A.W.O.L.

Random photo of Teddy standing dressed as Ace Halloween 2009

Another random photo of me dressed as a naughty school girl. It backfired because everyone thought I was someone’s daughter!

The strange thing about blogging is that you feel a responsibility to followers and friends.  I have been absent without leave for a few weeks and can’t help but feel guilty about it.  Like most of us, life has intervened into my usual routine and I have been a little frazzled.  Lots of new contract work has kept me busy but my mind has been blank despite all the opportunities for people watching.  I wondered if my health was deteriorating but my psychiatrist seems happy with me – I had some wonky blood results (that’s a clinical term…) which raised anxiety levels.  My cholesterol levels shot up but my inflammatory markers that indicate plaque, risk of stroke or heart attack were good.  My extended Irish family has a huge file on our family risk of heart problems in the main hospital in Dublin, so I have always been proactive about eating well and exercising.  But I can’t think of anything nicer than a baked potato smothered in butter…

Then I had a skin biopsy.  My dermatologist just went straight to the point – “I am taking a biopsy to check for basal skin cancer”.  Yes, it also appears in the Irish family – dang those genetics.  Why couldn’t they just leave me money in their will??  I didn’t truly enjoy my short vacation in San Diego which is why I haven’t blogged, although looking back there were some lovely moments including finding ancestors graves.  The news has just been so awful that I have started watching Fixer Upper instead of CNN.  We finally got around to ordering a new door after Hurricane Harvey only to have the wrong one delivered…  Teddy wondered if I made a fuss but there was no point; many of our residents have lost everything.

One of my friends housed their neighbors whose house was flooded.  The children just moved back last week and my friend was sad – what a beautiful person she is.  All of my contract work dried up immediately after the hurricane because no-one was able to or wanted to hold conferences in Houston.  One of my employees had a wee party for their staff in the garden of the office.  It was so much fun and I won the raffle for 4 tickets to Kemah which is our equivalent of Coney Island.  Well, I have no kids and don’t know anyone who has apart from my angel friend.  Apparently her neighbor was overwhelmed that a complete stranger would give them a gift.  No one could have felt happier than me, paying it forward feels good.

Two of the events that I have worked for recently have incorporated the conference contributing or volunteering to the Houston Food Bank.  Thank you!  One day when I was working at the airport, I helped a volunteer by translating for a passenger who only spoke Spanish (then three more turned up).  After that, I was still standing there when two men came up and said very loudly and incomprehensibly, “Haw Missus, how do ye get out of this airport?”  The volunteer looked perplexed.  Was it Serbo-Croat or Icelandic?  I recognized the accent from Glasgow in Scotland where I grew up.  Laughingly, I said, “Come over here boys!” Their faces lit up when they heard my (much posher, think Maggie Smith) Glasgow accent.  One of them had his arms wide open and said, “Gie us a cuddle” which I did and the other one hugged from the other side, kissing my ear.  I sent them on their way and laughed at the look of horror on the elegant volunteer’s face.  They were either oilmen or mariners who had travelled from some far flung place, Kazakhstan perhaps?  A few refreshments had been imbibed but there was nothing sexual about the cuddle.  It was one of kinship and comfort in a strange place.  Gosh, I felt homesick for the first time in years that day.  Despite all the turmoil recently, Texas mostly feels like home.

Get ready for some fun blogs and sorry for my absence.

 

Hurricane Harvey – please go away

Everyone was rescued, even the cat

I imagine that most of you have seen this photo and your heart sinks. It is hard to imagine but it just gets worse with our reservoirs releasing water to protect their structural integrity.  I, and people around me, can’t help yet because so many roads are flooded and we don’t need to add to the rescue attempts. I got to the supermarket today, less than 5 minutes away, and started asking the staff how they had fared. Quite a few had water in their homes but none devastating. We laughed about how good Gorilla Duct Tape was and wished each other well. I am on the north of the city which is much less badly affected but areas near Lake Conroe have been evacuated and that is further north than us.

As I approached the supermarket, I could see a police car blocking the bridge over Spring Creek which is now a raging torrent bursting over its banks. Our creeks are mostly rivers but they can dwindle down to almost a trickle when there is a drought. You must all feel so frustrated looking at the TV and wondering what you can do. The Red Cross website is hard to access at the moment but your money would be so appreciated. I have survivor’s guilt, stuck in my house, unable to go to and volunteer. This morning I cleared my closets of everything that might be useful. I have towels, sheets, clothes, shoes and even a pet crate to donate.

Kim of Glover Gardens has an excellent series of posts about the hurricane and ways that you can help. As Kim pointed out, we don’t want you to travel here yet unless you are a specifically trained volunteer (Red Cross, for example) and they will start arriving at airports over the next week or so. There may be a need for volunteers in other parts of Texas where the evacuees will go after the immediate triage. Hope is in abundance with people like Mattress Mack, a local furniture magnate and benefactor. As soon as people were being evacuated, he opened the doors of his furniture stores for people to stay. Can you imagine that kind of generosity? Then there was the Cajun Navy and all the boat owners who came from all over Texas.

We have a wonderful phrase in Texas – “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as soon as I could”. That spirit will help us through this. Last night someone with a giant Caterpillar truck came to the rescue and people were helped up ladders into the truck. The news reporter asked the police officer who the volunteer driver was. The policeman said you can ask him but he doesn’t speak English! Actions mean so much more than words right now. Some of our medical facilities have had to evacuate and I felt so sorry for the patients and families. My heart goes out to psychiatric patients and those with dementia. I am struggling to keep my anxiety under control but ironically I am really good in a crisis. Teddy is still in Austin, on his third visit to the doctor. Now he has reacted very badly to some bug bites and sometimes he gets blood poisoning with the red lines going to his underarms. Really, Teddy???

I saved an armadillo today! As I came back from the supermarket, I noticed a disoriented armadillo crossing the road to our subdivision in daylight. I stopped the car and persuaded him to hurry up before he was squashed. Maybe he will be under my deck tonight, safe and sound? Now I have a dilemma. My dead mother made me promise never to give away the teddies we had bought her. Her childhood was teddy deprived but that’s another blog. We are all allergic (including the cat) to stuffed toys so I have had to put them in the attic. Despite my promise, I think I would like to donate some of them to a shelter where the children have lost everything. I am going to sleep on it and if you are reading this from heaven, Mum, send me a message in a dream.

Hurricane Harvey update

Its bad, really bad. We live in a small city north of the main metropolis of Houston and although parts of our neighborhood are flooded we are on higher ground than most. Maybe you just think of a skyscraper city but in reality we are one of the largest cities in America with a population of 6 million people. Before people it was, and still is, a very large delta system on low lying land draining into the Gulf of Mexico. You could compare it to somewhere like Bangladesh but we have many more resources (and oil refineries).

You might wonder why we didn’t evacuate but this storm developed very quickly and you need to plan very carefully to change road systems. In any case, how do you evacuate 6 million people and where would we go? We learned some lessons from previous evacuations. More people will die on roads than if they stay at home, even if it is flooding. This is a catastrophic weather event and Rockport is devastated. Every waterway in the greater Houston area has flooded its banks.

Teddy is stuck in Utah because all flights have been cancelled. He is now planning to travel on Monday from Utah, to Denver, to Austin and then take a rental car. Right now he could not drive from Austin to our home as all routes are flooded. He is in panic mode because he feels frustrated being so far from home. I had to counsel him to calm down and think rationally. He was running out of medication that you cannot stop immediately without a risk of death so he phoned United Healthcare and that was sorted. Then I persuaded him that getting here is low on his priorities and all work meetings will be postponed. I picked up my cell phone just now and had to delete 6 messages (in the last hour) regarding flash floods, tornadoes and other issues in my immediate area.

This is my yard flooding


Rain, Rain, go away

The photographs show what it is like in my yard which is not in a flood zone during the heavy bands of the storm. One blessing is that it comes in waves which allows water to dissipate somewhat, ready for the next wave. It calmed down about an hour ago, so I put on my ancient rain boots (that I now know are leaking) and my rain poncho. Debris had floated down my French drain (dry creek) blocking the water flow like beavers’ dams, so I gathered it all up and went to visit some of my neighbors, especially the older ones. Although we are not in immediate danger, this is a really stressful situation. We worry about ourselves and even more so about all the people in danger. As soon as this leaves (and this will not finish for days), I intend to go back to volunteering. There will be many Red Cross and other volunteers/federal workers travelling through the airport with specific staging instructions.

On a final hilarious but poignant note, I noticed that one of the volunteer airboats had two men dressed in camouflage and a giant Confederate flag on the side. I suspect the flag was always there but as I said to my friend, they could be wearing full Nazi regalia and I would get on their boat!!! Houston has historically been a bonded, community oriented city no matter our ethnicity. The good Samaritans that you have seen are working incredibly hard in dangerous situations. Outside help cannot reach us so the authorities have asked anyone with a safe boat to help the rescue. So, if you really think that ANY MORE STATUES need to be removed and be protested about, please reconsider and put all your efforts into helping Texas recover from this. If you have nothing else to do, we will need people to raise money, actively volunteer, remove debris and rebuild. This is a time to think about what it means to be a community member and a proud American.

Random thoughts while waiting for Hurricane Harvey

Katniss, the feral cat

This isn’t my first hurricane rodeo but this one worries me. We are way beyond the tidal surge but millions of people are not. Our ground has been saturated with rain this year after a decade of drought and there is no room for the expected catastrophic rain event to go. Our house is on a gentle slope upwards from a containment pond but this year our street flooded up to the garages.

I filled up my hurricane box months ago with water and other essentials but when I went to the supermarket yesterday the water had disappeared. It is ironic that in the midst of so much water you might not have any. If the flood is too much the water treatment facilities break down. That’s why I have so much bleach… We have a new roof (the old one was leaking) so now it will be thoroughly tested. My garage door is leaking so I will get it resealed after it is all over.

There is a lovely generator sitting in my garage with no gas in it but my car is full of gas. Teddy is in Utah and likely stuck because the airport will close at some point. I can’t start the generator but there are plenty of strong men in this street. My email today to the neighbors stated that I have a generator with no gas which I will share but not my ONE chocolate bar! Hurricane Ike brought our neighbors together with a fun community vibe and we are still close.

Katniss (pictured above) is our feral kitty visitor. She disappears for weeks and then reappears like the drifter grifter she is. For the past few days I have been over feeding her like a goose for Christmas dinner. (We used to eat goose in Britain until America’s turkeys invaded). Right now we have the calm before the storm which has a sinister, quiet feel. The temperature has started to drop but it will come down dramatically during the Hurricane.

Harvey is such a happy name, isn’t it? I was communicating with my friend GP Cox, Pacific Paratrooper, who wrote a great post about Jimmy Stewart’s extreme PTSD after serving as a WWII bomber pilot. I saw Jimmy Stewart in London in 1974 when he was starring in the stage play of Harvey.

Well y’alls, we Texans will be grateful for your thoughts and prayers over the next few days. Our power might go out and I will have to write with a pen and paper. Whaaaaat! Just between you and me, I would go buy some gasoline as both the gulf and land oil fields will be affected by this. Perhaps this will bring us all together in a crisis instead of fighting over statues. Now I am going to summon my native ancestors with a ‘no more rain’ dance. 😁