Saturday, September 30, 2017

Parenthood

Some things are not for the faint of heart. Parenting ranks up there as #1. From the minute you bring a child into the world, you begin to worry. About big things like being kidnapped. About little things like eating healthy. I tend to take it to the extreme and worry about EVERYTHING. I worry about their future as adults, how strong of a Christian they will be as they grow older, the music and TV shows they are exposed to, conversations they overhear, getting enough sleep, fitting in at school/church, their future spouse, not getting enough exercise, being well rounded (so I make sure to fit in enough books and crafts to balance out the sports), being hard workers, what occupation they will choose as adults, even what college they will attend. But my latest worry is something that stems from my childhood. I now worry about people liking E better than P. Adults like P. He has a large vocabulary and loves to talk. He is compassionate and is eager to help because he knows it will please people. However, I have noticed that kids are not overly eager to play with him. He is not the first kid his peer invite to a party or ask to participate in their game. Don't misread this. He gets invited to do things and plays with kids his age. It's just that kids his age tend to gravitate toward E when both of the boys are together. In fact, E has become kind of the school mascot where I teach/he goes to preschool. People at the school LOVES when he walks into the room. The ironic thing is that E could care less if people like him or talk to him. He doesn't try even half as hard as P does to make friends. But he is quick witted and people find him to be hilarious. He is a natural athlete and, because he has an older brother, he tends to learn things faster than his kids age (except the reading and writing stuff). He is strong willed and will stand up to people if he doesn't agree, whereas P will change his mind just to make someone happy.
Basically P is me and E is like my brother when we were growing up. After elementary school, I became known as Josh's sister. As we got older, even though I was 3 grades ahead of him, it got worse. My brother was the one everyone gravitated toward and I was more like P- tried too hard, could be a little dramatic, was bossy and wanted to make the rules when we played. So, as much as I take pride in P being so much like me in so many areas of life, this one thing makes me worry. I know how it feels to be the oldest sibling, being made to take the backseat. I hope all this worrying proves to be pointless. I pray that both boys are liked and respected for their individual talents/personalities with their groups of friends, strangers and adults in their lives. Because once that happens, then I can begin to worry about something else in their lives.
Ah, the never ending life of a parent!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Victims

It's been awhile since I've gotten up on my soapbox and I am hot about an issue today so here it goes....
Recently Taylor Swift was in the news for suing a radio host for inappropriately touching/groping her while she was doing a broadcast for his show. According to the media, she did not acknowledge it right after it happened and chose to keep the incident out of the spotlight. She did, however, bring it to the station's attention after the incident. The radio host then sued Swift for trying to get him fired, which then caused her to countersue because of it. As I read the article, I was glad that she stood up for herself and other women that have been in that type of situation. I thought most everyone would applaud her for her actions...until I came across someone who didn't.
This person basically said she was doing it for media hype and she should have dealt with it when it first happened. Unless you are in that type of situation, you never know how you will react. I had a similar situation happen to me in high school with a teacher. When it happened, I didn't speak up. At first I was embarrassed, thinking I had done something to bring it on. When it was done a second time I got angry because I felt like the teacher thought I'd become the "silent victim". Thankfully I had/have parents who are very supportive of me. I told them what happened and they immediately brought it to the school principal. Soon other female students were telling stories about similar situations with that same teacher. My parents never told me all the details of what happened (Of if they did I blocked it out because that's not a fond memory) but I know the teacher did not finish the year at that school. And because of that, I felt safe again.
I am tired of female victims being told how they should deal with sexual harassment or being told that the only reason they are talking about it is because they want attention. Who wants that kind of attention? The fact that Taylor Swift only asked for $1 in that lawsuit proved that she was doing it out of principle and not to gain a monetary win. In my opinion, more women need to speak up for themselves. Victims don't need to be victimized any more than they already are because of the situation. Speaking solely from my situation, sexual harassment is humiliating and you just want it to go away. But, sometimes, speaking up is the only way to right a wrong. So I stand behind Taylor Swift's case and am glad that she had the COURAGE to bring to light the situation, to face the media about it and to be a voice against sexual harassment!
*Stepping off the soapbox...drained.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Never Ending Harvey

Other than a few special birthdays we celebrate in August (Shout out to my brother who is celebrating his tomorrow!), I am beginning to hate the month of August. It started last year with the flood and solidified it this year with Harvey. Whereas we have not directly been affected by the hurricane, it's still painful to watch. Today it's making its third AND FINAL landfall. I am relieved. It was beginning to get a little too close for comfort. When it went back out to the Gulf a couple days ago and forecasters hinted that it was going to hook East when it made landfall, I was nervous. Emotions from last year at this time began to resurface. E woke me up last night because he had a nightmare that our house was flooding. We are all feeling it.
But, despite the horrific life-threatening flooding that is happening along Texas and SW Louisiana, people are once again coming together to show what makes Southerners so special. Common citizens from all over are banding together in a time of need. They are breaking the color barriers that the media tries to hype up. People are burning their vacation hours at work to make a trip to the South to help anywhere it's needed. People of all ages are already starting to collect money and items to send to parts of Texas.
Rob is one of those people who has given selflessly. One of the things I love about him is that he doesn't hesitate to step up to the plate to help perfect strangers. It doesn't matter if it's someone stranded on the side of the highway with a flat tire or an elderly lady trying to pump gas at the gas station. He helps without hesitation. Hurricane Harvey has been no exception. Monday morning, despite injuring his back over the weekend, he felt burdened to help rescue people in need in Texas. He coordinated with a friend who had a boat and he headed out. When he got to his friend's house, the guy's neighbor came over and handed them a substantial amount of money, not wanting anything to come out of their pockets. He couldn't go help personally but he wanted to contribute financially. That's how people do it in the South, give what they can, any way they can. It's the way of life here.
According to Rob, Monday was just organized chaos. He kept being told to go to different places and he spent the day wasting gas and time. He did help load up supplies in his truck but he was pretty discouraged when he got back to his friend's house Monday night. Yesterday he got up and headed for Texas. He and his friend were almost to Houston when it was announced that SW LA would be getting hit hard when Harvey made landfall again. His friend, not having been through this type of storm before, decided he wanted to get back home in case his house was in the line of fire, so to speak. So, when it was all said and done, Rob didn't have a chance to rescue anyone, which didn't bode well with him. That's not his MO. He didn't leave the house Monday morning with the intent of driving around and not coming in contact with those in need.
He is still hoping that someone will call him and ask him to help. He is on the phone constantly, listening to the Cajun Navy walkie talkie app, trying to find a way to help. There's an expression that people have "a heart the size of Texas." Well, Texas needs all the heart they can get. They are not out of the woods by a long shot. In fact, they are only just beginning to feel the impact of Harvey.
If you feel the need to help, I ask that you do NOT donate to the Red Cross. I won't go into why but just trust me on this. Instead, find a non-profit (church or school or....) that will use the donations directly. If you want to donate items directly instead of money, some good things to donate are bottles of bleach, plastic storage tubs, garbage bags, rubber gloves, non-perishable food, baby formula and DIAPERS, bottled water, soap. Those are needed way more than clothes or stuffed animals at this point and anything is appreciated.
Hopefully next August I will blog about what a beautiful month it's been, one void of any life threatening storm. Until then  please pray for Texas as they have a long and seemingly endless road ahead of them.

In Nome, TX, on their way to Katy/Sugarland, TX


Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Year Later....

I would love to tell you that after the flood water completely receded that life got back to normal. And I guess in a way it did. It became the new normal. Everyone now speaks in "before the flood..." and "after/since the flood...". It's become a defining time in our community's timeline.
E dealt with PTSD for several weeks after the flood and wouldn't let me or Rob out of his sight. He cried every time we turned down the road where Rob's truck flooded. Our insurance company was more than fair in their settlement for Rob's truck. He was able to use the money to buy a "new" truck. Our neighbors' "few days" stay lasted two months. Their house is still not completely finished but it's getting there. I ended up going back to work 5 weeks after the flood and the school year was altered to make up for lost time. We qualified for D-SNAP (a disaster food assistance program) and our church was inundated with donations so we never went without. While many struggled because they had lost so much, the Lord graciously blessed us so we were able to donate money, furniture, plastic tubs, food, mold spray and ~most importantly~ our time to help so many in need.

A year later the community is still in repair. I read somewhere that, after a natural disaster of the flood's magnitude, it takes up to two years to fully recover. I believe it. We have gotten used to not having all the conveniences we previously had. Within the past year, businesses have closed their doors and walked away completely (Baskin-Robbins, Pretend Play, Popeyes). Other businesses took months to repair and reopen their business (Starbucks, Walmart, Big Mikes). Some are still abandoned and yet to be determined whether they will reopen (Wendy's, Subway). And yet some businesses have been torn down and new ones are taking the place of the old business (Western Store, Shell gas station, Winn Dixie). The same can be said about homeowners. FEMA trailers can be seen in almost every neighborhood. Debris piles still sit, waiting to be picked up. Sadly, the flood left a lot of trash behind that has yet to be picked up.
But, after seeing how strong the community came together (Cajun Navy, anyone??) I have no doubt that it will be rebuilt better than ever. It may take more time, but I am excited for what the future holds for DS! It's been a long year but it's also been a year of growth and strength. One that has made me appreciate a place I barely liked for the first two years here. And I won't forget to give God the glory for it all!
Here are pictures that were taken this past weekend so they are about as recent as you can get:


























Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Great Flood of 2016 Finale

The water had receded enough so Rob used my car to get to work, with the intent that I would come pick it up later to run errands. I guess in the back of my mind I still couldn't grasp all that had taken place the past 4 days. Our neighbor had a truck similar to Rob's so he said he would take me to get my car. Then he naively thought he could go get plastic tubs to store their belongings. (More about that on tomorrow's blog.)
As soon as we got to the main road, outside of our subdivision, I saw a car stranded in the middle of the road where it had unsuccessfully attempted to drive through a flooded roadway. When we got to the freeway, I thought "This isn't too bad." There weren't stranded cars and, other than a lack of vehicles on the road, it looked like a normal Tuesday morning. But it wasn't.
What should have been a 10 minute drive to Rob's office took close to 2 hours. Roads were closed. Police were out in full force, blocking roads that were unsafe, protecting businesses from looters. In the two hours it took to get to our destination I saw what I imagine the Apocolypse to look like. As silly as this may seem, one of my major regrets during that horrific weekend was not taking more pictures. I wish I would have grabbed my camera before leaving the house to document what I saw.
My neighbor and I had to take surface roads to get to my car once we took the freeway exit. I saw homes with garages that were a mangled mess due to how fast the water was flowing. I saw cars stalled out in the middle of the road. I saw brown residue on the side of houses from the flood waters. I saw a military type vehicle on its side in a ditch. The closer we got to my car (which was at the heart of our town) the more devastation I saw. I can't begin to tell you how many boats were stranded on lawns, tied to lampposts, upside down. Store front windows were shattered from the force of the water. And then something I doubt I will forget....A firetruck that looked like it had been completely submerged. Its hoses unraveled and lying on the ground, lifeless. To me, firemen are invincible so to see that stranded fire truck was what it took to solidify the devastation of it all.
The scene brought me to tears. My neighbor and I drove in silence as we took it all in. By the time we finally got to my car I was a basketcase. I sat in my car and let all that had taken place since Thursday night sink in. I cried for friends who had lost all their Earthly belongings. I cried for friends who had to figure out where they would live while they rebuilt their life. I cried for our beautiful church that was no longer beautiful. I cried for my job as I had received a text from my boss, stating that he didn't know if we had our jobs due to our school flooding. I cried for the uncertainty of the future. I also took the time to thank the Lord from sparing us from flooding. I thanked Him for His protection over us. I thanked Him that He used us to be a blessing to others. I just sat in my car for what seemed like hours, not wanting to go back out on the roads, not wanting to see the devastation.
But I did. I went to the one local Walmart that was open. I waited in line outside the store while only a few people were let in at a time. When I got in the store, I breathed a sigh of relief, finally seeing something that looked normal.
The flood was an event that will stay in people's minds for years to come. People who flooded will probably never forget. I would like to say that, a year later, things are back to the way they were pre- flood but you'll have to read tomorrow's blog to see what has taken place in this past year here in our little parish. Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Great Flood of 2016 (Part V)

....but I didn't take in the reality that, after the water receded, there was the aftermath to deal with. I woke up the next morning feeling claustrophobic. Not because we were now a "family" of 10 in a 1700 sq ft home (6 of whom were under 8 years old). But because I felt trapped. To look out the window, at the sun shining, it looked like a normal Southern day. Kids were out playing, the roads were dry. But what the naked eye didn't show were the streets out on the main roads that were still flooded. You couldn't see the washed out parts of the road. You couldn't see the police blocking roads, not letting residents get by. You couldn't look out your window to see the inside of your neighbor's house, to see the devastation that took place 24 hours ago.
Our neighbors (along with Rob) got started on clearing out the flooded debris and gutting the house immediately. If I went over and saw it before the work started, I don't remember it. I did go in at some point during the day and saw sheetrock pulled halfway up the wall. Appliances sitting out in the driveway. Furniture all over and fans going, trying to keep the mold at bay.
That morning I also saw the devastation on a broader scope. You see I would've given just about anything for a Coke at that point. None of the neighbors had any (or so they said). But one of our neighbors graciously let us use his Hummer to get to the store. I volunteered to go because I needed some alone time, some time to process what had happened and our new norm. I got out of the subdivision without a problem and headed down the road to what looked like a ghost town. Stores were shut down. All stores. Even the ones that hadn't flooded. So, after driving a couple miles, I turned around and went back toward Walmart because I had heard it hadn't flooded.
That's when I came across the washed out roads. I was told it was dangerous to cross the road I needed to go across and, in hindsight, it was stupid of me to do it. But I wanted to see that some places had survived, that some stores were open. So I drove down the road with caution and, PTL, I made it safely to the main intersection. Only to be turned around by a police officer. I was near tears. All I wanted was some normalcy. I went back home, dejected.
Later that day Rob was able to get to Walmart in our neighbor's Hummer. Only 5 people were allowed in at a time so it took him forever but, hallelujah, he came home with Coke! I kind of got a superficial glimpse of how Noah must have felt when the bird came back with an olive branch. To know that the water had receded and that at least some of civilization existed. To know we could get groceries, to drive on the main roads.
Rob and I took advantage of our friends living with us to go look at Rob's truck that night. Surprisingly, it started but man, oh man, did it stink. I about gagged when we first opened the door of the cab. That flood water stink is something you don't easily forget! While there, we stopped by the church and our pastor was there surveying the damage. Our church, despite the sandbags, had taken on 3-4 feet of water. Dead fish were on the carpet. Pews were all askew. A brown water line graced the walls and furniture, showing just how much water had come in. And I guess, even though I was looking at it, the magnitude of this natural disaster still didn't set in. I had been living in a bubble and didn't want to accept the reality. It wasn't until the next day that I had no choice but for it to sink in....

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Great Flood of 2016 (Part IV)

....we were awakened by a loud knock at the door. We always lock our doors but for some reason we hadn't locked the front door that night. So, as we went to see who was at the door our neighbor was sticking his head into the entryway, trying to wake us up. He told us that his house was already starting to get water and it was moving fast. Rob and I started working on adrenaline, helping neighbors and putting stuff up high that wouldn't get damaged if we got water. Instead of putting furniture and other expensive items up high we put toys and kitchenware on top of counters. We put photo albums as high as we could possibly reach. At some point, P woke up and helped us despite it being the middle of the night. We were down to one vehicle so Rob got his boat close to my little SUV in case we had to go anywhere by boat. He took our portable safe to a neighbor's where she could put it on the 2nd story of her house so our important documents would stay dry. And then we waited. And watched as water steadily moved from the road up into our yard. I prayed. I called my mom and asked their church to pray.
At some point our neighbors got more water in their house and it wasn't safe for them to stay there. So they moved in next door, to our neighbors to the immediate right of our house. At some point water started creeping into that house and so our neighbors came to stay with us for a "few days". At some point I gave up hope, knowing that if our next door neighbor got water we would too. It was just a matter of time. At some point we realized that I hadn't stocked up on groceries and that we were out of Coke. At some point the National Guard came by in the biggest tank type vehicle I have ever seen up close and asked if we needed to be rescued. At some point the rain stopped only to start up again a few minutes later, bringing even more anxiety.
That day runs together in my mind. I remember little snippets of it. A neighbor saying he killed a snake that was swimming in the water by his house. The helicopters that kept flying over. The make-shift yardstick that we put in the front yard that measured how many inches we were at. Our yellow lab that kept having to use the bathroom. (I thought his pee may put the water over the edge of our threshold.) The kids playing in Rob's boat because they needed to get out of the house for a few minutes, to get some fresh air. Checking my weather app and just watching the yellow and orange and red swirling around my screen, showing no end in sight. The adults wading out front in their rainboots to check on conditions and to check in with neighbors. AT&T going out, meaning we lost internet and our neighbors lost phone service. Trying not to let my tears be seen while I did my best to keep it together for our neighbors and the kids.
Late in the day the rain finally came to an end. Over two feet of water fell. Over 7.1 TRILLION gallons of water filled the waterways, roadways, houses and buildings. We put our furniture back in place and discovered that we had only received about a square foot of water in the master bedroom. For the first time since Friday I was able to breathe. I knew the worst was behind us. Or so I thought....