The other day Jen, of Run Jen Run (yes, she of TequilaCon fame who doesn’t even know how much the little event she planned has changed my life, but that is another story), wrote about her ebay quests to collect all things vintage Girl Scouts. She never really was a Girl Scout, but the combination of vintage and the hunt of ebay started Jen on a collection. It was truly a pleasure to read her post that day.
Then I started thinking about why I don’t have any memories of Girl Scouts other than of buying too many boxes of their damn cookies (those fuckers are like crack…what the hell do they put in them?).
Turns out if you are in the Brownies and beat up a Boy Scout you will get kicked out of the Brownies and never allowed to join the Girl Scouts.
Elitist scouting bitches.
Ξ December 31st, 2008 | → 8 Comments | ∇ scoop |
Cousin Sarah was due to have a baby on Christmas Day. And now she is FINALLY having contractions. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Little baby Donnie is finally on the way…
Yesterday I told you the looooooooooong story of the flood that happened four years ago when Hurricane Ivan’s remnants blew into Pittsburgh and sat on the area long enough to do some major damage. September 17, 2004. The day I lost everything. But see, here’s the thing…I gained even more than I ever lost.
Well, first of all, I didn’t lose EVERYthing. See, Christmas of 2003 I loved my tree and decorations so very much that I kept them up through January. Then I did something I had never done before. I sort of left it up a while longer…a lot longer. Next thing I know it is May and my dining room is a Christmas room. Although I had never left a tree up after January, that damn tree made me so happy to look at, just brought joy to my heart, that I kept it up, telling everyone that I was keeping it up for my birthday so that I could throw a Christmas in July party. Of course I never threw that party, but by July I had sort of really gotten into “the year of the tree” and decided to leave it up until October when I would have a Halloween party. Rarely I would turn the tree’s lights on, but walking by and seeing my favorite ornaments that held such sentimental memories made my insides dance a little every damn time I saw them. And don’t folks say that Christmas should be in your heart every day? Well every day was Christmas in my apartment. Which means that when the contents of my basement contents sat submerged for over 24 hours, my tree and ornaments and decorations were safely in my dining room! Yay!
Walking into the muddy apartment and seeing so many things that were destined for the garbage (oh, such waste!), I couldn’t help but become enveloped in peace when that Christmas tree stood proud in the corner because the water rose up to the bottom branches, but no higher. It was going to be ok. I was going to be ok.
Friends and family kept arriving in droves. My aunt generously offered to have me and both dogs live with her until we found another home (three months later). Another aunt’s best friend is a Catholic priest who sent an envelope with $200 cash that enabled me to work at the apartment and not have to drive to a functioning ATM (those machines need electricity!) in order to give a cousin money to go buy more bleach. Joe, my landlord, had borrowed a neighbor’s generator so most of the mud got pumped out with the water instead of having the chance to settle and need to be shoveled out. An uncle’s mom helped him gather enough food for the small army that assembled. My work BFF sent her husband over with a squeegee in one hand, a gallon of Reunite Lambrusco in the other, plus his pockets filled with exacto knives for cutting carpet and other necessities. A friend arrived with coolers full of ice. A local church offered me a brand new entertainment center to replace the crappy waterlogged one that had to be discarded before mold grew in the damp material. Cousins ran up and down the basement steps, dragging containers of muddy and still dripping clothing, sheets, winter coats, ruined washer and dryer, etc. out to the backyard where I had to sort through everything in the hopes of salvaging something. People were amazing in how hard they worked to help me gut the mess of an apartment. Eventually the garbage pile was both wider and taller than the garage.
When I would start to get overwhelmed and considering breaking down crying, I would remember that I asked God to take care of my dogs. He did. So I would take a deep breath, saying out loud, “Reilly is safe, Ludo is safe, I am safe. Everything else is just stuff.” Somehow that could keep me going for another half hour or hour. Then again out loud, “These are all simply things. The boys are ok, I am ok. Stuff I can do without, Reilly and Ludo are all I need.” And it was true. Granted I needed to remind myself often, but it was true.
Day two of the cleanup, at the precise moment when I needed a break, my incredible cousin called from Florida to see how things were going. Needing to step away from the emotional “holy fuck, I am throwing my life away” feelings, Janie’s voice was very needed. I found myself telling Jane how I asked God to get my dogs to safety only to have one creek recede long enough for our aunt to drive down the street, retrieve the dogs and get out safely with them. Walking by the empty space that was already cleared of the massive mound of garbage we had stacked in front of the garage, where there was nothing but space to again be filled up with my ruined possessions, I was saying, “I don’t need a sign that God knows what we truly need, He connected every phone call of mine when no one else could get through, plus he kept those dogs safe.” Then my boot kicked something, sending the newspaper clanking down the street. Curiosity got the better of me and I chased it down. Unwrapping the filthy newspaper, I found my favorite mug, a hand thrown pottery mug that was given to me at the Three Rivers Arts Festival by the artist himself. It must have gotten lost in a box of stuff that was placed in the basement when I was originally moving in. Then that box sat in the basement for years before being underwater for over a day. The box was picked up and dumped into a huge plastic tub, bounced up stairs, drug across the kitchen floor and out the back door, then dumped onto the cement back porch. Contents of the box were tossed into a “try to salvage pile” or “garbage” pile. All garbage was thrown into another huge plastic tub container, drug out to the garage and thrown on top of the pile until the garbage men made emergency trips throughout the night.
Thrown. Tossed. Dumped. Kicked. The mug was only wrapped in one piece of newspaper, yet it survived without so much as a chip or crack. And I found my gorgeous mug that I loved and couldn’t find just when I was saying how well God knows me. It was then that I was given a truly magnificent gift. The gift of faith.
When the FEMA guy (who I wound up taking out and getting VERY drunk in an effort for him to forget some of the terrible things he had been seeing) told me that mold had settled in and that I should look for another place to live, my aunt insisted that I stay with her. No other landlords wanted to take a chance on me because of the size of my two dogs (50 and 90 pounds) so I was struggling with finding a new place. It finally hit me that I would need to buy a home. I did a bunch of research, found some terrific houses, but the one that I accidentally found driving down the wrong street turned out to be for sale in my price range. The owners had a German Shepherd who looked a lot like Ludo. I got a terrific feeling from the family. And it turned out the owner was the brother of my coworker. Who would build me a fence for the dogs. Yep, I had found my home. One week before Christmas, on December 18th, I had many hands helping me move into my new house. My first house. Three months and one day after the terrible flood, I was safe in the home I was destined to be in.
Moving into this new house felt terrific because that disaster had actually somehow worked out well for me. I felt blessed. And I like that feeling.
At one point an aunt disappeared on “moving Becky into her new house” day. When we finally found her, she was downstairs putting up the Christmas tree that meant so much to me, whose mere survival was a symbol that I would also make it. Come hell or high water, I will make it.
A day short of four years ago was one hell of a rainy Friday. I was downtown at work, so what did I care if Hurricane Ivan’s remnants poured down buckets all day while I was being paid to be inside? Late in the day my best friend called to tell me she just saw my apartment on the news, that there was water up to my front porch’s top step. “Get the hell outta here!” or something similar flew out of my mouth. She replied, “No one else has that dumbass flag like you do, I know where you live!” (For the record, it was SO not a dumbass flag. And I still have one just like it. Black and gold stripes instead of red and white. Then instead of stars there is the City of Pittsburgh skyline in silver on a black background.)
Hmmmm. Water up to my front porch, eh? Not good. Better call the senior citizen who lived across the street. She said she was fine, but that the water was pretty deep outside and that I probably wouldn’t be able to get home. I hung up, assuring her that I would get home to take care of my dogs, come hell or high water. Didn’t expect BOTH hell AND high water, though.
Told the boss that I had to leave early, jumped into my little lightweight, rear wheel drive 1986 Volvo. (Shall I stop now for you fuckers to make fun of my ancient car?) The drive towards home was brutal due to other drivers traveling at a snail’s pace and the rain coming down so hard that I could barely see, regardless of how fast or slow the wipers were moving. My mom called and asked me to come up to stay with her, but she didn’t have a fenced in yard for the boys, plus rumor had it that many roads leading to her place were flooded out. I called Aunt Mary, knowing that her home is dog friendly and has a fence. She picked up quickly, telling me she was at the grocery store, but they had just lost power so she would leave to get my dogs for me.
Aunt Mare would have been coming from a direction that wouldn’t have permitted her to get down my flooded street, but I was coming from another direction that put me at the other side of the flood. I had no trouble with me wading (swimming?) in the water, but would never dare to ask my aunt to do that kind of stupid behavior. Problem was, I couldn’t even get remotely close to home. I had to take a different exit due to a massive lake that accumulated at the end of the Carnegie exit. Coming down Mansfield through Greentree was painfully slow, partially due to the water shooting out of the manhole covers like fountains. I prayed, asking God to please be with my dogs because I had no idea if I would be able to get home and what I would find if I did.
Eventually I got into Carnegie, but every time I tried to turn right to get home the street was halfway full of brown water. I had always heard that you shouldn’t drive into flood water, so I kept going straight until I found a left turn that afforded a parking spot on a hill. Walking to find the best place to cross I came upon a firetruck. As calmly as possible I asked the driver where the shallowest place to cross might be and I was told that I can’t cross, no one can. It was then that I lost it. Somehow I managed to utter, “Fuck can’t! You tell me how! I have to get home to my dogs. They are all alone and I need to get there to get them out. You tell me how and don’t you dare fucking say “can’t” again. I don’t mind swimming.” Poor guy. He tried to tell me that the flood waters were too swift, but I was unbuttoning my Levi’s and walking away. (Anyone else out there hear that jeans are too heavy when wet and that you should never swim in them?) I prayed some more, telling God that I didn’t care about the material possessions, but that He knew how much those dogs meant to me and that I needed Him to help Reilly & Ludo be safe.
Keep in mind that the captain of police got stuck exactly where I wanted to swim across. Seems he was trying to rescue about 20 people when he also got trapped. They were all rescued by boat. While on top of a bridge. Yeah. Stupid, stupid flood. More praying, telling God in no uncertain terms that He could have everything, that it was all His anyhow, but that I absolutely needed His help with keeping my dogs healthy and safe.
ANYhow, here I am taking off my jeans when my phone rang. On a day when no one had regular phone service let alone cellular service, mine rings. Seems my aunt is on my front porch, opening my door. Something about waters receding (receding!!) and getting the key from my neighbor. It was difficult to tell exactly what she was saying because when I heard Reilly & Ludo bark I could concentrate on nothing but the happiest sound I had ever heard in my life. Sure, that sounds melodramatic, but you have to understand how stressed I was until this point. Aunt Mary said to get out of Carnegie and to get to her house, that she would make sure the dogs got there safely.
I found my car and slowly made my way through the traffic to Aunt Mary’s house, thanking God for Reilly & Ludo the entire drive. Aunt Mare saw me parking in front and hurrying to her gate so she opened the door to let my dogs out. They tore across the driveway to me and I collapsed right there in the pouring rain and whipping wind, fell to my knees in the driveway sobbing and sobbing with relief that the dogs were safe. I was safe.
Mare had grabbed the plastic wheeled container which held 40 pounds of dog food and a pair of sweatpants for me so it was great that the boys ate, plus I was finally both warm and dry. Her electricity had been out so we talked by candlelight before going to sleep, no radio, no television and no internet to give us updates. Saturday morning an aunt and uncle who lived around the corner invited us up for breakfast since they had enough food for a small army (the mountain house getaway was canceled due to flooding that prevented anyone from traveling to Somerset). We laughed and talked and ate, having a marvelous (and oblivious) morning until my landlord called.
“Oh Becky, I am so sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it, Joe. My aunt got my dogs and said she saw some water in the basement, but that shouldn’t be a big cleanup deal. I’m not worried about it.”
“I don’t think you understand. Oh Becky, I’m just so sorry. It is gone. All ruined. I’m so sorry.”
“Huh? Ruined? What?”
Several of us piled into my uncle’s van, a bunch of folks went in Aunt Mary’s SUV, hell I don’t even know how many of us pulled up in front of my adorable two bedroom apartment. Former adorable apartment. The stench in the neighborhood was stomach churning, the mud was caked inches thick on the streets…and the inside of my apartment was not much better. Joe had gotten there earlier and had a sump pump started which was getting the water pumped out (thank God for the guy who had the generator across the street because there was no gas, no electricity). I was numb as I walked across the muddy tiled floor to the basement door. Instead of seeing rickety stairs I saw dark water. To the very top of what should have been stairs was nothing but dark water. I reeled backwards, thinking of everything I had stored in the basement that was now worthless and totally ruined by the sewage flood water. Smells are something that I have always been sensitive to and the stench had me on the verge of vomiting. Walking though the living room and hearing the squish of my shoes wasn’t helping, nor was literally seeing the water splash when I walked through the dining room.
It was starting to get overwhelming and I wanted to go. Reminding myself that I told God all I wanted was Reilly & Louie was pretty damn close to not helping anymore and I needed to get out of there, to not see my ruined cowboy boots laying in the muddy hall, to not look at the couch that was now wet garbage, to not see the hundred plus dollars of dog toys soaking wet, to not see that terrible dark water, to not smell that Bog of Eternal Stench odor that had enveloped the neighborhood, to not deal with anything anymore. It was right about then when one of my aunts picked up my “Miracle Mop” that we had purchased together at the home show. It had been standing in the kitchen closet, mop head side up, so she unwrapped the plastic from the mop head, ran it under some fresh water, and drew a white line in the mud of the tiled kitchen floor. I froze, starting to think that maybe this disaster wasn’t as overwhelming as I had originally thought. She smiled and said, “Just like eating an elephant. One bite at a time.”
I’ll save the rest of the good news for tomorrow, the actual anniversary of my life changing event.
Until then here are some photos of that crazy flood.
10th Street Bypass, facing downstream
10th Street Bypass, facing upsteam:
A marina broke loose and floated downstream.
Obviously these photos were taken the day after the rain stopped. Water level had actually gone drastically down. For example, in this final photo, the water is under the bridge! September 17, 2004 the Carnegie police chief and about 20 others had to be rescued from on top of the bridge by boat. By boat! There was so much water that the top of that semi would have barely been visible. (And my dumb ass was thinking of swimming??)
Cousin Sarah and I went to her first ultrasound today. Good news is the baby is healthy and everything like kidneys, brain, bones and heart are growing exactly as they should. Spine looks great. Yay! Everything is good. Except baby is all about stretched out, lounging in there, and got the umbilical cord positioned right between its legs. So we have no clue if Sarah is having a boy or a girl. That whole “help us name the baby” thing? Yep, we still don’t know if the baby should be Donnie or Donnie. hehe
Best part of today, for me, was that Sarah asked me to be with her at test. How cool is that?!??! We all know I won’t be giving birth (EVER), which means that it isn’t like I would ever have this opportunity to see a baby that I love before I can actually hold her.
Cracks me up that seeing the baby via ultrasound is kind of like talking to all of you guys. You are there, I just can’t hold you.
Oh, I pick Sarah up and we do an errand before heading to the hospital for the ultrasound. Park way close to the door because pregnant woman has to pee. REALLY has to pee. Seems that little errand and the drive was enough to have her bladder at capacity or something. We walk through the hospital, wait a week for the elevator, squeeze on with a kerjillion other people, ride to the fifth floor, walk all the way to the end, find the very last office which is Sarah’s doctor. The locked door. They are closed and can’t sign the paperwork, but the ultrasound folks don’t care about the paperwork. Problem is baby is causing Sarah to be about to pee herself. Of course I find this hysterical. Which gets Sarah to giggling. And waddling down the hall, into a different office, hollering that the pregnant lady is about to pee herself, do they have a bathroom. Sarah bolted as fast as she could into the back of the office, I stay and giggle with the women about pee your pants stories. Coz I am shy that way.
All of Thursday evening was spent at David’s Bridal. Dress after beautiful dress being brought out. Get naked, squeeze into the gorgeous white creation, rip it off and try on another. They were all so pretty, which to choose? Ahhhh, yes. The stunning simple and classic strapless gown. White and some sort of champagne color. Although there was another strapless gown which fit like a glove right off the rack…strapless and white with stunning red embroidered flowers. It was too difficult to actually make the decision last night, but after much thought and talking about it, it was easy to recognize the right dress for the occasion.
The occasion is a wedding in a little under a month. Not a huge wedding, less than 60 people, but still planning something that needs to happen in LESS than a month ain’t easy. Sure, many folks want to assist, but there is only so much that others can do. And the time frame is brutal.
But the groom is in the Marines, currently stationed in NC and volunteered for a second tour in Iraq. The military of course was happy to accommodate his request. He leaves in early September and cannot be given leave right before he goes. Leave for him can only happen the last week in June and he needs to be back in NC on the 30th. They won’t tell him yet exactly which day he can get his ass to Pittsburgh and PA law says both bride and groom must be present to fill out papers. After papers they must wait three days.
It is important for the wedding to happen before he leaves for Iraq. Which means the wedding will be on a Wednesday or a Thursday. A midweek wedding that needs to be planned in less than a month. On a less than shoestring budget.
Thankfully, I am only helping with this exciting event. I get to throw all kinds of ideas on the table and watch my beautiful young cousin sort through them. She is stressed, but doing a wonderful job with an overwhelming task. At 20 years of age so many folks would be unrealistic, even given the situation, but she is doing quite well. I am so proud of her for so many things.
And it is an honor to be able to assist with the cost of the dress. I’ll help in anyway that I can. Today, tomorrow and forever. Because she is family. But more importantly, she is a friend.
I love you pretty lady. Thank you for including me, for trusting me. I am thrilled to have the means to assist with the dress. You are beautiful and the dress compliments you perfectly. Know how proud I am of you for standing tall in the face of not one but four major life stresses.
You are doing a terrific job.
But you are not alone. Your family is here for you. ALWAYS.
We have your back. We will hold your hand. Even against something that seems as big as the ocean.