Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On Second Thought

This morning I awoke to the trees being coated with an inch of ice, branches bowed down to the ground. Some of the branches were touching my house and there was an occasional whoosh and crack as more limbs broke off.

We got two more inches of snow on top of the inch of ice. And, of course, the power went back out at quarter past noon. I waited until about 3, then packed up the birds and went to C's house. The utilities company said power was out for over 500,000 in the state and they expected it would take two weeks before power would be completely restored.

Around two (and the main reason I left) the young woman from next door came over to ask again if I was all right because they were leaving again. She handed me a piece of paper with two numbers on it -- "my grandma's number" and "my number." No names, which wouldn't do me any good anyway, since I don't know my neighbors' names.

I aged about 30 more years after this encounter, just as I did last night. But C's husband explained to me that the city was urging everyone to check on their neighbors if they were elderly or if they lived alone. So I'm going to assume they were nicely checking up on me because I live alone rather than thinking I'm old, old, old.

Very kind of them and I suppose I need to ask their names. sigh . . .

It was tricky getting out of my subdivision but once I got onto the main roads I was okay. The temperatures were around 30 and the main roads were wet and blocked with the occasional fallen limb. But the temperature is dropping to the 20s and the wet roads are frozen.

About the only way I'll know if the power is back on my house is to drive over there, and I'm not too eager to do that on frozen streets. So C and I and three of her daughters and her green-check conure are watching Youtube. And giggling. Her umbrella cockatoo is trying to sleep under his covers beside the kitchen table where we're all gathered. My babies are in their little travel cages in the basement with their covers over them. Soon I'll be down there with them to sleep on the couch.

sigh . . .

I've got my voice back and I fully intend to make dress rehearsal tomorrow night. But the logistics are going to drive me crazy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ice Storm, Neighbors, Darkness . . .

I've been home since Monday afternoon with some version of sinusitis, laying on the couch taking antibiotics and decongestants and occasionally cruising the internet until it's time for another nap.

We had an ice storm here last night -- about an inch of ice over everything and maybe half an inch of snow. Everything looks lovely -- from inside. The local TV people kept telling us this afternoon that tonight would be seriously worse than last night and to not go outside if possible. I took them at their word. Many areas of the city were without power.

Because I work in a hospital I'm expected to be at work no matter the weather or conditions (though they do draw the line at risking your life to get to the office). Even though all I do is shuffle papers, I'm still expected to be there. So I felt a little guilty that I was home sick while all this awful weather was happening, and knowing how my co-workers were scraping ice off their cars and braving the icy roads. Plus you're never allowed to take sick leave during a weather or other emergency unless you have "proof" of illness. But I have the receipt from the doctor's office and my little cache of drugs as proof to anyone.

I was laying on the couch, not watching the TV that was on, when the power went out. I had already put the birds to bed, i.e., put the covers over their cages. I had my laptop in my lap so I used its light to make my way to the hall closet where I had put my big flashlight. Except that it wasn't there. I help my laptop at different angles to search but finally gave up. I found one of those cheap round battery-operated lights you're supposed to be able to stick on your walls, but they never worked long for me. But this one worked. And I did manage to find my Black & Decker SnakeLight, which I love.

Back to the couch I went, when I heard something crunching through hard snow across my front yard. Then someone began banging on my door. I took my little round disc light, opened the front door, and shone the light at the person there. It was a young black woman, her face nearly hidden in her faux fur hood. Was I okay, she asked.

I noticed the big truck next door was running and could see its tail lights lit. I assured her I was fine and then I asked if she was from next door. She smiled and said yes.

"Y'all leaving," I asked.

"Yeah, we're going to grandma's!"

"Have a good time," I said, as she crunched her way back to the truck. I could almost smell the popcorn and hot cocoa.

Our subdivision is completely dead without light, and many people leave when there's a power outage. So it was nice of the neighbors to ask about me. But it also made me feel approximately 2,319 years old. You know, the old lady in the neighborhood that parents make their children "check on."

Back to the couch, as befits an "old" person. I propped the light on my belly and read my way through my latest issue of The Sun (a magazine I highly recommend). Time passed.

An hour. Ninety minutes. The occasional snap and crash of a limb breaking under the weight of ice. Sirens. The sound of tires far off spinning on ice.

I had a blanket on the couch (again, like an "old" person would have) and I tried to map out what I would do if the temperature dropped into the 20s or teens. My entire house is electric. It was feeling a bit chilly but more like walking into a really cool room after being out in the hot sun.

Two hours.

My car is covered with ice and mired in hard crunchy snow. If things got bad I'd have to take my birds somewhere. How long would it take me to clean off and warm up the car? Should I call my vet's office or home now to reserve a space? Should I just wait it out? The temperature had hovered around 30 all day and my house is pretty well insulated, so I decided to wait it out.

Several years ago we had a horrible ice storm. Power out in my area for seven days; some other areas ten days. And it was very, very cold. I managed to get my birds to a pet store that was accepting animals and still had power -- my vet's office was overflowing by the time I realized the power wasn't coming back on. For two nights I slept at the hospital -- the first night on the floor of my office because I couldn't find a security guard to let me onto the floor where some beds were open; the second night in a room overlooking the emergency entrance. It was a bad storm and a bad experience for most of the state, and we all learned a lot from it.

Would I have to do the same thing tonight? Plus I was sick and being out in the ice wouldn't help matters at all. I had made my doctor swear that the antibiotics and decongestants would work in time so that I could sing at dress rehearsal Thursday night and the concert Saturday night -- this was no time to risk getting sicker if it could be avoided.

Two and a half hours. I finished The Sun and dug around the shelf under the coffee table for another magazine to read. I asked the birds if they were all right, but of course they refused to answer.

A flicker of light, darkness, then full power returned. And stayed. It's been back on for about 30 minutes now, and the heat pump is on in full force. It got to 61 degrees in the house so the birds were in no danger, and everything in the refrigerator is just about as cold as it was three hours ago, so that's fine, too.

It's still very pretty outside though -- all that ice coating all those limbs, shining in the street lights.

I'm going to bed, and I'll be leaving a little light on. Just in case.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Another woman missing tonight, according to the evening news. She was last seen two days ago,arguing with her boyfriend.

It seems to me there have been a lot of missing and murdered women making the news around here for several months now. One had dementia and was found frozen to death. One owns a farm and was last seen with a handy man who'd been recently fired. A woman and her children shot and then left in a burning house.

Six months ago it was horribly abused and neglected children making the news; many of the children died a day or so after being rescued. And of course neighbors come out of the woodwork and claim they knew the abuse was going on, and that they had repeatedly reported it, but no action was ever taken or social services would investigate and determine all was well. What the hell are our social services doing?

My mother lives in a small town, and she told me one afternoon about two little girls who lived with their parents in a trailer a few blocks away from my mom. The little girls were not allowed to wear panties. A local church, knowing how poor the family was, gave the girls several new dresses, which the parents immediately took back to the store and got the money for. Presumably to buy drugs -- according to the grape vine.

I called state social services and said I suspected the girls were being sexually abused, that not allowing a girl to wear panties is not what you'd call healthy and normal. And you know what I was told? That no investigation could happen because it might be a religious belief to not wear underwear. The incident of returning the dresses was explained as the parents' right and since I had not seen any drug use or purchase the agency had nothing to go on.

From what I understand, the father was arrested for drug abuse a few months later. This was about a year ago, and my mother has no idea what happened to the wife and girls. Or the father.

My mom's been in the hospital about fifty miles away since Thursday morning with suspected pneumonia that turned out to not be pneumonia but is probably bronchitis and/or a severe sinus infection. She's on heavy duty antibiotics, steroids, and some kind of breathing treatments, which she hates. She's always been nervous and talks a lot, but the steroids have her talking non-stop. I've called her several times a day and she just talks and talks and talks; I doubt she's heard a word I've said. Today I drove down there and stayed with her a couple of hours today and I don't think she was quiet for a total of five minutes. She's pretty much lost her voice to congestion today, so it was doubly hard to listen to her talk, talk, talk, with her voice gone. I kind of felt sorry for the nurses and aides who happened to stop in -- it's hard to get away when she gets started. She had some true crime program on the TV, which she wasn't watching, and she got four phone calls while I was there. She's not allowed any sugar because of the steroids so she's frantic for a coke or candy bar, which no one will give her. I brought her a bag of sugar-free chocolate-covered mints but I don't think she liked them. Poor thing. The doctor says she'll be fine, but they don't plan to let her go home until Monday or Tuesday.

I've been thrilled with Obama until he made an ass of himself yesterday during a cabinet meeting. Bragging that he'd won the election and implying everyone has to do what he says. That's not very bipartisan and I was very disappointed. I hope he doesn't turn into an ego-maniacal monster.

Charli took a hunk out of my thumb tonight. I was putting her back in her cage and I guess she didn't want to go. She'd been out for about an hour, diligently chewing up a book (one that she's allowed to chew up), and then discovering a five-dollar bill and a one-dollar bill on the table. She left chew marks in both of them, and we fought over who was going to keep the bills. I had remembered to put up my change since Charli enjoys picking up coins and dropping them on the floor (they make such a nice sound, you understand), so we didn't have to fight over loose change.

It was 57 degrees yesterday, dropped to 27 last night, and got all the way back up to 32 today. Probably snow tonight. Tomorrow the chorus is scheduled to sing the national anthem for the opening of a women's basketball game. I got my nerve up and volunteered to sing in a small group at our winter concert. I do not have a solo-type of voice, but I really like this song and the director relegated it to a small group.

Well, I guess I've complained enough. It's depressing to keep hearing about missing or murdered women and abused children, so maybe Saturday Night Live will not be a repeat tonight and I can go to bed with a grin on my face instead of a furrowed brow.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nice cold Sunday afternoon. Just a touch of snow.

Yesterday I had breakfast with the woman who was my best friend back in junior high (no, we didn't have middle school back in the Dark Ages). She showed me pictures of her six grandchildren and caught me up on forty years of her history. Then I caught her up on forty years of my history. She and I work for the same university medical center, but that place is so huge we would have never met.

When we were hanging out together, we'd go up into her room on the top floor, which had a window that looked out onto a busy city street. We'd open that window and sing Beatle songs as loud as we could to all the people passing by. And we'd serenade adults when we were walking on the sidewalks.

I talked to her a lot about the all-women's chorus I'm in yesterday and tried to convince her she'll have as much fun as we used to have. But I don't think she'll even consider it.

I went to our ten year high school reunion, and remember looking for her but not finding her. Then I never heard from a reunion committee again. Turns out she has never heard of any reunion at all -- until last week she just happened to get an e-mail from an old friend who mentioned our 40th reunion. I tell you what, they really need to do some marketing work! We agreed to go and give 'em hell.

Then I bit the bullet and went to several big box stores to buy a flat screen TV. My old television was over 20 years ago -- so old that even the new converter box would need an accessory to work. It was 19 inch so I didn't want to go smaller than that, and I didn't want to pay more than $200.

Ha! I ended up getting a 19 inch with DVD player at Best Buy. It was marked $329 and after I begged and asked and threatened, he brought down the price to $299.

I spent several hours last night setting everything up. I already have a combo DVD/VCR so that took some figuring out. At the store I kept thinking I had two separate components -- a DVD player and a VCR. When I got home and realized it was a combo I realized I didn't need the DVD player on the TV and should probably take it back and get a bigger screen. But the store is in Mall Hell South, and I don't feel like dismantling it, packing it, driving out there, and then starting all over. The TV still needed my old antenna since reception is very bad in my neighborhood. No, I don't have cable and have no plans to ever get cable. Then I settled in and watched some TV. The screen really is 19 inches (you measure diagonally), but it's wider than my old TV and not as tall. But the picture is very nice and I'm glad I don't have to worry about all that conversion stuff next month.

The Evil Person at work is still causing problems. So I'm going to Employee Relations this week to start the process. It'll be on file in case I have to file a grievance (or sue). Of course, I don't pretend that Employee Relations will actually say or do anything to help me -- they work for the university, not the employees. But it'll be on record.

I was off about 10 days between Christmas and New Year's -- and I was so happy and rested. And productive -- I got a ton of little stuff done so I don't have to worry about it anymore. Now I get to worry about tons of new little stuff. I could get so much done if only I didn't have to work.

That reminds me -- I need to check my lottery tickets!

Unfortunately, I only practiced piano once while I was off, and only practiced songs for the upcoming concert once. My piano teacher, O, reassigned all three pieces again until I get it right.

Flash's follow-up visit showed the place on his foot is smaller and about ready to scab over and fall off. We still don't know what caused it. The vet said the enzyme levels that indicate tissue damage were very, very high. So I agreed to have them tested again -- just to be sure (plus I'm sure the clinic needs the money!). It came back perfectly.

Sugar has perched herself on my left shoulder, the better to poop down the front of my shirt and stand closer to my ear when she decides it needs to be bitten. Charli is in some kind of trance on my right, chewing up my Little Black Book of Sudoku (I've already done all the puzzles except for the dreadfully hard ones, so its okay for her to chew on it).

Now I'm going to go get some lunch. I've been waiting until the church crowds thin out a little, but I'm hungry and am not going to wait any longer.