Saturday, November 12, 2016

Birth of a Dream, Death of a Dream

I should write my blogs when they first come to mind because when I procrastinate, I forget all my good thoughts (or points if I'm on my soapbox). I just got back from a night of great food and shopping with a good friend so my mind is mush due to a food coma. But I will trudge through this and will try to portray my thoughts adequately.

Ok, so the whole week hasn't been about the birthing and painful death of dreams but for lack of a better title it is what it is. Where to begin? The birth...or the death of our nation's leadership- however you want to view it. I guess I'll start with the hot national topic and digress from there. Trump or Clinton? Who should've won? In my opinion neither of them should. Neither one represents good morals or values and the leadership of either person could (and may) be detrimental to the nation. But we were given the right and privilege to vote and we did. So, for the next four years, we have the president who the people elected into office. Not all people mind you but enough to call it good....or good enough. For those who didn't vote for Trump, I understand what you're feeling. I felt that way 8 years ago when Obama was elected into office. I was not happy (and am still not happy that he was the POTUS for 8 years) but I didn't protest. I didn't "unfriend" friends and family on social media because they did vote for him. Because here is the reality- we should not put all our hope and happiness in one human being. Trump will not make or break my life. I CHOOSE to be happy no matter who the president is. Yes, the president has a lot of national power and will do things that I don't agree with but I'm a big girl. I can handle it. The way I look at it is like this- if you can put up with Common Core and Obamacare, the rest is a piece of cake.

Let's take a break from politics for a minute to talk about ME. Yep, little ole me. I am having a tough time being a workin' mama. Don't get me wrong...I LOVE teaching and I love having a steady job outside of the house but I do miss being on my own schedule. I miss having my own agenda and having time to get it all done. I still haven't figured out this whole work/home life. My house is never clean to my satisfaction. I spend way too much time on the weekends doing laundry and trying to get prepared for the next week (lesson plans, grocery shopping, etc). And the worst part? I miss out on things at the boys' schools. Thankfully, Rob has been able to attend the things I've missed. He is good about taking pictures and videos so I don't feel I've completely missed out. Yesterday P had a Veteran's Day performance at school and I wanted to be on the front row, watching with pride. But I couldn't and it made me sad. I know he did well on his speaking part and sang his little heart out but watching the video of it wasn't the same. I promise that I will not blog about me missing out too much more because, between that and the flood, you probably think I don't have anything else to blog about. But I do.

This week was our personal "death of a dream" so to speak. I won't get into all the long, drawn out details, but we found out that, after nearly a month in escrow, the seller of "our" house canceled the sale. To say we are sad is an understatement. We love that house and I had already stocked our garage with "new" furniture for it. But the thing that gives me hope is that God is in control. I have a feeling that "our" house will still be ours. But if that feeling is wrong I know the Lord will provide a house in His time that we'll love even more.

The birth of what could be a young boy's dream happened this week. P started his second year of football. Rob is the coach and both of them love it! The first game didn't go so well but all the boys tried their best. We are hoping for more wins than losses (who isn't?) but I know one thing...those boys will put their heart into every game if the first game is any indication!

Well, there you have it. That should catch me up for a month or so (Ha, Rob!). I will try to blog before that but, with Thanksgiving, football season, photography, choir practice and family life my schedule gets pretty full. But I will try. Until then...dream big!!







Friday, October 21, 2016

Post Traumatic Flood Syndrome

Rob laughs, saying that I have started a pattern with blogging, writing time frames for things going on in our lives. But I feel that there's a definite "Before Flood" and "After Flood" time frame, at least for the time being. Today I passed the local shopping center and thought "It'd be so nice to pull in there and go shopping" but there's only one store that has re-opened since the flood. Kohls announced that their brand new store (Open for 9 mos.) was a total loss and they wouldn't be re-opening. The biggest adjustment, at least for E, is that Rouse's isn't close to re-opening. He asked me to drive by there yesterday to see what it looks like because that's his favorite place to go grocery shopping. Sadly, it was still gutted to the ceilings, which was discouraging. I understand that a lot of places suffered horrific loss but I want everything and everyone to just bounce back and I'm learning that that's not going to happen. It takes time and patience and money and patience and teamwork and patience. So, instead, I rejoice with every business that re-opens and every friend that is one step closer to getting their house back together.
E is a lot like the buildings. Before the flood he was thriving and adjusting well to his new "norm" (ie mama working and him going to preschool). After the flood he really struggled. He cried over every little thing and did not want me out of his sight. Every time it rained he fa-reaked out! He rarely slept through the night and was cranky as all get out. Now that our friends have moved back to their house, we are seeing some of the "ole" E resurface. He now sleeps through the night again (Hallelujah!) and just this week he has stopped crying when I drop him off at preschool. On Sunday he's going to attempt to go to his Sunday School class (at a different building from the main sanctuary).
Like everything concerning the flood, it's baby steps. It's baby steps to rebuilding life as we knew it before the flood. But every baby step is a reason to celebrate. So we celebrate that Moe's (our free burrito place) will be re-opening soon and that the sporting good store will be re-opening next month. And we celebrate that E is making strides in overcoming his post traumatic flood syndrome. (I have no doubt it's a real thing.) Thank you, Jesus, for the baby steps....and keep 'em coming!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Difference of a Week

Last week at this time I was 40yrs old. Last week at this time we had a houseful of people. Last week at this time we were renters. Last week at this time, E would cry when I took him to preschool. Ah, what a difference 7 days can make.
This week my birthday slipped by without much pomp and circumstance. But I felt loved nonetheless. Between FB, texts, phone calls, cards, my students and gifts there was no doubt in my mind that I am blessed to be loved by so many family and friends. Birthdays have always been special because, to me, it's a day to count my blessings. It's a day to be thankful for all that God has blessed me with during my life. It's a day to realize just how loved I truly am. It's a day that is special no matter if I celebrate with a big party or just my boys. It's a day full of blessings and love!
Monday, after 2 months and 1 day, our houseguests were able to move back into their house. The kids are having withdrawals. Whenever the boys are home, they want to be at our friends' house or their kids want to be at our house. Rob and I were laughing because, after living with us for 2 months, this became "home" to them so they just walk in without knocking. Not that it bothers us. I'm thankful that they became so comfortable in our home. Bedtime has become easier though. E only woke me up 1 night this week, making it the most sleep I've gotten on a consistent basis since the flood. The boys are also sleeping in later, which gives me time to do my devotions and take a shower before the chaos of the morning ensues. E enjoys coming home after preschool and just playing by himself in his room. He's always been our introvert so I think the quiet has helped him take steps to overcome his Post Traumatic Flood Syndrome.
Sometime, earlier this year, I decided that, even though I am not a huge fan of Louisiana, I am a huge fan of all that it encompasses. It has been the place where my life has been the worst and the best. It has been the place where I have truly learned about myself and have accepted my flaws/imperfections as well as my strengths. It has been a place where our marriage was nearly broken into a million places before becoming the strongest it has ever been. So, sometime in late Spring/early Summer, I decided that I'd like to be more settled here by buying a house. Rob and I talked about it and prayed about it but decided to wait until after the boys and I got back from Cali before we seriously started looking. Within 2 weeks of being back the flood hit, sending the real estate market into a tailspin in this area. I won't go into all the drama, headache and heartache that went into finding a house that not only met our needs but our wants. But I am thankful to report that, after looking at dozens of houses, the Lord, as always, provided just the perfect one for us. Earlier this week we found out that our offer had been accepted on a beautiful lake front house. It already passed inspection and the ball is rolling on making it our home. Hopefully we'll be in it sometime around Thanksgiving but it's contingent on the seller's new house being built. Either way we are thankful that we waited because the house I really wanted to put an offer on earlier this Summer got 3 1/2 feet of water during the flood! This house, our new home, didn't even get water near it despite being on a lake. God provided and protected us once again!
Last week at this time, E would cry and cling to me every time I took him to preschool. We prayed that he would adjust but I feared it'd take awhile like it did with his older brother. Thankfully our prayers were answered, and on Wednesday, he stopped the drop off crying. By Friday he acted as if he could care less that I had dropped him off. He still asks every morning if it's a school day but he doesn't cry and that's progress. Like I said earlier, he is making progress on getting over all the flood stuff and that's a great thing.
So, in the past week, a lot has happened. A lot of good has happened and it just makes us realize how truly blessed we are in life!






Monday, September 19, 2016

5 Weeks

5 weeks ago the water receded. 5 weeks ago people began to access the damage. 5 weeks ago strangers became like family. 5 weeks ago debris piles began to grow. 5 weeks ago people began feeling overwhelmed.
I'm tired. I'm tired of debris piles littering the parish, wondering when the "claw" will pick up the trash. I'm tired of seeing small businesses close because it'll cost too much to rebuild. I'm tired of crying when I hear flood stories. I'm tired of my back hurting from painting, mopping, cleaning windows and clearing debris at the church/school. I'm tired of life being in disarray. I'm tired of the smell. I'm tired of the traffic because of flood related issues. I'm tired of not being able to go to any store I want or stopping by Starbucks for a much needed caffeine treat. I'm tired of driving into BR if I need to do a bank transaction.
What I'm not tired of is having an unfinished church. Man alive, I have felt the Lord's presence more than I think I ever have during the last few church services. I love how we, as a church body, have been forced to go back to the basics. No fancy sound system. No soft pews. No plush carpet. No walls even for a few weeks. No distractions. I'm not tired of strangers reaching out to help. I'm not tired of my friends calling and asking how they can help. I'm not tired of the strong sense of community. I'm not tired of being proud of my family. P started back to school last week and handled it like a champ. E is still (in my opinion) dealing with PTSD and will not let me out of his sight for more than 5 minutes. So he came with me to do manual labor at the church and school last week. He worked for 4 1/2 hours a day- mopping, sweeping, throwing away debris, painting, cleaning windows, emptying buckets, etc and he only complained twice because he was understandably tired. Rob continues to sacrifice and help others in need, but more on the emotional level (yes, you read that correctly) than the manual labor level. I'll never get tired of being proud of all that my family does and gives to help others.
Today, 5 weeks after the water receded, life seemed normal- or as normal as it can be at this time-because E and I started back to school. He had a rough time, like I knew he would, but he had given me a Paw Patrol sticker as I walked him to class. I wore it on my hand and prayed for him every time I looked at it. He's well loved at preschool and lots of teachers watch out for him so I'm not worried about him. I think it's good that we're all somewhat back in a routine.
A year from now I hope I can blog that life is completely back to normal and that businesses are thriving. I hope I can blog that I still get moved by the Lord's presence as much as I have been lately. I hope I can blog that Rouses is up and running again because poor E asks me on a daily basis when it'll be open so he can make sure "his" baby cart didn't float away. I hope I can blog that I still feel a sense of community like I've experienced in the past 5 weeks.
A year from now life will be different but for the past 5 weeks it's looked like this:

Standing in front of our neighbor's debris pile wearing a shirt I had won right after the flood

3 weeks after the flood, still abandoned on the main road in DS

A middle school that lost everything

The brown is the water line from the flood

A month after the flood this boat is still sitting in the middle of someone's field


Me and a co-worker spraying for mold at the church

Clearing out debris at the school


We are blessed that this sweet lady is in our lives and watches out for E while he's in preschool.

Only 2 of the piles that sat in front of our church until this past Saturday when the "claw" finally took it away.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Pre-Flood

It's hard to imagine what life was like before the Louisiana Flood of 2016. But I know that the day the flood started was a day I was going to blog about some exciting things that had happened prior to water consuming our lives.
One exciting thing is that the boys and I all started school. For P it was just a new grade. He shed a few tears the first day of school but decided that he liked his new teacher and was happy that one of his neighbor friends is in the same class. For E, it was a whole new world. He started preschool! He loved the first day, walked in like a boss. His favorite part of the day was lunch and talked about the delicious chicken he had several times after I picked him up. He's only going for 4 1/2 hours a day~ long enough to develop social skills, learn academic skills that he's lacking, play with new friends and eat a delicious lunch. For me it was a whole new world as well. I started teaching high school (yes, you read that right). I teach junior high Science and high school History classes. It's definitely a change but I love the school and the students! I only teach 4 classes a day, which is just enough to get me used to my whole new world. We only had a week of school to adjust to our new "norm" before another new "norm" was introduced in the form of a flood that devastated our parish (county for everyone who lives outside of LA).
The most exciting thing that happened is that P decided to publicly profess his faith by getting baptized! He had been talking to us about it for several months, asking questions and growing in his young faith. After talking to our pastor and children's church pastor, we gave him the decision on when he'd like to be baptized. He was baptized on August 7th in front of family and friends. What a joyous occasion it was!
So, despite all the tragedy and heartache, there have been some exciting things going on as well. During this difficult time, it's nice to look back on the "Before the Flood" days, knowing that the happy days are going to happen again in the near future!



Friday, August 19, 2016

A Week

A week. 7 days. 168 hours. 10,080 minutes. For some, it's a blink of an eye. For other it's a lifetime. Here's what I've been through in this amount of time: A historic, once in 1,000 year flood. A week...It's long enough to sit in fear, watching the water level rise in front and in back of our house, praying that you'll be spared. It's long enough to survive the flood while 90% of our town didn't (105,000 our of 134,000 people have complete loss because of the flood). It's long enough for a family of 6 to move into your house, becoming more like family than neighbors. It's long enough to acquire "Survivor's Guilt"....why was our house the one that set the trend for the rest of our street not to be flooded? Why did our next door neighbor's house get an inch of standing water but only a square foot of carpet got wet in our house? Why did so many of our friends lose everything (including their cars)? Why are we getting as much for Rob's truck as most people are getting to rebuild their entire house? It's long enough for our 3 year old to be fearful of rain, to come crawl into bed with us every night and not want us out of his sight. It's long enough to feel physical and mental fatigue. It's long enough to wonder if you'll ever see your mail delivered again. It's long enough to forget days and only remember moments.
Surviving something this catastrophic is personal, private, something you can only share with the people who survived it with you. I tell people about the flood. I post pictures of it. But I don't let people in on everything. I can't. That's reserved for people who holed up in their houses, watching the flood waters rise; for people who walked into their homes after the water receded, holding their breath as they took in the damage; for people who waited in line at Walmart for supplies only to find out that the store is closing earlier than expected or that the supplies you need are not available; for people who have lost phone service and can't fill out the FEMA paperwork because of it; for people who only have the clothes on their back as their only possession; for people who got in a boat, wondering when they'd ever see their house again; for those who have to plug their nose to keep from gagging from the after smell of their house; for those who have so many tears but can't shed them because they are overwhelmed.
I will share the moments, the things that have defined this past week for so many people in Livingston Parish. Last Friday we went to bed, praying for our friends, praying that the rain was done. Saturday we hung around the house since my car couldn't make it through the standing water. In hindsight I wish I would've slept all day Saturday but instead we watched the flood coverage, thankful that it wasn't near us. Saturday night we went to bed only to be woken up two hours later to our neighbor pounding on the door, telling us to prepare for the flood water that had seeped into our subdivision. For 7 hours we put things up high to save them, watching the flood water inch closer to our house. It's ironic what, at the time, I found valuable enough to worry about (bread maker??? DVDs????). We lifted my hope chest up on our bed, the boys' toybox onto the guest bed. We put photo albums up on the tallest cupboards in our house, knowing that we couldn't replace those pictures from our younger years. After everything was up high we sat...and waited....and prayed....and feared for the worst....and talked about a game plan for evacuating. It's funny that, when I lived out West and would watch the news media of a hurricane I'd think "They knew it was coming. Why wouldn't they evacuate?" Now I know. You don't evacuate because you don't know where you'll end up. You don't know when you'll see your house again. Sometime during the day Sunday our neighbors moved in with us. Their house was filling up with water and, with 4 young kids and family members flooded worse than them, they had nowhere to go. We welcomed them with open arms and are blessed to have them living with us at the moment. By the time we went to bed Sunday night we knew, unless something crazy happened, that we had been spared. We moved furniture back in placed, put photo albums back on the bookshelves and put mattresses down for our new house guests. I can't remember much about Monday other than borrowing our neighbor's Hummer to get to the store. We were all craving a Coke and didn't have any in stock. I was almost to the point that I would've paid $100 just for a sip of one. Crazy what you miss when you can't have it. Rob was finally able to get to the store later in the afternoon (with our neighbor's Hummer) and stood in line for 40 minutes while Walmart only let in 5 people at a time just to bring us home a case of Coke. Another thing I remember is the spiders. I have never in my life seen so many spiders! Every time you open a door about 10 of them come in the house. Tuesday morning Rob was able to get to work but I had to pick up my Highlander where he had parked it. Our neighbor needed to get tubs to store what could be salvaged so he took me to get my car. I can't begin to describe the devastation that we saw. It looked like the End Times. A fire truck stranded in the middle of an intersection. A military vehicle on its side in a ditch. Store fronts shattered with merchandise exposed and in abnormal positions. It wasn't until Wednesday that life seemed to return to "normal", whatever that means. The kids and I were able to get out of the house without complications. I was able to get to the one Walmart in the general vicinity that is open. We were able to get Pizza Hut for dinner.
But the new "normal" includes our friends gutting their houses and starting to rebuild, businesses posting on FB that they can't recover from the flood and will close their doors permanently, not being able to shop for things easily, wondering if the gas station you're filling up at got water in its tanks, seeing FB posts for volunteers to help pull carpet and remove furniture from the church. The new "normal" also includes a sense of community like I've never been a part of before. It includes people helping each other before they help themselves. It includes countless hours of giving yourself. It includes a bond that is indescribable.
I praise the Lord that we were spared. I praise Him that we have the resources to help others. I praise Him that we never had to go to a shelter. I praise Him that we are able to be servants to so many during this difficult time. If you'd like to help please contact me in a comment below or via text/FB (if you have access to that info) and I'd love to tell you how you can bless someone's life during this difficult time. One thing is for sure...Louisianans are resilient and will come back stronger because that's who they are!

Our church foyer after the water receded

Military rescue truck coming through our neighborhood

Our neighbor's house which took on 10" of water

View from our front door most of Sunday

How we gauged the water level, knowing if it got past 6" we would get water in the house

Our church Friday before the real flood happened
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Pictures taken in the community (I don't know who to give photo credit to because they were compiled on FB):

A local pizza place that the boys had eaten lunch at just a couple weeks ago

A local church (and no, that is not a lake)

Range, where we spend so much time

Sonic

The main exit for Denham Springs

Ariel view of Range

Bass Pro



Saturday, August 13, 2016

#lousianaflood2016

Yesterday I woke up, excited to know school had been cancelled, knowing I'd get to spend the day with the boys. Last night, I went to bed, exhausted, emotionally drained but so thankful for the "little" things in life. Because yesterday there was a historic flood that overpowered SE Louisiana. Because yesterday I saw something live and in person that I could never wrap my head around just by watching it on TV. Because I was part of a church family that helped those who could not help themselves. Because our boys ministered to people more with their young lives than most adults could do. Because we lost some but not as much as so many others. Because we were able to help when no one else could. Because we saw mass destruction that the media will never be able to get you to understand with news broadcasts and interviews. Because friends were stranded and had no idea what to save first. Because my husband was "Superman". Because we were a team.
When waters started to rise, Rob got antsy. He wanted to help. So we got in his truck and headed to one of our church family's house who was starting to take in water. Along the way I was floored by the amount of water already seeping into homes. After meeting up with another church family who had loaded their SUV with sandbags, we put them around the base of the doors, hoping and praying it'd help. Then we got a call that my co-worker, a single mom who has 2 teenage daughters (who are my students) and a young son, was taking in water. She is strong and didn't want help but that didn't stop us with meeting up with 2 more families and heading her way. Rob and another guy unloaded the flat bottom boat that we had brought and filled it with sandbags. After some unnecessary drama (some drunk guy tried to get in Rob's truck to fight him for "pushing water into his house"), Rob and our friend Scott were able to sandbag my co-worker's house. From there we reconvened to see who needed help next because, at that point, so many people were asking for sandbags. We decided to help our children church's pastor and his family. He had been so busy helping another church family  that he didn't realize that the water was too close to his house until it was too late. A group of men pulled the boat full of sandbags to his house and then we were going to call it a day because of the mandatory curfew that was quickly approaching. Just as we were loading up the boat and getting ready to head home, our pastor called and asked if we could come get him and take him to the church to sandbag because we were the only ones with a big enough truck. Long story short, we did what we could. On our second trip back we took a route around the church that would be our demise. Rob's truck, which had handled so much all day long, couldn't withstand the rising water. Thankfully, we were able to pull it to dry land but not before it had been 3/4th submerged under water. As sad as we were at the loss of his beloved truck, we know it could be so much worse. We are still in our house. We slept in our own beds last night. We enjoyed a hot breakfast this morning. We have running hot water. But, most importantly, we are alive!
Here are some things that stick out to me about yesterday:
* Seeing a guy wade through waist deep water, carrying his dog to a boat.
* People paddling boats and canoes to houses to help with sandbags.
* Rob and several men wading through deep water to help people.
* Me wading through chest deep sewage water without thinking about what I was walking in.
* Watching Rob's truck being "towed" by a bus onto dry land.
* A group of men piled in the back of a pick up, riding together, to help.
* Being so incredibly, bone chilling cold. In Louisiana. In August
* The boys NEVER complaining despite being tired and not eating more than a bag of chips since breakfast.
* P eager to help, lugging a sand bag to his dad's truck, knowing he was part of a team.
* The water quickly rising in Rob's truck while we tried to save what we could and get to safety.
* 4 families working together, forming a team, organizing ways to help people in need.

And the thing I hope I never forget happened at the end of a very long day......P happily sat in our friend's pick up, singing a praise song at the top of his lungs, knowing that there was still so much to be thankful for.