California, Hurricane Irene, and a Return to Normalcy

There has been complete silence from me on the blog front, and for that I apologize. Here is a rather lengthy explanation of my temporary disappearance:



For part of my blog absence, I was visiting my family in California, and decided to focus solely on spending time with them.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared much about my family, so you’ll learn something new from this post.

I have four younger sisters and no brothers, so my dad is in a house full of girls, all the time. My parents are still happily married, and strong as ever. Not only is there a gaggle of girls in the house, there is a multitude of pets: three dogs, three cats and a bird. Needless to say, if you’re not use to a lot of activity around you, it’s a bit overwhelming.

Anyway, back to the details of the visit.

We talked, and talked, and talked (my specialty).

I listened. I really wanted to catch up on all of my sisters’ lives. They’re all so different, and I’m so proud of each of them.

As you can imagine, conversation isn’t really the name of the game in that household, at least not when everyone is home. I’d forgotten what it takes to get your turn to speak. Often, you must speak at the same time as someone else, and there seems to be a running competition to see who can make it into the Guinness Book of World Records for loudest and fastest talker.

I also ate a lot while I was in California.

My grandma made me one birthday meal, and brought cheesecake. It was delicious. My mom also made a birthday meal, and some other tasty food throughout the week. She had me try an enjoyable mixed drink (the name of which is escaping me at the moment). My youngest sister made me a birthday cake, and the sister just below me in the sibling age progression decorated the cake. I cooked one night, which was probably the lowlight for everyone else. Ha!

We exercised (a necessity because of all the eating).

I actually really looked forward to exercising with my sisters, because normally I exercise by myself. It’s so much more enjoyable to work out with other people.

We played games.

Well, mostly just one game. My family has a new game called Settlers of Catan, and they wanted to get Alex and I hooked.

Source -

While we enjoyed playing, I don’t think we’ll be rushing out to buy the game anytime soon (sorry guys—I mean gals and dad ;)).

I played tackle football with my sisters in the pool.

Before I left for the trip, I made a few swimsuits. I made one in the style of the polka dot bikini on the envelope below (with some changes).

I’ll add a separate blog post about the swimsuits soon.

Alex had to take a business trip to Washington (the state) before he came to California. I had to pick him up from Burbank airport late in the evening, on the 22nd (my birthday). On that same day, I drove to Long Beach to visit one of my closest and best friends.

We spent time with my family, his grandparents, and a few friends. One of my cousins came down from Yuba City, which was a nice surprise. One day my cousin, all of my sisters, my mom, my grandma, and I went to lunch. We also explored some local antique stores, and enjoyed some frozen yogurt. It was a warm day, but I loved the feeling of dry heat.

Alex made several trips to In-N-Out while he was in California. I had my first and final In-N-Out burger on the way to the airport, as a farewell to California.

I had a wonderful time, and I miss everyone.


Hurricane Irene

Alex and I came home Friday to the approach of a hurricane. Our flight was delayed, but we were one of the last flights allowed into BWI (Baltimore/Washington International) Airport.

We got home a little after three on Saturday morning, and woke up about four hours later to wind and heavy rain. We immediately made our way to my in-laws’ house to hunker down for the worst of Hurricane Irene.

With each hour, the storm became more violent. Loud, evil gusts of wind made the trees rubber band back and forth, like metronomes ticking faster and faster. The rain continued to stream from the dark sky at astonishing rates without any let-up (The storm deposited a foot of rain in our area, in less than twenty-four hours).

For most of the day and evening, we parked in front of the TV, which was permanently fixed on the news channels.

Several times the tornado/hurricane alarms sounded, barely audible in the midst of the rushing wind. We nervously glanced outside into the black night, watching the dark forms of the trees as they whipped into one another.

We tried to do other things, but gave up when we quickly lost focus.

We expected the power to go out at any moment, and it threatened to leave us in the dark many times. There were several dramatic flickers every fifteen minutes or so, which put everyone on edge.

Each time the lights flickered, everybody’s eyes would widen and we’d look around at each other, anticipating the darkness.

The power went off and came immediately back on a few times.

Then, around nine, we lost electricity.

The candles were lit.

Wayne went to the basement to make sure the emergency sump pump was working.

Alex and I started to doze, but were stirred by the slightest sound. We were preparing ourselves for the possibility that we’d have to bail water out of the basement.

Less than two hours later, the power miraculously came back on. (Today, there are still places in our area without power, but we were lucky enough to regain power that night.)

We returned to our posts by the TV, watching the news and blinking sleep out of our eyes.

Finally, around one in the morning, Alex and I went upstairs to try to get some sleep.

As I started to drift into a sleep state around two in the morning, I heard a crack and a crash that I thought was part of a dream. My eyes shot open. In one movement, I flew out of bed and bolted out of the room behind Alex. Everyone had immediately shaken off their hurricane-weary stupor, and rushed to the front of the house to see what looked like a jungle right outside the front door.

Several trees had fallen on the house. Luckily, there were no holes in the house, so we didn’t have to fight to keep water out that night.

We tried to get what sleep we could, and around seven on Sunday morning, we heard another boom. Upon inspection outside, it became clear that there were several trees that seem to have fallen over like dominoes.  There is a line of big trees into the forest that leads up to the three or four that fell against the house.

Here are some pictures of the trees that fell against the house. Luckily, none of the trees made holes in the house. That would’ve been really horrible, because the trees came down during the worst part of the storm, which was accompanied by the most rain.

Do you recognize this porch? I stood on in it for several pictures (which you can see in previous posts on this blog) while we lived at my in-laws. Now it's enclosed by trees.

The javelin branch below was speared into the ground in the backyard.

Sights like this made us glad that none of us had ventured outside during the storm.

I forgot to take a picture of the long line of trees leading up to the ones on the house; it was unreal.

Many things about that next morning were surreal.

I could smell the saturated ground and snapped bark.

There was an absolute quiet, except for the occasional softly spoken word and the distant sound of chainsaws humming through wood.

The air was almost completely dry, when just hours ago I could taste the air each time I breathed.


On the drive over to our house, Alex and I were extremely apprehensive. Wayne and Laura came along.

Everyone was silent, occasionally gasping and making comments about some scene of destruction.

There were trees hanging in power lines all along the route to the house, and several giant trees that were completely uprooted.

Debris was strewn across the landscape, and many lawns and driveways were obstructed by trees, or tree-sized branches.

The tree pictured below had a trunk that was four to five feet in diameter, at least. Luckily it didn’t hit anything or anyone. I know it’s difficult to see the size of the tree in the picture, but those roots were at least ten feet in diameter. We were driving past when I took the picture, and my camera wasn’t cooperating.

It seemed like there were more downed trees, the closer we got to our house. For the most part, I’m not a nail biter, but the anxiety of this drive produced a new nervous habit in me.

We turned onto our street.

I held my breath.

My heart and my stomach became one when the first thing I saw was a fire truck blocking the road. They were cutting a tree that had fallen into the road.

As we circumvented the fire truck, I looked to the left and saw a house with a tree on its roof. We were still about fifty feet from catching a glimpse of our house.

We crawled around the corner.

Our house slowly came into view.

Everyone in the car dropped their shoulders and exhaled. There were no trees down on or around our house.

We walked around the property and found no damage. We didn’t even have any water in the basement, which is a first for any storm. I still can’t believe it; God definitely protected our home.

A branch the size of a tree fell into the neighbor’s driveway. It is fortunate that he wasn’t home, because the branch fell in the spot where he parks his truck.

One felled tree is leaning on another tree, which is up against our back fence. This will probably become problematic when the next windy storm rages through. Thankfully, this tree wouldn’t do any damage, except to the fence. It would fall right in the middle of the backyard. Hopefully, we’ll be able to clear some of those trees out soon.


We spent Sunday cleaning up around Wayne and Laura’s house. Then, Alex and I cleaned up around our house on Monday. The storm did us a favor by uprooting a dead tree that we were planning to remove soon. The storm also left us with a significant mess of branches that had broken off the living trees. I should’ve have taken before and after pictures of the clean-up at both houses, but I forgot.


Gearing up for fall

Now, we are unpacking and gearing up for the next project with the house. I’ll be itching to get outside and do some more yard work, because the weather is ideal.

I’m teaching a couple of courses at a local community college this fall. So, this week I’ll be busy preparing for those classes, and sewing some professional, work clothing.

I do have several projects that I am looking forward to sharing with you, and hopefully some writing.

  1. Laura

    September 1, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Wow, I felt like I was there….oh wait, I was 🙂 You have such a wonderful way of writing. Thanks for putting into words what we went through that night. So glad you are here to share the good and the bad with us. Love you dearly you amazing, talented girl!

  2. Tim

    September 3, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    The few days you were here in CA were a great time! Yes, you girls talk a great deal but I loved having all five of you around at the same time again. Looking forward to next time…

  3. Rebekah Key

    October 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Loved visiting with you and am grateful you stopped by on your trip to Cali:) Thank God that you are all safe and sound from the hurricane! Have a wonderful fall season and much love. ~Becky~

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