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.













Monday, July 25, 2016

Change

Change is inevitable. It's a part of life. How you accept it is up to you.
My parents recently bought a new house (after 5 1/2 years of looking!). Needless to say, it's a good change. It is a beautiful house with plenty of space and a park like backyard (where the boys feed the resident squirrel a gourmet meal every morning and ride scooters in the evening). It's nice to be able to go to sleep at night in a queen sized bed (opposed to a twin bed), without having to worry about gun shots and drug deals going on a block away.
Knowing you're getting older is a natural change but it's not always easy. Because getting older means that you watch those around you get older as well. Rob and I have both had to help our parents with every day tasks because their bodies can no longer accomplish the task easily. Even watching our boys get older is difficult at times. I'd like to think of E as our baby but the truth is that he is becoming a "big boy". Yesterday I took the boys to a community pool, where E was not allowed to wear his floaties. I was nervous because P wanted to swim on one side of the pool and E was in a shallow part that would gradually grow deep enough that he couldn't stand unassisted. The lifeguards weren't the most observant so I was constantly keeping an eye on each boy. Needless to say, my lil athlete decided that he was going to embrace this change and teach himself how to swim. By the end of the afternoon he was swimming a short distance under water without any assistance. He was so proud of himself and would yell, "Mom, I just popped up!" when he'd resurface.
A week from today I will be teaching again for the first time in almost 4 years. It's a change that I felt ready for but it'll be a new norm for us. I'll only be teaching part time but it means getting both boys ready and out the door at 8am, doing cleaning and grocery shopping in between work and picking P up from school, fitting my photography in around my new work schedule, correcting papers after the boys are in bed at night.
Another change I not only implemented but embraced this Summer was being content with the small things. Usually, P and I make a Summer bucket list of all the things we want to do. This Summer we didn't do that. We still had fun but we didn't do something big every day, nor did we spend a lot of money on activities as we've done in the past. We took the boat out, went to CA to visit my parents, got to stay with friends in Reno, went to the aquarium, swam a lot, saw a few movies, had a couple sushi dates and spent time with friends at various parks. But it was a low key Summer compared to years past. And the nice thing about this change? P became content. When we did something "big" he was happy but he was also content building Legos, riding his scooter, playing Monopoly, running through the sprinklers and reading his Magic Treehouse books.
So, change can be good or bad, depending on how you embrace it. I've always been ok with change (for the most part) but I know that some change is not always easy. It's an inevitable part of life, though, so it is what it is. How do you embrace change?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Team Blue


I assume that most people know exactly where they were when they heard the news of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I can tell you where I was, how that day unfolded for me, the fear I felt, the things that brought me to tears throughout the day. But I didn't know anyone personally. I didn't know any of the victims, the survivors, the first responders, the families. It was just a national anguish that was felt.
Yesterday you may have heard the news of the fallen officers that were ambushed in Baton Rouge. Yesterday it was personal because it happened in a neighborhood I've frequented~ where I've bought photography props, where I've stopped for lunch, where I've bought our groceries, where I've taken the boys for their medical appts, where Rob drives to get to his office. Yesterday it was personal because I was connected to the fallen officers. No, I was not friends with them nor have I actually ever met them. But I taught one of the officer's sons last January. He is a good kid and was very proud of his dad being a police officer. Whenever he contributed to the class discussion, it pertained to his dad being an officer and the life lessons he had learned from his dad because of his line of work. The boy would get to class a few minutes early to talk to me on a personal level, often telling me about something his dad had encountered at work. This past Spring the boy started attending our church with his grandparents (the officer's inlaws) whenever his parents were working on the weekends. We talk on occasion or he's quick to say hi to me before the service. But I didn't put 2 and 2 together to figure out that they were related, that this fallen officer was related to the same boy I taught (due to confidentiality I don't have student's last names so I couldn't make the connection), until I saw a GoFundMe post on FB. Then it hit me how close to home this has all become. I realized that he was the same officer that sat in his police truck next to me in the carpool lanes every day while we waited for our kids. There was a face with the name. I then discovered that I had taken pictures of one of the other officer's daughters when I took the daycare pictures, that this little girl may be E's classmate soon. This tragedy became a sad reality.
Yesterday I spent a lot of time in prayer but felt more frustration than comfort. This morning I woke with my thoughts immediately going to the fallen officers' families. I reached for my devotion books, frustrated that E had moved my bookmarks, only to find that the devotions were exactly what I needed today. Beth Moore writes, "Sometimes good at its best is when the law of the heart eclipses the law of the land. Stepping across the boundary to help is sometimes our first introduction to the commonality of humanity on the other side. Offering help in a time of need can be the first step to overcoming God-dishonoring prejudice." The verses in Sarah Young's devotional today spoke to me as well. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 and 2 Samuel 22:29 "You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light."
My devotion time got me thinking back to 9/11. I felt so much fear and had such a troubled heart. But somehow the good people of the USA bonded together and brought peace to this great land. Now, almost 15 years later, I have no doubt that we will rebuild again because 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Right now we, as a nation, need healing. All ethnicities and races need healing. All citizens and first responders need healing. Until that happens, I will pray. Pray for the officers' families, pray for the officers that have to patrol and keep up safe every day, pray for our nation and our leaders, pray that God will be brought back into people's lives. Because prayer is the only thing that is going to truly heal our nation.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Preferences....

P has always been one who gravitates toward women more than men. He's a "Mama's Boy" and has an indescribably close relationship with my mom. He loves using his imagination, doing creative things and is a sensitive soul so it makes sense that he bonds with females easier.
E, on the other hand, only wants to watch TV if it's a fishing show or something to do with the outdoors. He likes to play sports and is very rough and tumble. So it's no surprise that he prefers to hang out with guys. He is a "Daddy's Boy" and has a special bond with my dad, my FIL and my brother. He was beyond excited that Uncle Josh was coming for a visit while we were staying at my parents' house (P was excited too....that they were bringing their dogs). E has been Josh's shadow since he got here and constantly wants to do whatever Uncle Josh is doing.
As always, I enjoy our boys' differences and I love that both boys have such special bonds with family members!