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A settled nomad living on the edge of Appalachia. I love to listen to music, spend time with my family, and play sports. I'm lucky enough to write code for a living. I'm often accused of having no "filter" as I tend to overshare. I make beer on occasion and try to sample new beers whenever I can.$BillRawlinson

The Anger of Irene

7 min read

There is nothing in my life that prepared me for the phone call I received last monday morning. It was from my mother, she was in hysterics, sobbing that she had lost her home due to flooding from Hurricane Irene. My mom lives in the small town of Esperance which is situated near the central most part of New York state. Hurricane's don't happen there or, at least, they didn't so I assumed she was being dramatic and just meant her house had filled with water and that her possessions were ruined. She tried to tell me it was gone - really gone - but I didn't really, truly, believe her; it sounded too far fetched. However, the pain in her voice as she started to vocalize a list of precious items that she had lost brought me to tears and I offered to drop what I was doing and to drive up and see what I could do to help her. If nothing else, I figured, I could be a shoulder to cry on. She moaned out that she wanted me to come up so I dashed down to my bosses office, told him what little I knew, and arranged to take an indeterminate amount of time off work.

I loaded my Jeep and camper with everything I could think I'd need. I packed tools, shovels, bleach, an air compressor, and even more tools. Once loaded Lisa and I took the kids to their sitter's house and we began the long drive. We didn't arrive until Tuesday evening and by then we had a nice large generator loaded in the Jeep as well. Her small street, Priddle Road, greeted us as if nothing had happened there. The first few houses on the hill looked perfect. The man who lives in the third house on the right was on his riding mower trimming his lawn. It all seemed to confirm my suspicions that my mom was exaggerating. Heck, the fact that I was able to get into Esperance itself made me further doubt her as we expected the roads to be flooded or washed out. Everything seemed extremely normal. We were being setup.

At the bottom of the hill, as we took the final curve and approached a canopy of trees the destruction became evident. It took our breath away. We were truly speechless. The road was a twisted mess of asphalt, mud, human filth, and debris. There were no houses in sight. None. Each house that had once stood in my mom's small community had been reduced to a large muddy pothole scattered with cinder blocks. The Schoharie Creek had risen from it's normally safe 1-3 feet of depth to a raging wall of water over 70 feet tall and had totally decimated the street. My moms long meandering hill that separated her from the creek was gone. The creek had redefined it's banks and my mom's plot of land was now mostly creek bed. Everything, every knick knack, every valuable she had ever owned was gone. Her list from the phone call a day before came back to me in a haunted echo, "My fathers china, my mom's little glass bottle that I had painted with her when I was a little girl. The small statue my brother and I had given to her when we were kids that said "Greatest Mom" - each of these items that were so heavily cloaked in memories were lost. I went to my mom, hugged her, and cried with her. Her entire life seemed to have been washed away. It was emotionally devastating.

I can't really explain the destruction. I've posted photos online but even they don't really help to make sense of it. At least, I tell myself, nobody was hurt or lost. The stuff is, after all, just stuff. It is much easier for me to deal with it because I don't have to live it. It was easier for me to reorient myself almost immediately and to help guide my mom and Susan through the following week because I still had a home to return to. I can not imagine the pain they, and their community, are suffering through. It was relatively easy for me to come up with a plan and to help her hire a contractor, contact FEMA, contact her insurance agent, and to take her on errands to get new work clothes, towels, and socks. It was also fairly easy for me to wander around the field of destruction searching for her effects. We found one of her drums, an antique wooden bookcase, and even two of her necklaces. In all I think we found about ten of her photographs. Each of these things will be cleaned up and, as needed, repaired so that she has them in her new, hopefully safer, home.

Her contractor struck us all as a very honest and forthright man. We don't have much choice but to trust him at the moment. My life demanded I return home this week and my mom and Susan are not even close to being normal again. They are lucky to already own a different plot of land a bit higher and further away from the river where they plan on rebuilding. It's a nice sized 4-acre lot that will be perfect for the small home and barn they plan on building. They were also fortunate to have a volunteer fire department that didn't forget their little street and instead warned them to evacuate just hours before the wave came through and scoured the earth of their homes. Thanks to the warning my mom was able to evacuate and take along her donkeys, dog, cat, chicken, and rooster. They are also extremely fortunate to have an amazing collection of friends.

At the top of Priddle Road, just across Burtonsville road, their friend has offered them shelter. Just down Burtonsville road their other friends E and J are stabling the donkey's and sheltering the chickens. E and her sister have also cleared the new home site on the new land so that the builder can start as soon as all of the red tape is cut. The builder, Marty, is eager to begin and seems totally unconcerned with the financial aspects of it. He reminds me of an old time drug store that provides in house credit to it's customers; just in this case on a much larger scale. Marty, along with input from my mom and Susan has designed a nice home that will be perfect for the two of them as they approach retirement. Hopefully, so long as the insurance company doesn't try to stiff them, the home will be paid for in full or nearly so when it is constructed. As overwhelmed as they have been by the events that swept away their home they have been equally overwhelmed by the kindness of their friends and strangers alike. In many ways it has helped to restore their faith in humanity.

It was with a heavy heart that I loaded my Jeep back up and left Esperance. I left on Tuesday of this week. My mom and Susan still had a shell shocked look on their face but, at least, they had begun the slow process of recovery. Schoharie county had even started, on Monday night, to repave Priddle Road. Their were tears in our eyes as I parted but we all I think felt a little bit of hope that things would eventually be alright. Sadly, the weather decided to smack the region in the mouth again. On Thursday Esperance was evacuated again as heavy rains were too much for the already sodden ground and full resovoir to contain and the city (and Priddle Road) all flooded again. The newly laid street was washed away and, for a while, my mom and Susan could not even get back to their temporary home on the farm because the main highway (Route 20) was shut down.

I have created a google map to help highlight the area and to give you a feel for the lay of the land. I have also set-up a page that people can use if they want to donate any money to my mom and Susan as they rebuild their lives.

Donate to my Mom

2 min read

Many of my families friends have been asking how they can help my mom (Bonnie Fewtrell) and her partner (Susan Iona) - what can they do? At the moment my Mom has nothing and, even if she acquired things, she would have nowhere to put them. Thus there are two ways I think you can help her.

  1. The first option is a more long term one. Remember her situation and then, when she does have a new home to live in, help her stock up on stuff she will need like pillows, dishes, pots + pans, etc. Pretend it's a wedding shower for a couple that truly has nothing.
  2. The second option is more blunt, you can donate money directly to her. I've setup a paypal account for her where she can receive funds. Use the button on this page to send her a donation. Any amount will help.

If she receives money she can't use she will share it with her ex-neighbors. Twenty houses on her street were completely destroyed so there are plenty of people here who need help.

My mom is actually pretty lucky. She, Susan, and their animals were all evacuated in advance. Plus, my mom also owns a small plot of land about 1 mile from her old home site that is much higher and nowhere near the Schoharie Creek (which turned into a raging river when she lost her home). Her plan is to build a new, small, house on this other piece of property. The rest of her neighbors either have to leave the community or attempt to rebuild in the flood plain.

If you send (or have sent) money via PayPal it may take a few days for her to accept it because she has to go through a bank account verification process with PayPal first.

Passage of Time 2011

1 min read

I have updated our passage of time page to reflect the year 2011. I still need to find some photos to fill in the gaps for Lisa and Myself between 2000-2003. This is always fun for me to look at. Shannon, with her much shorter hair and plumper cheeks, looks quite a bit different while Emily looks as if she has aged more than one year in these past 12 months. I've gained some hair on my scalp while losing it from my chin and Lisa's hair is both shorter and brighter - she has now kept her part to the left for two consecutive years after swinging it to the right for the three years prior; I guess she is happy with the change.

You can view the entire timeline at our passage of time page

Surprise - We're Going to Disney World

11 min read

Last week was Spring Break for the girls and Lisa and I had a wickedly fun plan to surprise them with a trip to Disney World. On Monday morning Lisa took the girls to Patti's house as she normally would if we were going to work and then she came back home where she and I worked on finishing the packing before we headed back over to get the girls.

When we got there Shannon was pretty confused. She wanted to know why we were there and we told her that since it was the first day of Spring Break that we had taken the afternoon off to have some fun with her and Emily. Emily suggested we go to Ritter park - so I asked if maybe she'd like to go to a larger park. Shannon said sure. I asked them if maybe they'd like to go to Disney World and Emily said "YES!" and Shannon said "Sure." I told Emily "OK, Let's go" and Emily started to hop around in excitement. Shannon very skeptically said again, "Sure, let's go to Disney World." I agreed with the idea again and old her I was serious, that we could go to Disney World that day. Shannon didn't believe me at all but Emily did and she was stoked. I ended up pulling our suitcases out and showing Shannon all of the stuff we packed before she seemed convinced.

From Patti's we went to Arby's for a light lunch and then the local, small, airport for a direct flight to Orlando Stanford Airport. It is a smaller airport about 45 minutes from Disney - but we had a car waiting on us and we went straight to our hotel, The Port Orleans. In the past we've always stayed at the All Star hotels - but we decided to upgrade our accommodations this time so that our bus rides to each park would be a bit shorter. Overall we were glad we did. The hotel was nice, the food was better than that at the All Star, and the bus ride was a lot shorter. Plus, the swimming pool looked really cool and had a neat water slide.

After we settled in we decided to head to the Magic Kingdom part of the park (the traditional Disney World) in order to get in some rides and enjoy one of the many parades. We stayed at the park until around midnight before we headed back to the hotel for some sleep. Everyone had a nice time and, I think, by this time Shannon was fully convinced. Our first full day, Tuesday, also took place at the Magic Kingdom.

We started Tuesday off by waiting to meet with Rapunzel - Emily's current favorite princess. The wait was pretty lengthy so while Lisa and Emily waited Shannon and I went to Tomorrowland and took in the Stich Experience which we knew Emily wouldn't like. Once that was done we headed back to Emily and Lisa for the Rapunzel experience. Rapunzel's bit lasted for about an hour because the girls were given a craft to do, then they danced with Rapunzel and her beau Flint Ryder. Finally they each got to have their picture taken with the pair. Rapunzel did a great job of playing the part but I have to say Flint did an even better job - he had the Flint Ryder smirk down pat. Their helpers also did a great job of keeping all of the kids engaged while they waited on their turn to have their photo taken. It was the most interactive experience they've had with a Disney character so far.

After the Rapunzel experience we walked around Fantasy Land and took in some rides like the teacups which Emily and Shanon both loved; especially since I was tasked with making the cup spin as fast as possible. We also made sure to go on the rest of Emily's favorite rides like "A Small World" and "Dumbo" it was great watching her have so much fun.

Four years ago, on our first trip to Disney World, I tricked Shannon into going on Space Mountain with my brother and his two kids. I was pretty worried about her and was not a good companion for the ride and I undoubtedly made the experience more stressful for her than it had to be. Earlier this school year, for English class, Shannon wrote a paper about how terrified she was on the ride but how she also had a lot of fun. With that in mind she decided she wanted to try out Space Mountain again so we got in line. However, just before we could get on the ride she backed out and decided against it.

A bit later that evening the four of us went on Thunder Mountain which is an outside roller coaster themed like an old train. Emily had been on it before but wasn't thrilled with going on it again on this trip but both she and Shannon enjoyed themselves. When we had finished I mentioned to Shannon that Space Mountain wasn't much different but that it was indoors and dark. She decided again to go on the ride and this time she didn't back out. Instead she had a blast and asked to go right back on it.

It was around 11:30pm and the park was mostly empty so we were able to go through the line without waiting. She was addicted to the ride and wanted to go on it again and again but, sadly, the park was closing so we couldn't do it more than twice. I was super proud of her for overcoming her fear and trying it again.

On Wednesday we went to Epcot Center. There we went on Mission: Earth which is a cool NASA simulation that sort of feels like you're taking off in a rocket and sling-shotting around the moon to Mars. It's pretty fun and Shannon, who had done it on our last trip, still really enjoyed it. A bit later we went to one of Emily's favorite rides "Finding Nemo" which has some pretty cool technology in it that makes the animated fish seem to be existing in the real world artifacts of the ride. I'm not sure how it works but it is cool and all four of us enjoyed it.

Before dinner we headed back to the hotel to spend some time in the pool. We had actually spent a little bit of time in it the day before but without Lisa. On Wednesday Lisa came to the pool too and the girls were able to show her how they could use the water slide. Shannon just learned how to basically swim last summer and Emily still can't. Thus, at the slide Shannon got the hang of it and was willing to slide off and submerse herself - a particularly cool trick considering her prior reluctance to put her head under water. Emily wasn't really ready to do the slide by herself so she would get to the top of the slide and call out my name and then give me a thumbs up. She wouldn't slide down until I returned the thumbs up signal. It was pretty cute.

That night we had dinner at a restaurant with Chip 'n Dale (Pluto and Mickey were there as well). It was a neat restaurant that rotates above one of the rides we had gone on earlier in the day. The girls really enjoyed the meal, the changing scenery, and the characters. After that we headed to Downtown Disney for some shopping and we finally made it back to the hotel by midnight. It was a great day but also exhausting so when we finally got back to the hotel we all fell into a deep sleep for a later wake up the next morning for a day at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Hollywood Studios is a more "adult" themed park with bigger rides and more "extreme" shows. Overally I think it was Emily's least favorite day with the exception of a neat magical experience that evening that had Mickey replaying his role as the Sorcerer's Apprentice. Honestly, I thought the show was bit disjointed but some of the effects in it were pretty cool. However, it was not the highlight of my day - instead Shannon turned the trip from a good one into a great one by opening my eyes.

Earlier in the day she had asked me about the Aerosmith Rockin Roller Coaster. I told her, based on part of my memory, that it was like a much faster Space Mountain. I didn't mention the loop-the-loop or the corkscrew. She decided she wanted to go on it so we headed over. There was a 70 minute line! In hopes that we could shortcut the line we went in the single-rider line where they separate groups and fill in empty seats. Our wait was still about 60 minutes but eventually we were put on the ride. We were actually in the same car but she was about 10 rows behind me. I was pretty worried about her but because we were so far apart I couldn't talk to her or really think about how she was doing - I just had to hold on and enjoy the ride.

I'm glad we were apart. I think, had I been with her, that I would have ruined the ride for her with my stress. Instead she thought it was the best ride ever. She loved it and wanted to go right back on it. She loved the loop-the-loop and thought going upside down was amazing. She couldn't have been happier and I was super proud of her. As we left the ride I asked her if she wanted to go on the Tower of Terror and she declined. It was at this point that we had to go to the big Mickey show so she had about an hour to contemplate the Tower. When the show ended she told me she did want to give the tower a try. I was a little surprised but I wasn't worried considering how well she handled the Rocking Roller Coaster so we hurried over and got in the empty line.

As we were getting in she said she was a little worried and I said, "don't be, the roller coaster is scarier than this" and I meant it. We rode up and then the drops began. We fell about five stories, bounced back up, fell again, zoomed up and down and up and down. After about five bounces she said she felt like she was going to get sick and I told her to hold on, we only had one bounce left. She smirked in disbelief but I was lucky and we only had one left - it was a big one though. She didn't get sick but she was glad it was over. I gave her five and we walked away from the ride where she decided she was swearing it off and wouldn't ride it again.

As we walked down the path, away from the ride, a mother was talking to her son telling him he could handle the Tower that the Rocking Roller Coaster was scarier. Shannon turned around and yelled, "NOT IT ISN'T! DON'T BELIEVE HER THIS IS MUCH WORSE!!" It was hilarious. Needless to say the boy did not get up to go on the ride.

From there we reconnected with Lisa and Emily, had our photo taken by the huge Mickey Sorcerers Hat, and then headed back to the hotel for some sleep before our flight home.

It was our best, and shortest, Disney trip yet. The lines were, generally, non-existent and the weather was perfect (mid 80s, sunny, and no-humidity). The girls both did things they had never done before, neither one of them was sick at all, and they will both remember this trip for years to come. It was awesome to see them both have so much fun. All in all it was a great surprise for their Spring Break and Shannon's 10th birthday. I'll post photo's as soon as I have a chance.

My Mice

1 min read



The girls took a small break at Disney World at the Hall of Presidents

On a picnic

1 min read


The girls and I had a nice picnic in the park today.

Ice Skating

1 min read

Over the christmas holiday we spent a little bit of time in Cleveland and the girls got to go Ice Skating. Shannon had been a couple times a few years ago but she always needed my help. This year she skated by herself without the help of anyone (or anything) and Emily managed to attack the ice thanks to a helpful "walker" device they let kids use. They both had a blast. Here are some videos of the two of them skating:

Zombie Emily

1 min read

This photo was taken at Emily's birthday party. She had just finished eating some cotton candy flavored ice cream; however, I have no idea why she looks so miserable.

You can click on the image to see a larger version.

Shannon Sculpted a Flower

1 min read


For Christmas Shannon received some sculpting clay and a book teaching her some sculpting techniques. Her first creation was this flower with a small worm on it.

Awesome isn't it?

Snow Day Redux

1 min read


Today brings our second snow day.  This one is seemingly more valid than the last.