Sundry information, thoughts and links to sort us out

Saturday, April 30, 2011


So you've probably heard about the stormy weather across the Southeast this spring. The front that most impacted North Carolina actually began in Arkansas on April 14th. By the 16th, the storms had made it to our state. It was very weird, Durham was almost the calm at the center of the storm. We had gone out to Costco, which is 7 miles north of us, and the sky was ominous, but it was still rather warm out, we even put the top down on our convertible. When we were finished shopping and were loading our groceries into the car, it had started raining. By the time we got on the road the rain was pretty heavy and so were the winds, driving was rather tricky. However, when we got home (just 7 miles, remember!) the rain was only sort of "spitty" while the winds were still heavy.

Our neighbors were heading out and asked about the weather. Since we'd driven out of the storm, we told them that the rain wasn't that bad but it was windy. Imagine our chagrin when, after putting away the groceries, we discovered that we were under a Tornado Warning! We turned on the local 24-hour news channel immediately. Not much later in the afternoon there were EIGHT simultaneous warnings as the storms swept across the state. Oddly, outside our window it was still just dark with some spitty rain which occasionally picked up for a short time.

South Durham ended up weathering the storms quite well. As you've surely seen in the news, though, the rest of the state was severely affected. With 24 deaths and over 80 injuries, as well as about 800 homes and businesses damaged statewide, the impact was akin to the hurricanes which often pummel our state. Clean-up and recovery is still going on, so it was good that the second batch of storms this past week didn't come to North Carolina.

The most difficult part of the tornadoes for me was, as usual, the aftermath coverage we did at work. It made for a very busy week and not only was it a struggle to rearrange our crews and shows, the subject matter was difficult to watch and report.

I have to admit, however, that I am a little jaded after all my years in the TV biz. I kept joking about the Tornado Trifecta. My fellow TV folks know what I mean, but for the rest of you, it's the three things you always hear in witness comments after the fact: "Sounded like a freight train. Never seen anything like it. Lucky to be alive." No one had the trifecta in their coverage, but that's probably good because, in fact, these storms were no joking matter - even when jokes are the only thing helping you get through the coverage.

Tornadoes are not nearly as common here in North Carolina as they are back in my native Ohio.
One of my earliest memories is of there being a tornado in the small town of Bryan, Ohio where I was living. We didn't have a basement and everyone went to the one house on the block that did. Many people here don't know what to do during a tornado. As soon as we heard we were in a Warning, we knew we needed to go into the master bathroom (most interior room, no windows) if things looked bad. There are no sirens here either. Even after 12 years of living in North Carolina, when I hear a fire siren, I still stop to hear if it will waver or stay steady (non-Ohioans, a steady siren means tornado, a wavering siren means fire).

I'm glad that we and all our loved ones came through the storms okay. This has already been an odd season weather-wise, I hope that hurricane season isn't too bad.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Going Greener

The youth of our church are encouraging the congregation to Love Earth Not Trash this Lent (hence the acronym). The idea is, rather than giving up something routine like chocolate or coffee, give up a practice that is harmful to the environment. Suggested ideas were: stopping using the plastic bags at the grocery store or stopping drinking bottled water. The youth could gather estimates from the parishioners and calculate the savings to the Earth.

For instance, say I'm giving up using plastic bags (I am, but I'll get to that in a minute). I figure that I use 10 plastic bags each time I go to the store, and that I'll buy groceries 5 times during the 40 days of Lent. That's 50 fewer plastic bags going into a landfill. Add that to all my fellow church members' numbers of plastic bags and you'll get a rather large number of bags not going to landfills! It's the same idea for bottled water - even if you're a devout recycler, the production of plastic uses resources and cutting down the number of bottles you buy can make a difference.

So, you're probably thinking, "But, Kate, you're Presbyterian! I didn't think you guys had to give up things for Lent!" And you're right - this is a voluntary practice and a service project opportunity for the youth groups. But, it's also a great idea. I'm participating as sort of a silent partner or something, however. I didn't turn in any estimates or proposals of what I'd do - mainly because our lifestyle doesn't quite fit into the suggested LENT options.

When it comes to plastic grocery bags, we do most of our shopping at Sam's Club or Costco. If you have ever shopped at a warehouse club like that, you know that they don't use bags at all so they can count your items on your way out the door to prevent theft. So we have a stash of reusable shopping bags in the trunk of our car and we just load all our groceries into them in the parking lot. Additionally, we get Shopper Points for using reusable bags when we're at a regular grocery store. Finally, what plastic grocery bags I do have in the house, I use as trash bags since all my waste baskets are too small for the trash bags sold in stores! So, I couldn't figure out how to give the youth any sort of number of how many bags I would or would not be using during Lent. Instead, I am just making a concerted effort to always take a reusable bag into the store with me, or to tell the clerk I don't need a bag, even if I just run in for a couple of items.

As for bottled water, I don't drink it that way. I have a nifty washable water bottle that was given to me as a gift when I went up and spoke at an event at my alma mater a few years ago. Emblazoned with the college logo and everything, it sits proudly on my desk at work, I fill it from the drinking fountain whenever I'm thirsty and take it home to wash on the weekends. So, instead I am going back to a practice we used during the drought. We have low-flow shower heads with a toggle switch. The idea is to cap the shower head while you're lathering and run the water only to rinse. The bonus of the toggle switch is that it holds the water back at the temperature you already set so you don't get zapped by a burst of cold water when you're ready to rinse. Again, though, I had no idea how to write that up for our youth group - I suppose I could have looked at my water bill and tried to figure out how many fewer gallons I'd be using, but that seemed complicated....

Anyway, it's not really about having a record or bragging rights or anything else, giving things up for Lent is about self-discipline and bringing yourself closer to God, and just the attempt is worthy in and of itself. So, I'm taking the opportunity our youth provided and hoping it helps me improve myself and my planet.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Back Online

So...for reasons that are more complicated than can be explained here, our site has been down for a while. It all hinged around some updates to other software and programs, which ended up not working correctly with our already-established stuff. Not our fault, the updates were by the creating company, not us, but it took us a while to figure out what exactly was the issue. Then it took a little longer to have the time to make the corrections! But, at last, we've been able to do so and should once again be functional. Now, we just have to find the time amidst our busy schedules to occasionally post about our goings-on! :-)