Ike couldn’t steal what glitters

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas, Home sweet home

Within 24 hours of penning my last article, power was restored to the Whatley estate. Oh happy day! It was a beautiful sunny morning, jaded by the knowledge that it was going to be an uncomfortably warm, humid day. Unbeknownst to me, linemen were working to the side of my neighbor’s home, and when she appeared at my opened kitchen window with a glow on her face, I knew she was bringing good news. She spoke to my back as I was off like a shot to turn off my archenemy: the generator. (My soft underbelly is exposed. I’ll do anything, and give up top-secret information, just don’t make me listen to that awful noise.)

I celebrated in a quiet fashion by turning the thermostat down to a point it rarely sees (it was my patriotic duty to provide the electric company revenue lost while so many of us were “offline”) and crawling into my bed. I didn’t have the energy to do much more than lay around and watch TV – even dozed off for about half an hour.

I was sleeping peacefully (for the first time in over a week sans generators) when my mind decided to take a little vacation and go on a guilt trip. Have I mentioned how quiet it was without the constant drone of generators? How dare my conscience show up at such a time.  I got up, helped friends/family as needed and spent the next few days putting my home, which had been converted to a campground, back in order.

There were countless dark moments, and my heart goes out to those who suffered losses.  It would be all too easy to commiserate about what all stank, besides me after hard manual labor and no shower, about Ike, but I’d rather focus on what Ike couldn’t take away: a region full of people unwilling to take the likes of him sitting down.

Having four nights of good sleep now behind me, I can perform as promised and shine some light on what sparkled throughout the darkness of Ike.  And for those wondering if my head is deeply planted in the sand, I know it hasn’t been all roses and sunshine. I’m choosing not to dwell on what went wrong as it’s a small piece of the big picture. No doubt my silver lining will match that of countless others.

Without further ado, and in no particular order here’s who/what glittered in my corner of the world before, during and after Ike: my family, immediate and extended; my neighbors ; The Red Cross for bringing more than sustenance alone; Bayer for making sure their employees had the gas and supplies needed to survive the aftermath until stores were up and running ; BPD and Chambers County officers for patrolling my dark streets; all the linemen, tree cutters and debris removers  from across the country who came to help in our moments of greatest need; and last, but not least, all of my friends. Among them, Roger King, engineer who wired our generator straight to the house and greatly improved our post-hurricane life, and his lovely wife Kathy, who held a party I refused to attend because I was on sewage back-up watch among a variety of other “excuses”. I must also publicly thank Joe Brazil and wife Kay for their tireless efforts in our neighborhood clean up.  My deepest heartfelt thanks go to all of you.

Ike took something from each and every one of us, but he couldn’t steal what I’m proud to say are shining brightly – compassion, resolve and determination.  Southeast Texas, take a bow.

© 2008 Natalie Whatley

Silver lining still in the dark

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

I wish I could think of something besides Hurricane Ike recovery to write about this week. My brain could produce another topic if I were back to living in modern times and didn’t have the constant noise of generators all around me. Basic survival keeps one’s body pretty busy, and my mind is occupied with a daily list of what I must accomplish before Mother Nature turns out the lights.

Unlike many, my family, personal property and residence came through Ike virtually unscathed.  Even with weariness increasing as I reach my seventh day without power, I refuse to allow myself to be one bit upset. Pity parties are stopped dead in their tracks by viewing the devastation in our area.

Venturing out for the first time in days, I made a trip Tuesday morning to Food Town on North Main with neighbor Collette Tompkins, and Linda Rowe (Mom, to me) in tow. I was set pretty well in supplies, but I had a gut feeling I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to dine out of cans long term.  I left the store with a couple of prevalent thoughts: First, I couldn’t have been more proud of my fellow shoppers. People were cordial and went out of their way to be patient and cooperative – a sight to behold given stress levels and lack of sleep.  Second, I appreciated the employees of Food Town for getting to work and manning the store in spite of what hardships they were also facing.

More normalcies were delivered in the form of a newspaper and mail later that afternoon. What a welcomed site they were…further contact from beyond my street. Spotty phone service and a generator even gave me a brief window to go online and procure vital information I had no other way of getting.   

I’ve learned generators are wonderful things, and probably play a large role in why I’m able to have a somewhat “glass-half-full” outlook, but there’s a down side. At this point, I would pay a large sum of money for one good night’s sleep – something I haven’t had in a week. Each night, all the neighborhood generators gather for a large party right outside my bedroom window. Mine is put to bed, but the others still want to play. I’ll let you decide if the nocturnal musings of my mind, which include a large number of Harley Davidson motorcycles, are dreams or nightmares.

 A vast improvement in post-hurricane life also occurred Thursday when I was notified the city water was cleared for consumption. I may still come down with some dreaded disease as I forgot on a few occasions and wetted my toothbrush with potentially contaminated water. So far, my immune system seems to be holding up.

This week also saw me the proud owner of a new clothes line, and I’m counting my standing trees to hang it from as one of many blessings bestowed upon me in these past few days.  Hanging hand-washed laundry out to dry was actually a pleasant experience; it gave me the mental down time necessary to see how my family, friends and neighbors sparkle.  

I’ll shine some light on that silver lining as soon as CenterPoint turns my power back on.

© 2008 Natalie Whatley



Slowly but surely…

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

Grocery stores are opening up…long check out lines, but everyone was cordial and cooperative. I was able to pay with my debit card and keep my cash on hand for places that may not be able to take electronic methods of payment.

Gas stations are getting up and going, and as of just an hour ago (4:30 p.m.) there weren’t even lines to speak of.

I’m still without power, but have had water all along.

People in the neighborhood have been working hard clearing debris and helping each other with downed trees.

It appears that we’re slowly but surely getting our feet back under us.

As of today, I’m spent. All I can say is THANK HEAVENS for the cool front…we deserved this beautiful weather after Ike’s battering.

Looking forward to a good night’s rest….as soon as we all turn off the generators :)

Hey all….we survived

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

If you’re reading from out of town, visit www.baytown.org and click on “press releases” for city updates.

My family & I are fine…just HOT :)  Thank goodness for a cool front coming in. Our area has extensive tree damage which leads me to believe I’ll be w/o power for a LONG time.  I’m not complaining though…MANY of my neighbors had trees on their homes w/ interior & exterior damage. In the grand scheme, I came out unscathed.

I hope all reading are doing well and that you & yours have your lives back to normal soon.

“See” you as soon as I can. I won’t be using the generator to run the computer much, but will check in periodically.  Be safe… LOVE you all.

See you on the other side

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas, Home sweet home

Dear friends, I write to you with a heavy heart as it appears we’re in for some rough days and nights. When I started writing this week’s article, Ike was stumbling around Cuba, and it seemed he would track somewhere other than here. Feeling what has been termed “hurricane fatigue” I wrote a funny little rant about the whole mess we lovingly call hurricane season here on the Gulf Coast. That was on Tuesday.

Today, Thursday (late), I’m hammering this out utterly exhausted. I know many of you are in the same shape. My mental capabilities are stretched, and I’m aching in places I forgot I had. I apologize in advance for what will probably not be my finest literary work. I’m not submitting the funny piece because presently looking down the barrel of a gun isn’t one bit funny. However, I must say, lest I offend you at a later date by using humor at a seemingly inappropriate time, that I’ve got to laugh sometimes to keep from crying. And, I’m one of those people who laugh when afraid or nervous.

The past two days have been a whirlwind of activity, and while we couldn’t be any more prepared, I still have that nagging feeling that I’ll realize I forgot to do something important.  My guys have thoroughly prepared the outside by boarding up, and securing everything in the backyard. I took care of the interior. All the supplies are accessible, the tiny room under the stairwell (my junk room) is cleared out and ready for occupants should the need arise. I cleaned, did all the laundry, and cleaned some more, wondering if I was doing it in vain. I bet Ike couldn’t care less if my showers are clean, but it makes me feel better.

I’ve sworn off all media as I can no longer handle the roller-coaster ride. Every time I get an understanding of the implications of where Ike’s going, he changes his mind. I find I’m much calmer not listening to all the “what if” scenarios. I’ll let Jeff handle the information gathering; he seems to process it all matter-of-factly and doesn’t get hung up in any hype.

I’ve also realized that for the most part, what I conjure up happening in my mind is often far worse than what actually occurs. I blame that on watching too much Hurricane Katrina coverage. When I’m not pondering worst-case scenarios, I worry that’ll be when the unimaginable strikes. It is a sickness, and I’m working on a cure.

I’m signing off, and going to try to get a good night’s sleep as I’m hearing tomorrow night is going to be a long, hard one. I hope this finds each and every one of you safe from the battering we’re about to take. I know we’ll all pull through, because I’ve seen over and over what the people of this area are all about. Acts of neighborly kindness and can-do spirit will be alive and well after Ike leaves his mark. We’ll pull together when the chips are down…we always do. Good luck and I’ll see you on the other side.

© 2008 Natalie Whatley

If I knew then what I know now

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays, Life with children, National

Happy Grandparents Day to all fortunate enough to hold the title. I know some of you will notice the lack of an apostrophe; my non-usage is technically correct. Like everything else these days, there is some controversy on whether it’s “Grandparents Day”, “Grandparent’s Day”, or “Grandparents’ Day”. I’m going with what’s on the official U.S. Proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter back in 1978. I realize many question whether or not he got things right, but that’s another discussion for another day.

The first Sunday following Labor Day is set aside “to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of the strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.” Marian McQuade, who lobbied in the 70’s to have the day officially recognized, is credited as the founder of the holiday. The purpose of her mission:  to show how senior citizens add remarkable facets to young lives by stepping up to the pass-on-the-wisdom plate.  I always thought Hallmark was responsible for getting this one started.  Now I feel a little guilty for not celebrating in a more grandiose fashion – apologies to my children’s grandparents.

In the human realm, it’s often said that grandchildren are God’s reward for allowing children to reach adulthood. Parents of teenagers know exactly why some in the animal kingdom eat their young, and while I’m in the thick of learning that using some restraint now will have benefits later, there are days I “get it” all too well. Pass the ketchup, please.  

Scientists are baffled by what’s called filial cannibalism (the eating of one’s own offspring), but after various studies have reached the conclusion that it most likely occurs when an animal senses a particular youth will take longer than others to reach independently-functioning maturity.  Humans have a problem in that adulthood seems to be pushing to an older age.  I’m not sure I’ll make it without at least a snack along the way.

Sixteen years of parenting has caused me to thoroughly ponder the popular grandparent statement, “If I had known how much fun grandchildren would be, I would’ve had them first.” My respectful rebuttal to my own parental figures is that had I known you’d be so much fun when you became grandparents, I would’ve finagled some sort of deal with the Big Guy to send me down a little later.

I’m frequently told how grandparents are way cooler than parents. Duh! I hope the grandparents appreciate the parents keeping up the charade; I know for a fact they weren’t the money dispensing, agreeable sort they are now. I often relish the idea of bursting that bubble. I refrain because I know one fine day it will all come full circle, and it will be my turn.

Many of us raise children in the hopes of seeing those children to a better place. From where I am now, my children are actually going to see me to a better place…a place I couldn’t have reached without them or their grandparents. Grandparents: Thanks for your many contributions. I don’t know where we’d be without you.

© 2008 Natalie Whatley