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

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'.


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.


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.


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

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
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


I know guilt.

Believe 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."


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 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".

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'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.


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?


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

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.....


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.
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? 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 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 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.... 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'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 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....


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?


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. 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.