On September 11, 2018, we heeded the county's mandatory evacuation orders and headed west from our home along Raymond's Gut which flows into the White Oak River just three miles upriver from Swansboro, North Carolina. The garage of our house is just twenty-five feet from the water but we have never suffered water damage from a storm, even Category 3 Hurricane Irene. We have been living here on the Crystal Coast mostly fulltime since 2006 and there isn't much in the years since then that has not been documented by my articles in one place or another.
We managed to get back to the coast after Florence on September 19, just before river flooding closed Highway 70 which was the last direct route open to our home. My article about Florence has a link to some of the devastation that we have seen.
Getting ready for a hurricane is a lot of work and undoing those preparations is even more work especially if you throw in some hurricane cleanup work. We had just a tiny amount of cosmetic damage compared to people living closer to the shore. Florence blew so hard that it stripped many trees of their leaves. Bradford pear trees have started blooming again just like it is spring. As a measure of how much damage was sustained in other places, as October arrived, I saw pictures of homes in Myrtle beach still flooded and Onslow County which is adjacent to Carteret County where we live is canceling classes for another week. The children will easily be out of school for a month. Our lives are back to normal but many people are starting from square one including several people from our church who will be displaced from their homes for months.
On top of Florence, no matter what your political opinion, we have seen our politics sink to the lowest level in my memory. I have been searching for some good news, something to hang on to until we get through this period where it seems there is a complete lack of humanity at the highest levels of our country. The last election started at a convention where people thought it was completely acceptable to chant "Lock her up." I could only think, my God what has our country become? Of course, it has gotten worse with children in tent detention camps and political rallies making fun of a sexual assault survivor since then so I have to start thinking about other things until we have a sign that the great goodness in the people of America has become aroused and is bringing us back on course. I will continue to stand by the truth and those who believe that the truth will set us free.
The twin emotional disasters of Florence and US politics have gotten me thinking about the need to simplify our lives. We long ago gave up worrying about keeping up with the proverbial Jones. My boat is eleven years old and both our cars are thirteen years old, but we live in a wonderful home filled with memories that we have collected from our parent's lives and our own. When we evacuated for Florence, the most important memories had to fit in my wife's car along with the contents of our freezer. It forced us to think about what it would be like to live without those memories that are often attached to a piece of furniture, a rug, a piece of paper, some artwork, or even dishes.
Many of our pictures and documents have been living in the cloud for years. Still, if there had been nothing when we came back, I would have missed my memory desk where I keep things that have been an important part of my life. Everything is there from a bronzed baby shoe of mine and a wooden block that was a toy of mine to my first good camera. While I would miss it, Florence taught me that I could live without it.
This past week, I pulled the plug on one of my four websites. It will go dark in early November. I have the content in other places so it will be just part of simplifying life. By spring, I plan to be down to one website which is easy to maintain. In early September I also decided that my electronic life had gotten too complicated. No matter what I did Verizon seemed to find a way to charge me for more data than I thought I was using. I moved to a new phone, one of last year's Google Pixel 2 XLs. We also signed to Google's phone service, Project FI which operates a little differently and has better reception in my location than either Verizon or AT&T. I am also discontinuing services like Evernote, MightyText, and AirDroid that I am learning to live without. I have decided that Microsoft Excel, Word, and Powerpoint have no business on my phone. I long ago kicked Facebook off my phone. I already spend too much time in front of a computer without trying to read a spreadsheet on a smartphone, even one with a large screen.
Switching to Project FI might be the one bit of good news since we discovered our home was undamaged. Just like a cable bill that always gets higher no matter what you do, our Verizon bill for one smartphone and one flip phone had edged its way back up to $98 monthly. Our Project FI bill for two smartphones looks like it will be around $30 per month cheaper. This month it is even cheaper, Google gave us a disaster credit of $20 per line. Our total bill was $20.14. Project FI uses multiple carriers so it is a different model which might someday free everyone from cell phone tyranny. I might explore that in my next post.