Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hurricane Aftermath is a Butt Busting Budget Buster

Yup. Once you start climbing out of your battened-down homes and shelters, you look around and see what the winds blew down and blew away.

Hurricane preps cost some money. But usually you can space those out over time. During winter you buy your extra batteries and flashlights, canned goods, water, bit by bit. You rotate your stock and keep it fresh. That way, almost none of the preps are big, unplanned, unexpected hits on the budget.

When a storm approaches, you might scramble a bit for certain other items. Make sure your vehicles are all topped off with gasoline. Get your meds refilled as far as you can, circumvent insurance company time limits and so forth. And maybe this was the week you had charcoal on the shopping list simply because you'd run out.

Oh! And cash. You want some cash on hand, because you'll probably need to buy things afterwards, and debit and credit cards don't work if the electricity and/or phone lines are down.

Okay. So the bank account maybe got cleaned out, but you're ready. Take a deep breath. Getting ready for landfall takes an amazing amount of work, putting up shutters or plywood, moving outside things inside, picking up anything that could be a projectile. By the time the winds pick up and you have to stop fussing around, you're absolutely exhausted. If you already have physical limitations like both Nancy and her husband do, that goes up by several orders of magnitude. This time, 'Pup had a staph infection too. Lord, those things are sickening under the most ideal circumstances. Just imagine facing a hurricane feeling like that.

And then? After the storm, you emerge blinking into the sunlight of the Day After. Walk around the yard and the neighborhood, take stock of the results. Count your chickens like a mama hen. Oh, my. You were already exhausted before it hit.

Suddenly you realize that along with the fences and trees and maybe broken windows and roof bits and gutters and cars and plants and outside hot tubs and furniture you couldn't fit in the house that got messed up or lost who knows where -

after you've tried hard to figure out who actually owns the porch furniture and plants and hot tubs and things that mysteriously showed up in your front yard -

you look in your wallet and discover the storm also blew away every last red cent you thought you had.

Huh? How? Why?

Because there was no way to predict just what you'd need for cleanup.

Unusual rakes. Shovels. Saws. Lots of strong black garbage bags. 150' outdoor extension cords. Special drill bits. Extra bleach for your water. Fuel for the generators. No one knows how long it'll be before power is returned. These are things you don't necessarily stock up on, because the type and amount of damage simply can't be predicted. You end up needing items you'll never use again for any other purpose.

After several days without, Nancy finally has her power back on. She's online. She's even working! Her crazy bossman opened the tutoring center, and here I was convinced no students would come...and eight of them showed up to get taught. There's something really inspiring about that dedication. 'Pup is on salary, so he's still getting paid too.

But lots of people are out of work until their workplace is usable once again. And that can take a long, long time. Weeks, months. Some never will. That happened to my old primary doctor after his office was destroyed by Wilma. He threw in the towel and retired in his mid-50's. Just couldn't face it any more.

Several days after the power went out, Nancy's neighbor to the west - she calls them the Wests - borrowed a generator from a friend, and kindly offered Nancy and 'Pup a chance to plug in an extension cord for their house. They were finally able to run the fridge again. This isn't just important because of food needs for these two diabetics. 'Pup has medications that must be refrigerated.

And a generator costs money to run. Fuel. The same fuel that was sky-high before the storm, then went worse sky-high after it.

I know how hard hit many of those people will be. That includes those who DID the smart, the adequate, the sensible preps they were supposed to do. These are not ignorant irresponsible idiots who expect everyone else to take care of them. NO.

They're you and me.

They are the same regular Americans who get hit by tornadoes all across the Midwest, or floods most anywhere, or avalanches, or mudslides, or earthquakes, or fires, or volcanoes, or tidal waves. There is no place we can live where we are somehow guaranteed safety from natural disasters. It's just that some take longer to occur, there's more time in between earthquakes than tornadoes and floods and fires.

I love reading Nancy's blog for lots of reasons. Her writing and her intelligence, her humor, her gardens, her perceptions of humanity and of animals, charm me. Dragonflies come sit on her hand the way butterflies and lizards do with me.

I believe she's way underappreciated as a blogger, maybe in part because she also does pay-posts. I read them too. Why? Because they're really good reads. That takes talent, to be given a phrase or subject to mention, and then write an interesting post around it. And I have absolutely NO problem with anyone doing honest work to keep their bills paid. Why in the world should that independent and responsible attitude be viewed as anything but a positive?

One thing that's been entrancing me after the hurricane is the heightened sense of sisterhood I feel with her, beyond what it already was. See, we've now both, personally, done that hunkered-down hurricane thing, and come out to see our beautiful yards trashed, no power, no potable water, no internet, no way of knowing when it'll come back on. Surrounded by destruction on all sides, huge heavy Things strewn about as if they were feathers in the breeze. Your sense of the stability of the physical world and of infrastructure, the order and permanence of society, is tilted on its axis. This sense of unreality marks you and changes you forever.

Way more than that? There's this wondrous unanticipated amazing joy among the people cleaning up and standing in line for ice.


Maybe you expect cranky bitchy rudeness out there. Instead, almost without exception, you hear people cracking jokes and telling stories and helping each other with information. The cleanup work is staggering - and people pitch in without even thinking about it. You take a little break from your own mess, go wander around, and when you see a neighbor struggling with a fence they're trying to prop, or a tree they're dragging to the roadside, you just walk up and start working with them. It's not even kindness. It's just what you do.

The vast majority of those people are extremely aware of the blessing of survival. Even if their roof is crashed in and all their precious, irreplaceable family photos destroyed, they look in wonder at themselves and say, My God, thank God, I'm alive, my kids are safe, my wife, my husband, my dog, my cats...

You have to belong inside an experience like that to appreciate it from within. And I feel that sense of wonder, of blessedness, pouring out between the words I read in Nancy's posts.

Nancy has asked folks to donate blood if we can, or send some funds to the Red Cross, food pantries, or the Houston Ike Relief Fund.

I had another thought. Nancy writes about those neighbors to the west who, in that spirit of unhesitating generosity, lent their electricity to her and her husband. They are among the people who are not on salary, who aren't reasonably secure while they wait for their workplaces to open up again.

So I asked Nancy if she could be a sort of central clearinghouse for donations for the Wests and for any others in her immediate area who could really benefit from a little extra help right now. Sometimes I like donating to specific people instead of a general fund. Nancy agreed to take on that role for her neighbors.


Me, I'm no good at fund-raising. I try, and I get some donations, but to do any serious collecting as in a real *drive?* Nope.

LL has an incredible talent that way. Recently, she wanted to collect some donations for an Arthritis Foundation fund-raising walk. In a few days she'd already exceeded her goal of $250. The others in her same group? They'd collected

I'm happily bemused by this, watching her over the years. She puts on her Mama Bear hat and politely but very firmly kicks butt, and BOOM! All done. The votes are in, the donations topped off, the packs of cigars and beef jerky sealed up and mailed to the servicemen and women overseas...She dusts off her hands and gets back to crunching high-grade numbers at work.

I wish I had that talent. I don't. But since I don't, I figure I have nothing to lose by trying to imitate her.

HEY! YOU OUT THERE! Yeah, that means YOU. And you! And you off in the corner sneaking away, there.

Here's the link to her blog. Find her button - it's in the top righthand section. Hit it. Even $5 is truly appreciated. If I can do it, you can too. I just did it. $10 whole bucks. So GO. Your turn!


I WILL be checking back.

I'm like Santa. I see EVERYTHING you're doing. So BE GOOD, boys and girls.


Okay. Let's see if that works.


Well, this technolame-o has found it impossible to make Nancy's donation button link work here in my post. So I changed the *donate* links above. Now they just go straight to her blog. HER Donate button works just FINE. It's located in the top right section.



Mickysolo said...

Thanks for the link to Nancy's blog.

My leg is almost healed and there is no sign of infection. I'm back exercising.

k said...

Mickey, YAY!!!

That's one down, two to go.

I wasn't sure if you read Nancy or not, but I think she's one of those less-heralded fine blogs out there. She has some similar health issues to both of us - diabetes, MRSA from time to time - and so does her husband, 'Pup. Getting another leg infection just before a major hurricane hits is just too awful.

But he got a big shot of antibiotics, and filled an rx for oral ones, literally hours before the storm hit.

They both have diabetes, too.

Give me some time and I'll be catching up with you. And hopefully, this is the last summer I spend totally out of commission like this.

It is very good to hear from you. I'm so glad to hear your leg is better.

Anonymous said...

K, I tried, but got some kind of general PayPal error. I'll try again in a few hours.

Nancy said...

K, I think the links you have don't quite work. Thank you for the post tho, I blushed as I read it with 'Pup looking over my shoulder.

btw: I posted by email through my phone. Which, I hope, excuses my spelling and punctuation errors as I was never sure when and how what I sent would be posted, and in what form.

I'm going to try to resist going back and editing.. but I've a feeling I won't win that battle... the inner English Teacher in me is cringing every now and again.

k said...

I must have *fixed* those blasted links five times. So I gave up and just linked back to your blog. The button's not hard to see. Yes, they can find it! I have complete and utter faith in the abilities of all those who read here.

I know what you mean about the phone postings, and the small errors that come out. I do the same thing when I'm too sick or something. I just noticed I spelled Mickysolo's name wrong in my reply to his comment above.

But that's part of the freedom we get under those special circumstances. I could not believe you found a way to post, live-blogging that storm, when all other communications were down! I was...blown away! ;-)

It's sort of like IM'g. It's a place and time we can let our hair down, grammar and punctuation and spelling-wise.

So me, I'd rather see your slightly imperfect hurricane posts remain up as they were posted. It's part and parcel of what you were experiencing, live-blogging a hurricane.

But I also know that drive to get it right!

And, ultimately: Your house, your rules. Right? So you do exactly as you wish.

And don't blush either. All truth, so no blushing allowed. Not HERE anyway.

My house, my rules.


Pretty Lady said...

k! You're a bankbuster extraordinaire. Quick, tell us what's going on! I haven't read a single economist who is happy with this bailout.