December 24, 2005
Do you remember when we were kids and we really never thought we would see the year 2000? It simply sounded too impossible - too Buck Rogers. I think each of us even thought how old we might be if we got to 2000, and how funny writing that year would be. Would we call it 20-hundred or two-thousand? Would we have space ship-like powered cars? Where would we be? What would we be doing? Looking back to say, 1950, it all seemed just too far off to even ponder. We each knew some people who were 60 years old. Nah, we'd never be like that. Why, when you got to that age, you looked OLD, really OLD, and not us - that would never happen to US. We had somehow inside us the fountain of youth that would someway, miraculously save us from that kind of fate of being women with fallen chins or men with tubby bellies and bald heads. We just knew that's how it would for FOR US.
What a fable. Here we are; it's 2005, and we are now (mostly) celebrating our 65th Christmas.
How blessed we are to be doing it, even with the chins, even with the bellies and the bald heads.
We have gained so much wisdom along our journeys of life that while we are surprised by the image in the mirror, we are not that upset by it. Those wrinkles are character showing through years of our journeys and adventures. They are medals of a different sort. The gray hairs or lack of hair reflects many years of learning of life's best and worst and knowing we have stood the tests required to survive these things. We have found out life is wonderful; it is never boring; and, above all, it is to be cherished and respected. Our breaths of daily life are precious to us and we thank our Creator for them.
I hope on this, our 65th Christmas, my thoughts above are the same as yours and that we can wish each other the best Christmas yet and many more to come. I hope we can each continue to reach for the stars in hopes of better tomorrows and yet have the stamina and strength granted to each of us for times we must be solid and just endure.
God Bless you Each, my Friends, my Contemporaries. Thank you for sharing the world with me during our similar times here.
December 21, 2006
Dear Friends: I want to wish you a Merry Christmas right up front, but I also want to let you know our latest (and to me incredible) experiences in all this mess. I can't believe this is happening. It must be a bad dream and like lots of other Katrina people (my new phrase for what we have become, this joint crowd of wanderers from August 29th in New Orleans), I want to wake up and it's August 28th and the hurricane went to the Antarctic. Well, wishful thinking doesn't solve it . . . oh, that it could. Here's our latest adventures -- and I'm lazy, I don't want to type it again, so let me just copy an e-mail I sent to a friend up in CT and you can get the gist. I know I sound frustrated - hell, I AM frustrated. But, I find that if I just take a little time away from thinking of all of it, well, then I'm o.k. and ready to fight the whole mess again. Continued prayers are requested. On my Santa's shopping list is strength and serenity to endure. Thank God Above, I have you all for friends. I mean that, every word 10,000 times over. Having a rooting section now is the best thing for us. With love at Christmas and for the following New Year, too.
Seamond and David Roberts
P. O. Box 395
Libuse, LA 71348 phone 318-487-0421
Today's adventures in FEMA land.
Hey Tom: Back to you re your last e-mail. We will keep at it in all this stuff. We were going to go to New Orleans tomorrow, the main reason being to meet with the FEMA inspector so that he could go inside the dwelling. Last night, I was merrily typing along (doing a little work finally for my company at 3 a.m. or so) and in looking at the calendar got kind of stopped in my tracks. At about that time, the thought struck me that with Christmas being Sunday and FEMA being a federal function, here we are going down there to meet with them on Thurs., the 22nd, pretty close to Christmas . . . maybe they were shut down for the holiday, maybe I should call and check to see if they would be there.
So, it's a good thing I called. I got the FEMA answering service and gave them our claim number and they told us NO, no FEMA guy would be there because NO FEMA inspector had been assigned to us, that unless he had called us (not we calling them to ask for one) with a definite appointment place and time, NO FEMA guy would be there. At this point, he took my request to get us a new FEMA inspector and also a request that since the roof is going up on Jan 12th and we will be there then (or for another Thursday beyond that), to maybe and perhaps the newly-assigned FEMA inspector could meet us then on one of those days, but not to even think of trying to go over to a FEMA center to get one to come (at our leisure, he intimated) as they have to have all our paperwork in hand, i.e., only the newly assigned FEMA inspector could do this, and the guys over there at the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center would not have this, could not have this, and no, we couldn't just drag one out from there.
Plus, they would mostly be gone anyway for Christmas.
(Our previous call to FEMA indicated we could do this.)
O.K., so be it.
So, since that was our main reason to go (and since we've both been very sick the last two days and still feel awful), the trip is off for now and we will go instead January 12th - the reason for the next trip to observe the roof going on and also for David to go into the dreaded attic for his own inspection and hopefully to retrieve his die-cast car collection and who knows what else is up there, or if anything is saveable period.
Because it was 3 in the morning and because the FEMA service guy had time to talk with me, he also informed me that he didn't see where I had completed the SBA loan application. I told him I had not done it because: 1) I didn't want a loan because at a time like this who needs another bill to pay, and 2) The application was so long and complicated I got frustrated and threw it away; and 3) With the credit information they were requesting, I was positive even if I wanted a loan, they would never approve me.
He sighed and patiently told me I must get a new application (from the local FEMA) people and fill it out - or call an 800 number to get it.
(I still could not see why I should. I DON'T WANT A LOAN.)
He said that the reason for the loan is to pay for the stuff that the insurance does not cover, which he intimates will be plenty of stuff that it does not cover, and then if SBA turns you down, then FEMA will give you a grant for that amount (up to some kind of dollar limit, of course).
Even under these circumstances, I remembered that form (a very formidible form, blue in color, about 10 pages in lenght appearing to be an application for the CIA) and you see I really don't want to incur a debt.
He gave me a 1-800 phone number and told me to just DO IT.
I agreed, but really didn't want to call them nor to just do it.
So, David comes home and I tell him all about this. He says that one of the guys who works with him told David where the local FEMA/SBA office is located and we would go down and get the form from them.
O.K., fair enough I guess.
So, this afternoon, we went over there. Remembering the 8-hour horrible session I had with FEMA in Lafayette in September, I was apprehensive about going to anywhere called a FEMA office for sure. Well, now it's December, so there aren't (thank God) thousands of people milling around, but otherwise the personnel appear about the same jughead types. I took a deep breath and went in.
They were very nice, but informed me that it's the law (????) that since I signed up for FEMA I MUST complete the SBA thing. They led me over to an IRS worker there who pulled up electronically a copy of my last year's income tax form which I must submit with the SBA application and we sat down and did a whole credit interview (which I was not prepared for at all). So, I now have the damned SBA form sitting here and once Christmas is over, I will slave away to fill it out and send it in, "because it's the law," that I do it. (I asked David, so what if I don't - do I go to federal prison for not filling out a form for a loan I do not want?) I'm sorry, I have a very questioning mind and I rebel being told I have got to do something simply because it's the law as well as the first FEMA people told me, "just do it," and not explaining why.
On leaving, I looked at the guy and told him I still did not want to do this . . . and he said, "It actually works like this. Very FEW people get approved for the loan part (which the interest is very, very low on in case by accident we do get approved). When you get denied, then FEMA will give you a grant for the loan for which you got disapproved."
I was totally dumbfounded. I think this is fleecing the taxpayers. On the way home, we got a newspaper and there was an article that mentioned the SBA loans and that about 20 people out of 20,000 applying for the SBA loans got approved.
What the hell way of operating a government is this? I am outraged. I truly am. I'll fill out the damned form - I guess I will. I am positive Allstate is sandbagging us, trying to wear us down, with the roof being just the first part of it, but then I don't want to also be part of sucking the lifeblood out of the tax system. I'm not one of these people of going along "because everybody is doing it."
While I was originally thinking I didn't want to do the red tape with just filling out the form, now I am going to be extra careful about it, will take my time and may yet not send it in even. I've got to think this over. I was also told there by the IRS person to take the copy of my last year's taxes and get a CPA to amend it for our losses on Katrina. I honestly don't want to do that either. I'll consider that further though. I have filled out the taxes myself for the last 4-5 years because I absolutely HATE either all the details of doing it "the long way" and I had gotten so burned out with paying H&R Block like $300 to do it the long way too. (I do not kid myself; I am incapable of doing the long way myself, even with a computer tax software package.) But, I'll think this over - my reasoning here being and my rebelling being that if Block charges $300, then a CPA must double that fee at least. But, I'll think about it (after I get through thinking about the SBA mess).
I'll admit it - I'm tired, tired, tired. We went to an Allstate office today so that they would fax for us the supplemental claim application number one. I feel LIKE I'M A DAMNED CPA NOW, I have so much paperwork - and I know it's just beginning. I know it!
On contractors: You are right, we need to get one over there. Once we get down there in January with the roofers, we will see IF we CAN find a contractor. They are scarce and I've been told that the best way to get one is to not call them, but to walk around the neighborhoods and find one parked outside, get them to come over and do a written estimate and THEN after you have this in hand to check out their licensing and legality and workmanship and credentials. When I told a friend about the 17-page waiting lists for the roofers, they said that the contractor's waiting lists are longer.
FEMA had a desk for hurricane mental counseling. I'm getting ready to report over there and turn my tired mind over.
Other than all that, we are determined to have a Merry Christmas. DETERMINED. I'm going to the grocery tomorrow and will get either a small turkey or two nice hens to roast . . . we actually like roasted chicken quite a bit . . . the trimmings and we will eat well and then go out and look at lights. We have our polar bear outside lighting the night and cheering us on. Pineville has its water tower decked in lights from top to bottom, a sight you can see for miles, and which we have dubbed the Pineville Christmas tree. It has multicolored blinking lights and quite impressive. Also, we have found that going down to the banks of the Red River and looking across to Alexandria and it's lights is very pretty and relaxing too. Our Christmas present from us to us -- a generator -- sits in my laundry room and is probably the best present we ever bought each other, a reassurance we won't be in the dark when the lights do go out and won't be freezing cold either in same situation, also allowing us to keep the stuff in our refrigerator for as long as we have kerosene to run it. HOORAY FOR OUR CHRISTMAS GENERATOR (bought during the state tax holiday, saving us $30.)
For New Years? I'll make it a resolution (one I have to keep, no options otherwise) to PERSEVERE.
Merry Christmas to you both. Happy New Year too.
Thank you, so, so much for all your help and your listening ears and kind hearts.
Vicki: Thanks so much for the nice thoughts. No, we are not back in New Orleans. We evacuated twice, one for each hurricane. First, we went to New Iberia, LA and thought from the reports of devastation of the city that we would end up living in New Iberia. However, my husband is just 2-1/2 years from retirement (works with the state of LA) and he, of course, wants to finish this out. So, a few weeks later we were told ONLY job he could get would be in Pineville, LA. Well, that's 150 m. north of New Iberia, so as we were packing for his job interview (with thoughts in mind that if he got the job we would have to move), the word went out that Iberia Parish was to be mandatorialy evacuated for Hurricane Rita - fast approaching. O.K., into evacuation mode we go and shortly after that we drove north to Pineville, being on the interstate with about 90% of Texas also evacuating. No place to stay here - no motels, no shelters. We slept in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The next morning, HOORAY, David got the job. We were dancing around the street when we realized oh-oh, we had NO place to stay for Hurricane Rita (let aside to live here). So, hmmm, what to do. Thinking we were next going to spend the night of Hurricane Rita in the Wal-Mart parking lot, we got a call from my daughter in California. What a miracle! By using the internet (Google I would think), she had found us a place to stay and rent in Pineville. I was so elated, I didn't care if it were a cave. (I was scared of this second hurricane, having seen what the first one did.) It turned out fine - a nice mobile home - we spent the hurricane in it and now we are living in it. David's job here is a big pay cut, but we will probably be o.k. once I get back to working regularly (they promise me I will) with my company in January. ABOVE ALL, we are so grateful to God to be alive, to have the privilege to start all over again. So many people just don't period.
Sure, you can put this (or whatever other stuff I wrote) in the section you are developing. One of my fun things is hearing from people and writing people. Anyone who wants to write, I'd love to hear from them. Though we live in Pineville, I have a p.o. box at the little nearby village, so my address is:
Seamond Roberts, P. O. Box 395, Libuse, LA 71348 Phone is 318-487-0421.