Mountains, Beaches, and June.

June brings more birthdays and humid days where the weather map screams at us in reds and oranges and rolling thunder shakes us every afternoon. The kids beg to go outside and we drag out the plastic pool and spray ‘em with the hose while battling thirsty mosquitoes and new sunburns.

Summer is a battle we rusty southerners know well.

But for us this one started with a road trip back to where I once had some roots. Good ol’ Georgia.

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My first best friend, the one thing I kept from my time in Georgia–aside from the accent–was getting married and that meant hauling the kids into the car and hitting the highway headed for the mountains or bust.

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When I Wasn’t Picked (But Went Anyway)

I’m not what anyone would call particularly gutsy. I’m a bit of an indoor girl unless we’re talking sand, salt water and margaritas, and whenever I do have to go out and do something I look forward to going home, shucking my pants and clearing the calendar like it’s a chorus of angels celebrating me home.

When I was a teenager this homebody soul of mine made me feel a little like a bum. Friends wanted to go out. My sister clucked at me as she passed on her way out the door.

I was boring. Terribly whatever with just being sixteen and not saying the right things or wanting the same ones. I had books and my headphones and let my imagination go. I was soaring away there and didn’t need to be here.

Until the day I wanted one particular adventure with every beat, every breath. I sat on a couch watching a movie where a girl went somewhere else and I suddenly, inexplicably knew that I needed to go, too.

There’s not many places for a girl who is living with her parents and going to community college to go, but still. There was a whisper drumming in my head and I couldn’t quiet it.

My college had an honors society that I was part of in name, and every year they went on a trip for spring break. And the sign up was that very week. Stars were aligning before I even found out where they were going.

Italy.

I could barely breathe around the dominoes falling as I chased them. I could do this. I could go somewhere else.

So, the nervous, twitchy girl went to the office to sign up, but she discovered that the trip was so popular there would be a lottery deciding who could go. The price for the flights, hotels and tours for two weeks was all under a thousand and I had just enough in savings. I nodded and signed my name and I let myself do the most dangerous thing.

I hoped.

I went to my next class and then the next and for days I waited for word. Waited to be picked back after making such a huge stride out of my norm. I, the hobbit girl who never wanted a wizard to tell her to go kill a dragon, had signed up to go to another country.

With strangers. On a plane across an ocean when I’d never been on a plane to anywhere.

I paced and I waited. I went back to the office, cleared my throat, wiped my sweaty hand and asked.

I wasn’t picked. It wasn’t my name on the list. I nodded and left.

Of course I wasn’t picked. Girls like me were never picked. We go home and put our headphones back on and we pretend. We write and we read and we do well enough in our classes to be in honor societies in name, but not really in practice.

So, I went home. I told my parents and then I went to my room and dropped back on my bed and looked at the ceiling and cried fat, useless tears.

I wasn’t picked. I wouldn’t go. And that was okay, because I’d tried.

Except it wasn’t this time. Not for this one thing. Somewhere in my hobbit heart I knew this one would be mine. This was meant to be a chapter in my story and it would be written by my own hand. I went back to that office, cleared my throat and asked if there was any way I could go. The secretary checked all the paperwork and told me there were a few slots outside of the lottery, but were more expensive. Still totally cheaper than doing this trip on my own, but more than I had.

I told her yes. That slot was mine.

I went home and cried different tears and I reached out for help. My Abuelo and godfather came through for me in the biggest, most impossible ways, and they gave wings to a nineteen year-old girl who suddenly needed to go and do something outside of herself. My godfather who once told me to always chase my bliss.

I tucked that advice into my luggage and swallowed every last fear and anxiety as Craig drove me to campus where a bus would be taking the entire group down to Miami to fly out to Italy. Time started to blend together. My own reflection started to blur and still somehow I went.

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May It Always Be Awesome

Plenty to check in with when May comes around with all these balloons and birthday cake. The sugar highs and first mosquito bites.

With the quiet moments when I stop and remember I’m singing them happy birthday again, because again they’ve gotten another year older on me.

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Time rushes forward as fast as they blow out the candles.

We Lego and My Little Pony birthday partied hard for two back to back weekends.

It was as bright and chaotic as that sentence just sounded.

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He’s Telling You His Story (Pictures by Phoenix)

There was a time not that long ago when all I wanted was to have a conversation with my son. It was a selfish, desperate thing, but I wanted to pull him into my world and have him meet my gaze and love me back in a way I understood.

I jumped toward anything he showed interest in to find a door or maybe even a window I could kick open to get closer to him.

I’ve said it before and I’ll hum it like a lullaby to him forever, but he taught me how this love thing works. How amazing and necessary it is to embrace a neurodiverse world.

He’s older and inviting me in these days, and I’ve noticed when he’s playing with my old phone that instead of the noise of his games and apps, I’m hearing camera clicks.

A__picturesbyPhoenix_in_the_making.

I checked his gallery and it’s filled with pictures I never knew he was taking.

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This is me sharing #picturesbyPhoenix.

If you’re on instagram you can find me and follow along at ninamoreno. Instagram

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Inspiration, Florida

Florida is a mad place. The tacky picture of it can grate like the ringing noise of a cheap carnival. People may live here, but they never seem to be actually from here when you ask them. Everyone is racing around on highways built over swamps and a new sinkhole is just another Wednesday.

Hometown pride feels harder to come by than theme park tickets.

A story comes out about a guy trying to barter for beer using his pet gator and people shake their heads cause they know it was us.

When others think of the south and all its gracious charm we’re that crazy cousin they all joke about kicking out of the family.

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No, but seriously.

And yet, I love this place and can’t imagine writing about anywhere else.

My manuscript HURRICANE DAUGHTER takes place in a town I put together with the sunburnt pieces of the towns I’ve known. My make-believe Nova Creek hums from the interstate traffic that drives right past as tourists escape to the beaches or theme parks. It’s a place whose  life blood runs with citrus and spring water. Everyone might not necessarily know everyone, but they’re only one person removed from remembering you. It’s rusty and humid and the train tracks were abandoned years ago, the mosquitoes are blood thirsty, and the sand cranes sometimes block in your car.

I was born in Miami and lived in Homestead, but we moved away after Hurricane Andrew blew a tree into our house and my dad needed a transplant that would be performed at Emory in Atlanta. Late in my junior year of high school my family packed up their stuff and moved back to Florida bound for Kissimmee and Abuelo after we lost Abuela to cancer. I was a pissed off teenager who was mourning and found no love for this stupid hot place and sandy, noisy high school.

And then I met a boy with blue eyes and sweet smile.

And we went to college.

And I fell into a deep love with a place called Gainesville.

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April Something.

I’ve got a bit of a tradition going with April. A love/hate push and pull. It comes around and with its first puff of humid heat I either head into summer listless and bitching or I slip on a skirt and pull myself up by my boots and leap forward.

There was the April I said to hell with my every fear and plan and pushed my way onto a bus, then onto a plane for the very first time to fly across the Atlantic and spend two weeks in Italy with strangers. It was the closest I’d ever gotten to being the person I wanted to be and it stole my breath to be the one to make it happen.

There was that dark April when I was back home with my parents, a fussy baby and a frustrated husband and had more debt than dreams. Useless and tired, I laid on the same patch of grass where I’d gotten married and held onto a book as I cried wondering where I’d misstepped. Which one took me so far away from myself.

And then there was last April when I sent out my very first query, pushing myself headfirst toward the dream of becoming a published author.

And now there’s this one. I’m looking ahead to a month filled with birthdays of my babies and all the real life planning and budgeting that comes with that. There’s end of school year notes on the calendar like IEP meetings and preparing for extended school year plans. This year there’s our first big road trip to the mountains where I’ll see my first best friend get married. There are dresses to buy and coolers to pack and new things to see.

That’s what April keeps coming around to tell me. Look for the things to see. Chase them, grab them, sit and enjoy them.

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Going_to_the_lakefront_fair_by_wagon.___

April was good. There’s mountains to climb and rivers to cross ahead of us, but I make some pretty great lists.

And I chuck them and fly across oceans when I need to.

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Thanks, April. Looking forward to seeing you again.

morning coffee and stories.

When it comes to telling stories I’m the middle child waving her hands in a room of people talking over the other. I’m not always the loudest, but I am usually the one smacking the table, losing her breath from laughing so hard. When my family gets together it’s a celebration of bad jokes, impossible gossip and dusty stories from growing up as everyone moves around each other, the tide rushing from the kitchen to the porch and it’s that rhythm I chase while writing. The noise of people and their mad, sweet, impossible stories.

Stitching all of that together into the richly drawn mess we steal from our sisters then pass on to our daughters.

I wanted to sit down here on my blog and open the door to that noise.

So, I give you this week’s (three) stories I’d have told you over coffee while we sat on my front porch and spied on my neighbors.

    1. This past weekend Mom and me had a yard sale together at my house. Let me tell you, my mom was the yard sale queen in her day. For years she used these same bright yellow signs, and people knew her by them. They saw those suckers out by the road and would drive down our mile long street just because of them. My mom didn’t play one bit when it came to her yard sales. The organization she put into them and the careful way she made sure there were varied items for everyone to look at. She shooed us kids away when we’d browse through our old stuff and try to sneak some of it back inside, so it was weird to be the one shooing my nosy kids back inside. I’m at a point in my life where it was glorious to just get rid of stuff and to do it while Craig was at work (because he’s a sentimental hoarder and I don’t need all these pieces of paper, sweetheart) and the extra cash will come in handy for our gauntlet of birthdays that is also known in some parts as May.Yard_Sale_Saturday.___
        Also, for the record, my signs are red.


    2.  I’ve got a love affair going with PBS. It’s this sweet thing where we hold hands and I know I can always count on it as Lucy and me dance around the house to Peg + Cat and Phoenix learns Spanish with Noah. Great, fantastic stuff for kids as you’d expect, but the documentaries I’ve stumbled upon on there about music? I am hand to my chest serious when I tell you it’s my absolute favorite. Few weeks back they had a documentary about Americana Music called Nashville 2.0 and watching it was like stumbling upon all my favorite songs in an unexpected place. They featured all this rootsy, twangy, heartbreaking, foot stomping stuff and I couldn’t get close enough to my screen.
      And then last week it was Muscle Shoals.
      Oh, man. I don’t even know where to start. I was mesmerized.

      The way they captured the sound, place, and history of this southern town that made music shaped by blues, rock, gospel and spirituals was incredible. I’m telling you I was down in Alabama dancing to Wilson Pickett and Aretha and then came Etta James and because it was an unexpected magic that tangled together genres there was Lynyrd Skynyrd and Paul Simon and then Band of Horses, Jason Isbell and The Civil Wars.
      Sometimes even a Florida girl has to give a nod to Alabama.

    3. This last week of April means I’m preparing madly for a summer of birthdays being that I was shit at math and had both my babies in May (I will never stop telling that joke, by the way) and both me and Craig are June babies and topping all that off with Mother’s and Father’s day and basically in summer the mosquitoes aren’t the only ones draining me. I’m not a Pinterest Mom that goes batshit bananas with birthday parties, but I do try to nerd out with whatever they’re into with as much dime store magic as I can. I’m talking hunting thrift stores for old nurse scrubs that will become a young Padawan’s birthday outfit and the dad who finally gets to wear that tool bet he bought forever ago as part of being Han Solo for the day.  d0450-img_20130505_150942And with the kids being a week apart it means a lot of repurposing, but that’s the magic that comes with being siblings. Dealing with hand-me-downs and fighting it out for attention.

      Like I said, I was a middle child.

Here’s to the week ahead, guys. Photo on 2014-04-28 at 13.46 Now get off my porch.