Even though I haven't blogged much lately, I am indeed still here.
We had some family challenges that needed attention, then I had two weeks of vacation, then I came back in time for the hurricane. We had an earthquake in the middle of it, too. And almost as soon as I got back, a parishioner died.
Yeah, yeah, no excuses, I know.
Here's the good news: the first week of vacation was a fix-up-the-house staycation. PH and I each had projects to do. I refinished four nightstands and did some cleaning and organizing. I also read a lot of not-for-work books. Sweet! The second week of vacation was away, in the mountains of western North Carolina, really at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest. It was very quiet, beautiful, and I found a wonderful new rocking chair for our sun porch.
One day we drove to the Biltmore Estate, a huge mansion with extensive grounds in Asheville, to see how the rich used to live before they couldn't afford to live that way anymore and turned their houses into museums that you have to pay big bucks to see. It was gorgeous, albeit ridiculous, and the Biltmore folks are excellent at upselling. You're thirsty? Buy $5 Biltmore bottled water. Got a craving for a sweet? Spend $5 for a cookie. Want to live in that Biltmore style? Get reproduction tchochkes for large sums of money. Still, it was amazing.
We then drove into Asheville for a late lunch. We were sitting in the restaurant at about 2 pm when StrongOpinions called up - she was in CT - and said "Are you home? Are you alright?" This was how we found out there had been an earthquake. I think we were in the car when it happened and we probably thought we had just driven over some railroad tracks or something. In any case, we didn't notice it. Fortunately, the church and our house were spared any real damage, and the cat was fine too.
When we got back, we were running ahead of Hurricane Irene. We were glad for the tree work PH and his cousin had done the prior week - not much in the way of fragile limbs that might come down in the storm. It was fierce - the rain was bad, but not as bad as it might have been, but the wind was wild. We sat in the sunroom most of Saturday (after filling the cars and the gas can with fuel, getting cash from the ATM, and adding to the food supply), watching the trees go this way and that and listening to transformers explode in the area. Power - that was the challenge, because the parish was hosting thirty homeless people through the CARITAS program. The evening started out well - at that point we still had power at church, although we had already lost it at home - but soon enough it was lights out there, too. The folks we hosted were good about it, though, despite the muggy air in the parish hall and no lights...thank goodness for flashlights.
At home, we had a little generator that we had bought earlier in the year in anticipation of this...we needed to keep the basement sump pumps running or we would be swimming to the washer and dryer. We also wanted to keep the fridge running. All was well, and we were grateful when the power came on Monday evening. It took another day for the church to get power, and a few days more to get internet/cable back.
Not all our neighbors were so lucky. The house pictured above is a mile from us - it was bisected by a tree. There are lots of trees still being chainsawed into manageable chunks, but most of the area now has power back again.
So we're grateful, all in all. And this coming Sunday, this ten-year anniversary of 9/11, we will baptize five children, ranging in age from two months to twelve years, and we will revel in the strange and wonderful hope that is born in us as children of God, even when bad stuff happens, and the earth shakes, and trees crush houses, and water swamps bridges, and planes fly into buildings. God is still with us and in us.