Monday, August 12, 2013

I've moved!

So I grew up a little bit, got my own domain and moved out on my own. You can find me over at annaclairevollers.com

It's a bit more professional than this little blog, which I started back in 2006 when blogging was new and I was fresh out of college. 

But now that I'm finally blogging again at the ripe old age of 30, I hope you'll find my new pad is interesting, friendly, and every bit as 'me.' 

Click on over. And thanks for reading!

~AC

Friday, August 31, 2012

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Changes!

I wrote in the editor's letter for the magazine I edit that August is a time of change. And although it's not August yet, it seems to me like I've already had my full allotment of change for the time being.

As I write this, I'm less than two weeks away from my due date and trying to prepare (emotionally, mentally, even practically) for bringing a new life into the world and to be a mom to an infant again. I'm taking on a new role in my professional life with much more responsibility, as my employer transitions into a brand-new company (at the exact same time I'll be on maternity leave). I'm trying to be a good mom to an increasingly precocious 2-year-old, help with two different large fundraising events, participate in a leadership class project, keep up with my commitments at church, and, y'know, find time to just sit and breathe. Thank goodness for JB, who is awesome, and for my family, who are also awesome.

Needless to say, the blog and my writing have fallen by the wayside. And I know all of us are busy; you just have to make priorities. My priorities right now, at least this day and this week and maybe this month or next couple of months, blogging won't be among them. I think, at this particular life season, fiction writing may even fade in and out as a priority. Which is fine; there's a reason young motherhood has been called "The Blur."

So you may not see much of me on the blog for a couple of months. I hope to return quickly, and get back into writing so that I'll have something to blog about that actually has anything to do with the whole reason I started this blog six years ago.

You can find me on Twitter in the meantime, and I promise to be back here, better than ever, soon :)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The best green smoothie ever

A smoothie recipe...I know, I know. What's a recipe doing on a (mostly) writing blog?

I'm newly-enthusiastic about kale smoothies partly because they make me feel virtuous for actually enjoying something made with so much chlorophyll, and partly because I completely suck at eating vegetables and this is one way that ensures I do it. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure my new baby is going to come out of the womb next month thinking the major food groups are milkshakes, french fries, chicken and decaf coffee drinks.

So, kale. It's a leafy green, sort of like lettuce or collards. If you're like me and don't enjoy salad, you've probably given it the side-eye at the grocery store or ignored it altogether while you were searching for something more normal, like carrots. But kale is super good for you. According to WebMD:
One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. 
Impressive. And it tastes...about like you'd expect it to taste. Like a dark, leafy green. So, not really that great.



BUT!

Try it in a smoothie! Smoothies make everything better about 95 percent of the time. Here is my no-fail kale smoothie recipe, void of processed ingredients and full of parenthetical asides. Try it. You won't be disappointed. Even my ultra-picky 2-year-old will drink this stuff, and he usually treats green vegetables like the plague.

AC's Kale Smoothie
1 cup pure coconut water (I like the Zico brand, and the kind with mango flavor is particularly good here)
Splash of 100% pineapple juice (don't omit this; it's the key to making the smoothie not taste gross)
1 frozen banana (unfrozen is totally fine; the smoothie will just be thicker and colder if banana is frozen)
3 large stalks of kale, with stalk part removed (or intact, whatever floats your boat)
2 T. flaxseed meal (you can leave this out if you want, but it does provide omega-3s and protein)
4+ ice cubes (you may need more if banana is unfrozen)
Optional: a drop or two of agave nectar, or sweetener of your choice

Stuff everything into a blender and blend until desired consistency. Pour into a large see-through glass (so everyone can see how healthy you are drinking a bright green concoction), add a straw and enjoy!

Nutrition (without agave/sweetener): 276 calories, 3.6g fat, 60.3g carbohydrates, 7.9g dietary fiber, 8g protein. And lots of vitamins.

*Note: You can find coconut water near the bottled water in the grocery store (or you can substitute regular tap water in this recipe; it would cut some calories). Flaxseed meal is usually on the baking aisle. Agave nectar is with the syrup or the sweeteners - if they have it in my mainstream grocery store in Alabama, you've probably got it at yours. Organic kale is available right now at my local farmer's market, and it's way better than the stuff I usually find in the grocery store. But you can get it at your grocery store year-round.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I have a 2-year-old

Today my sweet son turns 2 years old. Two years ago today, I walked across the parking lot toward the hospital - and an emergency c-section that was 12 weeks too soon - and thought about how my life would never be the same.

And it hasn't. Some of the not-same has been bad, but the overwhelming majority of it (even some of the sad parts) has been absolutely wonderful.

This is what I got to see this morning, as I let him have a wildly healthy birthday breakfast of fruit snacks:



I've been a little emotional today; mostly because I'm nearly 32 weeks pregnant and my hormones are ridiculous, but also a little bit because it's Graham's birthday, too. I miss him every day, but I think his absence gets thrown into relief around this time of year, with Mother's Day and then their birthday, and then six days later, the anniversary of Graham's passing.

But being emotional is OK, and my most overwhelming emotion is happiness. I'm so thankful and proud to be the mom of a sweet, loving, opinionated, chatterbox toddler with a mind of his own.


Monday, May 14, 2012

three years and counting

When I hear about now-famous authors working on novels for 10 years, it makes me feel better that I've been working on my current one since 2009.

2009, for the love of maude. The way I feel about this novel -- a Southern Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre, set in post-WWI Alabama -- is completely different than most of the other stories I've written. It's more important. More personal. I've started and restarted it at least three times, which is unusual for me. Normally I just plow through to the end. I'm in my third rewrite, and only about 9,000 words and one ghost-appearance in.

I know in my head what I want the words to sound like. But - of course - they never come out that way. I think my career in journalism and dogged dedication to clear, concise prose in my working life has drained all the lyrical turns of phrase from my brain - if they ever existed there in the first place.

Do you ever wonder if your real-life job interferes with your creative-life job? I adore my real-life job as a magazine editor for a regional magazine, which maybe is part of the problem. It functions like a creative outlet. I know how blessed I am to have a paying job - in a journalism field (!) - that also is a satisfying career. Sometimes, though, I wonder if I'd get more writing done on my novel if I had a drudge job I hated, like waitressing or subsitute-teaching. (I was a substitute teacher for a while when I was a freelance writer and...just don't. Don't do it. Ever. Unless you are good at classroom management, which I was not.)

And then I think, that's just another cop-out for not writing. I have time in the evenings I could be writing. Instead I spend them watching TV or playing on Facebook or something else equally not worthwhile. (Although are you watching Sherlock? The second episode was last night. It's fabulous.)

Though I haven't been writing (much) I do think about my novel often, FWIW. Pinterest has been fabulous because I keep a board on there with images meant to inspire my writing. If you'd like to see, you can go here: http://pinterest.com/acvollers/quil-novel/.



(Inspiration for my heroine. "Cynthia," 1917, by William Strang)

You can see my inspiration house, Rosemount Plantation, here.



I recently found more information about this beautiful and near-abandoned antebellum Alabama home, thanks to another Southern writer who loves it as much as I do. You can find a more detailed history of Rosemount on his site here, and find out more about him and his writing on his personal blog, The Literate Pen.

I promise to post more often about writing. That is, after all, why I started this blog in the first place. Life intervenes and I won't stop posting about other things, but I pride myself on being a writer. And writers... well, they write. The published ones, anyway.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Parents of Preemies Day

Today is Parents of Preemies Day, an awareness campaign created by Graham's Foundation, a wonderful organization that works to provide parents of NICU babies the support and resources they need. It was named in memory of another sweet baby named Graham - so of course it holds a special place in my heart.

I was thinking about the things that parents of preemies need the most while their babies are fighting for their lives in the NICU. I'd like to share some of that here, in honor of Parents of Preemies Day, and in case you are ever thrust into this kind of situation or have a friend who is. If you're new to my blog, you can read the story of our sweet little fighters, Will and Graham, here.

Practical
So first, the practical. Will was in the NICU for roughly 2 1/2 months. We ate, slept and breathed the NICU. JB and I saw Will 2-3 times a day, usually at his "cares" times, which is when we could be there for his feedings (we took turns holding the tiny feeding tube) and participate in diaper changes. These are a big deal when your baby spends all day, every day, in a closed-off incubator bed. It may be the only interaction you have with your baby because he may be too fragile to be handled often. I remember the day Will was first allowed to wear clothes (a tiny white shirt), I was so excited and so proud of him.

Here are a few things that friends of NICU parents might find helpful:

- Visiting. NICU visitation rules are usually strict, so you likely can't visit the baby in the hospital. At ours, only two people at a time - ever, period - were allowed at the baby's bedside, so if JB or I brought a visitor, that meant the other one of us couldn't see Will. So we did bring visitors sometimes, but of course we got so little time with Will that we kept it to a minimum.

- Meals. Many people (myself included) like to bring meals to new parents. JB and I found that our schedule was so chaotic - and changed frequently - that it just wasn't practical to coordinate when we would be home to meet someone who was bringing the meal, and then have time to sit down and eat it. (Not to mention finding time to return dishes.) What honestly helped us the most was that many of our friends gave us restaurant gift cards instead. I know that may sound mercenary or make you feel like you aren't providing a lovingly-cooked meal, but you can save the home-cooked meal for when the baby is actually home and the parents are spending all their time at home then.

A $10 or $15 gift card to somewhere quick and easy (Chick-fil-A, etc.) that's located between the parents' home and the hospital is a lifesaver. JB and I could plan for a quick dinner on our way to visit Will and it was perfect. And it was also a way to spend time together, just the two of us, to decompress and talk about how we felt about that day. I remember there was a Taco Bell really near the hospital and a lot of times, we'd head through the drive-thru after Will's last "cares" of the day (around 10 p.m.) because that was the only place still open. I'd get a sparkling cherry limeade and JB would get a frozen lime drink and we'd sit in the car, talking and de-stressing.

- Gifts. One of the best gifts we got was from a friend of mine and her Bible study group. She and I grew up together, but we don't attend the same church and I didn't know any of the people in the group. But they pooled their resources and sent us a card with gas money. As you can imagine, going back and forth to the NICU 2-3 times a day uses a lot of gas, and I thought this gift was incredibly thoughtful.

Emotional
If there's one thing I learned through our experience, it's that everyone deals with hardship and grief differently. Some, like JB and me, are more private, while others just need to talk about what's happening, and talk about it often.

A couples of weeks after Graham died, when Will was still in the NICU and very sick, some of my friends took me out to lunch. I was so thankful to be in a normal-ish situation after everything that had happened, and it made me feel so much better to know they cared about me and wanted to hang out with me - that they weren't freaked out by the girl who was grieving. They let me talk about it while I wanted to, and then our conversation turned to other brighter topics. It was really nice.

People going through a rough time want to feel validated in their fears and worry. Well-meaning acquaintances who tried to "fix" the situation when they were talking to me, or told me to focus on the positive - "At least you still have one son" or "My niece's baby was born prematurely and he turned out fine" - weren't helpful. I understand they didn't mean to be insensitive, and I tried not to take it personally. But it did sting.

The best someone can do for a friend who's in this situation is to take your cues from your friend: if she wants to talk about it, then listen. And if not, you can talk about fun things,  like TV shows or light gossip or whatever provides a temporary escape.

I guess I could go on and on, but there probably aren't many of you who haven't gone through hardship in your lives and know what this is like.

I still feel like I don't always know what to say to other preemie parents - the whole experience just kind of sucks, to be honest, and there's really nothing you can or should say to make it better. Just knowing other people cared about us and were praying for us meant the most.

You can also check out Parents of Preemies Day on Facebook to see the stories people have shared, and to learn more about Graham's Foundation.

And what's a preemie parent post without a pic of my sweet little former preemie?


Friday, March 02, 2012

Tornado sirens: spring has arrived. Also, grammar.

I'm pausing in between warily watching the weather here in North Alabama - tornadoes have already damaged parts of my county this morning and we're supposedly in for more this afternoon - to acknowledge National Grammar Day.

Naturally, this should be a much more important day than it is, but for those of you who feel like celebrating, you can send a National Grammar Day e-card to your fellow nerds. Or as a passive-aggressive reminder to the ones you love who don't know how to correctly use an apostrophe.

Personally - assuming I'm not blown away later this afternoon - I would prefer to celebrate by getting my trusty Sharpie and correcting the grammar-challenged signs that pepper my hometown, a la Lynne Truss.

Also, I found this on Pinterest the other day and it is completely awesome. I wish I could frame it and hang in my cubicle. It's NSFW but that doesn't mean it's not true.

Here's a cute one that is: