About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Iced In!

(Tales of human survival, strength, and resiliance in the face of great conflict and challenge have been high on my reading and film lists over the past couple of months. The characters and events have been as varied as World War I trench warfare and temporary truce among German, French and Scottish soldiers; Englishmen/women sent to an Australian penal colony; Iranian -American journalist working for Time Magazine in Tehran; Jewish partisans who took on the Germans in the Belarus Woods in World War II, Dresden bomb survivors in WW II; Austrian student activists who opposed the Nazis; the Polish pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman, escaped the Warsaw ghetto and hid starving in one room for two years from the Germans; and, last, a young Muslim woman who fought the Serbs in the 1992 siege of Sarajevo.

Our host for this week's Fun Monday is Bookworm Extraordinaire Angela over at the
The Lurchers . Angela wants to know what we're reading now. Are we enjoying it? Why? Why not? Well, like any Fun Monday blogger who has a story she wants to tell, I think I can make my tale of survival fit Angela's topic. See what you think.)

Earlier last week I finished Lipstick Jihad about a young Iranian-American journalist's account of her struggles to live in both the U.S. and the Middle East. Check out my Shelfari listing if you want to know more about this book. After finishing Lipstick, I immediately began reading the novel, Pretty Birds, by Scott Simon, host of NPR's Weekend Edition. Simon has covered ten wars, from El Salvador to Iraq. Pretty Birds, his first novel, is the story of Irena Zaric, a Muslim teenager who was the victim of ethnic cleansing waged by the Serbs during
the seige of Sarajevo in the early 1990s. Irena was a teenager at top of her game: pretty; star basketball player for her high school girl's team; reader of pop culture magazines; admirer of Madonna and the Clash; good friend; wearer of Air Jordans; and owner of a pet gray parrot, Pretty Bird, whom she taught to make the sounds of Sarajevo from the whirring of a washing machine to the staccato punches of mortar fire.

The good life vanishes when Irena and her parents are driven from their apartment, brutalized by Serbian thugs, and forced to cross the river which divides the city of Sarajevo to live on the Bosnian side. Daily life is a string of horrible realities in order to survive in a war zone--moving about their apartment in a crouch so they won't be shot through the windows by snipers, carrying water and dodging bullits, stealing from the dead to buy food, eating boiled grass, being isolated from friends. Eventually Irena is recruited and trained to be a sniper for the Bosnian side because of her reputation as an athlete. "Pretty birds", as the girl snipers were called , were highly prized soldiers--they freed the boys and men for the front lines; they were small, swift, and hard to detect as they moved around the hills of the city or through bombed out buildings. They were like birds in flight, here and then gone.

Luckily this was a page turner from the beginning. I needed something to take my mind off my own struggles here in Louisville. I needed a reminder that people manage in a crisis--dare I say, even learn from their misery? I've tried to keep all these survivors in mind since last Tuesday, January 27, when Kentucky was hit by the worst ice storm in recent history. All of Kentucky was paralyzed by the rain-sleet-ice-snow-ice that hit us without let up. In Jefferson County alone over 174,000 homes were still without power on Saturday. Here's a photo account of how we survived the storm on Summit Court:

Tuesday, January 26--the power went of around 10:00 p.m. Outside I could hear first the rain, then sleet coming down. The house immediately starts getting cold. The temperature drops and in the early morning hours I'm awakened to the terrifying cracks and crashes of falling tree limbs from all over the neighborhood. I go from window to window trying to see what's going on. I see big limbs down in the yard, perhaps on my neighbor's car. I hope it's not the entire tree. At 5:a.m. the power comes back on for about an hour so we can get the initial news reports. More tree branches crack and crash and the house is dark again.

Wednesday, January 27--this was the view out my front door at daybreak:

My neighbors and I stood in my front yard and watched this tree break in half over the street that leads into the Summit Court cul-de-sac, tearing down more power lines as it crashed. We are stuck. None of the houses have power.

So, we're officially without power, only communication is by cell phone (even worse for a blogger and e-mailer, no internets!). My sister lives in a senior citizen's apartment nearby. She thankfully is just fine. My neighbors start packing up and leaving to stay with friends, relatives, and in hotel rooms. Willie and I decide to stay. I drag out the storm box which contains candles, matches, batteries, flashlights and a can of sterno. I rig up this "stove" by the back door so I can kick it outside quickly in case it catches on fire. We can have hot coffee--which makes me happy--while the snow starts to come down seriously and add to the ice weight already on the trees
I decide to keep a storm journal of what happens and how we deal with each crisis. Notice the "we". As the week went on Willie was my only company, except for two cell phone calls each day to save the charge. Willie, two phone calls and the newspaper. Thankfully the Courier Journal was delivered every day. My only contact with the outside world. It was troubling to read about how people were suffering, including seven deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Thursday, January 28--the power is still off. The house is seriously cold. More snow is falling and the temperature dips to 12 degrees Thursday night. I make coffee and heat soup on the sterno stove. Willie and I stay wrapped up in everything we own. I read Pretty Birds with a booklight and Willie is by turns bored and sleepy. This is his bored look.

Friday, January 29--the power is still off. The house is frigid. The temperature hit 11 degrees before daybreak. It's getting lonely. I keep writing, recording the ice storm of January '09 for posterity. Up in the day, Willie suggests that we walk out in the neighborhood and see what the storm has done. I don my snow/ice cleats and we head out, camera in hand. Here's what we saw:

The happiest sight was at least a dozen power trucks just a few streets over from Summit Court. Adjoining states sent in crews to help restore power to the over 205, 000 dark and cold homes in Louisville. I wanted to hug them! As late as 11 p.m. I could see and hear them working on lines the next street over.

Saturday, January 31--up in the morning the boys of Georgia Power pulled their trucks in the cul-de-sac. Good things began to happen! New wires were strung and at 4:10 p.m. we had power. Hurray for the Georgia Power Boys!

It still looked like this on Saturday afternoon, but we had survived without leaving home--no harm done. And, I also finished reading Pretty Birds today. Highly recommend.

Now Angela's final question was what one book would you take with you if stranded on a desert island? That's easy. I'd take a big blank journal so I could write my own story. Although, it wouldn't be about surviving an ice storm, do you suppose? Now be sure to check out everyone else's Fun Monday reading list.


m (the misanthrope) said...

Oh my gosh...wow. I will need to re-read your post a few times to get all the details. I am glad your power is back on! I do NOT cope well with crises in which I lose heat, water or other necessities. From reading your book review, I see that we are lucky indeed to live in a place where such crises are relatively few and far between. Happy FM to you!

Lane said...

Oh Faye, what a week you had. And what a trooper you were to stay put. I think I would have done the same as I'd rather be cold and isolated in my own home than imposing on others - especially when there are dogs in the equation. Having said that, your days were really an endurance test because cold is misery. But your 'stove' is a work of genius:-)

Well done for getting through that and Willie too, even though he did hog the covers.

And you're right Faye, however hard and inconvenient such events, compared to what they endured in the books you mention - well - we can learn from them.

I am absolutely going to find a copy of Pretty Birds.

Pamela said...

so HAPPY to hear you are well and back in the world of the power grid!!

How did you stay warm??

When my power went out for only part of a day I was pleased that my cooking stove was gas.

Not sure if my tummy could handle "pretty birds." I always feel so helpless.

Molly said...

I am glad that your power is returned to service. I have mentioned before that I have family in Louisville. My sister (seven years my senior) and her husband eventually went to a hotel to wait for the power to be activated.

I will ncertainly add your book choices to my very long list of books-to-read. Earlier, I read a book that you recommended about a the reporter walking across Afghanistan. When I read these books of troubled spots in the world, in my mind, I am trying to make sense of the struggle. I may not be able to make sense of the hatred, but these titles do give insight to these difficult situations.

Janis said...

So happy to hear from you, i have been wondering how you were making out. I know your home is in Kentucky as well as Hula girl's. What a great idea to write a jounal of your experience, you are a true survivor. The books that you mentioned all sound so inspiring. When you learn about how other countries live, it makes you appreciate the good old U.S.A.

Janis said...

Faye, I put you on my blog list, so i will be making more visits to your site.

Sayre said...

A desert island might just sound like a vacation to you now!!!!

I am impressed with your survival skills. We have a similar set up for hurricanes, but we don't have to worry about freezing. Just being eaten by mosquitoes or melting into flesh puddles.

m (the misanthrope) said...

Hi! Just replying to your comment. I'm so sorry your friend's visit got messed up by the weather :-( Yep, we did indeed get hit by the ice/snow too, but not as badly as Kentucky got hit. *sigh* I'm ready for spring (despite what Punxsutawney Phil predicted, bah)!

Sarah said...

Congratulations on surviving so stoically! I don't think here in the UK we would cope with anything like that.

We had snow on Sunday night/Monday morning and everything completely shut down. All for about 4 inches of snow. Ridiculous.

Hurrah that your power is back and you're connected again. Thanks for sharing with us.

laurie said...

my god, faye, you're lucky you didn't freeze to death! i don't think i would stay here without any heat. man oh man. love your makeshift stove and your can-do attitude, though.

and i love that loneliness drove you outside before the cold did.

laurie said...

ps those photos were beautiful, though. ice storms are deadly and gorgeous.