Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!
Thank you all so much for the birthday wishes. It seemed my funk was beginning to lift somewhat, and then I went online and checked the balance on my American Express account. OUCH! I knew it would be bad, so until tonight I opted for the ignorance is bliss approach. It's been easy under the circumstances. (Needless to say, there's no mail delivery at home, and even though I forwarded my mail to Virginia, I haven't gotten any yet.) Anyway, the bill is over $5000. This covers the regular expenses charged before the hurricane and all the evacuation and relocation expenses.
I am a big believer in living within my means and because I am an admitted "miles whore," I use American Express and a Master Card that earns American Airlines miles for all my purchases- and I put everything on the card that I can. Then I pay in full when I get the bill. But the bill is never this hefty. Last minute airfare to flee the storm was a real bundle. But Disney killed us. Regardless, I still think it was the best approach for the sake of my kids' mental health (and mine, too, except that I fretted about the cost the entire time). I wouldn't do it any differently, but paying for it will be a challenge. I honestly thought we'd be going home in a few days and that my income would improve as soon as the clinical studies initiated. It just drives home the best lesson learned from this storm: take nothing for granted. Nothing. NOTHING.
I'm told that American Express will extend the time for displaced Katrina victims to pay. I have to call during business hours tomorrow (Monday) to make arrangements. I still can't get info on my checking account from my local bank. It's back online, but my log-in and password don't work. I'm not the only one with this problem. The city is still under mandatory evacuation, so I doubt I'll get this resolved any time soon. But I have this feeling of dread that I will find that I have even less in the account than I think. I have several bills that are on automatic bank draft from that account.
The next problem is my car, which has been sitting in the $10/day parking lot at the Jackson, Mississippi airport. A woman there told me that if I came to get it before a month went by, she'd forgive the charges. Well, Hurricane Rita blew that for me. And getting there from here is proving to be quite expensive. In fact, getting back to New Orleans is no longer the easy feat it used to be. It used to be a cinch to get a cheap non-stop flight from Washington, but now no one flies a non-stop and the connecting flights are not cheap. I guess that's the deal when you're no longer a top tourist destination. So, I may have to beg the Jackson Airport lady for an extension and then fly to New Orleans and hitch a ride to Jackson to get the car. I'll drive it back to New Orleans if they're letting us back in, and I'll go home to survey the damage and see what, if anything, I can take back up to Virginia with me. Ideally, I can take the desktop computer and my software, get my remaining instruments and recording gear and get my irreplaceable memories: my journals, photos and videos of the kids. I did my best to protect these from water, but I'm told that just putting them in plastic bags may not have been enough. I just hope they're okay.
Mold is going to be one of the biggest problems. I was told that the house has wind damage, which means, at the very least, broken windows and probably roof damage, which means water in the walls. One of my friends thought his place was okay but he returned to find that the ceiling had collapsed in two rooms of his apartment. Off all the things of which I'm apprehensive, dealing with the mold and the smell of the putrifying food are at the top of the list. I was also told to be prepared to deal with an incomprehensible scourge of flies and their maggot offspring, along with an invasion of ants, roaches and rodents that probably used my house as refuge from the wind and rising waters. Lovely. Just lovely.
The next trick will be getting the damage to the house fixed. This will be probably require more trips between New Orleans and Virginia. I'll have to go down to meet with and let the claims adjustor in. I don't want to even think about the prospect of getting a contractor and having the work done properly in a long distance situation. We won't be able to live in the house while it's being repaired and the kids have to stay in school up here since Orleans Parish schools are unlikely to reopen before the school year ends. This is really more than I can deal with right now. I just have to remind myself to take this in small bites.
Now, on to more interesting and less depressing news. The evening before and day of my birthday, we were featured on every edition of the local news. (The local NBC affiliate.) Alex got a lot of airtime and he was awesome. If I'm able to get my DV bridge from home, I'll copy it and post it here. The station may even send someone down with me to check out the house when I see it for the first time since the storm(s).
Alex's state of mind is improving, thanks to De and Eni, who sent punk CDs and DVDs and to Brandy, (our former babysitter- remember her?) who sent him to the stratosphere of happiness when she parted with her Playstation and games! And by far, the thing that's cheered Alex the most is the attention of a girl who, like him, is bi-racial. She's quite pretty and built like- well, how shall I say it? Just right. But the clincher is this: her name is.... Katrina. And, believe it or not, her sister's name is Rita. I am NOT kidding. I can't help but think that this will have disasterous implications for a displaced New Orleans boy, unless it's Mother Nature's amusing way to make it up to him.
I intend to offer everyone a more proper thank you, but it will be in my own unique manner, and again, it may take me a little time to complete. I need the proper computer resources for one part of this, and the proper state of mind for the other. And speaking of computer resources, Richard, I'll take you up on that software offer. And Pi, thanks for sending the Tech Tool disk. Unfortunately, the TiBook will not boot from this disk either. I will try the only thing that worked for me when the G5 had a similar problem; to boot it as a target disk from another Mac and run the diagnostics on it that way. So, now I have to find another Mac running OS X. I'd just buy a new Powerbook if my funds were not beyond decimated.
There are so many lessons in this whole experience. It's been a great exercise in letting go of attachments. Not only am I living without all the people, places, experiences and things I couldn't imagine living without before, but I am learning the humility of public assistance. Even in my most destitute and impoverished times, I managed without Medicaid and foodstamps, both of which I am now the very grateful recipient. And the silver lining of all this is that Medicaid covers all the dental work I have not been able to afford since Rachel was born. (Rachel's birth was the point at which my finances began their nosedive, but as a single parent, being there for my children has been far more important than bringing in a hefty paycheck. Nothing that I could buy with money is worth what giving my time means to them.)
All that being said, it's time for me to say goodnight, as it's now past 4:oo AM. (As usual). Please note the change in my sidebar as I have added links for the lovely people who have have been so supportive and have commented here who also have blogs. (Not all of them do.) If I missed you, please let me know and I'll gladly remedy that. And if you see a visitor in your stats with a Dallas address that says SprintPCS, that's me and my aircard. It's really slow from here, (slower than dial-up most of the time, but at least I'm mobile and not tying up the phone line), so I might still use AOL every now and then.
Again, thanks so much for all the beautiful birthday wishes.