Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Whirlwind

So the last time I posted, it was just to cut and paste and article about me and GHF in the Austin American-Statesman just after Dickens on the Strand. Since then, things have been going at a feverish pace. First of all, Dickens weekend was 2 weeks before our trip to Cali, with other friends & family Christmas parties on the weekend in between. With shopping, work, packing, PTO, etc. those 2 weeks went by in a total blur of activity. Then FINALLY we were on vacation. And so the fun began...

First off, thanks to Santa coming to Sacramento we had 8 checked bags for 6 people, plus a carry-on per person. Trying to manage all that plus my Dad in a wheelchair made the airport an adventure, but we were able to board without too much ado. When we arrived in Oakland, the weather was beautiful. I took the shuttle to get our reserved van while Big L man-handled the luggage, the kids and Dad. That's where I encountered problem numero uno. The van that National had reserved for me was NOT a full-sized van capable of handling 6 people and 11 bags, but was instead a mini-van. In fact, they didn't even HAVE full sized vans. Considering I'd have a very specific conversation about our needs with the reservationist, I was NOT happy. Not to mention my phone was dead and I actually had to call Big L COLLECT from a PAY PHONE. When's the last time you used a payphone? Do you know what happens when you call another cell phone collect? Me either. Turns out you wait on the other end while that person inputs a credit card number, billing address, zip code, phone number and DNA on the other end. Then you get to talk. Once I'd informed Big L as to the situation, I procedeeded to go to every rental car company withing walking distance begging for a van. Finally, at the Budget counter, I found one company that rented full-sized vans in the entire airport. He had one left. He was supposed to get his manager's permission before renting it. He called the manager and got no answer. My tears worked, and he rented me the van without the manager's approval, although considering the bill I doubt the manager was anything less than ecstatic!

So, finally we set off on our drive to Sacramento, which was a glorious drive. We could see San Francisco, the Golden Gate and the Oakland Bay Bridge all from our windows. When we finally checked into our hotel, we finally felt like we were on vacation. Two bedrooms, one with a king and one with 2 queens, 2 bathrooms and a Christmas tree that my sister had put up for us earlier that day. WOOHOO!!

It took me a few days to really relax, though, and not feel like i was carrying an elephant on my shoulers. We played 42, we ate (thanks to Big L's cooking!), we shopped, we went to church and we wrapped. My sister and I compared stocking stuffers down to the last piece of gum to make sure Santa was equitable to both the Texan kids and the West Coasters. We made sure to only use special Santa paper and tags, never before seen by anyone under the age of 16. And best of all....we went to the snowpark in the foothills on the way to Tahoe! All of us had an absolute BLAST sledding down the hill. At one point, the kids and Big L made snow forts in the woods and had a giant snowball was awesome.

Then we hunkered down for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which were wonderful.

On the 26th, which was my nephew's 9th birthday, we out for Sushi and Japanes food which really hit the spot after our Prime Rib dinner the night before. And all too soon, it was time to pack up the clothes and loot and head home.

At the Oakland airport, we got off the rental shuttle in the middle of a boulevard type road. We had to cross the street to get to the terminal. It took 2 carts to get all our luggage, plus each of us pulling/carrying a carry on bag. In the midst of this chaos, mom accidentally misjudged the edge of a wheelchair ramp and my Dad, who was riding on the seat of his walker while she pushed, ended up falling straight backward on his head in the street, pulling my mom over with him. Everyone ran to help, and by some miracle we got him up and back sitting on his walker seat where he stayed until we could go in and get a wheelchair. He had a strawberry on the back of his head and his right elbow was bruised....same elbow that caused his hospitalization just a few months ago. Needless to say, I was pretty rattled by that incident.

The flight home was nice...the kids and I all with our new iPods in our ears. Once we landed, though, chaos insued again. This time in the form of a broken walker, compliments of Southwest Airlines. We got down to baggage claim with Dad in a wheelchair, and Mom and Big L gathered all our bags off the belt while I filed a claim in the baggage office. Luckily they had a loaner walker right there for him to use to get home. Big L retrieved the truck and we loaded up to go home. Due to the walker issue, we were much later than planned getting home, and most importantly picking up our dogs!! Our pet loving friends had graciously hosted the little fur angels for the holidays and we were anxious to get our hands on them.

The next day, we must've been wiped out becuase the first time the kids woke up and, as a result, I woke up, it was 1pm!!! Now that's only 11am Cali time, but STILL. Finally, we started to unload the bags that Big L had stored in Bart's garage overnight, and we realized what had happened. We had a bag that belonged to someone else. And we were short a bag. One that held nothing but kids' Christmas gifts. The Wii and all components, plus a lot of other nonsense. At this point I looked at Big L and said "vacation's over!"

We loaded the bag that some poor person somewhere was probably frantic over, and we headed back to the airport. So much for all the laundry and cleaning we were going to get done! By some miracle, SWA still had our bag, and we were able to make the switch. They did, however, give me a bit of a lecture on checking names on bags before leaving. I relayed the message to Big L who said "that's easy when you're not handling 11 bags, 2 monkeys and 2 80 year olds, one of whom is in a wheelchair!!"

hmmm....good point.

And so, with that, we are back to our "normal" lives...hahaha! I *think* today is the day that our attorney files a demand letter with our insurance agent's E&O policy. I sure hope so becuase it gives them 30 days to look at the evidence (aka the carcass of our house) before we can finally bulldoze it. 30 days and counting!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Nearly three months after Hurricane Ike, Galveston's Dickens on the Strand street festival goes on

Nearly three months after Hurricane Ike, Galveston's Dickens on the Strand street festival goes on
Island residents, struggling to regain their lives, welcome visitors
By Helen Anders


Sunday, December 07, 2008

GALVESTON — The ghost of Jacob Marley sported a wan smile as he shambled down the Strand on Saturday amid a few thousand visitors to the island's annual Dickens on the Strand street festival.

"It's sad in a way," said the ghost — actually playwright Timothy Evers of Houston, dressed, like many others, in a Charles Dickens-themed costume for the festival. He nodded toward the crowd, much thinner than the event's usual assemblage. "But it's good seeing this many people here, because this place has been just a ghost town."

"There are more people on the Strand today than in the last 89 days combined," said a broadly grinning Tom Schwenk, president of the Galveston Historical Foundation , which organizes the event. "I looked around this morning and said, 'We won.' "

It is, indeed, a dickens of a Christmas for Galveston, with costumed locals smiling gamely for visitors but not quite able to banish from their faces the strain of their struggle to regain their lives in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

Nearly three months after the storm, about a third of the city's residents still can't live in their homes. Three-fourths of the island's structures were damaged. Only the maternity ward is open at Galveston's one hospital, the University of Texas Medical Branch. Trauma patients have to be airlifted to Houston.

And in the Strand, where up to 12 feet of water coursed through stores on Sept. 13, only a handful of street-level businesses have reopened. Hardly any of the stores were insured.

"We didn't think we needed it," said Kristen Birkelbach, owner of Funky Monkey on the Strand, whose store was badly damaged and remains closed. "The Strand never floods."

On Saturday, she and her father, Roy Birkelbach, ran a vendor booth on the street, selling sock monkeys and decorative items.

The Strand did flood during Hurricane Ike, because the storm pushed water in from Galveston Bay. Birkelbach isn't sure she can reopen her store.

"I lost a lot," she said. "I'm just really struggling. But we'll see. I've already sold two picture frames today. It's really encouraging."

The two-day Dickens on the Strand, usually the island's biggest street festival of the year, going on into the night amid strings of lanterns, is seen by many Galvestonians as emblematic of their efforts to recover.

"The Strand really is the heartbeat of the community," said historical foundation executive director Dwayne Jones, who admits there's a lot of despair on the island right now.

This year's festival is scaled back. It closed at 6 p.m. Saturday and will again today because so few downtown buildings have electricity (power is restored, but many electrical systems were damaged by salt water), and the festival lanterns were damaged in the storm.

The city can't even make any money from parking; all the meters were destroyed by the flood.

The historical society, which reaps ticket money from the event, is hoping that by today's close, the festival will have attracted half of last year's 32,000 visitors.

"I hope they get more people. Right now, it's looking kind of sad," said Mecie Hardin, who drove down from Houston to attend the festival. "I think just that they put it on is a huge accomplishment."

The first Dickens on the Strand was staged 35 years ago to raise money to establish the downtown business district. This year, the intent is to bring that district back.

Nancy Kitchel, the historical foundation's comptroller, wore a Victorian costume she'd just purchased, because the one she'd worn in past years was destroyed when waves crashed through the first floor of her family's two-story home on Laguna de Oro, a few blocks from the bay.

After strolling through the festival with her family, Kitchel tallied receipts Saturday by the beam of a battery-operated lantern inside a Strand building without electricity.

The festival, she said, "is festive and happy, and the island needs it" — not just for the economy, but for morale.

That Kitchel was smiling was a testimony to that. Her family's Christmas tree is in the 35-foot motor home the family is living in. It's parked near their house, which they evacuated before the storm, never dreaming that it would be ripped apart.

"I put a few things on my bed, thinking we might get a few feet of water," she said. Instead, when she, her husband, Larry, and their two children returned, they found the bedroom walls in shreds. The bed was gone. So was her piano and a dresser, though its intact mirror rested in the backyard.

In the next room, Larry's office, was a kayak. It's still there. They have no idea whose it is.

But they had insurance, and they plan to rebuild in the same place, where they've lived for two years.

"Moving here (from Friends-

wood) was a dream come true," Kitchel said. "We love the island."

Kitchel's colleague Molly Dannenmaier, the historical society's marketing director, feels the same way. Her home, built in 1897 in the historic part of Galveston, survived the famous 1900 hurricane, and it survived this one.

"Structurally, it's absolutely fine," she says. But more than 2 feet of water flooded the first floor, which she'd just remodeled to accommodate her disabled mother. They're living in a rental property she and her family own that wasn't damaged.

Dannenmaier hasn't had time to get started on rehabilitating her house because she's been so busy working on the Dickens festival, but she said that's probably a good thing.

"If I weren't working," she said, "I can't imagine my state of mind."

Dickens on the Strand, she said, is a show of Galveston's spirit.

Galvestonians Josh and Donna Tall said that's exactly why they were attending the festival. "It's a sense of community," Donna Tall said. "That's the way Galveston's going to come back.", 912-2590

The official town crier in Sidney by the Sea, British Columbia, Kenny Podmore was well-suited – once he donned his Victorian-era garb – to lead the parade at Dickens on the Strand on Friday. Photo by Jay Janner - Austin American Statesman

Nancy Kitchel, comptroller of the Galveston Historical Foundation, thought her home on Laguna de Oro would only see a few feet of water when Hurricane Ike struck. She and her family are planning to rebuild on the same spot. Photo by Jay Janner

Nancy Kitchel – with daughter Emma, 8, son Jackson, 7, and husband Larry – lost a costume to Ike but bought a replacement to participate in this year's Dickens on the Strand. 'The island needs it,' she said of the festival, whose organizers hope to draw half as many attendees as last year. Photo by Jay Janner

Nearly three-quarters of Galveston's buildings – like the historic Hendley Building on the Strand – were damaged by Ike, and salt water damaged many electrical systems on the island. Festival lanterns were soaked, and the city's parking meters were wiped out. Photo by Jay Janner

As copied from the Austin American-Statesman

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Being Sick in an RV

is just no fun. I'll leave it at that....and hopefully be back to blogging soon. UGH!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Being Thankful

Of all the Thanksgivings I've celebrated, this one seems the most poignant. So...I'm going to list some things I'm thankful for, in no particular order, just as they pop in my head. And I'm not going to list the obvious things like God, my husband, family and friends! There, got those out of the way, now here it is:

my doggies (thank you God for making them!!)
a paying job
kids that still believe in the Magic of Christmas
wireless internet
my red fluffy robe (thanks Becky!)
online shopping
light in the laundry area (thanks Bart!)
the ability to buy plane tix/hotel room for a week in Cali for Christmas
Evanescence (a new release would be nice people)
Twilight (times like these you really appreciate a good escape)
my iPod (which I found when I cleaned out my car!)
the KBM's (I know, I said no friends on the list, but these girls...well....)
Aggie Football (yes, even this year)
beer (see above)
35 feet of warm, cozy home
Keurig coffee makers
digital photos
coconut cream pie
nail salons
satellite radio
KBM reunion trips (I *need* one in 2009!)
my blackberry (see references to KBMs)
cleaning wipes (sprays are so last decade)

It's possible that I'll edit this post and add to the list, but you have to cut it off somewhere. Happy Thanksgiving and you might try making your own list!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

They're Coming to Take Me Away....Haha!

Tomorrow is the 10 week anniversary of our good buddy Ike, so I decided it's time to blog it up again! I've been absent for a bit because 1. my sister was in town from California over the weekend and *new* lappy had to be shipped to Dell to replace the CDRom drive and 3. nothing new to report :-(

Yes, we are still here, in the RV, waiting. We DID have some activity this week, though. The windstorm adjuster came out with a roofer to get an estimate on our roof (he first came 4 wks ago and we've heard nothing since). Who knows when we'll hear the results of the roofer's exam. Then, our Public Adjuster had his Estimater come out and inspect the house from top to bottom. He's supposed to have his estimate to us the week after T-giving. At that time, WE will be the holdup if we don't have our inventory of lost items ready, so I'm busy working on that.

The best part of everything is.....CHRISTMAS! The kids and I are in the Spirit and already listening to Cmas music, etc. I'm getting daily deliveries at work, thanks to online shopping, which is super fun as well. I've taken over a closet in Bart's house for my "official stash". And all of this will yield some great entertainment here on the old blog, because with the beginning of Christmas comes......THE ELVES!!

What are the elves? Funny you should'll love this. You see, Santa has this fabulous Foster Elf program, where he will actually allow his elves to spend the Holiday Season with you! Yep, the *real* elves from the North Pole! They arrive at our house sometime the weekend after T-giving (we get 2, one for each child) and they stay until Christmas Eve, when they sit by the fireplace and wait for Santa to pick them up and take them home! But that's not all...oh no. They may LOOK like little dolls, but at night, when no one is watching, they You heard me! The little freak shows get up in the night and commit all sorts of mischievous acts, and the kids get up every day to see what the elves have done. Every day. For 24 days. No, I'm not kidding.

One time, they actually stole my car to go on a Candy Cane run. (the little suckers are sugar freaks). When the kids woke up for school, the alarm was going off in my car. We looked out the window and my car was backed into the flower bed, with the headlights on, the wipers on full blast, and Christmas music blaring as loud as possible. One elf was on the steering wheel and the other was on the gas pedal. My purse was even dumped out in the house where they had searched for my keys!!

So....we are all very very excited about the annual arrival of the elves. And on that note, I'll leave you with some parting shots of elf antics past:





Sunday, November 09, 2008

Parents of the Year!

Yes, Big L and T-bug are nominating ourselves as POTY! Remember Jackalope's Birthday? Well you know, as parents, we have that disease that motivates us to choose The Birthday Gift that will trump all birthday gifts past adn will cause our little angels to be overcome with joy. And as usual, we succeeded once again this year:

The Gift of all gifts!!!

The thrill of the First Ride!!

And we were all living the dream, I tell ya! Big L and I are looking at each other like "Man, how DO we do it?", etc.

And then the next day, Halloween, happens. After school, just before costumes and T or T'ing, Jackalope wants to squeeze in a ride....of course! And there I am, watering my little container garden when I hear a mysterious POP and then silence where there used to be a little electric motor hum. I say "That doesn't sound good" and I look around the palm tree trunk and see a sobbing 7 year old running towards me with blood running down from his forehead and in the distance, a little go-cart rammed into a curb. I run to him, pick him up cradle style in my arms and he says between sobs "Will..*sob*...I...*sob*...get to....*sob*...ride it....*sob*...again?!?!"

I race to the RV and wash his face under the water to reveal a small, but laid open cut above his right eye that will obviously need stitches. And so, we trek to West Isle Urgent Care where the dr's assistant says "What are you gonna give him next year....a hand grenade?" and Jackalope declares stitches an awesome addition to his vampire costume!

We make it home in time to get costumed all up (at least 3 of us, anyway, all vampires!) and go T or T-ing after all the drama. So here's Jackalope in all his costumed glory on Halloween, one day after his birthday...

Fake Blood + Real Blood = AWESOME!!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

State of the Island....8 weeks Post Ike

Any time I try to write about how I'm feeling about Ike, or to update those off-island about what's going on here, I simply get overwhelmed. The words just jumble up in my head and I can't get out what I want to communicate. Today, my friend Lauren summed it up so eloquently, I'm just gonna let you read it straight from her.

What she said!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Historical Day

No matter who you voted for, as an American you have to admit this is a huge day in American history. The fact that a race of people who were once slaves in this very country now have a President of the same country less than 150 years later is extraordinary. I can completely empathize with what an emotional event this must be for them. Admittedly, I do not agree with his positions, and therefore did not vote for him, but I don't regret having the first black man in this office. I'll also feel ecstatic when we have the first woman...assuming it's the right first woman for the job.

The next 2 years will be quite interesting. I don't think there's been a Congress and Whitehouse both controlled by Democrats since Clinton was in office. That time it only lasted 2 years and then Newt Gingrich had his coup to re-take the Congress, which turned out to be a bust as well. At any rate, there will be no question who is reponsible for the policies coming out of Washington over the next 2 years. The economy has hit rock bottom, so of course it will rebound during this President's term, and would have no matter who was elected.

Overall, I think the high-powered Democrats will force a more centrist government than Obama had planned because of their desire to maintain control and not experience the coup of 1994 all over again. Only time will tell, but one thing is will be an interesting ride!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day!

I voted early, but today is the day I'm glued to the tv. I've had so much fun with the kids, too, because this year they want to know *all* about it works, what their positions are, etc. So fun!!

So I'm anxious to see how it turns out, of course. I'll tell ya this...if my taxes go up, I'm likely to become a stay-home-mom. Right now, after taxes, childcare in the summer, work clothes, etc. I only bring home 30% of my salary. If the number goes down so that I'm bringing home less than $10K, I will declare it officially not worth the stress! Hmmmm....maybe I should've voted differently....I like sleeping in....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Road Trip!!

Details to come later, but here's the teaser:

2 senior citizens, 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 dogs for 2 weeks in an RV! 2 CRAZY!!

It's the Griswold family Christmas, and it's all going to be happening here live starting December 19th.

For those of you who haven't followed my blog for years (come one, there's gotta be some poor soul), we've been this crazy before and the Cast of Characters hasn't changed except for the addition of 2 dogs!

Stay tuned!!

What I Lost, What I Miss

For the most part, we were very fortunate in that most of our keepsakes and heirlooms were in storage and were safe during the storm. What we lost was mostly material things that can be replaced (if and when we *ever* get any insurance money!!). But, even still, there are a few things...some replaceable, some not...that I really miss:

1. My Gap Body robe & slippers. I am sooo cold natured, and i literally *lived* in that robe from about this time of year until the spring. Even Jackalope misses it, as he's cold natured and also a cuddle bug and could not resist snuggling with me when I had it on. It was incredibly soft and cozy!! And my feet are cold in the mornings now, dang it!

2. My iPod. Anyone who knows me knows that my mood can be completely altered by music. I miss having it to clean by, to walk the dogs, for work, etc. There are several times a day that I think about it and wish I had it. Of course it's replaceable, but as long as we're paying for everything out of pocket it's just not a necessary item right now.

That's it for the replaceable items. Now for the irreplaceable:

1. Cuddles. My pink teddy bear that I've had since my 5th birthday. He went to college with me and has sat on a shelf where I could see him since he became too fragile to sleep with. He was on the top shelf of my closet, wrapped in the handmade blanket I came home from the hospital in as a newborn, both lost despite all my neighbor's efforts in looking thru debris!

2. Pictures from high school and college. This box was mistakenly brought to our house, unbeknownst to me, when we moved here, although it was clearly marked "Storage". We knew we were remodeling soon (turned out to be 2 years later!) and that kind of stuff was never supposed to be here. I only know it was here and destroyed because pieces of it are all over the place. I've found only 2 photos from my college photo album....both of me dunking my ring at the Dixie Chicken! WHOOP! But my high school memory book and yearbooks, college memories and photos from both are all gone. I found one college diary in my neighbor's yard across the street. Good thing i found it first!! Otherwise, i could *never* be president!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The FEMA visit

So I'm sitting in the RV about to go to work and eating Spaghettio's (no, not just because I'm's a sick comfort food for me!) The FEMA guy was very helpful in steering me in the right directions, and basically giving me a checklist of tasks.

First of all, proving my house is "unliveable" will only get me temporary housing money, which I first need to exhuast from my windstorm insurance. Then i need a letter from windstorm saying I've exhausted my coverage, and letters from me saying why it wasn't enough. Separate letters for each type of expenses like gas, utilities, food, etc.

Then there's the issue of repairing/rebuilding the house. I have to have letters of denial from all 3 insurances, even homeowners although there's no question they aren't liable here. I told him our flood story and how we now have no flood but can't get them to send us a letter stating that fact. He referred me to a sign in sheet for the Texas Insurance Commission. They will "call me back tomorrow" and get on my insurance company to make them send me a letter. We also have to apply for an SBA Disaster Loan. When i have letters from all 3 insurances and a letter from SBA, THEN i can apply to FEMA to meet any expenses those 4 didn't cover.

He also gave me all kinds of advice on how the FEMA system works, how to fill out the paperwork for the best results, etc.

6 Weeks in, and we're just getting started.

Pleading my Case

These are the photos I'm about to present to FEMA to argue the "liveability" of my house:

Showing the destroyed utilities

Our bedroom

Window on the left was our bathroom

general carnage

Monday, October 27, 2008

Jackalope's Birthday Week!

The Jackalope will turn 7 this Thursday, October 30th! And because he's lucky enough to have a mom who believes in week-long birthday celebrations (yay me!) we're partying it up. Starting with his party yesterday at the ONLY place open for parties on the island....Moody Gardens Aquarium. It was *such* a blast. The party room has a big wall that is part of the coral reef aquarium, so you can watch all the fish/turtles/sharks while the party is going on. The party hostess was incredible and kept the kids busy the entire time with all kinds of cool games, etc.....and then the Big Moment. We all get to go "backstage" of the penguin exhibit, and this little Rockhopper Penguin named Hendrix comes out with his trainer. The kids got to see him do stuff, ask questions, and generally become Hendrix fans and treat him like the Rock Star he is! Jackalope had a blast and declared it a complete success, despite the fact that only 2 of his friends could come, so counting his sister there were only 4 kids. His Gran, Grandaddy & Granny all came as well.

Then on Thursday, his "real" birthday, he'll get his present from us and also from his sister. She picked out a cool game for him. We, on the other hand, have obviously lost our minds. He wanted a replacement battery operated 4-wheeler like he lost in the storm. Well, he's about the maximum age for those things so we looked for an alternative. So...on Thursday, our 7 year old Tasmanian Devil will be the proud owner of a Razor Electric Go-Cart!! Yes, we bought him a new helmet to go with it....AAAHHHHHH!


Our Insanity!

Some Signs of Life

I don't want to be overly positive.....that would ruin my reputation! But, after hiring our PA (Public Adjuster) we have had *some* signs of life in the insurance area. First, he met with our wind adjuster on Friday. By the time they were finished, the wind adjuster agreed to cover the roof, the floors & ceiling upstairs and a couple of other things. Yay! We have yet to see a dime, but the potential is there.

Next, my neighbor Bart's FEMA guy says there was some kind of major error in the sytem that deemed our house "liveable". He gave me advice as to what to take when I go stand in the FEMA line tomorrow to "appeal" that decision. I have serious doubts as to whether it will make any difference, but what can you do. We're 6 weeks into this deal and still paying everything out of pocket!

On the other hand, though, the flood insurance front is not so hot. Basically, our agent, which we were just switching to in July, has admitted he erred when sending us our first payment notice, and it turns out we paid it late without our knowledge. As a result, they say we have no flood insurance. Nice, huh? So now, we have filed a claim with our agent's E&O (errors & omissions) policy. Sort of like malpractice insurance for accountants & doctors. We have no idea what to expect on that front. Luckily Big L's best friend is a lawyer....

So, that's the state of family today, 44 days after the storm, and 37 days on the RV....

Thursday, October 23, 2008

When is shopping NOT fun?

No, it's not a trick question. The answer is....when you're paying for it and it SHOULD be paid for by insurance!!

Now that it's getting colder, my new wardrobe of t-shirts & jeans is not cutting it. I *had* to go shopping today after work to get a few outfits to wear to work. Now I'm not going all-out work clothes, mind you. I'm still wearing jeans, just got some shoes (all I had were 2 pairs of flip flops that I evacuated with) and I got some jackets & long-sleeved tops that I can wear to work. The idea of buying a whole new wardrobe should be fun, you would think. If only....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dear City of Galveston...

...thank you so much for taking time to drop by our home/RV today! When I got home from work/picking the kids up from school, I was excited to see your flyer on my door, hoping it meant you had finally had a chance to inspect our house and let us know if we are to rebuild or repair it. But I was NOT expecting what I found instead. I didn't realize you guys had enough extra time to go around putting flyers on RV's solely for the purpose of letting those folks know that you've now made up a bunch of new rules regarding RV's. I was surprised to find out that:

1. I have to PAY YOU for a permit to have an RV
2. I have to PAY YOU for a permit to hook utilities up to it
3. I can only park in my own driveway, not my neighbor's
4. I can't cross the easement, so the RV we purchased is too long for our driveway, even though I live on a dead-end street.
5. Whether my house is finshed or not, I have to remove the RV from the city by June 1, 2009 (start of next hurricane season). After all, it would be horrible for a hurricane to appear in the Gulf and for my family to be able to pack up our entire home and drive it off the island, huh??

Surely you can imagine my surprise to discover that not only have you made up a bunch of new rules which make life MORE difficult for your citizens, but you've also wasted precious time handing out these ridiculous rules instead of doing what's important like inspecting my house so I can work on it!! I suppose I should've just moved into a FEMA hotel room (which, by the way, time runs out on this weekend) and waited for YOU to tell me how to live before I made decisions on my own about putting a roof over my kids head. I should've somehow known you would have some rules that would limit me to a tiny trailer in my own driveway rather than a 35 foot motorhome in my neighbor's giant driveway. I suppose you think it would be better for me to live in your lovely tent city (that you are, by the way, closing tomorrow) than to provide my own shelter in an effort not to live off of others. What was I thinking?!?!?! So, City of Galveston, thanks SO MUCH for all your help during this difficult time. I'll see you soon, as I'm heading to City Hall with my two kids, two dogs and a few sleeping bags. Slumber Party!

another loyal citizen, barely hanging on

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

6 Days? Wow!

I can't believe 6 days have passed since I last posted. Time is starting to fly! Probably because we're settling into a routine both at home and work.

Yesterday, Big L and I took a step forward in our rebuilding efforts. We hired a "private adjuster". Basically, they represent you to your insurance companies and try to get the most they can by proving your case. They do this by bringing in people to give estimates, appraisers, structural engineers, etc. You pay them with 10% of your insurance proceeds. Not a bad deal, considering the amount of time all of that nonsense takes! They meet all the people at your house for you, do all the paperwork for you, etc. They only thing I *still* have to is my inventory. So I asked the in the world do I begin to list the contents of my closet? i was hoping he'd say they had some formula for estimating it. No such luck. Instead, he gave me a list of items commonly found in each room of a house that you can use to jog your memory. I still have to list each and every item in detail.

OK, i want you to practice this with me. Close your eyes and think of your closet. Now start listing things in your head, including an amount: 10 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of sneakers (New Balance), 6ish pairs of flip flops?, how many hoodies again??, oh wait, there's that red fluffy robe and matching slippers...oh, and that dress I wore to my niece's wedding, and let's see....winter stuff that I haven't looked at since last many jackets? Sweatshirts? Oh, that reminds me...Aggie gear! Now how many pairs of socks? What kind? underwear? Thermal underwear? swimsuits? Lingerie from a shower before I got married that I never wore? Oh wait! The gloves I DID wear in my wedding!! You get the idea. Then think of the contents of your nightstand, under your bed, shelves up high, what was sitting on your dresser, contents of the medicine cabinet in the bathroom....etc.

So...I haven't started yet.

And since I've been depriving you of photos, I'll just post a bit of a hodge podge here for ya:

My Garden
My little container garden by the RV!

Big L
Here's our party area in Bart's driveway...complete with Big L!

Big J in pj's and camo rubber boots riding his debris covered bike on our trashed out street!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

You Know Your Dog Needs a Bath When...'re sitting outside with your neighbor and he points out the swarm of flies surrounding and landing on said pooch. Nice.

Roadtrip for Backpacks

I've got myself in a pickle that I have a *bad* habit of doing. I don't have enough gas in my car to get the kids to school in the morning. And I never get up early enough to stop on the way! I was planning on begging Big L to go fill it tonight, but now it's so late...*sigh*....why do I do it?

Anyway, there's a very good reason I'm so low on gas. First off, yesterday we had to drive to the mainland, all the way up to Baybrook to the nearest bookstore. The Princess has a TAKS assignment (may the all those who invented and/or approved the TAKS test burn in....oh, nevermind) and it required reading several books at home. And no, the books weren't provided. They're supposed to use books they already have at home. WTH?? We actually did have some books make it, but that's about the 2nd thing I packed up and shipped to storage in Rubbermaid containers...just after the kids clothing. And there's no WAY I'm gonna try and find anything in storage right now. Ain't happening. thing ya know I've burned about a gazillion dollars in gas and spent a Ben Franklin at Barnes & Noble, because I can't get The Princess 4 books without getting The Jackalope 4 books. Now, mind you, books are one thing I do not mind spending money on. However, if either of them had teachers that sent home Scholastic book orders I could've gotten these books for like $1 each. Oh well!

Then, today after school, we took yet ANOTHER trip to the mainland and back. This time, though, it was for an even better reason. The principal at Westwood Elementary in Friendswood, where the kids went to school for a couple of weeks, called me at work to say they had 20+ backpacks filled with school supplies that they'd like to donate to our school in honor of our kids who had attended there. Fantastic!! And soooo nice of them! So naturally I volunteered to go pick them up. Talked to my principal on the way back and he agreed that the kids could just take the supplies in the backbacks home to use for homework, etc. Our school has plenty of supplies, but I've noticed lots of kids carrying folders home. I'm so excited to take them to Parker tomorrow!! There's an "official" donation/distribution center for items for kids at one of the other campuses, but this will be just for our kids and that makes it personal and fun.

On another positive note, tonight I finished planting all the plants that Bart had chosen for his driveway side planting areas. They look fabulous!! If you know me at all, you know I *love* to get my hands dirty in a flower garden. It's the best therapy in the world, I tell ya! Now when we sit out on the driveway in chairs, me with my Michelob Ultra and he with his Diet Coke (Big L is working late these days, so he's absent) we have something pleasant to look at. My containers all planted up and his flower beds. I've even seen 1 Monarch butterfly in my largest container! I kinda figured they'd pass us right over during their migration this year, since there are no blooming plants for food right now. Last year at this time the kids and I drove down to the beach after school one day during the Harvest Moon Regatta and watched the sailboats go by with our windows down and Monarchs flying all around in droves. I will never forget that day, as it was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. The kids and I still talk about it to this day. We had chosen to go watch the Regatta because the ELISSA was sailing in it as well. The sight of that beautiful ship in the distance, the beach and waves, and the Monarch butterflies....aaahhhh.

Tonight after I put the kids to bed, I headed to Bart's garage to change out the laundry. (MAN am I thankful for our laundry setup!) As I walked in by flashlight I could hear Bart playing his electric keyboard upstairs. Bart is quite the musician and plays all kinds of instruments from piano to tuba by ear. I stopped with the laundry basket on my hip and just enjoyed the music. It was especially wonderful considering my surroundings at that moment. And I thought "beautiful flowers, beautiful music, great friends, and my family......what else could I possibly want?"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Top 10 Things for Kids to Do in an RV

This list was compiled with much input from The Princess and The Jackalope, collectiveley known as "The Monkeys":

10. Jump on Mama's bed and make the whole RV shake
9. Clean the entire bathroom with only 1 Windex wipe
8. Honk the horn loudly when the parents are outside trying to roll up the awning
7. Make a river that flows from the shower to the bunk beds
6. Wait until we have a visitor, and then open the pocket door while Mom's changing clothes
5. Have friends over on the same day, then play hide and seek with 4 kids in 1 RV
4. Open the fridge immediately after travelling and watch the contents fall all over the floor
3. Lose the only 2 remotes in a 35 foot long space
2. Read your monster joke book out load, following each with your loudest fake laugh until your mom yells "STOP IT!"

And the number one thing for kids to do in an RV.....

1. Hang like a bat from the crown molding above the couch!!

Bat Boy

Monday, October 13, 2008

One Month Mark

So it was one month ago today that Ike came ashore. Feels like a year. Here's what we know now that we didn't know a month ago today:

1. FEMA has denied any housing assistance because "based on FEMA's inspection, the damage to your home does not prevent you from living in the dwelling". WTH?
2. We have YET to get a claim number or adjuster for our flood insurance.
3. We have a cell number for our wind adjuster but haven't seen or heard from him.
4. All we've gotten is a check for $2,500 from TWIA, and that's only because I stood in line for 2 hours at Gulf Greyhound Park to get the evacuation cost refund.
5. Our out of pocket expenses, not counting what we put down on our motorhome, is over $6,000 so far. That does not take housing into account.
6. We are back in Galveston and the kids are back at school.
7. We have laundry facilities set up on Bart's garage.
8. We have a new mailbox so we can receive mail, but it hasn't happened yet.
9. We've only been able to access our house by vehicle for one week.
10. My kids now look forward to the Red Cross truck coming down our street so they can get snacks like pudding and cookies.
11. I wanna go to sleep and wake up when it's over. And by over, I mean I have a house to live in, clothes in my closet, my city is clean, trees are green, and businesses have re-opened.
12. yes, I know people have it much worse than me, and they have my complete and utter sympathy.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


As I've already's getting hairy at work. So, to describe where/how I now find myself, I've come up with the following little equation (of course, I'm an accountant, what'd you expect??)

Accountant = Payroll Person
Payroll Person = Human Resource Person
Human Resource Person = Counselor for all types of employee grievances/disturbances

Add the confidentiality element of accountants, plus the impartiality and you get Confidante Numero Uno. Like it or not. The ironic thing is, I didn't choose accounting because I like to work with people! I chose it because I can work ALONE! LOL So, as I was told today by one such employee, since I'm the default HR person and I have to keep things confidential....I'm their whipping boy when it comes to venting. And vent they do!! About each other, and who is spreading rumors around town about whom, and who is being intolerent and judgemental vs. who is being a crybaby and a whiner. Geez Louise!! This is NOT my area of expertise, lemme tell ya. If it doesn't have a formula with an exact answer, I'm out! But it's definitely been a learning experience, and I AM happy that they see me as impartial and trustworthy and generally uninvolved in the office gossip. I just wish I had something to offer other than practical, logical stuff like "try to focus on your job and let things roll off your back".

The truth is that these people are all suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and they all need professional counseling! And I include myself in that, too! The fact that so many of my coworkers are unhappy and disgruntled makes going to work exceptionally stressful. I can't fix it, and I feel helpless. But, if I have a gift, it is the gift of empathy. This is the stuff that wakes me up at 3am and won't let me go back to sleep. My heart hurts for all of these folks and what they're going thru. And I *want* to have some helpful words for them so bad i can't stand it! All I can do is encourage them, and try to help them stay as positive as possible, and CARE about them. Ultimately, that's what they all want. For someone to CARE about what they've been thru and what they are facing. That's so hard to come by here, because everyone is in the same boat. It's hard to find sympathy or a shoulder to cry/lean on because everyone else needs the same thing. Their anger and frustration really stems from not feeling valued or cared for. "I'm going thru the worst thing I've ever experience and nobody I know gives a sh#t". I know exactly how they feel.....because sometimes I feel the same way.

Gosh! I didn't start this post out planning on it being a downer! Once I left work and picked up the kiddos, which is my favorite part of th day, we got to work again. It didn't end until Big L was home from work and Bart, and all of us including the doggies were outside working. Well, the doggies weren't working unless you count rolling in The Stank as work! Now we've ALL had showers and are settling down to some good old pizza and beer....Yippee!!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Washin' Wednesday

Wow. That's all I can Life is so freakin' weird it's surreal.

So, when I don't post for a few days, it means one of two things (or both, as in this case!)
1. I'm just too darn busy to find even 5 minutes for computer time or
2. I've lost my sense of humor and any posts would just seem like whining.

Miraculously I'm in better humor today, so the blogging can commence. Well, as you know, we re-located to the island but it didn't happen until Monday afternoon due to the boats *still* blocking our street. We didn't have time to do anything but get it parked, leveled, go eat and get ready for bed on a school night. Now granted, when we decided to go eat, we went all out. We headed for Gaido's with Bart, where I had fresh Red Snapper dredged in parmesan & flour and pan fried, then topped with fresh lump crabmeat. MAN I love this island!! We had a great time, then came home and crashed. The next morning, while eating his ceral, The Jackalope said "Man, I love living in this place!"

Tuesday morning was so wonderful. it was our first day back at Parker Elementary here in Galveston. While we were getting ready, we were watching the morning news and they were interviewing our principal, etc. When we arrived, it was so emotional. Everyone was soooo happy to be there! There were hugs and tears galore! The kids saw friends and teachers they had missed, and so did I!

When I picked the kids up from school, we went straight to Target & Home Depot where we got them rubber boots, gloves for all of us, a heavy duty rake, street broom, giant trash can and some flowers & potting soil for the pots we recovered in the backyard. My Jack Daniels half-barrell survived and was *begging* to have some life breathed into it!!

We came home and It was crazy! We planted 3 containers, hosed of the street, picked up screws & nails from the street & driveway, raked leaves, raked & swept glass that I swear multiplies while we work, and utterly exhausted ourselved. We hardly made a dent, but it made all 3 of us feel better to do something to improve our landfill of a neighborhood! When Bart got home from work, he helped us too. Two of the most annoying issues for me...wait, make it 3....are:

1. The oodles of crushed/broken glass everywhere
2. The non-stop mud that I'm always fighting to keep out of the RV
3. The STANK

Although I swear today it wasn't as bad, and I really think washing the street helped The Stank. (The Stank is an entity of it's own, therefore deserving of proper noun treatment). I'll be pouring Lysol on the blacktop before it's over...I can feel it coming on! As I tell the kids, "We're camping in a landfill, kiddos".

The dogs are utterly hilarious thru it all. Buster is truly a junk-yard dog and seems to be thrilled with his new environment. He has had a total of 4 baths in 2 days becuase of his fondness for rolling in anything smelling of The Stank. For a dog that like to sniff around....this is Disney World. Suzie-Q, on the other hand, is far less than thrilled. The first morning, when we went outside for their morning regular, she reluctantly went to the lawn of our house, lifted one hind foot off the ground and turned and looked at me like "Ewwww!" Then she quickly ran back to the steps of the RV and stared at me until I let her back in. Still, today, she will only go onto the grass if I go first, and then she will not go more than 12 inches away from, tinkle, and run back to the RV steps. Hilarious! Both of them!

So that brings me to today and what was waiting and looming over me all day until I picked the kids up.....Laundry Mountain. Never mind that every single thing we owned was clean when we left Friendswood. The dirty clothes fairy came and dumped 10 tons of laundry in the RV, and forgot to leave me a connected washer & dryer! Yes, there's a perfectly functional set (as far as we know!) in the house, but it has no water or power. The plan is to relocate them to Bart's garage this weekend. Howevery, if we intend to shower between now and then, Laundry Mountain must be conquered. And so today my kids experienced yet another thing they've never before witnessed....a washateria. No, it was not a laundry mat, it was a washateria. They helped me sort the laundry into 7 washers (why do those things only hold 3 freakin' items??), pour in the detergent and insert the quarters. The Jackalope managed to immediately jam a machine by putting in two quarters at once and we had to get a refund from the owner. Perfect. Then they sat and read the new books I had just bought them at Wally World while I watched the timers tick away. After cramming the piles into 4 dryers, we were out in just a wee short hour! I forgot how irritating it is to fold your panties in front of 15 total strangers. Especially when they're asking to borrow soap, or quarters, or dryer sheets. And all of this cost me $15!!! Holy Freakin' Crap! Not to mention I'm now BFF's with the Pakistani owner, who ended up leaving me in charge of the place while he went to get a beer next door. Told me to have anyone who needed help to call his cell phone. He also asked me to drive by his house in G-Town and let him know how it fared because he hasn't been able to muscle it up and go check on it yet. He happens to live in the same neighborhood as me, just further towards the point. Out of morbid curiosity, we drove by it on the way home, and it ain't pretty. Described by him as the 3rd house down from the barge, house number 2 is now spread all over his driveway. His is still standing and is probably salvageable, but his 3 jet skis that he says were in the garage would be toast and the whole thing sustained quite a lot of damage. Wonder if I'll go back this weekend and let him know? If I do, it better be just to give him the news, because otherwise it'll mean Big L hasn't gotten my laundry facilities up and running and that would not be "in his best interest" if ya know what I mean!

And just in case you haven't been to one in a while either...let me remind you how fortunate you are:

Note the cool shadows of The Princess, Jackalope, and me taking a pic! LOL!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Home Sweet Home

So the time has finally come. After 2 weeks in my Brother-In-Law's driveway, we are headed back to G-town this weekend! The power is back up on our street, so we're all set for hooking up. We are so pumped!! Not that it hasn't been super nice here, but there's just no place like your own place. I may even get to have a beer on my own dock before the weekend is over....heaven! So before we relocate, let me show you how we've been set up for the past 2 weeks.

Our Rig!
Our Rig!

And on top of re-locating to our own neighborhood, the kids will be starting back at their own school on Tuesday! They said goodbye to their new friends and teachers today. Knowing the Galveston rumor mill like I do, I'm sure at least one of you has heard something awful about the state of the schools in Galveston and how horrible it will be for the returning students. So, to clear the air and try and get actual facts out there to dispel all the rumors, here's some info I gleaned from a personal meeting with our Principal yesterday, and then emailed to our PTO email list:

I just finished meeting with Mr. Bouldin at Parker. I also met the
Burnett principal while I was there, as they will be joining us at
Parker. First of all, I toured the school and went to the library and
multiple classrooms. There is no evidence of damage anywhere,
although i'm sure there was some minor water somewhere. Everything
looks just as it was left on Wednesday. The library was untouched as
were all of the classrooms i went in. They are all being
professionally cleaned anyway. All of our copiers and computers are
fine and working as well. The Parker gym sustained major damage, but
it is detached from the regular building. We do not have a time
estimate as to when it will be functional again. Here's the rest of
what I found out while "interviewing" Mr. Bouldin:

1. Several school districts including HISD have loaned or donated
buses and ALL normal routes will be running next week!
2. Truckloads of supplies have been donated by other districts across
the state, so no one will need to purchase supplies (although all the
Parker student's supplies are right where they left them anyway)
3. The building has been treated and "fogged" for any potential mold
growth and the air quality is about 90% in the building. It smells
very fresh and clean!
4. If the city water is not drinkable by Tuesday, bottled water will
be provided to students and staff every day.
5. All students are eligible for free breakfast and lunch for the
first 2 weeks.
6. No uniforms for the first two weeks, and then it will be re-
7. All Parker teachers have said they are returning
8. All GISD staff will keep their jobs thru the end of the school
9. Parents will be provided forms for free counseling for themselves
or their children on the first day back.
10. There is a Pep Rally at Spoor Field tomorrow at 10am
11. All bldgs at Parker are open this weekend for staff if they want
to work in their rooms.
12. YMCA will be providing daycare for GISD employees at the San
Jacinto building.
13. Moody and 1st Step daycares are both open and accepting students.
14. Palisade Palms on East Beach is offering short term leases on
housing...The Dawn condos are offering month-to-month leases.
15. Several soccer teams are regrouping and beginning practice next

And this, i thought, was some of the best news. On the first day,
former Parker students will go to their previous classrooms as usual.
Burnett students will meet their regular teachers in the cafeteria.
Their teachers will then escort them to their new class room where
they will join a group of Parker students & teacher and will be "team
taught" by both teachers. The student/teacher ratio should be
exceptional! All of the Parker teachers that Mr. Bouldin had spoken
with were anxious to get their hands on their students and show them
the love. They are excited about returning and seeing the students
and getting back to a "normal" routine.

On a personal note, I feel that if we care about the survival of our
island and our community we need to get back as soon as possible.
Businesses are re-opening every day and they need customers to
survive. Many have help-wanted signs in the windows, including Kroger
and Gaido's. If these businesses can't get enough customers to stay,
then they won't be there 6 months down the road. if we want our
community to rebuild and to survive this crisis, then we need to rally
and return as soon as it is feasible for each of our families and our
personal circumstances.

Thanks everyone! Hang in there and I hope to see you all again


So, I didn't post anything yesterday....well I had a great excuse! Last night I hooked up with my former Bunco group here in Friendswood that I played with back when we lived here! Only now, they don't play Bunco, they play LCR....I *love* to play LCR! So not only did I get to hang with some great friends, but I also had some girl time and MAN did I need it.

Yesterday, the bottom fell out at work. For various reasons, and because tensions are very high, there ended up being a screaming incident complete with f-bombs directed at my boss, the Executive Director. Not by me, mind you, but still. I don't like to see any of our employees that upset and it has caused a real division among the troops, so to speak. Everyone is just so emotional, and dealing with stressful situations at both home and work. People who've had little damage seem to be impatient and short with those who made out less fortunately and are not quite up to their normal productivity. On the other hand, those dealing with heavy issues at home are not seeming to be interested in the good of the organization. I have a feeling it's going to be tense like this for a long time. As if working in 90 degree heat with no A/C didn't make the working conditions bad enough! In fact, here's what the downstairs of our building looks like right now...

My Office downstairs
1861 Custom House - 1st Floor

So last night at bunco, while filling the girls in on our situation and Galveston, I realized that during those days/weeks without power, the communities closest to Galveston missed out on a LOT of news. They really had no idea the conditions. For example, none of them knew that there was a tent city of people who returned to the island from various shelters only to find themselves homeless! So for the it is:

Tent City at Alamo school
Tent City at Alamo school.

Granted, it has A/C, but inside is just a ward of cots. GISD has agreed to house some of them (they expect 2,100 by Monday) inside Alamo Elementary.....can someone say Superdome all over again?

So the other day, after work, I couldn't resist going by our house again. I don't know why I do it really, but I always pick up a few things to salvage. I was blown away to find one fish in our aquarium still alive! Now after making it for over 2 weeks with no filter and just his "vacation" wafer, I couldn't just leave him there to die. I thought about trying to get him in one of the local school aquariums, thinking the kids would enjoy an evacuee fish from Galveston, but ultimately we just wanted to keep him. So...I'm off to PetCo in a minute to get a little desk-top type aquarium that we can keep in the RV. I'm sure he'll appreciate it considering this is how he's been living for the past 3 days...

His name is now Ike of course!

As always, here are some parting shots from G-town today:

Heards Lane
Heards Lane, East of 61st....this area was hit hard by flooding

Home behind 61st Street Cemetery
Behind 61st Street Cemetery

Shops on Postoffice
The shops along Postoffice between 22rd and 21st

Sky Bar!  Sushi anyone?
Sky Bar! My favorite Sushi place!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

More from the War Zone

Well first the good news...I'm in a MUCH better mood and feeling MUCH better today, thanks to my steroid shot yesterday! WOOHOO! That's my kinda crack, baby!

My day started at McDonald's where I now have a new routine of buying a bag of ice for my ice chest every day.

Then I made my way to the make-shift Post Office at the outlet mall in La Marque. Even thought spotty mail service was beginning on the island, we couldn't be sure that we didn't have a stockpile at the PO. I waited in line for 2.5 hours. And I'll bet you can guess what I found out....the GHF mail was on the truck being delivered. AAARRRGH!! But, I did get my personal mail which consisted of a lot of junk mail and my Better Homes & Garden magazine. Yay me.

I met a really cool guy in line who is from Sea Isle on the West End of the island. He owns two Boston Whalers, and after hearing the fate of ours (badly bruised and landed in the Payco Marina yard) he gave me the name and number of a Whaler specialist in Seabrook. I immediately texted the info to Big L and he was thrilled.

One lady in line stated it very, we are all equal. People from every age, race and economic status are in the same boat, waiting and waiting and waiting. Some of the older folks would make use of the very few benches along the way. We were talking about how nice it would be for some group to hand out water bottles or something. Then, on my way out at 12pm, I saw something very inspirational. A local church had set up tables and was handing out hot hamburgers for lunch for those stuck in line! This church gets high marks from me for sensing such a need and meeting it:

The Vineyard Clear Lake/

So I missed our staff meeting this morning, not realizing I wouldn't get to work until 12:30! I spent most of the day making a list of urgent bills so we can see how much money we need to scrape this week from donors. Fun fun! But, feeling better physically helps me deal with it soooo much better!

The big dilemma for Big L and i is now how to get the motorhome placed in Galveston over the weekend so the kids can start school at GISD on Tuesday when it opens. Unfortunately, there are still 2 boats in our street blocking us from driving to Bart's big parking lot/driveway at the end of our street. We're going to go check out the possibilites this weekend, and also try to salvage some of our wooden furniture from the second floor.

As usual, I'll leave you with some parting shots of Galveston today:

Hanging out the Laundry
Hanging out the Laundry on Sealy

Brown Foliage
Winnie - notice all the brown, dead trees and foliage

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Introducing "The Jackalope"

Before this blog can continue much further, you're going to have to get to know a key source of humor and much-retold stories in our family, our 6 year old son fondly known as "The Jackalope". To put it simply...he's hilarious.

Last night I was preparing a crock pot dish to put in the fridge for the next day's cooking. The last ingredient was sliced onion, which my children know very well does NOT go over well with me! So I'm about to get started when The Jackalope says "Hey Mama, I saw this chef guy one time and he said to use sunglasses when you're cutting up and onion so it won't hurt your eyes". I take a second to digest the fact that my 6 year old just gave me kitchen advice....but hey, kinda makes sense! I tell him that and agree to try it, much to the kids' entertainment. It works!! I tell him that and he says "yeah, he also said how to peel a tomato. You put it in boiling water for 10 seconds, then put it in ice cold water for 10 seconds and the peel just comes right off!".

At this point, I turn and look at him. "Where did you get this stuff?" I ask. "I can't remember his last name....some famous chef guy on TV". I try to get a mental picture of my son watching anything but Sponge Bob on TV...i can't. "You mean you were watching the FOOD NETWORK?!?" I ask. The Princess and I exchange bizarre looks. "Yep" he says. If there's one constant, it's that he's always good for a surprise and/or laugh!

I had to go to the doctor today to try and get my allergies/asthma under control. Dr. Boone knows all about my family and asked how my son was doing. It told him my story from last night and he just belly-laughed. He also gave me a steroid shot, steroid pills, z-pack, new inhaler and new allergy meds!! He's a bit worried about the state of my asthma and the potential for pneumonia while working on the island, can ya tell?! I hope it all works...I've really struggling with working in the no A/C, no fresh air conditions. I come home just absolutely worn to a nub. We shall see, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

I was actually glad to have the doctor's appointment today, because I can hardly stand to work a full day at the office. Today was payday, and gratefully we had enough to make payroll. But I'm not sure how much longer that will be the case, since we are entirely dependent on admissions and event rentals for our revenue. I try not to thing too far in the future, though....too much is uncertain and our work is too important for the Foundation not to continue on.

One thing that has struck me the last 2 days of coming and going to work is the vegetation on the island. Every bit from giant Oak trees to blades of grass is dead and brown. Salt water poisoning. As someone who loves to grow and enjoy beautiful plants, this really really saddens me. It's a very depressing atmosphere and I can't imagine how it will change the landscape of the island. No more naturaly shade anywhere? How long will it take for new trees to be grown to a decent height? The only survivors appear to be palm trees and oleanders, so perhaps that should be a lesson to us islanders in the future. With all the other priorities, how long will it be before our island home is visually pleasing again? I can't even think about it.

As I will try to do daily, here are some parting shots of Galveston today:
The Strand
The Strand business district

Railroad Museum
The Railroad Museum under Remediation

Mechanic Street
Mechanic Street...if I remember right

Mobile Banking
Mobile Banking is all we have

Central Middle School
Central Middle School under Remediation

Monday, September 29, 2008

Back to Work on the Island

So today was the first day that everyone was required to be back to work at GHF. We had an 8:30 meeting on the top floor of the Custom House, becuase the bottom floor took on 6 feet of water and is under remediation/restoration. That means the first floor has had all the sheetrock, etc removed and is down to the bare bones and these machines are pumping cold dry air in thru large tubes into areas sealed off with plastic. I'm sure there's much more to it than that, but that's how it looks from my end. The worst part is that our HVAC system was in a "boiler room" downstairs, so we have no AC in the building. Yikes! Luckily, we are all wearing shorts & GHF shirts.

The GHF crew with remediation going on in the background

More of the GHF crew...

So one of the interesting stories I've had to skip over is that of the safe in my office at GHF. I had to hire a safe company to break into it after it was inundated with salt water....and it held a lot of cash. Cash that was wet, moldy, slimy and nasty! I ended up "laundering" it in a big plastic tub filled with Lysol water, and drying it in the dryer!! (more photos I'll post at some point) Having done that and sorted and counted about half of it, I needed to make a deposit at the bank on my way back home today. Our banking branch is one of the many that is now operating out of a trailer marked "mobile banking". When I told them where my now fresh-smelling, clean cash came from, the tellers immediately broke out the gloves and masks and set to counting in by hand on a plastic sheet, so as not to contaminate one of the counting machines. Geez! And to think I'd just been treating it like plain old cash ever since it came out of the dryer!

After my stint at the trailer-bank, I wanted to check on the mom of one of Emma's friends. I've been trying to call her since the 'cane, but her cell phone has been disconnected, so I just decided to drive by. For those of you familiar with the island, this is the neighborhood across from Marshall's and Ross. And it apparently had water up to the rooftops. All the houses were either gutted or in the process and the piles of debris left for the tractors was unimaginable. Some roads were not passable, but I finally made my way to the house where they lived with their Grandfather. He was sitting outside on the porch, and although I'd never met him, I decided to go ask about Alexis and her mom. It was immediately obvious, that although very friendly, he didn't speak a word of English. With my broken Spanish I managed to find out that Alexis and her mom were safe in Houston, and that he had food (MRE's) and water. His front door was open and I could see that his house was nothing but a shell...stripped down to the studs and flooring. And yet he smiled and nodded when I asked if he was OK, and pointed to his ice chest and stack of MRE boxes. My heart broke for him. I'm sure that house is all he has in the world, and I know for a fact that he housed several of his adult children there, and at least 4 grandchildren. I wonder how and where he'll get furniture, a kitchen, a bathroom, plumbing and electrical wiring. I wish I knew a charity group to call or someone who could help this sweet man. I asked him how high the water got and he pointed out the water line...even with the roof line. I told him that we too have 9 feet of water and he nodded. Then he gave me his daughter's number in English, which he really struggled over. I wanted to say "don't try so hard...I know the numbers in Spanish!" but I couldn't. At any rate, all I could do was leave her a message and hope she calls me back so I can check on her and her children. There are so many like this family in Galveston and I wish I could help each one....I'll leave you with a couple of shots from my drive around town today:

A Common site on the Island

Red Cross handing out free food

Ike Part 3 - Catching Up

Well, I've realized that I'm going to have plenty blog about every day for the foreseeable I'd better get caught up to the present day, even though it means skipping over a lot of interesting stories between the Wednesday after the storm thru today. Who knows, maybe I'll eventually have some boring days in my life (hope, hope!) and then I can go back and add in some of the things I'm going to have to skip for the time being.

So...long story goes: The day after our first trip to Galveston, I drove to Austin for my first day of work for GHF since the 'cane. Our director had set up temporary offices at the office of Preservation Texas, which was very nice. He, the Board Pres and I worked thru things like how to make payroll with no income, what kind of insurance we have, and how to get some cash fast! While I was there, Big L was RV shopping. When I finished up in Austin, I met up with Big L, Bart and the kids at an RV dealer in Bourne, where we discovered "the one".

The next days were filled with shopping (clothes, kids stuff, stuff for the RV) and finalizing the deal on the RV. The things that did it for us were that it had bunk beds for the kids, and double slides which made the living room seem very roomy for an RV. We figured on the "livability" scale those things were tops. We got lucky and got an in-motion satellite system thrown in becuase they couldn't get the regular old sat. system to work right. Yay us!

Finally, the day came to return to Galveston County and settle in Friendswood for the time being. I drove Big L's truck with the doggies, he drove the RV with the kiddos, and we left my Tahoe there in NB. Bart was driving his sister's volvo, as he had left his truck on the island and we had discovered on our trip that it was totalled.

We got all hooked up at Big L's brother's house and enjoyed the day off on Monday. Tuesday morning, bright and early, i went to register the kiddos for school in F'wood. I was *thrilled* to run into a fellow PTO President from the school next to ours on the island!! Our boys are on the same soccer team and are now both in 1st grade at the same school. It's the little things like that that mean sooo much when you're completely displaced from everything familiar. I suppose it helps that we've lived in F'wood before, but not really. It's not our home and it never feels like least not yet.

So last week went by with school and me trying to work online from the RV as much as possible. Finally on Friday, i had lunch with my director and we took care of some more business. Then I went and stood in a 45 minute line to get my mail at the make-shift Galveston Post Office, which is now in an old gym at the outlet mall.

Over the weekend, I began to feel bad with a chest cough and allergies. To be expected from all my trips to the island for work, but still. I was very unmotivated and exhausted from my crazy-busy week. I managed to get the necessary chores done, etc. but didn't feel exactly prepared for the inevitable Monday morning. you're all caught up! Welcome to our journey, and I'm sorry to say that i hope it eventually becomes just too boring to read :-)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ike Part 2 - Adventures in New Braunfels

We are so very blessed to have some great friends in NB who also have a family vacation house that they welcome us to each time we have to evacuate. The last time we stayed here was in 2005 during the Rita evac. And holy of holies...Shan has it equipped with wifi! She also had a link to a website that was simulcasting all 4 local Houston news stations at once, so i was in heaven. And the have 2 kids that have grown up with ours, so they all played and had fun with their two weren't in school. Speaking of school, ours had now completely forgotten that such an evil had ever existed!

By this time, Big L and I had made a couple of decisions. Mainly, that we would be purchasing an RV to live in while we rebuild our house. We knew we'd want to return to the island and get the kids back in their own schools as soon as possible, and we knew that due to flooding, housing would be short. So, on Monday, we started out looking at motorhomes at the many RV dealers in NB.

Meanwhile, back in Friendswood, things were deteriorating rapidly for Bart and his crew. Percy was getting more and more agitated and was jabbering non-stop with things like "where are we? how's the weather? Aw, Hayull!" and was also becoming more disoriented and combative. Bart's crew had had quite the BBQ while emptying out our friends' thawing freezer, and had made it fine physically up to this point, although they'd now been without power for a couple of days. It was becoming apparent that Percy needed medical attention.

I actually spent my first day in NB trying to secure a room at a nursing facility in NB for Percy so that Bart could come and stay with us. Bart's friends had since taken off to places with power, and after surveying the very minimal damage at his Dad's place, Bart's dad could not be pried out of his own home with a crowbar, power or not! So that just left Bart and Percy and Bart's cat, Miss Kitty. I finally met with a nursing home administrator and found out that Bart would have to take Percy to an emergency room first. So, Bart set out for NB with Percy, leaving Miss Kitty in a very pet-friendly house with lots of food and water. He didn't make it past Katy without having to stop a Memorial Hermann because of Percy's condition. Percy was admitted and Bart continued on towards our house in NB where he arrived at 1:30am or so on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, September 16th - One of Big L's clients is a premier restauranteur on the island, and he contacted Big L on Monday and offered us access to the island if we'd meet him at 7am on Tuesday morning. We of course jumped at the chance to see our house and assess the extent of the damage! Bart wanted to join us, even though we had to leave at 3:30am and he'd just arrived from the ER in Katy 2 hrs earlier.

We arrived just a wee bit late, but so was our contact so it all worked out. Turns out we were all distracted at 3:30am and took a wrong turn, leading us to Galveston via Austin. At any rate, we get in the miles long line and proceed to the first checkpoint, where we are rejected, much to the shock and surprise of our contact. We re-assemble and wait for another person with a "pass" to show up. We get in line and wait to try again. It's then that we hear on the radio that a "look and leave" policy will go into effect at 12pm. We arrive at the checkpoint at 11:59am and are allowed in with a big "LL" written in white shoe polish on our car.

There are not enough words in the English language to describe what we saw. Debris was everywhere, in many places causing the freeway to go down to one or two lanes. As we crossed the causeway onto the island, the first view is that of Payco Marina on the right. We live right behind it. Payco was a wasteland. Not a single structure of the offices, workshops, boat houses, etc. was left. And not one boat. Boat carcasses littered the highway along with heaps of other debris.

When we approached our neighborhood it looked like a war zone. At Clary's restaurant, the roof had caved in and there was a boat where the dining room used to be. When we turned on Blume to approach our house, the sight was the same on every lot. The bottoms of the houses were completed gutted at tattered and stripped down to the studs in many cases. When we turned to go down our street, we were immediately stopped by the piles of debris and boats all over the road. We could see two totalled trucks and large sections of piers from the marina laying up on the street, but we could not even see our house. There are only 7 houses on our dead-end street and you couldn't see past house #3.

Looking down our street
Looking Down our Street

We parked and starting walking slowly up the street in amazement. We passed two neighbors who were out cleaning up...they had ridden out the storm and were still there, living with no sewer, no water and no power. In fact, it turns out that Bart, us and the family on the other side of us were the only ones that left on our street! We found Bart's boat on the street on top of a pile of debris in front of house #3.

Bart and his boat

When we got to our houses we were shocked again. Everything from our downstairs was destroyed or gone. Our Master Bedroom had been downstairs, as we were planning on doing a major remodel and it was a temporary location for our bedroom. All my clothes and shoes were gone without a trace. Large pieces of furniture, like a desk, credenza, dresser, king sized poster bed and piano were all gone without a trace. All that remained were the remnants of walls, doors and window collapsed in a pile. The hot tub that had been on our back porch was now where our bedroom used to be.

Looking in our Front Door

Master Bedroom
Looking in our Master Bedroom

Big L in the stairway
Looking up the stairs at the water level

We used trash bags to take out as much clothes from the 2nd floor as we possibly could and used some plastic bins we brought to box up more stuff for a second trip. We tried to gather essential items we wanted to salvage in one place in the upstairs for future trips. To get things out, we had to to go down our interior stairs, across piles of debris and out of the house, and then hike down the street to the truck, going around the debris field in the street. It was impossible to try and take anything that couldn't be carried by one person at a time.

We had to be out by 6pm, when we headed back to NB, the three of us. It had been an emotional and exhausting day to say the least, and we didn't get "home" until after 10pm.

to be continued with "Return to Work Wednesday"

Hurricane Ike Part 1

Wow. 2 years since I've blogged here! Where does the time go?? Actually, I know where it went....first MySpace, then get the idea.

But, nothing like a devastating hurricane to resurrect the old blogger in me! Big L and I moved to Galveston 2 years ago in July, and so we found ourselves in the angry eye of Hurricane Ike 2 weeks ago. Here's our story to date, and I'll continue blogging thru what promises to be a CRAZY and WILD ride over the next year at least!

Wednesday, September 9, 2008 - We are both at work, and watching the storm via anxiously. No one at my office is actually "working" as we're all anticipating a press conference from our Mayor at 10:30am and the following word from our Executive Director as to how we will proceed. (I am the financial Controller for Galveston Historical Foundation. Big L continues to have a tax practice in Houston with his partner and they too are trying to decipher what to do next. )

The Mayor delays and then speaks as to how the storm still appears to be focused on the Matagorda to maybe Freeport area, requests a voluntary evacuation of the West End and that's that. At work, we begin to prepare "just in case" by putting all our computers on our desks, wrapped in plastic and securing all loose papers and files in case of blown out windows.

During the late afternoon, there is another press conference by the Mayor. This time she is ordering a mandatory evacuation of the West End and a voluntary one of the whole island. The storm has shifted a bit more towards Freeport now, and not so much towards Matagorda. If you don't know the Texas Coast, that is more towards Galveston than before. Big L and I make the decision to leave, but by the time we both reach home it is about 8pm. When I had picked up the kids from school at 3:15, we were still having school until 11:30am on Thursday. They had to come to work and help me with hurricane prep, which for me meant hurriedly trying to run checks thru the deposit scanner on my desk so we'd have as much money in the bank as possible in case of a storm. When we all reach home that evening, we are all moving like crazy people, trying to do laundry and pack it, along with valuables like photo albums and pictures. To keep the kids busy, I dumped out a tub of Fall decorations from the garage and let them each pack the same number of toys and stuffed animals in it. (anyone who has 2 kids knows how important the "same number" part of that sentence is!) When they finished that, I assigned them the task of moving all the books from the downstairs bookcase to the coffee table upstairs. I honestly didn't think that was necessary, but it kept them out of my hair and I was too stressed to have them whining and fighting! I successfully packed all our pictures and photo albums in another plastic tub and packed 4 suitcases for a long weekend. I then began packing up our laptops and other electronics...wifi card, portable scanner, camera, memory card reader, and all the cords that accompany such items. We finally paused to feed the kids and get them to bed, and continued to pack and get ready until Midnight. The whole time I was working indoors, Big L was working outdoors. He was helping our next door neighbor "Bart", and together they were securing all the outdoor items. Being that we live on the water, there are boats and patio furniture and grills and kayaks and all sorts of items. Big L tied many such things to our fence to keep them from floating away in a high tide. Many were piled in our garage to keep them from becoming projectiles in the wind. During all of this, the only constant was the news. We had the local news on for non-stop updates and dire warnings. By the time we went to bed that night, Ike had shifted East yet again and was now giving Galveston the evil eye! Larry and I exhaustedly fell into bed hoping that the eastward trend would continue through the night and that we would wake to find Ike headed towards the TX/LA border instead of us.

Thursday, September 10, 2008 - Big L and I both woke early to check the weather. Not only had there been no change in Ike's path during the night, but now the storm surge was predicted to be unbelievably high on our island and hometown. Big L began packing all my plastic tubs and suitcases in the back of his truck. I woke the kids to get them dressed and fed. At 9:30 there was yet another press conference from our Mayor. This time, things had changed. There was now a mandatory evacuation for the whole island. Big L and I looked at each other with alarm. You see, we had evacuation from Hurricane Rita 2 years ago when we still lived in Friendswood, and that experience haunts us to this day. (you can read about it in my archives at The fear of Rita-esque evacuation traffic jolted both of us into mega gear. We both agreed that we needed to be on the road and off the island in 30 minutes or less. No more time to consider moving precious items upstairs. We had done all we could and were now completely out of time. We decided not to try and go to our normal safe haven in New Braunfels for fear of the traffic, and instead to go to Big L's sisters house in Sugarland to ride out the storm. According to plan, we were on the road within a half an hour of the mandatory evacuation order. I had both kids and both dogs with me, and Big L was following by himself in his truck. And to our surprise, traffic was not heavy at all and we reached Sugarland in the normal amount of time....A journey that had taken 6 hours during the Rita evacuation had just taken us 1 hour!

We arrive, along with Big L's parents, and all settle in with 10 people and 3 dogs for the storm to show up. Of course it's not coming until Friday night, so we have a LOT of time on our hands! Big L helps his brother-in-law board up the house and secure items in the yard. For the rest of Thursday, we spend most of that time glued to the news, when we're not running around to grocery and drug stores stocking up on last minute items we keep realizing we forgot!

We call to check on our neighbor Bart, only to find out he's chosen to stay on the island with friends! I completely freak out and keep inundating him with text messages about how he needs to get the heck off the freaking island. Finally, I pull all the stops and text him the quote from Homeland Security that said anyone staying on the island was facing certain death. He tells me I'm playing dirty but that I have his attention. Miraculously, a joint friend of ours from Friendswood calls him and offers his now vacant house to Bart and his crew to ride out the storm. They take him up on his offer and relocate to Friendswood! Bart has his 83 year old father, a 90+ year old man he looks after, a dog and 3 cats in our friends house. Although much safer and out of harms way, his nightmare is just beginning. The 90+ year old, Percy, begins to show signs of dementia and the sudden removal from his house has not helped. Bart is in for a very long night....

Friday, September 11, 2008 - This day brings on a whole new set of challenges. Our daughter is displaying a bad cough and has "that look" in her eyes. She'd missed a couple of days of school earlier in the week, but had appeared to be getting better, until today. We make the decision to call her pediatrician at home, as we know she chose to ride out the storm in Friendswood. After hearing E's story and her current condition, she advises us to take her to urgent care. We find one open (a miracle, as Sugarland is all but rolling up the streets to prepare for Ike) and get her in. They perform and chest x-ray and our fears are realized....The Princess has pneumonia. They administer an IV antibiotic, give us samples of a prescription decongestant to last a few days, and advise us that the Target pharmacy is still open for filling her antibiotic prescription. They also had to administer Tylenol with codeine during the IV ordeal because The Princess does not do pain, especially from a needle. After several hours, it is now 2:30pm and we are heading to Target to fill her RX and get home before it gets stormy. Naturally, Target has closed before we arrive. We begin running all over town looking for any open pharmacy, with no luck. I'm getting absolutely frantic, and am telling Big L that we will have to pack up and head west until we find a town open that can fill a prescription that day!! Big L's sister is returning from the FFA barn where she'd been caring for their animals, and she stops in a little Mom & Pop pharmacy where they are just about to lock up and convinces them to stay open for us! We race over and get her prescription filled and are still in the parking lot when they lock up for the day. PHEW!

Back at home, we prepare what will be our last meal with power and proceed to "hunker down" for the storm. I wake up lots of times in the night as the wind picks up and I can hear things hitting the boarded up windows. At 1:30am, my phone rings. It's Bart. he is getting phone calls from a neighbor whose husband and adult son chose to ride out the storm at their home on our street in Galveston! They've had to SWIM to Bart's house because it's the tallest and has roof access, and they are saying that the island must be devastated and people must be drowning everywhere because the water is insanely high and raging all around, and that ours and Bart's houses are going to be totally destroyed. Big L and I cannot sleep for worry about the people who chose to stay on the island, including these 2.

Saturday, September 12, 2008 - We are glued to the TV and to our phones as we finally hear thru text messages that the 2 got off the island safely once the water receded to knee high. The news coming out of our neighborhood and the whole island is very bad. We are shocked at the destruction that must wait there for us. Because there's no power, we decide we cannot keep The Princess there with pneumonia, as she needs to be using her nebulizer for breathing treatments. We pack up quickly and set off for New Braunfels where friends have an empty house waiting for us.

To be continued with "Adventures in New Braunfels"....