Sunday, August 29, 2010

Five Years Out

Today marks the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina smashing into the Gulf Coast. I have neighbors because of this tragic event - two folks who were moving to the area anyway, but decided to move up their plans somewhat. I'd like to think that we as a country learned a few things from Katrina and maybe we did. Then again, we tend to be rather thick, so maybe we'll have to learn these lessons all over again. The one thing I know for sure is that Mother Nature will bring the lessons to us - whether it's a simple brush-up refresher or a total re-taking of the course is up to us.

When I was in my freshman year of college - the first time I was seriously away from home - my college was flooded. Really flooded - something like a dozen feet of water. Cold sandwiches came to us from the college kitchen via the outdoor club's canoes. This was prior to cell phones (yeah, I know - I'm old, deal with it) and phone lines were down, so it was several days before any of us could get to a phone and tell our parents that we were okay. The school was closed for about a month and it took ten years for the college to fully recover - the library was hit hard and while a great number of books were saved through the frantic efforts of volunteers, many were lost. But there was no loss of life, despite my own stupid idea of going for a walk to gawk at the destruction when there were live power lines down and lots of lovely electricity-conducting standing water around. I was young - it was an adventure, instead of being a crisis.

With that experience, until Katrina, I'd never really thought about being able to throw a few belongings in the car, whistle for Spooky and high-tail it out of wherever I was as a blessing. I have family and friends who will gladly loan me a couch and the property is insured, so replacing things would involve a painful amount of paperwork, but ultimately, it'd be mostly okay.

I'd never thought about not having that option. About being so down and out that staying was a bad option, but there was no way to leave. About not having the supplies you need - clean water, canned food, medicine - to ride out six or seven days until help might (just might) be able to get to you. Think about it - can you make it, totally on your own, for a week? No power, so no lights, no refrigeration, no computer, no air conditioning. Your house is flooding, so you seek shelter in the attic - can you chop your way out to the roof if need be? What about your kids or animals? Can they get up there? Can they get to the roof? Do you have food and water? Do you have a first aid kit to bind up the hand you cut open swinging the axe to smash through your own roof? Do you have anything to rig up as a shelter once you're out there on the roof? What about medicine for your allergies or your mother-in-law's asthma? You can't run to the drugstore to get a prescription filled. Did you grab a bucket to take care of certain personal hygiene issues? And I think we can forget about abiding by Clinique's three-step skin care regime.

Say a prayer for the Gulf Coast. And add into that prayer a little breath of thankfulness that it wasn't you having to answer those questions.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In Praise of an Empty House

Strange time, this. The house is empty now – well, not exactly. Spooky and I are still firmly in residence, but FryDaddy has gone away to get some schoolin’. This is a good thing, don’t misunderstand me, but it makes for some melancholy in the air. While it’s nice to be able to straighten a pile of clutter and have it stay straightened until I decide otherwise, I miss his clutter.


To combat this tendency towards sighing, I’m trying to flip my thinking around. Rather than being sad and various shades of blue (I was up to 26 at the last count), I’m trying to focus on why this is a good thing. Three things come to mind:

1. FryDaddy is one smart cookie. School’s a good place for him to be. He’ll sharpen his thinking, have some ideas challenged and hopefully, come out on the other side of this a thoughtful, compassionate, hard-working so-and-so. (Sure, he already has those qualities, but maybe this will make it even more so.)

2. School matters. Yes, you can make it in the cold, hard world without a degree – I know plenty of people who have done just that; some of them quite successfully – but that precious piece of paper does carry some cachet. Not to mention, it shows in a very tangible way that a person can set himself a task and stick to it until the goal line is crossed.

3. This separation is temporary and really, not that big a deal. People run on opposing schedules all the time – especially in a family that has to deal with shiftwork. My sister and brother-in-law once had to spend several years separated by three states due to a job transfer. And all of this is flat-out nothing compared to military families who have to deal with deployment, perhaps even into a combat zone. Compared to that, two hours on the interstate isn’t much.

Still, this is going to take a little while to adjust. Thanks to technology, we’re talking often (Skype is coming soon!) and we’re going to try to meet mid-week for dinner. We’re also taking the suggestion of several good friends – we got two copies of the TV show Supernatural and we’re going to watch that episode-by-episode before we meet for our weekly (?) dinners so we can talk about something other than work and school.

What about you, Gentle Readers? Any suggestions on dealing with life changes and distance? The lines are open and operators are standing by to take your calls . . .

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Let the Games Begin!

It's true - summer speeds by on gossamer wings. The fall semester starts again tomorrow, which means that tomorrow is likely to be a day marked by students coming in a little late as they figure out where the classroom is or where to park to get inside the building in the first place. Many will wander as if shell-shocked. For my end of things, the first day handouts are ready and the proper information is available on Blackboard. Rosters will be (mostly) up to date. Regardless of all my planning, I'm sure I'll have my shell-shocked moments, too.

It probably won't help that my ankle is still gimpy. Maybe I'll go into the first day looking like a surly schoolmaster character out of Dickens, wrapped head to toe in black and banging a heavy walking stick down with each step as I grumble about "insufferable children." Hmmm - while not a good one, you have to admit that it's a plan.

At any rate, I think I'm ready for it. FryDaddy is also returning to school tomorrow, although for him, it's a one-day orientation to the university and then he's back here for a bit. Classes commence for him a smidge later than for me. So I have the abnormally-quiet house to myself for a night. Time to spend thinking about the role of education for adults, time to get excited about the prospect of a fresh page, time to puzzle over which patron saint of education comes the closest to meeting my needs (yes, you can shop for saints - but don't wait for the Christmas rush! Pick from this list. Or maybe this one!).

Wish me luck! And reserve your copy of Buffy in the Classroom! A must for every teacher and student returning to the hallowed halls of learning this fall! (OK, yeah, you got me - I'm in it, but still - it's a good collection!)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

That Snapping Sound You Hear . . .

. . . is my spine unlocking.

Yes, the honeymoon is in full swing now, but today is one of those grey, rainy days at the beach that make a day of watching movies and eating copious amounts of junk food seem like a very, very good idea! And I discovered that I have the necessary Internet connection here to allow me to access this blog, so here I am, for at least a few minutes.

There's not much to report. (It is a honeymoon, after all. You're not pruient enough to care about the details, right? Right.) It's been a wonderful trip so far - lots of sunshine, sand, water and time to do as much or as little as we please.

In short, it's been heavenly!

Hope your week has gone well and signing off for now, but back soon.