Saturday, September 24, 2005
With a quarter of a tank left in my Mom's car on Thursday night, we pulled over just north of Conroe, TX, only about 60 miles from our house in Friendswood. The night shift at the Ramada Inn let everyone mill about in their lobby, some stretching out on their couches and using their microwave to heat up canned food. We spent the night in our car, with Zac laying on my Mom's chest for half the night, and then mine for the rest. In the morning, the Conroe police gave us enough gas to keep us going, but they wouldn't give us any gas in my Dad's car, saying that he had "too much". Well, about another 60 miles up the road, my Dad was down to a quarter of a tank and we finally found some food and gas in small town north of Huntsville and Bryan College Station. We waited in a gas line for four hours, only to get near the front and found out that they didn't have anymore. We drove to another gas station on the otherside of town and waited for a hour for the liquid gold.
Zac is crying and it is time to go eat some breakfast. It's another sunny and hot day up here...not a cloud in sight.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
As for the not-so pregnant family here in south Houston, we are leaving Thursday, September 22nd, for Fort Worth, TX. Cell phones are already starting to cut out and last night all the circuits were busy on land lines in this area, but you could try and call. I'll post as soon as I can on the blog so everyone will know that we are safe. Right now, the sun is shining and its supposed to get up to 98 degrees today. Panicky people and massive traffic is the only danger we have right now. The rain won't start until Thursday afternoon and the storm is expected to make landfall Saturday morning.
At the Food Bank, we are moving "tent city" to the Whitelands, as SJ calls them. We erected three enormous tents in our parking lot to accept, sort, and repackage donations. The tent company understandably wants their tents back before 100 mile an hour winds rip them to shreds. We were able to rent some warehouse space up north were the entire disaster relief distribution will now be located from. Normal distribution to our agencies serving Houston-clients will continue at the main office building. I can't even begin to predict what will happen here after the hurricane. All I can tell you is that according to the Mayor and our CEO, we should consider ourselves part of "essential services" and return to the city as soon as safely possible to start doing disaster relief.
I'm most worried about how the city will handle even more displaced people. Shelters and hotels in this area are full. The temporary employees that we have working here from New Orleans are all living in retirement communities or assisted living homes. The folks at the Astrodome and George R. Brown just left so there is some room in our major stadiums, but up to a million people are being encouraged to evacuate SE Houston and Galveston. Where will they go? Who will feed them? The Food Bank is already operating at twice the normal output, I'm not sure how much more we can do.
But, of course, we will. We have to. Please pray for my family and I and all those who are choosing to stay and face the storm. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
The funniest thing about this picture is that Zac is wearing his "I *heart* Mommy" hat. We were trying to get a cute picture of him in the his hat that Jenna and Melissa gave him, but you can see from the picture that he wasn't going to go along with that idea.
His hat may say "I love you", but his face says, "Just kidding, sucka"
The second thing that I noticed about this picture was how tired I look. Zac has been waking up every two hours for the past couple of days and it has really started to get me. I like the every 5-6 hour cycle much better. Fortunately, he is asleep now and I now it is my turn to get ready for bed.
Friday, September 09, 2005
If you are an Oprah fan, you know that Chris Rock came to Houston and toured the Houston Food Bank. What you didn't see on-camera was that I was Mr. Rock's driver around Houston. That's right.....me. I'm not even considered a Houston Food Bank "Staff Member", but due to a strange quirk in insurance licensing, I was the only one that could drive the minivan with Chris Rock.
I work for a national program that operates out of DC and sets up partner arrangements with local food banks. Well, about three years ago the national office donated a minivan to the Food Bank, but only members of the program were allowed to go on the insurance.
So, it was Monday, Labor Day no less, and word ripples around the Food Bank that there is a "celebrity" coming, but they didn't want to announce who it was to avoid the local news media showing up. I was asked to drive said "celebrity" even though I didn't know who it was. About two hours before he arrived, I was told that it was Chris Rock and possibly Oprah, who was also in Houston that day. I would drive with Chris in the passenger seat and the film crew in the backseats of the van for a gritty, "traveling to a hurricane shelter" shot. Chris did an interview in the passenger seat and every time I looked over I couldn't help but think, "Wow. He has incredibly white teeth." He is also older than I was expecting...you could see the gray hairs in his goatee.
I have never been more afraid to drive. Could you imagine the story on the six o'clock news if I was driving down Highway 59, slammed into a median after being cut off by a psychotic Texan driver, and killed myself and Chris Rock? I'm not even sure my name would be mentioned, other than the reporter saying something like: "And the woman that killed Chris Rock was reportedly driving a white minivan at the time of the accident, although we are getting unconfirmed reports that she kept staring at his teeth and replaying Mr. Rock's stand-up comedy in her head, not at all focusing on the road. Clearly, this is a tragedy that could have been avoided"
All and all, he was a nice guy. As he was getting out of the van at the shelter, he sighed a bit and I asked if he was ok. He looked at me and said: "Please. You DO NOT want to hear me complain. This is not the town to do that in. This is the town to thank God that you're alive and feel lucky in. 'I'm soooo tired' PLEASE."
OK Chris. Got it. Call me next time you want a tour of low-income areas and hurricane shelters. I'm your woman. Only....next time, can we call the FOB and leave him a message on his answering machine from you? You see, he looks up to you and idolizes your stand-up. It would really make my day, hell - it would make my pregnancy - if you would just call him and tell him what you think about deadbeat fathers. OK? Have your people call my people.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Everyone knows that I live in Houston, TX, but most people probably don't know (because I've been purposefully vague about my employment situation) that I work for the Houston Food Bank. The Food Bank was already the largest food bank in the south-east region, serving 18 counties and over 400 member agencies. Food Banks are interesting places because individuals can't actually get food from them. Basically (imagine a flow chart here if you want to follow along), corporations donate large quantities of food, let's say 40,000 pounds of potatoes. People here in the office coordinate who is going to pick up the potatoes and when it is going to come back to the warehouse. The warehouse staff unloads the trucks and the accounting and marketing departments record the donation. A list of everything we have in the warehouse is put on a "shopping list" on the internet that agencies can access and decide what they want to buy. They buy it at a hugely reduced price, which is why food banks say that for every $1 someone gives us, we can purchase $25 of retail food.
So, an agency wants 2,000 pounds of potatoes and they come and pick it up and low-income clients in Houston eat them. I have NOTHING to do with this process. I do work in nutrition education and volunteer coordination. I normally viewed the warehouse as a hot, humid place with a lot of men: beeping their horns on the forklifts that threaten to run me over.
Katrina changed all of that.
I have been called into service as one of the many handling Houston's huge need. It's not just the people in the Astrodome. It's the people in the Reliant stadium, in George R. Brown, in one of the 50 shelters across the city, in local hotels and apartment complexes, and it's the Houston residents that we were already serving. So many individuals and corporations are donating large quantities of food, water, personal items, and clothes that our warehouse can't fit anymore. We turned over 200 volunteers away from the door today because we had reached capacity. We've set up makeshift tents in the parking lot to sort and box food up for delivery. I've done everything from answer phones, to make spreadsheets, to return e-mails, and shrink wrap pallets of food for transportation. But what I've done is so little and the need is so great.
One of the most revealing parts of human nature that I've witnessed in the past week has been watching how people respond to diaster. There are those that step up and say, "What can I do to help?" and those that slink back into the darkness and hope that no one notices that they aren't around.
I'm not trying to sound preachy. My best friend Fatigue is speaking on my behalf right now and I haven't seen my son in what feels like a month. While I miss him at work on this hot Saturday, I know that he is being fed and well taken-care of. On Tuesday we had carloads of people, women carrying infants in their arms, asking us for baby formula and diapers. They were the first evacuees out of Lousinana. We had to turn them away. Their children were hungry and we had nothing to give them.
Check out our website for information about what you can do to help. For me personally, I could use some support and love. I'm tired and frustrated.