Yet Another Tornado Cleanup Entry

Literature Blogs

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

Literature Blogs

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

Literature Blogs

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

Literature Blogs

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.

New things learned/experienced in May

Literature Blogs

To me, it’s important to be constantly learning or doing new things. Is it because I get so easily bored? And yet, I claim that I have never been bored in my life. Maybe it’s a form of ADHD? I’d rather think it’s just Sandy Carlson. Whatever this rolling nugget inside me is about, it sure keeps me moving and learning, and I love it. Will I use everything I learn and know in stories, blogs, articles? Probably not.

All that being said, here are a few of the new things I’ve done this month:

* Put in a small veggie garden on the SE side of our house. This is the first year in more than three decades that I haven’t had a sun garden. This year’s is an experiment, since our yard is 90% shade. But when our neighbors cut down the huge oak between our yards (which shaded our house each summer morning), the empty space brought about five hours of sun to that section of yard.

* Bought a manual reel lawnmower, which I LOVE using. I can stop and start whenever I have a need (like to pick up fallen sticks) without having loud noise come on and off. I can even hear birds singing or children laughing while I mow.

* Accidentally caught a prescribed burn around the base of my favorite tree in a nearby park.

*Investigated, then bought fruit tree spray for our apple tree. Although we’ve lived in houses which had fruit trees (cherry, pear, and apple), I’ve never sprayed before.

* Accompany on guitar a professional and excellent pianist (v.s. the “whatever” musicians I’ve worked with in the past, who were also very talented).

* After reading a few articles about how to save money, and realizing we already do all those things – except for selling our second house, since we don’t own one – I came up with a simple money-saving plan anyone could use: write down what you spend money on, then start eliminating. However, I realized that, if finances allow, there ought to be an occasional special something not necessary – the very reason why Hershey’s candy bars became so popular during the 1920’s depression.

* Made my own vanilla extract — although I have to admit that I didn’t grow the beans nor make the vodka myself.

* Learned how to hyperlink for my experimental eBooks, which is pending approval to the premium catelogue. (Yep, put a second one up: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/56480 , but this version is minus the hyperlinks.)

* Attended the newly formed Sisters In Crime chapter for our state.

And just think… there are still 3.5 days left in the month to learn and do even more interesting things.

4 Agents and Michigan Sisters in Crime

Literature Blogs

Admittedly, the past two weeks were overwhelming with writing activities — that is, attending writing activities, not writing writing activities. It started with Miss Snark’s Secret Agent contest on Monday (I got my first 250 pages in for critiques — very helpful). Monday night WriteOnCon held a chat with three agents (interesting to discover their likes and visions for the future). I planned to get a post in on both those events, but sadly, like jokes, the timing is now past.

And then last Saturday, local writer Suzanne, hosted our first Sisters in Crime Michigan chapter (not counting the organizational one) with Bill Howe, a retired crime lab supervisor with the police department and currently the investigator for the county prosecutor’s office. I am not normally a mystery or crime writer, but, hey, these were local writers willing to get together right here in my home town, some coming from two hour’s away.  And learning new things is always interesting to me, especially if I can use some of the facts I glean to put into my fictional characters.

Bill’s presentation dealt with interviews and interrogation skills. Interviews are made with anyone involved, but interrogations are reserved for suspects. Bill addressed the importance of non-verbal communication, and that as one policeperson interviews the suspect, two others are watching the nonverbals. For instance, self-grooming or stalling to give answers (repeating the questions) are signs of deception. Bill explained how the eye direction of a right-handed person (v.s. left-handed) indicated truth or fiction. Interestingly enough, I learned that police are allowed to use trickery during the investigation. Sometimes the interrogator also uses sympathy, relating to the person and why they may have done such a crime.  Bill never felt good about doing this. In fact, it made him feel dirty. But if it got a confession by giving the suspect a way to save face (Bill: I can understand why you would ***. I feel like that all the time.”), it is a good interrogation technique.

The time with Bill passed in the blink of an eye. (Oh, no. Was I looking up and to the right, or down and to the left when I said that?) Will I ever use this information with my own writing? I don’t know. But now that I have it, watch out. I’ll be watching. Are you telling a truth or a lie? (Hee-hee-hee.)

Learn Something New – Research and Experimentation

Literature Blogs

I remember a speaker at a writer’s conference, mucho years ago, telling us not to limit ourselves to one genre of speaker. If we write science fiction, go sit in on a workshop given by a romance writer. If we are an adult mystery writer, listen to an author of young adult literature. I found her advice very interesting. I also read outside my box (genre), sometimes randomly picking books from the library shelf or eShop. I have researched poisonous snakes of Brazil, and toilets of the middle ages, and land-locked U.S. Navy bases which GPS their trees. We have moved enough for me to have learned and several experienced different cultures and humor in many states, including internationals.

While I was working as a long-term substitute teaching the other year, I found myself at a school where white boards (don’t even mention black boards) were obsolete, and everything was taught via computer and workbook page projection through ceiling attachment. I had a lot to learn at that school, not about student behavior, nor about subject matter, nor about teaching in general from years of past experience, but about communication and presentation to the students. In fact, for the first several weeks teaching there, I wasn’t informed of meetings or even school-wide assemblies because my email wasn’t part of their daily staff system.

On the first second day, I asked my next-door teacher and grade team leader (in her third year of teaching) how to use the classroom equipment. She told me to ask the teacher across the hallway (in her second year of teaching) who was the equipment expert. I was substituting for a maternity leave teacher after six months of teaching. The equipment expert across the hall told me she just played around with it until it did what she wanted. I asked her more specific questions, which she couldn’t answer. I asked her to show me. When she came to my room, the expert informed me my equipment wasn’t the same as hers, and left. I went back to the team leader and asked for a manual. The team leader said she didn’t know of any, then informed me that it was good for old people to learn new things, that it kept them alert with new streams flowing in their brains. I really wish that slapping were still a viable means of communication, put that is so passe. Instead, I just stood facing her with my mouth opened, trying not to drool – like old folks do – then went back to my classroom and figured it out on my own.

Well, I’m off now to research different forms of nuclear energy and waste for a book I’m revising. I also feel the need to find out more about rose-breasted grosbeaks who have visited our yard this past week for the first time ever. (Merely curious.) Later, I’ll mow our lawn with our new manual push lawn mower – a very, very, very cool green machine – which I assembled the other day, before going for a run, showering, and singing and playing guitar at a health care facility.

Learn new things. Experience new places. Meet and talk with people unlike yourself. File away encounters for future references. And KEEP ON WRITING.

Why Write? (part II)

Literature Blogs

I feel like standing up and saying, “Hi. My name is Sandy. I’m a writer.”

I haven’t confessed to too many people that I actually have four blogs. I don’t post on them all regularly, but they are four very different blogs on very different subjects. For instance, I also have a humor blog where I write true funny family stories, but also stick in some good old clean jokes now and then. That blog is strictly for sharing the funny. Another blog concerns my husband’s occupation — b.o.r.i.n.g. to most people.

Why four blogs? For compartmentalizing different focuses.

I also have written nonfiction articles, as well as stories cross-genre and cross-age, from PB to adult thrillers. (The last is under a pen name, so as not to confuse my dear children readers.)

When I was a freshman in college, my advisor — a very plump woman threatening the existence of her chair, with narrow eyes which burned into your very soul — asked me what I wanted to be (when I grew up). I got all fluttery and replied, “I just don’t know. I love being outside, but I love working with kids, and I want to help people, and I want to explore places, and –” She slammed her hand to her desk to stop my babbling. I was startled because, after all, she’d asked. She waggled her finger at me and said, “Focus. Decide on one thing and do it.” Then she waved me out of her presence with the back of her hand. I was devastated. But then, I ended up in a profession which did all of the above. I was an elementary school teacher, and a girl scout leader, later becoming a wife and mom and cub scout leader. I really COULD do it all. Ha on her!

Coming back to my wide interest in writing… I feel my former advisor shaking her pudgy finger in my face with a “Focus!” Will I ever learn? Could I focus on just one series and write a bazillion stories with those characters? Not sure it’s in my varied personality. But because of my families adventuresome spirit, I don’t need to do tons of research for what it would be like in many situations. We’ve been there. OH! something I hadn’t thought about because it is far too scattered to focus into one book — a memoir!