Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Back to the Routine...

Well, school here re-opens tomorrow. My mom, Big J's babysitter, got back home today, so it looks like I'm back to the old tax-return grindstone tomorrow as well. We are fortunate, in that the IRS has issued an additional extension until Feb. 28th for all the individual returns that would've been due October 15th. This takes some of the heat of "busy season" off, but we still need to get them done by the end of the year because the firm counts on that for budgeting purposes.

At any rate, tomorrow marks our official re-entry into the land of the living. I've taken full advantage of the unplanned days off by doing things around the house I've been meaning to get to for some time. I even unpacked a box on Big L's side of the bed that had been there since we moved in! I've gone through drawers, cabinets and closets....even re-arranging my pantry. I didn't get everything done I had planned. I still haven't gotten out my fall decorations. Maybe tomorrow after work...

Linens & Things

On Monday, I received an email from a friend telling me about some great towels on sale at Linens & Things for 2.99 each. Not to mention, she had a coupon code for another 10 percent off. Well....since the newest towels I have are 9 years old, I decided to stock up. I even had them delivered to my local store, so I could save on shipping costs. I received an email confirming my order, and one that advised me that my order was ready for pickup. Woohoo!

Just as I was planning to go pick them up....I get an email saying my "return" was processed. Wait! I don't want to return them, I WANT them! So, I call the store and they say to call coporate headquarters, which I do. Apparently the "sale price" was a mistake, so the computer processed an automatic return of my purchase. I say I want them to honor their advertised price and give me the sale price on the towels. After a polite, but longer than necessary conversation, I ask to speak to a manager. I am left on hold for 10 minutes before I get to talk to "Tony". Tony says, "I'm sorry m'aam, but the pricing you saw was an error and our computer automatically caught the error and issued a refund to you". I say "Yes, but I want you to honor your advertised price". He says "All I can do is offer you a refund of your shipping charges". Shipping charges?? For an order that was cancelled?? Gee, thanks. Not to mention, there were NO shipping charges because I was going to pick them up at the store. I mention this to Tony. He says "I'm sorry, but I can't honor the price because it's less than we actually paid". I say "I can't imagine that 10,000 people ordered these towels on that's not going to kill the store to honor the price for one customer, not to mention it is poor business practice to do otherwise." Tony responds "I'm sorry but that's all I can do for you". I say "You didn't do anything!" *silence on Tony's part* so I say "So what you're saying is you can't do one single thing for me to make up for the fact that you processed a sale and then refunded it without my knowledge or consent for a mistake that your computer made". He says "that's right....I can't do anything".

What ever happened to "The Customer is Always Right?". Sheesh! Was it gonna kill 'em to sell me the towels at their advertised price? It's not like I was buying 500 of them for resale! It really irks me how the lack of customer service or even concern about the customer's satisfication is becoming the norm. Not to mention....I wanted those towels!!!

So, I'm doing what I told Tony I would do....letting everyone know about the customer satisfaction "policy" at Linens & Things. Buyers beware.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tax Relief Granted for Hurricane Rita

Tax Relief Granted for Hurricane Rita: "Tax Relief Granted for Hurricane Rita

IR-2005-110, Sept. 26, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Internal Revenue Service today announced relief for taxpayers affected by Hurricane Rita. The President issued major disaster declarations covering Texas and Louisiana effective Sept. 23, 2005.

Taxpayers affected by the hurricane may be eligible for relief. Deadlines for affected taxpayers to file returns, pay taxes and perform other time-sensitive acts have been postponed to Feb. 28, 2006, the same extended date that Congress granted to taxpayers affected by Hurricane Katrina.

In the hardest-hit areas - those counties designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as "individual assistance areas" - the tax relief will be automatic, and taxpayers won't need to do anything to get the extensions and other relief available.

In Texas, nine counties are in this category for individual assistance: Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton, Orange and Tyler. In Louisiana, five parishes are in this category: Beauregard, Cameron, Calcasieu, Jefferson Davis and Vermilion.

In areas of Texas and Louisiana where FEMA has determined damage is more isolated - designated as "public assistance areas" - or for other taxpayers outside the hardest-hit areas whose books, records or tax professionals are located in the affected areas, people will need to identify themselves to the IRS as hurricane victims.

Taxpayers who need to identify themselves as hurricane victims should write "Hurricane Rita" in red ink at the top of their tax forms or any other documents filed with the IRS. Taxpayers who need to alert the IRS or have other Rita-related questions can also call the special IRS disaster hotline at 1-866-562-5227.

Read the rest here.

Our Theme Song

My friend Jill and I were *finally* getting dressed to go out to dinner with our families last night....for the first time in a week. This may seem very "petty" (no pun intended) but for us, it was a sign that life was returning to normal. We both agreed that this song had been playing in our heads for days, so we put in the CD and sang along:

Our Theme Song

Monday, September 26, 2005

Cindy Sheehan Makes Light of Hurricane Rita

In This post at Phil's Observations, we get the following quote as reported by Fox News tonight:

Cindy Sheehan grumbled this weekend that cable news networks were paying more attention to Hurricane Rita than to her anti-war rally in Washington, posting a message on the liberal Web site writing, "i am watching cnn and it is 100 percent rita...even though it is a little wind and a little is bad, but there are other things going on in the country today...and in the world!!!!"

That was too much even for some Daily Kos readers. One responded, "shame on you, you're jealous of media coverage of other's suffering," while another wrote, "The right-wing media has painted you as a self-centered, self-absorbed woman and you're living up to that image." Sheehan later posted an apology.

You HAG!! I really can't put into words how this makes me feel. I'll give you a's mostly obscenities.

Evacuation Photos

I only got a few photos on the way out before it got dark. Our entire return trip was after dark, so I didn't even try. Here they are:

Here's Home Sweet Home after we boarded up some of the bottom windows....all we had time for:
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Big L made good use of our old fence gate on the front door:
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10 minutes from our home, here's where we found ourselves:
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A little humor for the road:
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Just in case you were thinking of stopping for a coke and top-off:
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And this one sums it up with the noticeable lack of people heading south:
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Home Sweet Home

We are so thankful that we have one!!

Here's our story:

Tuesday evening, the reports showed Rita getting bigger and heading straight for us. L and I already have the policy of evacuating for anything greater than 100 mph, so it was a no-brainer that we would leave. I haven't evacuated since I was 12, for Hurricane Alicia. When I returned from that storm with my family, there was evidence of tornadoes in our yard, and we had some minor roof damage. We also lost our major appliances. I started 7th grade living in a pop-up camper and eating off of a camp stove. I was not looking forward to repeating that this time!

The hard part was knowing what to pack. Yes, we knew all the basics.....I backed up my photos and other files from the desktop, packed our insurance papers, birth certs, etc. I dumped out some rubbermaid containers of gift wrap and ribbons under my bed and re-loaded them with pictures from the walls. No art work....all family photos. L kept saying if we got a direct hit we would lose our roof. But then, we live on a creek so flooding was possible as well. Where do we put the sentimental items that we can't take with us? Like the hand-woven laundry basket that my great-grandmother brought on the boat from Germany in the late 1880's. I put it on the first floor on top of the washing machine. These were hard decisions! I couldn't care less about our furniture, tv, etc. But the sentimental items.....that's different. I DID load some plastic containers with my scrapbooks and other photos to take with us. We decided we would not crowd the roads by taking my car. Plus the gas mileage on mine is atrocious. L's diesel truck holds 40 gallons which is like 600 miles worth, so that's the way to go for us.

Anyway, finally we set off about 5pm on Wednesday. We got about 10 miles before we hit the major traffic. We averaged about 5 mph, when we were moving. We had prepared....we had plenty of water, drinks and snacks. Our tank was full. We saw lots of things that I'll never forget. The smart vehicles had several extra plastic gas tanks strapped to the top of their vehicles. We passed on woman standing in her yard with a baby on her hip just staring at the 3 lanes of non-moving traffic. There was a car with it's hood up in her driveway. I saw a truck pull over and pop it's hood. A 40ish man went to look under the hood and what appeared to be his dad sat in the passenger seat....with an oxygen tube in his nose. At 4:30 in the morning I saw a car pulled over with a very old man, bent from osteoporosis, standing at the back stretching his legs. You could barely see his wife's white head sitting behind the wheel, waiting for him. It was discouraging to have been on the road for 9 hours and still be close enough to the coast to be watching people boarding up their windows as you drove by.

Starting about 1am things got a bit dicey. We were stuck on a 2-lane highway (trying to avoid the "parking lot" of I-10 that we’d heard about), and we actually had the truck in park for over 30 minutes about 4 different times during the wee hours of the morning. People would get out, mill around, go to the bathroom on the shoulder, get snacks & drinks, etc. Then some started to get really frustrated and would just take off into the oncoming traffic lane, passing everyone else who was waiting in line. Twice, from my vantage point,I saw a car have to go in the ditch to avoid a head-on collision. I actually called the Office of Emergency Management, who had a Ft. Bend County Sheriff's officer call me back. He said he'd had several complaints from our area, that they were sending troops out there to direct traffic, etc. He finished the call by saying "stay safe and watch your back". Comforting! We never saw any troops, however. Finally we decided to u-turn, go back 12 miles, and take a road over to I-10 to take our lumps there. Good decision. Although it took almost an hour to get ON I-to once we got least the cars were moving again. 5mph beats sitting in park any day!

We arrived at our room at Lake McQueeny at 7am, extremely exhausted. Our kiddos, mercifully, had slept for most of the trip. The problem was that transferring them to their bed woke them up. We had high hopes of at least turning on cartoons and dozing while they watched tv, but the tv only got 1 channel and it had the news, and then The Price is Right. So, we unloaded the toys we'd brought and got some very interrupted sleep for about 3 hrs. Then, the kiddos were hungry and ready for McDonald's.

We have some friends in New Braunfels who very graciously rescued us from our 1-room shelter at Lake McQueeny. We moved to their newly remodeled home that they were planning on moving in to on Saturday! On Friday, L took all the kids, including their 2 girls, down to the Comal River to play and swim while I helped Shannon pack for her move. We stayed up watching Rita do her thing on Friday night, and then we realized we'd most likely escaped major damage.

Once our neighbor reported that our power was restored, we decided to leave Saturday night at 8pm. We didn't want to get in the way of any emergency/supply/FEMA trucks, so we avoided I-10. We went south to Hwy 59 and took that East to Houston. It was eerie to drive into the 4th largest city in America and see nothing open. Not even a 24 hour Walmart!

You know that feeling you have when you drive up in your driveway after being gone a while? Multiply that times 100 and that's how we felt as we pulled up saw that we still have a home. We escaped the "dirty side" of the storm, we were spared. The relief was enormous, although we realize others weren't so fortunate.

It's been 20+ years since the last one...let's hope we get that long before we have to do this again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Can't Sleep

I fell asleep on the couch around 11pm. L joined me and we woke up now,
uncomfortable and went up to bed. Now that I woke up to move, I can't go
back to sleep. I just read the latest update (new data comes in at 2am) and
it is worse. Check it out at this weatherblog:

Steve Gregory

I was talking on the phone with a friend, whose house we considered staying
at, and she was asking how the packing was going. I told her, it's hard to
do anything! The worse the predictions get, the harder it is. I mean, what
do you leave behind when you don't expect to have anything upon return?
Larry's convinced that if we get a cat 4 we will lose our roof for sure.
However, we can't really put everything on the first floor because we
*could* flood too. I mean, obviously I'm packing bins with pictures &
scrapbooks, backing up pics fromt he computer to CD, taking important
papers, etc. It's just weird. She summed it up by saying "'s summing up your life in 30 minutes". Yep.

We LOVE falling asleep on the couch and as L snuggled up in there with
me I said "this may be the last time we ever do this on this couch". He
goes "yep...I'm gonna miss this couch". And then I think "this is
CRAZY!" it really going to be that bad? Who knows. But it sure seems
so this time.

Even my aunt from WV called us to make sure we were getting out and to see
what my mom's plans were. I hope we'll look back on this next week and
laugh at our panic.....but somehow I don't think so.

Please say a prayer for those of us who seem to be in the direct path of what will apparently be a monster storm. I'll keep in touch as I can...

Monday, September 19, 2005


Yeah, I think I finally have it how I want it. Thanks so much to Elisabeth at Blogfrocks for her help in fixing *my* problems. Now if only I can get my Haloscan comments back....but I least I got the Blogger comments up and running again.

Not sure how much I'll be posting this week, though. I'll probably be evacuting by the end of this week! TS Rita is shining her evil eye on the Houston/Galveston area. We'll see...

Under Construction!!

Please be patient.....I'm working on a new look here, and it'll be up and running soon (I HOPE!!!!)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Blog Frustration!!

I don't know what happened while I took the summer off, but I can't get anything to work right anymore. Blogger wouldn't let me change my photo....the view is all screwed up in Mozilla/Firefox and I can't figure it out, etc.

Should I relocate? If so, to where? I'd really like to just re-create the whole look of this thing, but it's almost like the language was changed while I was gone. I can't get it to do anything I want anymore, and it's so frustrating!

Suggestions anyone?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Still waiting....Lots of Useful Info

We're still waiting to hear from our church as to who we will be hosting. I've already been emailing friends & family to be ready to help them out with gift cards, groceries, etc. They say it should be within the next 2 days.....meanwhile here's some really useful info:


Hurricane Katrina Assistance

State Government Insurance Help Lines

Texas Department of Insurance Consumer Help Line

Louisiana Department of Insurance Consumer Help Line
225-342-5900 (outside Louisiana)

Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation

Mississippi Department of Insurance Consumer Help Line
800- 562-2957
601-359-2453 (outside Mississippi)

Alabama Department of Insurance Consumer Help Line
334-241-4141 (outside Alabama)

Immediate Disaster Assistance from the American Red Cross

If you have immediate emergency needs for food, clothing, shelter, or medical care contact one of the local offices of the American Red Cross. You can visit a local office or call their toll-free number at 1-866-438-4636.

Federal Government Help Line

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

You may qualify for assistance from the federal government. You can apply by calling 800-621-FEMA (800-621-3362). The information you will need includes:

  • The street address of your damaged property
  • Your current mailing address and a telephone number where you can be reached in the event you have been forced to relocate
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your household´s approximate gross income at the time of the flood or, if you are reporting business damages, the gross income of the business
  • Information on the type of insurance coverage you have, particularly flood insurance

National Flood Insurance Program

If you purchased a flood policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), please call this toll-free number to file a claim


Where to go for Assistance with Insurance Questions

Location of Disaster Recovery Centers - Will be announced shortly.

List of Carriers by State


Property & Casualty Companies

Life, Accident & Health Companies


Property & Casualty Companies

Life, Accident & Health Companies


For Information on jobs, check out this site



WASHINGTON, D.C. - The American Red Cross has created and launched the Family Links Registry, which will aid individuals who are seeking loved ones and family members in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Family Links Registry can be accessed by visiting or by calling:

1-877-LOVED-1S (1-877-568-3317) to register.

Evacuees wishing to inform loved ones of their location can register their name by clicking on "Family Links Registry" on or by calling 1 877-LOVED-1S. Concerned friends and family can register the names of their loved ones and view the list of those already posted. Due to the extent of the damage and the number of people displaced, concerned friends and family members are encouraged to visit the site daily to consult the list, as it will be updated continuously.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Personal Impact of Katrina

Nothing to complain about at all.....our personal impact comes in the form of giving up our office in order to house a family in our garage apartment. We are doing this through the coordinating efforts of our home church, Clear Creek Community Church. I just spoke with a man tonight who informed me that a family should be matched up with us within the next 3 days.

Apparently the matching of stipulations by both parties takes longer to work out than you would think. The only stipulation on our part is the ability to go up and down stairs, since it's an upstairs apartment. Also, it is limited in space, so only a family up to about 4 or 5 would be comfortable.

Big L and I are really excited to have the opportunity to help in this way. We had never equipped the apartment with a stove until this weekend, because we've never used the space for long-term living before.

We're also a little nervous, being that we're going to be living in close proximity to this family, and we have 2 small children of our own to consider. We're just praying that the whole thing will work out well.

I'll definitely be posting our exerience on this blog, so if you're curious to see what happens when you let perfect strangers live almost in your house.....stay tuned. It'll be exciting I'm sure!