Day in My Life

Days that make the journey worth it

I take very little for granted these days.

I have two new boys now. They arrived last September. The first three months were really tough. Of course they would be. They’ve had a hard journey making their way to us. We only just turned the corner as a family a few weeks ago, in mid January, into something manageable.

So my own life was set aside for a while. That didn’t mean big things didn’t happen. This for one:


Fight for Her hit the USA Today bestseller list in January at #116. This was my sixth time on the list — second time for my JJ Knight pen name.

I’m so grateful.

I didn’t get a chance to talk about it much, as we were in crisis at home. As so often happens when family comes first, even the big personal accomplishments get pushed aside.

But we’re getting there.

I’m not sure when I’ll introduce our new family to the world. Their safety will come first, even after they are adopted and I am legally free to let everyone see their adorable faces. But know they are here, and my life is far more multi-faceted than it ever was before. I’m not quite as available online or at book signing events as I once was.

If you do want me, the best place is my private Facebook group for book fans. I try to stop by every couple of days to say hello. Click to hop over to it.


When two writers get married, you gotta have a story arc, right?

When two writers get married, you gotta have a story arc, right?

Unless you’re writing a bedtime tale, every good story has to have its falling and rising action, its complications and cliffhangers. So when you meet the man of your dreams through a writing group and get married in a bookstore, you have to brace yourself for the extra punch that is bound to find its way into your love story.

I’m a big believer in Jack Bickham’s story structure. He tells us good narratives are built when each scene contains a goal, an obstacle to the goal, and a disaster that carries us into the next goal. So here is our wedding day story, told Bickham style, with all the disasters perfectly in place.

We begin with Scene #1.

Goal: To meet friends and family in Central Park for a laid-back gathering the morning of the wedding day.

Obstacle 1: Our hero couple is late. Kurt runs ahead to meet with everyone.

Obstacle 2: Ten-year-old daughter Elizabeth suddenly starts feeling very bad on Fifth Avenue. She has a headache and starts crying.

Disaster: They can’t even make it into the park, as she starts turning sort of gray. She has epilepsy and may be starting the wedding day with a seizure in Central Park. And who has the medicine? Kurt.

That worked, right? You are hooked in the story. I wish it were fiction, but this is how the day begins. So let’s move to the next scene.

Goal: To get Elizabeth her medicine before she gets any worse.

Obstacle 1: Kurt has already run into the park. So Deanna calls him. He starts heading back.

Obstacle 2: It’s really noisy and difficult with construction near the park entrance. Elizabeth and Deanna start moving, one bench at a time, into the park. Elizabeth can’t really move more than a few yards at a time, clutching her mom.

Disaster: Kurt arrives, and the panicked couple realizes they didn’t pack any meds in his backpack.

You see how this day is going. Wedding is in 7 hours and we have a full-blown crisis on our hands. Now for Scene #3.

Goal: To find medicine for Elizabeth to see if they can make her feel better to head off a seizure.

Obstacle: They’re in Central Park with no idea where a drug store is. Kurt asks for directions. CVS is five blocks away. He takes off running.

Disaster: When he gets there, they don’t have anything he recognizes as something that would help. He calls, but Deanna is intent on Elizabeth and doesn’t even hear it buzz.

Ticking clock. All essential story elements. But the hero is on his way.

Goal: Kurt: to bring something that will help. Deanna: to get Elizabeth closer to friends and family should they need support if she seizes.

Obstacle: Kurt starts heading back, hoping one of the three things he bought will work. Deanna keeps moving Elizabeth one bench at a time toward the group, and they all finally converge at the Alice in Wonderland statue.

Resolution: Elizabeth manages to take some dissolve tabs and perks up. Within half an hour, she is running all over the park and climbing rocks with the other kids.

So you think the wedding day will go on normally now, right? You would be so very wrong. Before leaving this chapter, we have to get you another cliffhanger to ensure you keep reading. No problem.

Goal: Deanna has to get to the salon to start the preparations. She says goodbye to everyone and heads up Fifth Avenue, managing to locate a taxi and get back to her apartment.

Obstacle: The salon is not far from where she is staying, so she thinks she will walk. She also thinks she knows where she is going.

Disaster: She gets lost. And it starts to rain. Seriously. Rain. If this were fiction, the editors would cross this out. Cliché, they would say. Nix it. But it’s really raining.

Deanna is not one for pity parties, but it’s been enough of a day already, and after crossing Houston St. three times (foreshadowing for the future Houston St. crossing from hell!), her cell phone failing to connect to the salon for help, she sort of leans against the brick wall of a random building and busts out crying. But of course, she has to have a new goal. One can’t stand on a corner and cry all day. The narrative must move forward.

Goal: To find the $#%* salon. She pulls out the printout of the appointment confirmation to try the number again and sees that they do have a picture of the entrance to the salon.

Obstacle: She knows she’s on the block, but there are several doors exactly like this one, all locked, all with buzzers to apartments. She buzzes one. An annoyed random New Yorker tells her to keep walking. Finally, she sees that there is a 10-inch sticker on one pane of one door that says the name of the salon. She goes in and reaches in her bag for all the stuff she needs for the appointment.

Disaster: No fascinator. No hair style print outs.

When compared with the other disasters, a little thing like this is really nothing. They get on the computer, the stylist tells Deanna everything she likes is dated, and sits down to do whatever she likes. Deanna tries to call someone to fetch the fascinator, but everyone’s in museums and sightseeing, so she just lets it be.

We pick up our story again at Deanna’s parents’ apartment. She has carefully packed everyone’s things. She’s calmly sewing the straps to her back-up wedding dress in case the bustle on the train to her primary dress doesn’t seem to be holding (it fell when they tested it), so she can dance in the second dress without tripping. Kurt delivers the girls safely to her and leaves to get ready. We’re about to head into the tight-timeline of the last two hours, exacerbated by the make up artist being overbooked. Elizabeth gets her hair done, and Deanna glances in the mirror to notice that her $250 hairdo has already started to fall.

Goal: To get makeup artist to help with hair problem.

Obstacle: Makeup artist is late.

Obstacle: Deanna has to start reversing the order of things to leave time for the makeup artist, and packs up wedding dress for move to the venue. Can’t find shoes.

Obstacle: Every time she moves, her hair falls more. Her mom orders her to sit. Mom has pretty shaky hands and can’t fix it herself. Dad starts the search for the five-inch platforms that are essential for the dress, which will drag the ground otherwise.

Disaster: Makeup artist calls but keeps getting disconnected. Says she’s outside the door but can’t get in. But she’s not there.

Deanna is really trying to laugh about everything. They finally get through to the makeup girl, and she’s two blocks away, banging on the wrong door. They are crowded in the apartment now, with a videographer, a photographer, two kids, two parents, a bride, and a makeup artist. And no booze in the house. (That should be a disaster right there.) But Leora fixes the hair with hair pins donated from the photographer, who goes above and beyond the call of duty by taking her own hair down for the bride’s. Makeup commences. Dad finds shoes. But boy, is everything late. Let’s move on to the next series.

Goal: To get to the bookstore on time.

Obstacle. Dear reader, just start laughing now. Because the way things are about to go…yes, just laugh now.

Obstacle: Nasty mean taxi driver. He doesn’t know where Housing Works is. He doesn’t know Crosby Street. Deanna explains that it is near Houston and Lafayette. She has no idea what he’s about to do.

Obstacle: Traffic is horrible, sometimes causing a 10-minute wait at an intersection. Deanna was supposed to be setting up the tables ten minutes ago, and dressing now. It’s 20 minutes until the wedding, and she’s in a taxi and not dressed.

Obstacle: He stops many blocks away from the venue. Deanna has two giant boxes of books and decorations, a wedding dress bag, a ten-year-old, and a mom who can’t walk more than about a block without assistance. She tells him they have to get closer. He circles the block, which takes ten more minutes. Deanna is supposed to have the tables set up, be in her dress, and should be sipping white wine out of view while people arrive. Instead she is in a taxi four blocks away with everything for the wedding in it.

Obstacle: The taxi driver says, “This is it,” and puts it in park. They can see Housing Works, but it is far. Across the enormous Houston Street, which has a walking signal barely long enough for regular people to cross in time, and they have all the wedding stuff, a child, and a mom who has left her walker back at the apartment.

Disaster: They get out anyway.

Now I can tell you are probably either laughing or upset at what’s gone on. And honestly, when we got out of the car with all those boxes and bags, and really no way to carry them, I didn’t see what we would do. I gave the wedding dress to Elizabeth, my bride bag to mom, and I carried the two stacked boxes in front of my face as we set across this crazy street full of traffic, about 50 yards across. For you Austin people, it would be like crossing I-35, if the highway had a red light in it, one that serves more as a suggestion than an actual traffic stop.

Goal: To get to the wedding without dropping everything.

Obstacle: Halfway across this mega-street, Deanna simply cannot carry the boxes any further. The light changes, and they are trapped by a low concrete construction barrier. They stand near it. Deanna sets the boxes on the barrier, knowing that if she doesn’t hang on, they will fall into some utility construction pit. Her arms are screaming, and she knows she is going to be feeling the pain for some time (and five days, later, they still hurt.) Mom is gamely holding on to the barrier. Traffic is whizzing on either side of the trio.

I honest-to-God start looking around for someone to pay to help us carry these things. I see no way we can get the rest of the way across this road. But New Yorkers go on their merry way, the light changes, and people start moving.

I tell Elizabeth she has to help, and I give her the lighter box. Mom gets the wedding dress. I carry the box full of books and know we simply have to do this.

Obstacle: The light turns while we cross.

Screw it. At this point I’m ready to get run over.

With about 10 minutes until the wedding, Deanna sits Elizabeth and Mom on concrete steps next to some random interesting looking characters and makes a mad dash down the street to the venue. They are waiting, probably wondering exactly how to start a wedding with no bride. They hurry down to fetch the boxes and help the others to the bookstore. Deanna goes inside and realizes:

Disaster: We also have no groom.

It’s moving swiftly now, isn’t it? Moving into that climax! Bickham would be pleased with our structure!

Deanna’s Goal: Decorate tables, put on dress, get FREAKING UPSTAIRS TO HER GLASS OF WINE! Thankfully, The staff was all ready, so after some quick instructions, they got the tables done and she dashes to the bathroom to put on her dress.

Kurt’s Goal: To get to the venue.

Now Kurt was dealing with similar obstacles as far as traffic. He had Emily and the bride’s Dad. But they were unencumbered, so when they got a few blocks away, they hopped out and headed toward the venue, where many of the guests were all gathered, waiting to be allowed in since Deanna was still having the tables set up.

Disaster: But as Kurt approached the crowd of people, he remembered he didn’t have the black hair tie Deanna had made for him. It was in his backpack…which wasn’t on his shoulder. He turns around, shocked at himself. He has left his backpack in the taxi. And it wasn’t just holding his hair ribbon. But Deanna’s $3000 professional camera that she uses for work.

We should stop here, right? I mean, that’s a hell of a disaster for a groom, right? How does he tell his bride, five minutes before their wedding, that her livelihood just drove off into a sea of yellow? But we must go on with our tale, take it to its conclusion.

Goal: To find the *^&% taxi with the backpack in it. Kurt gathers a few people and they rush in the direction of the taxis, which are all blending together.

Obstacle: There are hundreds of them. They are looking in windows, trying to find the one with the backpack.

Disaster: They fail.

Blake Snyder (RIP, Blake!) talks about the “Long dark night of the soul.” In every story, there is a moment where there seems there is no way out. No way to solve the problem at hand. We’re there.

Goal: Kurt is trying to recover from what has just happened. The people who know decide to keep it from Deanna until after the ceremony.

Now, during all this, Deanna is upstairs, gulping wine and wondering why everyone is still being held outside. The tables are ready. She calls down to tell them to open the door and asks a friend how Kurt is doing. Nervous, she is told. Figures. It had been a tough day.

The wedding coordinator comes up. It’s 45 minutes past the wedding start time. Deanna is shrugging. It’ll happen. They suggest we go ahead and start.

I’m happy to report that the disasters that occurred DURING the wedding were the hilarious sort:

The officiant called Deanna the wrong name twice, and she finally spoke up, asking Kurt, “Is that the name of your other girlfriend?”

The bakery neglected to inform us that the top layer of our book cake was actually fondant-covered cardboard. So we sawed through it for several minutes before realizing it could not be cut.

Otherwise, spot on perfect. Vows. Music. Cocktail hour with gloriously delicious appetizers. Photos. Four-course dinner. A lovely blessing by Deanna’s Dad. A sweet message from Kurt’s mom. A hilarious toast by friend Audrey. Then waltzing.

We roll to the conclusion of our wedding story as we approach that time when Deanna must be told about the camera. Their marriage is three hours old.

Goal: Kurt wants to wait until they are in the limo.

Obstacle: Deanna is puzzled why the venue is giving them vodka and champagne when they have vodka and champagne in the backpack. She suddenly remembers the backpack. Where is it? she asks Kurt.

Realize that at this moment, the limo is in the street, the driver waiting by the open door. Everyone at the wedding is standing outside the bookstore holding white rose petals.

Obstacle: The wedding coordinator arrives with a paper. They have filed a claim with the taxi company for the contents of Kurt’s backpack. Deanna realizes what has happened.

Kurt tries to launch into a “I didn’t want to tell you” spiel, but Deanna already knows all that. She would have done the same thing. It’s just a camera. An expensive one, sure, but just a piece of equipment. That can be replaced.

She does know this: What they can’t get back, can never get back, is this moment, walking out of their wedding, friends and family ready to send them off, showering them with petals. She tells him to put it from his mind, and they walk out into the New York Street, and everyone cheers, and petals waft through the air, and they duck into a black limousine and on to the rest of their lives.


The camera has never been found.

And a bigger disaster unfolded over the next few days: our marriage license was unsigned and unwitnessed. Emails with the officiant went very badly and by Monday we were certain we’d have to go to City Hall and have a second ceremony to make our marriage legal. Kurt played the hero again, intervening after some rather difficult and unpleasant correspondence between Deanna and the officiant, and met the woman to get the license signed.

We are safely home now (despite United Airlines doing their best to keep us from getting here.) We try to laugh about the disasters of the day, and do take to heart what everyone says—today’s difficulties are tomorrow’s great stories.

Thank you for reading ours.

Wedding Day Blogging’

It’s not very often you wake up to begin your wedding day.

I’m sure at many points Kurt wondered if this day would ever come. We’ve been dating for almost seven years, and for most of them I made pretty clear another marriage wasn’t in the cards.

His ability to turn this around in me is a testament to who he is. What sort of person can give faith back to someone who has none? You’ll see exactly that man, tall and probably a little nervous, standing at the end of an aisle in about twelve hours. He probably never envisioned that on his wedding day, he’d be wearing a hot pink tie to match his bride’s hair.

Everyone else is still asleep. We had a long day yesterday, including a trip up the Empire State Building, the family dinner at John’s Pizzeria, and a stroll through Time’s Square, one of the few places in the world that is busy enough to thrill me. (Despite being raised in the country, I am a city girl to the core.)

Today we’ll meet up with almost everyone attending the wedding at Central Park before the wedding machinery cranks into gear. I am surrounded by amazing people, Kurt’s family, who accepted and welcomed my daughters and me without reservation, and my parents, who are still advising Kurt to make a run for it, and our beautiful friends, who brought us together and counseled us through tough times and made this trip to New York with us.

Today, I am blessed.

Wedding bloggin’

We are only two days away from our wedding day in New York.

Yesterday we got up at 4:30 a.m. just to run through the airport after long security lines and discover the flight we almost missed had been canceled.

Unexpectedly large demand meant all airlines were overbooked. So all we could do to make a connection to New York was take a bus to Houston.

A couple of the other stranded passengers, one who was trying to get to her dying sister before it was too late, bribed the driver to speed. We thought we were busted at one point, but the cop didn’t come after us.

We wound up on a much later flight which meant all our evening plans got scuttled. But the owners of the apartments we were renting were easy going and we managed to get settled and to a lovely little Italian bistro.

Today was a day for errands, but good ones. We met up with friends who are taking advantage of the same sex marriage laws and getting married while they are here. The City Clerk’s office was pretty, a long hall with gilt ceilings. The wait was long, but we had a great time being snarky about the Snookie wannabes and some of the ill-chosen wedding gowns.

A mad dash across town got us back to the bookstore where our ceremony will take place. The officiant and wedding coordinator and photographers were all so upbeat and excited.

Recording an audio book on a good hair day

The room buzzed with awesome people. Judy Maggio, an anchor for a local TV station, dropped her bag on a chair and said, “I have to move my car! Just wanted you to know I was here.”

Author Pamela Ellen Ferguson (Sunshine Picklelime) had just finished recording a session. “Louis Sachar is going to be here later! You’re in good company!”

I wondered if I could skip picking up my children from school to meet Sachar (HolesWayside School) as he would arrive the same time as the dismissal bell. No, my kids would kill me if they found out. We’d watched the movie of Holes together and later read the book at bedtime.

Mainly I worried I would have a coughing fit in the middle of recording Baby Dust, or more likely, burst into tears. At least I didn’t have to worry about how I looked. We would be hidden in little booths the whole time even though I was having a rare good hair day.

I was introduced to volunteers of Learning Ally, a local branch of a national organization that records books for use by people with dyslexia or visual impairments. They are currently in the middle of their Record-a-Thon, where local celebrities, authors, politicians, and others record one-hour sessions to raise awareness and help them fund the coming year.

“What is your book about?” one asked. “Is it a lovely little children’s book like Pam’s?”

I couldn’t bear to tell her that mine was about death.

I should have practiced saying the hard stuff then, though, as when Project Director Carter York led me to a booth to teach me how the recording would go, he said, “The first thing we’ll record is the dedication.”

Whew, boy. My little babies, all dead. Suddenly I wasn’t sure I could read a single page.

But Carter made the transition to reading the book super easy. I made mistakes, and laughing about them made reading the difficult material more bearable.

Afterward, I met some of the members of Learning Ally who actually use the services, listening to books that range from essential textbooks to beach reading. I wondered who might choose to listen to Baby Dust, and what circumstances they might be in. While my novel has been chosen as required reading for a college social work program in another state, I know it’s tough material.

I’ll be a regular at Learning Ally, which, I’m sure, is what they hope for from their Record-a-Thon.  I am thrilled at the opportunity to read my book aloud.

Before I left, staff took a million pictures. Me, in headphones. Holding my book. With volunteers. With another author. Someone whispered, “I should have done my hair!”

Yep, I was glad for the good hair day. And waterproof mascara.

If it ain’t broke, I’ll break it

I know just enough about web sites to be dangerous to myself and others.

Back in the days of Geocities, it was all so easy. Toss in a few animated GIFs, make a little flashy text. Everyone was WOW, ZOINKS!

I learned some HTML. I bought FrontPage. I put up sites pretty quickly and had great fun with them.

Now, I seem to break them.

Flash, HTML5, mobile sites, JavaScript. I can’t keep up. I get by with WordPress and buying portfolio templates I barely know how to customize.

Today I broke a site totally. I’ll have to get someone to bail me out of this one as I knew enough to make it go blank, the giant text “FORBIDDEN” stretching across it like a banner, but not enough to set it right.

Someone take away my Internet connection.

But here, for your enjoyment, a link to the internet archive of one of my early sites. Too hilarious. (Yes, I was still married back then…)

What *I’m* gonna do in 2012

don’t do New Year’s resolutions anymore. People who know about my last one remember how THAT turned out. (She’s nine and STILL doesn’t eat vegetables.)

But I do have plans for this year, hopefully on my timetable:

1. Complete Stella & Dane, my honky tonk romance that is a prequel to my published novel Baby Dust

2. Create a short story anthology of indie writers of middle grade light fantasy to benefit Dell Children’s Hospital

3. Complete Marcus Mender, the sequel to my published middle grade book Jinnie Wishmaker

4. Create an anthology of essays on loss by various leaders in the baby loss community to benefit a miscarriage/stillbirth organization

5. GET MARRIED! The big day is June 9 in Manhattan! Everything is already selected except the photographer. Sigh. The hardest part.

I hope your 2012 is eventful and full of joy!

Background of the fire photo and info on permissions

My children had just gotten safely home after driving an hour through smoke when I saw the image.

The girls had been out camping, their father sending me a tense message when the sky began turning black. I couldn’t have been more relieved to see them.

We were driving up Loop 360 (Capitol of Texas Highway) near Westlake when we saw the skyline of Austin backed by smoke.

I just happened to have my Canon 5d Mark II in my lap because I had been shooting around town for holiday portrait locations.

We immediately pulled into a business park with a view of the city. Unfortunately, a hill of dirt partially obstructed our view. Here is that shot:

The girls wanted to scale the fence and climb the hill, but trespassing was not the order of the day, so we instead drove back to our original sighting on the highway. By that time, the fire was actually a little more dramatic. Here is an unfinished and uncropped version of the image.

Here is a Google Map of the location. The time stamp on the image is 5:18 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 5. I bracketed the shots, intending to do an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image from it. The grayness of the air made the image lower contrast that I would have liked and it was a little yellow, so I knew it might need adjustment. The wind was terrible and the side of the road didn’t feel too safe, so I jumped back in the car, knowing color and contrast was an easy fix.

When we got home, studying for tests and making dinner intervened. I definitely did not have time for an elaborate HDR from handheld frames, and almost didn’t do anything with the shot at all. But my fiance asked if I’d upload it to Facebook, so he could share it with his family in California.

So I hurriedly copied the shots to my computer. I cropped out the guard rail and bumped up the contrast so that the cityscape would show through the haze. At the last minute I tossed my web site on there, planning at that point to maybe blog about it, but also to differentiate my image from the hundreds I expected would be taken of the same scene.

I had no idea that this particular image was ephemeral, and that within a few hours, the smoke haze would spread so far and wide that the city skyline itself would almost disappear.

Central Texas Fire over Austin Skyline

I uploaded it quickly to Facebook. Just a few hours later the phone began ringing.  Television stations, wanting to use the image on the evening news.

I’ve had some 1500 messages, calls, emails, and comments in the last 40 hours. Most every news organization has contacted me. CNN featured it on the home page and now I’ve gotten calls about it being used in television ads for the Red Cross. I have not accepted any money for it, nor am I doing prints or selling the file.

Sometimes I stare at the photograph and wonder why it affects so many people. I see the truly amazing images coming out of the wildfires — incredible feats by fire fighters, homes that are down to pipes and bricks, and think — this is nothing.

But I suppose that maybe the photo turned the tide somehow. People saw it and thought, this isn’t a small thing. It’s big. It’s bigger than the city. And for two days, that particular fire has been 0% contained. When the photo was taken, some 30 homes had been destroyed. Now it’s 500 and counting. I think this picture made people realize — they need help.

So I hope most of all that if you see it, you donate to the Red Cross of Central Texas. They need it. People need it. There are so many ways to lose things in this life, but fire is all encompassing. There is nothing left to dry out or collect or salvage. It’s gone. Everything. Gone.

If you are connected to a fundraiser or other event for the evacuees of this fire, the answer is yes, yes, of course you can use the photo. As long as you are using it to good purpose and not reselling it, I’m okay with it. Run with the file you have or ask me to send you one resized to fit your project (most 8.5×11 flyers will be fine with what you saved, but bigger projects or high def video need a higher res.) You can comment or email or link to it so I can see your wonderful work, but honestly — I’m just amazed by what you are doing — so go, make your own difference in this crisis.

I am a part of a group of photographers who will be donating family portraits to families who have lost their home so that they might begin rebuilding their memories.

Helping the Central Texas fire evacuees

It’s hard to be in Austin right now. The heat wave finally ended and settled into 90 degrees after 80 days of 100+, but our hearts are breaking over the wild fires, which continue to rage in Bastrop. Small fires have popped up in the city as well.

Here are ways to help:

Make a cash donation to the Red Cross of Central Texas, who can most effectively use the money to get needed supplies and assistance:

Most needed: bottled water, canned food, baby food, clothes, socks, dog & cat food, crates, litter

If you want to drive things out, take them to:

Rundell Business Park: 704 W Highway 71 Bastrop 78602 call: 512-332-8661

Places in town to bring things:

  • The Thrift Shop at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection is accepting donations for victims. The shop at 2008 Justin Lane will take donations of clothing, housewares and toiletries, which will be taken to distribution centers.
  • To help the families affected by the Steiner Ranch fire, Austin Christian Fellowship is taking donations of bottled water, sports drinks, non-perishable snacks, toiletries, work gloves, heavy duty trash bags, flashlights, batteries and pet food. Donations can be taken to 6401 River Place Boulevard.
  • Collections are also being taken in the Liberty Hill area. You can call Chuck Licata at 512-466-7751 to help.
  • Anyone in Hays County hoping to volunteer or donate water and food for firefighters or evacuees can contact Volunteer Coordinator Lidia Contreras at 512-393-7302.
  • The OASIS on Lake Travis has announced it will be a drop off point for the Austin/Bastrop fire victims. The restaurant is accepting donations as well as water, work gloves, toiletries, non-perishable food items, clothing, trash bags, and flash lights with batteries. Boxes and donation jars will be in the lobby area starting Monday afternoon.
  • The Austin Disaster Relief Network is currently assisting victims of the fires. Organizers say donations of food and clothing can be taken to any local food bank or charity.
  • Lutheran Social Services of the South, Inc. Disaster Response (LSSDR)is accepting monetary donations for the fire victims here:
  • Cash donations should be made directly to the Red Cross of Central Texas.
  • Foundation Christian Ministries in Cedar Creek is setting up a donation/supply center on its campus located at 177 Union Chapel Rd. E., Bastrop, TX 78602.
  • Catholic Charities of Central Texas will accept donations for wildfire victims on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Donations can be brought to the Diocese of Austin Pastoral Center at 6225 Highway 290 East from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Donations will also be accepted from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Catholic Charities of Central Texas in Austin at 1817 East Sixth Street. Organizers are asking for donations of the following items:
  • Medical Supplies
    • BP Cuff
    • Nebulizer
    • Thermometer
    • Glucometer
    • Pen lights
    • Tongue Depressors
    • Ibuprofen
    • Gauze Wrap
    • ACE Bandages
    • Neosporin Cream
    • Bandages
  • Other Supplies:
    • Sleeping Bags
    • Blankets
    • Pillows
    • Towels
    • Shampoo
    • Body wash
    • Toothpaste
    • Paper Plates, Cups, Napkins, Plastic Utensils
    • Deodorant Sprays for men and women
    • Disposable Razors
    • Shaving Cream
    • Baby Wipes
    • Size 4 Diapers
    • Baby Shampoo
    • Sanitizer
  • Donations can be taken to the Click Computers of Georgetown store, located at 1102 S Austin Ave, Suite 109, Georgetown, TX through Friday, Sept. 16.
  • The Capital Area Food Bank of Texas (CAFB) is requesting assistance in the following ways: Financial donations to CAFB can be made at Funds raised will go directly to helping CAFB in this disaster response.  The relief effort will be long-term and monetary donations will be necessary for many months.CAFB food donations can be made at the following locations:
  • CAFB warehouse located at 8201 S. Congress Avenue, Austin , TX 78745 (8-5 p.m. or leave in boxes on dock outside of those hours)North Donation Spots for CAFB
  • Georgetown – Caring Place at 2000 Railroad St., Georgetown, TX 78627 — 512-869-473
  • Round Rock Serving Center at 1099 East Main St., Round Rock, TX 78664 — 512-244-2431
  • SVDP Round Rock — 620 Round Rock West -Round Rock, TX 78681 — 512-255-2330
  • To hold a food drive at your workplace, school, church etc., CAFB has large food donation boxes available for pick up at their warehouse. Once filled please return to CAFB or call 512-282-2111 to arrange for a pick up.Most desired food donations are healthy, non-perishable items such as:–       Water, Gatorade–       Ready to eat meals preferably with pull up or pop tops, e.g. chili, stew, canned pasta w/sauce–       Single serving snacks such as protein or granola bars–       Lunchables or other single serving foods that do not require refrigeration–       Diapers–       Baby formula
  • Other locations taking donations:

350 Discovery Blvd in Cedar Park

Paul Mitchell The School: 15635 Vision Drive, Ste 107, Pflugerville

Hill Country Bible Church: 12124 Ranch Road 620 North, Austin

Catholic Health Association: 6225 E. Highway 290

St. Williams Catholic Church in Round Rock

Learn more things to do with this amazing post, including things to collect for both people and pets, and places in Austin to take them:

Network for Good has great organizations that help in case of wildfire:

Surrounded by Central Texas Wildfires

Surrounded by Central Texas Wildfires

The gravity of the situation first hit home when my ex-husband texted from where he was camping with my two daughters, “The sky is turning black. We may have to evacuate.”

I hadn’t paid close attention to the fires until that moment. I immediately began clicking on maps (Weather Underground was the best). The fires weren’t super close, but the wind was blowing their direction.

Map of Central Texas fires

“Thank God for phones with Internet,” came the next text. He knew where the fires were, which direction they were going, and what roads were already closed so they could make their way out. The wind changed direction while they were packing and blew the smoke away.

The next text message came at 1 a.m. when a friend told us, “There is a fire in your neighborhood.”

The map showed a fire only a few blocks away. (This map shows us at the yellow star, the girls’ campground as the pink star.) We stepped outside, but the fire must have already been put out. Most likely something in someone’s back yard. We looked online and saw we were now in a barbeque ban —- no outdoor cooking for Labor Day. The whole city was kindling after months of drought conditions. Even a cigarette butt was dangerous.

Our plans today included a drive around town looking for locations for my annual Christmas shoots for my photography clients. As we drove down Loop 360 on the west side of Austin, we saw this scene and stopped so I could take the shot of the Bastrop fires behind the skyline:

Central Texas Fire over Austin Skyline

I picked up my daughters, safely home and animated about the drive back from the campground, a ride through varying intensities of smoke.  As we drove away from this image of downtown and toward the south, we saw the smoke from the Steiner Ranch fires. Elizabeth, who is nine, said, “It needs to rain or all the world will be on fire.”



Use of this photo for causes related to fundraising for the wildfire victims is fine (flyers, newsletters, blogs, web sites). News media should email me for a higher res file.