September 2010


According to Weather.com, it rained 3.43 inches worth on September 26. The next 24 hours saw another 1.96 inches fall. Over the next two days. 0.96 inches of rain fell. That’s 6.35 inches of rain in four days. I don’t know if there was significant rain today. It did sprinkle on and off but  I’m not really sure exactly where they are measuring this stuff.

Raining somewhere in the world

During the entire month of September there was 7.73 inches of rain here. This means between September 1 and September 25 there was 1.38 inches of rainfall and then we tried to float an ark.

The next ten days should be much drier. Most days are sunny and there is just a slight chance of rain on two of the next ten days. Things should dry out nicely.

Because of our satellite system and communications being what they are, we are made aware of impending bad weather. Here on the coast, there is a chance of a hurricane or storm system causing a great amount of damage. But with enough warning, unless you live in New Orleans, you can take evasive action and miss the brunt of the storm.

Tornados pop up with much less warning, but the huge storm cells are still seen with enough time to at least get yourself to some area of safety. You have some warning about a tornado. Earthquakes just happen. We have yet to create some warning system for them.

It wasn’t that long ago when all weather systems were akin to our experience regarding earthquakes today. It was all a surprise. Long ago a hurricane in the Gulf hit Galveston and caused a tremendous amount of damage, but more importantly, killed many of those playing innocently on the beaches. They simply didn’t know it was a massive hurricane approaching.

One would assume, locals in pre-Columbian times were just as startled by massive storms creeping up on them. The surf kicks up and before you know it, walls of water are crashing over land, rain is pummeling the countryside, winds are roaring through sounding like whatever a pre-Columbian would reference instead of a freight train. Playing dodge ‘em with falling trees is always risky.

Tornados dancing across the open plains would be seen and one can imagine the panic as they neared your tepee. Where would you go? How could you protect yourself? There was no basement to hide in, no bathroom to cower in, no mattress to snuggle under. There were a few poles and some animal hides between you and violently swirling wind.

It is easy to see why gods were invented. Humans crave safety. He-men may only crave safety for their families, not really worrying about themselves. But safety or the illusion of safety seems to be a driving force for humans. We strive to make the world less hostile, less frightening, less chaotic.

And so, if it is possible to appease some angry god and thereby forestall the hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or whatever other natural disaster lurks on the horizon, then by all means take that route. Make sacrifices, atone for past or future sins. Placate the gods in charge of these phenomenon and live to tell the tale.

Today, we don’t have any ritualistic altars to place sacrificial lambs or delectable grapes and ripe wheat upon. Instead we have weather satellites and understand the correlation between wind patterns and pressure systems and our weather. We even partially understand the causes of earthquakes although not clearly enough to predict them. We rely on science.

Right up until the hurricane heads for our part of the coast or the funnel cloud drops from the sky. And then like our forefathers before us, we send up a prayer to our God, asking for deliverance from this disaster.

Sometimes it even works.

I woke up about six this morning and it was raining. Ugh. I rolled over and snoozed a bit. Then I really woke up about seven this morning. It was not raining.

I got out of bed and quickly donned my walking outfit, a sartorial delight if I say so myself. It consists of baby blue stretchy pants with a man’s extra, extra large white short-sleeve undershirt. I complete the ensemble with cross trainers I purchased when I was still working as a nurse. I haven’t worked as a nurse for about 15 years now. I do wear some little socks to keep the shoes from rubbing.

I also have my heart monitor which means I have this huge clunky watch-type device to give me heart rate, time spent, and time of day depending on which mode I have displayed. I mostly display the heart rate and only check the time spent to see how many more cul-de-sacs I could walk around.

I found some black ear buds which look much better than the florescent green ones I had been using. I stick my MP3 player in my pocket, one ear bud in my ear (I do need to listen for traffic) and start up the watch/heart monitor. I have a red and blue small water bottle in my right hand and look divine as I leave the house each morning.

I did check the weather by looking out the back of the house. There is a thermometer in the lanai and it said the temps were in the 70s and so I felt I was dressed appropriately. I took the path closest to my house and with the most cul-de-sacs included. If it began to thunderstorm, I would be able to hurry home as quickly as possible, skipping extra steps.

I made it home before it rained even though I traveled all the cul-de-sacs both on the way out and on the way back home.

The next project for the day was going to the grocery store. It has sprinkled on and off this morning. We have a 100% chance of rain today. It has rained. But miraculously, it was not raining when I got to the store. The stockboy who helped me to the car with my groceries said it had been raining while I was shopping and there was water on my car. But it was not raining as I left the store. It did rain on me while I drove home.

I have one more task for the day. I have to take LC, our dog, to the vet. I’m sure it is going to cost me hundreds of dollars to get her taken care of. She needs a rabies shot and this is the year for the blood test for heartworm pills. Then I need to buy the heartworm pills. And she needs more ear medicine since we are low. And she needs her nails trimmed. I’m guessing right around $300 for a doctor visit, more than I would pay for myself to go to the doctor’s office. Not sure what that really means.

I will ask, once again, why they don’t have three-year rabies shots and he will tell me some story about tracking because it is probably really bad business to say, “If I have you do this every year, I make more money.” He tried to tell me that South Carolina didn’t do three-year rabies shots, but the people at PetSmart disagree with him. The one here in South Carolina. But, I really do like this vet and just do this yearly dance of the three-year vs. one-year shot. It makes me feel better as I know I’m over paying for vet care.

The car, with the top down, in the garage on a sunny day

This will be LC’s first ride in the Miata. She had difficulty getting into the Ion and has to be lifted into the HHR. But this little toy car is nice and low to the ground. She should be able to get in without too much trouble. Not sure how this is going to work, however, as she usually sits in the back seat. The Miata has no back seat. And I really do need to shift through the gears.

Dick was worried, of course, about dog hair and the upholstery. I’m more worried about it raining and getting mud and dirt all over. Either way, I will be covering the seat with a towel and hope for the best. I was fairly certain I could not drive with the top down with the dog in the car, but with the current weather conditions, I can’t put the top down anyway. So we averted that hurdle.

All in all, it is just a crappy day out there. Hopefully, I can make one more trip outside and not get drenched.

Floating skyward, the balloon caught in a breeze and hurried away. All was well until the greedy fingers of a tall pine tree snagged at the bright red. The balloon did not break, but the trailing string tangled in the branches, caught in the clutches of this unseen foe.

Cassie watched all this from the park bench. She looked over to the small child now crying and his, possibly her, mother trying to comfort the tot. Mommy would get another balloon. It was going to be okay. She heard bits of pieces of admonition as well. Mommy was trying to teach the child about holding on tight.

Holding on tight. Yep. That’s what she should have done. Hold on tight. Cassie looked back at the balloon swaying in the breeze high up in the tree, caught by the far reaching branches, the long needles, the might and power of the tree. Holding on tight.

She knew the good times didn’t last forever. At least not for her. She was a floater, a drifter, through other people’s lives. She wasn’t the master of her own fate, but buffeted by the prevailing winds, taken where the moment led her, until the winds changed and her life took another direction.

“Dear God,” she mumbled to herself, “I’ve become totally maudlin.”

“Pardon me?” The voice came from slightly behind her and to her left. She turned to see a young woman dressed for success.

Cassie said, “I was just talking to myself.”

“I do that a lot, too. Doesn’t seem too many people are interested in what I say, either.” The woman smiled, self-deprecating but not feeling sorry for herself.

Cassie was feeling sorry for herself. “I know the feeling.”

The woman sat down on the other end of the park bench, putting her extra-large-almost-a-suitcase purse between them. “Hi, my name is Sonya.”

Cassie held her hand out over the luggage and said, “I’m Cassie.” They shook hands.

Sonya peered into her purse and pulled out her lunch. A medium sized plastic container held a salad while a small plastic container held the salad dressing. She mixed the dressing into the salad and began to eat using a plastic fork also retrieved from the capacious bag.

Cassie watched for a moment, noting the woman had not yet made a mess. Cassie would have made a mess by now. She always made a mess. She was a mess. “Maudlin,” said in what she thought was a soto voco voice.

“What’s wrong?” asked Sonya.

“Wrong?”

“Yes, you keep saying ‘maudlin’ over and over. Can I help in some way?”

“No, it’s just … I mean, there isn’t really anything … I’m sorry. I am being maudlin and it is disgusting.”

“What are you being maudlin about?”

“I don’t seem to be in control of my life. I don’t seem to be the master of my fate. I seem to be living my life in the ‘red balloon’ style of drifting. Christ. See? Maudlin.”

“There are days when none of us are in control of our lives,” Sonya said. Cassie looked over at her eating salad with a plastic fork. A beautiful salad with lots of interesting stuff in amongst the greens. And just the right amount of dressing. And nothing dripped down the front of her blouse or dropped on her lap.

“I suppose so. I just think I’m hogging the drifting stuff and it might be someone else’s turn for a while. I want to be a take charge person.”

“So, take charge.”

“I can’t. I’m not the boss. I can’t make other people do my bidding. I am the person who is told what to do, not the one giving instructions, making demands, getting what I want.”

Sonya was quiet and continued to meticulously consume salad. Still not a drop on her clothes. With a plastic fork, no less.

“Are you always in charge?” asked Cassie.

“Almost never,” said Sonya. Cassie watched some more salad disappear.

“Really? You look like a ‘person in charge’ and you seem so collected.”

“Ah, smoke and mirrors. I heard somewhere that if you act like this or that, you eventually don’t have to act anymore, you actually become the this or that. I’m trying. I’m hoping. You really think I look collected? You really think I’m in charge?”

“Aren’t you?”

“Nope.” Sonya ate the last of her salad. She packed away the plastic containers in the depths of her gigantic purse. She stood, hoisted the bag onto her left shoulder, reached out her hand to once again shake with Cassie. “It was nice meeting you.”

Sonya left, walking back to wherever she had come. Still perfectly dressed, hair unmussed by the gentle breeze, going back to wherever she came from.

Cassie looked down at her stained jeans and rumpled t-shirt. She looked at her muddy shoes. She looked up at the red balloon, still swaying in the treetop.

What a wasted day. Maybe she should get back to her apartment, clean up the place, send out some more résumés. Drift through another day. She wondered if she had enough stuff in her fridge to make a salad.

What has gone before is always amazing, once you know about it. It can either be amazingly great or amazingly awful, but it is never what you imagine when causally thinking about it. That is because we think in terms of what life is like in the here and now and have to consciously remember times past were not like the here and now.

Drayton Hall main house

Our trip to Drayton Hall is a case in point. I knew some of the historical data from Charleston. I knew that in the first census, Charleston was one of the five largest cities in the country. It was, in fact, the fourth largest city.

What I didn’t know was that it was the most hoity-toity place around these parts. Between 1740 and about 1825 Charleston was the place to be in the colonies and new nation. Fashions were said to reach Charleston before they reached the London suburbs. Cultural outlets were far ranging here in the South. The arts were supported in a variety of ways.

During the late 1700s, nine of the ten richest men in the colonies were living in Charleston. It was an important port and a focal point for trade with the Mother Country. I knew from previous tours in historic houses that glass was not permitted to be made here in the colonies, so all windows had to be imported from England. I’m not sure what the logic was behind this, but I’m sure there was some glass making union prototype back in England that managed to create an avid market for their product by forbidding and competition.

The Draytons were a powerful, wealthy family. The first Drayton to build this plantation was born at the neighboring plantation. At the age of 23, he bought the land next door and began building his own fiefdom. He eventually was the owner of 70 plantations. I found this quite interesting. I was under the impression it was one to a customer. Apparently, these wealthy men would buy up land in a variety of places and run something akin to a chain.

The Drayton plantations ranged across South Carolina and Georgia. They may have encroached into North Carolina, too. There is some rumor there was even some land holding in Canada. One would assume that different plantations were centered around different crops. The plantation on the Ashley River was dedicated to the growing of rice. Others propably were known for growing cotton. I have no idea what the Canadian land would have been primarily used for, but rice and cotton wouldn’t grow there.

The Draytons were ardent supporters of the Revolutionary War, feeling a need for freedom from the oppressive rule of King George III. Mr. Drayton wrote many letters to this effect – stating a desire for freedom and knowing it was an essential part of humanity. The Hall and surrounding plantation housed anywhere from 45 to 100 slaves, depending on the season and the shipping of slaves between all the other plantations. Apparently the irony was lost. The Draytons were also ardent supporters of the Civil War, on the Confederacy side.

All the other plantations along the Ashley River were burned toward the end of the Civil War. One of the Drayton brothers was a doctor and may have been using the house as a hospital by the time the Union troops came by torching the plantation houses. This, at least, is the theory as to why Drayton Hall was spared the same treatment.

Even in the best of families, hard times can descend and this happened with the Draytons, as well. The once stylish, beautifully crafted showcase house fell into disrepair. By the late 1800s, the house was tending toward shabby. Another resource was found on the property. Phosphate was mined and shipped out to be ground into powder, useful as a fertilizer. Money was once again available and the house was improved and modernized.

New fertilizers were found and once again, family finances dropped. By the time the house was donated to the Historical Society, it was only a shadow of its former self. The grandeur of the architecture remained. The size of the rooms was still impressive, but by modern standards, not as much as was once the case.

The house retained some of the old glory and was allowed to be preserved as it was, but not improved upon. No restoration was to take place. This grand old dame of the great South was to stand in testimony to hundreds of years of service.

I feel like the Wicked Witch of the West. The kids have been in my driveway since the beginning of time or since I moved here, whichever came first. It has never actually been the bus stop as the school can’t say the driveway at Patti and Dick’s house is your stop. They stop is officially the corner of the two streets which is across from our house.

Since Law T-bones into my street, there is no corner over here. Just my driveway. I tried to tell them they weren’t to run or scream in my driveway this year, meeting with them on the first day of school.

This kept them from running and screaming for the first week. I have had to go outside lots of times since. I had to head out yesterday and the dad, who I thought was a firefighter, but know now he works ER, was sitting on the electrical box with kids running and screaming. He said he had tried to stop them. I informed the kids he was the boss, he was the adult, and if they could stop when I came outside, they could stop when he told them to stop.

He has had them playing Simon Says. I have no idea why anyone has to actually play at the bus stop. But if it keeps them from screaming or running amok, it is okay. Today, instead of just one dad, there was a group of three dads and even one mom out there. The kids played Simon Says for a while and then they decided they would play jump rope.

The kid with the broken arm in a cast was twirling the rope. A smaller child, wearing her backpack, was trying to jump in. It looked like a dangerous thing.

I went out and explained that my driveway was not the annex playground for the school. I was concerned about liability with kids treating it as such. If someone were to get hurt, tripping over a jump rope, chasing each other, or any number of other things, I could be in trouble legally. I wasn’t trying to be nasty, but the kids weren’t to use my driveway as a playground.

One dad mentioned that perhaps I should call the school up and ask for a different place for a bus stop. Even the other dad said this wasn’t the official bus stop. It is, in fact, the other side of the street. One father looked over and said, “Well, there’s a big yard there for the kids to play in.”

Since the look on my face was apparently one of total shock, the usual dad said, “That’s someone’s yard.” I will have to go over to Linda’s today and let her know what’s going to happen. The dads will try to come out in force and move the darlings out of my driveway and on to the official bus stop area.

The issue they have and why I have never said anything about it is that the bus comes from the direction to the left of my house. This means my driveway is on the side of the street where the bus is and where the bus door opens.

I feel really bad because I don’t want the kids to have to cross the street, although I do understand I’m not responsible for the placement of the stop. If they want to be on the right side of the street, they could move up to the corner two houses to the left of my house, but there is no sidewalk part of the way. I have no idea who designed this to have two houses without sidewalks on either side of the street, but someone did. Kids going to the pool always have to walk in the street.

I apologized to the men and said I wasn’t trying to be mean or nasty, but this has just seemed so dangerous. I’m sure if I called my insurance carrier, they would have a fit about kids using my yard/driveway as a daily playground. I mentioned that I really am a nice person, but I can’t just continue to worry daily about my liabilities.

I so hate confrontation. I would much prefer to have everyone behave appropriately and not put me in a position to have to confront them. But life isn’t that kind.

I know that I have two to three kids in the driveway as early as 6:40 for a bus that doesn’t come until 7:10. I have no idea why they are gathering here so early but by 6:50 there are usually enough kids for a rousing game of Tag. I think it would be so nice if they got here just a few minutes before the bus but that probably interferes with people leaving for work on time.

All I know for sure is that this has gotten me worn to a frazzle. I have no idea why every other bus stop in the neighborhood seems to function much better than this one.

I have volunteered for a variety of things throughout my life. It started as a teen when Debbie and I put on puppet shows for kids at the local library and ended last year when I had to quit my volunteer job at the local hospital to take a job that actually paid.

Of course, I still volunteer in various ways – writing things for free is the most obvious. But one thing I have voluntarily done for about thirty years now is filling out a questionnaire every couple years or so. I have been, and still am, a member of the Nurses’ Health Study.

This longitudinal study is run by Harvard and they are beginning their third grouping. I have been a member of study I and II and they are seeking out 100,000 nurses between the ages of 22 and 45 to help with III.

It used to be much more difficult to fill out the forms. First I had to open the mail, find a number two pencil, fill in all the spaces, put it back in the envelope, and take it out to the mailbox.

Nurses' Health Study III

Today, at my request, I am filling out form online. So all I have to do is click the link in an e-mail and answer the question and hit send. Study III will be all electronically driven.

I have always felt like this was some of the most important volunteering I do. This isn’t just helping my children and their school. It isn’t just for my small circle of friends and acquaintances. This helps everyone now and in all the future. This is helping researches find out ways to limit diseases and make life better.

While the findings might not last forever, they will be a starting point for further research. All the data is saved and can be data mined later to use for different research. This is very important work the researchers are doing. And they couldn’t do it without the committed continual responses from their data subjects.

They have a remarkable rate of response because their subjects are nurses. These are people who care about furthering medical science and they understand the value of longitudinal responses. They will take the 15-30 minutes every few years to further medical research because it is important. And quite frankly, it is easy.

Every once in a while, I get a mailing from Harvard. They inform me of what they have been studying and what the results show. And I’m a part of this huge project. I feel blessed to have been given a chance to be a part of something so large, so meaningful, so very important.

I’m also amazed that as a young mother with a bazillion things to do, I was wise enough to answer the first questionnaire. I certainly didn’t have to do that. I was busy. I worked, I had small kids, I had other things to do. I answered. Always curious, I answered. And thereby was given a chance to participate.

I would love to be able to share this feeling with my fellow nurses. Except I’m not a nurse anymore. I don’t have a hospital. I don’t know how to invite young nurses to participate in something that will thrill them thirty years later.

The letter said I could print it out and take it to work. I doubt that would do me any good. The only person in my office in the right age group is a rocket scientist, not a nurse. And  he isn’t female.

The best I can do is post this here. If you are interested and meet the requirement, click here. Nurses’ Health Study III. It’s a chance of a lifetime. It will do you good.

I am a neat freak. Ask anyone. I don’t mind a bit of dirt or dust, but clutter sends me into a tizzy. My home is always neat – not clean, but neat. I don’t have piles of stuff just sitting around. I can’t abide it.

Not only am I neat, I’m organized. Disorganization is simply clutter, but dressed in a larger word. I need things to be organized so I can find them again otherwise things might just as well be piles in a heap on the floor like a bonfire waiting for a match.

When I first began working for my lovely bosses, I noticed they were not as concerned with clutter or disorganization as I am. In the intervening months, they have noticed it as well. I’m permitted to do many small things in order to organize the office.

Because we are a federally regulated business, paperwork is our paramount product – according to the government overseers. What we do is immaterial, what matters is the paperwork. This is not so different from medicine. I learned many years ago that no matter what I did, if it wasn’t charted, I didn’t do it and the final step in any procedure what the charting.

I’m good with a paper trail. I understand the paper trail. I know it is imperative in order to demonstrate one’s diligence in carrying out the service one provides.

Our files sucked. I have two bosses. They weren’t always partners. They merged their businesses over the years. I had his files, her files, and their files. I also had files for a specific account type.

So if I had a piece of paper for Jones, I had to know if it was his, hers, or theirs in order to know which filing cabinet (and even which room) I was to go to put it into a file. This made filing exponentially more difficult.

As an extra bonus, he kept his files only sort of alphabetical order. Let’s say he has clients named Jones, Jackson, and Jamison. They would be under the J section, but not necessarily in Jackson, Jamison, and Jones order.

We rearranged the office in June and he sold off a large portion of his out of state business to someone in the state where the clients were. These two events meant we shipped out a large number of files to the new person in charge and I could combine the remaining files into one geographic space.

Our filing cabinets sorta - ours are black and have a fifth space above the cabinet

Unfortunately, that space wasn’t really quite large enough. We looked into ways to lessen the file sizes. I have spent many, many hours cleaning out her files and getting them ready for an intern to scan them and save them digitally. This isn’t good enough for the government, however. We can only get rid of files old enough for us to offload or shred, but we would like to maintain the information, even though it is beyond our requirements.

Yesterday was the day of horrors for me. I had files so tightly crammed into two large four drawer (with a top section without hanging file capability) that I couldn’t file any more paper. We were still making paper, but it was just piling up.

I emptied out the filing cabinets and had files piled in three of the four rooms in our office suite. I have the files now filed completely alphabetically regardless of if they are he, she, or they. I have active clients and their archive files filling the eight available drawers with space for adding more paper and more clients. In the top section of one filing cabinet I have files for another 75-100 inactive clients crammed in there awaiting a new filing cabinet that should arrive next week. In the other space, I have somewhere around 50 files for people who were neither on my active or inactive client list. I have no idea who these people are and what I am to do with the files. Someone other than the peon will have to look.

It took me seven hours to empty, sort, replace, and organize the filing cabinets. Frankly, it was disgusting work, boring and messy. But I have made my life so much easier going forward that I’m glad I did it. I think the bosses will be happier, too. There is actual room and I should be able to keep up with filing and not have to wrestle with inadequate space.

It was a disgusting job, but somebody had to do it. Too bad it was me.

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