Sunday, May 22, 2011

22 hours

I am now in the middle of week four of the relief operation responding to the tornadoes of April 27 here in Alabama. Most of us have Sunday morning off, so I am taking a few minutes to catch up on the blog. Apparently, some of our readers are disappointed by the lack of updates, but, realistically, it is just not possible.

We work in a department that is among the first to arrive every morning and the last to leave every evening. For example, here in Alabama, we worked 16 hours on the first day and 14 hours per day for the next four days of the operation, from about 7am until around 9pm. We'd grab a bite to eat and then fall into bed (or a cot, as the case may be). Lunch, and sometimes dinner, was brought in to HQ, mostly thanks to in-kind donors, and we ate at our desks.

By the second week, that had dropped to about 12 hours a day, from 7:30am to around 7:30pm, and, again, we ate on the fly. It wasn't until nearly the end of the third week that I reduced the department's hours to the nominal hours of operation at HQ: 8am to 6pm, or a mere ten hours each day. In-kind lunches just ended this week, and now my folks are getting a break and some fresh air for their mid-day meal. To be fair, we have had a half day each Sunday, from 12:45 to 6.

We do also get days off. Generally that happens once every eight days, and I try to spread the days out so that we have enough coverage every day. For me personally, that meant I took two half-days in the middle of my second week, and my first full day off was just last Tuesday. Knowing it was coming up, Louise also arranged to have Tuesday off, and we managed to get in a visit.

Jackson, Mississippi is four hours by car from Birmingham, Alabama, and I managed to escape an hour early on Monday, leaving at 5. Louise drove a half hour east to the town of Brandon and we met for dinner at 8:30. I left my rental car in a convenient spot in town and rode back with her to the bus, shaving an hour off my round-trip drive. That also gave us the opportunity for an early dinner in Brandon on Tuesday, and we were able to spend a grand total of 22 hours together. I also got to sleep in my own bed for the first time in three weeks, and spent some quality time with the pets, who looked at me askance when I first walked in.

We mostly had a slow day at home, as befitting a day off on a Red Cross operation. I was able to drop off some items I didn't need and pick up some that I did, such as my Leatherman and some extra clothing and personal items. We also drove into downtown Jackson and had lunch at our reciprocal club there, using up our freebie for the month. It was a nice, relaxing visit, and we hope to repeat it again this week on my next day off, Wednesday.

As it stands today, neither one of us has any idea when our respective operations will be closing. As volunteers, we are not obligated to stay to the very end, though we usually do. Where we will head next depends on a host of factors, and, of course, we are just nine days from the official start of huricane season. If we are not deployed to a relief operation, we will probably try to catch the General Assembly of Unitarian Universalist congregations towards the end of June, in North Carolina.

We had neither registered for the Assembly, nor signed up as voting delegates as we normally do, since we had figured to be heading slowly across the northern part of the country right about now. Our plan had been to attend Trawler Fest in Anacortes before heading east, and spend some time in South Dakota establishing our domicile there, as we'd like to leave Washington behind before we buy a boat. Of course, the tornadoes and floods conspired against that plan, and now that we are already most of the way to North Carolina coming into June, it makes more sense. We shall see.

In the meantime, please expect updates here to be very sporadic. I don't want to spend any of our precious day-off time together writing blog posts, and otherwise our time is very limited. Things are slowing down in the office, though, and if I can find the time there, I will try to post a few facts about the relief operation here.


  1. While it is awesome to hear from you and get a peak into your relief operations - there should be absolutely no expectation for you guys to be making time to update the blog too.

    What you guys are doing is amazing. Thank you for being there and giving of yourselves, your time and your expertise.

  2. Thanks for making time to post an update. Now back to the more important stuff.

  3. I think we now know where you guys are headed next:

    It's looking like you're going to have a busy summer.

  4. Thanks for the update, we miss your regular blogs but sure understand that you have more important things on your mind at the moment. We will look forward to the updates you find time to make and will keep you and Louise and those you are helping in our prayers.

  5. Thank you for helping all those in need!

  6. We'll gladly forgive sporadic updates in return for the help you're providing our countrymen. Thank you.


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