Friday, September 30, 2005

I've been Tagged

For the first time, I've been tagged....lol

I was to go to my 23rd post and to count the fifth sentence. And then to tag five other people. Humm... okay tagged are: Laura Flea, from "The Way Things Are" http://laura-flea.diaryland.com/index.html, Marilyn from "California Fever" http://marilyn.typepad.com/california_fever/ , Lady Linoleum from "Monster Crochet" http://monstercrochet.blogspot.com/ , Dana, from "Green Duckies" http://greenduckies.blogspot.com/ , and Kim (and LUNA) from "Soul Knitting" http://soulknitting.blogspot.com/

Now, you wouldn't think that would be so hard, but I had a problem. Some of my posts, esp at the very beginning of my "blogging career" were pictures posted with bloglines. One day might have 15 "posts". So, I decided to count each DATE as one post. Oddly enough, that gave me: July 23, 2005 as my "23rd" post. I liked that, as I like nice coincidence, and I especially liked that it just happened to be the post where I posted one of my poems.

That led to another dilemma. How to "count" the sentences in the post. It's a four stanza poem, each stanza is a sentence. Okay. That left me with the last sentence in my post, which was actually quite satisfying. "May all those who love, love long and love well."

http://nancysgardenspot.blogspot.com/2005/07/open-my-heart.html

All in all, a nice sentence, and a nice summation of my philosophy and hopes for others.

May it be a blessing to you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Jury Duty

I have jury duty on Thursday. Yah, that's tomorrow. I have to be downtown at the courthouse at 8 am. I will be equipped with a book, a lunch, my cane, a notebook, and some crocheting I'm fooling around with. Hopefully, they'll not abscond with my hook. I'm hoping the cane will throw off the metal detector enough that they'll just wave me through in despair. I'm not planning on being stoic either. It hurts to walk too far, and to stand too long. I will be complaining.

Good news! We're getting a "cold front" tonight/tomorrow morning. Well... you have to understand that "cold" is a relative term. I think we'll go from highs in the 100's to highs in the mid to high 80's. That's a relief. The night time temps tho will be the true pay off: We Will Be In The 60's!!! Heck! That's SWEATER weather here in Houston. We might even get some rain. Maybe.

It's odd. All summer long we never reached the 100's in temperature. Instead, we waited till SEPTEMBER to break the century mark!

Oh, the high today? 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Right now, at a quarter after 10 pm, it's still 82 degrees.

Someone send down some cool air, huh?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tuesday Night

It is 9:31 pm as I post this and it is 97 degrees. Yes, you read that right. It is NINETY-SEVEN frigging degrees.

I spoke to my mom tonight, she's back in Bay City and is debating on whether to unwrap her furniture and valued items, or to just leave them packed. After seeing the pictures in Beaumont, she is a firm believer in evacuating and this time will leave at least 3 to 4 days before landfall. She's going to come up to my house, and then we can evacuate with them. I'll drive them, 'Pup will drive our van, and we will all get the heck out of Dodge.

There is another depression, soon to turn into tropical storm. It will be named "STAN". I just don't know why that name bothers me somehow. I mean, really. Stan. It just doesn't have the right "ring" for something that might cause so much pain.

They've just GOT to come up with a better name than that. Even "Stanley" would be better. But "STAN"? Only a storm named "BOB" would be worse. I mean... one must have standards, mustn't one?

Stan... groan.

Two more months of hurricane season.

Lord help us all.

Ahh, Tuesday

Well, the good news is that Kroger's came through on 'Pup's meds. He is now able to get up and face a doctor's appointment and talking about watering the lawn. Nothing like a little pain meds to brighten your day.

When I was at Kroger's yesterday, there were signs of restocking. There was some water on the shelf, not much, still no bread, but the tortilla making area was up and running and making some nicely hot, fresh, fragrant and delicious tortillas. The fresh fruits and veggies were running VERY low. No oranges, grapefruit or limes (gee, wonder what kinds of drinks everyone was making...'Rita's anyone?), some bananas, a few organic potatoes, a small selection of tomatoes, no iceburg lettuce, some assorted veggies, though the bottom of the racks could be seen everywhere.

You could tell that there were whole brand lines missing in cereals, crackers, canned veggies, soups and meats. There were some paper goods, again, whole brands missing. The charcoal aisle was full again, though there were signs that people were still buying there.

There were NO eggs, No orange juice and the dairy section was depleted. No chicken, a little pork and a reduced, MUCH reduced beef selection. Cold cuts were hard hit, and sausage was in short supply. The butcher's counter was empty. They'd put out the sea food they had and were selling it at a discount, for quick sale.

There was a small amount of milk, the store brand only. As I got a gallon (that's what 'Pup drinks to protect his stomache from the pain meds) I overheard one of the store employees say that they'd just gotten in the milk an hour ago. It was almost gone.

Still no gas in the three closest gas stations to my house. I did hear that to the north of where we live, several stations were reopening. The tankers are coming in, but it takes a while to restock so many stations.

It is brutally hot. The last three days have set records for September. Usually by this time in fall we've had at least one cold front that would bring the temps down to highs in the 80's. We consider that quite cool, by the way... LOL The lows at night have just barely reached into the high 70's, low 80's now. Yesterday, the temperature at 4:30 pm was 101.5. It was still 95 at 8:00 pm last night. There are still several thousand Houston area families that do not have power. I don't know how they're managing. The power companies are working to fix the lines, but Entergy (north of us) is warning its customers that they're going to be experiencing rolling brownouts/blackouts while they work on balancing their grids. Entergy still has about 25,000 customers without power. They're trying to keep the outages they'll need to cause to about an hour at a time.

Beaumont and the area around that city will have no power at all for several weeks. Some of the smaller towns in very heavily wooded areas in East Texas may have no power for a couple of months. At least.

South of Houston, the city of La Porte is asking people not to come home just yet. They have no power and things aren't up and running at all.

Texas was lucky. We can repair things that are broken. Our neighbors in Louisiana... have lost everything. There is nothing to repair in many cases.

We can't concentrate on "Katrina recovery", or "Rita recovery". It will have to be just RECOVERY. Rebuilding, resettling, regaining government, making homes again, and that's not going to be fast, easy, or cheap.

It will be several weeks before the oil refineries can be up and running at 100%. They had to shut down (an ardurous task at best) before the storm struck. Now they have to repair any damage, and do the restart tasks. That can be a little more complicated than you'd think. You don't just flip a switch and the gas starts to flow. Refining petroleum is complicated, dangerous and time consuming.

Sigh. I need to go water my plants. The heat is just about to fry them. Y'all stay cool. I'm going to do my best to do so!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sunday Musings

It's been a quiet Sunday for us, but interesting.

Our neighbors next door, new this year, held a Sunday worship service in their backyard. I think most of the churches are still closed along with many stores. They had live music, and the singing of hymns in Spanish was a nice morning serenade. I like these neighbors. They have a lovely polite and giggly teenage girl and a sweet 5 year old, and lots of cousins to come visit. Braindog likes them too, and wishes they'd come to visit and play. Occasionally, a soccer ball comes sailing over the fence, and that is the one toy that this dog LOVES to play with.

I've seen the tiger swallowtail, it's still with us and hanging around! Speaking of which, before the storm, my neighbor on the other side (she and her son helped us clear the garden) told me she'd never seen so many butterflies, and that the passionflower vine I'd allowed to grow so abundantly had really paid off with a bumper crop of the winged critters. It's nice to know someone else had noticed! LOL

The Kroger near our house opened today, and I went over to see if the pharmacy had made it open as well. I met the poor lady pharmacist that had made the 10 hour drive from Galveston (6 am to 4 pm on the road). Unfortunately, if the doctor's office had called in the prescription for my husband's pain meds, it had been fried in their answering machine, along with the register in the pharmacy. They'll call the doctor's office in the morning (hoping someone will be there) and see if they can send it on again. Meanwhile, 'Pup is in a lot of pain, as he's had to ration out what meds he's had, giving him just enough to be able to bear going around the house, but not enough to do so without hurting.

The shelves at the store were a mix of full and completely empty. There was still quite a lot of wine, but the beer cooler had been hit hard. Lots of chips of various kinds but only one kind of bread. NO eggs, NO milk, very little orange juice. The canned foods aisle was patchy, with lot's of turnip greens (go figger, huh?) but very little else. The meat section was kinda sparse as well, but the emptiest parts of the store were the paper aisle (evidently I'm not the only one with "paper for the library" issues), and the place they USED to have charcoal and picnic supplies.

I asked when they'd be getting in shipments to restock and perhaps more gas, and received the answer I was dreading: "a few days, maybe a week". Not good.

On the upside, one of the nearby gas stations looked to have gas, possibly. At the very least, it had lines of people wanting gas. I didn't stop, as I have a little over 3/4 of a tank, so I'm not in need just yet. The Marble Slab Ice cream shop was open as was the Subway, a nail shop and a local cafe' serving southern style cooking. Tomorrow, when I go back to check on the meds, I'm treating myself to a manicure. I'm not very high maintenance, but I like having nice hands and nails.

My tutoring boss called this evening and we'll open again on Tuesday. She says some of her friends have a gas station and are getting in a shipment tomorrow, so I should be able to replace the gas it takes to get there and back again. This is one time I'm VERY glad I've a little Saturn, so the trip there and back shouldn't take more than a gallon and a half, so hopefully I can have almost a full tank on Tuesday evening. 'Pup's taking the rest of the week off, tho he'd probably not be able to go in to work till Wednesday, as the building he works in was one of the ones damaged. He couldn't go in tomorrow at any rate until he has the pain meds to "manage".

Well, my left hand neighbors are still socializing with friends and family. They've had a good day celebrating our blessings. I'm glad they're there. It's nice to have joy float through your window.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The After

Here is a hard fact to understand emotionally. Oh, intellectually, we'll nod our heads and murmmer about how lucky we were, but we won't REALLY understand it.. emotionally.

If the storm had come in just 50 to 75 miles to the west of where it did, most of us in Houston and the Houston area would be facing the destruction of our homes, workplaces and all the places we love (0r hate) about our city.

We would have lost Galveston completely, as much of it would have simply been washed into the Gulf of Mexico. Gone. There would be only beach, and less of that than before to build upon again.

Downtown, instead of having a few buildings lose windows, would have been flooded again, only this time with damage to the buildings above the water as well. The medical center, might have survived, damaged, only because they did learn a few lessons from Allison.

Our schools, instead of being closed for a couple or three days because of a lack of fuel, would have been damaged or destroyed. Imagine this, as I can. I was a school teacher, so perhaps it's more real to me when I see a school destroyed. Imagine your child's classroom, with your child's desk, chair and school work, scattered to the winds, swallowed by flood, destroyed by fire.

Our police, no matter the heroic willingness they have to protect us, would be able only to help salvage, not save. Our firefighters, no matter the heroism they routinely, casually shoulder, would have stood helpless except to save what little they could reach. Our city and county and state officials, with their good plans, well executed (with a few learning experiences--if we have to evacuate again, I think it will go more smoothly --I'm an optimist), would have stood impotent and helpless, as the plans they made were destroyed by wind.

My friends, my family, my countrymen... if another storm comes, be prepared to leave again. You are returning to intact homes by the grace of God. If you had stayed and the storm had not veered east, you and your home would have been gone. Gone. No more.

My husband and I were planning on leaving. We waited as long as we did because we had to wait for my parents to be ready to go. Looking back, the only different thing we would have done is to insist that we leave, not on Thursday as we'd planned... but on Wednesday. MORNING. Waiting should have cost us dearly. That it didn't isn't due to our good planning. Again, we have only the grace of God to thank.

There is very little gasoline or other fuel here now. Those who are coming back in spite of the mayor's plea may find themselves stuck at home with no way to get more gasoline.

'Pup and I are staying at home. We'd both like to go and just drive. That has been the one thing that he and I can still do as recreation, and we liked to drive around the area once a month or so, visiting some stores and parks too far away from our suburban home to visit routinely. We also enjoyed looking at the new homes being built in our area. I'm so glad that those parks, homes, stores--roads! will be there for us to visit again. But not now. Now is the time to stay and conserve.

I hope most people will heed the call to STAY. Stay where you are for now. Know that your homes are safe because of those police, firefighters and civic employees that have made the sacrifice of staying here while their families left, ready to do their duties no matter what the cost to themselves are here to protect them. Stay. The schools are closed, your workplace isn't open for business, the grocery stores are mostly closed, and those open haven't yet been restocked and won't be for a couple of days. STAY where you are.

The people on the Trinity river have to evacuate. Lake Livingstone, which was lower than usual three days ago is so full from the rain and runoff from the hurricane that the spillways are being opened to full gate. This will cause the roads and land around the river to be flooded. The homes there are on stilts, they will probably be okay. Homes built on foundations there...won't.

**UPDATE: Turns out the wind (one gust clocked at 117 mph) removed some of the granite covering protecting the inner earthen core of the dam. Water had to be released to reduce the stress on the dam. Had it failed, more than houses would have been flooded. **

I heard from my engineer student/friend. He and his family are safe and have enough food to last a few days, until things become more normal. He said that downtown, near the building we worked got a lot of wind damage, but the building he lives in felt solid and had had no damage. I am very glad. I suppose the only thing I don't regret about not leaving on Wednesday was the fact that I had to go into work. If I hadn't, if I hadn't been so obviously worried, my friend might not have taken the precautions he did. And that would have been my fault. Or, I'd have felt it was my fault.


Thank you again for all your good thoughts, prayers and well wishes. In a few days, Houston will have the luxury of returning to normal. Now, we must help our neighbors to the east to rebuild and recover. It's time again for the Red Cross donations, the clothing donations, food donations, the wonderful volunteers who left their homes and families to put themselves where they were needed, to do so again. It is almost too much to ask. It would be too much to ask for most people. But, then, we've never considered ourselves "most people", have we?

Here are some links to pursue if you'd like more than a pendantic school teacher's opinions:

http://celebratingwomen.blogspot.com/
http://www.bloghouston.net/
http://blog.kir.com/
http://www.livejournal.com/users/pheret1/229336.html
http://marilyn.typepad.com/california_fever/

Be well!

The Sun is Shining

We've made it through the night with minimal damage. Houston made it too, with light damage. The mayor is asking local school districts to remain closed M0nday and Tuesday at least to encourage those who evacuated earlier to remain where they are, sheltered in place. All Houston citizens and area citizens are asked to stay off the streets unless they are part of the essential services---medial, fire fighters, police, and fuel distributors. For more professional info, I'll post this link:
http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=hurricanes&id=3473069

There is essentially NO gasoline in Houston or surrounding areas. There is little in other parts of the state as well. A large part of the nation's refining capacity was shut down for this storm, damaged by Katrina or both storms and it's going to be a while before they're up and running again.

Sigh. It's early, but I can already tell that the aid that came so freely for Katrina victims will have to be extended, exceeded for the combination of the two storms. Let me thank all of you in advance. The Red Cross is one million dollars in the hole for Katrina. We may have to dig a little deeper and give more. It's a good thing the credit card company's already made a note in our file that we're likely to be using it rather more heavily than usual.

Mother Nature's done what no terrorist ever could. She's brought a whole state/two states economies to what is essentially a complete stop. The good news is that our government and it's officials are still doing their jobs, and doing them pretty well.

Well........the sun's gone back behind more clouds as we've been covered by another arm of the storm. We're set to get a little more heavy weather. So far, the rain's not been hard enough to flood anywhere, and the soil was so dry that it has the ability to soak up a lot of it. The bayous that drain the city are filling up though, and we still face a little trouble there.

I've not called my family yet, but I suspect they are all well. I've not been able to get through to my engineer student/friend, but I'll keep trying.

The storm is not over, it's just moving on.
3:00 AM. The wind is heavier... fairly steady at about 22-25 and gusts of up to 35. We were sound asleep until the dog decided to freak out. Still no thunder or lightning, just the wind bouncing around the trees.......and the dog panting. Wish he'd learn to do that without drooling. It gets the pillow and the bed wet. Brain keeps trying to crawl under the pillows. News says that there were fires in Galveston, three historic buildings burned. There's also a fire in an apartment complex in Houston. I hope no one was hurt. How terrible to lose one's home to fire during a hurricane. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 23, 2005


Winds still gusting to 25-27 mph, light to medium rain. The storm is tracking slightly west of north, and may get closer. If it does, we may get stronger wind, and heavier rain. I checked on my engineer friend and family earlier tonight and he's okay. All my family is okay and safely sheltered. It's almost 10:30 pm. We'll just have to wait and see what the morning brings.  Posted by Picasa

Power ON...........Power OFF

It's just now starting to rain, and more is coming.



I was talking outside with a neighbor. Our street seems quiet, but a lot of families are still here. Some of the kids were doing some last minute playing under dad's eye. I suspect we'll get to know our neighbors better in the next couple of days, should we lose power or water. However, that seems less likely........at least losing water.....the power is still blinking periodically. No thunder or lightning but the sky just before sunset was incredible.
The latest radar picture... and news that this might be as close as it gets. It's very windy and the power has blinked on and off 5 or 6 times. No rain yet, and we might not get any. Ah well. If this is all we get, we call it a drill and thank God. Y'all take care. If you're East of me.... hunker down!

A shot of my computer screen. I live just to the right of my finger nail, and a little down. Posted by Picasa

Check this out:

http://urbangrounds.com/2005/09/22/tracking-the-evacution-of-hurricane-rita

A blogger documenting his family's journey from just south of Houston to his house in Austin. It took them 16.5 hours.

It's getting very windy, and is overcast, but bright. No rain yet, but there are bands on the way. Our trees are Ash, and will loose limbs, but probably won't go over. Our neighbors however, have larger and more imposing trees. We'll be hoping for the best.

I've got the hamburger meat cooked for using in any number of ways.. I can reheat and eat, make spaghetti (jars of sauce--yah I know it's better homemade... but one does what one can with what one has), chili, or mixed with other seasonings, canned veggies and minute rice (this is the only time I'd use it, but again...with what one has) and have a fairly good meal.

I also boiled about 2 dozen eggs. If the power goes out they'll keep better this way. Why so many eggs? Well......when I bought them I thought I was buying for at least 5 adults and 3 or so kids. After this storm, I may need to go to the store for bread, milk and fruit, and that's IT for about 3 months. Good thing, as the credit card company called wanting to know why we were suddenly spending 3 times what we usually spend. When I told the nice lady we lived in Houston and were preparing for a hurricane, she said: "Oh! MY! Well, then don't worry, I'll put a note on your account to explain the activity."

I'm still seeing a lot of butterflies and earlier the one hummer. I wonder what they'll do during the stormy weather. I hope I see them again after the storm.

Keep well all!

My Family

Heard from/about all my family, including my new African friend/family. Everyone is safe, home or at someone else's home and they're okay. My sis and her family, and my mom and dad were briefly stuck on hwy 59 going south west, but they only got 45 miles in 5 hours and decided to turn around and take the back roads home. Sis says mom and dad were worse for the wear, but are recovering. Mom was taking a nap, and dad was glued to the TV (as are we all..).

My student and his family are safe in their apartment near downtown Houston. He was able to find water, a flashlight, batteries and some extra food. He must be watching TV too, he seemed a little stressed in his voice and we went over some precautions like making sure he opened the window a crack (which led to a brief English lesson and explaination as to what "open the window a crack" meant. English is fun, eh? He's going to leave the door that leads to the outside hallway in his apartment house open as well. Engineers catch on quick to "differentiating air pressure and why it's bad". I'll check on him tonight and 'Pup reminded me to make sure they know to have a small room/area with no windows to shelter in if the wind gets to high. I'm not sure the wind is going to get high at all.........Looks like we're in for a really long thunderstorm with the usual possible tornadoes.

Outside, it's warm (84 degrees at 10:30) and getting warmer. The good news is that we've got a little light breeze going, and some clouds. Maybe we won't hit 100 again today. I saw another, or possibly the same tiger swallowtail butterfly, but as usual, he didn't stick around for his adoring public to snap a picture. Also sighted: one hummingbird feeding from the hummingbird bush, 3 monarch and 2 or 3 frittilaries at at least one sulfer. Lot's of bee's as well in the Mexican heather.

Thanks to all for your well wishes and prayers. Now, we need to muster the same for the poor folks in Louisiana and East Texas. They're just starting to get Rita's direct effects.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Pictures from the Garden before the Storm



I decided that the wind, what we're going to get, should not be the one to enjoy the roses. So, I went and dead headed and chose the best of the blooms for a nice bouquet.

The bush, neglected the last couple of weeks, but even without regular deadheading, it put on a really nice bloom. After the storm, it should put on another one. It will keep blooming until the first frost....which might be in October, or November or December. Some years we don't go below freezing at all. Then again, last year, we had snow. We don't really have a winter season, so much as we have a series of "winter weather days".










Pretty, aren't they?











They look nice in the house too, and smell divine.

(sorry for the mess, but I've been a little busy)















The Hummingbird bush. The news is now, we'll get wind, but maybe not enough to denude the plant. I hope so. We need the rain. I'd like to keep things like...ohh...... plants, trees, flowers....MY ROOF!








Some of my plants are taking refuge in the dog house. 'Pup and I refer to it as the "doggie condo", as it is big enough for a great dane or three. If I were to sell it, I think I'd word the advertisement something like: "Dog House for Sale, Big Enough for Any Errant Spouse". Not that 'Pup's been in that much trouble....not as long as he reminds me what a gem and a treasure I am. I've said before, he is a SMART 'PUP.







(inside the dog house)
















Other of my plants and pots have been tucked under bushes in the sheltered side yard.













It's crowded in the sideyard though.










The trees in front of my house and my neighbor's house. Guess what her name is btw? She's gonna get some teasing for a while after this storm!

Her son and she are the good folk who helped us put away the stuff in the backyard. 'Pup has known this young man since he was a child, and says that he was always a positive, polite and generally good kid.


The backyard after the good neighbor's hard work. Humm I need to go get that turtle. Everything looks so bare. Notice the ivy on the fence. The leaves have grown HUGE from having the plant rooted in the ground. It should be enormous next year, providing it survives the next couple of days.














The first clouds from Rita.

OH MY!

More mixed news:

Good: (for us) storm has tracked further east and that means 'Pup and I are out of the worst of it.
Bad: Poor Louisiana, Poor East Texas. Y'all take care, y'hear?

Good: Rich and I decided to stay home.
Bad : Those poor people on the highway who made us decide to stay home... are running out of gas idling in a TEXAS SIZED traffic jam. And the pumps are dry. And the trucks can't get "there" to deliver gas. http://www.click2houston.com/automotive/5005714/detail.html

Good: We started stocking up on Monday. We're kinda paranoid that way.
Bad: 'Pup's pain meds can only be reordered on Wednesdays. When I went to the pharmacy to pick them up (doing a dosie doh on the way there to get around the traffic/parking lot that was 529 heading west... and the pharmacy is east of my house/subdivision, and the subdivision only has two openings...both on 529), the pharmacist wasn't there. She was driving in. From Galveston. (see above) Looks like 'Pup's gonna have to borrow some of mine (I don't need them as often), and he'll just have to stay off his feet.

Good: picked up some extra "paper" for the "library". 'Cause it don't go bad and there's never too much "paper" in a "library".
Better: as I got out, a lady needed a jump to get her car started. One good angel moved her car into the right position (and then disappeared as good angels often do) and then we got her car started. I checked, her husband had been called, and was waiting for her at the mechanics. The lady lives near us, in another subdivision. Nice to meet another neighbor.
Best: 'Pup just reminded himself (and me) how lucky he is to have me for a wife. LOL He is a very SMART 'PUP.

Galveston

The projected path is now for the storm to hit Galveston at just the wrong angle. Anyone on the island will be under water. The Galveston city government had to stay, to coordinate the evacuation and possible rescues. They've relocated from the city buildings to a hotel who's bottom floors were once WWII bunkers. The building is reinforced and is one of the highest buildings on the island. They'll probably survive. They've tried and tried to get everyone to get off the island, and have succeeded for the most part. There are still some hold outs. The hold outs most likely will not survive the coming innundation.

This change is better for us in that we'll be getting somewhat weakened winds hitting us at the worst of the storm. The traffic is so heavy on all the roads getting out, we've no real chance of getting very far for possibly a long time. I've not heard from my student and his family, I have a feeling they're going to try to ride out the storm in their apartment. The good news for them is that they're on the fourth floor and my husband says that the museaum district is about as safe as they can be downtown. Even if they left their house now, they might not get to our house before using up all thier gasoline and gasoline is hard to come by right now. Very hard to come by.

My mom and dad are going with my sister and her family and in-laws to Cancon, near Garner State park. They'll be well to the west of the storm and will be very safe. I really respect, like, admire and love my sister and her husband. They are "Good Folk" as we say down here, meaning they are kind, thoughtful and take family responsibilities as something that should be done with good grace and without thought of approbation.

More later.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Good News/Bad News

Bad News: Rita's now the THIRD strongest storm ever observed in the Atlantic.
Good News: It should weaken now a bit.................maybe. Not that it will matter much.

Bad News: Rita's possible path may have moved up the coast a little to Freeport. Means stronger winds here. Not that the difference of 10 or 20 miles is going to make that much difference.
Good News: If it does move up the coast a bit, my parent's house might survive. Maybe.

We're in an area that doesn't flood. We have plenty of food and water, even if the family does come to shelter with us. If they don't we'll have enough to possibly share with any neighbor in need. We have to be here now, so we can take care of my parents.

That's all good, and that's how I'm going to end this update. Positively. (gulp)

Unholy Terror

Well.... Rita is now the 4th baddest storm ever observed. Down to 898 millibars in the eye.

We're still here, not a hotel to be had even as far away as Oklahoma City. I know this because I spent the morning trying to find somewhere for my ESL student from Africa to shelter. He lives with his family in the middle of downtown, not far from the bayou. I'd been telling him to prepare, but he (sigh, the first time he's been "engineerish") didn't really understand that when I said, "Get ready to drive north and keep on going."... I meant it.

Turns out my sister and her family are going to Abilene with a friend. Looks like 'Pup and I will be hosting my student and his family. He's trying to find shelter with some of his compatriots here in town. He was supposed to call me and tell me how his search was going, but we've been outside trying to put up the loose stuff. I had no idea I had so much STUFF in my garden. One piece at a time, it adds up. I'm going to call him and see what's up.

Good news, my neighbor's son is going to come and help us put the junk, errrr... stuff away. But, as it is 101 (I shit you not, 101 and that's NOT the heat index!) at 7:23 pm, he's going to wait till morning. We'll be driving down south to pick up my mom and dad with the idea of delivering them to my brother's house. The air outside is still, thick and heavy. No wind and it's quiet. Not many birds. Lots of 'skeeters and some butterflies, but no bird song. No cicada whine. I suspect many of our neighbors have left, tho I know there are more than a few still here.

My other sister, L and her family is heading west of San Antonio with some of bro-in-law's family and two RV's. They've found a place to park and hook up in a campground. My sister wants my mom and dad to be at my brother's because he'll have more room, and it will be quieter. There is actually some question about whether or not we'll be able to GET to my mom, but we're planning on taking a roundabout way and avoid the evacuation traffic. We'll have to be in the middle of it going to my bro T's house, but that's not to be helped. My sister L and her husband will be bringing them to L's house and then we'll pick them up from there.

My friend and student is going to talk to his wife. He's not done that yet. Sigh. Engineers. I think it's pretty sure he'll be with us. It's actually better for 'Pup and I, as this way we'll be with some able bodied people if something happens. Besides, I like him and do NOT want him to suffer unduly from this storm. Nor, of course do I want to suffer at all.

It's now almost 8:00, and it's still 100.5 degrees.

This ain't gonna be fun.

My mom and sis and sis and nephew and nephew's wife were down there and helped my mom put up some of her treasures. When I spoke to my mom, she says she most dreads going back and seeing what's happened to the house. Unfortunately, we've had to leave her 3 outdoor cats there, as they're really just tame enough to come to the back porch to eat. There was no way they could've been caught and transported. She's left food and water in a high sheltered spot, and hoping for the best.

I guess that's what we all are doing.

Hope with us please.

HOLY CRIMINY

Pardon my "French". This is the second time I've had to rewrite this post. Sigh.

We've got a nasty visitor coming from the East. Rita is making a beeline for little ol' Us!

I live in NW Harris County, about 110 miles from the coast. Due north of Freeport. That's just about where Rita is due to set her eye on land. That means we'll be getting the very worst of it all. And even 110 miles isn't much to slow down a Category 4 hurricane. That's what she's supposed to be by Thursday or Friday. She'll be here by midnight Friday night/Saturday morning. We've been set to hunker down and ride it out, though we'll have to do it without boards for our windows. We never could quite coordinate money for the boards with help to measure them/put them up. Have I mentioned, being disabled sucks the hind tit?

My family lives only 30 miles from the coast. They're evacuating, my mom and dad to a brother in N. Houston who has a generator for to keep my mom's insuline cold and a fan to help out both her and my mom, one of my sisters and some of her family will be coming here with 'Pup and I, and my other sister will be going inland with her husband's family. They're looking for a place to stay... and I'm not sure at this time where they'll end up. My youngest bro is in Austin already.

Speaking of Austin, that's where we'll be bugging out to if we lose our nerve. We've got other family there too, and so there will be floor space available for us. 'Pup and I have planned for evacuating, and have things ready for the pets and us. Watch out Austin, Spitty Kitty might be coming back for another visit. This time, she'll be caged all the time. She does NOT approve of traveling to strange places.

The cell phone system is already overloaded, and it's getting hard to contact anyone with them. All circuits are busy.

Houston is taking this very seriously. The shelves at the stores are very bare in patches.... water and can goods are skimpy, or impossible to find. Generators have been sold out since Tuesday morning (I started writing this Tuesday evening). Still, not everyone was even aware that there was a storm coming. My tutoring boss lady for one, wasn't aware that the storm was that serious, and one of the other tutors hadn't even been aware of the storm till she was at the store and noticed all the water was gone. One of the other shoppers broke the news to her.

Which reminds me, I got IM'd by a gentleman who'd just moved to my area from California. I filled him in on what he needed to do. He seemed somewhat shaken. Welcome to Texas.

Galveston is being evacutated. Seems the combination of memories of what happened to them in 1900 (six to eight thousand dead), Alicia in 1983, Allison in 2001 and now Katrina has made a deeeep impression. Busses are being provided for those who have no transportation and people are even allowed to take their (crated) pets. They're being taken to a shelter in Huntsville.

The last of the Katrina folk have been evacuated (again, poor people) to Arkansas. The evacuation wasn't handled as well as it should have been, there was some alarmism, abruptness and not all the people were able to get back to their things before they were cleared away and stored. Hopefully they'll be able to reclaim them. Probably not.

Houston is NOT an option for those Texans living on the coast and having to evacuate. Most of the hotels are already full, and we are reminded that Houston may not be a safe place to ride out the storm either. There are no hotel rooms closer than San Antonio and Dallas to be had for love or money. That's one of the reasons we were planning to stay. My dear Pa and Ma-in-law may be getting a little more company than they were planning on, but I know there will be some space for us, somehow.

How many more months are there in this hurricane season?

This hasn't been a banner year for my family.

Anyone want some visitors from Houston?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Critters a'Crawlin' on My Passion




Sounds like a title to a very strange song, doesn't it?

I went outside and counted caterpillars on the passion flower vine. It's still growing, but getting munched about as fast as it can put on new leaves. It does have some blossoms on it, and I think it may bloom again, unless one of the caterpillars gets a sweet tooth. I counted about 7 or 8 on about 3 feet of vine. The mosquitoes were just too fierce to stay and do a complete survey and census, so I've taken a clue from the US Census Bureau and have done a sample and extrapolated from there.

I even found the remains of three empty chrysalis' and one full one. I've not had any luck yet capturing an emerging critter, but I have my hopes.

Work

My downtown job teaching the two people from the Humoungous Oil Company will finish by the 26th of this month. I've said good-bye to one of the students, a very nice gentleman from Indonesia. We've had some interesting conversations and I think a friendship. I've given him our email and telephone number and told him to give 'Pup and I a call if he needs anything. The other student, from Africa, has been on a computer course. His classes are ending soon too. I've enjoyed teaching both gentlemen. They've brought an interesting outlook to everything and both of them have been intelligent, good natured and good humored folks. As I said to one, it's been a wonderful experience for me. I got to take a look inside corporate culture, and live in the world away from children for a while. It was an unforgettable and irreplaceable experience. I've been told that if the language company gets a contract for another student from this HOC, I'll be called in again. I hope so!

My tutoring job is going well. I'll be able to replace most of the hours from the downtown job with the tutoring job. I may even end up making a little more money in the long run, and this job does have the added benefit of 1) regular hours, 2) deductions taken out of my check (no figuring how to pay taxes as a "self employeed sub-contractor) and 3) the boss seems to like me.

The icing on the cake is that the center will be starting an emergent literacy course for 4 and 5 year olds, with me as the teacher. I had hoped I would be decorating another classroom, and I have! It's a TINY classroom, but I'll only have 5 students at a time, and we'll be concentrating on early math skills, phonics, sight words and some early writing skills. Most of the students will be Korean or Vietnamese, and the parents like homework, so I'll be assigning some homework as well.

The other day, just as the evening was ending, one of the students' cell phones went off as she passed by and it startled me. "I get jumpier and jumpier the older I get!", I said to the other tutor near me. The young (mid-twenties) woman wryly told me, "The older I get, the more things I realize I need to be jumpy about!" LOL She's larnin'!

Family

Tomorrow, I meet with my parents and most of my siblings to talk about options. I'm not sure what options my mom wants to have us give input on, but I suspect none of them will be happy ones

.

Friday, September 16, 2005

UHMMM Tuesday..........yah..

Okay, I told myself (and this blog) I was going to update on Tuesday. It is now Friday morning. I DID take pictures on Tuesday, and Wednesday and Thursday. Didn't have much time for much else.

While out and about, I saw these leaves on a sapling outside of a restaurant. They kinda illustrate what I said earlier about the leaves around here going from green to brown and down for the fall. That, or this sapling isn't doing so well, but the leaves were interesting.




Well, the potting soil we bought to plant the tomatoes in is out of the van at last, that had to wait on the good Mr. Medina, as the bags were a tad too large for this gimpy girl to manage. I've yet to find a good pot though, so the baby plants I bought are still in the sun room. They seem happy there though, so I'm not too worried.

I lost a couple of potted plants during the last month when I was working more than I'd planned on, but they were annuals, so it's not so bad. I'm going to be looking for some fall annuals to replant the pots. I might try pansies this year.

Here are some of the pictures I took:

Some pursulane growing in my sage. I like the yellow against the silver leaves. And some marigolds. Excuse the foot.


I did stalk some butterflies, but they were too quick and not in the mood for posing. The good news is that I've found more empty chrysalis' so I know that some of the wings I've seen flitting out of my view probably originated in my garden. And, the hummers will soon be passing through, so I've got my feeders cleaned and will make up some hummer food this weekend.


On another note


Speaking of this weekend. My father is very ill. I mentioned earlier that he'd been diagnosed with tumors in his brain, and he's been receiving radiation and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the last MRI done shows that the tumors have actually grown 25%, instead of shrinking. My mother's called for a family meeting. I suspect I already know most of the news she'll be sharing. My sisters and brothers will try to be there on Sunday, but I know my youngest brother will not be able to make it. He lives the farthest away, and may be working. He and his wife will come down another time, as soon as possible. I've told them not to wait. Now is better than later. There may not be much more "later" to be had. Worst of all, my dad knows this and my sister tells me he may have started to give up.

I'm most worried for my mom. Her health hasn't been good for the last year or two, and although she's been "rallying" to take care of my father, I can see some real signs of depression and both my sisters and I are afraid that she's not planning on staying around for long after my father leaves us. They've been together as children and adults for most of their lives. I don't think my mom ever allowed herself to picture a world without my father in it, and now, she has to face the unthinkable.

My family members tend to approach an crisis with some detachment, not allowing ourselves too much emotion until after everything is over. That means that we're the kinds of people you want on the scene at an accident or emergency because we're the one's thinking out what to do next to fix things. The downside of this character trait is that we pay dearly later for the delayed (sometimes repressed) emotion. The longer the crisis lasts, the harder the rebound. This one's gonna be hard.

This is a picture of my dad and I 5 years ago, at my wedding. To tell the truth, he was a homely kid, but got lots better looking as he got older. We were a lot happier than we looked just there, we were waiting for a music clue...

I am going to miss my daddy. I already do. I hate cancer.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Remembering

I'm sure we all remember where we were that day. I was at school, getting ready for the children to arrive. That year, my grade level was in the portable buildings. I often had my radio on, usually on NPR, or a local talk radio show. That morning, it was NPR.

At first, I wasn't really sure what I was hearing. As I listened, they discussed a plane crash into one of the World Trade Center buildings. At the time, no one knew if it were an accident, or a terrorist attack. I didn't think it was an accident.

I remember running across the deck to the classroom across the way, I knew there was one teacher there at school as early as I. When I told her what was going on, she didn't believe me. The second plane hadn't yet hit the second tower. I went back to my classroom.

In moments she was at my door, and with a shocked expression we shared, we listened as the second plane hit.

All through that day, I snuck peeks at the news via the news channel websites. All of the staff kept very quiet about what was happening, not knowing exactly what to say to the students. We were quietly briefed that afternoon, as to what we were to tell the students. The children were quiet that day. They knew something had happened, just not what.

Some very bad people had done a very bad thing in a place called New York. (First graders are often just becoming clear on the notion that the world is larger than their own city) I showed them where New York was in relation to where we were. I couldn't go into further details, as I didn't have them, nor was it recommended that I do so. The district's opinion was that it was the parents' place to tell their children what they wanted them to know. I think, had I been a parent, I would have agreed.

The next day, some of the parents had told, or allowed their children to watch the news in it's entirety. Some didn't come to school at all. Again, we were briefed as to what we were allowed to discuss and how. Mostly, we reassured the children again and again, that we were safe, hoping that we were telling the truth. None of us felt particularly in danger, but none of us felt safe either. When we went outside for recess, the empty sky was a little eerie. You see, the school I worked at was under the flight path for the Bush Intercontinental Airport. We usually saw several airplanes a recess period crossing from east to west and from west to east.

This year, teachers have had to explain another disaster, this one not man-made but larger in scope, though perhaps not larger in impact. We lost people and some buildings and a very large amount of our confidence and innocence that day and some things that shouldn't have happened, did. In some ways, the hurricane took lives (more or less, we're not sure yet), more buildings, over a larger area, and some things that should have happended didn't.

I suspect it was a little easier for those in Houston and surrounding Texas communities to talk to their classes, as we could point to things "we" were doing to help others. I know most schools had fund drives, donation drives and other projects designed to help the people sheltering in our city, county, state...and in some cases, homes. It has probably helped that there hasn't been another hurricane in the Gulf in this last week. I suspect had Ophelia gone west instead of north, it would have been difficult indeed to not be very afraid.

As the largest shelters in Houston are becoming less crowded, as so many, many donations have been received from all over the country ....and all over the world.... some normalcy is returning. Now, it will be a time of reflections, recriminations and rebuilding. It seems a lot of our neighbors from Louisiana have decided to make Texas their home. They are welcome.

We have friends and neighbors from all over the world. I am a little ashamed that I was not sure that anyone outside of the U.S. would offer help. I have never been so thankful to be so wrong. There is more than enough to do for all. Could the U.S. have done all that needs to be done by itself? I don't know. I'm glad we don't have to find out.

I haven't found a shelter yet at which I can volunteer. I had hoped to be a part of a team of people going into the Astrodome and Reliant Center to help tutor and care for the children. The fact is, I can't even walk far enough to get into the 'dome from the parking lot. I hate feeling so helpless. All we can do is donate money.

I am looking for any teacher here in Houston or the surrounding area who may have lost all her (or his) teaching supplies. I have a large storage unit full of children's books and manipulatives. In twenty years, one collects quite a few things. Especially if one is (and comes from a long line of) a packrat. I have the name of a school in Houston that might need my stuff. I'll be calling them on Monday.

Nothing new in my garden, except a rather wonderful visit from a tiger swallowtail. It was HUGE, and floated across my back yard and over the fence before I could get my camera in the right position to photograph it. Maybe I'll get lucky tomorrow. I should have some more pictures by Tuesday. I'll finally have some time off during the day, and I'll stalk the several kinds of butterflies I've spotted, and I may get a tomato plant or two into a pot and out of the sunroom. Though...they seem rather happy there. I've got a little tomato on one bush, and the cucumber transplants are growing and have bloomed.

Life goes on. Sometimes in surprising directions.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Numbers and New Life

Update: a quick suggestion for donations. Playing cards, board games, stuffed animals. Sometimes it's the little things that make the difference.

There seem to be a lot of numbers floating around. No one can say just how many poeple are here, there and yon. Or how many have died. Conservative estimates place the number of dead in the thousands. The toll may reach into the tens of thousands. The rescuers are still finding survivors in their homes. They find even more bodies. No one's counting the dead just yet. The living seem to be (at last) the main priority.

A "number" that shocked even me, even tho I thought I had an intellectual grasp on the scope of the destruction is that the areas destroyed (not affected, DESTROYED) can be expressed in terms of "an area about the size of Great Britain". When I thought about it, I understood and did the compairison in my head. It fits, and settles into my brain and body like a fist into a stomach. Area: 216,777 SQ. KM = 83,698 SQ Miles. That's how big Great Britain is, that's how large an area the US will have to rebuild.

The latest numbers estimate that there are about 250,000 displaced Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama residents---our new neighbors---here in Houston and the immediate surrounding areas. There are another 100,000 in Dallas, San Antonio and other smaller Texas cities. There is some concern that even Texas may be reaching saturation as so how many can be helped effectively. I suspect that many of the people here in Houston will, as they finally find (or tragically don't find) their families they will leave and settle all around the area. The Astrodome, Reliant park complex and Brown convention center are only meant as stop gap, triage and recovery areas.

They've added a computer station area and access to the web, so that jobs can be looked for and family members searched for. We hope both searches are productive ones.

Time to get back to gardening. I'm not a political blog, or a newsblog. Others perform that function much more effectively than I ever could. I'm just a (former) school teacher learning how to cope with some new limitations, making my way as best I can.

The garden news is that I've been counting increasing numbers of crysalis' both full and empty. There was another black swallowtail caterpillar on the fennel just the other day, and that brings that count to 9 or 10 in all. There have been a number of monarchs feeding on and laying eggs on the butterfly weed in my garden. I've also seen quite a few frittilaries of various kinds, and a few sulfers as well.


Gulf Coast Frittilary, empty chrysalis, a hungry caterpillar and an egg laying adult. Actually, there were two of them each trying to chase the other off some favored patches. A lot of the passion flower vine is severly munched upon and looks rather tatty, but in December or so I'll tear it all down and let it regrow new next spring.

I saw finches feeding on the portulaca flower seeds. The portulaca will be declining soon. They seem to go, not by temperature (which is still in the high 90's) but by the amount of daylight.

The ash trees in my yard have seeds that are ripening. The last thunderstorm we had, yesterday morning, knocked a lot down, along with some brown leaves. Unless we get a cold snap, perhaps in October, we'll not have any great color show from our trees. The leaves usually just go from green to brown and down. The good Mr. Medina will be raking and bagging until we finally break down and get a barrel composter. I've got some convincing to do as far as 'Pup is concerned and the free money we had has been earmarked now for more pressing needs.

One of the commentors on my blog, Dan Crall asked about using Alpaca manure. I've never used it myself, not having access to "exotic manure", but if it's anything like elephant manure they only caution I'd have would be to mix it with other organic matter and to allow it to "mature". Fresh manure of any kind can be too much for the garden soil microbes and plants to handle, and it can cause some "burning".

We're going to find some big containers, and try to plant some fall crops of tomato, cucumber and some greens. Keep your fingers crossed, I've just not had good results with container grown food crops this year. Maybe the fall will be more productive.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Work is Beginning

We're feeding, clothing and sheltering about 20,000 of our new neighbors in the Astrodome. All in all, we're taking care of about 200,000 of our neighbors within Harris county, and surrounding counties and communities.

Huntsville has some newly constructed Hospitals, and some older buildings that can be reopened. The medical personnel are ready and waiting for them.

There are shelters all over the Eastern half of Texas housing people from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama..

Dallas is also receiving people and caring for them. Their count is about 30,000 so far, and growing.

San Antonio is even taking up to 25,000 and putting them up at the (closed) Ellington Airforce Base.

Houston has over 20 shelters Red Cross certified that are up and running and there are more being opened and certified everyday. There are people opening their homes to shelter newly found "family". One man opened his house to some of his family, and their friends, and some friends of friends. The count was 25 at last report. He gave up his bed, and made a pallet to sleep on in a walk-in closet.

Last night, about 2,000 more "new neighbors" showed up at the Astrodome after it was determined to be "full up". After some thought, they were housed in another part of the complex, and a call for volunteer help went out over the air at 1 am. In about an hour, they had the medical people and other volunteers (about 500 in all) and they didn't come empty-handed. They all came with diapers, water, food, clothing, toiletries, towels... and were passing them out to the folks as they headed off the bus.

We may have another 100,000 coming. They'll be spread around the state.

After the basic needs of food, water, clothing and shelter are met, we're going to have to help the healing begin. That may be a bigger job than rebuilding the city of New Orleans, and the way too many communities on the Upper Gulf Coast that were washed away, blown apart and scattered to the winds.

Being a realist, I wonder if it can be done. Being an optimist, I know that it will. The alternative is simply unacceptable.

I'd say, right now, it ain't a bad thing to be a Texan.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Tears

For the last 3 days I've been watching the devastation wrought by a Category 4/5 Hurricane on a heavily populated Gulf coast. I have watched tears from frustrated, frightened and exhausted people newly homeless....City-less...try to cope with not knowing where or when or how help will come. I've been trying to form the words to express what I feel. New Orleans could be Houston. We've been underwater too, but are more fortunate in that we have built in drainage paths called bayous. Even so, had Katrina hit here, we'd have had water from Galveston all the way into the downtown area. It would affect millions of people, just as it has east of us. When tropical storm Allison hit us in 2001, we got help from our neighbors to the east. Now it's our opportunity to return the favor.

Help is coming. From all over the United States of America, help is coming. Houston is acquiring new neighbors by the tens of thousands, and we're setting up to feed, clothe and shelter the families. Houston ISD is pledging to educate the children for as long as they are here.

There have been some calls for all bloggers to designate a charity today. I'm choosing Houston ISD. Donations can be dropped off at any firestation and will be distributed from there. The children will be needing school clothes, shoes, school supplies, and backpacks. I'm also suggesting lapdesks, as many of them will be going "home" to shelters and will have nowhere to write, study or even find a quiet place. A lapdesk isn't much, but if its your space in a space that isn't yours, it's priceless.

'Pup and I are both physically disabled. We can't be useful at the shelters, unless I can find one that needs someone to do paperwork. Perhaps one of the schools can use me as a tutor, or classroom volunteer. I don't know. I hate not being able to do the things I used to do, especially at times like these.

We're going to be donating to the Red Cross, and will be dropping off toiletry items to some of the smaller shelters. To be honest, after this past year, we don't have a lot of extra cash, but we can do without a few things, put them off for a while, to do this. What can you do without for a while?

(UPDATE) A lot of the big corporations here in Houston have made big donations, and will be matching employee donations. 'Pup's employers are amoung them and we may be trying to maximize our donating ability by going this route.

If you are in Houston or the Houston area (which covers about 900 square miles BTW) consider volunteering to help our new neighbors at the Astrodome. The link is here, http://www.harriscountycitizencorps.com/ , click "join now". Be patient, a lot of us are trying to do this all at once and it seems to be overloading the server. (now, that's something to brag about!)

One rant. People, what the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama experienced was essentially a 30 + wall of water slamming into them, bringing with it 150 + mph winds and a deluge of rain. Anywhere else that 30 feet of storm surge would be called a tsunami. That water was what caused the most damage and destruction and death. I've done searches to see what kind of aid was coming to the US from other parts of the world. Unless things change, it doesn't seem to be coming at all. Some German newspaper editorials express little or no sympathy, but blame the storm on the US not signing the Kyoto Accords. Y'all... paper don't stop water.

I think I have a few international readers now and again. I ask them to donate to the International Red Cross. Even if the money doesn't come here, the money will be put to use in other parts of the world to which some of us in the USA won't be able to donate. We're kinda busy just now. We may be busy for a long time.