Hurricane Rita

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that Hurricane Rita would touch our lives in California, but it has -- in a BIG way. Many of my family members live along the Gulf Coast in Texas and when news of Hurricane Rita's imminent arrival began to fill the airwaves, the reality of it all hit home. My youngest sister, Melody, and my Aunt Nola live in small towns in close proximity to Galveston, Texas. They were evacuated on 9-22. My aunt drove from Lake Jackson, where she and my uncle live, to Silsbee, where they own a second home. My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, along with my brother-in-law's parents, left Vidor and joined my aunt and uncle in Silsbee. The following day, they learned that Rita was heading straight for them, so they packed up and headed for higher ground in Jasper, Texas. With gas in such short supply, they drove until they had only a quarter tank of gas left and stopped to ride out the storm. I can only imagine being stuck in a house filled with 22 people, 8 dogs, and 2 cats, no power, no air conditioner in 100 degrees miserably humid weather, and wondering if I had a home to return to.

Thankfully, they were all able to get rooms at a LaQuinta Inn in Lufkin on Sunday evening. Unfortunately, news of the damages their towns sustained began to filter in to them. Lake Jackson, where my aunt lives, is fine; her home is intact and received no damage. Silsbee, where my aunt's second home -- the one she and my uncle bought for retirement -- and where my brother-in-law works, was hit fairly hard. My aunt's home received some damage, but nothing structural. The building next door to the business where my brother-in-law works was completely destroyed, and he has not been able to reach his boss to find out if he still has a job or not. Vidor, where my sister and her family and in-laws live, was devastated. My sister's mobile home now has a large oak tree in the front portion, while the back portion is literally gone with the wind. Her in-laws' back porch, shed, and greenhouses are gone -- literally blown off their property to who knows where. Their house, however, is okay except for some missing roof tiles. They have been told that nobody will be allowed to return to Vidor for at least three weeks and that power will not likely be restored to the town for a month or more.

When things begin to settle down, we will be running some more hurricane relief auctions. This time, though, the money raised will go to those who suffered losses from Rita. There are dozens of small towns through which Rita cut her swath of fury, yet we are not hearing anything about them on the network news. These towns sustained damages far greater than those in larger cities such as Houston, Beaumont, or Galveston, and their people need help in a big way.

Hurricane Katrina Relief Auctions

Like just about every other person in America who is not directly impacted by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, Ali and I felt compelled to do something to help. Thanks to the Ebay GivingWorks program, we are now able to run auctions where a portion of the winning bid will go to a charity of our choice. A compassionate Ebayer from Latvia used the Buy-It-Now option and purchased an Egyptian tabla (drum), the first auction for charity that we ran. Please, check out our store for other items designated for Hurricane Katrina relief and if you find something you want, buy it so that, together, we can assist in providing some much needed supplies to those who had very little and lost everything.

I've been busy taking pictures of some of the new hookahs that we recently unpacked and shelved. Most of the listings are running on eBay already, but here are links to a few of the more unusual ones: