Prep for Hurricane Irene, Day 2

Read Post 1 here.

Thursday, August 25

Rainy/fiery sunset on Thursday, Aug. 25.

The warnings became more dire and Ocean City (about an hour away from me) was ordered evacuated by 5 p.m. Friday night. On my way home from work, traffic heading west on Route 50 was heavy, but it also was slow eastbound, which I chalked up to folks driving to the coast to check on properties before the storm. I saw extra MTA buses heading to Ocean City to aid in the evacuation. I also saw idiots headed in the same direction with bikes and kayaks strapped to their cars.

I still had more provisions that I needed (mostly of the non-food variety) so I headed to Target. There, I bought:

Nuts (I meant to buy these the night before, but forgot)
C batteries for my radio
A solar/wind-up flashlight
A battery-operated LED tap light
Trail mix (there’s a particular variety sold at Target that I really like)
Baking soda (in case the items in my fridge and freezers spoil; might be needed to combat odor later)
Duct tape (FEMA recommended it; wasn’t sure what I would need it for, but sounded like a good idea)

Target was out of 1- or 2-gallon jugs of water and I hated the idea of buying so many small bottles. I went back to Railway Market, where I’d done my food shopping the night before, and bought 3 1-gallon jugs. They say each person needs 1 gallon per day and they recommend a 3-day supply.

When I got home, I noticed my neighbors pulling in items from their backyard and started doing the same in mine. I pulled my empty garbage cans into the garage, leaving room to pull in my car later. I also took down a flag and pole hanging from my front porch and stowed these in my shed.

Then I had my composter to deal with. I thought it would be a simple matter of dragging it into the shed too, but the handle I use to spin the bin made it just too wide to fit through the door. It was starting to rain at this point (not hurricane-related yet). I ran inside to grab a wrench and pliers and started to disconnect the bin from the frame. Luckily, the bin wasn’t anywhere near full, so I was able to lift it into the shed and then the frame fit in easily after that. I did acquire a massive bug bite in the process.

Left to do:

Protect my important documents (personal records, house-related papers, scrapbooks, etc.)
Laundry, and then unplug the appliances (they’re only a couple inches off the ground in my leaky basement)
Start stocking ice in my little Playmate cooler
Backup at least my laptop
Move my office PC out of my office (a converted porch that I’m not entirely convinced won’t leak)
Mail bills before I became homebound
Pull the car into the garage
Fill the tub with water and also a bucket (could be used to pour into the toilet to make it flush, if needed)

(to be continued)

Prep for Hurricane Irene, Day 1

Wednesday, August 24

On the heels of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that was felt here on the Shore and in D.C., our area was warned to prepare for a major hurricane. Irene was to arrive over the weekend. Wednesday is sale day at my local organic/all-natural market, so I decided to stock up on the requisite 2-3 days worth of food they recommend that you have on hand for such emergencies.

Here’s what I bought:

A package of individual-size applesauces
2 cans of tuna (pull-tab lids)
1 box of crackers
1 carton of raspberry green tea in cans
1 carton of coconut milk
1 chocolate bar (almond-sea salt flavor)
1 box Clif Z bars (s’mores flavor)
toilet paper
paper towels

Normally, I don’t like to buy packaged food like this, but there’s really no other choice under such circumstances.

I saw gallon bottles of water there, but decided to wait. I wanted to buy those two-gallon jugs with spouts instead. Should have bought them while they were on sale… (to be continued)

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Technology

This is the first time I’m getting to participate in the 2011 blogging series 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History, developed by Amy Coffin of We Tree. This week’s topic is technology:

“What are some of the technological advances that happened during your childhood? What types of technology to you enjoy using today, and which do you avoid?”

The first thing that popped into my head was personal computers. When I was 5, my family got a Commodore 64 for Christmas. It had a cyan-on-blue screen and if you had software for it, it either needed to be hand-typed from a software book or there were cartridges that could be inserted into the back of the keyboard (I had a few educational games like this). Eventually, we hooked up a cassette contraption to it and then a 5 1/2″ disk drive much later on. I didn’t have Atari growing up — this was it.

Well, not long after purchasing the computer, my mom made the mistake of leaving me alone with it. My 5-year-old brain decided it would be a good idea to see what happened if I pressed every single key on the keyboard… at the same time.

The result wasn’t a good one and the Commodore was soon non-operational. My mom finally dragged a confession out of me. She was none too pleased, but luckily, the computer was still under warranty.

However, there was a lesson to be learned here. Mom said she was going to take me with her to the store to return the computer and I was going to have to tell the sales clerk exactly what I did to break the computer. I was mortified and dreaded the trip. I vividly remember standing in line at Juvenile Sales in Wheaton, Md., as Mom started to explain to the clerk that we needed to exchange the Commodore for a new one.

And then, magically, the clerk, no questions asked, just took the proffered destroyed computer and receipt and said “No problem, I’ll just go get another one.” Mom didn’t even have a chance to segue to my confession to the clerk. It all happened so fast that we were walking out the door with a new Commodore in a matter of minutes. “You really lucked out, Missy,” Mom said (not using what was to become my nickname, but more in a “Listen here, lil’ Missy,” type of way).


Another technology that became quite popular as I was growing up was VCRs. I remember the day I came home and Mom had hooked up one in our den. The first thing my sister and I watched on it was a rented videotape of various “Tom & Jerry” cartoons. Earlier this weekend, while surfing IMDb, I came across a series that we used to rent all the time: “Fairy Tale Theater” with Shelley Duvall and various guest stars. Oh my gosh, it’s so weird to watch these now!

Of course, VCRs are now ancient history and I don’t even have a DVD player hooked up right now. I just stream everything. The leaps we’ve made in my lifetime have been amazing to see!

Sentimental Sunday: The Kitchen at Lillian Lane

From the time I was 9 until my senior year of high school, my family lived in a rambler in a wooded neighborhood called Sherwood Forest in Silver Spring, Maryland. We spent a ton of time in the kitchen, which had a huge bay window. We ate most of our meals at a large wooden table in front of that window, despite the fact we also had a formal dining room. We had a good view of our street since our house was at the top of a hill.

In high school, after dinner was over, I usually finished my homework at that table. Lots of humanities essays were composed there. My sister still has the table and chairs.

When we first moved into the house, the kitchen had an ancient turquoise refrigerator with a pedal-operated freezer on the bottom (this was from waaaay before bottom freezers were the in thing). We eventually had to replace it with the fridge you see pictured above.

Those Places Thursday: Woodmoor

Soon after my 1st birthday, my family moved to the Woodmoor neighborhood in Silver Spring, also known as Four Corners.  I absolutely loved that house — it had all kinds of nooks and crannies and quirks. Initially, I slept in the “nursery,” a room with built-in drawers in the wall and bright red, yellow and green plaid wallpaper (ah, the ’70s).

The backyard was the perfect size. My parents eventually installed a swingset and then our yard was the yard to play in. The previous occupants had drawn pictures and their initials in the patio out back when the cement was poured. It was the perfect size for a make-shift baseball diamond, when we had enough players.

We were walking distance to Pinecrest Elementary School, which had a great playground. I walked to St. Bernadette’s, where I went to school. The neighborhood was so quaint in the snow. During the summer months, I’d walk with the kids on my street to a creek around the corner — a branch off of Rock Creek.

Woodmoor Shopping Center also was a quick walk away — I drooled over the cupcakes and cookies at Woodmoor Bakery and my parents were on a first-name basis with the proprietors of the Chinese-food restaurant there. Thankfully, both of those establishments are still around.

We moved away from Woodmoor when I was 9 years old. Many of my friends from St. B’s still live there and I will occasionally drop by the bakery for their to-die-for Parkerhouse rolls.

Scrapbooking Marathon II

I was pretty busy this weekend, owing to an 11-hour scrapbooking crop down in Fredericksburg, Va., that I attended. I went to the same event last year for the first time.

My mission for 2010: finish disassembling a K-12 scrapbook that my mom started for me and that I took over when I was old enough. It had been falling apart for years because of how much I tried to stuff into it and how often I paged through it. I finished rescuing the material from it and arranged the photos, mementos and school records into 12×12 scrapbooking pages for assembling into an album. Now, all I need to do is journal throughout the book and add some finishing touches.

Eleven hours is a loooooong time to sit in one place, but there was plenty to do around the convention center. The organizers put hundreds of scrapbooking layouts on display and attendees could walk around to take photos and get ideas for their own albums. I’m including some genealogy/family-history related layouts below (click on the photos to see a larger version of each):

Below are a couple of spreads from a fabulous genealogy scrapbook assembled digitally that was on display as well:


This family history album included photos and scanned documents.


To see more photos from the event, including some really funny layouts, visit my Flickr page.

Treasure Chest Thursday: Memorial Day Edition

Today’s post is about the U.S. flag my family received after my father was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. As I’ve posted in the past, my father served in WWII and the Korean War as a radiologist. Only recently did I discover some of the stories about his service.

My dad died of natural causes, after a very long and full life, when I was only 7 years old. There was so much I didn’t understand when I attended his funeral, but the memories of that day are quite vivid, including the folding of this flag and its presentation to my mom.

Recently, I received my dad’s military personnel file, several months after requesting it from the National Archives and Records Administration. I learned still more about my dad and his service. What a treasure trove. If you are the direct descendant of a now-deceased veteran, I highly recommend taking advantage of the resources NARA provides — request their records as a way to honor them for Memorial Day. You’re sure to learn a lot!

Wordy Wednesday: Me, My Dad and an Irish Almost Pub Fight

When I was nearly four years old, my parents and I visited England and Ireland (my dad had a medical conference in one of the two countries). It was very eventful and I have many memories: watching the rabbits on the front lawn of our hotel, riding through the Gap of Dunloe in a horse-drawn carriage, etc.

One incident that I *don’t* remember is still one of my favorite tales to tell from that trip. It’s the time I saved my dad from an Irish almost pub fight.

As those who may have traveled to Europe know, many roads were not paved with large or even small vehicles (or even bicycles) in mind. They are beyond narrow. It was down such a road in a town in the Ring of Kerry that my father was navigating our rental car when he accidentally sideswiped another vehicle. That other vehicle was parked outside of a pub.

Being the upstanding citizen that my dad was, he went inside the pub to try and find the car’s owner. Either the proprietor of the establishment or another pub patron told him, “Well, that car belongs to Johnny and he’s in the loo [do the Irish say "loo?"]. We’ll send him out to talk with you when he comes back.”

So my dad returned to our car and waited. I probably didn’t really understand what was happening, but I could feel the tension crackling in the air as my parents waited for the car’s owner to emerge. Influenced by said tension and my small stature, one can hardly blame me for my reaction when the door to the pub opened.

Now, you must understand, my dad was 6’1″ tall. Not a small man. But the man who emerged from the pub was taller, with flaming red beard and hair.

So I did what any other self-respecting almost-four-year-old would do.

I started bawling. And screaming, “A giant! A giant’s going to kill my daddy!”

And then I started crawling over my mom to try and get as far away from the giant as possible.

Well, Johnny the Giant, obviously wasn’t expecting me. He immediately apologized to my dad for scaring me and waved away the damage to the car. “Go on and enjoy the rest of your vacation,” he said.

And so we did. And I eventually forgot about Johnny the Giant until about 10 years later when my mom told me the story. She said Johnny probably wasn’t even the owner of the car that my dad hit — the bar patrons probably wanted to play a joke on the American tourists by sending out the biggest, scariest man in the bar. Well, what’s the biggest, baddest Irishman against four-year-old me? A big ol’ softie, that’s what.

What I Did During the Blizzards of 2010, Part IV

I’ve been sharing what I was up to while I was stranded at the home of some friends for eight days during last week’s major snowstorms. Part I, Part II and Part III are already online.

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.

What I Did During the Blizzards of 2010, Part III

These past few days, I’ve been sharing what I was up to while I was stranded at the home of some friends for eight days during last week’s major snowstorms. Part I and Part II are already online.

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.