Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Really LONG Story-End of Year personal blog, and...

If you are reading this, you are probably one of my Twitter-followers, so I'm addressing this blog, mainly to them, (you?). In any event, thank-you for reading this!
Apologies for being a bad-blogger! 
Sometime right after the blogger known-as Lynn Hudson died, Google put me on notice that they were pulling ads from this blog due to "adult content". Huh? They have the right, and the ultimate duty to protect their company, and their advertisers. I wanted to get into a war with them about, "adult content", but since they refused to tell me exactly what they meant by that, I was left to guess. If "it" was something that alerted their porn-filter/adult-content, the only "sex" that I posted here were some comments about a "same-sex"-wedding.  So, for those of you who support Gay marriage, I was willing to take one for the team there, but I never really found-out what the problem was.

There were also circumstances at that time that caused me to question whether this blog had been maliciously "reported". Carly Hall posted that Lynn had had some problems of that nature, and another "Housewives" blogger had posted a statement about "being reported" to Google. So, I was unhappy with Google, and possibly some random trouble-maker, or possibly someone who considered this blog as "competition", to their interests, so.....that's my excuse for not-blogging here.

Speaking-of Lynn, I have thought of her often since her surprising sudden death this past August.  I wasn't a big fan of Lynn's blog, but I had been there since the beginning. I respected her for her writing, and the enormous amount of work that she put into her blog. It appeared to me that Lynn had distrust and suspicions when it came to other bloggers such as myself, so most other bloggers were ultimately considered persona-non-Grata, or worse over at IHJZ, but I am fortunate in that my very last communication with Lynn, had been on friendly terms.

 So when she suddenly died on her 49th birthday, I was shocked like everyone else. I did some more research into the person who we all knew as "Lynn N Chicago", and I learned that her financial situation was beyond bad. I learned that in the week that she passed-away, her home was foreclosed. As a reader of her blog, I never would have guessed that her situation was so desperate. She did not share that with her readers, but if she would have informed her readers, her "LynFam", I have no doubt that they would have offered and tried to help her.

Which brings me to my personal situation. As some of you know, I found myself smack-dab in the eye of the super-storm that hit the East Coast this year. Being in the eye of a hurricane is all that you would think it is-its beautiful, and peaceful. Especially when you're experiencing it in a safe, DRY, place. Its the after-math that sucks.

What came-through my house is pretty-much what I would expect a tsunami to be like, without the white-caps. WATER and lots of it, and FAST. The water was gone almost just as quickly. (most of it-the rest of it lives-on as mold-spores).

I had a life or death experience when I had to make some quick decisions, knowing that it had come to a point that if I made the wrong choices, that it could cost me my life. Fortunately, I did not drown or get electrocuted when I swam my way to higher ground.

Why didn't I evacuate in time? I simply did not believe that the water would go much higher than I'd ever seen it in the 25 years that I've lived here. I knew that it was bad when I called my city's public works department and the man on the other end told me that the water had breached a high-tide line that had not been passed in the 37 years that he had been there. The storm was still hundreds of miles offshore at that time, but flooding had started on our barrier-island. There was one more low-tide cycle coming, but the water never went down like we had expected. I waited for my chance to leave during the low-tide, but the water just kept rising.

I was alone with my cat at that point. Most of my family had scattered and I had stayed behind to see which way the storm was going to go. Usually, a predicted storm would not make a direct hit and for this one we had to wait and see if it was going to make a left-turn. I heard the news that the storm had made the turn towards the East Coast at about four am. I decided to get myself to the mainland and I called my husband. He told me to wait for him. It looked like we had plenty of time-it wasn't even raining and the street was dry. My husband was taking-care of a dialysis patient and it was a matter of waiting for the patient's intravenous medicine to finish. By the time the he tried to reach me, he was turned-back under orders of FEMA.

This is where FEMA comes into my story. I could say that the actions of FEMA caused me to have to make life or death decisions , and that I resent FEMA for that. But I won't. What I resent FEMA for, is the hours and hours spent on hold with them on the telephone. And the efforts made producing, and finding the infinite documentation that they require. (hours that could have been better-spent cleaning-up this great big MESS!)

Why did I even bother with FEMA? Because I thought that FEMA would be my best choice in getting assistance. Because FEMA relentlessly advertised and solicited. Because I was unquestionably affected by the storm and I was willing to trust them with my personal information. OH-and because I had called The American Red Cross while my city was under martial-law, and after their voice-mail jail had asked me to "press 2 to donate blood", and "press 3 to make a ten dollar donation", I was disconnected. I gave The American Red Cross another chance to help me, when I had access to a phone that didn't run on battery-power and they told me that they only do referrals. I asked The American Red Cross for help two times and they had nothing available for someone who's home was destroyed. Not even a clean blanket!

When the water started coming into my house, I moved the cat's food, and litter-box to the second floor. I had intended to bring Bootsie with me, but since it now looked like I would be swimming away from the house if I decided to leave, I wasn't sure if I could hold on to her, or keep her in her cardboard travel-carrier. Before my mother had evacuated, she had reminded me that her friends, who lived a block "upstream" from my house, had boasted that they had never flooded.

The electrical power was still working in my house when I left, but it was the electricity that caused me to abandon ship. I opened the door to what used to be my laundry-room, and the floor was floating. There were at least three feet of water, and the heating system was sparking, floating, sizzling, and just looking surreally DANGEROUS. There was an electrical outlet in the floor of the TV-room, and I saw flames and sparks shooting out of it, and I heard zapping, sizzling sounds.

I grabbed what was left of a regular Italian sub, and some bottled-water and some home-made brownies out of the fridge, a flashlight, a radio, some dry clothes, and my purse, and I wrapped them up in garbage bags.
I put those things into a large plastic container that we use for our recycling and I tied a rope to it, and I stepped into the water.

The water was up to my chest and it was cold but tolerable so I slowly waded and swam myself up the street, dragging the floating-bucket to the neighbor's house where I rode-out the rest of the storm. The next day I went back and fed the cat. I think that it took about three or four days for the electricity to come back on on our street, and my town was under martial-law for about a week. Nobody was allowed to enter most-of the island, and anyone who left was not allowed to come back until the ban was lifted.

Almost everything on the first floor of my house is now gone, including the floor and the walls. (it has been gutted). I'm still here, with the cat, at what FEMA calls the "disaster dwelling". I have heat, hot-water,  electricity,television, internet, and a roof over my head. Its toxic here, but I have some reasons for being here. (see cat. plus family has relocated nearby. plus someone has to hold the fort down-don't they?)

I no longer have a refrigerator, a washer, or dryer. I have a hot-plate and a coffee-maker. Its the LAUNDRY situation that's getting to me. Cleaning-up after a flood is dirty, did I mention TOXIC-work. Just today I ruined another pair of boots. Not being able to wash and dry my blanket, towels, clothes...without having to improvise using the bathtub, is really getting on my nerves.

I've been keeping in my mind that there are people who were killed by the storm, and some who are worse-off than I am.  I consider myself lucky to still have possession of documents that are slimy with black-mold. And of course I am grateful for my own life, and everyone in my family, and everyone in my town-I am thankful and grateful that there were no casualties here. My elderly dad suffered a stroke the week after the storm, but he is recovering. So, we're ALL OK here. I really don't have anything to complain about.

But I have been complaining. I have been tweeting my frustration and complaints w/FEMA and The American Red Cross on Twitter. Did I really expect my government to be able to offer me any kind of assistance while there was a major event going-on? No. It was pretty much exactly what I suspected. Which was that I would be lucky to stay out of their way and visa-versa.

Did I expect that if I ever happened to be in-the-way of a major disaster, that FEMA would have assistance available after the event? I did expect that. They DID offer to relocate me at first and I did not refuse. The problem is that I didn't exactly want to be relocated. I don't have my own car, so anywhere that I would be relocated-to, I would be stranded as far as getting-around. After a few weeks, I told FEMA that since it didn't look like I would be able to do any laundry or store food, for awhile, that I definitely DO want to be relocated. I told FEMA that in fact, my "disaster dwelling" was becoming more and more toxic-(think asbestos, black mold, fiberglass, giant commercial/industrial fans and dehumidifiers, and God knows what else), and dangerous due to the after-effects of the storm and the construction, demolition going-on in my house, and all-over my neighborhood. Not to mention the hoards of trash-pickers, news-crews, construction-workers and random strangers who descended upon the area.

Here is where I guess I should mention that there was a fire in my home a year ago last July. What that has to do with all of it, is that the re-construction work that was done at that time, caused a lot of my things, including my piano, to be destroyed.
It wasn't the fire that caused my property losses then, it was what happened when the construction and cleaning people came through. Also-I did evacuate during hurricane Irene, and my home was looted!-They took the brand new television. Its not that material things are so important, I know that they are not, but I'm experiencing all of this as someone who has had things destroyed during repair-work, and stolen during an unnecessary evacuation.

AND-I am someone who has already been traumatized by a natural disaster/flood. It was that-"Perfect Storm", and that storm in 1992 was my very first experience being flooded. I dealt-with a life or death situation then, and destruction of some of my things. What shocked me the worst about that event, I've decided, was seeing WATER where I didn't expect it to be. Where water did not belong in my view of reality, and it was there, whether it was "supposed" to be there or not. I believe in the psychological effects of this kind-of trauma, because I have experienced it before, and I know what it feels like. For me it feels like jumping ten-feet in the air-being startled, when someone "sneaks-up" on me. When I start to notice that happening, I know for sure that my mind has not recovered yet.

So, yeah, I'm not completely stupid. If American hero's like a great number of War Veterans, not to mention police, and emergency personnel, can be profoundly affected by trauma, I at least know better than to think that I can just shake-it-off. My doctor agrees, and I'm on my way to using all of the mental health benefits that my insurance allows for this year, and into next. I especially want to pass that information on to anyone else who has been affected by the storm. Yes it will wear-off on its own, (trauma), and usually within a few months at most, but why chance letting it linger when there are professionals who can help you heal from it?

I'm sure that you had some adventures in 2012 too. Maybe those Mayan's were right after-all? It was TEOTWAWKI for many in 2012. (TheEndofTheWorlAsWeKnowIt in case you're not up on your eschatology/Dooms~Day lingo. And if you're not-what are you waiting-for? We don't have much time!)...

But I mentioned Lynn Hudson for a reason: She didn't complain about her problems on her blog, or ask for help. Maybe it was because she knew that her readers and Twitter time-line were the type of people who would offer help in a second and she didn't want to bother them with her problems? 

I saw the response and outreach that happened after Lynn died, and her readers and friends decided that they could help Lynn accomplish something that she didn't get a chance to do, and that was to provide a college-fund for Lynn's youngest child.

The closest I have been to blogging lately, was some time spent over on Famewhorga's comment-section. And, I posted a little-bit about my experience with the flood. The warm replies that I received there meant a lot to me, and emotionally, just knowing that there were other people who cared enough to reply with kind words and prayers, I honestly felt some healing and recovery from all of it.

The day before yesterday I was on another mini-rampage on Twitter. Complaining about FEMA, and how aggravated I am with my doing-laundry-in-the-bathtub situation. Some people replied that I had confirmed their suspicions about FEMA and The American Red Cross, (and that had been what I thought was my point), and some kind people had replied to me asking if there was something they could do to help. I said that I would see how things were going and let everyone know, and I thought about that.

I thought about my situation, and was it really that bad and should I turn-down offers of help? I've learned a lot from Lynn's story. Did she possibly make a fatal mistake in not accepting her readers help and generosity when she had the chance? (OK-I know that sounds dramatic, I told you I'm just a little mental from all of it) Do I have unrealistic mis-placed pride? And then I felt a little guilty for sounding so needy when so many people have it worse than I do. And I thought about FEMA, and the zillions of tax-dollars that are being collected and spent ostensibly meant to help people such as myself, and how wasteful it all seems when all that FEMA seems to be doing is wasting survivors time with bureaucratic paper-chasing chores, when we could be fighting black-mold, (my new hobby!), and cooking delicious meals on our hot-plates. It probably won't stop annoying me when I continue to hear just how much FEMA has spent on this particular disaster, and how much money has been raised from well-meaning people, when I think that much of those funds have been spent on administration and salaries of people who are in no position to do anything but refer people to other organizations who have nothing but the same to offer. (referrals to other organizations that do nothing but refer....)

Just for the record, I also contacted my pharmacy to see about having my prescription paid-for, because there was news circulating that FEMA was offering a month supply of prescribed drugs for people in the disaster area. Some of you know that I started smoking again, and I was hoping that I could take advantage of that offer to refill my prescribed nicotine-substitute, but the pharmacies around here were clueless so I printed-out the info. for them, but I had to give-up on trying to utilize that offer for myself. (more wasted time chasing non-existent, but funded and advertised "help" for disaster-survivors!)

Red Cross. FEMA. Help everywhere. Nope. Maybe if I was naked at a homeless shelter? But it sure doesn't look like a person has to be in that condition to be able to receive what appears to be  the tremendous amount of help that is being advertised. There is some rule that FEMA must receive a certain amount of applications for the help that they advertise before they can receive their funding. FEMA does not have to actually insist that those applicants complete the process/receive help, and in my opinion, FEMA tries to "weed-out/wear-out" the applicants by generally being ridiculous and making it nearly impossible to receive the assistance that they advertise to disaster-survivors. Then they can use the allotted funds to pay the salaries of the incompetent people that they hire. I wish that I had been more cynical before I ever contacted FEMA. When it comes to advertising, and getting those applications, they do a great job at it. When it comes-to their employees following-through with what they promise and what they are legally mandated to do, FEMA is a failure. Many of those employees spend their time wasting the time of the people who's disaster-experience has made their job necessary.

*I did receive a bag of groceries, (peanut-butter, cereal, spaghetti, and some canned tomatoes)- with no strings attached from the local Jewish Family Service agency. They have a food bank and they opened it up to everyone who was trapped on the island while we were under martial law. Since there were no stores open during that time, that was a life-saver for myself and others who's kitchens had been under-water.

I wanted to press the local chapter of The American Red Cross for one of their blankets. They told me that are offering NOTHING except "referrals". I don't need a referral-I need a clean blanket! I gave all of my extra quits and blankets to other survivors. The Red Cross has received a tremendous amount of donations for people in my situation. I feel used by them.

To the people on Twitter who offered to send help-thank-you! I don't want to embarrass you by calling you out, you know who you are. I really was tempted to say, here's my Amazon account, and here's a link to some clean socks and underwear in my size. The very idea of receiving clean laundry from you guys made my day. I cannot accept your offer right now because I don't think that I need it. But I want you all to know that your consideration of my struggles actually DID help me out. How hard is it to hand-wash a few pairs of socks and underwear?!!!! (not very hard really). After I post this blog, and a link to it on Twitter, I'm going to go do that. And while I'm doing that, I will keep your kindness and good wishes in mind, and I will send some good-wishes your way too. Yes, I spent a few aggravating minutes dealing-with disaster-related homework/paper-work today, but most of the day, I spent happily outside washing and scrubbing-away MUCK, and assorted flotsam left-over from the flood. I know that it was the boost from people's good intentions towards my troubles, that helped me get-in-gear there.

I have had moments of misery, and fear, and grief over the loss of my home, and my neighbors but I know that it will get better. It already has. I kicked that mucks butt! Aside from my own problems, I am very sad about the state of the world, especially the USA, in general. So many traumatized, screwed-up, doped-up, incompetent and stupid people and apparently it has come to the fact that as a country, we cannot even manage to keep our kindergarten citizens safe. It won't be too many years 'till I'm elderly, and I may have rely on others to protect my health and safety. I know that "we" ARE the government. Well-we're NOT doing a very good job as a government. But as individuals, we are stronger than we may even know. You guys individually helped me just by being there for me when I needed it, and literally helped me to help myself. THANK-YOU!

So-Here's-to wishing ALL of us, and our loved-ones, peace, and joy, and LOVE, for the holiday season, and a HAPPY 2013!