Archive for September, 2008

The Wrath of Ike
September 25, 2008

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants his footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

William Cowper (1779)


It was a dark and stormy night, so to speak. The power glitched at 7:45 p.m., way before things began really rocking and rolling. Unfortunately, as a result, my computer decided to become “reborn” and acted as if it were brand new out of the box, despite its being plugged into a surge protector. As we were facing a certain post hurricane power outage, we just shut it down and hoped that it would heal itself while idle.


We battened down the hatches and prepared to sleep on the floor in an interior hallway (because of all the large trees in our yard). Both dogs settled in on my air mattress right beside me, as if in a puppy pack. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep, especially once the wind began to howl and branches started to thunk on our roof. The power went out for good at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 13.


Morning came, and we cautiously opened the doors, Dorothy-like after her house landed in Oz. We rejoiced to discover no real damage to our house, however our yard was a mess with major limbs strewn around and/or dangling, and sections of our fence blown over. After the rains finally petered out about midday, we ventured out to see for ourselves and check on our neighbors.


We were all in the same powerless boat, so there was nothing else to do but begin the clean up process. Of primary importance was to clear a path for our cars to get in and out of the garage. Secondary was to find the window screens to allow air circulation in the house. After that, our task was simply to move limbs from yard to curb, which in our case is quite a haul. Everyone on the street was out assessing damage, goggling over the downed trees and helping each other. In a way, it was almost fun, yet sobering to realize the extent of the impact on our community.


Of course, we had no way of getting news about the world beyond our street except for our little battery radio. After taking a cool shower, we tuned in as we sat outside at twilight, cooked out, then played a game of Scrabble by candlelight. Once the dishes were washed (also by candlelight), there wasn’t much else to do but go to bed, and we were so tired that we fell right asleep with the breeze blowing through the windows.


In the days that followed, we enjoyed the blessing of a cool front which made the lack of air conditioning bearable. And with a full moon shining, the power-less nights weren’t so black. Sharing meals and visiting with our neighbors was a real bonding experience, and having two totally cleaned out refrigerators was just icing on the cake!


It wasn’t until day 5 that our power returned; after that, things slowly got back to normal. We hosted a “laundry” party on Saturday night for my sisters and mom, none of which had their power back yet. Our only remaining issue is the lack of internet/cable, which is merely inconvenient. Oh, and my computer did have to go to the “Geek Squad Hospital” (aka Best Buy), but I’m not stressing about it. Honestly, not having computers, internet or tv has made us spend more time together, and that isn’t a bad thing! 


(note: our internet/cable has now returned (Thursday, Sept. 25), so am posting this blog a bit late! Next post will be Saturday, Oct. 4)


September 11, 2008

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants his footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

-William Cowper (1779)


As I write this on a Wednesday, Hurricane Ike is aiming for us with a landfall predicted for the weekend. We’ve been somewhat complacent about it, as have many others, because of the wimpiness of the previous storm that threatened our part of the world, Gustav.


It’s been three years since Rita raked over the Houston area; we were on the “clean” side of the eye, so it really wasn’t so bad for us. We had lots of wind, but little rain, and we lost power for half a day, maybe. With Ike, however, we’re on the “dirty” side, so we are likely in for a lot worse.


When I was 10 years old in 1965, Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans head on; prior to Katrina, it had been 40 years and the last time that NO had been directly hit. Talk about folks being complacent! We all know the rest of the story, which is a good lesson about NOT being complacent.


Still, I can’t quite work myself up into the hysteria that the news media seem to think we should all be in. I’ve got bottled water… and tuna fish (the family joke). Dog and cat food is in good supply. Maybe I should go get some ice, and for sure, more diet coke!


Dateline New Orleans, September 1965 in a letter from my mother…


The thing that has made this storm so bad was the speed with which it tore in. Usually, the storms linger many hours before they come in… But this thing (Betsy) just came roaring in. At four o’clock, I was picking up children at school- it was just barely raining- and at nine o’clock, the lakefront was ordered cleared. We drove to town and spent the night in Ray’s office on the fifth floor. Power was going off (our clocks at home stopped at 10 minutes to 11) as poles went down, and in town we lost electricity several times during the night, though only for short times, once when we JUST stepped out of the elevator! Anyway, we were very comfortable and the next morning Ray answered a ringing phone, which happened to be from Houston, so we were able to let our folks know we were okay.


Then the ride home. Streets were littered with glass and debris. Many windows were out and bricks had been sailing around all night- but the saddest was the trees.  In the park, big oaks were just toppled over; pines were snapped off. Here in Lake Vista, the wind damage was great- and thousands of tiles were ripped off the roof-tops and often then crashed through the windows of the houses across the street. But we were high and dry – and dark. No phones or electricity- this lasted until Monday. But all were in the same boat- we ate by candlelight, we went to bed early- and everyone had to clean out their deepfreeze- so gourmet meals (for those of us who had gas) were the order of the day…


We had Sunday School outside (it was stifling indoors that day, and the church was without an organ or programs and everyone “fainting” like way back when!) But late Sunday, on came the electricity- and it was like the day the war was over- people cheering and hopping around.


Mom went on to talk about the food/clothing drives that our neighborhood organized and how tired they all were (but it was “a good tired”). She also mentioned how lucky we Simpsons were.


Then she said prophetically, We are so sorry for our city- even now people are starting to accuse each other of being responsible, etc. when no one was. My goodness, everyone who lives in this crazy town knows they live under water to begin with- and it’s the chance we choose to (or have to) take. But it really got us all down to a lot of basic thinking- on what’s important and what isn’t- so perhaps some good will will come after all. 


I remember this experience as being quite an adventure, and how much fun it was to camp out at Dad’s office and miss school! We did worry about our pets that had been left behind, but they were all fine when we returned home.


From my adult point of view, now it’s quite a different perspective. Let’s hope that Ike will be kind to Texas and Houston in particular. I am posting this essay a few days early just in case of power outages… Whatever happens, I’m predicting that our church will hold services come what may, just like the folks at Lake Vista Methodist did back in 1965. Stay tuned!

Choir Camp, reprised
September 5, 2008

the love shack

the love shack

For it is but a child of air that lingers in the garden there…

-Robert Louis Stevenson


This past weekend (Labor Day), I went up to Camp For All near Burton for the annual Pure Sound youth choir retreat, which I’ve done now for the past ten years. It’s always nice to get away from my desk, enjoy the bucolic setting and have fun singing and “playing” with a bunch of great kids.


But what made this year’s camp extra special was my most excellent cabin of tenth grade girls, who were one of the sunniest, most enthusiastic groups I’ve bunked with over the years.


We were called “The Love Shack” (they picked the name!), and it truly was a shack filled with love. The girls decorated, they cleaned, they laughed, they went to bed when the lights went out and got up when the wake up call sounded. They were cheerful, helpful, motivated and all got along with no drama or hissy fits. Each day they scored in the top three “best cabins” (after inspection), the only girls’ cabin to be so honored. I was very proud of them and told them so daily.


In addition to this breath of fresh air, the overall camp just seemed to be filled with good vibes and energy. With 79 campers (sixth-twelfth graders, including 17 eleventh grade boys!), how could it not be? They all worked hard, played hard, sang with enthusiasm, danced, performed and were not one bit of trouble.


Well, I say that. We discovered that several younger kids were getting up before the wake up call to “go running”, or so they said. As it turns out, the plan was for the girls to meet the boys in the “tree house” to do who knows what without adult supervision. Once the counselors figured that out, that little scheme was nipped in the bud!


I myself would get up early (6 a.m.) to run in the dark, and had company one morning (a ninth grade girl). We did espy an eleventh grade boy in his running gear, who declined to run with us after we invited him to join us. Makes me wonder if he was hoping to meet someone, too? Perhaps next year we should make running in the dark an organized activity with proper adult supervision!


I loved it that we had two international students with us, one from Thailand and one from Chile. Both young men were enthusiastic participants and very popular with the other choir members. Having them with us added an extra dose of special-ness to the weekend, and I think their presence helped all the kids to be more open and friendly to every new face.


But no matter how much fun I have at choir camp, I always, always at some point experience a feeling of melancholy when I think about participants from years gone by who have graduated, and how much I miss being with them. I see the “ghosts of choir camps past” lingering in the trees, and can just hear their laughter and feel their hugs. How many fine young men and women I’ve gotten to know over the years and how proud of them I am! Many of them claim me as their “other mother”, a title I proudly wear. Maybe someday we’ll have to have a choir camp “reunion”!


I suppose I’ll go to choir camp until they make me stop. Either that or when I start seeing kids of “my kids” and am an “other grandmother”?  That’ll be the day!