Monday, October 31, 2005

Blogging From My House!

We finally have phone service again! I am not sure how long my computer will hold out. It is not making the noise it was making earlier, so I am hoping it was just a fluke and there really isn't anything wrong with it. Here are a few photos taken after we came home on the first of October.

The cedar tree that took out our mailbox.

I became fond of taking pictures of my shadow.

This was probably done by a tornado that came through after the storm.

Looks like a giant weed-whacker came through and lopped off the tops of these trees.

This is a building I pass every morning on the way to work.

The fence to the local university's baseball field.

The sign on the roof advertises home-cooking, breakfast and lunch.

Every street has debris piled at the curb.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

I'm Just Sayin'

We were ready for church early this morning (does not happen often) and so we went to McDonald’s for breakfast. Little did I know that I was going to be given insight into one of the burning questions in the universe: Why are some grown men nearly helpless? (And please, don't accuse me man-bashing. I know I could just as easily come across an example of why some grown women are nearly helpless. It is just that this was the revelation I was given, and I feel duty-bound to blog about it! -- Besides, it is a welcome break from the hurricane stuff.)

There was a mom and her three children who were having breakfast-- two girls and a boy in the middle, perhaps ten, eight and six years old. Big sister and baby sister needed no extra instructions on how to eat breakfast. Brother, however, was a different story. Here’s how it went.

MOM: Roll up your sleeves so you don’t get syrup all over.

BIG SISTER: Scoot up close so you don’t get food all over yourself.

MOM: Do you want me to cut this up for you? (As she is busy cutting his pancakes.)

BIG SISTER: Here, take some napkins.

MOM: Here’s what you do. You take the fork and you stab it and you eat it.

Finally, brother was ready to eat. We left before they did, so I don’t know how successful he was at keeping himself clean and devoid of syrup.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Bloggin' at the Library

We still don't have phone or cable TV. My computer has started making weird noises down in the tower region. My nephew says it is likely a hard drive problem. I'm taking in Monday to the "My PC Tech" repair guy who says naivete is a sin. He is going to teach me to back up my files properly and will then see what needs to be done to fix my problem. Hopefully, I will not lose all my files. I would hate to lose everything that way, but there are larger losses in the world.

The insurance adjustor came through on Saturday. He informed us we had a large deductable for storm damage and said we would hear from them again in about two weeks. The large deductable for storm damage is another one of those things hidden away in the bowels of your homeowner's policy.

The FEMA lady came through on Thursday, looked around, made note of our generator purchase, and told us she did not know what assistance we would receive, but she would turn everything in, and we would hear something soon. Then she got into her extra-long four-wheel drive truck and promptly backed herself into the ditch on the other side of our road. Poor thing. I know she was embarrassed. She called in one of her coworkers to come pull her out. After she had called him, she said "you know I am not going to be able to live this down, don't you?" I told her I was just thinking about whether I was going to tell the story at work. I hope my honesty does not get our file relegated to the bottom of the stack.

Here is a Sunday quote from a note in the local newspaper by Bishop Edward Braxton, who used to serve in this area. He was talking about the various "awe-inspiring" events of nature that have happened this fall.

"...for those who think of God in overly human terms, they are a reminder that God is not a God the way we would be God, if we were God."

That's an easy thought for me to remember, and strangely, perhaps, it is a comforting one to me, but I think a lot of people struggle with the concept that His ways are not our ways.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Home Again, Home Again

Saturday, October 1, 2005

The devastation has been sobering, but we are all so glad to be home.

And another shameful moment: The neighbors we considered nosy and a pain in the rear were the first ones to welcome us home. He came over with the chain saw to trim the leaves of the cedar tree so we could park the cars. She brought ice, water, Oreo cookies, and peanut butter (and apologized for not having bread to go with the peanut butter). He is still bossy and they are both persnickety, but once again I see where people who do not particularly identify themselves as Christians are sometimes capable of more kindness than some of us who claim to be top level Christians (I certainly don't consider myself a top level Christian, but there was a time when I had a certain amount of pride in my Christian self, but that is a whole 'nother post!).

They helped us trim low loose limbs from the oak tree, putting them to the road for pickup. That is when we managed to pull the darn phone line loose, losing my internet capability for when they get the electricity back on (sniff, sniff).

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Went to church and was reminded of the need (and benefit) to stop and remind ourselves of what God has done in the past when we face the momentary fear of wondering "what are we going to do" in circumstances like these.

On the one hand, all this destruction "shakes me up". Everytime I go out I see new damage. On the other hand I am getting used to it. It is slowly becoming my new "normal". I don't know if that is good or bad.

Monday, October 3, 2005

The people on the radio station (God bless 'em) have been laughing about how they have to put the day and date on the board each day to keep straight what day it is. I've had to do the same thing in my journal. The days all run together.

We went to get supplies (ice, water, and food boxes that contained Ravioli, Pringles, pudding and jiuce drinks). I am so grateful to the National Guard for doing this and for organizing things in such a way that the lines move quickly.

I was moved to tears earlier in the week when I made my way through the lines set up by The Convoy of Hope. The concern in their voices was palpable as they asked how we were doing. I don't know why, but I almost lost it when one young man asked me if I knew Jesus. What is that verse about how blessed are the feet of those who bring the good news? So many people have come in to help. And sometimes, it is so hard to accept help.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Parents' electricity back on! Did any of you hear me shout hallelujah? My son helped his sister get most of the stuff out of her apartment and into a storage building.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Our electricity back on! Hallelujah!

I have been tempted several times to go out there and splice my phone line back together. Seems like all you'd have to do is match the colors and there are only four colors. How hard could it be?

The water has been declared safe to drink.

Friday, October 7, 2005

This was the official "come back home to stay" day if you had electricity and were self-sufficient.
Chewed off the rest of my Hurricane Rita fingernails. They were all breaking. They had gotten long enough for my youngest daughter to polish. I couldn't put my hands near my mouth when we had no electricity and could not bathe much. Biting my nails: a bad habit I ought to break.

Also lost a little weight due to the heat and walking and eating less when we were exiled in the country near Six Mile Creek, not far from Dido Community.

Sunday, October 9, 2005

I think my computer monitor up and died on me. I wonder if I can blame it on Rita?

Sunday's sermon quote: Contentment is not a grace that is given. Contentment is a discipline that must be learned.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The stores are still closing early because they do not have enough people to to work. Some employees are still out. Some are homeless. Some are still tied up trying to get their lives and homes put back together. Many apartments have been declared unlivable and people are getting notices that they have to get their stuff out.

We've got mail!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The three pestilences of Hurricane Rita (at least for us):

at B's-- Swarms of love bugs. They were supposed to be gone already!

at D&M's-- Yellow jackets. They bite! And they like to swim in Diet Coke, but they can't swim, so they drown, which is thoroughly disgusting to me. Besides, you don't want to take a chance on swallowing them and then being bitten on the tongue (that's not a grammatically correct sentence, is it?).

at home-- Mosquitoes, though they have done an excellent job of getting rid of a lot of them.

Friday, October 14, 2005

School will begin again (finally) on October 25th. The school days will be extended to make up for lost time.

Life at Le Chateau D & M

Monday, September 26, 2005

My husband and I have moved to my uncle D's and aunt M's house. D&M had given their king sized bed over to my parents. My husband and I were going to be relegated to the living room, one of us on the sofa and one of us on the floor. I saved one of us from the floor by declaring there was room for one more body in the king sized bed. We still had no electricity but we had the generator and that was the room where the room sized air conditioner was. We used fans to funnel the cool air out to the other bedroom and the living room. It worked out pretty well at night, especially if you were on the AC end of the arrangement. So yes, people, I slept with my parents. I am not so ashamed of that as I am the fact that I guilted my mom into taking the middle because "she was the mama" and that is what mamas do. We all survived, the three of us, all laid out flat on our backs like we were "laid out on the cooling board". I told them on the second night that I was sure glad they were normal sized people so that there was still room left for me to join them. I am nearing fifty and yet, I am still such a blessed child!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My oldest turned 22 today. She was in Houston and I was in exile somewhere near Six Mile Creek, close to Dido Community, in rural Louisiana. We have found out from my niece that our houses are still standing, though it looks like every tree in my parents' yard is down. My son spent the night at our house Tuesday night, coming in past curfew from Arkansas, and being escorted to the house by someone in the DA's office. They were not playing around with having people loose and out on the streets. He had the presence of mind to snap a few photos with his phone and sent them to my daughter, who sent them to my nephew and sister.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My husband and my uncle D were usually in charge of going into town to get supplies-- water, ice and MREs (military meals ready to eat). Opening an MRE is like digging into a Christmas stocking. It's full of little surprises. There is a plastic bag with a white thing in it that heats up when you add water to it. But first you have to put the food pouch in there. You add the water and then lean it on a "rock or something" (I kid you not, that is an exact quote from the instructions) so it can heat up. The water actually boils! And the steam coming out the top of the bag stinks, which was a bit of a deterrent to the enjoyment of my meal. I eventually learned not to hold the bag where I could smell that smell.

The food was generally good and I am a picky eater. As St. Casserole mentioned in one of her comments, the poppy seed pound cake was delicious. Well, maybe not "delicious", but tasty for something so flat that came out of a vacuum sealed tinfoil pouch. I also like the flattened (and dry) snack wheat bread and peanut butter. I have also heard the pumpkin pound cake was good, but I never got a meal that had that for desert.

Every package has a smaller plastic bag that usually contains coffee or tea mix and always has two little pieces of gum, a wet wipe, paper folded into a brown band that says Lighthouse. We first thought this was a paper dinner napkin but it is toilet tissue. We laughed, saying this must have been imported by someone who did not have a good grasp of the English language, and they meant to label the package Outhouse rather than Lighthouse. You have to get your humor where you can in situations like this. There were always a pack of matches included too--redneck air freshener for the "Lighthouse", I suppose.

(Now that I am back home, some of my fellow workers said they never chewed the gum because they heard it contained a laxative. I chewed the gum and can report no ill effects from the chewing of the gum.)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Today a cool front came through. It was nice to be relieved of the heat for a while. My other uncle D came by to visit with us and I noticed that when he says "to make a long story short", it is done too late. We all sat around talking and visiting on the porch in near total darkness (there was an oil lamp burning inside the house). He left about an hour after our regular bedtime. When there are no lights there is pretty much nothing to do but go to bed when it gets dark.

While I was waiting in line to buy gas, I finally got in touch with my friend A, from New Orleans. It felt good to finally know that she and her family were all right after Katrina. It also felt good to talk to someone who had so recently been through much the same thing I was now going through (being exiled near Six Mile Creek, close to Dido Community! Her mother-in-law lives there).

Being here definitely brings on a case of culture shock. Where else could you go and hear a local redneck telling a deputy about how he was going to cut 20 power poles down and then maybe that'll get their attention. The deputy never batted an eye. He was local, and without electricity too. I could not tell if he was considering helping the guy cut the poles down or just knew the heat had momentarily gone to the guy's head. I guess the man was venting and the deputy was wise to just listen.

I got out and walked a lot during my stay at uncle D's house. And I took a few of my afternoon naps on one of the swings on their porch. I really wanted to sleep out on the porch, but I was too afraid of critters that might join me during the night. The best swing was on the far end of the porch. You can't imagine how dark it is when there is no electricity for miles around. I could have kept a candle going, but in the end, I was just too chicken to stay out there and sleep.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Today has been declared Calcasieu Parish Look and Leave Day. We are going to go home tomorrow, and we are not going to leave. We have the generator and room ACs at my parents' house, we have our MREs, and the water system is running (so we can flush the toilets, though they still say the water is not yet safe to drink, but we have lots of bottled water). What more do we need?

I was in danger of being thrown out of the tribe several times, or at least in danger of not being allowed to listen to the radio news conference every day around 2:00 p.m. It made me so angry to hear the radio people (God bless 'em) insisting that we did not need to come home when they themselves were home. Of course, I know they were sleeping on floors and working hard and roughing it to bring me the tidbits of information they were delivering, but it still did not make me happy to hear them saying don't come home. And it did not make my fellow shelter dwellers happy to hear me complain about it! I felt like an old person who had been put involuntarily into a nursing home. All I wanted to do was come home.

Reconstructing the Evacuation

I have begun the process of shaking the cobwebs from my head and looking back to see where I have been. I took my calendar and made notes on where we were and what was happening on the days we were gone. I had only written sporadically in my journal, mainly because there was not much privacy and believe it or not, there was not much time. We stayed busy doing the things we needed to do to get by without electricity and it was hot and when dark time came, we went to bed.

The pictures I have are on my computer and I can't get to them until I do something about replacing my monitor so I will post pictures later.

I have noticed new faces around here. I'll be checking out your blogs more carefully once I get back to using my own computer at my own house (waah, waah!). I do appreciate the comments and the prayers.

Notes From an Evacuee

Thursday September 22, 2005

My son's eighteenth birthday. Also the day we awoke to find ourselves under mandatory evacuation orders.

I have lived in this area most of my life and have never been under mandatory evacuation orders. And I can say that had it not been for the earlier news reports of the aftermath of Katrina, I probably would not have left for Rita. So many times, the weather guys would come on the television with all their dire predictions, and so many times, nothing too drastic would happen.

My oldest daughter left early in the day, which was good. She does not have the patience for what we went through in leaving later that afternoon. I almost did not have the patience. You cannot imagine how taxing it is to drive in bumper to bumper traffic for seven hours to arrive at a destination that is only seventy-five miles away.

My son, having turned eighteen, and deciding he was capable of taking care of himself, chose to go east towards Lafayette. That was the extent of his plan. He had a couple of his friends with him. He had the car, they had money. They ended up going on to Arkansas and staying in a hotel for a few days.

I did not have the energy to fight with him on this decision, so I released him to God (again!) and lovingly told him that I was going to kill him if he got killed in that hurricane! He said it wouldn't matter to him, he would already be dead. But still, I let him go with a heavy heart, because I knew it would likely be several days where I would not know how he was doing (cell phone service would be interrupted by Rita, as it had been by Katrina). One of the last motherly instructions I gave him was to always carry his ID on him so that if something happened, emergency personnel would know who he was. He sighed and said, "I know, mom. We have already talked about doing that."

Turns out, he did all right, thank God.

We spent our first night in the piney woods of Louisiana at my cousin L's.

Friday, September 23, 2005

L had a trailer and the storm was going to hit that night so we moved to my cousin B's house. My two daughters were already there. L went and stayed at his parents' house. His trailer was not damaged.

Waiting for the storm:

13 people (four elementary school age children, one high schooler, six middle agers; including one who was autistic and one who had returned from Iraq two weeks earlier, and last, but not least, two youngish senior citizens), 9 dogs, 3 cats (including one cat from Houston who went amiss the night before we arrived) and one lonesome gerbil.

We were 75 miles away from home and Rita was expected to make her presence known in that area as well. In fact, the people on the radio (God love 'em) were saying if you were evacuating to this area, you were not going far enough. We lost electrical power at 11:00 p.m., which was no surprise. We were surprised it stayed on as long as it did. They tend to lose power if someone up the line farts too loudly.

Being in the dark, and with no news to watch, we all turned in for the night. I was a little nervous about sleeping right next to a window, but I dropped off to sleep pretty quickly.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I am told Rita rolled in around 2:30 a.m. I never heard her when she came in. My cousins lost several trees, including a large oak about 30 feet from the house. We were not able to get out much until later in the day, the wind was still pretty strong.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

No church today. People are still digging out from under all the debris and assessing damage. Spent much of the day hauling limbs to the burn pile. It was hot work. We stopped around the middle of the day to cool off, drink lots of water, and a few of us took quick naps. It was too hot to be moving around much.

We cleaned leaves from the pool, mostly to keep busy. The wind was still stirring them up. The pool water came in handy for flushing toilets. They were on a "city" water system (originally designed for about 75 homes, now serving over 200) so we had no water. The pool also provided a place for a cool and quick "bath" for those who were not afraid of the bugs (and snakes?) that also shared the pool.

We ordered a generator from some guy in Texas who was bringing a large welding generator for the preacher to use and delivering whatever else anyone wanted to buy. Gasoline was hard to find and he brought in several gallons.

(I thought we'd be returning to our own home today. I did not pack much. Been wearing the same grungy clothes for three days now. When packing to leave, one has to decide what things are valuable enough to bring with them. You can't bring much, there is not enough room. I packed with skepticism, thinking we would be coming home today. If my home was lost, I have lost everything except the few clothes I packed, my Bible, a copy of Mere Christianity, my two cameras, and my current journal. We still did not know at this point how our houses had fared.)

Monday, September 26, 2005

My two daughters and my aunt from Houston headed back to Houston this morning (taking with them 6 of the dogs and 1 cat).

The cat from Houston who was missing had turned up some time during the night. We think he accidentally got locked up in the pool shed the night of the storm. They had nailed the door shut because it did not latch. Poor cat. I bet he was glad to get back to normal life in the big city!

The aunt from Houston locked her keys in the car with the car and air conditioner running. Thank goodness because her 3 dogs and the cat were already loaded in the car and they would have suffocated otherwise. We would have had to have busted a window. As it was, we only had to wait an hour for a deputy to come and open the door with a "slim jim" tool. All I could think of was all that precious gas being burned going nowhere.

I think I will stop here for now because we left this "shelter" and moved on to my uncle's house later this afternoon. These were cousins on my father's side. I really did not know them well at all. But they took us all in like we were, well, like we were family. And I am grateful.


"It's a queer feeling to be so utterly dependent on the help of others, but at least it teaches one to be grateful, a lesson I hope I shall never forget. In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is easy to overestimate the impotance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters From Prison

No, I have not been imprisoned, but neither have I been living my "normal life". And I have spent a few days utterly dependent on the help or others, but honestly, there are some days when I have already forgotten to be grateful. I have so much to be thankful for.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Got the Blahs and No Time to Complain!

It's hard for me to get time to post, since I am using my mother's computer at her house, and it is frustrating the living daylights out of me! I come in and skim blogs and then head back home. Not much time to post or comment. I was working on some of my photos offline and my monitor made a funny noise and went blank. I think it is dead.

I don't know this guy, MostlyCajun, All American, Highly Opinionated. He lives in the town about ten minutes away from me, but he has pictures in a post dated October 10 that will give a better idea of damage than the ones I have posted, if you are interested. The photographs are from an area near where my son was staying and working with my father-in-law.

Things are slowly improving, there are still a lot of sad stories around here.

More later.

(I see I got the name of his blog slightly wrong, but if I correct it now, I would have to go back and fix the link. I am tired. lazy, less of caring to worry about that now....gotta go.)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Ramifications of Rita

A few photos from my parents' house. Miraculously, neither the car nor the roof was damaged.

Our electricity is back on. Phone service (and my internet services!) will not be restored until November 2nd.

Most of the city has their electricity back. Vinton was hit very hard. Cameron parish is gone, except for the courthouse, which withstood Audrey in '57. Holly Beach was totally destroyed except for the water tower. Yesterday was the official day to come back home (and stay) if you have power, water and sewerage, and supplies. Gas and groceries are sometimes difficult to come by. (Thank God for the MREs!) The stores that are open are only open from 9-5. The banks that are open are open only from 9 to 2. I slid in under the wire yesterday at 2:20 to cash a paycheck. The 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew was lifted yesterday, but you still can't be out walking or riding a bicycle at those times. They have discontinued the daily 2:00 news briefings from the Office of Emergency Management, and most of the radio stations have started playing music again. Most of the red lights are now working. However, you can't be real sure that the lights are not green on both sides, so you still need to proceed with caution. They are working hard to get the tree limbs up and the power lines restored, which means large trucks are almost everywhere you go.

One of the McDonald's recently reopened (drive-thru only). It is weird to see the lines snaking out into the streets, waiting to get McDonald's food. So far, I have refused to go. I think they will be in such a hurry to serve that the food will not be cooked very well. There are not many restaurants opened up yet, partly because of the curfew, and partly because they each have to reinspected by the health dept before they can reopen.

The local chief of police still gives a daily report where he gives the names of those who are caught looting. They have done an excellent job of controlling that, usually, he has only one name to name, and sometimes none. He did call out one guy who was wanted on parole violation and had been hiding out in Arkansas but "decided to come home when the parish was covered by more law officials than people living here, and was apprehended, which makes him the dumbest criminal on our books".

One of the local business schools and the community college I attended will not begin school again until further notice (which makes me think they will not be able to complete this semester). The local university will start again ASAP, but there are rumors that they will have to scrap the semester. We are supposed to hear on next Friday when the public schools will reopen. That will be their third week out of school. They are thinking they will make the kids go longer each day rather than taking away from the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday, but they may reduce some of the holidays after the first of the year.

My daughter has to move from her apt. She lives in a quadplex and two of the units are damaged, and mold is growing. She will be shuffling back and forth between my parents' house and ours. The worst part of that is dealing with my two grandchildren--her two big old slobberin' stinkin' dogs. The landlord hopes to get to rebuild the whole thing. His mother's house in Cameron was found intact on a ridge in the marsh, about 4 miles away from where it was supposed to be, but they can't get it back.

One of the river boats is in the parking lot down at Harrah's. I have not been by to see it. I keep thinking I want to get out and take pictures, but pictures just do not do the whole scene justice. You have to be here to believe it.

We will probably need a new roof, and now that the electricity is back on, we can see that some of our walls on the inside look they are separating from the ceiling. Water must have gotten blown in under the eaves are something. No telling when the insurance adjuster will arrive on the scene.

One of my MREs had a post card printed on the cardboard container which contained pineapples! No one has been brave enough to try the (imitation) pork rib dinner except my eldest daughter and she liked it so well that she has eaten it two days in a row. She now wants me to call the radio station and ask if anyone has extra pork rib dinners they want to get rid of! It comes with clam chowder, which she also likes. I would not eat clam chowder in a five star restaurant, much less in an MRE. There really is no accounting for taste. MREs are interesting. More on that later. Maybe. If I remember.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Praise the Lord Aunt Emmer

(I have no idea who Aunt Emmer is. It is an expression used by my grandmother and my mother to express gratitude for seemingly inconsequential things)....

Anyway, I'm baaaccck!

Wouldn't you know, the first time in over two weeks that I have access to the internet, and can announce that I am still alive and fairly well, blogger decides to do maintenance work on their site?

We evacuated two weeks ago today. We returned home October 1st. We have roof damage, two cedar trees down, and a messed up wooded fence, but other than that, we are surviving. We still have no electricity at our house. My parents got theirs back yesterday evening so naturally (duh!!), we are sleeping (and computing) at their house where it is cool. But (praise the Lord, Aunt Emmer!)....we have a cool front coming through tomorrow!

We have been blessed and we have so much to be thankful for but things are such a mess around here and will be for some time. It has been a lot to absorb.

I'll probably be posting sporadically since I am at my mom's house. Even when we get electricity, I still won't have Internet access. Mine is through the phone line and we accidentally ripped the line loose when cleaning up the front yard. November 2nd is the tentative date for repair. I don't know when I will catch up on my blog-reading. I am anxious to see what has been going on in my little corner of blogdom.