Saturday, September 24, 2005

Goodbye, Rita!

We made it through the night virtually unscathed. We all slept downstairs in our office, and the wind never howled. If it did, it didn't wake us up. We have leaves and pine needles everywhere, and a couple of small branches down. We never lost power, either. I guess we can start cleaning up once it stops sprinkling.

It's going to be an exciting rest of the weekend! If we sit in the house, Zach is going to drive us crazy, but we don't want to drive around too much. We don't know when the gas stations will be refilled, or when other businesses will reopen. It would be nice to go out to dinner for my birthday, but I guess that will have to wait. I could clean, but it would just get dirtied immediately. I have a couple of library books, so I guess I can read those. Darren will probably work on his website all day. What an exciting bunch we are!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hurricane Party

Well, it looks like I am going to have an exciting birthday. We'll be stuck in the house, with probably no power. So much for an evening out at the Melting Pot, and no Zach! It has been an interesting week, to say the least...

People started making preparations on Tuesday for Hurricane Rita, but not us. We figured that we'd head to my parents' house in Louisiana to ride out the storm, and there was still plenty of time to get everything done. Well, during the day on Wednesday, a decision was made to cancel school on Thursday and Friday. The kids were restless and worried, and it was a very stressful day for all of us. We couldn't tell them until the end of the day, but they suspected that something was amiss, and wanted to talk about it all day. I tried to ease their minds as much as I could, but it wasn't very effective.

They began evacuating Galveston, 70 miles south of us, and people bought up all of the supplies in the stores. By the time I left work on Wednesday, gas was scarce, and groceries were even more scarce. It took Darren 3 1/2 hours to get home from work that day, because the roads were so clogged with people heading north. We went in search of gas that night, and found one station south of The Woodlands that was about to close, but still had gas. We tried to find an ATM with money in it, but there were none to be found. This area has voluntary evacuation, and a lot of people headed out of here that night, preventing people with mandatory evacuation from getting out of the area.

Darren's dad left Galveston at 7:30 Wednesday night, and finally arrived here at about 9:00 last night. They spent 3 hours in a hotel yesterday morning, and finally got off the interstate and took back roads late yesterday afternoon. Thank God for cell phones; Darren used a computer map to guide them here. After over 24 hours on the road, they were exhausted, and went over to Sean and Jamie's house to sleep.

We went out in search of money yesterday, and found a bank that was about to close. We waited in the drive-through for over 30 minutes, but were finally able to get cash. I went to the grocery store before they closed yesterday afternoon, but couldn't get water, milk, or bread. We have plenty of food, though, and filled up several containers,plus the bathtub and washer with water. We brought in all of our outside stuff, packed all of our valuables and important papers in Rubbermaid containers in the back of the truck, took pictures of everything in the house, and I guess we are ready.

There is no traffic today, and no businesses are open. I'm glad that we decided not to go to Louisiana; they might get it worse than us. Mom and Dad do have a generator, though. It would have been a miserable drive with an energetic, restless 4-year-old, and an energetic, restless, 11-year-old cat. Most of our neighbors have stayed, and we'll hang out with them and pool whatever resources we all have. I've heard that if we lose phone and cell contact, text messaging will still work. I guess we'll try it if we need it...

We're going to sleep downstairs tonight in our office, which doesn't have any windows, and has a separate window unit. I'm not sure that we'll sleep, but it's better than being upstairs in our bedroom with the huge windows. I hope they're still there tomorrow! We just painted our bedroom and bathroom, and I really don't want to have to remodel again. It's going to take a few days to put everything back in order, but I guess we have to go to work on Monday, and act like everything is normal.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Wake Me Up When September Ends!

I don't have the same angst at the Green Day song, but September is always such a hectic month. My dad's and my birthday are in September, we always have Open House at school, and are just getting adjusted to the school year. I am five weeks into the school year, and don't feel settled yet at all! I'm not sure what to blame for that, but I am just so tired all the time, and feel out of sorts. I only teach one subject this year, so there is less grading and less lessons to plan, but things are different at school. We have to turn in lesson plans, which is stressful to make sure I have them written on time and copied before I leave for the weekend, and we have a lot more meetings this year. I also have a special-needs child in my regular-ed classroom, who really needs more than I can give her. It is my smallest, but most talkative homeroom, and in order to work with her, I have to completely ignore the rest of the class. In the meantime, they crawl on the floor, run through the room, and talk in incredibly loud voices. I am not certified to teach special education, and I hope that everyone is getting what they need out of my class right now. I guess that is weighing pretty heavily on my mind.

Besides school, we are currently in the middle of yet another home improvement project. We painted the bathroom Labor Day weekend, and have been planning to paint our bedroom for months. After finally settling on metallic silver paint, we have worked on it all weekend. The paint is $40 per gallon, so we really only planned to buy two gallons. We bought the special Ralph Lauren roller covers, but after two coats, it looks as though another gallon is in our future. I just want to finish this project so we can have our weekends back for a while. Then, we'll forget about our previous projects, and be ready to tackle the next one, which is tiling an upstairs bathroom floor.

In addition to my previous worries, my Creative Memories career is not exactly flourishing. I was really excited about it when I signed up in July, had two great parties, and have only had one since, which I hosted. I scheduled another one for yesterday, and invited over 50 people. No one showed up, which really sucked. I had 4 people who were supposed to host shows for me, but I haven't been able to get them to commit. I have a sorority fundraiser/show as well as a Croptoberfest event coming up in October, and if neither of those is successful, I think I might call it quits. I have contacted (and probably bugged) everyone I know, but no one has scheduled a show. I have spent way more than I have made, and can't afford to keep doing so, so maybe this wasn't meant to be for me. I don't take failure well, and this is hard for me to accept. I keep hoping to find that one person who will book a show, and that will really make my day!

While I am griping, my son has had an attitude change for the worse recently. He has begun talking back, saying things that we don't allow, and growling and yelling when he doesn't get his way. That makes for lots of discussions and punishments, but nothing seems to affect him. We had a very long battle tonight, which resulted in several spankings, and Zach going to bed without dinner. He also didn't get to sleep in his tent tonight. I don't know if this behavior is coming from school, because we certainly haven't taught him these behaviors, nor do we condone them. I want my sweet boy back!

I think it is time for Darren and I to have a night out without Zach. Our weekends lately have been filled with too much work, and not enough fun. I can't remember the last time we had an evening with friends. We used to get together with our friends regularly for dinner or games, and we haven't had an invitation to do that in forever. I guess we need to invite people over here, and get the ball rolling again. I'm ready to have a social life again; staying home all weekend is making me stir-crazy! Darren and I will go out to dinner next Saturday for my birthday, but there won't be a party this year. I don't feel like there is a whole lot to celebrate right now. Maybe in October we can celebrate that we survived September!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Proud to Call Houston Home

Darren and I have been in Texas for five and a half years, bought two houses and a car, and had a baby here. We've also both had more than one job here, and made numerous friends, but have never really felt much of a connection here. It's still weird to me to say the pledge to the Texas flag each school morning, like I'm being disloyal to Louisiana. After this weekend, we've both decided that we are proud to say that we live here, and it is finally beginning to feel like home.
We went Saturday morning to volunteer at Reliant Park, which is made up of the Astrodome, Reliant Stadium, Reliant Center, and the Reliant Dome. There are all kinds of things that happen there (which we've never been to), and Astroworld is across the street. After a 30-second orientation, we followed a whole bunch of people to a walled-off section of the Reliant Center, and waited for job assignments. We were eventually assigned to unload the cars of people who came to donate items for the hurricane victims. After a slow start, we started having masses of people who wished to donate. It was absolutely amazing to see the generosity of the residents of Houston, from the truckloads of water and formula, to the old beat-up cars filled with garbage bags of clothes. It seemed like everyone had something to donate, and since many people here have Louisiana roots, I think it helped with the healing process. There were crews of people inside the center whose job was to sort the items, and if you could imagine something to donate, we had it. There was a plethora of clothes, shoes, and bottled water, but also hygiene items, food, formula, diapers, toys, towels, appliances, and luggage. It made me feel like we were going to be able to help every person who was now calling Reliant Park his or her home.
When we left after four hours, Darren and I both had a renewed energy and appreciation for where we live. I know we didn't make a huge difference, but it felt really good!
On our way home, I received a phone call from the woman who introduced Darren and me almost twelve years ago. She and her husband, two boys, brother, his wife, their kids, her parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, had made it to Huntsville, about 60 miles north of Houston, the night before. They were staying with some family members, but were going to rent an apartment in the town where we live. Their house in Kenner wasn't flooded, but had some structural damage. They have a few outfits each, and are planning to stay here for a couple of months. She works for Aramark catering, and they will continue to pay her, as long as she goes and volunteers at Reliant Park. We went to see their apartment that night, and it felt so good to reconnect. I think that a lot of friendships are going to be renewed in the wake of this tragedy.

On a completely different note, Darren and I finally decided to tackle our hideous bathroom this weekend. After doing the neglected yard and cleaning the house yesterday, we went and bought paint, light fixtures, and towel bars. Darren primed last night, and we both painted today. I am finally getting the calming retreat that I always wanted! Darren is installing light fixtures as I type, and now we are dreaming of tiling the floor and getting knobs and pulls for the cabinets. We still have to paint our bedroom, as well. All of this home improvement will insure that neither of us will want to move for a while, I hope. A fourth bedroom sure would be nice...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Feeling Helpless

This has been a rough week for me. I have so many friends and family members in southern Louisiana, and we were so worried about them surviving the hurricane. My parents in Lafayette came through just fine, Darren had some family members come in from Jeanerette and Slidell for two days, and Darren's mom, step-dad, aunt, and uncle refused to evacuate from Lacombe, just west of Slidell. It was taking people up to 8 hours to travel the 75 miles between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and they didn't want to sit in traffic.

After the hurricane hit, we watched as much TV as we could stand, and just wanted to know that everyone was all right. All of our friends in Baton Rouge are fine, but some didn't get power back on until last night. Phone service to anywhere in Louisiana is still tough, as well. We didn't hear anything about Darren's mom Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, and prepared for the worst. We placed her name on a couple of missing-persons lists, and hoped that she was safe somewhere.

Thursday morning at 1am, we received a phone call from Darren's brother, saying their mom was safe and on her way to Jeanerette. I can't tell you how relieved we were to get that news! Darren talked to her yesterday and got the story. Apparently the flood waters didn't go above their second porch step, and the only damage sustained to her property was a pine tree that snapped off and hit her husband's garage. They had a generator and plenty of food and water, so they weren't too worried. Volunteers weren't going to search their area right away, so they decided to try to get out on their own. It took two days with a chainsaw and help from strangers to make their way out to the highway, and Darren's step-dad, who is an electrician, stayed behind to work.

It's amazing how this is affecting all of our lives. I want to help as much as possible, and it is so sad to think that New Orleans might never be the same again. Darren and I lived there for a year, and it is the most alive city I have ever been in. There is so much history there, and the people are extremely friendly. Darren and I got engaged on the banks of the Mississippi River there.

We are doing a few things to help here. It is amazing how generous people are in the Houston area, and probably elsewhere, too. Churches in our area are each sponsoring a hotel for people to stay in, everyone is collecting money, and we are enrolling Louisiana students in our public schools. I got one student today from Port Sulphur, Louisiana, and I am getting another one on Tuesday from St. Bernard Parish. My son's preschool is collecting items for the 230 people who are staying at one of the area churches, and they are going to deliver the items next Friday. My school is collecting money for United Way, and Darren and I are going to work at the Astrodome tomorrow morning. I'm nervous, but I feel like I need to do this. Hopefully, everyone will continue to heal, and people will step up and try to restore the Gulf Coast area to what it used to be.