Tree Removal Guys (and Gals)

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Four weeks ago tomorrow, the storm came through our neighborhood. Both damaged and living trees continue to be cut down and chipped or hauled off. (Four weeks! Have I mentioned that we lived in a heavily wooded area before the storm knocked down our trees?)

The tornado/ 100 mph straight line winds struck here at 4:29 Sunday evening on May 29. Within a couple of hours, neighbors and relatives of neighbors were out with their chainsaws, getting some of the branches off of houses, clearing some of the trees to make a single path along the road. This was a bit nerve-wracking to watch, especially with across-the-street Mark’s grandkids running around, and occasionally parents yelling at them to get out from beneath the limbs they were sawing.

Although no injuries happened at the time of the storm, that dark Sunday evening (without power, naturally), as our next door neighbor’s son-in-law was chain-sawing a large limb from one of the several trees on Rob’s house, the limb’s weight swung around and knocked his feet out from under him. He fell 20’ to the ground and got a large gash on his head and didn’t know where he was. The fire truck and ambulance had to park two blocks away because of the fallen trees across the roads. Watching in the twilight as the EMTs rolled that stretcher down the debris-strewn road is an image I won’t easily forget.

The next day (Memorial Day), our son came in from Milwaukee with a new chainsaw and sawed away for his 24-hour stay. Ironically, seven years ago, when we moved from the Black Hills of South Dakota to Michigan, we’d given away our own chainsaw because we were moving from the Hills to a city in a populated state. We’ve needed a chainsaw here a lot more than we ever did in the Black Hills.

For the two weeks following the storm, professional tree removal services crowded our narrow little street with no painted lines upon it. There were literally dozens of companies represented both from town and from all over the state. We have no curbs and gutters. Our lawns near the road became muddy parking areas filled with heavy trucks.

The day after the storm, we called the local C&D tree service, recommended by neighbor Mark. We could never get a hold of them. Whenever a tree removal truck drove past, we all watched it like salivating dogs. Please come take the trees off our houses. On Wednesday, a woman canvassed the neighborhood, taking down names of people for Joe (not his real name) to come and remove the trees from our house. Four days later, after my husband called Joe to find out when he’d be coming. Joe got mad at him and grouched that he was different from all the other tree removal services because he completely finished one job at a time before moving on, but he’d be there the following afternoon. That evening, an out-of-town man knocked on our door. (Contractors and roofers and tree and stump removal companies knocked on our door from 6:15 am, at the earliest, to 9 pm.) He talked us into at least getting a bid on our tree removal, even though Joe was to come the next day. Joe hadn’t even seen our house and yard. He hadn’t made a bid for removal. He was just going to come cut trees away and haul them off, and then tell us how much we owed. This out-of-town guy was friendly, happy, and gregarious. Although he seemed expensive ($4,000), we liked him, but we had made this verbal commitment with unseen Joe. Neighbor Sue gave us the name and number of their company, coming Wednesday, no, Thursday, no, Friday. We were discovering that there was no uniform way of contacts with tree-removal people, with some giving bids, and some not.

The following afternoon, Thursday, we received a generator from friends who had power restored to their neighborhood. The C&D company we’d called, but never could get a hold of, was cutting the part of our tree which had fallen on neighbor Julie’s house. They had stopped at our property line, which was what we’d expected. It would be less tree for our own people to remove. My husband and I went into the basement doing generator-related things. When we emerged an hour later, we’d discovered we had a ten foot trunk stump in our front yard. They had cut the rest of the tree off our house! Yay! But… Surprise! My husband went out and negotiated the full yard, then cancelled grumpy Joe who was to come later that day, or whenever.

So, we went from trying to contact one company, to agreeing to Joe’s removal service by some woman (never sure about her relationship to Joe), to actually getting a bid we never used, to the original company cutting off our trees without our knowledge.

We’ve had convicts remove shoulder-high brush hauled to the roadside. We’ve had another city come to remove our hickory tree close enough to the road to be considered city property. I’ve seen two wooded lots, across the street and to our west, harvested and bulldozed down. Our eastern next door neighbor sold two of the three surviving living trees bordering our yards and providing welcomed shade. (I’ve heard people can get paid $2,000 to $5,000 per tree, if they like it. They didn’t like any of ours.) Our neighbor’s two trees were harvested and removed in one afternoon. And now it seems we’ve returned to family and friends cutting down trees. The remaining oak, about twenty feet from our living room picture window, is being removed by volunteers from their church.

Two days ago, these young people (at first I thought they were the youth group) put up four levels of scaffolding surrounding the tree and cut off the lower branches damaged in the storm. It’s now day three of continual working and music playing, including cutting some of the fallen trees at the back of the property. I’m guessing our neighbors are gone for this, since the workers have asked to fill their water bottles from our outside spickets, which is fine with us. Have I mentioned that these trees are huge? Up beyond the scaffolding, they have nailed sections of 2” x 4” strips to the trunk as a ladder. It reminds me of an old way of getting up to a tree house, but those were closer to the ground. Then, these people drag a chainsaw with them as they climb and sit on a limb to saw a higher limb. No helmets. No goggles. Fuddy-duddy me simply can’t look. I’m waiting to find a human limb falling from 100’ instead of a tree limb. I’m waiting to find a once-youthful body impaled on our chain link fence far below.

Wait!

My writer-imagination is worse than reality. (I hope.) I just can’t decide whether to draw the drapes and ignore them, or keep a nonchalant eye out on them, with my phone nearby, of course, ready to dial 911 if necessary. Maybe I should just write – I mean, non-blog writing.

Bzzz. Bzzzz…

Gotta go.

Summer Solstice Forest

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Happy Summer Solstice, everyone. (Officially at 1:16 p.m. EDT around here)

I remember last year becoming depressed at summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Why, you ask, would that make me sad? It’s the day of most sunlight! The reason was because I knew from that day on, until the winter solstice six months away, that the days would get shorter, and dark would come earlier and remain around longer.

This summer solstice, I think about trees. I miss my wooded neighborhood.

My husband and I came home at noon today for lunch. At 12:20 p.m., we heard a house-rattling thump. We stared at one another for a moment. It was a familiar sound; last heard three weeks ago when the tornado pushed trees onto our house. Today, there was no wind or rain outside at 12:20, so we looking out our windows to investigate. Seems our next door neighbor decided to sell his three remaining, living oak trees to the tree-buying guy who canvassed our neighborhood after the storm. One, he didn’t want any of our trees. Two, besides our little red-bud and smaller dogwood, since the storm those three 100’ trees in our neighbor’s yard were the only morning shade for our backyard. Our neighbor on our other side, who owns the once-wooded lot separating our two houses, also sold his living and fallen forest to the tree-buying guy. My two little flowering trees look very, very lonely.

The three trees being felled are on our neighbor’s property, right next to the boundary line. They are his trees. They belong to him. So why did I start crying when I realized living trees were getting cut for money, not just the storm-fallen ones?

I think a part of me truly relates to T.A. Barron’s Tree Girl.

It’s painful to me to see (and hear and feel) mature trees cut needlessly – just for money. I wouldn’t do very well in the Rain Forest area – unless I could play in the forest. (I’m thinking Fern Gully here, too.) I love the woods. I miss the woods around where I live. I don’t really think of myself as a radical tree-hugger type. I’m just a lakes and woodland girl. I need to remember this feeling.

That said, … I need to change my thinking, and plan what to plan in my now-prairie yard. It’s comparatively a blank slate. I’m thinking veggie garden… with tree saplings on the east and north sides which will grow tall in the future.

Convicts in my Front Yard

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There were orange suited convicts in my yard this morning… They are minimal security prisoners on work release to help with the storm debris clean up piled shoulder-high along the streets of my neighborhood. My husband’s gone. I am curious. There are a few city workers using the machinery out there, too. I must admit, for some reason, it was a bit thrilling. I mean, I know no murderers were released to do the work. Still…

Now comes the awkward part.

For about a half an hour after they had moved down the street, one of the vans with blue-suited prison guard drivers, sat in our driveway. We have no sidewalks, nor curbs and gutters. There’s just grass to the edge of our narrow little street. I was trapped. It wasn’t like I needed to go anyplace, either, but I had this irresistible urge to run.

About the van in our drive. The last I’d seen anyone around it, he was an orange-suited guy, taking an awfully long time to get something from the back. (Okay. We all know by this that I would never make a very good witness, but there’s nothing wrong with my imagination.) So I started thinking… why? Why was that van there when the convicts had moved down the road and no longer in sight?

The fantasy writer in me played with magic, and the fact that our baby red-tailed hawk never moved from its dead branch for the entire time the trucks and shovels and asphalt scraping and raking and beeps went on. What, exactly, did that hawk chick have to do with the person in the unmoving van? Or orange?

The SF writer in me wondered about abduction of the driver-guard… Boring!

The thriller writer in me knew someone in orange had slipped away from the crew, and was climbing through my opened three-season room windows. Didn’t you hear the small sound coming from that part of the house?

The romance writer in me thought of an unwed mother going into labor because of all the activity out front, but who was unable to get out of the driveway because it was blocked, so HE comes to the rescue… okay… I’m not romance writer.

The crime-writer part, figured the guard was dead in the back of the van. His jacket and trousers missing… along with one of the inmates. Oooo.

The picture book writer in me was thinking about community helpers, like nice police people and smiling city workers who help keep our streets clean.

As I was typing these scenarios, a blue-suited guard walked up to driver’s side of the van, got in, and pulled away after the rest of the activity. The reasoning side of me figured he’d parked there because it was out-of-the-way, plus our driveway faces the corner, and so had a good vantage point for prisoners working either street.

I have no trouble coming up with ideas for stories. And I honestly like writing for hours at a time. And when a day or – shiver – two go past when I do not write, I go into withdrawal and become grouchity and not very nice to live with.

So here is my writing challenge to you today: find one situation and come up with several alternative solutions to it, then run with the best idea. This can be a scene from your story, or it can be just a fun exercise to get your creative juices flowing, like looking outside your window to find your yard crawling with orange-suited convicts.

Tomato – To-mah-to; Tornado – Tor-nah-do!

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You know the lyrics from the song: “You say ‘tomato.’ I say ‘to-mah-to.’” Well, around Battle Creek, it seems our song is, “They say ‘tornado.’ You say ‘tor-nah-do.’”

I’ll call it a storm for now.

Two weeks ago tomorrow, a storm came through our neighborhood. (Can it truly have been that long ago?) It hit two other neighborhoods in town as well, but people say our particular neighborhood got hit the worst. We haven’t gotten around to confirming it ourselves. But I do know that nearly every house in our formerly wooded neighborhood had huge trees crash into them, and cut tree trunks and shoulder-high brush litter our curbs. Also, only ten miles away is a Recreation Area (i.e., state park) where friends were camping over Memorial Day Weekend. The winds clocked there were only 15 mph. Our roads are now pretty much cleared for traffic, except when blocked by numerous trucks.

I first heard from a Canadian friend that she’d heard a tornado had struck Battle Creek, and were we okay? We were without home Internet for 12 days, so tornado was the word I was using, without realizing there were differing opinion. Since most of the trees lay in one direction, with winds coming from the southwest, ‘officials’ changed their tune and sang, “Nope. It was 100 mph straight-line winds.” I’m sure the terminology has to do somehow with money. But straight-line winds doesn’t explain one witness seeing three funnels over our neighborhood, nor another catching a funnel on tape, nor the fact that some trees tops were twisted off and flung far away, nor that a fishing boat ended up in someone’s swimming pool, and no one in his neighborhood owned a fishing boat.

I don’t really care what people call the storm. My guess is that it was both – 100 mph straight-line winds with at least one tornado. You know what? Semantics doesn’t really matter to us homeowners. Our house had two large trees crash through it. Both our house and yard will be a mess for a long time. A long time. At least there were no deaths. At least it isn’t winter. This is merely inconvenient. I can say that when I’m not giving in to emotional breakdowns, which hasn’t really happened yet, because I think that even two weeks after the fact, so many new things are happening around here that I’m still in shock, or at least in surprise.

This morning, I’m taking a break from the chaos around my abode. I’m attending a newly formed chapter of Sisters in Crime. I don’t really write mysteries, nor crime stories, but I think I need to huddle with fellow writers, and just talk about writing for a bit. I need to be somewhere where I don’t turn in a 360 degree circle to see things needing to be done in absolutely every direction. So, see ya, tor-nah-do area. Hello, blood and bad guys, and the heroes who take them down!

More Tornado Stuff

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We’re still without internet — 11 days and counting. This is killing me. It’s difficult not to be able to communicate in my normal, daily way, using my normal, daily workspace. Right now, I’m using my husband’s work computer while he is off on a staff retreat. Which reminds me, thanks to the many people who have offered their homes for my internet communication addiction.

Before I speak about yesterday’s events, I want to say how furious I feel towards thieves, especially thieves who take advantage of tragedy victims. Strangers are canvasing our storm damaged neighborhoods, asking for down-payments for tree removal ($500 to $2,000), and then never returning. I knew of things happening like this from after Hurricane Katrina. I thought everyone knew that. Maybe not. Maybe it was just because I’d helped out down in Mississippi, and therefore heard lots and lots and lots of stories. But this I know, if any stranger comes to our door asking for a down-payment before work, he’d better have his cell phone ready for a 911 call because I’ll be all over that guy! (Actually, our trees are now off the house, and the rest in process of being removed, so these thieves probably won’t bother knocking on our door. Oooo. But if one does…)

Yesterday (Tuesday), three major things happened.

1) Our official insurance claims agent came out and spent three hours assessing our damaged property.

2) Garbage. I need to back up this story two days, to Monday. I called first the disconnected number in the phone book, let City Hall’s number ring 15 times, then called the number to ask for a dumpster, figuring they could direct my call. I was dead-set on speaking to someone about our missed garbage collection. I learned for the first time in living here seven years, that this job is outsourced, out-of-town. I was put on hold  for 45 minutes (not letting that wiggling fish at the end of the line get away this time), waiting, waiting, waiting, with no speaker phone. Four days previous, half of our street was collected. I can only assume tree removal and construction trucks blocked their way on our regular garbage collection morning. But with homes in our neighborhood having cleaned out our refrigerators, and after four days in 90 degree heat (visualize waves of stink rising from each driveway end), and animals starting to dig into the bags, not only did the 8′ piles of tree debris on our lawns block our view of the pavement, but  the garbage piles made it tricky to pull out. 45 minutes later, and then grilled for details, like my waste management number (didn’t even know we had one) and exactly how many bags did I have out there, I was told they would pick it up the next day. They did. My neighbors call me “The Garbage Police.”  I call me desperate.

3) At noon, with the temperature hovering at 90 degrees, one of the many still-leaning trees around here took out a transformer box, leaving hundreds of homes and businesses in my area without power. The lights flickered on and off about eight times before they went off entirely.

It got me thinking about different people (and therefore character) reactions. (This IS supposed to be a writing blog, after all.) My sister would have said, “Let’s get out the flashlights.” My father would have said, “What the &%#@!” and then gone to check our fuze box. My mother would have sighed, then looked disgusted. Another may have stared at the light, blinked, and then waited for his spouse to tell him what to do. Others may have said, “Oh, well,” or “Here we go again.” (This is a great writing exercise, by the way: take any situation, and then have each of your characters respond/react to it in their own way.) My reaction to the this incident? I know it was still daylight. I knew we had gallons of tap water for flushing, and bottled water for drinking. We’d just gone through six days without power, and knew all the what-to-dos. But, actually, that was the point. We’d JUST gone through six days without power, and only had it on for three days. While the light in our hallway flickered, I went from ut-oh mode to hope each time it flashed back on. But then, when it went off for good, I tried not to burst into tears in front of our insurance claims agent, continuing business as usual. It was only off for four and a half hours, but somehow, I was still rattled — cool, calm, collected me, rattled at a daylight loss of electricity.

Well… I may not be doing the novel revision work I’d planned on doing this week, or this month, but I sure am gathering writing fodder for future stories. I have 71 journal pages (mostly random thoughts and facts) and counting, and that doesn’t even count my blog words.

I hear rain and wind storms are coming the next couple days. Why do I feel shaky when I think about that?

Yet Another Tornado Cleanup Entry

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First need: Water. The first night after the tornado struck, we had gallons of water which I always have on hand “in case.” By the second night, we were using our neighbor’s outdoor spicket, as they have city water, so even though they were without electricity like us, they still had water available.

Second need: Food. As hikers, we always have dried food in our house. Others might not think a lunch of peanut butter on crackers with a can of V-8 and cup of applesauce is much of a lunch, but it is quite satisfactory. And grocery stores in some parts of town were opened, although we couldn’t store anything cold.

Third need: Shelter. Our house is now livable. It is far from the normal we were used to. While our master bedroom gets repaired, we’re sleeping in the smaller guest bedroom with our winter clothing stashed in the basement because there’s no room for them upstairs. And although we still have tarps over four parts of our roof, we are protected from the elements. We have shelter.

Fourth need: Love/ People/ Friends. Thank you. I can’t say that enough. Although you may not think that merely asking “What can I do?” is much, it is HUGE. We need the knowledge that others care. You do. Thank you.

Fifth need: Mental Stability. Throughout this past week, my husband and I each found ourselves repeating things, or forgetting things, or being unable to focus or concentrate. (And I apologize for continuing to repeat things.) Everywhere we look in a 360 degree circle, in every room, and at each section of our yard, there are things which need to be done yet.

I actually thought I was doing (mentally) much better after the power and water came back on. (We will have only partial power for perhaps months, and still don’t have internet service nine days after the tornado. I’m sending this through my husband’s work office.) But today as I was out doing two errands – taking several trashbags of clothing to the Salvation Army and stopping to get milk – I was at the checkout and asked the clerk if she was affected by the storm. She replied, “Thankfully, no, but this store was without power for a few days.” I smiled and nodded, then turned to leave, taking two steps before I realized I had neither paid for the food nor even taken the milk. Yeah. Although some people may argue there was doubt all along, I must admit that I don’t think I’m quite mentally stable yet.

P.S. I have taken 62 pages of notes in my journal so far, concerning this storm and clean up,… and counting. Most of what I’ve written is just jotted thoughts. I could write pages on any of those things. Oh, the writing fodder — to look over someday when I’m mentally stable once again. I may even read over these blog posts for the past week – and melt in sobbing embarrassment.

Tornado Cleanup — 7th Day After

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I finally posted some photos on my FB page (link). Peter had posted some from his stay earlier. Believe me, I have TONS more, including of the neighborhood damage, but those will come (perhaps) later, when we actually have internet from our house.

As mentioned earlier, at 1:15 p.m. yesterday, our house finally got power. We in our neighborhood see this as a miracle, for even yesterday morning, we were all chatting up that we didn’t expect it to be hooked up for weeks. It is actually only partial power, because of the hole in our home from a fallen tree – master bedroom and den (Jeff’s home office) are without power, and will be so for who knows how long.

There is SO much I can be writing about. Over these past seven days, I wrote over 30 pages of notes (some nearly unreadable) in my journal. I’ll write about some of that later, and maybe other of it never. For this post: 4 things.

1) I felt like I’ve been on a week-long missionary trip, working from sunup to sundown in 90 degree (plus) heat. Although, I must add that it’s only been in the 90’s for three of those days, including today.

2) Because we’re on well water (v.s. city water), when the power went, so did our water supply. Now that we have water flowing in our house, I feel euphoric. The big problem is what to use the water for first? My initial inclination was “Me! Me! Sweaty, stinky, dirty me!” But with several hours to sundown last night and humidity high, my veggie garden, strawberries and grapes got first priority. Oops. Thinking back, it was clearing and cleaning our two refrigerators which happened first. And that took hours.

With the tree removal guys working till sunset (and we are getting close to the summer solstice, you know), Jeff and I had a European meal at 9:30 p.m. There are clothes to wash, floors to wash, dishes, counters, bathrooms. Today I did five loads with more to do. Plaster went everywhere when the wall crashed. Then there is sweaty, stinky, dirty me.

3) My poor, poor yard. I’d already spread (before the tornado) 2 huge bags of peat most and 2 large bags of grass seed over our lawn. It was going to be gorgeous this year. Then came the bobcat and chipper and trucks and trailers pounding our lawn flat.

You must realize that I am the gardener/ lawn care person of the family. I hand-pick dandelions, and I aerate the lawn with a pitchfork – seriously! Yep, it takes a long time, but it does a great job. Thinking about “what do you need,” perhaps we should have a pitchfork part at our house after the machines are all gone from our yard. Oh, yeah. There will be a dumpster there for a while during reconstruction, along with affiliated machinery. (Heavy sigh)

4) The only thing I wish for now is that the city would pick up our garbage. They are three days late in collection, and with all that stinking, rotting refrigerator food bagged out at the curb, I’m just waiting for animals to have a feast.

BUT, we are safe, and WE HAVE POWER! (and water!) Life is good.

Day 6 After the Tornado

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As word is getting out to people in town who were unaffected by the storm, or to distant friends as well, that we Carlsons were one of the home owners struck by trees and without power, and consequently for us, without water, since we’re on well water (think no toilets, showers, cleaning ANYthing, bodily or otherwise), people are asking what do we need? What can they do to help?

We are safe, and physically healthy. We are thankful (and amazed) that there were no injuries or deaths related to this storm. Just a few miles away at Fort Custer, Friends Carrie and Jim were camping over the weekend. They only had 15 mph winds there. It was a VERY strange storm.

As of this writing, we still do not have power or water.

But “first” off, THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONCERN FOR US. It means far more than anything we can think of (for you to do for us).

Thursday, Friend Dale, whom I’ve known since I was 11 years old – we call each other “cuz” ‘cuz we looked alike – she called from Mississippi to tell me they (in Mississippi) wanted to do something for us in Battle Creek, especially since people from our church went to help them after Hurricane Katrina. It was the first time I broke down and cried.

Friend Jan from here, came over on Tuesday and, knowing we didn’t have water, told me she wanted to wash our dirty laundry. Memorial Weekend was our 33rd wedding anniversary, so I’m afraid I procrastinated laundry enough to have four or more loads, including the plaster-covered clothes or towels used during immediate cleanup. Normally, I would have been embarrassed to allow someone else to handle our dirty clothes. Thank you, Jan. It wasn’t an emergency, but it sure was one big-ish thing we didn’t have to worry about doing (at a laundromat).  Whenever I smell Downy, I shall think of you and smile in gratitude.

“Secondly,” prayer works! Our regular Thursday Morning Prayer Meeting at church prayed especially for us, we were told. All day long yesterday, Jeff kept saying, “This has been a crazy day.” One example from the many things which happened: We’d been waiting since Monday morning for our tree removal people to come and get our tree. They finally called and said they’d be out Thursday afternoon. Our next door neighbors hired someone to clear our tree which fell on their house, and their guys were there Thursday morning. They’d stopped at the property line, and Jeff and I thought no more about it. We were in the basement with generator stuff, and when we came back up an hour later, their tree people had cut the tree off our house and down to the root ball. Uncertain at first what to do, Jeff finally went out and talked to them. They’ll come back and get the rest of the trees (not on our house) at some later date. BUT all this was in time for the electric company folk to come by and attach lines from the street to our house. SO, instead of weeks without power, we we’re supposed to get it “soon.” (I’m sending this from Friend Francie’s house.)

WHAT DO WE NEED? WHAT CAN YOU DO?

A neighbor wrote on FaceBook Sunday night, “Need bread,” and was inundated with loaves by Monday afternoon. It got me thinking what do WE need?

One, there are others in the area worse off than we are, some without insurance. They have needs far greater than our inconveniences of no power, light, or water. And, two, when you think of the millions of people in Third World places, or even here in America, who don’t have these, we absolutely have the four things people need to survive: food, water, shelter, love (like from caring folks like you).

Yes, it’s true that we have no water at our house, but Neighbors Mark and Cindy across the street have “city water,” and have graciously allowed us to use their outside spicket day or night. Mark calls me “Water Girl.” But “Water Man” (Jeff) helps carry, too. While we only have to walk across the street for clean water. Some people on this planet must walk miles for it.

Yes, it’s true that yesterday, we threw out all our stinking food from the refrigerators – and what a treasure to find a jar of unopened pickles in there — but we are former campers, and used to roughing it, just not in our own house. We find a lunch of peanut butter and crackers and V-8 and applesauce is quite satisfactory. There are also restaurants opened now near to us.

What do we need? The answer is fluid. On night one, tarps and nails. By night two, ibuprofen. A cell phone charger was vital for communicating with the many, many professionals needed – insurance, tree removal companies, roofers, building contractors, etc. (As I wrote this paragraph, the power came on. Hallelujah!!! The generator can be turned off.)

Although we have water (yea) we will only have partial power in our house because of broken walls and breakers turned off to that portion of the house, which only affects the den and master bedroom. But did I mention we have power?

We won’t have internet at home for a while, nor land line phones or tv, but those are SUCH luxuries, and only means a bit of inconvenience to do things we were used to. Life will come back better than before.

I’m posting some photos on my FB page, but thought a moment ago that before and after shots would show more dramatically the comparison of damage done.

Many, many thanks to you all for your care and concern during this time.

Battle Creek Tornado, Post #2

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On Sunday, I wrote four pages of observations on notebook paper before deciding to write tonado-related things in my pen and ink journal, including important phone numbers, notes, priorities, and even scattered half-phrased thoughts. I’m now on my 25th tornado page in that journal. I figure, as a writer, someday I’ll return to those pages for future stories/articles. For now, it’s simply a central location for stuff my brain is too shaky to retain.

Five points to today’s post:

1) We still are without power and water. Yesterday, there were still 31,000 people without power, with the plan to have everyone restored by 11 pm tonight. Even so, our wires are pulled away from our house and under a large oak, so unsure of when this applies to us.

2) Son John had his own tragedy happen a week before ours. A drug-crazed stranger threw a 50-pound boulder through his car window, then proceeded to rip apart the dashboard before threatening John’s life. Far away carless John is in his own survival mode, but wishes he could help as well. There will be stuff for him to do later. No worries.

Monday, Jeff called Son Peter, who lives 5 hours away. As soon as he found out the extent of the devastation, he drove here with a chain saw, lots of bottled water, tarps, and nails. We had a list of three major things he could help us with during his overnight stay. They were all accomplished two hours after he arrived. It was like Jeff and I were taking baby steps in shock, while Peter comes in as a triathlon athlete (which he is, actually). He whipped through a project, then said, “What next?” His time was not only a physical boost to us, but definitely an emotional boost.

3) Our yard went from 90% shade a week ago to 90% sun this week. Sunlight comes through windows which hasn’t seen sun in our seven years here.

Related to that: With downed trees all about, it took Peter four attempts to get to our house. Even so, the neighborhood looks so different, he started to drive past our house when he saw us out front. Yesterday, Friend Francie, who was out-of-town during our storm, drove down our little street (a whopping 20 or so houses), and became confused when she realized she’d reached the end of the street and had to of have passed our house.

4) People keep asking what we need. This morning I broke down for the first time and cried with “Cuz” Dale called from Mississippi, saying how she touched she/they were when members of my church and I went to help with Katrina clean up, and asked “If there is anything at all I can do–” I answered, “Dale, you already have.” It’s the care and concern and compassion, and being a friend — that is the BEST thing anyone can do for us. Just be our friend. Thank you.

5) Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to work on some photos at home to post on FB tomorrow. Hopefully. It’s hard to plan things more than a few minutes ahead of time.

Love to you all. We sure feel it coming at us from you.

Battle Creek Tornado Touchdown, Sunday, May 29, 2011

Literature Blogs

The final words from my previous post on learning new things in May were “And just think… there are still 3.5 days left in the month to learn and do even more interesting things.” Little did I know then how much there was to learn in the past three days. (Note to self: NEVER post about future possibilities again, except when writing fiction.)

Back up in time to last Saturday afternoon: I walked around our yard, picking up three handfuls of small twigs. Twenty-four hours later, I wondered how to pick up the several trees in our yard and through our house.

Sunday, May 29, 2010, at 4:29 p.m., a tornado touched down in our neighborhood.

First of all, my husband and I are safe. Although I know of several close calls, miraculously, no bodily injuries occurred as a result of it. I can’t say the same for our house.

Secondly, ever since the tornado struck, we have been without electricity and water. It may take weeks to restore. There is obviously much, seemingly unending, physical labor to do. I am torn between clean-up efforts and recording/communicating. However, I shall post when I can.

THE INCIDENT:

Sunday afternoon, my husband heard the tornado siren. Like we normally do whenever we hear it (from years of living in tornado alley Iowa), we headed for the basement. He had on the weather radio, but it only warned of rain and strong winds. A couple of minutes (2!) after we were downstairs, we heard loud, scary sounds of which I’ve never heard before. People say, “A tornado sounds just like a freight train.” Freight trains go through Battle Creek all the time. They sound more like clickety-click than the rushing, whooshing, mob-of-ghostly sounds we heard. I’d always thought the brick chimney which goes from roof through ground floor to basement would be the safest, sturdiest place to hunker down next to in case of a tornado. But the overhead wind and crashing noises kept me several steps away from that tunnel to the tornado.

Things went black. Then came the bams. Loud. House-shaking. Bam. Bam. After I realized the basement ceiling was still in tact and we were uninjured, my husband and I just stared at each other in the measly little generator night-light.

Two trees came through our house – an 80’ oak tree which uprooted and smashed away the corner of our bedroom, and another oak, much taller and thicker, the top half which twisted off and then sailed into our garage roof.

Witnesses say three tornadoes were spotted at the same time, in the same area of Battle Creek – our area!

Once the noise was over, the wind and rain stopped just as if some giant had sneezed. The storm was loud. It was quick. It was gone nearly as quickly as it came.

My husband and I ventured upstairs. Power lines were down. Everywhere we looked, trees lay across our roads and over houses and on cars. Small rivers ran through the grassy ditch dents next to the narrow roads, too wide to leap over without getting wet — the least of our problems. Neighbors trickled from their houses. We all clustered together, as if fragile humans have the ability to protect each other at times like this. I’m sure it was more about security.

Although our cars were apparently safe in the garage, we couldn’t get out of our driveway for the trees laying in it. Even if we could, we couldn’t get more than three houses away.  Trees blocked every possible exit.

Interesting thing from this: neighbors become the old-fashioned neighbors you read about elsewhere. Before this, we mostly acknowledged each other with nods or waves and occasional brief conversations. Now there were individual survival stories to tell. All of us needed to communicate. The stories. Lots and lots of stories.

I will post more when and as I can. This initial post was simply to let you know we are safe.  Much more coming. Promise. Like I said, we people have a need to tell our stories.

(P.S.  When I can get to an SD card reader (not exactly a top priority at this point), I’ll post photos on my FaceBook page.