Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hurricanes and Blizzards

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail, the contents of which have stuck with me. It was one of those things that circulates. I perceived it as being a racist comment, though the words “black” and “white” were never used. It was supposedly written by someone in Colorado after the record-breaking blizzard that hit earlier this year. It told how the gallant citizens of Colorado (inferring that they are mostly white) pulled on their boots, got out there and dug themselves and their neighbors out of the snow, not asking for help from the government or anyone else. I don’t have the exact figures but weren’t parts of Colorado declared disaster areas and wasn’t federal funding available for those who sustained damages such as trees falling on their homes or cars?

It criticized the citizens of New Orleans (inferring that they are mostly black) for accepting “handouts” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

This is wrong on so many levels, I barely know where to start. I’ve already addressed the issue of money. Well, at least partly. Maybe citizens in Colorado did not receive as much financial help from the government, but they surely did receive money from Uncle Sam. I know that we in Illinois have received millions from the ice storms we experienced as part of that same weather system. Were we asking for handouts we did not earn? Maybe, but many of our businesses would be gone and many people would be homeless had they not received such help. Those who did sustain such damage have already started to rebuild and life is pretty much back to normal both here and in Colorado.

On the other hand, two years after Hurricane Katrina, many people in New Orleans remain homeless. In fact, just yesterday, I read a story about people who moved back into their homes and are being sued by HUD because that land was earmarked for “improvement” and that housing was designated as part of the “public domain” to be “developed” by a politically powerful builder. Yes, I guess the people of New Orleans are receiving government handouts. But they aren’t going to the poor homeless (infer black) people; that money is going into the hands of political cronies with bulldozers, and poor people who had homes before the storm and who survived the storm are still homeless two years later.

And let’s compare storms. When was the last time you “dug out” your flooded home or your neighbor’s flooded driveway? How can anyone compare a few feet of snow falling in an area where everyone owns a snow-blower with homes that are submerged under dirty water teeming with poisonous snakes, alligators, and the second-most deadly of nature’s predators—bacteria? (That guy with the bulldozer being the deadliest predator.) Many people who survived the water, the swamp critters washed into the middle of town, and were rescued from the roofs of their homes, died later of diseases like e-coli. A victim of the blizzard or ice storm who was interviewed on TV said “we just put our food outside when the power went out and the refrigerator went off.” No doubt they had a fireplace in which to cook that food when they brought it back in and thawed it out at supper time. Try fishing your food out of water teeming with raw sewage, and cooking it over a lighter flame on top of your roof while waiting for a boat or a helicopter to rescue you, wondering which of the logs floating around you is debris and which is a hungry gator.

I have no problem with the thought of my tax dollars going to help the survivors of Katrina. In fact, I wish I could afford to contribute to the legal fees of those people fighting HUD to keep their homes in that low-cost housing unit that some politician wants to turn into a strip mall or whatever. And if anyone in Aspen wants to buy me a snow shovel, I’ll take it. I really should have one in case I ever get caught in my car in a blizzard—so I can pull on my boots and dig myself out like the good little white girl that I am. And could you throw in a pail in case I get caught in a flood?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Catching Up

Rochelle Weber--Author, Editor, Professional Grandmother

I realize I’ve been neglecting my blogs terribly. It’s been an eventful few months personally, but not professionally. I have started editing for a company in Champaign called Publication Services. I’m editing books published by I-Universe, Barnes & Noble’s vanity press. The writing so far has been pretty bad. These books were not selected from a slush pile or screened by an agent. It’s more a case of “If you have the money, we have the ink.” And, these “authors” do, indeed, have the money or their books wouldn’t reach my desk. I haven’t made a whole lot of money with them yet, but they like my work and projects do come in.

The holidays are an extended time for me. They basically started in October with Halloween. I drove up to Chicago and attended the Mensa HalloweeM gathering the last weekend of October. I had a blast. It’s been three years since I attended ’WeeM, but I’ve been on the Hell’s Ms list most of that time connecting with other Mensans who love to party and many of them were at ’WeeM, so we were able to put faces to names. I finally played “Double Deck War Killer Hearts” and found out why the word “kumquats” is used on the list to warn people that there may be sexual content in the e-mail they’re about to open in case they’re at work or the kids are around. It seems one of our members (who was sitting next to me at the card game as it happens) blushes when any word is used that has a sexual connotation. One day, during a discussion of her physical reaction, someone said “Well, does the word kumquats make you blush?” Not quite. It made her laugh so hard she squeaked. And it still does.

From the hotel in Arlington Heights, I drove up to my daughter’s in McHenry. There was a family wedding on my ex’s side in Arkansas the following week and the kids were leaving on Wednesday and returning Monday, so I babysat my granddaughter. It was nice having that weekend with her. I see her much less frequently than her cousins and it was good to have some bonding time together. For one kid, she about ran me ragged! We went out to dinner and shopping on Friday, shopping and to Borders to browse on Saturday, and to dinner and a movie on Sunday. With trips to the library so I could check my e-mail in between. The kids are in temporary quarters. Their house is being built and their rental of the last two years was sold before their house was ready so they had to scramble for a temporary rental. They didn’t bother setting up their computer or hooking up to the internet.

The second weekend in November, I attended a sci-fi convention in Chicago. I had planned to come home after that, but the kids hosted Thanksgiving/Christmas over the Thanksgiving weekend, so I stayed in McHenry for two more weeks. On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the kids drove down to Will County and met my son-in-law’s sister and nieces at a truck stop so my daughter could drive them through the Chicago traffic. My other daughter, her fiancé and all four of their kids arrived around 5 a.m. on Thursday. It was a fun weekend with eight adults and nine kids in the house. We had turkey on Thursday, then on Friday we had ham. We each opened one gift Friday night—pj’s all around—and then on Saturday morning we opened the rest of our gifts. I didn’t have gifts for the kids, as I hadn’t planned on doing my shopping that early. We had brunch and then we all left for our respective homes to give the kids a day to rest and clean house before they had to go back to work. I had been gone a full month and my cats were not happy. They didn’t speak to me all day.

Oh, and while I was up there, I managed to visit my sister. We went out to lunch and had a nice chat. She is in her seventies and had a stroke two years ago. Still, she and my brother-in-law live in a senior community in Grayslake and are active in their community center. She plays “Mexican Train Dominoes” and for awhile was playing Mah Jong [sp?], but she found the rules frustrating.

My youngest planned to have Christmas the weekend before the holiday, as her exes had the kids on the holiday, but I was sick that weekend and the kids weren’t finished shopping. They held Christmas the weekend of New Years, but I stayed home as my neighbor, his girlfriend and I hosted a karaoke party New Years Eve. Most of the guests had small children and left before midnight, but there were about eight of us still around to drink Asti Spumante and toast the New Year. A friend came down from Chicago and crashed at my place, then took me out for brunch and left for home. I came home and had a nice, quiet day with no football. I watched movies and the Twilight Zone marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel and wrote a bit and read a bit.

The following weekend I went to Terre Haute to celebrate Christmas and my birthday. I gave my grandkids board games and karaoke discs to go with the karaoke machine the kids bought. So we sang and played games all weekend. I played Chutes & Ladders with the “babies” Presley is now four and Abby is three and soon they won’t appreciate being called “the babies.” I played “The Game of Life” with Beth and Alex, and the kids played “Twister.” We had steak dinner and birthday cake and the kids gave me a set of real cultured pearls. They’re beautiful and when I chided them on spending so much, my daughter reminded me they aren’t married yet. Those pearls will make a wonderful “something borrowed!”

So, for me, “the holidays” spanned Halloween to my birthday and were full of family and friends and fun. My New Year’s resolution was to try to write everyday and to read everyday. Well, I’ve kept up with the writing, but not so much with the reading. I’m up to Chapter 14 in my re-write of Rock Bound. I attended a writers’ workshop at ConClave in Detroit in October and the critique caused me to go back to the first chapter and change some things so I went through the book making more changes. I’ve dropped my self-imposed deadlines and will finish it when I finish it. I don’t know whether I have any more books in me. I read newsletters from writer friends who each have four or five projects going at once and it makes me think maybe I’m a better editor than writer. I don’t meet many writers who go over a chapter and cut something every time they read it. Usually they guard every word as though it was gold. I’ve probably cut enough out of this book to fill two or three novels and yet all I have that’s worth publishing is a novella. But words flow out of my fingertips if I know what I’m writing about. Maybe I should make my living as a ghost writer.

Finally, I was able to go out singing on my birthday, was able to close the bar without losing my voice or popping nitro, and came home not reeking of cigarette smoke! Urbana is smoke-free, Champaign will be in less than two weeks, and we’re now working on the State of Illinois!

I have a good rant in me but will save it for next week. For now—I hope you will have a warm, loving, and prosperous 2007.