Home Again and So Thankful

Back to Normal…Sunday Breakfast at Croissant and Company

We drove into Venice about 5:00 yesterday evening and stopped at one of our favorite local restaurants for dinner before we went home.  It was an easy ride home (minimal traffic and plenty of gas) and we were thrilled to come into Venice, to see working stoplights and trees still standing and then to drive into our driveway and see a house still standing, oh my.  We walked in to air conditioning, lights, Internet, Cable…could anything be more wonderful?  Trust me, I take nothing for granted!

We were bone tired last night but needed to at least begin to put things back in order.  Jerry took down hurricane shutters while I dealt with unpacking and getting the house back to normal.

This morning we were really back to normal…to yoga, to breakfast with friends, to the car wash (those love bugs in Alabama and Mississippi were disgusting) and to the grocery store for enough food to carry us through till tomorrow.  Everything in the fridge and freezer is heading for the trash.  We have no idea how long we were out of power and we don’t want to take any chances.  So sad…Ditwilers had a sale on New York strip and shrimp a week before we left and we loaded up! And when I make spaghetti sauce, I make a huge pot and freeze it in zip lock bags and it lasts us forever.  Just did that about a week before Irma.  Sigh.  But when I think of how bad it could have been, I know we got off easy.

Breakfast today was fun.  Everyone at the table had stayed except us and we shared Irma stories…theirs of riding it out, ours of traveling north praying we’d find gas.  And if we had it to do over again, we’d do the same.  And if they had it to do over again, they’d do the same.  The hardest part was making the decision.  After that, you just put one foot in front of the other and tried not to do anything too stupid.

I know a couple in their 80s who ended up sleeping on the floor at a shelter in North Port (Heron Creek Middle School) and said the experience was lovely.  And people in Englewood who put on a huge dinner for first responders and those who were restoring power to the town.  And local restaurants and grocery stores that were grilling burgers and passing out food to workers and anyone who had lost power.  People slept on neighbors’ couches and in their extra bedrooms.  Neighbors with power offered freezer space to those without.  A friend evacuated, came home and then turned around with her husband and four kids to go to Georgia to help her grandmother who property was filled with debris and downed trees. People took care of snowbirds’ houses.  Friends of ours came over after the storm to get a package that was delivered just before the hurricane.  It had survived the storm on our front porch.

There are still people without power.  One friend in Naples has a generator running her refrigerator and bought a window air conditioner for the master bedroom.   Schools in Naples won’t open for another week.  Too many of them still don’t have power.  Schools in our county open tomorrow and believe me, kids and parents are cheering!

I saw a friend at yoga today who still doesn’t have power.

I’m fine, she said. I have a great flashlight and a good book.  And I bought a deck of cards so I could play solitaire.  Sometimes it gets hot but it’s not THAT bad.  (That girl is tough!)

We worked in the yard today but we’re pretty sure our neighbors (the same ones who boarded me up in 2005 when Wilma was coming and I was alone) did some major cleaning in our yard when they did their own, including trimming some trees with their chain saw.  We haven’t seen them around today to talk with them.  They usually spend Sunday in church.  But we know we owe them “bigly”.   Hopefully we’ll see them tomorrow to thank them.  Still trying to figure out HOW to thank them.

We were lucky in so many ways.  Our house is fine.  And we had a wonderful visit with Erin and Brent and the kids…nice bonus visit that we loved.  We are well aware that many were not so lucky.  I see the pictures of the islands in the Caribbean and Key West and know we dodged a major bullet.  And I know how Houston has been since Harvey hit.  As I said, we were lucky.

Below is a picture of our neighborhood.  Everyone has been busy clearing out debris and putting it near the street.  Waste Management has been doing an incredible job of picking things up as fast as they can.  The number of people who’ve been working and are still working round the clock to get everyone back to normal boggles my mind.  Never doubt how many good people there are everywhere.

Looking down the street.

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So Very Grateful

So lucky, so very lucky.  And so thankful for what didn’t happen.  We DIDN’T run out of gas on the way to Texas.  We DIDN’T have any car trouble (better not…we have a brand new car)  We DIDN’T sleep in a rest area on the way (Erin found us one of the last rooms available on the Panhandle) And we DIDN’T lose our house.  We DIDN’T lose our roof.  We DIDN’T have a flood.  And we have power.  (don’t know about cable and internet)

So it’s time to head home.  We’re watching the traffic and gas situation carefully.  We know that those who headed home yesterday crawled along and had terrible trouble finding gas.  We aren’t in that big a rush but we are anxious to get back.  If everything on the road looks good, we’ll leave tomorrow and be home Friday night.  Personally I’d like to wait till Saturday.  We’d get to go to another baseball game (Declan isn’t much of a fielder but that boy can hit!) and play a big family game of Oh Hell on Friday night and just be with these cute kids for a few more days.

But all good things must come to an end and I’m sure Erin and Brent will be glad to be back to normal.  Weren’t we lucky to have a place to go filled with so much love.

Be well, my friends.  Sending much love…

Decisions

If you use Facebook, you’re pretty much up to date on what Jerry and I have been doing this past week.  I’m writing this for those of you who don’t have Facebook and are wondering what’s going on in sunny (???) Florida.

When Erin first texted me a little over a week ago asking “You keeping an eye on Irma?  I hear she’s going to be a monster”, I thought, “Who’s Irma?”  I found out fast who Irma was and Jerry and I started paying attention.  And I started saying to everyone, “I think people like us (older, retired, no reason not to) should evacuate as soon as they hear there’s a hurricane coming and leave the roads open for the poor working people who can’t leave until schools close, until stores and restaurants close, etc.”

So, we started trying to decide when we should leave, not if. This was Monday.  And Erin said, “Hotels will sell out fast.  You need to make a reservation.”

So we did.  We decided we’d leave on Thursday. Not Tuesday.  I had turtle patrol. Not Wednesday.  Jerry had golf.  And I had an appointment for a haircut.  Thursday.  Me, I wanted to leave Friday but okay, I’d go Thursday.

So on Tuesday we started saying goodbye to friends and I cancelled a bunch of things like lunch with Mary Anne, breakfast with other friends, and a breakfast I was hosting Saturday morning at my house.  We started putting up shutters and getting things out to pack.

Then on Wednesday I couldn’t find gas on the way home from yoga.  I heard the roads were filled with traffic and no one was moving.

Jerry came home from golf and I told him I didn’t want to leave. It was far more dangerous to run out of gas on the highway than it was to sit in a shuttered house.  People died on the highway in Texas trying to escape Rita a few years ago.

Okay, says Jerry.  And for the rest of the day we laid low.  I went to volunteer at the library that night and told everyone we were staying.

Then on Thursday morning, I filled the car with gas on the way to yoga with no problem. I heard from some people who had left that it was slow going but not impossible.  I heard it could get VERY nasty on the west coast.  Erin’s storm chaser friends who originally had said, yes, better to stay, it’s scary on the road with no gas, were suddenly saying, “Tell your mom and dad if they have a full tank of gas, they should get in the car and go.”

Okay, says Jerry and we move as fast as we can.  We shutter the rest of the house, We pack the car.  We take showers.  We fill coolers and we are heading out of town shortly after noon.

I think until you’ve gone through it, it looks simple.  If it appears dangerous to stay, you leave. If it appears dangerous to leave, you stay.  What’s the big problem?  Why do people wait till the last minute to go ( I honestly thought, originally, that Thursday was EARLY!) Why do people gett on the highway when they know there’s no gas? Why do people stay when the hurricane is coming?

And then it’s you trying to decide which is safer, to stay or go.   And it’s you trying to decide if you are going, when will you go, what to bring (I threw shorts and teeshirts and a sundress in case we go out to dinner in a suitcase and woke up this morning and it was in the 60s…good thing I can fit into Erin’s jeans) and what to leave at home.  (almost everything) And you’re almost frozen in space.  And you can’t sleep.  And you search the Internet for information on Irma, on gas, on traffic.

And Jerry and I are two adults with no one else to take care of …no kids, no elderly parents, no pets.  We have a reliable car (brand new CRV with lots of bells and whistles we got to try out) We have money.  We have a daughter who found us a motel room when we could finally figure out how far we might be able to get our first day.  We have a place to go to where we have family. We even have a great book downloaded to the iPod (Louise Penny’s newest).  And think of how hard it was for us to decide.  Now think of all the people in Florida who don’t have things as easy as we do.  I can only imagine how hard it was for them to decide what to do, especially with the very real fear of running out of gas.

So we’re safe in Flower Mound, going to Declan’s baseball game, running errands, drinking wine and grilling steaks.  Originally we thought we’d be heading home on Tuesday, get home Wednesday.  Now we aren’t so sure.  First, Irma appears to be aiming directly for our house. We may not have a home to go to.  Or we may have a home but no power. Or everything may be fine.  Even then, if thousands of people have left Florida, thousands will be coming home.  And the kids don’t want us to leave that fast.  (They want me to go to school and do sea turtle workshops in every class…I keep saying, Not now. Later in the year. I don’t have the materials but they won’t listen) So we may stay longer than we planned (as I said, good thing I fit into Erin’s clothes)

I know many who decided to stay.  And many who left, even as late as today.  I do know that, for us, leaving was the right thing to do.  I can’t remember when I’ve been so anxious trying to make a decision.  Just deciding was a relief.  I was so sad leaving the house, though.  I told Jerry that it reminded me of the day we left for MD Anderson.  I didn’t cry much when I was diagnosed with cancer or during treatment but I did cry when we left the house.  I was afraid I might not ever see it again.  I felt the same way on Thursday…that I might never see the house again.

I did a lot of praying…God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.  I’m  still praying…for all the people who are still in Florida, sheltering in place.  And we’ll see what the next few days will bring…Whatever it is, even if we don’t have a house to go home to, we are very, very lucky and we know it.

 

 

After Harvey

Beck Junior High Katy, TX

It’s been overwhelming, hasn’t it?  My family has been fine…still have their houses, their cars, their things, and most importantly their lives.  They’ve started to venture out of their houses to help where they can.

My nephew, Chris, and his wife, Jackie live in Katy, just west of Houston.  It was hit hard.  Their youngest, Emma, is in eighth grade and her school is completely flooded.  No idea where or when she’ll be back in school.  Jackie wrote an email to the family this morning.  I’m sharing it with her permission.

 

Hi Everyone

I’m finally sitting down to process this past week and update you all. I can’t believe it’s been a week since the storm started. The kids have been out of school for a week now and won’t be back until sept 11. We have a few schools damaged (Emma’s Jr High) and a few schools have been used as shelters (Grace’s high school). I can’t even explain the flooding. We have friends who lost everything, their house, cars. Most of the flooded around here won’t even recede for three weeks to three months. Whole neighborhoods have been wiped out with the flooding. Right now we have Emma’s friend and her sister (Gabby, 8th and Camila, 9th) living with us. They have lost everything but what’s in their backpacks. They were rescued by boat. Their neighborhood probably will be flooded for months. Their mom is a single mom who doesn’t speak English well and doesn’t understand the FEMA process.

I can’t begin to explain how wonderful our community is. They actually have been turning away volunteers at a lot of places bc they are overwhelmed with donations and man power. Once the water recedes, then the real work will begin. We’ve been keeping the kids busy volunteering everyday. Chris and Taylor have been able to help rip up flooring for those who have had their water recede. We’ve worked at the shelters, the high school and last night Chris took the kids to the shelter in the church right outside our neighborhood. Grace has helped serve first responders with some friends. I’ve taken Emma and her friends to the animal shelter and we’ve gotten the outside kennels ready for the incoming displaced animals by hauling bales of hay into the kennels to absorb the mud so the dogs have a dry place to sleep. And we’ve petted kittens–that’s a real stress reliever. I’m trying to keep it low key for the girls staying with us. Yesterday they realized they won’t get into their house for at least three weeks (they’re one of the harder hit areas and I think it’s closer to three months, but don’t have the heart to tell them that) so petting kittens is perfect for them.

Yesterday was the first day the grocery stores are back to normal, fresh fruit, milk and eggs. No bread yet, but I won’t complain. I almost burst into tears walking into a full stocked fruit and vegetables section. I know, it’s weird, but when you’ve seen completely empty grocery stores for over a week, it’s very ‘apocalyptic’.  Gas isn’t a problem, since a lot of cars are under water there isn’t much of a wait for those of us still blessed with our vehicles.

Last night was the first night we were able to sleep. Each night the past week have been filled with tornado warnings ( after about 10 a night, we were ignoring them and listening for a freight train). We were lucky to have Chris’ meteorologist from work live close by, so he would text Chris when a cell was by us. Thankfully, only once, we felt the need to tell the girls to gather their cats and get ready. I love our animals, but I wasn’t waiting for the girls to coax their ‘cagey’ cats out from under the bed for a tornado. Our dogs are scaredy cats and followed me around through the storm, so they weren’t a problem. They had to be ready to run into the closet under the stairs.

Wednesday night, when we thought it was over for us and we could finally get a good nights sleep, we got a call at 2:30am from my friend telling us we were under mandatory evacuation and have to leave by 5:30. Chris got the auto text telling him the same thing. We didn’t know why our neighborhood would be evacuated since we didn’t have flooding, just the surrounding neighborhoods. Needless to say we didn’t sleep and we waited for the press conference at 8am. We’re still not sure why that went out. If it was for a possible breach in the levee or they wanted tighter control on who was coming in and out of flooded areas. The national guard is now watching over a lot of the flooded areas and you can not get into them. But thankfully we didn’t need to leave.

So right now, the Shugarts are safe. And trying to keep the kids busy outside the house. Not sure when our area will begin to feel normal again, but working on getting back into our routine soon with the start of school in a few weeks will help.

Thanks for all the emails and texts, we really are very lucky we came out of this without any damage.

Jackie

Harvey

So many of you have asked about my family in Houston, well aware that Jerry and I spent nearly a year there while I was being treated at MD Anderson.  Yes, we have family in Houston.  Some of you do, too.  And, yes, it’s scary.  But, as of this morning, my family is fine.  My sister, Anne, and her husband were on Padre Island when Harvey started making its way toward Texas.  They left their condo on the beach (and have no idea how it’s doing) and headed home to Houston (out of the frying pan, into the fire!)

They’re fine.  Still have power.  Still have water in the right places…sinks, showers NOT floors!  They spent all day yesterday moving things of value to their second floor and trying to get as much of the first floor furniture raised up on bricks.  And then they, themselves, moved upstairs to ride the rest of this out.  They can’t evacuate.  No one can.  The roads are flooded and closed.

My niece, Jill, who lives across town and just moved into a new house, is also doing fine.  And my nephew, Chris and his family, out in Katy are also fine…looking out at “lake-front property” as Chris’s wife puts it. And insisting that their cabin-fevered teens stay put.

And Erin and her gang are fine in Flower Mound (near Dallas).  The little ones are heading out for their first day of school as I write this.

But so many people are NOT fine.  All you have to do is turn on the TV to know that.  It’s absolutely horrific…reminds me of Katrina. And I know things are going to get worse in the next few days.  I don’t know how to help, other than send money to the Red Cross.  And pray.

 

Five Texans, One Dog, Three Weeks

Awesome waves!

When Erin decided to bring the kids (and dog) here for almost three weeks, I was thrilled but just a bit apprehensive.  I mean, three weeks is a long time when you’re used to the slow, easy rhythm of two retired people who have full but not necessarily busy lives.  Brave woman, my daughter, driving from Texas to Florida with three kids and a dog.  And we were pretty brave, too.

And she did it!  And she did it with no problem.  Poor Misty almost had a nervous breakdown when they left her in the motel to go to Panera for supper the first night but other than that, everyone traveled just fine.

Turtle Patrol

And we loved having them.  They each have their “thing”.  Lana is a turtle patroller and even though all of them got up for turtle patrol once, she was pretty faithful while she was here.  Calli was my yoga partner and Declan was my rock painter.  The activity of the summer in Venice has been a rock project.  Paint rocks, hide them in plain sight in public places, find rocks and rehide them after posting on Facebook.  The night they arrived, they started painting.  I had a big bag of smooth rocks and plenty of acrylic paints and set up the table on the lanai as a permanent painting place.  Declan painted monsters, at least twenty of them and loved hiding them.  He was so disappointed,though, when none of his rock ever showed up on Facebook.  Still, all of them had a great time and it seemed as if every time we went out in Venice or Sarasota, we’d find rocks.  The kids brought a bunch back to Flower Mound to hide.  Haven’t seen them on Facebook yet but who knows. They may appear some day. Who can tell?

Venice Rocks!

Anyway, it was great.  The kids went to camp for a week…8:30-12:30 at Mote Marine every day learning about sea life, taking the boat out and snorkeling, kayaking, watching the staff care for injured sea mammals, playing games and doing crafts…It’s a great camp and they loved it.  We’d drop them off every morning, lathered up with sunscreen and every day when we picked them up they would take turns telling us what they had seen and what they had done.  They saw a lot…dolphins leaping in the bay, manatees hanging out near the docks, hatchlings ready to be released, puffer fish, crabs…and of course all the creatures in the aquarium at Mote (the jellyfish are my favorite)

Brent arrived at the end of the second week, about the time when we were getting tired of lugging all the equipment to the beach each day…umbrella, chairs, blanket, boogie boards, sand toys, Florida shovel.  The kids are getting more helpful but let’s face it, Erin, Jerry and I looked like sherpas heading onto the beach. So when Brent arrived, we all had lighter loads.

Calli with Brent

The days acquired their own kind of rhythm.  I was always up early …to yoga or turtle patrol. Toward the end, all the kids were getting up with me every day, aware that their Florida days were coming to an end and they didn’t want to miss anything.  There were lots of times when it was actually quiet here…everyone reading or napping or watching a video or floating in the pool.  Declan created his own little hiding place in a closet with pillows and blankets. And there were times when we were all at the table playing cards and groaning if we were losing or cheering if we were winning.  They loved the huge waves that were here when they arrived and learned to catch them just right on their boogie boards to ride them to shore.  They kayaked and joined the local swim team for practice.

Quiet moments

We went to the beach at night to see the meteor shower.  Declan was so cute.  On the way down to the beach, he asked me how many falling stars we were going to see.

I have no idea, I told him.  Maybe none.  Maybe a hundred.

Oh no.  Not a hundred.

Why?  I asked.

I don’t have a hundred wishes lined up.

He didn’t see a hundred but he did see some and he did make some wishes.

Yes, it was a good three weeks and we just loved it. And if I had wished on one of those falling stars it would be that the gang would continue to come EVERY August for three weeks.

So now it’s quiet.  And we’re back to our slow moving days. And they’re good too.

Lana at yoga

Calli at yoga

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Declan at yoga

We’re in for some rain…not the kind of rain Texas is getting, though.  We have family in Houston and Katy…my sister and brother in law, Anne and Clark.  And our niece, Jill and her husband, Mike.  And our nephew, Chris and his family.  They are in for a wicked ride, I’m afraid. Anne and Clark were in Corpus Christi when Harvey started heading for them…went home to Houston where it might be just as bad!  At least Houston won’t have a storm surge!

Be well, dear friends and if you’re starting school, take good care of yourselves.  September has to be the most exhausting month of the year for teachers!  And if you’re in Harvey’s path, please stay safe.  Love to you all.

Lana at turtle patrol

Kayaking with Lana

Calli at our favorite French cafe

Declan and Brent at cards

 

Connect Four Tournament

Calli found a rock in Sarasota

Out to lunch

Two Jasons

Two Jasons with family

A quick update on my two Jasons.  Jason #1, father of two in Vergennes, Vermont, (middle guy in picture to the right) was bit by a brown recluse spider. Honestly, this doesn’t happen in Vermont.  In Florida, yes.  In Texas, yes.  But not in Vermont.  While he was in the ER, every doctor in the area stopped by to see his bite.  They’d never seen one for real unless they were from the south.  Anyway, Jason is doing okay, not fabulous….still in pain, still not really on the mend but hanging in there.

And Jason #2,(on the left, red shirt)college kid living in Andover, Massachusetts, home for the summer, working hard at Firehouse Subs, socking away money for next year, is home too.  He’s in terrible pain and it’s going to be a long road back but the kid is tough.  It just won’t be the summer he planned on.  He needs to be able to get back to the things he loves like hiking in New Hampshire.

Yep, you blink and everything you planned on disappears and life suddenly lurches off in a different direction.  Keep both of them in your prayers.  They are some of the best, most beautiful people I know.

Books…I read a couple lately that I have to share. The first was Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I’m not in love with Jodi Picoult.  Every now and then I give one a try and get impatient with her “cheap shots”, weird twists at the end that you can count on.  Still, you’ve got to hand it to her. She isn’t afraid to tackle tough subjects and she researches her topics well.  This was no exception.  And she got some things so right…at least I think she did.  And I think that she’s done a good thing for all of us.  We all can’t help but “get” white privilege after reading this book.  She lays it out perfectly.  And she helped me understand how someone could belong to one of those far right, racist, neo-Nazi hate groups and still be human.  Yes, for all its flaws, this book was a good one and I’m glad I read it.

The other one…The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs was one I probably should have saved for a time when I wasn’t feeling so fragile.  I had read a couple reviews on it…”This year’s When Breath Becomes Air” and I immediately put it on reserve at the library.  Nina Riggs was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 37.  It was just a little spot.  Except that it grew instead of going away.  And metastasized and she died at 39, leaving behind a husband and two little boys.  This book was her memoir and honestly, I loved it.  The woman can write and write beautifully.  The book reads like poetry, like music.  She figured out how to live when it was very clear she didn’t have much time left.  And she was so honest about what she thought and felt and did.  Yes, I loved this book….even more than When Breath Becomes Air.

So now I’m reading A Nun on the Bus about Sister Simone Campbell who was one of those nuns that Pope Benedict was talking about when he came down hard on American nuns and whose endorsement of the ACA helped get it through Congress and who is lobbying still for decent health care for everyone.  Amazing woman…still going strong.

Happy Fourth of July to all of you. Enjoy every minute of the day (and night if you’re heading out for fireworks!)

Love to all