Finally got it down to a somewhat manageable stack:
It’s one hour to party time here in Knoxville, but here’s a quick recap of my activities at FGS10 today:
Session 1: War of 1812: Its Causes and its Records — great session that will help me with a client project
Session 2: The Land Grant Process of NC/TN — Speaker J. Mark Lowe is a great speaker and this enlightening session will help me with my East Tennessee research. Spooky light activity in the room was blamed on a ghost that follows Mark around.
Session 3: The Anatomy of a Will and the Records It Spawns — good session with definitions and examples of legal terms
Lunch: Tomato Head with 8 of some of my closest genea-peeps and a couple of their hubbies. Yummy food and good conversation.
Session 4: College & University Records: good overview of what’s out there but I was hoping for more tips on where to find these gems.
Session 5: Not allowed to blog about this one, but it wasn’t my favorite session, so that’s probably for the best.
Other highlights: Greta Koehl gave me the copy of Who Do You Think You Are by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak that she won yesterday — thanks, Greta! Also bought a huge tome on North Carolina research that was recommended as a good overall research guide. Can’t wait to dig into both of these books.
My grandma’s taco meat is warming up in in the Crock Pot and the sangria is chilling. Glad that some of my fellow FGS attendees can make it tonight!
Just finished putting the ingredients for my grandma’s taco meat into the Crock Pot for a shindig my sister and I are throwing tomorrow night with my genea-friends and her pals from the area. Should be a good time.
But I really am here to post the happenings from today. I attended some excellent and informative sessions. The first, “Colonial Migrations In and Out of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley,” was the perfect lead-in for the next session I attended, “Migration Routes Into and Out of Tennessee.”
Now, I have to admit I was dubious about the second session as I walked into the room and saw a transparency projected onto the screen. More alarm bells went off when I noticed the speaker adjusting said transparency was in period costume. But I was in for a treat because the speaker was the legendary George Schweitzer and he was a hoot. In addition to being a funny, engaging speaker, he also really knew his stuff.
Before this session, I got to chatting with one of my neighbors and learned she lives not to far from me in Virginia. When I found out she was a scrapbooker and Creative Memories fan, I told her about an upcoming 11-hour crop near her neck of the woods in October (see my write-up from last year’s event). She was excited to hear about it and I hope she’ll join me there!
Next, I attended “‘I’ll Fly Away’: Using Southern Church Records in Genealogical Research.” I came away with a lot of resources to check out regarding the Methodist preachers on my father’s side of the family and also for finding records of interest from many other denominations.
Unbeknownst to me, I had registered (or otherwise obtained a ticket) for the luncheon of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors. I’m glad I happened to have the ticket because I really enjoyed the luncheon and made some good connections. One of my table-mates works in Illinois and gave me some good tips for researching my Corley roots there.
After lunch, I ran into Amy Coffin, who informed me that I’d won a door prize at the APG table. I had just enough time to pick up my prize before my next session. I received a copy of Courthouse Research for Family Historians. I was thrilled because I’ve had this book on my wishlist for a while.
Funnily enough, the next session I was to attend was “The Courthouse Burned: Alternate Approaches and Treasures.” This was a thorough session on what to try if you’re researching ancestors from a county (primarily in the South) whose courthouse burned either during the Civil War or in another conflagration or had other calamities that resulted in record destruction.
The final session I attended was “Irish Emigration to North America: Before, During and After the Famine.” This was a very informative session that helped me to figure out what was going on when my great-grandfather came over from Ireland (not necessarily the famine, as I thought initially). Speaker Paul Milner gave clues as to where Irish immigrants came from in Ireland at various points throughout history. I feel a bit more confident in researching this line now that I’m armed with this information.
But the day wasn’t over yet! Prize drawings were coming up at the exhibit hall and I wanted to take another look around because I felt like there were a few more nooks to explore after my survey of the exhibits yesterday. I perused a few more book stores and bought some supplies at the Fun Stuff for Genealogists booth before I sat down near the snack bar to wait with a tableful of my genea-peeps until the door prizes were announced.
Tina Lyons and I had by this time both won door prizes earlier in the day and sadly no one else at the table won, but we had a great time joking with each other and making fun of the odd way they were announcing the prizes.
By that time, I had scored yet another free day of parking (woohoo!) and needed to head to the grocery store to buy the provisions for the aforesaid taco meat. It has been a full week, but I’m kinda sad that the conference ends tomorrow.
Just back from an even fuller (more full?) day at the FGS conference. Started bright and early at the FamilySearch.org Blogger’s Breakfast where they debuted some upcoming features (new catalog search functionality and ancestor pages) and then asked me and about 14 other bloggers for opinions on various FamilySearch.org initiatives. The session was well worth the early start time — thanks to FamilySearch for the invite and the free swag (a NGS DVD, USB hub, brochures, and a lovely breakfast).
The official opening session of the conference was a riot. Mark Lowe and Kent Wentworth traded jibes, jokes and stories in a fun Tennessee v. Kentucky match-up. They also shared some ideas for doing research in both states. The exhibit halls opened after the session and I think I did pretty well, only spending $20 on items when there was so much there for the taking/buying. For those curious, I bought RootsMagic4 and the guidebook as a package deal after chatting with the helpful staff at their table.
I then attended a session on tracing immigrant ancestors to their countries of origin. This session was packed full of strategies and resources to try. It gave me hope for the searches I have ahead of me for my British, Scottish and German ancestors.
After lunch with Amy Coffin, Tonia Hendricks, Tina Lyons and her husband, I headed to a two-hour session by Elizabeth Shown Mills on Southern Research Strategies, especially for tracing the stories of poor, black and female ancestors. She presented two case studies that were complex and fascinating. She used a bullseye strategy, beginning with the ancestor at their earliest known/proved place of residence, slowly working out in concentric circles by studying their family, neighbors and acquaintances to search for evidence.
After that, I reunited with Amy and Tonia and a couple of other GeneaBloggers for the Genealogy Guys Podcast taping. They took questions from the audience and provided strategies for busting through brickwalls or approaching new areas. It was a really fun session and I think could be a model for future activities — with or without the podcast aspect.
After the podcast, Amy and I headed out to Market Square (the skies had cleared!) and talked shop over yummy food. Then I departed for the East Tennessee Family History Center, which has been kind enough to extend their hours this week while we’re in town.
I have family from Carter County in East Tennessee. After talking with the ETFH folks at the exhibit hall this morning, I wanted to check out the indexes for two of their journals to see if any of my surnames were covered. When I arrived after dinner, a staff member at the reference desk mentioned that they also had compiled genealogies. I made a beeline for that room and requested the vertical files they had on the HAYES surname and paged through a Carter County scrapbook while I waited for the records to be pulled. Most of the staff I encountered were nice, but one curmudgeonly guy was obviously put out by my newbie visitor questions. Harumph right back to him.
I didn’t find any real answers on this visit because I was pressed for time before they closed, but I noted the other vertical files they have available for a future visit. I also began searching through the indexes of the East Tennessee publications in their holdings. I’m looking forward to my next visit to the area so I can follow-up on what I saw today (and may even try to play hooky from a session or two tomorrow or Saturday to do more research).
Just returned to my sister’s house after a very full Day 1 at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference.
After sleeping in and a quick breakfast, I met up with Amy Coffin to pick up our registration packets. While we were at the Knoxville Convention Center, we moseyed around the World’s Fair Park, including the Sunsphere and amphitheater. Then we walked down to Market Square for lunch at Soccer Taco (so good!).
After lunch, we checked out the concierge suite at the Hilton before I headed back to the convention center to attend a couple of sessions about FamilySearch.org.
The first session dealt with an initiative called “Project X,” which seeks to concentrate resources including information, training and access to people and organizations through tools like wiki.familysearch.org, forums.familysearch.org and online training classes available on the main site.
I was really surprised by some of the resources that I didn’t know were available at the resources above. For instance, the wiki includes sections on items like English probate jurisdiction and elaborate census index site matrices. The wiki is now up to 40,000 pages and grows at a rate of 1,200 pages a month — impressive!
The second session I attended drilled down deep into the forums at FamilySearch.org. Did you know there are social groups there based on topics like common ancestors, FHC locations, indexing and more?
The folks at FamilySearch are building the forums up to be robust enough to guarantee responses to research questions. That’s fantastic!
After these sessions, I met up again with Amy, Thomas MacEntee, Tina Lyons and Tonia Kendrick for drinks before joining 17 other fellow ProGen participants for dinner at Trio at Market Square. I had a great conversation three others in the study group who are in various stages of the program. We all compared notes on our various research projects — I got some great ideas to follow up on!
I’m happy to report that I heard no admonitions about using Twitter today! In fact, kudos to speaker Michael Ritchey of FamilySearch.org for pointing out how many genealogists are making use of Twitter for their research.
Have to head to bed early so I can be back at the convention center for a FamilySearch blogger’s breakfast at 7 a.m.(!)
I am just back at my sister’s house after my first day of genealogy conferencing here in Knoxville at the Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Management Conference. The sessions were informative, I got to see an old friend and met several more that I had only known online up until this point, in addition to making new acquaintances.
I had a grand ol’ time Tweeting who I was sitting next to and what sessions were up next until after lunch. That’s when a request was made to refrain from texting or Tweeting as each of the afternoon speakers was introduced.
What a disappointment! I had heard this was an issue at last year’s APG conference too, and thought that perhaps they’d opened up to all the benefits Twitter can bring to a conference. I know that of which I speak, having run the PR for the past two Association of Independent Information Professionals conferences.
I do not know with whom the decision lies to ban or discourage Twitter at the APG events, and thus have not been able to find out why they don’t approve of its usage, but want to address some of what I think may be their concerns here:
First of all, Tweeting will not discourage attendance at a conference — yes, some audience members may tweet a key point here or there from a speaker, but this is a filter through which potential future conference attendees will become interested in the conference. Attendees are not going to be able to give away any secrets 140 characters at a time. They are going to provide free advertisements about the great sessions and speakers your event attracts, which could net new attendees in the future.
Secondly, it will not disrupt the session. Go ahead and admonish folks to turn down the sound on their phones to prevent beeps and rings from interrupting the speaker. If I were a speaker, I would ask my audience beforehand who is Tweeting. That way, I’ll know (or hope) that someone looking at their phone or laptop instead of me while I’m talking is perhaps Tweeting what I have to say. That’s instant gratification for a speaker — an audience member finds a tidbit interesting enough to share with their online followers.
Twitter is a necessary tool to use in event planning and marketing these days and the best part is, that your audience can do most of the work for you. If you set up a hashtag to promote a conference before the event, buzz can be generated before the first speaker takes to the podium. The conference organizers need only sit back and watch as attendees Tweet about what they’re enjoying about the conference and the takeaways they found most valuable. Yes, some may complain about the food or that the session rooms are too cold — great! That’s instant feedback you can act upon to improve the conference right then and there or at least to plan for in the future.
I can understand that event organizers may fear losing control of the message and content of the conference by allowing Twitter and other social media activity. There are proactive steps you can take to manage this, however. Firstly, set up that hashtag and advertise it early so that all your attendees include it on their posts. Not only can their readers follow along then, but so can you. Second, many organizations advertise a social media policy for their events, including guidelines on what’s appropriate to Tweet and post. There are other bloggers, out there (ahem, Amy Coffin), who can speak to this better than I. Third, monitor the posts about your event — retweet the stellar ones, revel in your successes and plan to fix anything about which your audience members may have complained (and then advertise that you’ve done so). Create the impression that you’re on the ball, not behind the times.
The 2010 Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) conference wrapped up in Cleveland today and it was another excellent event. Below are my top 10 highlights from the conference. I hope those that are unfamiliar with the group will take a look at their web site and consider saving up for the 2011 conference in Vancouver, Washington, next April. All genealogists are info pros and would find value in this event (and as an AIIP member!).
10. Roger Summit Award Lecture: The immediate past president of AIIP selects the recipient of the Roger Summit Award, who gives a lecture at the conference. This year’s awardee was Peter Shankman, founder of HARO and a marketing/PR guru. He gave a really funny, engaging talk with great advice on how to portray yourself.
9. Door Prizes! Members, vendors and conference sponsors are encouraged to contribute door prizes, which are given away throughout the conference. There are tons of opportunities to win something and your chances are good (the conference averages about 100-110 attendees each year). This year, I won a centerpiece at the gala and a lovely bowl donated by another conference-goer. Books, subscriptions, gadgets and gift certificates usually are up for grabs as well.
8. Getting the 23 Things Done: AIIP/SLA member Deb Hunt led a session on this initiative to encourage us to experiment with various Web 2.0 tools. The 23 Things program was originally created by a public librarian in North Carolina and was adopted by the Special Libraries Association (SLA) for its members. New tools mentioned include Trackle, BackType and Addictomatic.
7. Member Introductions: A tradition at the conference is to line up all the members and give each 30 seconds at the microphone to give an elevator speech. It’s a good exercise to distill what you offer as an info pro into a short, snappy intro. This part of the conference is the perfect way to meet all the other attendees. The introductions provide a jumping off point for networking later in the conference.
6. Good Grub: The food this year was phenomenal, especially the last lunch, which provided a taste of Vancouver, Washington’s regional fare: salmon, hazelnuts and apple pie. Yum! I also thoroughly enjoyed the dessert at Saturday night’s gala (which involved copious amounts of chocolate sauce).
5. Roundtable Discussions: Conference attendees break up into smaller groups to discuss topics of interest. This year, conference speakers and others were invited to host roundtables about hot topics that generated a lot of buzz over the course of the conference. I attended an excellent discussion on pricing by AIIP member Susan Berkman.
4. Volunteering: This is the second year in a row that I served as PR and materials coordinator for the conference. I worked with a stellar group of fellow AIIP members on the past two conferences and gained lots of experience. Volunteering had the added benefit of giving me more visibility among AIIP members.
3. Learning: The conference featured sessions on everything from protecting your business to web site design. The topics selected for the invited talks are of interest to anyone who runs a business. My mind is spinning from all the new techniques and strategies I learned over the past few days.
2. Tips Sessions: In a format similar to the roundtables, we had the opportunity to sit in small groups for 30-minute sessions on a variety of topics. I attended “How NOT to Market Yourself on the Web” by Mary Ellen Bates, “From ‘To-Do’ to Done” by Char Kinder and “Business Etiquette” by Ulla de Stricker. I learned a lot from them in just 90 minutes!
1. Other AIIP Members: My favorite part of the conference is meeting the other members and making connections. This group is so diverse and talented. Members offer expertise on marketing, accounting, research techniques and more. The specialties of the group cover every topic and industry imaginable. I made a lot of new friends and potential partners this year, including two genealogists!
But wait, there’s more! I had to arrive late to the conference this year due to work and so I missed some other conference features that are worth mentioning. Before each conference several AIIP members offer pre-conference workshops on a variety of topics. These are intense half-day or full-day workshops and an excellent learning opportunity. In a similar vein, many of the conference vendors provide free training sessions — these are great opportunities to get insider tips on various products and services. There is a special session for first-time conference attendees where they get to practice their elevator speeches and learn tips for getting the most out of the conference. Each class of first-timers bond and have even started holding reunions at subsequent conferences.
AIIP member Mary Ellen Bates suggests setting aside $30 a week in a savings account over the course of the year. That’s enough to cover travel, hotel and registration for the next conference for most interested attendees. I highly recommend the investment!
A fellow geneablogger encouraged me to record my story and I’m posting it in the hopes it will spur others to do the same. I’ve also posted tips on how to preserve and display your snowstorm photos and stories.
Here’s the fourth and final installment of my snowstorm story:
Thursday morning was bright and sunny. Paul was up early to report online to work. I rose to join him in the living room while I ate breakfast and finished up a report for a client. We were glad to see the plows arrive promptly this time — a large and a small frontloader worked in tandem to clear the street.
Around noon, I ventured outside to begin clearing the snow off and around my car. It had become clear that I wouldn’t be able to move the car without unearthing it from a four-foot snow drift that had formed on the passenger side.
I had almost cleared up to the front tire by the time Sherri called me in for a lunch of grilled-cheese sandwiches (it was the first time I’d had them prepared in the oven — they were quite crunchy). I’d had to field a press inquiry for my university job while I was out shoveling and I was online for a couple of hours while I monitored that and talked to a couple of genealogy clients. Then I had a conference call regarding a conference I help promote.
Close to sunset, I went back outside to finish clearing around my car and to help Paul shovel out the rest of the driveway. I was glad to see that the plows had cleared down to the pavement that morning.
Dinner that night was late because Sherri was working hard to clear snow from their back deck before it began to melt too close to their basement. We finally sat down to shrimp fettucine and salad. I was starving after all the exercise I’d gotten from shoveling. I had two servings.
We settled in to watch another episode of American Idol (taped) and then had more brownies and ice cream while we watched the late-night news. We couldn’t believe the reports that we may be due for more snow on Monday [that would be today, by the way], but at least they were saying that accumulations should be limited to a few inches. Kara, Kyle and I stayed up until midnight watching an episode of “Criminal Minds.” Really. It’s a creepy show.
I got up at 8 a.m. and finished a transition of my business emails to my Gmail account — one of the projects I undertook with all my free time. Then I had a quick breakfast of a mini-bagel with cream cheese and tea. I was getting antsy to leave for home now that the roads seemed clear.
Around 9:15 I began packing up my belongings and loading them into the car. I said goodbye to Sherri (Paul had left for work that morning and the kids were still in bed). It took me a while to maneuver my car out of its snowy encasement. Eventually I was able to back out of the driveway after a bit more shoveling and some directional help from Sherri.
I quickly learned that not all roads had been cleared as well as ours. At the top of the hill that leads out of the neighborhood, I was faced with a very slushy road. I carefully maneuvered down one street and then another. When I came to Sherwood Forest Drive, there was so much snow and slush built up in the intersection, I didn’t think that I could make the left turn I had been planning on.
I turned right instead and first came upon a mail truck that I had to pass. The channels that had been plowed were barely wide enough for two cars and I had to pull over to let a pick-up truck pass me before I finally cleared the worst of the slush and emerged on Randolph Road.
There was a huge pile of snow blocking my view of oncoming traffic and I had to very slowly pull out onto the road and then make a U-turn before I was finally in the direction I meant to go.
New Hampshire Avenue was at a crawl. It was down to two lanes up until White Oak. There were no sidewalks available to pedestrians and many people were walking in the right-hand lane (when it was clear) to make it to bus stops and businesses along the road. It took me an hour to reach the Beltway from Sherri’s driveway (normally a 10- 15-minute drive). In fact, roads all over the D.C. area were gridlocked for much of the day. My car seemed to be really sluggish and while it idled at a light I felt it hiccup and was afraid the engine was about to die. I knew once I got to the highway and could maintain a higher speed it would shake off the sluggishness — it just seems better tuned to highway driving after my long commute over the past few years.
Luckily, I made it to the Beltway ramp after a torturous wait at many stoplights. I was thrilled to see open road. Dry road. My car struggled to hit the speed limit but after several minutes seemed to be back to normal.
It was smooth sailing all the way to Easton. I got stuck behind a delivery truck as I made my way down Washington Street, which was pretty clear, but wet from melting snow and ice.
The side streets were a mess as I pulled into my neighborhood. I had peeked down an alley that intersects the one behind my apartment and was glad to see it was down to a couple of inches of snow and ice (considering town plows never make it onto the alleys, this was better than could be hoped for after more than two feet of snow).
I was relieved that my car was able to pull into my alley and I slowly approached our parking area. The car slid around a bit in the snow behind a neighboring house. I was doubly relieved to see that, as promised by my landlord, my parking spot had been dug out. My car barely made the turn into the spot. I sighed with relief when I was finally able to shut off the engine. My door could only open a few inches due to the piles of snow on either side of the car. I just managed to squeeze out of the driver’s seat.
Luckily, the apartment was spared any snow-related damage and the power appears to have stayed on while I was gone. Even my plants had pulled through after 8 days of neglect. I immediately turned up the heat, made a cup of tea and heated up some lasagna for lunch. After a hot shower, I pulled on my pjs and spent the rest of the afternoon listening to plows in the hospital parking lot across the street as I responded to emails and worked on client projects. It felt so nice to be home.
Recommended reading (heck, I’m a librarian after all, right?): Writing this story reminded me of a few books I read growing up that have to do with survival during a snowstorm. If you liked my tale, you might enjoy:
Snow Bound by Harry Mazer (1979) — a teenager and his girlfriend must survive in a blizzard after their car becomes stranded in a snow drift.
Snowbound in Hidden Valley by Holly Wilson (1971) — a young girl becomes lost in a snowstorm and is taken in by a Native American family until the blizzard passes and she can return home.
Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons by Bill Watterson — Calvin and his tiger side-kick Hobbes must evade snowmen gone bad, among other wintry perils.
A fellow geneablogger encouraged me to record my story and I’m posting it in the hopes it will spur others to do the same. I’ve also posted tips on how to preserve and display your snowstorm photos and stories.
Here’s Part III of my tale:
What I had seen of the roads scared me and I made the decision once again to stay put despite the forecast of up to a foot of more snow to start on Tuesday afternoon. I didn’t think my car would make it out of the neighborhood and news clips showed that even the Beltway was down to one lane in many places as plows struggled to clear the roads.
I did start my car for a second time (I had run it for a while on Sunday while we cleared out the first round of snow). I went inside for a moment to send an email and about an hour later remembered that I left my car running. Doh!
Sherri cleaned the spoiled food that remained in their refrigerator and I helped document what had been ruined for insurance purposes. Sherri’s brother returned with her father to set up and test the generator. Paul was remotely on-duty for his job. Kyle had returned home earlier in the day. He and Kara had their hands full minding two young cousins who had accompanied Sherri’s brother to the house. I had received and was responding to several inquiries from potential genealogy clients in addition to keeping tabs on emails about my work at College Park.
Sherri and I ventured to the Giant at Colesville Shopping Center to stock up on food before the next storm. The parking lot was madness — snow and cars everywhere. We were lucky to spot a woman loading her car with groceries. She smiled at us and waved when she realized we’d be taking her spot. As we got out of the car, we chatted with a family who was loading their van with groceries as well. Their teenage son offered us their cart (the half-sized kind) saying that there weren’t any available in the store and warned us that one of us should get in line while the other shopped, to save time.
The store was mobbed and many things were out of stock including eggs (not surprising) and grapes, of all things. It took about 90 minutes to complete the shopping trip, but it could have been worse. Most shoppers were being courteous to each other. As we neared the end of our list, I took that teenager’s advice and got in line while Sherri finished the shopping. We did not find batteries, which was dismaying.
We returned to restock the fridge. Sherri’s brother, his kids and her father left as the first flakes began to fall (again). Dinner that night was marinated pork tenderloin, baked potatoes, green beans and French bread. We opened the last bottle of wine (Zinfandel) and cursed the fact that we hadn’t thought to pick up more booze while we were out.
We watched American Idol in the basement after dinner. I took the dog for a quick walk around the court at some point during the evening. The winds were fierce and we constantly feared that the power would go out again.
We awoke to several inches of snow on our cars and the ground (again). The winds had really picked up and snow was blowing in drifts in addition to coming down from the sky. Sherri was trying to do as much laundry as possible before the power went out again.
The power did go out around mid-morning for about 15 minutes before it was restored. It went out again a couple hours later. I called PEPCO and got a live person on the line who said they were aware of the outage and were working on it. It was restored in a couple of hours, thankfully. We had relit the gas fireplace and were sitting in the living room again. We didn’t even notice when the power came back on until Sherri walked into the kitchen and noticed that the light over the stove was on again.
We tentatively rebooted our laptops and started more laundry, but were comforted by the fact that we could at least hook up the generator for heat if the power went out again for an extended period of time. Even still, the generator would only last for about 13 hours before it ran out of gas, so it would be a temporary comfort.
The snow tapered off around 7 p.m. Dinner that night was flank steak and potatoes. We had brownie sundaes a bit later for dessert. I worked on client research and watched the first episode of Faces of America in one room while Kyle and Paul watched basketball.
Later that night, Sherri discovered that water was leaking above a window in her and Paul’s bedroom — it appeared the heat of the house was melting the snow on the roof and it was leaking down into the room. Paul went outside to knock snow off that section of the roof with a tool used to clean their pool.
I took Louie for another walk during all the commotion — he could no longer make it off their back deck to relieve himself and so walking him was the only option. It was still really windy and a gust took my breath away as we tried to walk around the court. There was about 8 inches of fresh snow on the ground and the wind was blowing it around in drifts. A large limb blocked the neighbor’s driveway. Louie and I unearthed it — he was quite silly, trying to tote around a tree limb larger than he was. I had to grab it back from him before he tried to carry it between the line of cars in the driveway — there was no way it would fit.
Later that night, Kara and I watched TV in the room off the kitchen — “Criminal Minds” is a creepy show.
2/15/2010: Part IV now available.
Yesterday, I posted the first in a series of write-ups of my time during last week’s blizzards, when I was stranded for eight days at the home of friends of mine. We lost power several times, including a three-day stint, while more than three feet of snow fell during the two storms.
A fellow genea-blogger encouraged me to record my memories of being snowed in while they were still fresh. I’m posting my write-ups in the hopes that it will spur others to do the same. Earlier this morning, I also posted ideas for preserving your blizzard memories for the future.
Here is part two of my snowy story:
The next morning, we didn’t exactly wake with the sun, but the fact we were all awake by 8 a.m. was abnormal, especially for the teenagers. I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and Sherri set a tray of sliced bagels on the hearth for the rest of the family. They toasted up very nicely and there was margarine or cream cheese to spread on them.
Sherri’s most ingenious maneuver was to rig a s’mores maker I’d given them as Christmas gift a couple of years ago to boil water. The contraption included a grate under which you place a lighted sterno. You hold marshmallows over the grate using tiny skewers to toast them for the s’mores. Sherri placed a small tin pot full of water over the grate instead. After placing foil over the pot she was able to bring the water to a boil. This allowed her to brew hot tea for Paul, me and her.
While inside the house, we mostly remained in our sleeping bags, but the kids did venture out to play in the snow, which had stopped at sunset the night before. The day was bright, sunny and cold. Paul shoveled the walk and part of the driveway and we cleared off our cars. The dog frolicked in the snow with the kids and I took lots of pictures.
Some of our phone batteries were starting to run low. The kids charged theirs on the remaining juice from their laptops and Sherri and Paul used their car chargers while they warmed up the cars for a while. I was using mine sparingly and it still had a decent charge.
Lunch was leftover pizza slices warmed on the hearth the same way Sherri had toasted the bagels. Cold cuts and potato rolls were available too for those who wanted sandwiches. Kyle got permission to walk to his cousin’s house, where they had heat and power. I followed him to the corner with the dog on a leash, using the path created by his footsteps. Even with the path forged for me, the snow was past my knees (and I still didn’t reach bare pavement in my boots).
The dog wasn’t having nearly the trouble I was. He plowed through the snow, reminding me of a dolphin as he’d plunge into the snow, leap forward through the air and plunge back down. I stumbled several times and there was nothing I could grab onto to try and regain my balance. If I put my hand out to try and brace myself, it simply sank into the snow. Once we reached the corner, I was relieved to see that someone with a snowblower had cleared a path down the street about 3.5 feet wide. It was nice to walk around the block and stretch our legs.
Later, we watched a neighbor in a 1960s Ford Bronco rigged with a plow blade try to plow our court. We still had not seen a county plow or a PEPCO truck. The Bronco got stuck in my friends’ front yard and it took several guys to dig him free.
Dinner was barbecued chicken. I made mine into a sandwich. Sherri and Paul figured out a way to cook frozen hash browns on a cookie sheet on the grill. We found a package of chocolate-chip cookies for dessert. Another bottle of wine was opened (Riesling this time).
Sherri rigged curtains across the living room doorways, which helped trap the heat from the fireplace. Kara found an old battery-operated radio of hers and Sherri located batteries for it. We listened to updates about the snowstorm around the region. Washington, D.C. initially decided to open schools two hours late on Monday, but then recanted after many complaints from teachers and parents. We listened to periodic updates about the Superbowl, which we weren’t able to watch. We were happy to hear the Caps kept their winning streak going.
Despite the fact we still didn’t have power, we all managed to stay nice and toasty and this time everyone slept in the living room (except Kyle, who stayed at his cousin’s house). The rest of the house was in the 50s. Once again, we were all snuggled into our sleeping bags and blankets by 9 p.m.
We awoke around 8 a.m. again and decided to leave the curtains enclosing the living room open in order to let some heat into the rest of the house, which was now in the 40s. Sherri and Paul feared that the pipes for their water-fed baseboard heat would begin to freeze soon. The living room quickly cooled off despite the heat from the fireplace.
We were reluctant to use the last Sterno to heat more water for tea — we weren’t sure how much longer we’d be stuck. Without the hot beverage it was harder to keep the chill at bay.
I showered for the first time since the power had gone out. Luckily, the house still had hot water thanks to the gas water heater, but I had delayed the shower because I detest exiting a hot shower into cold air. At first, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I pulled on long-johns, jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a wool sweater. I sat in front of the fire place while I waited for my hair to dry. I soaked up a lot of heat while in front of the fire, but couldn’t manage to hold it in, even after crawling back into my sleeping bag.
At this point, uncaffeinated and unable to shake off the chill, our situation was starting to take its toll. I curled up completely inside my sleeping bag and prayed for the power to be restored soon. Or at least to see a plow (a real one, this time).
Miraculously (finally!), a plow made its way down the street that led to our court a short time later. It managed to clear the road past our driveway, but then it got stuck in the neighbor’s yard. It took the arrival of another plow to free the first.
Sherri contacted other relatives in the area who also still had power and heat. She negotiated to have Paul drive me and Kara over to their house to warm up now that we could get out of the neighborhood. Paul, Kara and I ventured to Colesville Shopping Center first to pick up breakfast sandwiches and hot beverages.
The roads were still quite a mess. The plows hadn’t managed to reach bare pavement anywhere and had only cleared one lane on all of the streets — there was only room enough for one car at a time. Thankfully, Paul was driving a four-wheel drive SUV. Still, our first attempt out of the neighborhood was foiled by a wood-chipper dealing with a felled tree.
After our trip to Dunkin’ Donuts, we passed streets near my old elementary school that still hadn’t been plowed. Many cars were left by the school and folks walked to the homes of their friends and families from there because they couldn’t go any further. Another section of road was completely missed by the plows and we later learned that this was because of a downed wire. A Honda Element was stuck in the snow at the entrance to the unplowed area and someone had scrawled “Please Plow” on a large piece of ceiling tile stuck in a snow drift.
We managed to get to Dave and Susan’s and their heated house was such a nice sanctuary. Kara, Susan and I snuggled under blankets and watched HGTV while Kara and I ate our breakfast sandwiches and drank our tea and hot chocolate. Kara and I had brought our phones and computers. We were able to charge them back up and make use of Dave and Susan’s wireless.
Later, Susan served us hot tea and chips and salsa. Their oldest daughter will be getting married later this year and we got to see where she and her beau will spend their honeymoon. I also talked social marketing strategy with Dave who runs a real-estate business that is venturing onto Facebook. We all cringed at the news that more snow was on the way the next day.
Paul and Sherri had to stay at their house with the animals and to keep an eye on the pipes. They came to Dave and Susan’s around dinner time with pasta from Pizza Hut, salad and soda. Susan made rum and Cokes (with generous shots of rum, bless her).
Their big news was that Sherri’s brother was bringing a generator that at least could be hooked up to the house to run the heat again. Paul returned to the house to meet him. Soon after he arrived he called to report that while we were eating dinner with Dave and Susan, power had finally been restored. Hooray! He came back to fetch Sherri, Kara and me. That night, we were able to sleep in our own beds again.
2-14-2010: Part III now available.
2-15-2010: Part IV now available.