What a difference a day makes!

We actually ate at a restaurant last night.  Now, admittedly, they had a limited menu, but, hey, they were open !  While we were eating, our son-in-law tried calling his home phone.  When his answering machine spoke to him, he knew his power had come back on.  Our daughter, son-in-law, grandson, two grandcats in carriers, and their stuff (including his computer) crammed back into their car and headed home.  The two-year-old had been saying “go home” for several days, so we know he must be relieved to be back with his things.

The saga of the cats and travel is not as happy.  Each cat travels in its own carrier.  One always is a nervous-Nelly about car travel, and must be bathed when he arrives, and his carrier must be washed, too.  On this trip, both cats “lost it”.  Our son-in-law was able to bathe the habitual offender, but cat #2 was having none of it.  This fellow is the size of a beagle, and is used to having his own way.  Finally, s-i-l got a sufficient quantity of water in the bathtub, dropped the cat in, and proceeded to play goalie.  After three intercepts, the cat lost all patience and sank his teeth into s-i-l’s outstretched arm!  You know, it’s not nice to laugh on the phone when someone calls you for first-aide advice!

Torrie says “I was watching out the window to make sure they left!”

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Sock knitting and a Gustav update

Sock knitting has happened, although knitting is not providing as much solace as it usually does. This is the sock I am knitting for the Solid Sock group’s (Ravelry) September orange sock KAL.  It is Araucania Ranco Solid, color #105, Paprika, and the pattern is Bells and Whistles by Mona Schmidt.

My restlessness is fueled by the changes in my world.  Stores are, for the most part, still closed due to power outages, so “shopping therapy”  isn’t available.  Our daughter, son-in-law, two-year-old grandson, and their two cats remain as house guests; power remains off at their apartment.  The public library hasn’t reopened yet, either.

There have been some positive things sited this weekend. The roses, battered by many hours of hurricane Gustav, have budded and bloomed again.  This one is Perfume Delight, a damask rose, the genetic grandaughter of Chrysler Imperial.

Grass has also eagerly invaded the rose garden, as you can see.  DH has weeded a little, but must take it in stages as he recovers from surgery.  I’m glad he was able to get out and enjoy puttering in the roses so soon, though.

St. Patrick’s church has closed its feeding station as the worst of the power outages has resolved here in Zachary.  They served 2,100 plates of food in three days – an astounding number for an effort by a small group of people.  Yesterday St. Anna’s Mobile Medical Unit from New Orleans came and parked at St. Patrick’s.  They are staffed with doctor and nurses, and offered everything from evaluations to vaccines as their outreach service.  For the past three years, all efforts have been directed down to New Orleans; now they have come to help us.

As I watched the storm blow for hours on end, pushing white-capped waves across our lake from East to West, I worried where our ducks, egrets, and herons would find shelter.  They managed…today I saw the flotilla  of mallards, led by their white goose, paddling down the lake.  Then, on the far shore, I spotted our egret.  Oh, joy! Not only was I glad to see her, but that would be a worthy trial for the telephoto lens of my birthday camera.

I think it did very well…see the egret’s reflection in the water?  DH gave me a Nikon Coolpix S550, and so far I have been very pleased.  It can do much more than I have asked of it, but it is still new to me.  I have been most pleased with its color fidelity.

Get Up and Do It Again

Day 2 of St. Patrick’s respite feeding, more volunteers, more supplies.  Episcopal Relief is sending funds, and we received a shipment of to-go boxes and bottled water.

Today’s menu was much appreciated by the locals:  “Bambi in gravy” on rice, with black-eyed peas and mixed vegetables, brownie for dessert.  (I took my diet meal of beans, thank you very much.)  Hunters have donated from their freezers deer sausage and deer roasts.  They have been keeping the freezers going with generators while they wait for power to come back on.

I spend the day on two tasks:  cooking rice and washing huge pots.  I had taken my 19-quart electric roaster to the church when we set up to cook for crowds.  It is Teflon-coated, and turned out to be an excellent way to cook, well, 19 quarts of rice at a time.  The hardest part was watching to make sure Fr. Chad didn’t come in and lift the lid to check on it.  Every time you do that you lose a lot of time while it has to make up for the heat lost!  I’d turn my back and concentrate on scrubbing a pot, and hear the clang of the lid going up – not again!

A year ago, I couldn’t stand for an hour.  I had to sit down in parts of the church service where I was expected to stand.  Now I have served two long days of service doing physical labor in the kitchen, with very few breaks.  I write this as both a hallmark of how far I have come, and as an admission that I can’t yet do three days in a row.  I’ll be home today.  There will be much more to do, with months of hurricane recovery ahead.

Pictures soon.  DH ordered a proper camera for my birthday (birthday went by while he was in the hospital.)  The camera was delivered last night, and its battery has charged overnight.  Now we’ll see what it can do.

Our Brave New World

Today I received an email from our priest, Father Chad (St. Patrick’s Episcopal) saying

“The disciples said to Jesus, ‘Lord, send them away for it is late and they have had nothing to eat.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t send them away…YOU feed them!

We have enough food to feed all of Zachary and that is exactly what we plan to do.  If you are where you can, come to the church.  We will feed you and we will put you to work.  Come quickly!  The crowd will be heavy.  This is what the church does, and it is going to be great fun.

So I went.  We cooked elbow macaroni and meat spaghetti sauce, and served it with green beans.  We set up for folks to drive through and be handed plates to go.  Every time we ran out of something, a way was found to replace it.  The seafood restaurant on the corner gave us a large package of to-go boxes.  We used up all of those, too.  Father Chad figured we served about 100 plates/hour for 3.5 hours today.  We’ll do it again tomorrow.

St. Patrick’s is a day school as well as a church, and our teachers were there helping serve food (as volunteers).  Fr. Chad knows how to hold out a carrot – they were invited to bring their laundry along and use the school’s washer/dryer while they worked in the kitchen.  Hey – when you are out of power, such are life’s little luxuries!

Meanwhile, our son-in-law was on the great hunt for gasoline for his car.  He had about 1/8th tank, so couldn’t drive to work around the parish.  (He is a computer support guy for a national company.)  Finally, the line looked a bit shorter, so he gave it a try.  He just arrived home after only 1.5 hours in line, victorious!  Many have spent 4-5 hours in gas lines, so he did really well by waiting.

Meezer happiness and a recovering Louisiana

We are going about life, grateful for what we have.  The Meezers are collectively extremely grateful that DH is home; less so that our 2-year-old grandson is staying with us.  He’s a fine boy, but they are uneasy about humans that size.  Wait until they find out that our son-in-law has gone back to their apartment to fetch their two cats!  All guest cats will remain in the guest room, unless the grandson lets them out.  I don’t even want to think about the turf war that could cause!

DH and the cats are observing that fine tradition, “universal kitty nap time”.  That’s the time mid-day when no kitty can keep its eyes open any longer.  DH’s recuperation continues to progress, but naps are much appreciated.

A little update on the town is in order.  The grocery store a mile from here is open.  I went out to make a supplemental grocery run now that our refrigerator is up and running.  We hadn’t stocked for our house guests, so this was my chance.  The grocery  has eight registers operating, and each has a line that stretches to the back of the store.  I have never seen so many people in that store before.  I finally decided that people had brought whole families to go shopping because the store had power and air-conditioning.  It was a matter of buying what they had that you could use.  You could tell who had power or gas stoves and could cook vs. those who had no refrigeration and were buying cans of ravioli.  The city had posted a policeman at the store, but he was mostly being courteous to folks and enjoying the air-conditioning himself.

The drive home again had to be circuitous, but not due to flooding.  The Shell gas station down on the corner has gas, and they are dispensing it to a line of cars that stretches around six blocks.  Again, city police presence is cheerful and helpful, but no-nonsense.  I couldn’t come home the short way because it would have put me in the line.

We saw our neighbor out on the lawn talking this morning, and went out to chat.  It seems that his chimney was blown over onto his roof yesterday a.m.  They have a hole in the roof, and water damage to dry wall and carpet.  (Would that be “wet wall”?)  This happened in the heavy feeder bands after Gustav had moved past us up to the northern part of the state.  The chimney was on the far side of their house, so we hadn’t seen the damage.

Hurricane survivors!

Here we are, safe and sound. I can’t believe we have power back already! Our subdivision has no large trees, and does have underground utilities. As soon as the power comes back to the main trunk, we are up.

I left home in the rain this morning, leaving behind no land-line phone and no power. I was heading over to the hospital on the chance that they would be discharging DH. Cell phone function was spotty at best, and I wasn’t sure he could reach me when they released him. Zachary had fared better than Baton Rouge. I saw a few big trees down, but nothing in the road. There were one or two low spots where it was best to be in the center lane, but those are the same spots to beware of in any heavy rain.

The hospital staff deserves all commendations for carrying on in style under extreme conditions. They were functioning under generator power, which means lights in the halls, not in the rooms, and an emergency outlet in each room to run essential medical equipment. DH’s nurse had her scrubs cuffed up to her knees to cope with the heat – kinda cute, when paired with her hair in a ponytail. She had to hand write the discharge instructions to allow him to leave. That’s another extra mile!

Both DH’s primary MD and his surgeon agreed he was well enough to come home, but the big problem was getting a pain prescription filled. No pharmacy was open, no power was up in the town. Just when it looked like he would be stuck in the hospital for another 24 hours, the hospital lost its generator power. (Updated to add that this hospital has been evacuated now to Oschner, West Bank – that’s down near New Orleans, about 2 hours’ drive in normal conditions. So glad I got DH home!) That upped the ante to get him home. Primary MD called around and worked his magic, getting the pharmacy beside the hospital to somehow open up. We were told the door would be locked, and the closed sign would be up, but knock, and say Dr. G sent us! It worked!

Travel home was almost impossible. It had been raining heavily for the two and a half hours I was at the hospital. Little puddles became impassible lanes. We were encouraged when, far ahead of us (toward home) we saw a stoplight on. Power!!! But there was street flooding to negotiate yet. We drove past our church, and saw the parking lot under water, and the flood up the front steps, to within 6″ of the church hall. Yipes! The most direct route home was under water, so we went around several more blocks. We did have to drive through deep water just a half a lot from home. A street comes a bit downhill and comes to a T intersection between our home and the home next door. The water roars down that street and makes a turn to the left, as we also needed to. I held my breath and eased through and up into our courtyard. Home safe! I wouldn’t have dared to cross that water if I hadn’t watched it come up in that pattern before, and knew what it was. Even then, it was at the maximum that our car could manage.

There was a human interest story here yesterday. Diane Deaton, the weather anchor for WAFB, was broadcasting from the emergency operation center. Word was received that the windows of her car had been blown out by the storm (parked back at the TV station). She was very concerned because her Bible was on the front seat. Not only did she cherish it, but it had many study notes written in. Diane really hated to loose that! When her 12 hour shift was over she came back to find the windows indeed blown out of her car, and the front seat soaked…but her Bible was completely dry! What a miracle!

Hurricane preparations

We’ve begun the dance to the tune of “Here I go again”. Katrina left us out of power about 6-8 hours, as did Rita, but we were extremely lucky. The television stations advise to be ready for at least several days without power. DH will ride out the storm in the hospital, his surgeon assures us.

Our next door neighbor and his son came over last night and moved our cast aluminum patio table and chairs to the garage. (I had already managed the umbrella and the wind chimes. Don’t laugh: the wind chimes are about 4 feet long!) I haven’t boarded up the windows as they do on the coast, nor have I taped. On the other hand, there are no mature trees in the subdivision, and only the lake behind me, so much less to fly at the house. Oh, and knitting has been selected. In other words, I’m ready.

I will post again as soon as I have power.

On a cheerful note, you haven’t been ignored until you have been ignored by a cat.