This is a day late, but worth the wait. I have two blogs to recommend for this week's Blog-It-Forward, both of which I find humorous. You may need a bit of a warped sense of humor to appreciate them.
The first recommendation is stuff on my cat.com, a sight full of amusing pictures... some very funny some just weird... perusing several should at least elicit a chuckle from you.
The second recommended blog is Useless Advice From Useless Men. You may be surprised at the "names" of some of the men since they might be familiar to you! You may also find the advice quirky and funny.
I am in search of pictures to use for this blog. I have a lot already, but I like to match the picture to the blog so sometimes it is difficult to find just the right photo or graphic. What I really like are pictures of actual living rodents... especially mice and rats. My hope is that some of you out there that actually have rodents for pets will email me some photos of your furry friends that you would not mind my using on this blog. With a few exceptions, I use the pictures once. Perhaps in a couple of years, I will use them again.
So if you are willing, please send the pictures to me at my current email address:
What a week this has been! I didn't get everything done that I wanted to get done this last week, but I got a lot of it done. I have made it through several doctors' visits and numerous medical tests. I made it through the Tuesday trek picking my mom up at the airport, driving her to Dunnellon and returning home... essentially I drove from 2:00 in the afternoon until 11:00 that night... I was a bit tired. Girls' Night Out last night was super... good food and some key buys at TJMaxx and a home store. My cable service is still not working consistently, but I am persevering in spite of that. The medical tests all agreed that I am healthy... my bones are still solid, my cholesterol is in good shape, my sugar is in line with where it should be, and my blood pressure is still 108/62. It looks like I will live out this next week, at least.
Tonight, the usual office group met at one of my favorite casual eateries and had a lot of laughs. Maybe that is why I remain healthy... laughter perks up the immune system. My immune system got quite the boost tonight. Good people, good food, good laughs. One of these Friday nights I will take my camera along and get some pictures of the culprits.
My new vehicle is still feeling new to me. I am really enjoying driving it. It is so comfortable and is great to drive. I also enjoy being able to get things in and out of the back without having to bend over and lift. The gas mileage has been decent... 23.3 mpg with both in-town and highway driving combined. I am a happy camper. Pictures soon, I promise.
I am currently watching the weather channel while posting this to keep up with what is going on with hurricane Rita. Seems to me that they should take all of the debris from these storms and dump it all in the New Orleans "bowl", add some dirt, and then think about rebuilding on the elevated land. I hope we make it through the season around here... I had enough last season, and we really had it easy in comparison! The Gulf Coast will take a long time to recover. I was reassured that the Houston/Galveston emergency planners were better prepared for this event( in spite of the traffic gridlock) than the planners in New Orleans. We will see in the next few days how things go... looks like there will me a lot of flooding. Two+ months to go before the end of the season.
My Roadrunner cable is only running intermittently right now. This makes posting quite a frustrating process. As soon as I can camp out to see the repair guy, I will get it fixed. In the meantime, I'll post when I can get online long enough.
I can't believe that it is already Monday! I feel like I just was at work yesterday. I have a very busy week ahead of me... in and out of the office. I have to go by the lab to get my blood drawn and pick up a kit for another medical test. I have two doctor appointments. I have to pick my mom up at the airport tomorrow and take her to Dunnellon two hours north, get her settled, and take another 2 hour drive south back to Clearwater. I also have a lot to get done at the office.
Actually I have a list of things that I want to get done at the office... I have completed about one third of the list... the easy third of course! Or at least the third that I don't mind doing. The things I hate to do, like filing, I tend to put off for later. It is now later... very, very later. After I finish payroll, it will be filing that I will have to tackle. Sigh.
So I am ready to face the world and get all of these things done with gusto!
Right. But first I think I need to have another cup of tea and contemplate what I will need to accomplish. Yeah... maybe two cups of tea...
It's been a busy week this week, and I have been caught in a bit of a time squeeze with family stuff.
I have also been a bit pressed for time at work.
My Aunt Elaine's funeral was on Wednesday and there had to be some changes in my mother's plane ticket home... at least three times. This involved numerous telephone conversations to figure out who was available to pick her up at the airport and then take her home which is a 2 hour drive away with another 2 hour return trip back to Clearwater. Last I heard, she will be coming in on the 20th.
In the meantime, I picked up Ally in Tampa and brought her back to Clearwater for her first post-op check up with the surgeon who removed her cancerous body parts. She will be very happy to get to wash her hair and take a real shower! Thursday she went back and had the stitches on her face removed and some of the stitches on her back removed. She will have another trip back to get the remainder of the stitches out.
This week has also been active at work with the fall start-up of a lot of programs. That means lots of checks to be written and invoices to be filed. I still have some of that backlog of filing left, but I am slowly making progress. The Pastor, Fr. Pat, returned from his trip to Ireland in the later part of the week, so he has piles of papers on his desk to go through. We also had our finance committee meeting this Thursday... first one with the new pastor. The stressful part of all that for me is trying to figure out just what he wants me to present to the committee. He has a different style from Fr. Aiden. It was a good meeting. Fr. Pat seems to want more interaction with the committee members, and I think that this is a very good thing. He is an experienced pastor and doesn't shirk from tackling things... although he does take the time to assess things before making any decisions. Two things seem to epitomize his outlook... "don't fix what isn't broken" and "keep it simple"... I won't argue with those!
I guess that I am just anxious to get into the swing of things, and he is taking things slowly to get the feel of how things are. I know that he will make some changes... he is big on accountability which is a very good thing. So we all will need to make sure that we are performing our jobs as we should... not a problem for most of the staff. A couple of staff members may have to make some adjustments... some very needed adjustments.
Fr. Mike has been super. He is a lot of fun and very quick to catch on to things. It is so great to finally have a young priest back in that corner office who likes to interact with the staff and is so willing to be helpful. The laughter is back in full swing!
As soon as the finance committee meeting was over on Thursday (around 5:15 PM), I finished up a few things in my office and then dragged my boss, Cathy with me to Girls' Night Out. We had a great time... Cathy couldn't get over these married women sitting around and cackling over various things in their lives, especially their husbands. She did laugh a lot! It is all very therapeutic!
Friday was an early start with a trip driving north to Spring Hill to attend a Diocesan Stewardship meeting. (I drove) It was a long day. I had a very hard time keeping my eyes open during the second part of the day after lunch! I think that the first speaker and the first workshop were the "meat" of the day for me, and after that it was downhill. I also developed a sore throat during the day (am I allergic to boring meetings?) and was relieved when Fr. Pat said we would leave early... we all had had enough! When we got back to the office I worked for another hour or so and then went home... to bed! I was exhausted and the throat bit was getting worse. For me, sleep is usually the best medicine.
So that was my week. Kind of a boring post, I know. But I hope you enjoyed the rodent pictures anyway!
This week is a double whammy, so to speak. A lot of you already read Random_Speak and Lemming Fodder, but I have a special reason for highlighting them. Besides the fact that they are both very funny... in print as well as in person, the are my two oldest offspring. If you skip reading the back and forth comments after their posts, you are missing out!
Personally, I think that comments are some of the best reads! It's one of the reasons that I so enjoy dbdoberman. I will highlight his blog another time. He is currently not able to blog regularly. His comments are usually quite amusing as well. I miss his daily goofiness.
So, if you want to get some insight into my quirky family, read the comments... "L", "JPR", and sometimes the "anonymous Ally" will often engage in some witty remarks back and forth. That's why they are today's...
This has been quite a weekend for me. Certainly the ongoing trauma of the devastation from Hurricane Katrina is still prominent in my psyche. Secondly, the anniversary of 9/11 has also been on my mind. So much misery. Some caused by nature, and much of it caused by human nature. However, for me, the saddest part of this weekend has been the death of my favorite aunt.
Aunt Elaine was always filled with life. She was a great lady with a wonderful sense of humor who could easily laugh at herself as well as the antics of others. You may remember "L" or I posting about her and her dog... "Willy the wonder dog"... an unending source of amusement for Elaine and the rest of us. It's hard to believe that someone so young at heart has died. Unfortunately, she was someone who smoked too much of her life and didn't quit soon enough to avoid the misery of emphysema.
It is comforting for me to know that she is in a better place and is no longer struggling with her breathing. She was lucky that she did not linger a long time. Hope is a wonderful thing. It is why I know that this country will rebuild... the lives of those left behind after 9/11 and those left behind after Hurricane Katrina will go on. We will have other disasters that cause sadness, but somehow those left behind rebuild and go on. Things will never be the same... they will be different... hopefully, in some ways, they will be better. People with faith in a greater power grasp the hope that our faith gives us.
So, here's to you Elaine! You have been a bright spot in my life, and I know that you are in a better place... still chuckling over Willy's antics or some other whimsical thought. I will miss you.
No, not me... The youngest of the Rhodent clan had some surgery done today. Allybrat had a mole removed from her face, and,more importantly, had a birth mark that had changed removed from her back. It was a long wait while she was prepped, poked, draped, cut, and sutured. The surgeon said he was sure that he got everything from her back and that the mole on her face was no problem.
Before the surgery she started to have a reaction to the antibiotics that they were adding to her IV, but it all turned out okay. She vomited only once on the way home and seemed to settle in her own bed okay. The boyfriend and I were professional waiting room groupies beginning at 7:30 AM this morning. It was strange hearing his name used as a contact instead of me. She's grown and over 21, but I am still the same mom that did the waiting room bit for the last 21 years. It's hard to be moved into second place, but life goes on and I know she will have someone looking after her at college. But then I get to take her to the Doctor on Tuesday and get my needed motherly fix to last for a bit. ;o)
I have been putting off this post because of the amount that I have to say. Everytime I sit down to start this rant I realize how much is involved. It is difficult to know where or how to start, and I wonder if anyone will take the time to read this whole post. I will try to break up the text with some appropriate illustrations for my points. The subject is, not unexpectedly, the problems before, during and after Hurricane Katrina.
The storm and the problems associated with it are larger than any experienced in this country ever before.
There are no easy answers here, but some common sense is definitely in order. Disaster and hurricane preparedness is not an exact science. All anyone can do is draw upon prior experience, scientific projection, common sense, and the basic desire of most Americans to do the right thing. I have attended numerous hurricane conferences here in Florida over the years. They are large conferences and well attended by emergency management, medical people, Red Cross and the numerous other volunteer organizations that activate during a disaster. From what I have learned at those conferences, I have some pertinent things to say about what has happened and the efforts involved in the relief efforts.
Let's address prior experience first. At every Florida Governor's Hurricane Conference that I have attended in the past, a common theme has always been "lessons learned" from the previous season's storms. The first one I attended was the season after Hurricane Hugo. In the years following, some of the storms addressed were the infamous "March No-Name Storm", Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Opal, Hurricane Georges, and the numerous other storms that have impacted our area of the world. I learned a lot and so did the relief agencies with each year's disasters. Even before Andrew hit Florida (and then LA) in 92, emergency managers talked about what potential for disaster awaited in the most vulnerable parts of our country. These have been and still are Monroe County, FL (aka the Florida Keys), the Long Island area of the Northeast, the Tampa Bay area of Florida, and or course, the bowl of New Orleans.
Anywhere a category 4 or 5 Hurricane hits is vulnerable. Devastation is to be expected. Last year when the Tampa Bay area was bracing for Hurricane Charley, many people evacuated to Orlando and other areas in the middle of the state. Then Charley took a strong right turn, hit Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, and many of the evacuees from the Tampa Bay found themselves in worse conditions as Charley crossed the state than were experienced in the Tampa Bay area. My point: as prior experience tells us, these storms are still unpredictable. A slight change in direction, forward speed, or a mere few miles difference in the area of landfall can make a huge difference.
So back to New Orleans (remembering that this was NOT the only place hit!)... For years it has been known what a vulnerable city New Orleans would be if hit by a major hurricane. Were the major preparations for this eventual disaster entirely the responsibility of our federal government? To answer this question, I think I will use my own Pinellas County of the Tampa Bay area as an illustration...
These maps are the evacuation maps of upper and lower Pinellas County. Pinellas County is a peninsula on a peninsula. Lower Pinellas County is the home of the larger city of St. Petersburg. Notice how the center of the city becomes an island from the storm surge of a major hurricane. Upper Pinellas also becomes detached from the mainland. I also would not expect the three bridges from Pinellas to Tampa to hold up in a major storm. So what we have left are two islands on the West Coast of Florida... at least until the storm waters recede, the roads are fixed, and the bridges repaired... repaired after the storm has passed the area and those responsible for the repairs can get their equipment in place. It is expected that in a category 5 hurricane the downtown area of Tampa would be hit by a storm surge of 26 feet or higher. That's a lot of water and a lot of damage and more debris and roads to be cleared before Pinellas County can receive aid by any means other that boat or plane.
In the meantime... no water, no services (electrical, sewer, garbage, telephone, cell phones). Telephone lines have to be reconnected. Power lines and transformers have to be repaired, cell phone towers have to be repaired and put back into place, roads have to be cleared of debris... etc, etc, etc. One of the biggest points made at the hurricane conferences were that communications is always a major issue initially and that the people impacted by the storm are not in a good position to evaluate their own needs and the damage that has been done. That is where the state level emergency management agencies come into play... and FEMA comes in as soon as the state governor requests aid and the area is named a disaster area.
But what are the responsibilities of the people in the impacted area? Individuals that have the means to do so should prepare their homes for the storms. This means to have proper window protection, a "safe room" ready, the appropriate foodstuffs, water, and first aid supplies necessary. Everyone in the impacted area needs to be able to be self-sufficient for at least three days and probably should be prepared for at least a week. If you are in an evacuation area in Pinellas County, you need to get out EARLY! I could go on about these types of issues, but this information is available in many places.
People who live on the barrier islands, no matter how many times they are warned often do not choose to evacuate. Once the bridges are closed, they are on their own. After the storm they will require extra time and effort to rescue. Whose fault is that?
So what about the people that do not have the means to prepare their homes? Do they have the ability to evacuate to safety and sustain themselves for what could possibly be weeks? There is a shortage of hurricane shelter spaces in Pinellas County. There are many elderly who have special needs, such as Oxygen, that need to be in a place where their needs can be met. There are many people whose only mode of transportation is a city bus. This is where I think that the local governments and emergency management have the responsibility to provide transportation and shelter.
Some people will always bury their heads and ignore their peril until the last minute.
However, every year, at the last moment when a hurricane is threatening, people with special needs who have not bothered to register with the fire department or other government agencies responsible for getting them to a special needs shelter, are calling asking for help. This is hard to do at the last minute. It also makes it hard to have adequate supplies in place to meet the needs of the numbers who arrive... even when they plan for extra people. But still, I believe that it is the responsibility of the local governments and emergency management offices to have in place plans to evacuate people who have no transportation and who are in need of extra help. That is the type of things that can be planned for ahead of time utilizing city busses, school busses, and various types of emergency equipment where appropriate. It is NOT, however, the responsibility of the federal government.
Another problem that I see is greed. Local governments allowing homes to be built in areas along the bay that are only 3 to 4 feet above sea level and in areas that were once filled with mangroves, nesting sites for birds, and by no means safe from even a small storm surge. Now, their stupidity makes them the responsibility of federal flood insurance programs. Duh. Local governments greed for a larger tax base and compromising their cities to big developers for whatever reason causes a greater load on emergency management and relief agencies. Personally, I don't like the federal government providing flood insurance for $500,000.00 homes on the water. The money could be better spent elsewhere. Like providing grants to communities that ARE interested in disaster mitigation.
Knowing that a problem exists does not necessarily mean that it is easily fixed. If it involves relocating homes, local politics, people's egos, and greed, it becomes almost impossible to fix. Should downtown Tampa be relocated to higher ground? Should the city of St. Petersburg remove all vulnerable structures on its shores? Should all of the new half-million dollar homes be torn down? Should old historic hotels be abandoned? What about all of the new condos and apartment buildings being built faster than rodents reproduce? They are often not built with cement blocks but with wood products and stucco surfacing. It will not take too much winds to turn them into match sticks. Who is responsible for that? If I put up an expensive, but poorly constructed home in a vulnerable area, who should I blame when the house is turned into debris along with all of its contents?
The blame game is not helping the relief efforts.
This is not to justify the ineptness of some of the relief efforts that have gone on, but
In order for anything to be done, the storm has to finish passing. This is more that just a couple of hours.
In order for buses and other vehicles to get in, the roads have to be cleared of debris and repaired enough for vehicles to use them.
Police, firefighters and relief workers from the impacted area are under too much stress to have so much responsibility when their own home and families are involved.
The US Military does not function as a police force...that is the role of local police agencies assisted by or replaced by the National Guard.
The superdome certainly was a shelter of last resort. It was not a shelter designed for an ongoing shelter.
Was there enough transportation provided for the poor to get to shelters?
Were there enough shelters?
Did many of the people needing help after the storm refuse to leave when warned?
Were there reciprocal aid plans in place with other states in the event of a major flood or hurricane for sheltering and aiding the citizens of New Orleans and the other vulnerable areas of the state?
Were there plans in place for evacuating hospitals and providing for alternative emergency care?
The problems in New Orleans have been there a long time. I don't think that strengthening the levy system would have been the whole answer. Sooner or later a bigger storm would come along that would overpower a stronger levy. Perhaps displacing buildings near the existing levies and building an additional levy system would make more sense. It would take time, and yes, that is something the federal government could help with... or could have helped with... before Katrina. But what about now? Should the city try to rebuild as it was? That is one of the big questions. But a question best left until people's immediate needs have been addressed. A question best left until those people have jobs, are receiving paychecks, or aid checks or disability checks. A question best left until the dead are buried and the funerals are over.
I have been very upset over some of the reporting that I have seen on TV this past week. Reporters whom I normally respect... and many that I don't... are already asking questions about people being fired or replaced and questions about whose fault it all is. This is craziness! We are in the middle of a disaster that is of a magnitude unseen in this country before. It is not just New Orleans. A large portion of the Gulf Coast has been impacted. The country as a whole has been impacted because of the interruption of oil and natural gas flow. People are doing the best that they can. When the recovery is better under control will be the time to determine fault. I still maintain that the responsibility starts with personal responsibility, then local government and relief agencies, then state level, then federal level. Everyone is responsible in a major disaster. WE each need to do for ourselves what we can and beyond that the various agencies need to plan ahead as best they can.
The Scientific community has made great strides in predicting what hurricanes will do. There are still elements in forecasting major storms that are unpredictable. (Sometimes, I think, the category 4 and 5 storms are less affected by weather patterns to the point that they seem to make their own weather patterns) Predicting people's behavior is less certain.
Many people get worked up over the presidential elections. Perhaps they should pay as much attention to their local elections. Local governments need to take more initiative for mitigation and preparation. They need to change some of their stupid policies about building codes and zoning. And the citizens of their communities need to take a stand and make their elected officials accountable for these issues.
Local churches and volunteer organizations have long been involved in relief efforts and sheltering. They provide host homes during storms for those that need to evacuate. They provide assistance. They support the shelters and provide food and support during the storms. National church and volunteer organizations are heavily involved in relief efforts after a disaster. Getting involved before a disaster happens is one of the best things that you can do. You will then be prepared and trained to do your part.
I have also heard some criticism of some of the relief agencies... specifically the Red Cross. Now, I have to admit that I am not a big fan of the Red Cross. This is mostly because of some of their reorganization structure changes that put Hillsborough County in charge of Pinellas County, and the assorted politics involved. However, nationally, Red Cross is a very crucial part of disaster preparedness and assistance in this country.
One of the criticisms that I read was that the Red Cross seemed to be more interested in advertising itself than providing assistance. (I know that I used to get irritated at the hurricane conferences whenever a Red Cross workshop would spend the first 10 to 15 minutes giving a brief history of the Red Cross. I heard it way too many times!) But there is more to the story... For the relief efforts after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Red Cross volunteers went in to provide aid in a big way. However, they did not all have identifying garments and insignia on so that people could easily see they were there. As a result, they were criticised for not being very present during the initial relief efforts for that storm. It seems to me that they have learned their lesson. Damned if they do, damned if they don't.
I want to point out how the various private relief agencies work together in a disaster. They each have their own areas of expertise. Southern Baptist Convention has always been great at serving food to large masses of people. Red Cross and Salvation Army are some of the first responders. Catholic Charities is usually there for the long haul... for instance, they maintained the tent shelters in South Florida for the poorest of the poor for a long time after the other agencies were gone. My point is that all of the groups have a role to play. Don't hesitate to donate to any of them that are asking for funds to aid in the disaster. The money will be put to good use. Red Cross is a good choice because it is there so quickly. But so are the others. I usually give to Red Cross and then through my church. If you can donate blood, do it. What we do in our local communities to support the agencies that are in the midst of the disaster is just as important as being there... they cannot function without our support.
Get involved somehow. Give money, give blood, volunteer, take an active part in local politics to hold your local officials accountable for local disaster preparations. Do something. Take personal responsibility for your own situation as best you can. Learn where the resources are in your local community... for yourself and for others. Play a role in educating others. Ignore the blame game. It doesn't solve anything. It doesn't help anything. It is distracting to the efforts being made.
Remember, we are just now getting into the peak of the hurricane season, and it does not end until November 30th! And... hurricanes can strike in the same place during the same season, as was the case last summer.
Tonight was another girls' night out so I am going to be lazy, lay back, put my feet up and not do much of a post tonight. It's not that I don't have anything to post about... I do! I could be writing about my new car (Yay!). I could be writing about the fun I had with the girls tonight. I could be writing about the current gas rationing/shortage in our area. I could be writing about some of the other effects that Katrina is having on lives around here. I should be writing about relief organizations.
But I am not going to do it tonight. I have a doctor's appointment in the morning, I am tired, and I would be up late if I were to get started blogging about the above. So, I am going to bed earlier than usual and getting rested. Tomorrow I will post about some of the above topics. Tomorrow is Friday (Yay, again!) and I can do my usual late-night posting.
TGIF... all of you new mommies and daddies out there get some sleep! Sheesh!