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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Life in November

Bad as I hate to admit it, seems I can only update this blog about once a month. Lately it's not even that nothing is happening, I just can't seem to get in the writing mood. And oh how I always loved writing; it was the heart and soul of myself. I'm not sure how it came to this: rarely any writing. I guess it's due to not "just doing it" ... instead of procrastinating, writing in my mind, not onscreen or paper. Wish I could promise to do better, but the older I get, the fewer promises I make to myself. Life is just happening...without many plans by myself.

To give you an example: My nephew's wife and my two grand-nieces have lived near me since I moved back here. I would sometimes see the kids out playing, stop with the dogs, talk and then be on my way. I always invited them over, but they never came by -- except when the tornado struck, they did check on me. Part of my hesitancy and theirs was probably due to the fact that my nephew is divorced from A., and with due cause (he got seriously messed up on meth). A. has since developed a good relationship with a very nice guy, and they are planning to marry soon. They have been living together for a year or so, and he brought his two young children to live with them.

At any rate, several months ago, my grand-niece, S., started dropping by. At first she only stayed a little while, but then gradually she came more often and stayed longer. She is ten, so it was like getting acquainted with this entirely amazing little girl with her own unique personality. We'd never been very close, and I became more and more intrigued. Anyone who knows me would be quick to tell you I'm not overly fond of small children...say, less than seven or eight. And infants, uh, no...just never had that particular mothering gene. Still, over the months, I've grown fond of S. and her sister, H., as well as the other two kids, age eight (girl) and (boy) nine. Oddly enough, S. and I never run out of things to talk about. She's a little chatterbox, and of course, ever the writer, I have a million questions to ask her. This whole experience has been truly remarkable, and something I never expected -- knowing my loner tendencies. And though I have no idea why, S. seems extremely fond of me; her mom says she talks about me all the time. As I stated, I don't plan, I'm just going to roll with this...see how it progresses as I visit them and they visit with me, share activities together.

One weekend recently I invited all the kids over for a movie. I made popcorn, gave them each a piece of chocolate candy with fruit drink and we all watched the movie on my big-screen TV. It was a revelation for me during the children's movie, since they all like "Big Foot" and were quick to assure me that he is REAL! And most important, it was fun.

I've just returned from several days with my sister in Huntsville; had a great time. We took the dogs to the "Galaxy of Lights" on the "bring your dog" night. Mostly they sniffed every inch of the path, marking here and there, trotting along with the many other dogs. Beautiful lit Christmas attractions, friendly crowd (dog owners always friendly with each other!), unbelievably mild night, light wind...perfect.

The second day my sister and I took the dogs to a wilderness park near their home. Even though we knew rain was predicted, we thought we had time to get in a walk...but about halfway along the path, it started to rain. At least it was unseasonably warm, and it just made us walk faster and put the hoods of our rain-jackets up. Here's a couple photos of the park:

Look at those dark clouds...we should have known it was about to rain!

This is the path, truly scenic area.

Some photos of the dogs at my sister's house:

Oscar covered himself in this old quilt we had put across the car seats!

Rambo takes over the softest chair!

We had our family Thanksgiving a day early, met at a local restaurant and enjoyed the food without actually having to cook it ourselves. None of us really like cooking, so since mother died, we opt for a restaurant. It was nice get-together, and our last living uncle (mother's youngest brother) was able to be there; he lives in Arkansas.

I do cook sometimes however, and here's a recent veggie pizza with homemade crust I made:

Here's some photos of the cats on the prowl late one afternoon in the backyard.

Bitty Kitty on the garage. She'd just been stalking a squirrel in the tree.

Slinky stalking the grass...

As seen above, my two indoor cats continue to thrive. I don't often let them out into the backyard, but before it started getting dark so early, I would sit on the porch and read while letting them roam in the yard. The stray cats I feed are also present and accounted for. While I was away on my trip, I got the neighbor guy to feed my cats and the strays (couldn't let the strays go hungry!)

This is my backyard in mid-October before the leaves fell, and after I had a damaged pine cut. The top of the big pine was wrenched out during the tornado, and had I not gotten it cut, beetles would have taken over.

A recent foggy morning in late November.

I've got quite a shopping list this year for Christmas, but haven't bought a thing yet. I know what I'll be doing in December.

The new Sheriff has declared that this year the Sheriff's Rodeo (in a couple weeks) will be dedicated to my late husband as a Memorial. I'll be there for the opening ceremonies, of course. Late husband got the rodeo started, so it's only fitting he be remembered. It raises a lot of money for the Sheriff's Department too.

I guess that about rounds out the latest for November. I'll turn 60 next Saturday, hurrah! Contrary to how many people feel about hitting 60, I'm just happy I made it to this age. After all, the doctors told me at age 25 I'd never live to see 30. Shows how much doctors know, ha!

I'm outta here!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Fall is last!

Greetings! Yours truly updated my photo to the right, taken around noon today on my back porch. That's an almost-60 woman looking back at you, so try to take that into consideration.

And at long last, I'm writing a post. I wish I had an excuse for not posting, but nothing extraordinary has been happening. And I can't complain, because being content is a nice way to live! However, it's somewhat uneventful and doesn't create material to blog about. As a writer, I could embellish and be creative - but this blog is not creative writing, it's about my life. Thus, my life has been in a peaceful phase.

Oh sure, there's some ups and downs. The down hit on Sunday afternoon when I discovered my car was having trouble with the power steering. Kept hearing a noise when I turned, and then Monday morning there was fluid all over the carport. NOT good news. However, I quickly made arrangements to have my brother-in-law drop by with power steering fluid, then follow me to the nearest mechanic shop. Left the car there overnight, had it fixed by the next afternoon and walked to the shop to pick up the car. I'm just glad the long walks every day with my dogs keep me fit enough to tackle a trek if necessary. Highly recommended, you never know when walking will be necessary. I do have AAA, but this situation was resolved without calling them. I had offers to take me to pick up car, but I wanted to walk. Glad I can still do that!

Today was a memorable day in that I applied for late husband's SSI benefits -- as an unmarried widow about to turn 60 (Dec. 3rd) I'm eligible for that. It's a bit reduced but I'd rather get it started, and save what I can. Oddly enough, though I've been looking forward to this time for five years, on the way to the SSI office, I nearly burst into tears. I was just overwhelmed with thoughts of husband, and wished he'd lived to file for the benefits himself -- or at least knew I was doing this on his behalf. He worked from the time he was 16, off and on, until he died at age 58. It's really his SSI, but I know he'd be glad for me to have it. That's just the way he was, always concerned about my well-being in every way.

The appointment went well, and I should receive my first direct deposit in January. Just the act of filing was a great relief for me, since I felt it was something I had to do on my husband's behalf. I guess that seems strange, but that is how I feel.

As for all the political wrangling lately about SSI benefits (not entitlements, BENEFITS that were paid for from each paycheck!) I fear the younger generations will NOT get it at all. By then, it'll probably be non-existent and everyone's retirement riding on the gambling casino we call "the stock market." Lord have mercy on the younger generations' souls, because to be at the mercy of the market...for your retirement, sounds like a nightmare to me.

What else? Well I've been enjoying the wonderful Fall weather, going for long walks with the dogs. And engaging in a few other fun activities, like the live concert at our local county fair last Saturday night by "The Kentucky Headhunters." It was great, and my sister & brother-in-law went with me, then spent the night.

Saturday we went to Tuscaloosa, to visit their son/my nephew; he's in law school at Alabama University. We also rode through the tornado-damaged areas of the city, and I have to say, there's been great progress made in clean-up/rebuilding. I was curious to see how their efforts compared to our local city, and I'd guess we're about the same in regards to progress.

Here's some photos brother-in-law took at "The Kentucky Headhunter" concert with his cellphone--not great quality (I forgot my camera!):

What else. The dogs, as usual, keep me entertained...when they aren't snoozing on the sofa:

The stray cats still have to be fed -- this is Goldie & Mister/Mister complaining about a late feeding:

Sometimes this tiny black cat shows up, a feral and won't allow me close enough to even see if it's male or female. I feed it on the other side of the fence, since the other strays seem to intimidate Blackie:

My PC desktop failed a couple weeks ago, so I had to buy a new computer. I got a Dell from Walmart, and so far, I LOVE it. Don't know if my love is for Dell or Windows 7; I dreaded the learning curve, but trust me, it was easy as pie. Windows 7 is much more simple, and seems very intuitive -- knows what I want even before I do (that might be scary!).

I am disappointed in Roku though, because it seems to have failed also -- in less than a year after purchasing. Either that, or my wireless router is failing. Haven't tracked down the real problem just yet, so have been watching Netflix streaming on my computer screen. As Rosanna Rosanna Dana used to say: "It's always something!" Amen.

And I guess that is all for now. Maybe when winter sets in, I'll be inspired to stay indoors and write more? Who knows? The autumn weather is too gorgeous to stay indoors, and soon...leaf raking time will be here. I do plan to have a couple of damaged trees (due to the tornado) cut down next week, so there will definitely be less leaves to rake this year.

For now, I'll leave you with this great video of "The Kentucky Headhunters" -- one of their biggest hits and one of my all-time favorites:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fridge made from clay pots

This an interesting video, and something to keep in mind if you are ever without electricty for a prolonged time. I know it would have been great to have this easy-to-make fridge during the extended time I was without electricity. It can be ready for food in 12 hours, which would allow you to save some of your freezer stock.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

What I've been thinking about lately....

Here's something many young people today do not understand: the stock market is basically a gambling casino. I knew that when I had stocks, and glad I sold out before all the turmoil lately. What is happening NOW is nothing new; it's happened before and here's a video that aptly shows where we're headed by NOT learning the lessons of history.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Happy July 4th!

One of my all-time favorite patriotic songs...might surprise you. But I absolutely LOVE this song/video by Waylon Jennings!

Happy July 4th everyone!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Video of tornado path through my county/city

I found this incredible video on YouTube which shows a map with red-line for the path of the tornados through Cullman County, including the city. Also, there are people talking about their personal experience as well as incredible images of the damage from one end of the county to the other.

Just wanted to post this, in case anyone would like to see it -- and as a reminder for myself in the future to never take ANYTHING for granted.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Scorching hot summer

Below the Mason Dixon line, the temperature leaped from mild spring to blistering hot summer. And it's not even officially summer yet! The past couple of years there's been extreme weather all over the world; and while many might not consider this ominous, I do. Call it climate change, global warming -- there is no denying weather patterns have changed, possibly getting more extreme in the future.

I suppose my theory on extreme weather continuing is that a combination of factors are contributing: human activity (cars/factories/etc); gradual repositioning of the earth's slant/rotational axis and coming alignment (2012) with the black hole in the center of the Milky Way; north/south magnetic poles slowly changing places. There's more of course, but those seem to be the main culprits. Frankly, whatever contribution the human activity has been, it's far too late to change now. Kinda like a runaway train gaining momentum, it can't be stopped. In human history, there have been episodes of extreme weather, and depending on the severity, it can wipe out entire populations. Water shortages are usually the biggest factor, but when you have human civilizations constructed around ideal weather, there will be a die-off when that weather turns freaky.

Do I sit around worrying about this? Nope. I'm almost 60 years old, and what time I have left on earth is not going to be spent fretting about something I can do nothing about. Well, except prepare to survive the best I can. The recent tornado here taught me to expect the unexpected; never, ever entertain the idea: "It can't happen here." It sure can and most likely will at some point.

And speaking of the tornado, the heavy machinery is still roaming streets. The massive tree trunks, complete with roots/dirt, have been the last to get picked up. There were four such trunks across from my house, on the street curb. Yesterday the FEMA contractors started working on removal; huge trucks, a crane and long flat-bed trailer. Still, they had to use chain-saws to cut sections for loading. The crew worked till 7:00, and only got two removed. I assume they'll be back sometimes today to get the others. The dust was overwhelming, making the air already saturated with pollen from no rain, stifling!

However, there is progress -- work is going on every day at various damaged houses. The woman across the street (where the massive tree fell into her house) had to move out; yesterday though, a work crew started repairs. It's going to be quite a task though. Don't know if I'd ever want to buy a house that surely must have had structural damage from the impact of that gigantic tree. Otherwise, several blocks up the street, almost all the roofs have been repaired/replaced. The two streets north of me, where the worst damage occurred, are like a construction zone. Only worse, due to all the debris still be piled on the curbs. It's basically just lots of demolition and debris, terribly noisy. The people in what few houses are livable over there must be living in misery -- noisy, nasty dust, crews, etc.

In the meantime, the city council/mayor are holding meetings with a city planner/architects which are open to the public. All the business/residents whose property was destroyed are also at the meetings -- trying to hash out a plan for restoring the historical look of downtown and the residential historic district. I have read they might have two-story buildings, with loft apartments above the business. And perhaps more pedestrian friendly, cafes with outdoor eating places, a downtown grocery -- really needed! I hate driving out to the malls just to buy groceries, especially when I just need a few things. I could walk to a downtown grocery (well, that is, weather permitting!).

When I was growing up, everything was within walking distance: schools, grocery, movie theater, clothing stores, etc. Gradually it all disappeared, moved out the malls on the north/south end of town. HAVE to have a car to get there, wouldn't be safe on foot -- no sidewalks to walk, and the possibility of being killed by an SUV-driving, cell-phone talking driver would be high. Rant over.

I haven't been able to walk the dogs as often, due to horrible heat. When I do, we go to the wooded park -- either early or late. I miss the regular exercise, and I'm sure the dogs do too...but the heat is just unbearable. During the hottest part of the day, I shut my wood doors, put the shades down, close the wood shutters in several rooms. My new air conditioning unit runs a lot...I sure dread seeing my power bill! Argh.

But at least I have some good news: I finally found a comfortable recliner. I have back problems (5 herniated discs), so sitting on deep, soft cushioned furniture would kill me! I have to have firm seat/back, and trust me, it's not easy to find that design. Sister & I shopped most of Tuesday in furniture stores, and we found not one such recliner. At last, we stopped at Walmart...and I fell in love with a theater-style recliner ($149.00). It was even about $200.00 less than the cheapest recliner at furniture stores. It came in a box though, so I hired the guy next door to bring it in, put it together. It was very simple though, no big deal. I'm enjoying it greatly, and my back pain has improved!

Here's a couple photos:

It looks like only a modern-design chair when not reclined.

It has two positions, but this is my favorite for watching TV! Better than seeing a chiropractor!

And with that, I'll end this post.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hot Air Balloon Show

Finally, a much-needed fun trip with sister, her hubby & my nephew. They picked me up yesterday a bit after noon; we went out for some lunch at a deli, then headed about 40 miles north to Point Mallard park in Decatur. Nice drive, good to get out of Dodge for awhile.

There was a big crowd gathering for the hot air balloon show, and though it was hot, we were able to set up our chairs near a wooded area. Sitting in the shade, there was a nice breeze blowing too. Unfortunately the wind prevented the balloons from going up; but near dusk, they were inflated for "a glow show." Once inflated, they were fired up and as it got darker, created huge glowing balloons.

Before the show though, sis and I walked through the arts & crafts arena, looking at all kinds of pretty craft work. It was a bit uncomfortable though due to the heat radiating from paved walkways. Still, an interesting display.

I wish we'd waited till this afternoon (Sunday) to go instead; tonight there will be fireworks after dark. Maybe next year or the next time the balloons are there, we'll go again. You can even take a ride in a balloon -- doubt I'm that brave, but I know the view from up high would be beautiful, rolling hills and lush verdant countryside.

It was all free too! Even pets were welcome; I should have taken mine, but didn't know if there would be many dogs. There were quite a few, even an Oscar-twin!

A fun day, and nice to get away from home and try to forget all the tragedies lately with tornadoes.

And now a few pictures of the outing (click to enlarge):

The immense size of the balloons was surprising - nothing like seeing them on TV or in shown in the next photo.

HUGE balloon!

An Oscar lookalike! Those folks also had a cute doxie puppy with them. I should have taken my dogs; they'd have had a ball!

Near dusk when the balloons were firing up, giving a glow to them.

All in all, a near perfect day!

One last positive bit of news: According to the city council, they've hired a city planner to come in and design rebuilding plans for the destroyed downtown district. They are thinking of going with an historic "New Orleans look"...having two story buildings with loft apartments on the second floors. Oh, and possibly a downtown grocery store -- which would be within walking distance of me. It seems as if the town will be designed with historic features, possibly even better than before! I hope so.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Living in noisy neighborhood

First, I'm not complaining. At least the loud noises are due to clean-up crews and on-going efforts to clear tons of debris from the streets. However, it is difficult to get accustomed to, since this was a quiet neighborhood, very little traffic.

Our city contracted with FEMA/Army Corp of Engineers to assist with debris removal, and the huge trucks started routes over the weekend. Many of the massive tree trunks were simply too large for our street department to handle. In addition, for several weeks, the FEMA/Army Corp trucks will be provided at no cost to the city. I'm very glad for their involvement, and so should everyone be in this city/county.

Every day I think the chainsaws will stop, but every day there are some going somewhere. Today there's a couple going behind my house, a fallen tree that is just now getting cut.

Fortunately the work crew I hired finished all my repairs yesterday, roofing and debris removal. I gave them a bonus, because they showed up soon and did my fencing, as well as my roof work for a low price. I have hired them before, and I know they are trustworthy - will use them any time I have maintenance and/or repair issues.

This morning I ran errands in town, then decided to mow my front yard since it was cool. Really quite nice outside, and the mowing went quickly. Tomorrow I'll mow the back yard. Still haven't decided if I'll hire the guy next-door to mow my lawn -- maybe only when it's too hot for me to mow.

Tomorrow I have hired him to help me clean out the garage and hose down the cats' sun porch. Quite a job! I could do it by myself, except for the lifting/moving of large stuff. The cats are shedding terribly; I usually brush them while they are in the yard during late afternoon. Still, the porch needs a good hose-down/scrub -- something I usually do every six months or so.

As I walked the dogs today, I stopped to talk with an elderly lady. She was upset because people had been dumping all kinds of stuff near her curb -- a dish-washer, old doors, building supplies, etc. I also have seen pickups stop on the streets, and guys get out to start unloading debris...don't think they live in this neighborhood, probably just dumping because they know it'll be picked up free. There's always going to be those who will take advantage of any situation; but those who do so during disasters are about the lowest of the low, in my opinion.

Sunday afternoon I took photos on the dog walk, and will post those now. (Click to enlarge)

This is behind an historic house several houses from me; there used to be a large garage there, nothing left of it.

The same house from the front; it looks like a different place without the huge trees that used to be there. This was the home of one of our first city's doctors long ago.

Further along the same street, work crews from the cable/internet were out still trying to fix downed lines.

This is one of the FEMA/Army Corp trucks contracted to gather heavy tree debris from the streets

Historic house along Fifth street; it was one I had posted along my usual dog walk last year. Damaged but will probably be restored.

Standing on Fifth Street looking toward Fourth Street, which had terrible damage. I could not even see those houses before the tornado for all the huge trees. It still saddens me to see how greatly the landscape has changed!

Another historic house that was spared, but with many big trees down in the yard

This was a beautiful wooded lot beside a house, and now looks like something out of bombed area

That white house is another historic home that suffered heavy damage, but can be repaired. All that debris in the lot is where a cute little rental house stood; they bulldozed it this past weekend, due to a massive tree falling through the middle of the house.

Three blocks from me, lots of damage....

One last thing: Sunday night, May 22, there will be a program on Discovery channel about the tornados across the South, including our city. Local people will be featured. Please check your TV listings for the time, if you want to see this. I am going to watch it, since I missed most of the immediate news coverage due to power outage.

And that's it for today.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Videos of the tornado

I wanted to post several videos of the tornadoes -- there was actually three tornadoes touching down off and on that day, April 27. The large center vortice is what came directly over my neighborhood, but I am located at the outer edge and apparently it was lifting as it crossed over my house. Otherwise I might not be writing/posting this; it was a ferocious monster system!

As you watch this, be aware that the large vortice was touching down right over my neighborhood -- you can see a bit of it lifting -- and that's when it passed directly over my house.

The following video was taken from the local National Guard Armory - that's the tornado sirens at the beginning. (Rambo is in my lap, and when he heard the siren, he looked up and started shivering!)

Here's an aerial view of the tremendous damage:

And lastly, a close-up view of downtown -- more sights/sounds like I lived with during the first week. The video camera is actually on Fifth street in downtown, the route I drive every time I go into town.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tornado Photo-blog

Late yesterday afternoon I lost internet/cable for a couple hours, and it was no big deal. I went out on the back porch, watched my indoor cats enjoying the outdoors. Two of the outside cats, Mister Mister and Sore Paw, ventured over the fence, and though all four never got close to each other, they sniffed around and eyed each other warily. Interesting. I also read a novel; the weather has cooled down, pleasant.

And now for the photos I've taken. Most of these are on my street, around my house, and close neighbors. When I walked the dogs yesterday, I realized all streets are nearly cleared, tarps on houses, etc. Maybe today or tomorrow I can take my camera and walk the same route I photographed last year - do a side-by-side comparison for my blog.

Click on any of these to enlarge, captions beneath pictures.

This is the back of my house. You can see clearly how the huge pecan trees fell over my house and caved in the garage roof. Due to the garage being cement-block under the siding, it has no structural damage.

The dog kennel beside my back porch was crushed in places, but blocked enough that the dogs could actually use it sometimes for their "business." I could dodge and crawl around under the tree limbs to get inside the gate, clean up their mess. Had the porch/kennel not been spared, the dogs wouldn't have been able to go out of the house - a nightmare I don't wish to dwell on!

My fence damage, sections on the ground, some of it leaning.

Another view of downed fencing

The next morning after tornado as I was walked up the street - you can see all the downed trees; further along, tree trunks blocked the street entirely. It took several days before it was cleared enough to get through.

Brick house across the street; a massive tree fell right through the center of that house. The lady was home, in the next room -- said she heard the loud boom when it hit the house, then creaking, groaning, snapping, popping as the tree tore up the house. It demolished the front of her house, don't know if it can be repaired. But she's still staying in the back of the house; it took five days to get the tree cut/removed and a crane was used, as well as front-end loader. Quite a job!

Neighbor's house on west-side of me - huge black walnut tree fell into the back of it. Some has been removed off the roof, but the rest is still there.

View from my yard looking up the street this week when street workers were loading up debris, a look at how high the piles had become!

Tree cutters on my roof, removing tree limbs

Garage after tree was removed. The entire roof will have to be replaced, some decking and the main beam, which was broken. I have a tarp on it now.

This is the leaning tree. It's on the neighbor's property so I can't cut it. There's a squirrel nest in it, and the babies come down...they are big enough to leave the nest now, in case it does get cut. What concerns me is that if that tree falls toward my house, it will hit my bedroom roof and possibly destroy the cat's porch (the small metal-roofed extension by the garage).

Baby squirrels venturing down the leaning tree. They get on the garage tarp, scamper around. I put some pecans out there one day, and they got them!

Fence damage repaired. LOVE my back yard, and notice, the vine-covered tree is fine! That's Bitty Kitty sniffing around beside the fence one afternoon.

Happy pups playing in the yard. Rambo did about five fast laps around the yard, he loves to run. He'll tuck his head and tail down and just fly! I said I should take him to the track! (smile) Oscar usually doesn't run much, but he did the first day out in the yard - and then they started a wrestling match, then chased each other.

I'll try to have photos of the neighborhood damage soon. I didn't want to take pictures while crews were out working or people searching for stuff in the rubble. Overall, it pretty much looks like ALL areas after a tornado - almost all such scenes look like a bomb was dropped. Sad.

That's it for today.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wicked Tornado Aftermath

May 9, 2011 Monday

Yesterday morning it was finally quiet, no heavy trucks/equipment, chainsaws, sirens. What a relief! Loud noises have upset me ever since I had that car wreck two years ago. And after experiencing the roar of a tornado, every sound seems amplified. At times, I find myself jumping at an unexpected, loud noise. Even when the dogs bark.

Of course, what I thought would be a peaceful day was ruined around noon when rubber-neckers started driving by. The streets are now passable, and apparently the national guard is gone. From noon till near dark, it was almost bumper-to-bumper traffic on the one-lane of my street. I tried to be understanding, but by the end of the day, I wanted to jerk people out of their cars and scream, "Have you seen enough yet?" Please, if you are reading this, NEVER visit a tornado-damaged area to sight-see; watch the news, and don't add more misery to people already traumatized. My late husband, as a law enforcement officer, was always disgusted with such behavior, and I sure understand why.

I hired the guy next door to help me with clean-up yesterday afternoon too. First he mowed my yard, then he hosed down the driveways, carport, back porch and patio where debris from that fallen tree had made a nasty mess. It looks much better, and as long as I stay on the back of the house, everything looks normal -- except for the missing big pecan trees next door.

And speaking of trees, I called my lawyer a few minutes ago about that leaning pecan tree from the property next door. Everyone who has seen it says it will fall with hard, straight line winds -- or saturating rain. Some of the roots are out of the ground, and I have noticed it seems to be leaning a bit more toward my house every day. I have taken numerous pictures as proof of what's happening. Anyhow, my lawyer is checking into it and will get back to me.

This morning I had to run errands in town and deposit my insurance check. I went to the library in hopes of wireless access to the internet, mainly to check a couple of important things. I do online banking, and bills are coming due. I paid the first bills by mail and check, since our mail ran the second day after this disaster. Thanks postal workers! There was no wireless at the library, but at least I found several good books as well some movies to watch at night.

Then I drove out to my cable/internet provider, asked if they could give me any idea when my service might be restored. The lady told me she thought it'd be tomorrow or the next day. And they are giving all customers who stay with them a free month + one week. I really do like the service I have; I get great speed online, especially for Netflix, and at a reasonable price. I can wait; patience is something we need to practice more.

Sleep is still a problem. I go to bed early, wake around 3:00. Last night I read for about an hour, and when I finally put the book down, I went to sleep. One of the ladies at the library said her grandson couldn't sleep, and loud noises disturbed him too. It's classic PTSD, but when you're living through it, very difficult.

Also today, the street department has front-end loaders working my street to pick up the huge chunks of massive tree trunks and debris piled alongside the curb. If you are able to get the debris to the curb, our city will pick it up free. I have told several street workers, when I saw them on dog walks, how much I appreciate their efforts. As my late husband used to say, they must be working "from can to can't" every day.

The dogs/cats have settled down a bit. Especially my dogs. They aren't needing to sit on my lap and be reassured as much lately.

It's hot here today, near 90 degrees. With the hot temperatures comes the possibility of severe storms. I dread the first bad storm we have; it will be difficult after what we've been through.

And with that, I'll sign off today.

May 10, Tuesday

First good night's sleep I had last night. Feel better today, a little rested.

The street workers are at it again, almost to my house. When I walked my dogs late yesterday, I went up the street -- and oh my, it's like walking a dirt road. I hadn't realized the dirt/sawdust would coat the street in several layers. Maybe the street sweeper will come along after the debris is gone; the next rain will finish clearing that dust. In the meantime, I've closed my windows...but had to anyway due to the heat. We may hit 92 today, but no rain predicted till maybe Thursday.

The work crew might be here tomorrow to repair my roof/garage. They said they'd be back as soon as they completed another roof job they'd been hired to do.

Talked to my lawyer again late yesterday, will let him handle the landlord/leaning tree issue. I called the landlord and asked him to take action about the tree; as usual, he just said he would. That is what he always says about ANY problem with the rental, then never does anything. Sigh.

Spent the morning sorting through my many photos of the damage, trying to label and store for posting and also as reminders of the devastation. I know it's human nature to forget exactly how bad the experience and damage was, and photos are a way to be reminded, to never forget. As well as my journal writing.

It may seem that I haven't mentioned being thankful I survived, and how others here have had it much worse. Frankly, though I'm thankful I survived, the trauma has been worse than anything I've ever been through. Comparable only to losing my husband. For several days I wasn't able to function; I sat in one chair the entire day after the tornado, listening to the radio. Stunned. I don't think I could survive another tornado if it happened within a year. The aftermath is entirely as shattering as the event, worse than I'd ever imagined. And while I know I did come through with less material damage than others, the emotional scars will always be with me. My neighborhood has been almost destroyed, altered in ways that can never be restored. This is the place I've always felt safe, my true HOME. I even wrote several posts about how happy I was to be back here after the few years away. I sometimes feel disoriented, and get flustered when I need to concentrate; my hands even shake a bit when I'm doing something.

I do have deep compassion for those neighbors who lost homes and businesses, but at least there were no fatalities in our town. Two fatalities out in the county though. I know that I'm too emotionally fragile to help others in worse condition, except to commiserate, talk and listen, witness their suffering; we're all in this together. However, I know myself very, very well; I recognize the signs of too much stress/trauma from other times of distress. I really don't want to get back on medication, like I did for a year after my husband died.

Another reason I'm having a difficult time is all the previous losses of the past five years. After I lost my husband, I lost a brother-in-law (DH's brother); an uncle; mother-in-law; aunt; my mother and several close relatives of my sister's husband. I've been through two re-locations/moves and two car wrecks, both of which might have killed me. This tornado is kinda like the "last straw" emotional state is precarious. I have to take care of myself first, before I can help others in any real way.

Still no internet/cable TV. Instead, I've been reading a book from the library and writing - my basic tools for coping. I lived most of my life without the internet, and I could learn to do without it. I think what I'd miss the most is quick access to abundant information, regardless of what I need: everything from medical research to a tasty recipe. I used to hang out at the library for such information, but gradually replaced that with internet research.

I'm continuing to re-evaluate other aspects of the internet, especially in regards to news. I believe I'd been reading TOO much news and it only caused frustration. Yes, the facts of a news event are important to know; but just the facts and only the facts. And not from a gazillion different sources; pick a few news sources, read the factual article or watch the video, then move on. Leave off media commentary or internet speculation. Knowing what is important to me and my region is first; then national, then international. My husband always said local community comes first, that dwelling on endless bad national/international news is pointless. Will try to remember this!

Now back to some "normal" life...laundry, house-cleaning, cooking. You'd be surprised how these small tasks keep you centered. I don't think I missed a single day of sweeping the floors; I'd do it by rote, feeling like I was carrying on my regular routine. Never under-estimate the little things that make up your daily life!


It's almost bed time, just wanted to add a few remarks from today.

Finally ALL the debris is gone from my street, glad and relieved. Took the dogs to the wooded park, then came home to sit on the back porch while my indoor cats enjoyed being outside. I read some, but also watched the baby squirrels playing in my vine-covered tree. At times I'd see a baby going round and round a thin tree limb, as if amazed at its ability! I LOVE watching wildlife, soothing and entertaining at the same time. Also peaceful after dealing with people for days on end.

The work crew won't make it tomorrow, but I really didn't think they'd finish the other roofing job. And honestly, I can use a couple of quiet, peaceful days without having to deal with people and constant decisions.

Watched a great Hallmark Hall of Fame movie tonight, always good for the heart & soul.

And off to bed now.

Wednesday Morning, May 11, 2011

I want to give a big shout-out to the regional NPR news station. I have been able to learn national/international news. Most regional and local radio stations barely give any news, just music. And that's fine if you want to relax and listen to music. However, NPR news station does keep updated reports.

Another thing I've not mentioned is why I didn't load up the dogs and go to my sisters' homes (both tried to get me to do that) or a pet-friendly local motel. Here's the reason: if your home is livable at all, it's best to stay. Mainly for practical issues: insurance adjusters coming by, hiring work crews to take care of damage before worse problems happen (such as roof leaking, causing interior damage), potential looters...and more. Of course, many people have to leave due to their house being demolished or unlivable. In my case, as difficult as it has been, I'm glad I stayed. I have pets/cats/dogs and I'd be stressed worse worrying about them (especially the cats) if I left. Additionally, it's been a tremendous learning experience, something we should all embrace. Witnessing disaster up-close and personal has given me an opportunity for insights I'd never imagined - and particularly aren't covered in-depth via the news media.

I wonder about the farm where DH & I lived. I know there was a man killed in that area, and I hope the couple are okay and the farm didn't suffer damage. The couple who bought it have a baby now too.

Had I stayed in my other house in the city, which is south of here, I'd have had NO damage whatsoever. Yet, if I still had this house rented, I'd had to deal with everything I'm doing now. Only worse, as renters would have been involved.

Today is the first day life seems normal for me - with the exception of the internet/TV. My back yard looks almost unchanged; my fence is actually in better condition, because some of the posts were rotting. The street crews have moved on, the debris is gone, and though the landscape has greatly changed, I'm sure I'll adjust to it. Emotionally, I'm feeling calmer, a bit more settled.

In one of the news articles from the local paper, a resident whose home was demolished, said, "I don't think we'll rebuild. Once a tornado finds a path, it tends to return."

That is probably true, and I know every outbreak of tornadoes here tend to follow a similar path from the west to northeast, varying only in about a 30 mile north/south radius. However, what we experienced this time was tremendously powerful, unprecedented. The paths of touch-down were all over mid-north-Alabama. And as I stated earlier, I lived through the '74 outbreak that destroyed my grandparents' home. This time it was different, more powerful and destructive. The Tuscaloosa tornado was an EF5, and ours an EF4; NOT the "usual" class of tornado we have.

Enough for now.

Late Afternoon

A quiet day, almost feel normal. Sister will drive down tomorrow, and we're going to a new thrift shop that just opened. It's HUGE, has endless racks of clothes, shoes, furniture, everything a fun thrift shop should have. And cheap prices! Fortunately it's close to where I shop in town, and I'm sure I'll find lots of bargains there in the future.

The past couple of nights, I've had dreams...disturbing dreams that always feature my late husband in danger. I don't dream of him often, but when I do, he's always in a perilous situation and I can't get to him. I'm sure it's because I wasn't able to be with him when he died so unexpectedly. But these recent dreams incorporate stormy weather in one way or another. Isn't the sub-conscious a curious human mystery!?

Hot, hot, hot here today. Had to take the dogs to the small wooded park, streets are blazing with heat.

I am starting to enjoy having quiet time to sit and think, instead of the constant distracting presence of the internet and/or TV. I feel my creative imagination returning more every day, dreaming dramatic scenarios, "hearing" dialog." I didn't know how badly I'd missed my imagination...and blame that on too much internet. Every day I'm not online, the more revelations I experience. I am beginning to dread when it comes back on, hope I will NOT get plugged into a waste of time again.

I received a copy of the letter my lawyer sent to rental property landlord; it states if the tree falls on my property and causes damage or injury he'll be liable not only for compensatory damages but also punitive damages. He advised me to keep the copy, include photos, and if the tree falls, we'll take action. Good enough. I doubt the landlord will have the tree cut, but at least he's been given a warning.

Now back to an engrossing novel I'm reading. Have a good Netflix movie for later tonight. I could get accustomed to this life!


And the idea has taken form & title: "The Leaning Tree." Of course it will be suspense...with a grain of truth in it. I'm observant if nothing else, and I've seen something very, very suspicious. I'll leave it at that, because I never like to give away a story/plot idea.

NOW I remember why I loved the solitude of creative writing; it is soothing to the soul. And shuts out the noisy, hateful world of reality. I'm never in denial about the real world, but fiction (whether I'm reading or writing it) makes sense of a senseless world. And that, my friends, is ART.

Nighty Night all.

Friday the 13th!

Cable/internet came back on last night, and the first thing I did was watch some footage of the tornadoes over Cullman. What a mean-looking thing it was, but oddly enough, even the large one which hit downtown wasn't as massive as I'd imagined it. I think the loud roar caused me to imagine it as big as the one that hit Tuscaloosa -- and EF5. Nature's fury unleashed!

Earlier today we had our first loud thunderstorm, and I did better than I expected. I stayed busy with housework, but occasionally went out to look at the leaning pecan tree; it was whipping around at times, limbs almost touching my house. I've done all I can - whatever will be, will be.

I want to revise something I wrote about "all charity being local." I think being without connection to the internet/TV made me feel as if I were stranded on a desert island! Hence, I was imagining only local help. Last night I watched part of a country music benefit on CMT for the tornado victims, and I realized that one amazing aspect of our country is that WE are ALL Americans, and we do come together (regardless of political differences) when tragedy strikes. That is what makes me proud to be an American. I've given to the Red Cross (wrote an article about the local branch when I was at the paper) and United Way in the past. I deeply appreciate every act of caring whether large or small. I believe the shock of disaster often renders the victims unable to truly conceive of anything much beyond their own immediate needs/situation. Or at least until it's in the process of resolution/help. That is where outside aid/help/volunteers come in, because they are more objective and do the hard work of meeting needs of a community. If this makes any sense!

I am glad to have access to the internet again, yes, and also television. My rant on the "reality tv shows" was meant mainly for the gross-out ones -- in which people are humiliated, or given incentive for repulsive things like eating worms. Yes, there was a reality show in the past that had "contestants" eating worms. That, in my book, is exploitation. If done right, a reality show CAN be informative - but there is a thin line between exploitation and inspiration that should not be crossed. Sometimes it's a matter of taste, and sometimes damage is done to families in the name of "entertainment." I find that unacceptable, and not worth the money such a family might make. There has always been some quality drama -- usually hour long programs. I like "Brothers & Sisters" (missed the past two, will have to catch up); Law & Order series; and more.

As for the internet, it's one of the greatest sources of information ever. But as with anything, there's a dark side and I plan to steer clear of that. AND to limit myself to a certain amount of time, so that I'll have quiet time to sit, think, write/create. Art is needed in times of chaos and disaster, perhaps more so than any other time.

Thanks to the friends who emailed me or posted a comment on my last post. One of those other rare benefits of the internet: friends!

My next post tomorrow will be a photo-blog of what I've witnessed here during the past two weeks after the tornado. For today I'll post this one photo taken about ten minutes after the tornado, when I walked outside to talk with other neighbors. You can see the tremendous pecan trees down across my garage/house, as well as Goldie (not really a stray now!) sitting in the yard. She greeted me the moment I walked out the door! (Click to enlarge)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Something Wicked This Way Came

NOTE: I am posting this via my sister's computer; I still don't have Internet access, and don't know when I will. A major fiber-optic line was destroyed during the tornado. I am doing okay, considering what I've been through...still emotionally shaken, of course. I have been writing steadily on my laptop, and the following says it all...

April 29, 2011

So, it's the day after the worst outbreak of tornadoes here in, possibly, history. I lived through the 74 tornadoes; myself & late husband's house was barely missed; same with my mother/sisters, but my paternal grandparents house was demolished. Fortunately they were in the storm cellar, unharmed.

Yesterday though...devastating. As I sit writing this on my laptop, I can hear helicopters overhead; obviously news crews and air ambulances. Power has been out since yesterday afternoon, but I had the laptop battery charged. Also, I have a handcrank AM/FM/Shortwave radio -- if you don't have one, go buy one when you finish reading this post. The value can never be overstated; I have mine on, listening to news - otherwise, I'd know nothing. My cell phone has been good to keep in touch with family, who are all okay. But I don't have a car charger, so when the battery goes, I'll be unable to communicate with them. I could just kick myself for not buying a small portable digital TV with battery backup! Had been looking for one, just hadn't found what I wanted.

As for damage here, next door neighbor's pecan trees fell across my garage and onto my house. I don't think there's any roof damage, except shingles blown off on the house; however, the garage is caved in! The tree is across the dog kennel too. My cedar fence is down in places, so the dogs can't go into the back yard without a leash.

Yesterday when I wrote the last Twitter about the brief dog walk, and hearing sirens...right after that, all hell broke loose. I got in the central hallway of my house with the dogs, bunches of pillows and hunkered down. And sure enough, sounded just like a train -- except, maybe not -- there was the most spooky LOUD roar that seemed to go on and on. The dogs were whining, burying their heads in my lap. I left the back door open and could see debris flying around, then my wood fence flopping back and forth before going down. Honestly I don't remember hearing the tree hit the house, there was just so much loud noise...and that awful, awful roaring. But it was over as quickly as it hit.

I got up and went to the back door, saw the tree down, got my cell and called my sister. She's in Huntsville, and I knew she'd be scared to death if she seen the damage from here on the news. They are also now without power, due to tornado damage at Browns Ferry Nuclear plant -- possibly for four to five days.

Anyway, next I went to the front door and saw neighbors coming out of houses, so I went out too. Everyone was just walking around shell-shocked, staring and pointing. The rental house next door has a couple of pecan trees on top of it, and I think that's the end of it, though the renters were unharmed. But I don't think the landlord has insurance, definitely a total loss. From what everyone was saying, about one block south there was hardly any damage; but north, the landscape was wiped out, hardly anything left standing. I am not sure about fatalities in our city; but have heard on the news that CNN puts the dead in Alabama at 162 - at this time. (Later revised to 300+)

Then as we stood out there, someone said MORE tornadoes were on the way...all of us ran back to our houses. And though it was off and on warnings, sirens going off, mostly we just got more rain and high winds the remainder of the afternoon. I got outside between showers and took photos (which I hope to post when I am able to get online with this update). It was a long night, but I actually went to sleep early, exhausted. I woke up around 4 AM, turned on the radio and heard that water might become a problem. I got up and filled as many containers as I could, and ran the bathtub full just in case. I already have a lot of plastic jugs of water in the garage, but thought I'd add this - especially for drinking water in the containers.

This morning I got dressed, ate some cereal (I put my milk in the freezer) and then called my sister. Afterward, I took the dogs on a walk; I got some more photos of the neighborhood. The street I live on is entirely blocked by huge trees everywhere - have no idea when it'll get cleared. I only went about two blocks, had seen enough - just couldn't handle seeing any more damage.

Power poles and lines are strewn about, looks like it's going to be a long time before we get power. At least my car wasn't damaged, so I can get out and go down another street to town. Right now I have enough food, and don't want to be in the middle of the work crews.And honestly, it feels intrusive to take pictures of those suffering misery and shock/devastation. The only problem I might have is getting my BP medication; I only have 3 pills left, so I may have to venture out Saturday.

And I think that's it for now. Oh, the tree limbs dented the top of the cat porch, but no leak. I let them in last night after the dogs were in their crates, and they stayed in all night -- on the bed with me! My dogs and cats were all freaked out. The stray cats made it through, I've seen all of them this morning, whew!


It's after dark now, and the national guard is out in the neighborhood enforcing a curfew. It feels like a war zone here, hovering helicopters, national guard patrolling the streets, and never-ending ambulance/police sirens wailing. Trust me on this, it's an entirely different experience actually living through this than watching it on TV.

My brother-in-law brought me some supper from the church, and I guess I'll be going to that church to get at least one meal until stores open; I see no way to replenish food supplies. I do hope to eat most of the frozen batch cooking, will get ice to keep it cool. Plus, eating out of cans, which would be necessary without power is going to be pretty bad indeed.

I took the dogs for a longer walk this afternoon, and when I finally ended up back on my street farther along than this morning, I literally wept. It doesn't look anything like "my" street, all the big trees are twisted, broken or down; grand old houses are destroyed all over the historic district.
I felt sick to my stomach, had to head back home. There is nothing to prepare you for losing the familiar landscape you've lived with for 40 years! Even now, just thinking of it makes me nearly cry.

My niece & her kids/hubby came by earlier, checking on me. Said they also had lots of food, if I want to eat with them. And I can recharge my cell phone on her car charger. They live about a block from me, so help is close if I need it.

I'm overwhelmed emotionally, going to end this for now.

Tuesday May 3, 2011

I finally found some batteries for my QuickPad, and can write more detailed information.

It's been hell - literally. I thought I was holding it together until yesterday afternoon; I had a complete come-apart. I think it was a combination of the relentless helicopters overhead (mostly news), the constant noise of chain-saws and a possibility of more thunderstorms. Plus, I learned that my insurance agent had appraised my damage, and I thought the amount was too low. However, when he came by today, and explained the breakdown of figures, it seems fair. I will NOT cash the check until I have all the repairs done. I will need a new roof on the garage, and possibly half of the house where the tree landed.

I think I got scammed on the tree removal; it cost $3,000.00 and I see the insurance estimated that to cost between $500-1,000...perhaps I'll report the outfit to the attorney general.

I have calls in to a roofer and fencing crew; can't wait to get that fence repaired, the dogs are driving me nuts since they can't go out. The husband/wife who did a lot of work on this house will come in the morning, and maybe he can do all the repairs...even the roofing. I just want the basics done, so the roof doesn't leak and the fence is repaired. Like when I had the car wreck, I've learned that material things are only temporary; what's the point of spending tons of money on the finest things? It can be gone in the blink of an eye.

As I'm writing this, the guy next door is mowing my yard; he charges only $30.00, a real bargain. When the power comes back, he can use my battery mower and it will cost only $25.00. I don't know if I'll try to mow this summer - that's a good price. Most mowing services charge $40.00.

The power company worked on my block today, and I'm hoping we MAY get the electricity on tomorrow sometimes. The north end of the city and some parts of the lower south end with malls is already on.

What a nightmare it was trying to find gas right after the tornado. I only had a fourth tank of gas when all this broke loose, and didn't get more until two days afterward. Even then it was limited to $20.00

Today volunteers delivered two hot meals, and though I am a vegetarian, I ate chicken. I was just about out of food, have only can stuff I needed the food. I had a bag of ice in my freezer, and was able to eat a lot of the batch-cooking I'd done. My weather radio has been my only means of learning what's going on....other than friends/neighbors/family. My nearest sister has a generator and Saturday I went out to her house to do laundry; I was getting low on clean clothing.

Every time I drive fifth street, I just want to cry; it looks nothing like it did before. All the tall, old beautiful trees are down, gone forever. When things settle down somewhat, and all the power crews/workers are gone, I will try to get some pictures of the same dog-walk I took pictures of in a past post, and compare those side-by-side. Stark and painful loss.

I suppose my online friends are wondering about me - but perhaps they realize power/internet hasn't been restored. My laptop battery is down, and though I bought a car charger for my cellphone, my power outlet in the car doesn't work. Have no idea why. At any rate, there is a lot I've not written about, due to the laptop battery going down. And honestly I've just been too much of an emotional wreck to write anything. I keep having unexpected bouts of crying, nerves are a wreck.

In my first post, I mentioned the awful roar - one of the neighbors said it sounded like a jet plane taking off. And I have to agree -- far, far worse roar than a train. I remember thinking, "Make it stop, make it stop..." such a horrible roar. Also I could see debris in the air, out the back door, the fence flopping back and forth. Yet I didn't hear those trees hitting my house or garage; the roar drowned it all out. I am fairly certain the tornado was lifting as it passed here, because across the street south, not one tree was down.

I have to say that the weather radio is one of the best things I've ever bought. I can get the local station, for local info. And a couple of stations have devoted most of their air time to call-ins from people asking questions they answer. I can't stress how important this has been for those like myself who only have battery operated radios.

In spite of the awful noises here, the stray cats show up every afternoon for their cat food! My dogs are a bit freaked and frustrated about not getting into the back yard; they can go on the porch and into the kennel (which is bent, but still standing); I've managed to calm them by just holding them or soothing talk. My two indoor cats had a scary day today, since they were close to the garage and the chainsaw taking down the big tree on my garage. But they are inside now, and doing fine.

For the first couple of days, dogs were running through the neighborhood...mostly ones that had been in fences which were destroyed by the tornado. That stopped a day later, since most owners found them and took them home. Another sad aspect is the squirrels that lost their homes; one of the tree crew had a baby squirrel in his pocket. Said when they cut a big oak tree he found their nest, and put it in his pocket. I asked if he would take care of it, and he said he would. Today when he came back, I asked about the squirrel and he said it was doing fine. Of course many birds lost their nests -- some with eggs and some with baby birds.

As I sit here typing this, I can hear a plaintive cry of a squirrel somewhere. It's almost like it's mourning, very sad. Fortunately the two big squirrel nests in my large backyard tree still have a home. And though some humans think we have conquered nature, we're just as susceptible to its force as the wildlife.

And speaking of nature, the next person who says there's no such thing as "global warming/climate change" in front of me will get smacked upside the head. Ever since Hurricane Katrina, there's been one mega-disaster after another, and it will be this way for the foreseeable future. The damage has been done to the environment, and coupled with earth's alignment with the center of the Milky Way as well as precession, it can only continue to get worse. Perhaps the next mega-disaster will affect you or your loved ones, if you haven't already experienced similar turmoil.

I'll close for now, since it's getting dark and I don't want to use up the battery in my LED lantern. I've been going to bed at dark, rising with the sun. Quite an experience! It's finally quiet in the neighborhood - except for the generators. I thought about buying one, but I doubt I could have managed to start it and keep it running. It would have just been a lot of trouble for my brother-in-law. When power is restored though, I am definitely going to look into getting a small generator that I might be able to use myself. Just a hour of power now and then would be such a relief -- to see the news, use the computer and charge cell phones. The cold showers have been painful, but I've taken several! Talk about roughing it!

Tuesday Night

Today the construction people dropped by, and will have an estimate maybe tomorrow. They can do all the work, and hopefully at a reasonable price. I do trust them, and it's difficult to find trustworthy crews.

The electricity came on around 10:00 last night, thank goodness. Today I did laundry, some ironing, housework...since it rained all day. Tonight it will be 39!

Unfortunately I learned that cable/internet won't be up and running until at least the end of the week, argh! I'm writing this on my laptop, and hope to post it maybe tomorrow or the next day. The ONLY internet access is at Books-a-Million, and they charge. But if I have the posts ready, it shouldn't take long to upload. No photos for now, since it takes time to upload and would cost more. Weird times, I tell you.

And with that, I'll close for now and say I hope you all are safe and living "normal" life. Don't take it for granted, and if you aren't prepared for disaster with supplies, etc. DO IT NOW!!!

Wednesday Morning

Last night when I wheeled my garbage cans out to the curb, I saw four national guard men patrolling our street. I thanked them for keeping us safe, but I have to say: it's a shock to the system to see military on your street! I have encountered them each time I leave/return to the neighborhood. All residents of the storm damaged streets have to get a certificate at city hall, which we have to put on our dash in the car - or carry when we are out walking. Several times my brother-in-law has tried to get over here, but was turned back!

This morning I had a bad fall in the bath-tub, but nothing broken (I hope). I'm all messed up, and so are the cats/dogs. Rambo has taken a vicious turn, and I have to shut him in a room when anyone comes. He is in "attack mode"...the constant noise, people around, etc. I suppose. He was a shelter dog, probably feels threatened by the noise like he did there.

Every time I step outside, the stray cats show up and make every step I do. I'm sure they are still traumatized, like everyone else -- humans, wildlife, pets.

I learned on the radio this morning that a church here has free WiFi, maybe I can make it there to post this on my blog. Apparently there's major damage to a fiber-optic cable on one of the highways and may be another week before we have cable, tv, internet. Bummer. But at least I have power...many still don't.

BEST news of all: the construction people gave me a very low price for repairs to fence/roof, I may come out with extra money. And they'll be here in the morning to repair my fence, thank goodness. If I do have extra, I plan to use it to buy the best survival gear out there. If nothing else, I've learned YOU MUST BE PREPARED.

I've heard very little national news, but what I've heard sounds ominous for other states: flooding, dams overflowing, etc. And of course, they killed Osama. The conspiracy nutcases are already acting like the ijits they are.

I think the wheels have come off worldwide. Never-ending catastrophes, economic peril, etc. I had already known this, but should have been better prepared. I suppose it's human nature to think "it can't happen to ME!" I advise everyone to realize IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU AND PROBABLY WILL.

My sister is on the way here from Huntsville, we have things to do. I need to buy a new kennel so the people can set it up tomorrow. I'll be greatly relieved to have the fence repaired; the dogs will settle down more when they can get out into the yard.

A small plane was flying around with a banner right after the tornado; I couldn't read what the banner said. But I learned it was a guy making a YouTube video; if any of you want to see the damage (and haven't on the news) look that up. Cullman, Alabama is the city where I live, and the historic district took the brunt of the tornado. One block from me, there's not a house standing, no trees, utterly a wasteland.

I hear helicopters now, probably air ambulance, since sirens earlier indicate a traffic accident. Most of the city has intermittent red lights working, but it is very dangerous driving around!

I am going to end this now. Hopefully I can find a place with WiFi to post it as soon as possible. For sure though, there won't be another post until the internet is restored here.

Wednesday Night

Never did make it to the WiFi center, had so much else to do. Sister brought lunch, then we went to buy a new kennel; the other one got crunched by the tree. Walked the dogs late, and now the cats are indoors. At least I have a DVD Netflix movie to watch tonight, nice to relax and escape the anxiety.

I've talked to many, many neighbors and it's obvious we're all suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The renters next door are in a very bad way; they are desperately poor, and now that house is unsafe to stay in. The landlord told them to leave, and they said they have nowhere to go. Today FEMA set up a mobile unit in one of the shopping malls, and I told them to apply for assistance there. I'm sure they can help those folks...even if just to relocate. That slum landlord was charging them $600.00 for that falling-in rental house; and he is from one of the oldest, richest families in town. Sickening. People like him have NO heart...

Well, I guess it'll be Friday before I can try to find WiFi...or maybe get the internet here. Tomorrow bright & early, the workers will be here to repair my fence, yah! Can't wait for the dogs to be able to run and play outside, get my privacy back. I swear I believe I'd do without food in order to have a wood fence -- I like to sit on the back porch and read or play with the dogs in privacy.

I'm sure I'll be stiff and sore from the fall tomorrow, but don't think I'm hurt seriously. All I want is to get my life back!

With that, I'll close for tonight. Plan to watch the movie and pet my indoor cats, nice evening.

Thursday Morning

Heard disturbing news last night: Cable/internet might not be restored for weeks in places. Crap! I called Dish network, was going to go with them, but...I have no established credit. In spite of having a debit card, a sound bank account, still can't get it. Oh well, more frustration piled upon more frustration. I have learned it is not a good idea to "bundle" internet/cable/phone, because if the system goes down, you're in a fix.

I was feeling calmer this morning, but first that, and now the workers called and said Tractor Supply wouldn't let them have the kennel without a receipt. I even talked to the cashier, and I TOLD her I'd be upset if I had to drive down there. Here's the thing: I signed a ticket with my name, and the worker's name for pick-up. Shit! I told the workers to just come on, I want the wood fence repaired, not worried about a kennel right now. I might just demand my money back and go elsewhere to buy a kennel.

So, that's been my frustrating day thus far. I need a Xanax!!!! Don't have any though. I may just be driven to drink if this keeps up, and hey, our ABC store is OPEN. (Sigh)

It's not as noisy here today; finally a sense of calm and quiet. I'm sure it'll ratchet up again soon, because my other next-door neighbor just drove up with a trailer. He's been cutting down a big black walnut tree, and said he'd use it for firewood next winter. He's 70 years old, his son (30ish) lives there, but there's old dad doing the hard labor. Son is lazy, IMO, won't even mow the yard. Kinda makes me glad I don't have kids.

Thursday Night

Wild day, just when I thought it was becoming peaceful. The workers arrived with lumber, etc. and began repairing the fence. But all they got done today was setting posts with cement -- they did some serious manual labor. Tomorrow they will start putting the fence back together. The wife of the construction boss always comes with them, and I like that. We talked a lot about the tornado damage; they live near the south end of the county (where DH and I had a farm)...and are still without electricity. Fortunately they have a generator, but that is not like power. I've heard so many, many true tales of the tornado and aftermath, don't know if I can ever digest it all. But if I do, maybe it'll be something to write about.

And speaking of writing....the lack of internet/cable seems to have forced me back into writing again. I'd been through a dry spell, almost a total block since I left the newspaper, but now that I have no outlet other than writing...I'm suddenly thrust back to the basics of putting words down.

A comical/upsetting incident with Oscar this afternoon: When the workers left, I took the dogs on a long walk. I've realized that with all the turmoil here, it's best to put them in their crates in the dark bedroom so they remain calm while noisy work is underway. Anyway, after the walk, I hired the guy next-door to clean out what few remaining gutters I have. And during that diversion, Oscar Meyer managed to escape the broken/blocked kennel. Of course, Rambo didn't run away; he never does. When I discovered Oscar was missing, I began calling and looking for him. I knew I was too tired to hunt him, so I told the guys next-door there was ten bucks for the first one that found him. Those poor guys ran all over the neighborhood looking for him, and really earned the $10.00. Finally one showed up with Oscar. I wanted to kill Oscar, but of course, I just hugged him.

Early this morning, I put Goldie (the yellow-striped stray) on the cat porch with my other two cats. Goldie was following me everywhere, even with the noise of the fence repair. I put her in one of the cat beds, and she went to sleep. The other two cats had no problem with it, they were sleeping too. After all the excitment died down here, I put Goldie back outside and fed her and the other two strays I feed.

I've never witnessed the trauma animals (whether pets or wildlife) suffer in this kind of disaster...but I can tell you, it's astonishing. I see birds searching for their nest/young/eggs in the piled up debris on the street; I see baby squirrels out of their nests staring at workers; I hear mature squirrels making an agonizing screech, as if mourning their loss. Don't ever try to tell me that animals have no emotions -- they are uncannily similar to humans in their emotional suffering during times of disaster.

Middle of the Night

I was exhausted after the hectic day, went to bed early but now I'm awake and can't sleep. I'd kill for a sleeping pill that would knock me out so I could get some rest. This pattern of going to sleep early, then awakening around 3:00 is brutal. Usually I lie there, toss and turn, eventually falling asleep before dawn. But this time I decided to get up and write.

I have been re-evaluating many things since this tornado hit. For one, I've allowed the internet/cable to become FAR too important to me. And I've neglected my writing since the internet is a diversion. Also, the snarky, sometimes downright mean anonymous forums have caused me stress, when I should just avoid reading such tripe. Read the factual news, skip the comment forums.

Politics are nasty, brutal boxing matches; I should probably just learn the issues, vote accordingly and quit dwelling on that side-show (which is what it has become, instead of real political debate).

National and world news is important -- but only to a certain degree. I'm here, where I live, and THIS should be my main concern. Not what is happening across the country or the world. If you are suddenly cut off from that worldwide network, you will realize quickly that RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE PHYSICALLY, is what matters. For all my concern, I can't change anything in Japan, California or anywhere except HERE. Yes, I can write about those places, but physically I cannot do anything for those people. Even if I donate money, how do I know it'll actually get in the hands of those I give to? Again, charity efforts should be local, not national or international. This is my opinion only, but what I'm learning from this traumatic experience.

I think of Kuntsler's "World Made by Hand" and his continuous, ceaseless efforts to write about the importance of LOCAL community as a way to deal with the coming onslaught of catastrophe due to peak oil and natural disasters, and realize how correct he is in that message. Unplug yourself from the internet/cable news for ONE week, and you'll understand the truth of that message.

Yes, the internet is important in my life, yet not in the way it has evolved. When I first got online, the opportunity to have my writing available was the primary importance. Somehow that got lost in the mish-mash of forums, Facebook, Twitter, and faceless distant unknowable anonymous people. That has to stop, and it has of NOW.

I will continue to make use of the internet, when it's available again; but I promise myself I will NOT get caught up in the time-wasting nonsense of anonymous attack forums, pointless political nastiness and useless speculation about unimportant matters. Research, factual news, encyclopedic information, the education online is what I will focus on. And of course, as a medium for some of my writing.

As for cable, the bald-faced truth is...television, including most of the cable channels, is garbage. Reality shows are trash, nothing more, nothing less. Entertainment to prevent people from actually THINKING for themselves and doing the hard work of LEARNING. One serious novel or well-researched factual book is worth a million trash reality shows. Networks figured out how to make more money by using real people's lives instead of paying for quality writers, actors, production. I will not waste what precious time I have left on earth viewing that programming - ditto for the shouting match of so-called news talk shows on Fox, MSNBC, etc. Factual news is worthwhile, all else is opinion and mine is as good as theirs (but only if I arrive at my opinion from examining the issues myself, not from being influenced by talking-head news anchors).

Okay, that's enough for now. Well except for one resolve: writing more instead of wasting time on the internet. A good movie is fine (which is why I have Netflix) but other than the basics of factual news, research, reading a few important, relevant blogs, I must not waste more time on useless internet activity.

During this upheavel, I've realized I'd forgotten the calming effect writing has for me. To focus on the words, to close out the loud, screeching senseless world, sit quietly and create a written world of meaning and order out of chaos. A lesson I will not forget.

And now, to bed.


Happy, happy day! Wonderful, caring people who treated me fairly...rebuilt my back yard fence, finished it today. I was almost ecstatic, because it "feels" like home again. Though the neighborhood is drastically changed, any little semblence of "normal" brings comfort.

The dogs were MORE than ecstatic; they romped, they played, they rolled over and over in the grass. Hopefully when I post this entry, I can show pictures of their happiness. I never really knew how much the dogs needed the yard; but then again, they ARE dogs and though they love "creature comforts" they also love the doggie instinct of rolling in the grass, chasing each other, running unfettered in a big back yard.

I'm writing this on the laptop while sitting on the back porch, watching my two indoor cats frolicking in the yard. Sniffing every single thing they encounter, rolling over and over in the grass, being the cats/animals they are. How is it that we humans have lost our basic instinct for being creatures of the natural world? When I see a dog or cat relishing the splendor of grass, trees, open spaces...I know that we as humans should realize we are only ONE step above them, and to forget we are basically products of our natural environment is a bad mistake, a mis-step for which we will pay if we destroy our habitat.

The lessons of this experience mount upon one another, it will take a long time to digest exactly what I have learned. These journal entries are almost like "notes" for myself to never forget the days and nights of darkness, relieved only by brief moments of insight and human compassion for the suffering of others, whether animal or human.

When disaster strikes, you learn quickly who your real friends are, and who those are that would take advantage of you. Oddly enough, I have found it is those of modest means who have been the most honest, the most trustworthy. If I were "Jesus" I could easily discern those with a good heart and those with an evil heart. I have to say, I'm impressed over and over again with those who will put aside their own suffering in times of distress, to help those who are in need. I'm not necessarily talking about family, who we take as a given, will help. And I'm not talking about volunteers either. I'm speaking of those who actually go out of their way to help you when the ones you expect to help won't. Astonishing. And something you never, ever forget. EVER.

When you strip human behavior down to the basic element of survival, it's remarkable how fast you learn the good from the bad. But then, as a novelist, I always knew this; I'd just forgotten it. That is why crime drama/suspense fiction has always attracted on the edge, the basic instincts for survival make for easy drama. Living through it though, that's an entirely different experience.

Again, it's been a beautiful day: mild temperatures, clear sky, wonderful friends who not only listened compassionately to my horrendous tornado experiences, but who also rebuilt my back yard fence for a price too low to be even reasonable. I will never forget this or them. Lesson learned.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and there may be "altruistic" or "opportunistic" people all over the neighborhood, like last weekend. I think I'll go out to my nearest sister's house, escape the madness. She has internet access, so I might post the first of my entries.

(Brenda in Kentucky, I got your email today via my sister's cell phone. Thank you for caring...and taking time to write.)

Saturday Noon

Today is the first time I felt I could trust that electricity wouldn't go off again. I know there are still areas of the city/county without power, and was afraid if I stocked my freezer I'd lose perishable stuff again. I went to Wal-mart earlier and bought my usual veggie food; biting into a fresh, crunch celery stick was delightful. I've missed lettuce, tomatoes, celery and carrots most, since those are my 'munchy' snacks. Maybe I can cook a nutritious supper tonight, which will help restore the sense of normality.

The dogs are outside right now, they are constantly running in and out, happy little devils. Oscar had gotten on my last nerve with his whining, nothing would pacify him. Both dogs would sit on the porch and stare through the lattice to the yard, obviously miserable they couldn't get out there. I took some photos of them enjoying the yard yesterday afternoon.

My nearby sister has internet access, and I'm torn about whether to drive out there and update my blog or continue to tough it out here until I get cable/internt. If I do post this now, I couldn't respond to any emails/comments, and it might upset me. I'm only now establishing a bit of equilibrium and sure don't want to disrupt it. For those with whom I have a friendship or just readers, I'm sorry I haven't been able to at least get a Tweet out letting you know I'm okay. Please understand there's been so much mayhem here I felt more pressing things to do.

I did manage to drop by the newspaper one day earlier this week; the office was heavily damaged, all windows blown out. Yet they are soldiering on, never missed one issue! They gave me all the newspapers since the tornado, I couldn't find any in newsstands (certainly historical keepsakes!). The staff have done a remarkable job under very difficult circumstances; I hope they win some awards, the writing/photos were amazing. And though they are working, you can see they (like everyone here) are traumatized. It's going to take a long time for us to settle down, and not be jittery every time there's a clap of thunder.

I've seen no news coverage of the tornado, and have only limited knowledge of other areas hit north and south. I read several bloggers here in Alabama, and there's only two I know that are close to where tornadoes struck. I hope they are both safe, but won't know till I can get online.

I need to get out there and hose down my carport/back porch, since there's lots of dirt/grime from treelimbs being hauled across the driveway/carport to the curb. The street is piled so high on both sides with fallen treelimbs, there's only one lane to drive down the center. The trash trucks are working overtime, all last weekend, and all this weekend. I have pictures of the debris on the streets. Eventually I'll have a photo-blog with just pictures I've taken during this time.

In one way I'm somewhat of a coward; I turn south when I leave home, and go down streets unharmed. Driving Fifth street still makes me tear up, plus there's crews out working and I don't want to be in the way. When the workers came to rebuild my fence, they said they got lost over here, because they couldn't even recognize familiar landmarks. Sad.

A major problem I'll have to deal with soon is the rental landlord next-door, since there's another huge pecan tree on his propertyleaning directly toward my house. He's said he has insurance, and the lot will be cleared; in fact, he told the renters he planned to have the house taken down. I'm going to give him time to get that tree cut, but if he doesn't, I'll have to take action - maybe legal. A storm with hard-line winds will bring that tree down atop my house, right over my bedroom! At this point, I'm not calm enough to take on that battle, and can only hope he'll remedy the situation before bad storms come through again.

I'll close for now. Haven't decided if I'll drive to sister's house and post this...

If I do, please always remember: NO ONE IS PROMISED TOMORROW.