started actually writing this this week.  I’m shooting for that book to be in your hands late summer/ early fall of next year.  After that, I will take a step back and evaluate where things are and decide on a course from there.

So, that is where things stand at the moment.  I hope everyone is having an awesome day!

Been a Long Month

Today is the first day in a long while that I have been able to sit back a take a deep breath without some outside demand on my time.  The sun is breaking through outside after being pounded by rain all day yesterday by Tropical Storm Colin.  My travels are done and I’m starting to recover from the toll it has taken on me, not only physically, but emotionally as well.  I got a good night sleep last night, the first night back in my own bed and it was quite comfortable.  A lot has happened in this past month, more than I originally expected when last I wrote on this blog.  So where do I start?  Probably from the beginning and diverge when I have to.

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Over St. Petersburg, Fl

The month started the morning of Friday, April 29th.  My mother-in-law had a friend in Newport Beach, Ca. who was moving to Florida.  A place about a mile or two from our place to be precise.  I agreed to fly out to Southern California and drive her car across country for her while she flew to Florida a week or two later.  So, the morning of April 29th, I took off from Tampa International Airport heading to John Wayne Orange County Airport, by way of Denver.  My one hour layover in Denver was interesting because it was snowing and it was the end of April.  That alone just blew my mind.  But it was exciting to me because it had been just over three years since I had last seen snow.  I’ve been living in Florida and it doesn’t snow here.  And my flight was a little delayed taking off to Southern California because the plane had to be de-iced.

I get to Southern California and take a cab over to the lady’s place in Newport Beach.  The car was already loaded and ready to go.  She gave me some money for the road, I threw my bag into the car, and I was off heading back to Florida.  In Friday afternoon Southern California rush hour traffic.  UGH!  I eventually got out of Southern California and stopped for the night in the middle of the Imperial Valley.  It had been a stressful day.  But I was treated to a beautiful sunrise the next morning rising over Yuma, AZ.

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Sunrise over Yuma, Az

Now, my original plan was to drive straight through to Florida.  That plan changed shortly before I departed to Southern California.  One of my aunts who I had been close to and was battling cancer took a turn for the worse and was in the hospital.  My Dad, who was in the middle of preparing to move (more on that later), flew out to see his sister (my aunt).  I decided to make a detour, even though I had been looking forward to driving road I had never driven before (namely I-10 between where I-20 split off and Houston).  I took I-20 when it split and headed for Dallas.  And I am so thankful that I did.  I spent a couple days in Dallas visiting and supporting family as best I could.  My aunt came home to hospice care and I took my Dad to the airport before continuing on to Florida.  The hope was that I would see my aunt when I came through again in a few weeks.  It was not meant to be as she passed away a week later.

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New Smyrna Beach, Fl

I got back home to Florida and back into the loving arms of my wife.  I got a few days at home before we took off on a bit of a mini-vacation.  My wife is the Director of Connections at our church and she had put in a lot of hours at work getting the church ready for Easter as a renovation project was wrapping up at the church.  Our pastor, her boss, decided to give some of the staff who had put in the extra time a vacation at his vacation home on the east coast of Florida, just a couple blocks from the beach.  They just had to book the time with his wife.  So, in early May, we took a three day vacation to the east coast of Florida and had a good time relaxing.  And I was able to outline a few chapters while sitting out there on the beach.  But that was the last break.  We got back and we had to pick up the lady whose car I drove across country at the airport.  And then I was on a plane the next evening heading for California (again!).

A couple of paragraphs ago, I mentioned my Dad was in the middle of preparing for a move.  He & my Mom flew out to Florida in March to catch Spring Training.  While here, they decided to look at some houses and feel out the market, as a move to Florida was something they were thinking of doing maybe a year or two down the line.  Well, they fell in love with the last house they looked at and put in an offer for it.  And it was accepted.  So they were now moving to Florida.

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Broke down on Hwy 17

I flew out about a week and a half before they were leaving California to help with any last minute packing, as well as help my brother move into an apartment.  And I also wanted to see some of my close friends still in California one more time, as I don’t know when I will next be out there.  My brother’s move took more than I thought it would (he has a lot of stuff).  Then we drove down to close to Santa Cruz for a game night.  At least we tried to, as my brother’s truck decided to die on Hwy 17 going over the Santa Cruz Mountains.  But we got it towed and my best friend, Duane, came out and got us to game night.  And that was a lot of fun.  Drinking and Settlers of Catan is an awesome combination.  The next day was a hassle as my Mom had to drive down to get us and we had to do some running about to get my brother’s truck scrapped.

 

The rest of that week is a bit of a blur as the movers came and took away most of my parent’s stuff.  What was left, we took downstairs to a staging area for the Budget truck we were renting to drive across country.  My wife flew in very late Sunday night and early Monday morning, we picked up the truck and loaded it up with everything that was left.  And that was very tiring work.  My parent’s place in California is built on the side of a hill with a very steep driveway.  Going up and down that driveway gets very tiring very quickly.  Finally, we loaded up the last of the things early Tuesday morning and we got off on the road.

 

For the trip across country, we had a two car caravan.  Usually, the Budget truck would be out front and my parent’s PT Cruiser would follow.  Also note, in the PT Cruiser, we had two pet cages holding my Mom’s three cats (one big cage and another smaller cage).  Travel was a bit slower than we would have liked.  And we were stopping in the Dallas/ Ft. Worth Metroplex for a family gathering in honor of my aunt who died (see several paragraphs up).  The trip to Texas ended up taking three full days and we were all very tired at the end of it.  We spent three days in Texas, the third of which was the family gathering.  My brother flew out from California, which made possible something that hasn’t happened since at least the 90s.  All the cousins on my Dad’s side of the family were all in the same place.  For me, that was a highlight of the trip.

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The Rux Cousins

The next morning, we got my brother and my wife to the airport before getting on the road.  My wife had been driving with us on the first part of the trip but had to fly home to go back to work.  So, the last two days to Florida, we had to work out a rotation system of drivers.  It work and we made it back to Florida, even with a longer than expected stop in Tallahassee so my Dad could take care of some stuff related to the house deal.  We got back to Florida and they closed on their house and we unloaded the Budget truck.

And now I am home.  This past weekend, my church celebrated its 35th anniversary, and it was a bigger production than usual.  And I was running sound for it.  So, that extended things a bit.  But now, things are starting to quiet down.  The movers are scheduled to deliver my parent’s stuff to their house tomorrow.  I hope to get back to working on the next book soon (tentatively titled The Mirror Initiative).  All the driving did give me a lot of time to work a lot of stuff out in my head.  And I was very excited to find my binder with my original notes for the world my book inhabits at my parent’s place.  The extra reference material will come in handy.

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PCU World Reference Binder

Well, this turned out to be a wall of text (though I have pictures to go along with it).  I’m hoping to do another Character Origins next week, this time with the Lady Chameleon.  It’s a post that I wanted to do two months ago, but stuff happens.  Until then, be safe.

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Sunrise over Texas
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Deicing planes in Denver
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Outlining at New Smyrna Beach, Fl
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Drinking and Settlers of Catan
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View of eastern Arizona from Budget truck.
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