Semolina: the Ground of all Being

Having just come from Kansas, where Evolution and Intelligent Design are duking it out over meme space in the public schools there, I couldn’t help loving this alternative theory. It seems as scientific as ID yet more imaginatively compelling — the Flying Spaghetti Monster: “He who created all that we see and all that we feel.”

Count me in with the FSM crowd. If we’re going to open up Science class to alternatives to evolution, let’s really open it up. And if overwhelming observable scientific evidence is no longer the sole criteria for what’s taught as science, then the field of alternatives should get very crowded indeed.

My questions: Who created the Flying Spaghetti Monster? What kind of sauce? Does this make Italians, not Jews, God’s chosen people?

Evacuee Journal: Much Ado

After a 13 hour trip back from Wichita which required some creative navigation around stop-and-go traffic backed up on I-45 from Huntsville to Conroe, we arrived home last night at 10:30. No damage to speak of, but the yard is carpeted with twigs and limbs from our many elderly trees.

The only real loss was the contents of our refrigerators and freezers, since power went out for the better part of three days. Oh and a few cactus pots my father in law left on the stairs outside.

I’m at work, but I’d rather be home. Our house is still in hurricane mode with stuff stashed in bags everywhere. Laundry to be done. Thawed and refrozen meat to toss. A garage full of yard stuff to haul back to where it belongs.

Hard to believe that a mere week ago I was abandoning myself to the fact that much of this stuff was as good as gone. That was when Rita was a category 4/5 heading straight for our house. It’s tempting to say that this exercise has been much ado about nothing, but that’d be wrong. It was much ado, for sure, but about keeping family safe and out of harm’s way. If a hurricane Zita were to come our way in another month, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Evacuee Journal, Day 5

So I had that nap. I’m feeling much better, thanks.

But it’s still about the waiting. Especially for information that trickles frustratingly slow.

A call to the Lakeview Police Department confirms there is minor wind damage, no power, and downed trees in my neighborhood. A call to a friend says that Clear Lake is still like a ghost town and any open food business is getting mobbed. Gas is in short supply everywhere.

No school until Thursday. My employer says to listen to local officials to determine when to come home. The Chronicle has a map for a return plan, but according to that my area’s return time is still TBD. With no gas and few support services and businesses open, we’re not in a hurry to take four kids back. But with the mental image of a downed tree on my house or broken windows letting a parade of gulf coast critters into our kitchen, I’d really like to get back. I wish I knew of someone in my neighborhood who stayed so I could get a pair of eyes on my home just to check. But all of the neighbors I know were smart enough to get out early too.

We still have not located Heidi’d parents who are on their way from Ft. Smith to their friends’ house in St. Louis. Heidi’s sister is playing sleuth and trying to track them down and make sure they’re okay. We are all worried a little, but also know that they take literally forever to travel anywhere and usually always turn up eventually. But still.

Yes — but still. We know that there is only light damage in our area. We know that authorities will give us a plan for returning eventually. We know that Rick and Joyce will turn up. But still. It’d be nice to know for sure.

More waiting.

Evacuee Journal, Day 4

Looks like we were largely spared by the hurricane. But we will not know until we get eyes on our place. We had a number of trees in our yard that are nearing retirement and I don’t believe it would take much tropical wind to encourage a few to step down. There’s this one on the southeast corner of our house that’s especially old. But from all reports our area is basically undamaged.

But we’ve been told not to return for a few days. Water is still rising in the nearby bayous due to the rain and runoff. School won’t start again until at least Wednesday. More waiting, but this time with less worry.

What seems funny to me is the let down I’m feeling. I’ve spent the last few days making plans in my head for rebuilding my family’s life, saying mental goodbyes to much of our stuff, feeling the adreanaline rush of crisis mode. Now that all of those chemicals have drained out of my brain back into my endocrine system, it’s kind of like withdrawal. I should be happy that we didn’t get crushed, but all I want right now is a nap.

And then I want to come home. Our friends have been wonderful. Witchita is a great place to ride out a Hurricane. But now that I know I’ve actually got a home to come home to, I just want to get back there.

But for now, more waiting. And a nap.

Evacuee Journal, Day 3

Heidi’s parents are in Fort Smith, Arkansas. That’s a major item off of our worry list.

Yesterday we had heard that Rick and Joyce had called their friends in St. Louis and told them that they’d be there last night. What we didn’t know until this morning is that the call came from our house back in Houston. When we heard that we really started worrying.

But now we at least know they’re out of harm’s way and not stuck on some Houston freeway. Joyce is sick and saw a doctor in Fort Smith, but they plan to continue on to St. Louis when they can.

When Katrina hit, we donated our portable crib to a shelter. This afternoon we drove across Witchita to a resale shop to buy — you guessed it — a portable crib. Olivia just doesn’t do real beds yet. And in a strange place, she’s wired and not willing to go down without a fight. Our first night in Poteau, I had to sit up holding her for hours before she fell asleep deeply enough that I could put her down and walk away. Last night was less difficult, but still problematic. Now that we have a bed that doubles as a baby bucket, the sleep is back. Olivia is napping away right now.

Looks like we’re going to be spared the brunt of the storm. Our house is in a low lying area, so we’re not out of the woods yet. But with the weakening and the shifting east, we are getting the “clean” side of a category 3 rather than the “dirty” side of a category 4 or 5. Yet again, looks like we’re the fortunate ones.

Now it’s just a waiting game for us. Trying to make contacts, get news about family and friends, and trying not to worry too much.


After another long day of travel, we’re with our bestest (former) neighbor freinds in Witchita.

Got stopped by a trooper last night. He saw our Texas plates, Heidi’s Seabrook address on her DL, and our load of squirming kids, put two and two together, and let us off. Nice of him. Everyone has been so kind and helpful.

Still haven’t located Heidi’s parents who were heading to St. Louis. Since they tend to get lost going across town in Houston, we will not breathe freely until we know they are at their friends’ house and hear from them.

Prayers. Prayers. Without cesaing.

But for us right now, on this bright comfortable hospitable Kansas day with some of our favorite friends in the world, at least some of those prayers are prayers of Thanksgiving.

Stay safe out there.

Safe, but adrift

After 14 hours on the road, we’re safe in Poteau, Oklahoma with relatives. Took us seven hours to go the first 80 miles and we left relatively early. We’ll go on to Witchita tomorrow.

I cannot say what a surreal experience preparing for evacuation was. A real-life excercise in non-attachment. Trying to pack the most important, vital, useful, and meaningful objects in the lives of a family and only having a few hours to try to protect the rest was an effort that had me rather addled. At the end I was grabbing things I saw and putting them in plastic bags more or less at random. I had to stop myself. It was like trying to bail the Titanic with a shot glass. I had to choose between getting out early and staying to protect more stuff. Ultimately, it’s just stuff. Attachments, memories, pieces of reified self — but ultimately just Stuff. I still hope to see some of it again.

But I got out with the family. That’s what matters. We chose right. From the look of this storm, any extra effort and time to try and protect our home would have been wasted. Precious hours that enabled us to leave the Hosuton area in three hours instead of eight.

We got a voice mail from our municipality of Taylor Lake Village telling us that mandatory evacuation is in effect and that they’re expecting most of my area to be covered in ten feet of water from the storm surge. I can handle that if the winds will simply leave the house standing. I’d much rather salvage our belongings from a flooded house than a flooded pile of rubble.

Right now I am feeling adrift, as if we’ve jumped in a life boat to watch our ship sink on the horizon. We’re safely in port for now, and for that I am thankful. I’ve never been so literally abandoned into the hands of God.

What struck me as I was driving up here is how not freaked-out I am. I have Heidi and I have the kids. The rest is just stuff.

Outta Here

Since Rita is heading our way, we’re getting out while the getting is good. If we leave before the mandatory evacuation, we get to choose our route. Otherwise we have to take the trail of tears up Hwy 146. We’re going to Wichita to visit friends (might as well make it a vacation while our home is being pounded.) Leaving at high noon.

I’ll see you on the other side. Be safe, fellow coastal Texans.

Catch the Wave? Yerba mate?

I opened the paper this morning and was surprised to read this:

Yerba mate moves beyond fad status and into the American mainstream”

Since when? I’ve been drinking this for years and I totally missed the fad part. And you’d think if it was mainstream I would have encountered someone besides me and the handful of South Americans I know who drink it. Still, it’s nice to see it get more play in the MSM.

I’ve been drinking lots of Yerba Mate lately because I’ve had this chest cold and Mate contains Theobromine and Theophylline as well as a cocktail of vitamins and antioxidants that rivals chicken soup in it’s restorative power. At least for me, it’s comfort food.

The feature is wrong, or at least incomplete, in one thing though. Mate has indeed been linked to esophageal cancer if you drink too much. But that’s because the way traditionalists drink it — boiling hot sipped through a straw — deposits lots of very hot water directly into the throat. It’s the hot water action that causes the cancer, not the mate.

I make my mate the wimpy American way — with a drip coffee maker. So no danger there. And sipping my morning cuppa, I’m already feeling my airways relax. It’s going to be a good morning.

Getting Messy

Today at lunch with Heidi, Olivia, and Petunia, we all reached to join hands to say the blessing. (Yes, we do it even in Boston Market.) Anyway, Olivia, had already previewed the Mac and Cheese with her hands, covering them in cheesy goop. Petunia, seeing this, tried to reach beyond Olivia’s hand to grasp her wrist. After several attempts that resembled some sort of kiddie secret hand dance, Petunia finally gave up and grabbed Olivia’s hand to say the blessing.

Exactly three nanoseconds after the “Amen,” Petunia had a napkin in hand, wiping the cheesy goo from her fingers. Seizing the teaching moment, I said to her, “Somtimes when you love someone you have to get messy.” She gave me a look back that said, “Brother, dont I know it.”