This is a simple story of a simple family trying to slow down this crazy life and enjoy the "moments"...



Monday, December 12, 2011

You Better Not Pout....

A few years ago I found a set of "Christmas Classics" DVD's.
In it were movies from way back when I was a kid a few years ago like:

Rudolph
Frosty
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Little Drummer Boy

You know....all those kind of cheesy not really animated but weird puppet-esque characters? 

Where....if you remember....somebody always breaks into song and then strange psychedelic hand drawn cartoons float across the screen?

(Please....for the love of Pete....tell me that I'm not the only one who grew up LOVING these movies and scouring the TV Guide until we found the "specials" then staying up late to watch them????)

Anyway, out of the 5 boxes of Christmas things I dragged out of the warehouse these DVD's made it to our new home.

So last night after the kids and I ate dinner (RH went to bed early with a hunting head cold) I told them that I had a SPECIAL surprise in store.

I turned on the fire and made some hot chocolate (and Earl Gray Latte's for myself and my 11 year old (who is actually a 59 year old stuck in an 11 year old body)) and popped in Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

At first the kids looked at me with raised eyebrows as the animated Fred Astaire dude started singing and waltzing with bunnies.

But.....they got into it.

Seriously.  They were giggling and Ethan even asked why the Winter Warlock was so darn mean.

And all four us...with the two dogs...sat cuddled on our built in carpeted couch.

I had one arm around Ethan and one around Carolyn with a big blanket over us.
Rigby (the wolfhound) had her head in Ethan's lap, and Bennett (who is too cool to sit next to me but not yet too cool to watch Christmas specials with me thank God) laid his head on Rigby's back while Jake (the lab) had his head on Bennett's legs.

Good thing the sunken couch is in a 'C' shape.

It was dark and the fire was flickering and the only other lights came from the TV and the Christmas tree.

Then on the screen Kris Kringle announced his decision to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve because that was the day of the year that love came to earth as a little baby in Bethlehem.

"He means Jesus," Carolyn informed me without taking her eyes from the moving puppets.

And as I looked at her,
and Ethan....
and Bennett...
and even the dogs...

I quietly lost it.

I'm talking 
lips quivering
tears flowing
trying not to move
thankful kids are immersed in movie
lost it.

I was SO
SO
SO
SO
overwhelmed by gratefulness.

Yes....I was grateful for a Christmas-y night in our home...complete with fire, cocoa, tree and Santa movie.

Yes...I was grateful that my 5 year old recognized that Jesus is the biggest gift we've ever gotten.

Yes...I was grateful for all of those things....TRULY.

But honestly (and have I ever been anything else!??!?)?

My mind went to how easily our little gathering could have been changed that night back in May.

How we could have been missing one (or more) of those kids.
How those kids might have been missing me.
How even the dog could have not been here.

So I wonder....am I obsessed with the stupid tornado?

I don't think so.

I function reasonably well......or at least fake functioning reasonably well.

I don't bring it up in conversations every day.

(yes...it does feature in all of my blog posts but anyone who doesn't want to "hear" that kind of talk can simply and effectively click their way to happy-land!)

I don't ask for privileges or concessions because I am a "victim".

I get myself and family around to planned events....sometimes I even take charge of these events!...and usually everyone even has on clean underwear.

But the thoughts (or memories) are always there.
Hiding behind a corner.
Barely beneath the surface.
Lurking quietly in the background.
Ready to surprise you without warning.


--Sometimes all it takes is a drive across town when you have to see the huge pieces of metal still wrapped around bark-less trees.
--Sometimes it's reaching for your huge container of chili powder that you KNOW you have only to remember that you don't have the stupid chili powder anymore.
--Sometimes it's receiving a Christmas letter from a relative who devotes a portion of it to the Joplin tornado.
--Sometimes it's an innocent question from your kids about "Why don't we have the Christmas mugs out this year" and you have to answer them that you don't know whether or not you still have the mugs because they MIGHT be crammed in the bottom of the warehouse or they MIGHT be broken in the warehouse or they MIGHT be in a neighboring town.
--Sometimes it's watching your daughter and niece play "Tornado" and run for cover under the chairs.
--Sometimes it's.....well....for no reason at all.

And then....well, I'm taken aback by the sudden rush of emotions that come to me.
Sometimes fear.
Sometimes anger.
Sometimes (ok...lots of time) confusion.
Sometimes gratefulness.

I like that last one a LOT more than the others.

I went to an amazing Christmas party last week.
There must have been close to 75 people there, and the food was wonderful, the decorations were amazing, the music was beautiful and the night was all kinds of festive.
But....by the end of the evening...every group I spoke with was immersed in "Where were you/what were you doing/what is your story" conversations about May 22nd.

EVERY SINGLE GROUP.

So....maybe it's not just me?

I've had several people tell me that this blog speaks to them because they sometimes feel similar things to what I've expressed.

So let me express THIS.....

That is so wonderful to hear.

That is so comforting.

It really makes me feel less-crazy.

I have been praying that I will only write the things that God wants me to write....and the fact that I'm being given the reassurance by friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers that I am not alone in some of these things is a blessing beyond words.

So to those of you who have taken the time to tell me that?

Thank you.

It truly means more to me than you can imagine.

And if I only had my Christmas mugs....I would ask you to come have some Christmas cheer with me.

Maybe next year?











Monday, December 5, 2011

My Normal Rockwell Christmas...

So.....
It's as done as it's going to get.
Christmas decorating, that is.

Now I'll be the first to tell you that I LOVE this season.

I love the decorating...
I love the baking...
I love trying to find just the right gift to make someone smile...
I love Christmas music...
I love the Salvation Army bell ringers...
I love the overwhelming joy that comes to me when I realize that most of the world is celebrating (whether they want to admit it or not!) the fact that God poured Himself into a human and came down to this uncomfortable-cold-hard-scary world just because He loves us.

So....I love this season.

And even though I have no doubt what Christmas is really all about...I also love making my home sparkly and festive.

The biggest part of that is our tree.

We are blessed to not have allergies in this family, so we've always gotten a (sorry to the environmentalist in my friend group!!) live tree.

(I don't go so far as to travel to somewhere cold and snowy and physically cut down a tree...but I do travel to Albert's on 7th Street and point to one myself.  And it's sometimes cold at Albert's.)

In our old world home once we got the 12-14 foot tree set up I would let it stand for a day or two to let the branches settle.

Then I would take 1-2 days to get the lights perfectly wrapped around each branch....sometimes using close to 34 billion thousand lights on the tree.

No one was allowed to help me with the lights....it was MY job....my OCD....my thing.

Then one evening we'd put on Christmas carols and the kids and I would put the ornaments on while RH slept on the couch in front of the tree supervised.

I'd lay out all of the ornaments that THEY were allowed to put on....and then make a pile of "Mom hang-able only" ones for myself to deal with.

These included the very breakable and/or precious ones such as;  first Christmas lenox ones,  ones I made in kindergarten, bulbs from my parents' first tree, etc.

Of course we'd talk about the different ornaments and the memories and traditions surrounding them...and the kids and I all loved that.

And here's the true confession time:  after they went to bed, I'd quietly get the ladder back out and rearrange the tree to MY liking.
I'd move ornaments from the HUGE grouping that always appeared right at the kids' arm levels and strategically place them where I wanted them to be.

IF any of them noticed the next day that their arrangements had been relocated, I'd flat out lie explain that some of the ornaments had "fallen off" and I simply put them back on.

I know....me and the Grinch are pretty tight.

Anyway....that system had worked pretty well for the last 11 years of mom-hood.

So......this year has been a little different.

I love understatements.

Anyway...this year the kids and I did go to Albert's and pick a tree.
Now...in our current 70's home we have super-high ceilings, so we picked a gi-normous tree that really was not in our budget.

(((But by geeze....THIS Christmas is going to OOOOZE Christmas and be as OVER THE TOP as we can make it because ALL of this festivity is going to completely cover the fact that our family (and hence our household) are NOT in the right home this year.)))


And the very next day, instead of waiting for "branch-settlement",  I put lights on.

And I only used about 1/2 of the lights in the box because I--for some weird reason--didn't want to put forth all of the effort it would take to put all of those lights on.

Strange....but time-saving I guess.

Then that very same evening I put on the carols and we opened up the ornament boxes I had retrieved from our warehouse that morning.

The first box had definitely taken in some water PT....and maybe even had some heat damage at some point.

All of the ornaments (and weirdly enough...there were quite a few of these) that the kids had made with peppermint candies on them had completely melted and formed a minty hardened glopulous mess all over the ornaments below them.

(Gross....but it smelled good.)

About half of the plain colored glass bulbs were broken, and the others had this weird spotty crackle on them.

(Interesting look....maybe a new trend?)

Some of the plush homemade ones had water stains but no mold....
Some of the photos in the "made at a class party" ones were water damaged and ruined....
But all in all most of them were ok.

Compared to many of my friends who never even found ONE of their ornaments....we were pretty darn lucky.

So I began separating them out into "kid-hangable" and "mom-hangable" piles.

After a while Ethan noticed that there was a forbidden zone....and of course immediately began trying to invade the borders.

"Why can't we hang those?  Why can only you?  That's really not fair.  Why?"

And I used my standard super-ultra-perfect-nice-mom response:

"Because I'm the mom...I'm the boss...and that's the way I want it."

Nice, I know.
Like I said....the Grinch is my bud.

But then I had one of those moments.
An epiphany, I believe it's called.

Just like I really didn't care how many lights made it onto my tree this year....
I didn't really care about those ornaments.

Now listen:
I do love love love the memories that old family ornaments invoke.
I love having a tree full of stories and symbols and remembrances.
I am so very grateful that my family ornaments made it out of the tornado relatively unscathed.

I feel so bad for my girlfriends that don't have those sweet little thumbprints and pictures and smooshed up peppermint/glitter masterpieces that their kids created....and I REALLY don't want to downplay the fact that I know how very blessed I am to still have mine.

I also realize that I might very well feel differently if I no longer had my family ornaments.

But truth?

At that moment (and right now!)....the ornaments themselves meant very very little to me.

So I said to my surprised children:

"Actually.....go for it.  Hang anything you want.  Have at it."

Once they picked their jaws up from the floor they WENT FOR IT.

Of course within 1.2 minutes there was an accident.

A personalized collectible "First Christmas" bear in a high chair shattered into 17 pieces.

Ethan looked at me in horror and began crying, "I am so sorry!  I didn't mean to!  That was my special ornament and I broke it!!!!!!!"

And I just looked at him, smiled, and said with the utmost honesty:
"Ethan....It simply does NOT matter.  It's nothing but glass.  Who cares?"

And he stopped crying.
And stared at me.
They all did.
And I smiled at them all, and told them to keep on decorating.

At the end of the night we had a very full tree.
Most of the ornaments were....and still are, I'm happy to say....concentrated in a band that ranges in height from Carolyn's reach to Bennett's reach.

It sort of looks like the tree has a belt actually.

And maybe 10 or 11 ornaments got broken during the decorating process.
Some of these were special.
Some weren't.
One I broke myself.

But....really....who cares?

I have three amazing kids around my tree.
I have a husband sleeping soundly next to the tree.
I have a roof over all of our heads and a basement under all of our feet.

And that's really all I need to make this crazy 'ol house look pretty darn festive.

Although the disco ball reflecting the Christmas lights helps, too.







Thursday, December 1, 2011

Good Morning...

This morning as I opened my bible to spend some time with God I felt a bump.

This has happened before.....
lots in fact as I cleaned out random debris from its' pages...
but I haven't found much junk in there lately.

Anyway, I found a leaf.

Part of a leaf, to be exact.

Dry, brittle, still green....with a chunk of white insulation wrapped around it.

And guess where it was?



Hmmmm.

Now I am CERTAIN I have found tornado puke here before.

A huge chunk of glass, in fact.

And I am CERTAIN I cleaned out this page.....
I even have photographic proof of it (in earlier blogs!!) so I know it's happened.

Yet....here's another large directive bump.

Guess God thought I should revisit these Psalms?

So I did.

Man...I love Him.

Psalm 46 is amazing....but it's not the only one that spoke to me this morning.

Above it, in the end of Psalm 45 it says:

"Listen, O daughter.
Consider and incline your ear;
Forget your own people also and your father's house;
So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
Because He is your Lord, worship Him.....
....The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace;
Her clothing is woven with gold."


Psalm 45: 10-13

Know what God let me know today?

(and a side note here....how often does the bible specifically address DAUGHTERS?  Lots of "to my sons..." which I realize means all children of God....but it is awfully nice to find a "daughter" too!)

I am beautiful to Him.
He wants me close to Him.
He has given me a place in His palace.
He really really really loves me.

AND.....in Psalm 46 I get the reminder that

"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble."


Psalm 46:1

GOOD morning.
GOOD GOOD morning.

Thanks, God.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Shifted Foundations...

Six months ago today we said good-bye to my dad and stepmom and they headed back toward Atlanta.

Six months ago today we went to church.

Six months ago today I traded my sister-in-law a daughter for two nephews and went home to get ready for my son's 11th birthday party.

Six months ago today 4 boys played in the sprinklers in the yard while I made vanilla buttercream frosting.

Six months ago today I agreed with my father-in-law that we should move the party to our house instead of their pool because the weather might get yucky.

Six months ago today I asked my husband to take the boys to my in-laws for a quick swim so I could get the house ready.

Six months ago today two of the boys came back with my mother-in-law.

Six months ago today we ignored a tornado siren and sat in the kitchen eating chips and dip.

Six months ago today the sky got really black and I called my husband's uncle and asked him how close he and our aunt were with my son and nephew.

Six months ago today the kids and our friends went down in the basement when the second tornado siren began wailing.

Six months ago today I stood in the doorway to my garage and stared up the street looking for a truck.

Six months ago today the world began spinning around us and my ears popped over and over.

Six months ago today I yelled at my family to get into the storage room and sprinted down the stairs with my dog.

Six months ago today I heard our house being ripped apart as I leaned over children in our basement.

Six months ago I placed my son and nephew and aunt and uncle and father-in-law into God's hands.

Six months ago today God gave me tangible proof of what a better caretaker He is of my family than I could ever be.


So much has happened.
So much has changed.
So much I've forgotten.
So much still confuses me.

But....
So much inspires me.
Warms me.
Touches me.

Six months ago we said good-bye to a lot of different things:
...our old home
...our old neighborhood
...my short term memory
...my 8 year-old's easy going nature
...my 11 year old's ability to let US be caretakers and HIM just feel taken care of
...enjoyment of summer rainstorms
...my ability to get through a day without crying.


But six months ago we were introduced to a new way of living:
...that is based on people and not places
...where I only need LITERALLY one pair of jeans and some sneakers
...when giving one more hug and one more story truly matter more than my schedule
...when the presence of God actually feels like a blanket over my shoulders
...where when if I decide to have a latte and a scone with a friend instead of going for a run I actually feel I made the better choice
...that is rooted more firmly in God instead of my worldly surroundings.


Now I have certainly had quite a few experiences since May 22nd that I did not really expect to have this summer this fall this lifetime:
We lived with my mom for a few weeks....
I personally helped bulldoze my home...
We bought two houses...
I saw the president...
We got a puppy...
I learned how to tell if clothing had insulation in it by how it felt on my arms in the first 30 seconds...
I saw Barry Manilow...


Priority shifting.
Life changing.
Faith building.
Sleep ruining.
Perspective turning.

Quite a busy six months, I'd say.

Our house was totaled partly because it had a cracked and shifted foundation.
Hmmmmm.
Rather poetic, don't you think?
I will venture to say that 6 months ago.....
more foundations shifted than just the one on our house.

My eldest son says that one thing the tornado has done for him is make him pray more.
I'll second that.

I know I felt God so so very close to me right after that storm....and definitely in those first few weeks when I ran on nothing but adrenaline and coffee.

He was so present.

I realize He's always present....but when we are blatantly open and raw and stripped of all defenses....then He can move in close.

And He did.

And He was.

Now....as I move on into a new normal....I don't always feel Him quite as closely.

Is He still around?

Ummmmm.....YES.

Absolutely.

Without a doubt.

It's just me who's let all my "life junk" get in between me and Him.

I miss it.

Now don't get me wrong....I certainly don't miss the psycho-chaotic-confusing-emotional-mindbender that those first few weeks (or can I be honest?  First few months is probably more appropriate.) brought....but I miss that closeness and utter/complete dependence.

How very very lucky I was to be able to experience that without experiencing an enormous devastating loss.

And although there are so so so so so so so so so many things I can't seem to remember from these past six months....
I won't forget how it felt to have His arm around me and hear His voice in my ear.

And because of the gift I've been given....the gift of shifted priorities and changed perspectives.....I can work toward that closeness again.
I can build my firm foundation from the ground up.

Hopefully it wont take 200+ mph winds to shove me into His arms....


Friday, November 18, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Boxes....

So for the last few days everyone has been telling me (and when I say everyone I mean at least one (if not two or three) random or different people each day) that the 6 month tornado anniversary time-period is going to be really tough for people.

My mom the nurse has given me articles with all kinds of experts backing this fact up with suggestions on how to cope.

People in the grocery store line have graciously warned both me and fellow customers that its going to "really suck" for some of Joplin when the 6 month mark hits and "they" realize that their lives are still not put back together.

Electronic "change-screen billboards" around town are informing Joplin about a memorial service on
 11-22-11, then following up with a "When You Need Mental Health Help" screen.

(So...6 months.
100 days.
Haven't I had a post like this before????)

Here's my observation on this.

Time goes on.

Every day things become a little easier......overall.

I say overall, because interspersed in that gradual upward emotional climb are some jagged downward peaks.

Now.

Conventional wisdom (including mental health experts, Biblical wisdom and life experience) says that with the passage of time.....hurt eases.

This is true, to some extent.

However, there is something a little different that happens when the main event involves a TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE.

You see....God created our minds and bodies in a really amazing way.

He gave us this incredible substance called adrenaline to get us through crazy experiences.

He also gave us the ability to completely block things out of our memories until our minds are able to process them.....allowing us to "compartmentalize"---or tuck certain emotions away into little internal boxes and keep them closed for an indefinite amount of time.

When a traumatic event occurs....there are too many BIG things that happen to you all at once.

You can't mentally/emotionally/physiologically handle all of these things.

So....you deal with the immediate surface issues and hide the rest of the things away.

By things I mean: visual memories, hard conversations, emotional memories, physical pain, unanswerable questions etc.

In fact, you become kind of numb....operating on a sort of auto-pilot to get through each day/hour/week.

BUT......at some point, the numbness starts to wear off.
And apparently....6 months is pretty key to this.

(And yes...I realize that "6 months" or "183ish days" are nothing but man-made numbers....but God DID give us these numbers (and hence the time frames) for some reason!)

So I was thinking about when I first came out of my house and was trying to find out if the neighbors were ok.

One of my dearest friends lives lived on the street behind me, and I remember as we walked that way, asking people if they had seen her family.  I could see where the top of her house has been....and I knew they had been hit.  But I wasn't screaming or panicking....just asking.  Then someone said they had seen both her and her husband and that her family was ok.  Then we went on to check on other neighbors.

So...as I was remembering this story...i had a stab of bitter cold sickening fear slice through my stomach.  It literally made me gasp.  My shoulder and neck muscles tightened to the point of pain......then it all went away.

I think.....that was the fear I wanted to feel that night.  That was the true abject huge fear that something horrible had happened to my friend and/or her family when I saw their house.

Going to church yesterday Ethan was talking about the windstorm we'd had the night before and said how glad he was it didn't turn into a tornado.

(NO FLIPPING DOUBT BUDDY.)

Then he looked at me and said, "I am really glad I didn't die in that tornado, Mom,"  and started talking about the cardboard swirling past Uncle Frank's truck that night and when his head (and elbow??) were bleeding from the stupid stop sign that smashed through the back window.

Again....my stomach clenched up.  Tears came.  My upper body tensed to the point of spasm.....and it stopped.

Again...I think that was some of the fear I should have felt that night.

May 22nd was NOT the time to feel or deal with that fear....there were too many things to DO.

So maybe....now that some of the numbness is wearing off....and we (as a city?) are stabilizing and recreating our sense of home....God is allowing our minds to let go of some of the feelings they have been holding in all of those boxes for the last 6 months.

It's probably a good thing to open those and let the feelings and memories out.
I am reasonably sure my brain doesn't have enough storage space for all of that anyway.

As long as I (we?) remember that each and everyone of those boxes is wrapped in IMMENSE GRATEFULNESS.....

Then one-by-one God can help me empty them.....
Break the boxes down....
And get rid of them.

But...I think I'd like to save the wrapping paper.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Overwhelming....

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11

You know...I've heard this verse tons of times. 
People sent me this verse many times after the tornado, in fact.


But while I've always like the idea that God was on my side....
I never really sat down and THOUGHT about all this verse said.


(I really need to get back into my hobby of thinking someday....)


The other day I felt overwhelmed.
As we all do....I had lots of issues in lots of different areas of my life.


**We were trying to finalize the deal on our "forever house".
**I couldn't make things better for people I care about.
**Things don't always go smoothly with the kids in school.
**Health issues pop up and leave a "hole" in your "I will be young forever" perception.
**People in their 3rd and 4th decade of life decide to act like 3 and 4 year olds and it still    even though it's really irritating to admit hurts my feelings.
**I have had to learn more about federal legalities than any happy housewife ever should.
**I kept experiencing the reality that when trying to follow God's instructions on dealing with earthly situations....it's still hard to wait for His judgement and see people getting away with horrible things.  
**Bennett wanted pictures ("only the really graphic ones, mom") or our post-tornado house for a paper at school and I got those stupid goosebumps while printing them off.
**I was heading out of town to run a half-marathon.
**People in my life had made bad decisions (as I have certainly done at times) and they all seemed to need me at once


You know how sometimes it seems like
EVERYTHING
hits at once?


Ka-boom.
I got whacked.
 
Think about it though....


Some days we have so many "things" pulling us down in our lives.


Seems like there are really too many people/things/commitments to take care of.


They are draining us....and we wonder how exactly we are supposed to have the energy to deal with them all.


We wonder if maybe we should cut some of these people or things OUT of our lives because it's just TOO MUCH.


We can't do it all.
We can't be the one that everyone turns to...that everyone needs....it's TOO MUCH.
Who is there to be "our one"?

God.

He will lift us up and support us.
That support will enable us to support others.....but He is NOT doing it just for that.
He's doing it because He loves you.
He wants to take care of you.
He wants to give you peace, hope, and He has said He has plans for you.

In other words....
He's the one who's going to hug you.
Let you rest your head on His shoulder and stroke your hair...
Smile at you...
Let you know that YOU matter because YOU ARE YOU.
He loves YOU.
He wants to give YOU peace.
He wants to give YOU hope.

Yes....we have responsibilities to other people and things....and God expects us to fulfill them.
But in the meantime?

He's looking out for YOU.


And me.


And that's just plain good.




(Check out THIS SONG.....
and grab a kleenex.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Grrrrr.....

It's getting chilly around here.

I got out Carolyn's cute little brown leather coat.

It had been in the coat closet at our old house....which I remember being relatively unaffected by damage.

It has since been hanging in our coat closet at the new house after being examined and declared "fine".

It has white crusty mold all over it.

ALL over it.

Stupid tornado.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

EHM is in the House!

Extreme Home Makeover has come to Joplin!!!  

I love this show.

I have ALWAYS loved this show.

RH thinks it's ridiculous....but I love love love it.

Cry every time, in fact.

Usually.....one person can't give one family a home.

But....when one person plus one person plus one person plus a few more one persons get together....


Man.

It's awesome.

And these families have been through so much.....

I am volunteering for a couple different days and will post about them later.

But for now.....
Joplin Home Makeover

Check it out.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jumping the Hurdles....

So last week my baby boy turned 8.

Wow.

Sometimes days seem to drag on and on and on and on and on....
But isn't it amazing how overall, time truly does fly by?

Saturday after Cougar Carnival I cooked and shredded a ton of chicken and baked Ethan's requested pound cake.

Then we had his friend party at Lazer Force and had the blessing (blessing because it was NOT at my house!) of watching 19 little boys run WILD for a few hours.

Total chaotic bliss.

Then we brought 4 of those boys home with us, picked up two little girls and partied hard 'till the ripe 'ol time of 11:15 when we all soundly and completely passed out.

Which was fine, until 6 little precious sets of feet came tip tip tapping down the stairs at 6:12.

But you can't beat your son's big beautiful dimpled smile when he sees you at the bottom of the stairs as he and his 3 buddies (all wearing only RH's shirts and underwear because they are sooooooo cool and big) sneak down and he yells:

"MOM!  I AM EIGHT!  RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND!  RIGHT NOW!  I AM EIGHT!!!!!"

What an amazing age.
What an amazing kid.

All 6 of the kids happily got dressed and ate healthy Boo Berry cereal for breakfast and we headed for church.

Serious picture perfect morning.

But for some reason I was antsy.

I couldn't figure out why....maybe just tiredness from the long weekend?

After church the other kids headed out and RH took our 3 to Duck Camp for a bit so I could finish getting ready for the family party (15 people) that night.

I made Crunchy Chicken Casserole.
I marinated the asparagus.
I toasted the toppings for an Oriental salad.
I cleaned areas of my house where the guests might go and shoved all the dirty stuff in random closets where no one would ever think of looking all of my house thoroughly.
I found candles and put them near the cake.

Then I started to set out a stack of plates for the dinner that night.
Then it hit me.

On May 22 I had been doing the same thing.

I had made Bennett some Crunchy Chicken Casserole.
I had marinated asparagus.
I had made Oriental salad.
I had cleaned the house.
I had strategically placed birthday candles.

And I remember the picture of the kitchen that night....


The wooden bowl of Oriental salad.
The full wine glass sitting undamaged and unspilled.
The missing ceiling.
And the stack of plates...mostly unbroken, with the top one strangely flipped upside-down on top of the others.

And the truth?
I consciously did NOT set out a stack of plates for the dinner that night.

I let people simply get them out of the cupboard when they needed them.

And that worked just fine.


Silly little things.
Silly little pointless memories.
Silly pointless things that make my stomach knot up and volcano-sized goosebumps break out all over my arms.

Did Ethan and his Aunt have a good family birthday dinner?

Yes.  I think so.

Was I really really glad to have it over with?

Yes.  I was.

I have the feeling that there may be many of these unforeseen silly mental hurdles in the future.

But I think it isn't just my future...it's this city's future.

Just like after any life-altering event....we have to do things for the "first time".....again.

And these "firsts" are both triumphant.....
and heart-wrenching.

First Joplin Football game?
Triumphant.

First Halloween without certain family members?
Heart-wrenching.

In the grand scheme of life....a birthday dinner isn't all that victorious (although I am quite proud of myself for having the mental fortitude to remember birthday candles!) or heart breaking.

But it was a small couldn't-have-known-that-was-going-to-happen "first".

And while I don't want to obsess about the tornado....I have to say this:

I am VERY thankful for my kids.
I thank God daily for them.
On their birthdays I like to take time to especially thank God for all the things that they have brought into my life.

And this year....with the not-so-distant-memory of how I'd felt when I thought perhaps I'd lost my youngest son .....
Coupled with the unsettling deja-vu of recreating the afternoon of May 22nd....

Well....
my thankfulness was truly...
truly...
truly beyond all words.

And that is both heart-wrenching.....AND triumphant.

Happy Birthday, Little E.
I love you.





Wow...

Wow.  This had me smiling and crying.  Actually had to put my tea down for fear of spilling.
Sweet little Emma Cox shown in this video lived in my neighborhood....
so strange to see her house like that.

Watch the video.
Trust me.
It's worth your time.

Joplin Strong

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Affected,,,,

Tonight Bennett told me "His Story."

4 1/2 months after it happened he spontaneously spoke about it.

After I've asked him time after time after time after time
if he wanted to talk about it....
if he would talk about it....
if he could talk about it.....

After he's told me time after time after time after time
NO!!!!

He finally talked.

I asked him if I could write it down, and he said that I could....but he didn't want to have to speak about it again so I'd have to do it from memory.

I will ask him if I can share it on the blog.....and hopefully he will let me.

Until then....I will simply tell you that he remembers a lot of things that I do NOT recall...and that again, my stomach churned, my eyes teared up, and i had monstrous goose bumps all over my body while I listened to his account of May 22nd.

We were driving home from the Young Life "non-banquet" and had to go down the entire stretch of Main Street.

You simply cannot drive from the South to the North end of town without passing through the DZ.

Somehow....be it fate, God's provision, or simple unconscious avoidance I have been able to NOT go through the DZ at night very much at all.

In fact, this was only the 2nd time I'd done it....and I CERTAINLY hadn't done it with the kids.

We drove past Auto Zone, and Carolyn was reading the letters and asked Ethan what it spelled.

The 'T' was gone in the sign, so Ethan wasn't really sure what 'ATO" spelled and asked me.

I explained the missing letter mystery, and Carolyn asked where the 'T' had gone.

This store sits on the edge of the DZ, so I replied that the tornado had probably knocked it down.

As is so often the case, the simple mention of the tornado changes the atmosphere in the car....especially as we drove into the eerily darkened area of Main St.

It was only 7:40ish, so you could still see outlines of busted buildings and empty spaces (and I realize that empty spaces don't officially HAVE outlines but you really do know somehow that the spaces are THERE and maybe it's just a felling of the lack of ANYTHING being there when there SHOULD be something there??) and an occasional random flashing yellow light.

I guess that everything combined got my kids in a talking kind of mood.

As we drove I asked Ethan if he remembered being in the car with his uncle.
He said he did.
I asked him what he remembered seeing, and he said, "Things flying by the car....like cardboard and other stuff I didn't know what it was."
I asked him if he remembered pulling up into some guy's front porch to take shelter, and he said, "No."

Bennett turned around to look at him, and began quizzing him on WHY he didn't remember a fact that he had not only TOLD us about but had SHOWN us which house it was.

I gave Bennett one of those copyrighted "Mom-looks" (later to explain to him that sometimes God lets us forget things that are too hard or painful for our minds to remember and to let Ethan remember what he wants to right now....hope that was the right thing!) and asked Ethan what he DID remember.

Ethan told us something we hadn't heard before.
He said that they were driving to our neighborhood and he and his cousin had their heads on the seat like their uncle had told them ("Put your heads down and take a rest boys, just take a rest...") when the car stopped.
A man was standing (according to Ethan) on TOP of his wrecked smashed-up car, and their uncle stopped his truck and asked him if he was hurt or needed help.
The man replied no, that he was just trying to call someone on his phone, and so their uncle continued driving toward our home.

(Later in the evening Ethan told us that when Uncle Frank's truck "Made it to my house I was scared when I saw the house because I thought that the people who were in it were maybe dead." "You thought WE were dead?"--asked Barrett, and Ethan nodded....)

I said to Ethan, "That must have been so scary for you."
He said yes, and then I asked Bennett if HE had been scared that night.
He said he was scared about Ethan and Wyatt and his aunt and uncle.
I said I had been scared about them too, but then asked him if he had been scared for HIMSELF when we were in our basement.

He thought for a moment and said, "Well, when I heard all of the (insert appropriate sound effects here that mean crashing and banging) noise I was pretty scared that the house would fall in on us."

Then he turned to me and said, "Do you want to hear MY STORY?"

And I kept looking forward, slowed down, and said, "Yes."

4 1/2 months.
That's a long time to go without talking.

He's ok.
We're all ok.

But we've been affected.....so are we affected?

Geeze.

My dad and step mom came last week for a visit, and my dad told me that every single one of my friends and acquaintances he spoke with had PTSD.

He's probably right, you know.

This whole down does, to some degree or another.

Maybe you talk about the tornado INCESSANTLY.
Maybe you continuously call yourself a victim and look for free help.
Maybe you've been "relocated" and are trying to find that lost sense of home.
Maybe you refuse to speak about it because it was just a storm and it's over now.
Maybe you cry at random things during the day.
Maybe you never cry during the day but keep waking up with a wet pillow.
Maybe you get annoyed at people who "just can't shut up and be over it."
Maybe you still live in a tent (and these people are out there).
Maybe you are rebuilding and praying it will bring you a sense of closure.
Maybe you are finally getting used to going to the "other" Walmart.
Maybe you keep making the turns that lead to your old house instead of your new one.
Maybe you question whether your lack of memory and organization can still be blamed on the tornado or whether you have an actually biological issue.
Maybe you are totally fine until someone asks you if you're fine and you get angry because you are SO fine.
Maybe you have a lot of migraines.


Maybe more than one of these apply to you.
Maybe there is something more you could add to this list.

All I'm saying is.....4 1/2 months.

Life is going on....the blessings are flowing and MY gratefulness truly knows no bounds.....

But 4 1/2 months ago something happened.
And it did affect us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rabbit Holes

Busy.
This was a very busy few weeks.
You know those times when you are stretched in LITERALLY 8 or 9 different directions?  And each of those directions are important enough that you truly canNOT ignore them?

Yeah.

So....some of those "pathways" I was traveling came to happy destinations.
Some seem to be leading to strange rabbit holes that I am deciding if I should follow.
More of them are ongoing....
And others are just part of life.

This weekend my friend missed her flight because she thought her arrival time was her departure time.
Then...she realized she had not yet made the flight reservations she needed for the following weekend....even though she was SURE she had done it months earlier.


Another friend went back to the cleared-off lot where her house had stood to gather a few splinters pieces of her home for a project. 
She found one of the favorite outfits her son had worn as an infant half-buried under dead weeds and told me she remembered why she had stopped going back there.

Ethan's hermit crab was crawling UP the walls of his cage.  He was having a serious crab party.  This was possibly the 2nd time ever we have actually SEEN this crab in the year we've had it....he is honestly the most un-interactive doofus pet we have ever owned.  When I pointed it out to Ethan he started laughing and asked me what the crab was doing.  I replied that that I thought maybe the crab was just happy...and then totally flashed-back to grabbing the cage and crab food that night when we were fleeing the house and started crying because I was so happy that the stupid crab was happy (and I don't even know if Spider-Crab actuallyWAS happy).

I ran into a Wal-Mart employee I have gotten to know over the years.  I knew he had been "displaced" (which is the new PC way of saying your house was smashed on May 22nd and you are currently living somewhere you had probably never planned on being) so I asked him how he was currently doing.
He told me his brother --who had refused to leave his mold infested half-smashed house due to fear of looters --- had passed away last weekend.  Apparently the doctors said it was due to the large amount of mold he had been breathing over the past 3 1/2 months.

I went to a Dr. appointment and the tech ---while I was trapped cooperating nicely on the table -- told me how he and his entire extended family rode out the storm in a restaurant just north of the DZ* and upon exiting saw mass amounts of emergency vehicles rushing southward so he knew something bad had happened.

I went back to the warehouse and hauled the very last load of salvaged stuff (that's not holiday decorations because there is no where to put them in this new home).  
The "load" consisted mainly of extra lightbulbs and batteries from a drawer in the laundry room and loads of nails/screws/washers/anchors that somehow remained rust-less.
There was also an under-bed Tupperware box of wrapping paper.  
Bonus.
In the bottom of a really pretty drawer that made me remember how much I had loved my old-newly remodeled kitchen I found a little lamp.
It's just one of those "accent" lamps that stays on all of the time.
It had been in the white shelves next to the bay window that blew across the house....and I had NO idea how it had ended up in the tool-drawer.
We salvaged THREE lamps from my old house: Carolyn's beside lamp and the two bedside lamps from the basement guest room.
Since there was still an unbroken lightbulb I wiped off some of the drywall and plugged it in.
It worked.
????????????????
And I cried again.

I guess I may be traveling on this particular pathway for quite a while.


*DZ= Disaster Zone



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Random Memories III

We're moving on.
Things are changing.

But every so often....

there's a certain sound....
there's a certain smell....
somebody asks "do you remember when...."
I do some silly little every day thing .....
a kid asks where one of their "lost" things are...
something gets rebuilt...
I have a dream.....
we pull into the driveway of our old home and feel that specific "bump"....
a tuft of insulation (or glass or dry crispy leaves) falls out of a "not-yet-worn PT" piece of clothing...

And a memory comes back.

I don't want to forget these things.

I want to move past them.....
But I don't want to forget them.

Some of you may think I'm crazy morbid sadistic mart-ish attention-seeking a little nuts....
but too many people have lost too much to lose these memories too.

Besides....it's my blog and my prerogative.

***************
I remember when 2nd St was closed from Main to Murphy because FEMA had set up its' headquarters there.  All you could see where huge antennae from satellite trucks and tons of trailers.  So surreal.

***************
I remember standing in line for over an hour at the only post office left to get my mail from the 2 weeks PT.  Everyone was so nice and polite.  There was a police officer --fully armed--handing out water and post-it notes to write our names on.  It was hot and everyone felt the need to share their "story" in the echoing area of PO boxes.  When I finally got my name called I received a huge armload of nothing but catalogs.

****************
Our luggage had been lost the way home from our trip.  On Wednesday (or Thursday?  I remember it was actually sunny.....) as we were trying to get our belongings out of the old house a random car pulled up in the driveway.  A older man got out and just kind of stared at us...then went to the trunk of his sedan and pulled out one of our suitcases.  "I have your luggage here....do you have your claim tickets?"
I just stared back at HIM, and then pointed in the direction of where my kitchen USED to be.
"They might be in there," I answered, "Or 17 miles east of here."
"Oh,"  he said slowly.  "I think that will be ok."
And he got back in his car, and drove away.
*******************
Late Sunday night after we got to my sister-in-law's house my best friend from Atlanta called me on the land line.  I took the phone outside and couldn't hear her because the sound of the helicopters going over and the sirens wailing were too loud.  I went back inside to talk.  She says that I just kept repeating, "It didn't sound like a train.  I didn't believe it because it just didn't sound like a train."
**********************

Tuesday morning at 5ish RH called me at my mom's.  He said his cousin (who's a realtor) had just told him that FEMA had called to get a list of all the vacant properties in Joplin and that I HAD TO GO LOOK AT HOUSES THAT MORNING AT 8.  Then at 7 my father-in-law called and said he'd gone with the realtor to look at the few available houses and narrowed it down to 2 of them and I had to go ASAP.  I got the kids out of bed and we showed up....with the dog (who is HUGE) and me in the same clothes I'd worn since the tornado.  The kids and the dog on her leash and I (and another adult....but I just can't remember who....) went through the two houses in about 10 to 15 minutes each.  One needed work, the other didn't.  We chose the latter, and got it that next week.  I couldn't even remember what the inside of it looked like...
***********************

For a while we weren't able to go into the DZ (disaster zone) without a permit.  To get the permit you had to wait in a 2 hour line and show your ID that said you had business in there.  The permit thing lasted almost 12 hours....and wasted alot of people's mornings.
************************
I got a text from my friend Kerry saying that the K9 unit was in her backyard "sniffing" her pool for fatalities.  Praise God they found none there.
***********************
People kept showing up at our doorstep with amazing gifts.  We got bottled water 2 or 3 times an hour.  Some people brought moving boxes, some brought trash bags, some brought pizza, some brought bratwurst. Some people offered us their storage units, and some offered us coats.   A group of people from a church asked if we wanted our trees moved, and then 13 men with heavy moving equipment chainsawed the trees and pulled out the stumps and sawed off branches and made a beautiful ugly neat pile by our curb.  Then they disappeared down the road.
***********************

We had a curfew and a boil order.  Then some wonderful people at Starbucks stayed up all night boiling billions of gallons of water and my sister in law heard about it and drove up there but (because of the lack of cell towers) they couldn't take her credit card so they just gave her a whole bunch of lattes for free.  That was the very best coffee I'd ever had in my entire life.

***********************
I was standing in my driveway looking through where there used to be a wall into my kitchen area where my "cookbook cupboard" was still intact.  A police car pulled up with 2 cops from Kansas City who were assigned to patrol our neighborhood.  I explained that I was trying to determine if those possibly sopping wet cookbooks were worth going back in to retrieve.  The 2 men found 2 big plastic flowerpots and marched into the remnants of my kitchen and filled them with (pretty darn wet) books.  They they went down into the basement and brought up the last load of stuff I had piled there and put that into my car too.  Then they thanked me for letting them help.  Then they drove off.
************************

My friend Louise came over to help me get serial numbers off of some damaged things in our basement. It started to rain pretty hard, so we made the extremely intelligent decision that we should get out of the leaky falling apart basement and house.  We climbed into the back of my car and sat, with the hatchback open, watching the hail and lightning and rain and shared a big back of Krunchers potato chips we'd found unopened in the kitchen.  I remember telling her that it was the most relaxed I'd been since the storm.
************************

Our friends who lived just down the road had come over to (as she put it) "Escape their disaster for a minute by looking at ours."  We were in the basement and Catherine had to take a phone call.  Jason and I were talking and heard a loud noise to our left.  We looked over and watched all of the paint and drywall crash down onto the bar.  Then we looked at each other and simply continued our conversation.
*********************
Bennett got strep throat that week.  He had to lay in my mom's living room with my step mom (who was also sick) and watch movies all day.  Luckily my father had one prescription sheet left from Atlanta and I was able to get an antibiotic.
**********************

My friend Brandie, who packed up both of our kitchen areas, informed me that I was the owner of 7 springform pans.  Who knew?  I owe her a cheesecake.  Or 7.
*********************

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Eat More Chicken!

So....this evening I walked into Chick-Fil-A and cried.

Not a normal thing.

I know.

(I may have issues....I know that too.)

Today Chick-Fil-A opened its' new store.

It was completely smashed in the tornado, you see.  Luckily it was a Sunday evening, so nobody was there during the storm.

But...it was smashed none-the-less, and then bulldozed, and then the lot was cleared, and then it was rebuilt from the dirt ground up.

Now don't get me wrong.
I like Chick-Fil-A.
I like it a lot.
My kids (and RH) like it a lot too.
We have spent MUCH time at Chick-Fil-A in the past.
We eat the yellow Chick-Fil-A sauce with a straw.

But do I have an emotional attachment to
Chick-Fil-A?

Ummmm........no.
Not really.

But....when I walked into the store tonight with Carolyn and Ethan....
and they ran through the huge crowd to the inside play-area....
and I looked around the restaurant....

well....

It was unbelievable.
Totally unbelievable.

It was EXACTLY THE SAME.

Same tables,
same booths,
same counter,
same registers,
same play area,
same condiment counter,
same roses outside,
same gi-normous cow walking around,
same faces behind the counter saying, "My pleasure!"

It was like nothing had changed....
nothing had happened.

I ordered an obscene amount of nuggets dinner for the family and made eye contact with the manager.

He smiled in recognition and I asked him how it felt to be back in the new/old/new store.

"You know," he answered, "It feels like we never left....like nothing ever happened."

I knew.
I know.

So....as I asked for 10 packages of the Chick-Fil-A sauce, I admit...I got pretty teary-eyed.
Part of the "old life" had returned.
It was like someone had pressed "Play" on a paused movie-life....and it had just started where it had left off.

Weird.
But good.
Really really really good.

And you know what?
I counted LITERALLY 17 people in red Chick-Fil-A shirts behind the counter....
and that doesn't include all of the cooks in the back
OR the people outside personally taking drive-thru orders
OR the cow
OR the cow's handler.

Chick-Fil-A had COMPLETELY prepared for the huge number of people that were going to come into their restaurant on opening day and try and order some nuggets, waffle fries and a slice of "life as we remember it."

Hooray for Chick-Fil-A.
What an awesome gift.

And hooray for happy tears.
Just adds a little salt to the fries.







Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Some Days are Diamonds....

100 days.

That's the story.

Apparently it's been 100 days today since that 'ol EF-5 came a-visitin'.

Hmmmmmph.

So....what does that mean?

I don't know for sure.....lots of things, I guess.

Maybe it means that things should all be fine by now because that's a long long time.

Maybe it means that we should be beyond impressed with all that's been done because that's a really short time.

Maybe it means I should blame my continued memory issues on "advanced age" instead of "tornado brain" because it's been a long time.

Maybe it means I shouldn't be frustrated at seeing tornado-fied cars still sitting in trashed parking lots because it's really a relatively short time.

Maybe.
Maybe.

Truly though....I am amazed at all this city has done in 100 days.
It doesn't really seem possible.

Cleared over 80% of the debris?
Opened schools?
Rebuilt businesses that were FLATTENED and now are open?
Brought in almost 300 trailers and installed them into neat rows and filled them with families?

That is seriously impressive.

But really...100 days isn't that super long of a time.

It's hard for ME to believe that 101 days ago I was leaving a beautiful tropical island after celebrating my 15th anniversary with RH...and we were so ready to be home with our kids.

It's hard for ME to believe that 101 days ago I came home to my HOME and kvetched about my lost luggage.

Its hard for ME to believe that 100 days ago I said good-bye to my folks as they began their drive back to Atlanta and bustled about getting my house "party-ready" and made homemade vanilla buttercream icing for Bennett's 11th birthday party.

It's so surreal for me to believe that it was only 100 days ago (or was it 1 day?  or 100000000 days? ) that  I crouched over my almost 11 year old and several other kids as our house came crashing down over us and tried not to think of the fact that my 7 year old son and nephew were on the street nearby.

It's a short time.
It's a long time.

Some days are good....and some not so much.

On Saturday Bennett had his first football scrimmage of the year.
Carolyn and my niece had their 10am nachos (the breakfast of champions) while Ethan and his cousins enjoyed Mt Dew (the breakfast of champions on speed) while we watched the team play.
Bennett scored twice and sacked the quarterback, and people I didn't even know were cheering for him.

It was good.
It was a good good feeling.
Not just the pride (although I gotta admit...there was just a little bit of that!), but the camaraderie.  The fellowship.  The togetherness.  I LOVE feeling that in Joplin....and it's so STRONG here lately.

This same weekend I went out to dinner with a friend and our kids.
She described to me how they had sat on her front porch on May 22nd and actually watched the black cloud come together and touch the ground before they ran into their basement.

I started shaking.
Goosebumps covered my body and I started shaking so hard I had to put down my drink and hide my hands.
I felt a honest-to-goodness boulder lump in my stomach and had to focus on not throwing up.

Then we went and had frozen yogurt and laughed with 4 little girls.
Then the Kansas City Chiefs dedicated their game to Joplin and invite our boys to come down to the field while they prayed and I cried.
Then I watched my kids play tag with our dogs in our new backyard and I smiled and felt truly joyful.
Then I looked at our transplanted tree house that my dad and step mom built that was in between 2 totaled brick houses yet didn't lose ONE shingle with insulation all over the sides and had to focus on not throwing up again as I wiped my tears away before my kids saw me.

Good.
Bad.
Joyful.
Sickened.

100 days.
I don't know that it's going to be all that different from 102 days.  Or from 127 days.

Time just passes....and eventually I think that the "rawness" gets more and more blunted.
I suppose that "good and joyful" fill more of your brain synapses then the yucky parts.

I suppose that maybe possibly God had it right when he said that every emotion has it's season.

We---I mean I----just have to make darn sure that NONE of those "not so happy-happy" feelings ever overshadow my gratefulness.

So far they don't....because even when I find myself
crying in the shower or
crying when I see all the kids come running out of school or
crying when my stupid stupid ponytail holder snaps or
crying when someone asks me "how are you?" in a certain tone or
crying when I can't say NO to Ethan's "just one more hug?" for the 5th time or
crying when a random memory comes back to me from that night.....

I am still
SO
PROFOUNDLY
IMMENSELY
Grateful.

It's just going to be a weird annoying kind of roller coaster where you can't get off even when you feel like you've gotten your ticket's worth.

Know what I mean?

I've been working on a sort of slide show.
I wish I were more tech-savvy and could post a link with beautiful music and automatically playing pictures....
but I SOOOOO can't.

So if you're bored (because it's really a little long)...
Click HERE for the music first,
Then click HERE for the pictures.
Click on "view pictures", then click on "play slide show".

I think I do these things because I don't
EVER
EVER
want to forget what God brought us through.

I want to remember how deeply convicted I felt when I realized how He had laid out a path for us....
And I want it to stay as real to me in my joyous times as it was in my overwhelmed times.

I can't really say that I want to start the all-over-body shaking thing every time I remember....

But I am sure that too shall pass in time.



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No words....



Taken from just west of Joplin on May 22nd, 2011.

(Thanks, Terla.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Guilt....

I know guilt.

Believe me....it is something I am WELL versed in.

Coming from a Jewish-Catholic background I have had experience in every possible nuance of the emotion.

RH and the kids might even say that I have maybe occasionally used guilt to "help" them get things done around the house.....but I don't know if I'd go THAT far.

There are many different kinds of guilt:

There's guilt because you knew something was wrong and did it anyway.
There's guilt because you have inadvertently hurt someone.
There's guilt because you have purposefully hurt someone.
There's guilt because you can't do what someone else wants or needs you to do.
There's guilt because you don't do what YOU want yourself to do.
There's guilt because you didn't follow God's rules.
There's guilt because you don't feel guilty and you think you should.

I am sure there are many other types to add to this list....but I am going to finish with the one that is most on my mind right now:

There's guilt because you have something that someone else doesn't have.

This "something" could be:
a home
a car
a loved one
your life.

Survivor's guilt, I believe it's called.

A few weeks or days?  who knows during that very blurry period of time PT a friend of mine told me that her pastor spoke to them about this.

He said something like (and I paraphrase the best I can here):

"Right now everyone feels guilty.  Some people feel guilty because they were completely personally unaffected by the tornado.  Other's feel guilty because they only lost their car.  Other's feel guilty because they only lost their workplace; or home; or possessions.   Some people feel guilt because they didn't loose a loved one--while other's feel guilt because they are the only survivor in their family.
Right now everyone feels some degree of guilt...and guilt is one of Satan's most powerful tools."

Hmmmmm.

I'd say that's pretty accurate.

I know that I feel guilt every time I stoop low enough to complain about something in my loud terrarium-like solid air conditioned new home.

I know that I feel guilt every time I thank God for saving my children that night.

I know I feel guilt going out to a nice dinner with friends and NOT talking about the tornado.

I know that I feel guilt when we drive past the FEMA trailers and see the ice cream truck circling around the many sets of wooden stairs and my kids yell, "Not fair!  Why can't the ice cream truck come to our house?!"

I know.
It's a dumb and not healthy emotion and I would counsel ANY of my friends to let it go.....

But it's there.

Survivor's guilt has been around for a long time.

In Luke 13 (1-5 if you're interested) my pastor pointed out some things that hadn't been evident to me before his lesson.

(Now....I'm going to super-paraphrase this again....so please go look at it in your own bible if you want the accurate reading.)

Some people were talking to Jesus and asked Him about these guys from Galilee who had been killed.  Apparently these Galileans had gone to make their sacrifices at the temple (as they were supposed to do)  and one of the bigwig judges then had them randomly killed right then and there.

Why just those poor guys?

So Jesus says, "Do you think the guys who were killed were bad people?  Do you think they deserved to die in a man-made tragedy?  How about the 18 people who were killed by some random tower in Siloam that randomly fell on them.  Do you think they deserved to die in that natural tragedy?"

The people speaking to Jesus were not only asking:
"Why did they have to die?"
They were also asking:
"Why did I live?"

And you know what Jesus' answer was?
He didn't give an answer to the "why".
He said that NO....those who died were not any worse sinners than those who lived....but...
He didn't give an answer to the "why".

Because....
The WHY doesn't matter.

Jesus's follow up and conclusion to the questions was:
"Turn you life around and come to Me....or you will "die" too."

Things happen.
Life happens.
We can feel bad that the bad things didn't happen to us....
Or we can use it as a chance to do what really matters.

I have another groan moan not another one please analogy.

I heard a news story this weekend about a guy who was sky diving and his parachute didn't open which is a bad thing and which is why I choose to to jump out of airplanes.

He landed in a 14 foot blackberry bush and lived.

That's good.

Now think of this.

Have you ever reached into a blackberry bush?

There are LOTS of really hard thorns.

You can't get your fingers out unscathed....it's impossible.

Imagine extracting your ENTIRE body from a massive bush.

Imagine the thousands of thorns ripping through various tender parts of your flesh as your pulled out from the middle of the bushes.

Ouch.

Would you be thankful for the bushes...thorns and all?

Ummm......heck yes.

Would you still have small bloody tears all over your body that really in fact did actually hurt?

Ummmm.....yes.

Would you change the fact that you had landed in the bush instead of the hard unforgiving ground?

Ummm......no.

Feeling guilty about having something or surviving something DOESN'T MEAN you don't feel grateful.

It just means that you are admitting that those little tears in your flesh/soul....really do hurt, as insignificant as they may be in the grand scheme of life.

What we.....what I need to work on is this:

To stop asking "why?" and focus on the "what now?".

It will happen.
For all of us.

Guilt has a problem with making me feel unworthy.

But I have to remember:
I am no more worthy than anyone else....
but I am also no more unworthy than anyone else.

Things happen.

I have to not question....but simply accept.

And I have to let go of my guilt for feeling guilty.

But I suspect that my Jewish and Catholic grandmothers would roll over in their graves if I didn't feel some guilt on a daily basis.

Maybe I'll save that guilt for the fact that I ate peach cobbler for breakfast.











Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This Summer

My father-in-law is calling this "The Summer That Wasn't."

Pretty poetic and insightful of my father-in-law.

School starts tomorrow.

We are headed back to the pool today (and we went yesterday too) to try and eke out the last dregs of summertime essence.

It seems crazily unbelievable that summertime--with all of its' plans and promises and sun-filled days--could have already come and gone.

I DID have lots of plans for this summer.
I was going to buy a desk for Ethan so he could learn to organize his school stuff.
I was going to go on a special birthday trip with my sister.
I was taking the kids to Georgia to visit my new niece.
Ethan was going to learn multiplication.
Carolyn was going to work on reading.
Bennett wanted to learn more math (who's kid IS he?).
We were going to build a new deck and patio for the backyard.
The kids and not me for real this time were going to take care of vegetable garden.
I was going to run the night-time races in Joplin.
We were going to have our annual firefly night.....

Huh.

Most summer-ends I look back over my "list" and realize that we have only accomplished about half of the things on it.

This year.....pretty much nothing.

Most summer-ends I wish fervently for just one more week.

This year....I am torn.

While I wish we had more of a summer....
I suspect that even if there were 5 more weeks it still wouldn't really be "summer".
Maybe if we just hurry up and start the school year now....then we will just get closer to a "do-over" for next year's summer.

On the other hand...
I suppose we (we as a family, friend circle, community town and country) accomplished lots of things this summer that were nowhere in the universal vicinity of not on my "list":

--We learned to believe in tornado sirens
--I completely rearranged my priority list in life
--I learned exactly what should go into an emergency kit
--We discovered that an EF-5 does a much more thorough job of remodeling our back yard/deck than we ever could
--I WAY upped my dependence on God
--We tried to figure out the difference between "victim" and "survivor"
--RH and I helped bulldoze our own house
--We got a new house
--I learned that one hour in a mold-filled warehouse will yield one full day of coughing
--I discovered that I HATE excel spreadsheets
--We confirmed that a little Shake's frozen custard really CAN help most situations
--I realized that wearing makeup to church is pointless because I'm just going to cry it off anyway
--We learned that the strength of our town is unbelievable
--We found out just how amazing and loving our friends (and strangers) really are


Many more things could go on this list.
I may add them later.
I may not.

So we did have a "summer".
Not a normal one so much.  (understatement of a lifetime?)

I took the kids to Shake's this week (is that a recurrent theme in my life or what?).
We sat outside to enjoy our treat.

It stunk.
Literally.
To the right is a smashed up untouched strip mall with nasty tornado puke all over.
To the left is the new Wallmart construction with the old Walmart remnants drifting over the parking lot.
Straight ahead is the moldy ruins of another strip mall.

Yeah....I know I could point out the analogy of finding beauty and creamy decadent  40,000 calorie heaven in the midst of ugliness....but to be honest?  I don't want to.  It was just sad.

Last night I drove down Main Street and was again sickeningly surprised by the block-after-block darkness separated by green and red glowing traffic lights.

I went to Carolyn's open house at her school and (although I've been to that school twice a week all summer and driven down the road even more than that) had to swallow really hard when I looked south and saw--not the neighborhood where I used to run and many of my friends lived....but gently rolling dirty hills.

So....what's the point of all of this?

Not too sure.

I guess that....with all of the talk about "new starts" and "fresh beginnings" for our town this school year (which I DO believe in and am amazed at all the work that's been accomplished to get the schools ready!) .....
Maybe I expected a feeling of closure on summer?
Maybe I thought that the "normal" would come back?
Or that there might be a "new normal" feeling?

But...it just feels like more changes.
More flux.

Change isn't always bad, you know.
It grows you.
It grows me.

Growth is good.

So maybe it's not the "summer that wasn't".
Maybe it's the "summer that wasn't what we expected".

You know how sometimes (oftentimes) after a "mixed" experience (for example....Disney World.  Fun times but hour long lines with cranky kids) only the good things are remembered (kids have NO recollection of the lines....just the fun)?

Maybe this summer....eventually.....can be like that?

I know we won't forget everything that happened on and after May 22nd....but maybe we will remember the good points of the summer too.

--We went to Oceans of Fun
--Ethan learned to dive and do a flip
--Bennett got to do a class III rapid in Colorado
--We did a family hike with SEVENTEEN of us up a beautiful mountain in Vail
--Carolyn figured out how to put her own hair in a ponytail

There WERE good things.
There WERE points of brightness amidst the blur of debris filled days.

So maybe one day.....one far far far away day....we can look back on the summer of 2011 as a
priority-shifting-really-hot-looking-toward-the-happy-things-very-grateful summer.

With lots of Shake's.











Friday, August 12, 2011

What If....

Last night there was a big event in our town called "I Am Joplin."

It was a massive outdoor "party", who's main reason-for-being (as I understand it) was to let students and school faculty/teachers reconnect with each other before school starts next week.

The weather held out...there were tons of games and activities....hundreds of people came to enjoy each other....and from what I understand it was a big success.

I think it was a GREAT idea.

Toward the end of the evening they showed a memorial video dedicated to those with links to the Joplin school system who had lost their lives during the tornado.

It was followed by a moment of silence.

A friend of mine posted the video on facebook last night.

Now mind you....yesterday was a busy busy day.
We are still in "recovery from trip vacation" mode....
We (we being kids and I...which....as cute as they are....the fact that they're involved in "helping" makes whatever they are "helping" with become 2-3 times more difficult!) ran some errands and met up with Dave for some deliveries...
We took 2 friends to the mall for lunch and to see Smurfs (la la la la la la)....
We sat outside and ate frozen custard (as a bribe reward for getting 5 kids in and out of Hobby Lobby without breaking too much anything)...
We made/ate dinner went to football practice did a long walk with dog which ended up in in-laws pool where we chatted until after 9....

Hence...it was a busy day.
A fine day...but I was tired by the end of it.

So.....enter the video.

There were beautiful pictures of precious faces that are no longer on this earth.

There was a third grader.....
There was a seventh grader.....
There was a college student and a newly graduated high schooler....
There was a school secretary and a preschool student....

The music was beautiful.
The lyrics were perfect.
And at the end....when the written request came across the screen to "Please stand in memory of"...

I stood.
In the middle of my kitchen.
And I cried.

Let me correct that.....
I sobbed.

You know the cry where it actually physically hurts your chest?

I surely know that those people in the video are all ok now.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are dancing and laughing and singing.

But wow....even knowing that.....it's hard to be left behind and try to keep living with the person-shaped-hole that is is left in your life.

And I didn't even KNOW these people.

I truly can't imagine......don't know if I WANT to imagine....how the parents of those kids feel.

Because here's the thing.
At the same time my heart was breaking for all of the families of the people in that video...

I found myself thinking how very easily two first graders could have been added to that list.

If RH's uncle's truck had been ONE BLOCK further south...
If his uncle had left 15 seconds earlier.....
If his uncle had pulled out of the intersection to the southwest instead of the northeast....
If that stop-sign had hit the back window with a little more force....
If Ethan had been facing the window instead of looking forward....

Uggggggh.

So the truth is....that while I was crying for the pain of the families who lost their children....
I was also crying for my own "what if's?".

I have to admit....probably 3 out of 5 nights I lay in bed with "what if's?" going through my head.

What if the kids had been playing upstairs instead of in the basement?
What if the basement had collapsed on us?
What if RH's uncle had pulled up and we'd all been dead and Ethan had seen us?
What if my sister and brother-in-law had been driving with my niece and Carolyn?
What if RH had gone out of the storage room when the 'eye' passed over?
What if we'd gone down the stairs 2 seconds later?
What if what if what if what if what if what if what if???????

"What if?":   What a stupid but haunting question.

Do I believe in God' divine plan?   Yes.
Do I believe He doesn't make mistakes?   Yes.
Do I believe that He gives us what we need....not what we want (and that that is a MUCH better plan?)     Yes.
Do I believe that "what if's" are just evil-born tugs at the "peace in His plan" that God's promised me?   Yes.

Do I still get shaky....inside and out....when I think of all the different ways things could have happened?

Yes.

I am only human.
I am only a mom which doesn't necessarily count out being "human".
I am only a wife.

I am so so so so so grateful for His plan.
I am so so so grateful that I am allowed to spend more time with my family on this side of heaven.
And I am so sad for the moms that had to say good-bye.
And I am so sad that I give in to the "what-if's" .

Maybe when things have gone the way you would have chosen..."what if" becomes a self-indulgent luxury.

But....I think that when things haven't gone the way we had hoped..."what if" might be even worse.

So....I'm only mortal.  And a fallen mortal at that.
I indulge (especially late at night when I'm really tired) in stupid fearful questioning.
I go through scary non-happened scenarios in my mind.
I cry about things that could have been.

But I do my best to shake it off.
To remember that God's plan is perfect.
To remember that everything has happened the way that it should....and that I should look forward, not backward.

My dear friend gave me a wooden sign when we moved into our new place that says:

Sorrow looks back.
Worry looks around.
Faith looks ahead.

I am sad.
I was worried.
But I do have faith.....

So....I'm going to move onward, confident in His plan.

Afterall...the tornado didn't touch Shakey's, right??

















Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Two Lovely Journeys....

Yesterday the kids and I hit the road with our goodies again.

We started with a prayer and headed to our old neighborhood....just like we'd done the other times.

And, as before, we planned on seeking out those people in the yellow/orange vests and groups of volunteers to thank them and actively appreciate them.

There was NOT ONE of these people in our neighborhood.

We headed east to the next neighborhood....and found only 2 small groups.

We crossed Maiden Lane (next to St John's hospital) and found only a handful of these helpers.

By the time we reached the area between the high school and Range Line---at the general spot where we'd run out of cookies the other times---we'd only been able to make contact with 9 or 10 groups of people.

The first few times we'd met dozens and dozens and dozens of people.
Now we had a box with 5 dozen cookies which is dangerous and bad for many reasons.

But here's the thing.
There WERE people out there.

They just weren't volunteers and Army Corps folks going through piles and retrieving bits of people's lives.
They weren't trying to salvage stuff from wrecked homes.
They weren't cutting down twisted toothpick trees.
They weren't making debris piles next to the curb for FEMA.
They weren't doing demolition work.

There were hired contractors.
There were roofers.
There were construction workers.
There were concrete pourers.
There were siding putter-on-ers.

In other words....the sounds of crashing down were being replaced by the sounds of sawing and hammering and building.

The smell of that wet  (even though it's VERY dry now it still has a distinctly wet smell) and moldy tornado puke is being slowly infiltrated by the smell of freshly cut wood and newly poured cement.

Now listen.
There are STILL PLENTY OF AREAS that haven't been touched by demo crews at all.
There are still places where baby strollers are balanced crazily on top of televisions on top of chairs on top of piles that used to be someone's apartment.
There is still lots and lots of work to be done.

But...you can see it now.
You can see a tangible promise of a new city.

Oh the buildings may not be UP yet (except for the Walgreens and Chick-Fil-A that are awesome-ly racing to a finish!).....
But entire streets are cleared and primed.
Foundations are poured and ready for action.
Metal frames are shooting skyward in the business area.

It's coming.
It's on the way.

I got to watch another cool "journey" yesterday.
In the morning, before we headed out, I received a message from a friend.
She had posted about Dave and his family on her blog, and a friend had passed it to a friend who'd shared with a friend's uncle's veterinarian's plumber's cousin's sister's half-aunt twice removed who passed this message back to me.

They had a house they wanted someone to use.
No rent....just pay utilities.
It was vacant and needed a family.

When I was stalking hopefully looking for Dave the 2nd time we went out Bennett asked me why I was was so "concerned" (code for "obsessed") with him.

I replied that I knew God had put our paths together for a reason, and I knew we were supposed to be DOING something for him.

Bennett looked at me very seriously, and said, "Mom....we can't just buy him a house."

I stated that I realized that....but we COULD pray for direction and pass Dave's needs on to other people we knew would pray for him.  I told Bennett that God knows what Dave needs and how to best take care of him....and that we would just pray.

Then I had a friend offer an entire household (minus a kitchen table and beds) of furniture.

Then someone offered a HOUSE.

And 2 people sent money that could pay the utilities for a few months.

Then a pastor's wife said her church would stock their pantry.

Then someone called with 2 twin mattresses and box springs.

Then the pastor's wife said there was a queen size bed in the house and that someone had just refinished a kitchen table and chairs they could use.

Then someone brought TO MY HOUSE 2 boxes of clothing in the little girl's size.

And all this happened yesterday morning.

And I got to call Dave and share with him what God had provided.
And he cried.
And I cried.

And again....I saw it.
That tangible hope in Dave and his family's life.

They had the real hope before...the hope that God has always given.
And now....they had the hope He'd handed them personally.

And I told Bennett how humbled and honored and blessed we are to have been able to watch this "journey" unfold.

And he agreed.