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Who Hid the Easy Button?

Will someone please fess up? I can’t seem to locate the easy button; I’m convinced someone’s trying to be funny by keeping it hidden away.

Today was seriously stressful, and for once, it wasn’t my fault.

I went from being the happiest mama on earth after a 40-minute phone call with Rooster to smelling like I’d waded in sewage – all while simultaneously trying to troubleshoot a serious phone issue.

Hello, my name is Nathalie, and all I’m trying to do is put my life back together post-Hurricane Michael.


I hope you’re not getting tired of these posts. Believe me, I do not like to sound like a spoiled brat, but the reality of life is that nothing is easy these days.

The public needs to know that even the simplest of tasks, such as drying a load of clothes, can quickly evolve into a Herculean feat.

It’s during seemingly innocuous chores that we hurricane survivors discover more broken things – more stuff that needs to be added to our insurance adjusters’ repair lists – more delays in getting claims settled as numbers need to, once again, be reconfigured.

It’s also why I may be drinking a glass of wine as I type this.

Don’t you dare judge me.

Bless his heart, but the Mr., who I see maybe an hour each day since he’s working mega overtime to help our county recover, gets an earful when he arrives home each evening.

It used to be that I’d bend his ear about school woes. Those have paled in comparison to the travails of pulling out stinky, hurricane-rain-laden lint from the outside vent and begging a cell phone carrier to waive a data roaming limit that I didn’t know about because my carrier’s service is using another company’s towers (an hour and a half later, the company kindly acquiesced).

There are silver linings – blessings that remind me that though the easy button is not in my line of sight, God will bring it out at just the perfect time.

I ran into a couple I see about twice s year – at Publix – because we are all tentatively buying perishable food stuffs again, fearful that the power will go off as it’s wont to do while restoration of this service is still underway. We shared stories of the storm and what we expect for the future. I love seeing these people. We parented high school children at the same time. Nothing makes good friends like teenage parenting and hurricane survival. They’re about the same thing if you think about it – except that you don’t lose your cable in the process (said children might if they’re naughty).

Reaching out to my water mitigation company and asking them to arrive a few hours later than they’d originally planned so I can avoid taking leave – and the company’s owner responding immediately with a friendly “yes” and the assurance that they want to minimize my stress – well, that’s certainly a blessing.

Taking a few minutes to make a delicious new dessert from a recently published cookbook made me smile. It was a treat that I definitely earned after my hard day.

Sharing said dessert with the sweet couple who lives beside me – after they’d loaned me their wet vac to clean up the mess I’d discovered when my dryer wouldn’t run properly, and then having said couple run me up to a church to look for donations of cleaning supplies (we got there a little late) – everyone should have sweet neighbors like them.

Cooler weather has arrived – for how long, I can’t say – but after some scorcher days, the reduced temperatures are truly divine.

Learning how to clean up dog poop with a store bag without getting said poop on my hands – well, this is a silver lining too. Now that I can’t let my dogs do number two (see the rhyming?) in the back yard is somewhat of a new thing that took awhile for me to get the hang of. I may be slow, but I catch on eventually. God still performs miracles.

Just sayin’.

I’m not going to lie. I am about to start resembling a contestant on Survivor when I go looking for the hidden immunity idol easy button. Or rather, maybe I’ll just go hunting for Xfinity and Sprint repair trucks, although they seem harder to find than an idol on Exile Island (you’ve got to watch the show to understand).

If you’ve read this far, thanks for humoring me.

Today was hard. I needed to vent (get it – as in dryer vent? Yes, I actually smiled at my own joke.)

By the way, if you see that button I mentioned a time or two, would you have a little bit of mercy and slide it within arm’s reach? Remember that you’re pushing it toward a person with short arms, so put a little oomph in it.


Hurricane Michael – Two Weeks Later

It’s two weeks post-Hurricane Michael technically, its fifteen days since I couldn’t get this to post yesterday), and I’m sitting at my home in Lynn Haven, Florida, composing this post on my phone. My town was one of those that was devastated by this storm.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I returned home about a week ago.

I can honestly say that life is vastly different. I don’t know if or when it will ever go back to the way it was.

I’d show you the pictures and videos I’ve taken since my homecoming, but I’m unable to upload them. Internet service is hard to come by. Cell phone service is intermittent. I’ll share the media when I’m able. For now, my words will have to do.

My drive in was extremely emotional. I’d expected that but not to the degree that I experienced it. Seeing, first-hand, the devastation wrought upon my town and surrounding communities wasn’t something that anyone could have prepared me for.

The Mr. had told me that the skyline was different. He wasn’t kidding. Nearly every tree was either snapped in two or split down the middle. I have no idea how the ones that remained managed to do so.

Every single structure was damaged – some more than others. It truly is incomprehensible.

Even though I arrived home a week after the storm hit, I was extremely overwhelmed by the amount of work that needed to be done – the innumerable ways I needed to adjust my life.

We didn’t have electricity, and the sewage system was still inoperative. The Mr. was working nights, so I had to learn on the fly. I can now proudly say that I know how to start a generator. I know how to wire up various devices to a generator to make life seem a tad bit normal.

Who am I kidding though. There’s nothing normal about the way we’ve had to live the last two weeks.

I’ve stood in line for free meals, water, and other necessities I forgot to buy before the storm. I’ve sat in traffic the likes I’ve never seen for a town the size of mine.

I’ve worked harder than I ever have to clean up the mess left behind this horrible storm. I’ve felt disconnected because of the inability to connect to social media and cable. Even simple things like sending text messages isn’t guaranteed to work. The Mr. received a text from me a week after I sent it – while I was sitting beside him at home.

It’s been a humbling experience.

Two weeks later, the fog brought about from Hurricane Brain is beginning to lift, and in the process, I’ve started remembering about things I ordered that I never received. I, along with countless others, have stopped what I was doing as soon as I’ve noticed my phone in LTE mode and have conducted personal business until the signal faded. Yes, I was that person in Walmart trying to find out what happened to my Ulta order. Priorities, people!

Although the news is no longer carrying stories about my sweet little town, we are still here and still struggling to put the pieces back together.

We are still tarping our roofs in preparation for incoming rain storms. We are still raking shingles and other debris from our yards. Some people still do not have electricity, although the amazing linemen are working unconscionable hours to restore it. For the record, mine came back on Sunday night. Chicky was visiting, and we celebrated with some adult beverages. Thank heavens the no-alcohol sales ban had been lifted!!

School is supposed to start back on or before November 12; teachers report back to work on Monday. It seems crazy, but most of us are ready. I have to admit that we are apprehensive. Many of us won’t be based at our regular school buildings; damage was extensive. Schedules are going to look vastly different, and it’s highly unlikely that we will be teaching the same students we had before. We are being called upon to be more flexible than Gumby.

Two weeks later, the only normal is the lack of a normal.

We get up, we clean, and we wait for insurance adjusters and contractors who may or may not show up because there are thousands of people waiting for them too.

We scream excitedly when we run into people we haven’t seen since before the storm, and we exchange stories. Did you stay? Where did you go? I’m so sorry about your damage. I know my neighbors now.

These are the conversations we typically have.

I implore you to keep praying for us. The minute, day-by-day tasks are endless. We are exhausted.

Ultimately, we are hopeful and incredibly resilient. I’m discovering that people are kinder and more patient. Sure, we might have had to wait an hour to get into Walmart, but there’s a camaraderie there that wasn’t present before. We have a curfew, so we are learning to be more efficient in the daylight hours.

The Mr. has a coworker who allowed me to go to his house, wash clothes, and shower. What a blessing! I watched as he boiled water for his own family while we waited for my clothes to dry. Everyone is doing what they can to help one another.

There are so many positives that have come out of this challenging time.

I’ve had a few people ask if I need anything. Personally, I don’t; however, once we get back to school, there will be many teachers and students who need school supplies.

Please consider adopting a teacher or a classroom. My community consists of many under-resourced people. They are going to need a lot of the basics as the homeless population just increased by thousands.

I’ll post all of my pictures and will share more specific stories when I can. My cable company still can’t say when service will be up and running. I’m learning to adapt – or rather go without. It hasn’t been a bad lesson to learn, even if I haven’t exactly enjoyed it much. I’m doing more reading at night and lots of other stuff during the day. Time is passing. God is providing. Things could be so much worse. Ultimately, all is well with the world.

As always, thank you for the love and support.

Going Home

In just a few hours, I’ll pack up my car and head out.

It’s been a whirlwind of a week filled with a myriad of emotions, experiences, and uncertainty.

Yesterday, I had a feeling that it was going to be my last day of creature comforts, so I made the most of it.

I got my hair washed, trimmed, dried, and straightened at a new-to-me-thank-you-Google-salon.

If you’re ever in Tallahassee and in need of a new do, look them up.  Nazanin did a fabulous job on my hair, and the conversation with her made me feel as though we’d been friends for years.

I walked out feeling like I’d been pampered.  My hair was grateful.

I baked one more batch of Vegan Pumpkin Cupcakes.  This dozen was as good as the first.

The family and I ate at Blaze Pizza for dinner – one of my favorite pizzerias.

Super Sis and I ran a couple of errands.  Walmart may never be the same after our silliness.  #ditzyredneckfun

I treated the dogs to, well, treats when we returned to the house.

Innocent faces that are hiding the fact that “someone” chewed up a photo book.  Ahem.

Her husband made us his specialty drink:  a version of a margarita (it has fresh lime juice, Amaretto, and other stuff).

I sipped on it while we took three hours to watch the latest episode of Survivor.  When you don’t get to see your sibling and her husband much, you interrupt TV shows often for random stories.

Underlying all of my afternoon activities was the conversation I’d had earlier that day with the Mr.

The Mr. had called me after lunch to chat.  I’d been keeping up with the progress of the water and electricity situations via Facebook.  He confirmed that we now have water at the house.  It’s still undrinkable, and the city is cautioning us to refrain from showering and flushing (except for emergencies).

He also told me that I could go home.

Do you know how wonderful those words were to me?  I started tearing up.

He told me that although some of the streets in my neighborhood have power (another fact I had learned on Facebook), our house does not.

He said that we do have a generator, though, thanks to the generosity of one of his friends.  He hasn’t hooked it up yet but will when I get home.

He said that he needs me home to start cleaning up our backyard and our house.  He said that most of our neighbors have removed the debris from their yards, but because of his work schedule, he hasn’t had time.

He also needs me to start handling some of the insurance issues.  We need to figure out when an adjuster can come to the house.  We need to learn what we need to be doing.  We haven’t got a clue.

We had discussed what I needed to buy before going home – hence the trip to Walmart after dinner.  I bought a radio, batteries, and cleaning supplies.  He also needed socks; laundry hasn’t been a priority, so he’s running out of stuff.

Can I make a confession?

I’m a little scared.

When I left nine days ago, life was normal.  Streetlights shined from dusk to dawn; the garage door opened with a push of a button; clear water flowed from the tap.  I was able to let the dogs out to potty in my fenced-in yard, I had a job to go to every day, and we went out to dinner a couple of times a week.

Things are going to be vastly different.

I’m not superficial (well, mostly not).  I can do without a lot, although I have to admit that it will probably take some getting used to.  I have a feeling that life is about to get a lot quieter.  Forget the TV, forget Netflix and Amazon Prime.

I’m actually worried about the flood of emotions that are going to overwhelm me when I lay eyes on my town.  The Mr. has tried to warn me, but he knows that the shock is going to be hard on me.

I’m a person who thrives on routine; change is very difficult for me.  I’m not a lot different from the students I teach.  They cling to certain anchors in their lives and depend on them for stability.  We’ve just had that ripped out from under us, so our hearts are raw and tender.

But y’all.  I’m going home.

I’m actually writing this in the wee hours of the morning.  I don’t know how well I’ll sleep.

It’s like Christmas Eve times ten thousand.

I’m thankful for those who have loved on me in the interim, but I need to reconnect with those I do daily life with.

I don’t know when I’ll get to publish another post.  I’m going to try to write daily so I have a record of everything.  I’ll upload the posts when I have internet service.

Please continue to pray for us.  Please pray for those who, like me, are returning home.  Although we may not have actually sat through the scariest hours of the storm, our hearts were still there in spirit.  Seeing ground zero is going to be difficult, but it will reinforce the fact that we are ONE community united by this life-altering experience.

One Week Later . . .

Today marks one week since my hometown was decimated by Hurricane Michael.

I’m still in disbelief that this happened; seven days hasn’t dulled the shock.  I, along with everyone I know, keep asking if this is real.

Y’all, can I just say that is as real as the device that you are reading this from.

One week later, my town is picking up the pieces . . . literally and figuratively.

The streets may be looking a little cleaner, but the devastation wrought by the storm hasn’t been cleared away.

One week later, tens of thousands of homes are still without power, water, and sewer.  Roofs still haven’t been tarped, gas is still nearly impossible to find, people are being kicked out of their homes because they can’t pay the rent, and reliable communication is still sketchy..

Although I haven’t been watching the news, I have been keeping up with things through social media.  From what I’ve heard, though, the media has started backing off; more “pressing” interest stories have taken the place of what was one of the most crippling storms in history.

One week later, progress is being made, but the going has been extremely slow.  Water is slowly coming back, but it’s unsafe to drink.  Lynn Haven residents are being advised to refrain from showering because the system isn’t fully operational yet.  The sewage system is still being repaired; toilet flushing is being discouraged except for emergency situations.

One week later, the school district continues to assess the condition of the schools as it formulates a plan to begin educating our children.  The magnitude of this task is something that hasn’t been undertaken since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  How do you provide such services when fewer than a third of your schools are structurally intact?  It’s a daunting task with many roadblocks.

In the week that has passed, we have seen the best and the worst of humanity.  I’ve read countless stories of complete strangers helping others.  I’ve got friends who have taken their own chainsaws and helped people clear trees from their homes.  I’ve also read of fraudulent companies rushing in to take advantage of the downtrodden, of looters stealing purses from the sleeping arms of mamas, and of price gauging for essential items.  I shouldn’t be surprised, but the eternal optimist in me is still sad and disappointed.

One week later, I’m still meeting people who have no clue just how dire it is back home.  Every time someone finds out that I’m from Lynn Haven, they ask me questions, and they are completely shocked by how desperate the situation is . . . how even the simplest of tasks is nearly impossible to complete.

Have you washed your clothes in the past seven days?  Did you put ice in your drink?  I’ll bet that you slept in air conditioning and under a fan.  Did you gas up your car and run to the grocery store, return home, and prepare a hot meal?

These are luxuries that the folks in my town haven’t enjoyed since the early hours of October 10th.  Some people still don’t know when they’ll be able to return to seemingly “mundane” tasks again.

One week later, we are giving thanks that so many people lived through what was the scariest experience of their lives.  We are grateful for the charities that have stepped in to provide food, water, and other necessities.  We are stronger because we are walking through this together – the sense of community has grown exponentially.

One week later, I find myself missing my students more than I ever thought I would.  Our daily check-ins bring a smile to my face as they not only confirm that they are okay but as they inquire about my welfare.  These kids have been asked to endure one of the hardest things they will ever go through, and they are coming out of it stronger, more mature, and with a keen awareness of how precious life is.

I’m so disappointed in myself for not recognizing the needs of other cities that have gone through this before.  I’ll forever be changed by this and will never take for granted the most basic of things in life.

My district has adopted a new motto:  Faith, Family, and Future.

As we lean into our faith, support each other as only family does, we look ahead to a bright future.

I will say this a thousand more times:  Please do not forget about us.

Please continue to pray.

Please support my little town along with the others affected . . . some you may have heard of and others you haven’t.

One week can seem like such a long time.  In reality, it’s only seven short days in what will be many numbers of days as we work to regain any kind of normalcy.

Hurricane Brain

This morning when I woke up, it took me a few minutes to orient myself.

I had no idea where I was.  Changing home base three times in a week will do that to a person.

Super Sis and her husband had already left for work, so I had the house to myself.

The dogs seemed to have slept well; their appetites had returned as well.  Pele even ate without me adding any of the soft dog food I’d purchased a couple of days before.

After allowing them to explore the back yard, I showered and then headed over to the in-laws’ house.

Gambit was not having it.  He stuck close by and even crawled on my lap at one point in the morning.

I wound up leaving them in the care of Grand Pooba while Coupon Queen and I ran to Walmart.

Now, let me tell you a little about a thing called Hurricane Brain.

It’s akin to Teacher Brain or New Mommy Brain.

It’s a phenomenon where you cannot put two thoughts together.

It’s born out of the infinite need to multi-task while under the influence of extreme stress.

That is why we were at Walmart for almost two hours and walked back and forth across the entire store at least six times.

I kid you not.

I think I got about 20,000 steps during that errand alone.

I had even made a list on my phone, but I couldn’t find anything I needed the first, second, or third passes through aisles.  Coupon Queen can verify this.

It didn’t help that I was also texting Megan, telling her how to apply for FEMA assistance, which I’d done that morning, was reading emails from one of my assistant principals, and updating a Google spreadsheet with my information along with Megan’s since she doesn’t have internet yet.

Then, of course, I got distracted when I saw a law enforcement guy all dressed in his black shirt and fatigues.  I had to stop him and ask where he was from.  He was a local who happened to be shopping for hurricane supplies to take to Lynn Haven.

Y’all, I would have hugged him, except that he had a gun strapped to his thigh, and I don’t think that officers like being hugged unexpectedly by strange women in Walmart.

I told him where I was from and thanked him.  I told him about my own hubby who was working with the Emergency Operations Center to coordinate relief efforts.

I saw his face soften as he wished me well.  Later, I watched as he and another officer pushed two buggies filled to the brim out of the store.  God bless them!

I managed to finish my shopping.  Y’all, when you have thirty minutes to pack your belongings, you forget a few items.  You realize how much you take for granted things like Q-tips, razors, and shaving cream when you don’t have them.

I also picked up some supplies for when I go home.  Bleach will be very important because the house has been without power for nearly a week and will probably continue to be without electricity for at least a week or two longer.  Stuff is getting stinky.

Coupon Queen, who knows half of Tallahassee I do believe, ran into a gal as we were checking out of Walmart.  The lady is a pastor at a church in Gretna, which is a short jump away from Tallahassee.  She was picking up stuff for the people affected by the storm.  I listened as she described the dire conditions that community was facing.  It’s a poor area – one in which a lot of churches visit to do missionary work.  The people there need a lot of help in their recovery efforts.

I guess I wore Coupon Queen out; she napped when we got back to her house.  The dogs followed suit.

By the way, let me do a shout-out to these people.  I remember a day, quite a few years ago, when they wouldn’t let Aubie on that carpet.  They’ve softened up a lot!

While everyone sawed some logs, I got to busy in the kitchen.

One of the ways I cope with stress is to bake.  I’d seen a recipe by Chocolate Covered Katie, so when we were out and about, I’d picked up the ingredients for it.

These are Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (all vegan, of course).

Look how well they rose!  The smell was divine.

Here’s what they looked like with the frosting.

Maybe they weren’t the prettiest, but they tasted incredible!

And yes, I know that I need to work on my frosting technique.  I actually left a comment on the gal’s blog about how to make that frosting fluffy.  What matters most is the taste.  They’re so good that I’m going to make another batch tomorrow!  I have plenty of supplies for the cupcakes as well as leftover frosting.

I went back to Super Sis’s house for dinner.

Gambit loves the front windows in her house.  He can see all of the traffic going by.

It was fun to sit at their table, watch my brother-in-law squared (sisters married brothers) cook dinner, and enjoy a glass of wine with them.

After dinner, we sat and watched God Friended Me, a new show that Super Sis and her husband are enjoying.

One thing I am loving is the simpleness of just being.  So are the dogs, apparently, as they’ve finally begun to relax.

We are a close-knit family – especially because sisters married brothers.  We laugh easily, we poke fun of each other, we celebrate the joys of life together.

My new routine doesn’t feel normal yet, but at least I am with people who I love and who love me (and my fur babies) in return.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, here are the latest updates about my precious little town.

The water is slowly coming back, although the Mr. told me, during our nightly phone call, that there are still a lot of breaks in the system – leaks they are trying to locate.  I’m seeing friends’ posts on Facebook about them having water, and I’m so excited!  They can’t drink it yet, but at least they can shower.

The sewer system is still a mess.  They are trying to bring it up to speed, but they are manually pumping it out and carrying the refuse elsewhere.  Sounds disgusting, eh?  I watched a City of Lynn Haven meeting online today, and officials were still telling people not to flush.  They’ve ordered a slew of Porta Potties, but they are having trouble getting them in.

I read one neighbor’s Facebook post that said how it smelled like a circus.

So gross.

This is a facet of recovery that I sincerely doubt the news is reporting.

The public needs to know this, though.

I read that there are people who are being evicted from their apartments because they can’t pay the rent right now.  I don’t understand this.  Where will they go?  Many of the students I teach are homeless.  I expect that number to go up exponentially.

The school district is still trying to develop plans for the return of school; however, with no electricity and schools being heavily damaged, the challenges are overwhelming.

We will get there, though.  It’s just going to take a lot of wisdom, time, and patience.

Please continue to pray for us.  If you can send supplies, please do so.  They are asking for chainsaws.  I know that water and ice are also desperately needed.  Those in outlying areas are struggling to get to the supplies and free food being offered because they have no gas for transportation. In fact, I’ve read that gas is very hard to come by as many of the stations were destroyed or simply have no power.

Please pray for us as we navigate what is already becoming Insurance Hell.  It’s very nerve-wracking to know that you have a large deductible and are worried that the insurance is going to try to get out of paying for repairs.  True story, about a hundred thousand times over.

As always, I count myself blessed to have wonderful readers who do pray and who offer sweet, supportive comments.  Thank you so much!

Inching Closer

This morning, I got up bright and early.  The dogs and I were headed to our next destination.  My boys had gotten used to changing course every few days and seemed up for another adventure.

First, though, was the task of loading up the car.  Even though I really didn’t have much, it still took a little while to get everything organized.  Normally, I’d have the Mr. to help me out, but with him at home doing the important work of helping coordinate emergency services, I was on my own.

I went into my hosts’ main house and said my final goodbyes.  The hugs were tight and heartfelt, and I managed to keep my emotions at bay.

I told them that their home had been a place of rest for my tender heart – that I was in a better place emotionally than the day I’d shown up shell-shocked and numb.  T and L truly are angels on earth.

As I walked out to my car, I stopped and took in the sight of their pool and the land beyond.

I shed a few tears in those moments, partially from exhaustion but also from a deep sense of gratitude.

Then, I loaded up the boys, and we headed out.

I called Super Sis and let her know I was on the way.  I also texted the in-laws.  Everyone was waiting for me, eager to help bridge the gap between my need to be cared for and my desire to be home.

It had been awhile since I’d driven from Auburn to Tallahassee, so I let my phone’s map guide me.

Y’all, it took me down the scenic route, let me tell you.

I’m glad it did.

Driving through Eufaula always brings back fond memories.  The main drag is one of the prettiest canopied roads you’ll ever see.

As I traveled further and further south and drove down small, back-country roads, the amount of destruction from the storm increased.  I’m not sure that many people really understand how far-reaching this storm was.

I drove through small towns like Colquitt and Blakely, and I was literally blown away by the number of downed trees and power lines.

I passed an untold number of torn up houses and yards littered with debris.  I saw many businesses with missing roofs.

I pray that these people aren’t lost in the shuffle.  They need a lot of help!

We stopped once, about halfway into our trip, and I let the dogs out to potty.  I was struck by the damage even at that one gas station; the debris from felled trees right in front of me.

I can’t imagine what it will be like when I go home and see this in every direction.

As I drove into Tallahassee, three songs played on the Christian station, and I cried a little more with each one.  I felt as though God was speaking directly to me, reminding me that He is here, that He will restore, and that He will heal that which was broken.

After a pit stop at a vet’s clinic for some meds for the dogs, I hopped across town to my in-laws’ house.

The dogs were nervous.  I don’t know that they’d been at the house before since I always keep them at home when we visit family.

Then, we went to Super Sis’s house.  This is where we will actually be staying, but we will go back and forth between the two houses since they live two streets away from each other.

I’m thankful for this family of mine.  They’ve graciously opened up their homes for as long as I need them.  They both have fenced-in yards for the dogs.

I ate dinner with the in-laws.  It was the first real meal I’d eaten in days.  In fact, it was the first time I’d felt hungry enough to eat a decent amount of food.

Grand Pooba worked hard to make friends with Gambit.  Gambit is very leery of new people – especially men.  Corn chips did the trick, though.

Pele needed little coaxing.  He was in it for the chips.

The dogs settled in after dinner, finally calming down enough to rest.

We hoofed it back to Super Sis’s house in time to watch Dancing With the Stars before calling it a night.

I’m staying in what used to be my eldest nephew’s room.  He’s Rooster’s age and living on his own now.  Sis had prepared it for me and even left me empty shelves to place my stuff on.  She is thoughtfulness personified.

I feel so fortunate.  I have the creature comforts that my neighbors and friends back home are lacking right now.  I feel bad about this, but the Mr. feels better knowing that I am safe and comfortable, and that the dogs (especially sweet, old Pele) have their needs being tended to.

I spoke with the Mr. this evening.  He sounded worn out.  Twelve-hour shifts will do that to a person.

He told me that there’s still no water and, thus, no sewer system.  He’d cleaned out the refrigerator and freezer.  Apparently, we had more stuff than I’d realized.

He also told me that he’d called our insurance company to get the ball rolling on things.  We are going to need to re-shingle the entire house, essentially putting on a new roof.  I guess we lost more than I’d originally thought.  He also told me that we will likely have water damage from where the freezer leaked.  He’s concerned about mold and mildew as well since we’ve been without power for nearly a week.

The Mr. told me that he had handed out plywood and clips to our neighbors.  I suggested that he give them the soup and other stuff I’d bought before the hurricane, but I think my neighbors are leaving town for awhile to regroup.  Bless their hearts, but they have been real troopers and have been there since the storm hit.

The Mr. told me that the landscape has completely changed – that I won’t recognize the skyline when I drive in to town.  It’s a sight I’m both dreading yet looking forward to as it will mean that I’m home.

The president visited my small town today.  If you look up Lynn Haven, you’ll see footage.  I only learned of it when T, my hostess, texted me this afternoon to make sure I’d made it to Tallahassee safely.  She asked about the name of my town and told me about the president.

I’m glad that he got to meet our mayor.  She’s a fabulous lady – a former teacher – who had already made incredible improvements to our town.  She’s doing a fabulous job coordinating the restoration of services; her staff provides detailed updates each day on the town’s Facebook page.

Please continue to pray for us.  Don’t forget about us as the days turn into weeks.

Please pray for those who are displaced.  It’s so hard to see my friends and coworkers who have left and are trying to find a new normal.  We miss each other as evidenced by our Facebook comments.  Even though I really do feel as though we got along well before, this storm has knit our hearts even more tightly together.

Every day, we inch a little closer to a joyous reunion.  I can already feel the tears welling up.  Better send a hefty supply of Kleenex.  I’m going to need it when that day finally gets here.

The Nomad Life

It’s Sunday evening, Gambit is snoring, and I’m finally at a point where my brain is slowing down.

Today truly was a day of rest.

When I woke up, my hosts’ dogs were running around the property, so I left mine inside.  T came out at one point, and we began to chat while her son’s precious new puppy, Trump, scampered around.

Check out his adorable name tag.

I do believe that the fix for a sad heart is a puppy.  This one was full energy and quite a bit of curiosity.

Trump was cuteness overload and a welcome distraction, if I do say so myself – especially when he nipped me with his puppy teeth!

One of their other dogs, Jasper, loves to chase a ball.  He was a lot of fun to watch.  Check out this video (that’s me throwing the ball) . . .

We stayed poolside for quite awhile before T put her dogs up so mine could come out.

Gambit was all about exploring and ventured out of the fence before I could stop him.  Pele followed and played like he was deaf, completely ignoring my warnings to come back.  So, I chased them for almost a quarter mile, nearly lost Gambit, but found him when I saw a flock of ducks take off.


Gambit got his energy out and contritely walked back with me to the house where I kept a close eye on him.

I ran a couple of errands because Pele still wasn’t eating this morning.  I needed to find something to get him going.

I took a short video as I pulled back up to the house.  I am a country girl at heart, and this place has fed my soul with restorative healing that only God can provide through faithful servants such as these extremely kind friends.

Thankfully, all it took was some baby carrots and dog food pouches.

After their treats, the dogs were ready to head back outside; Pele even beat me down the stairs.  He scared me silly because his legs aren’t working quite right, but his smile was everything.

I set up shop by the pool in front of the outdoor fireplace/TV area.

The weather was divine – not too hot and not too cold.

I called N, my daughter-in-law, and caught up with her.  She was the only person in the family I had not spoken with since all of the crazy started happening.

I watched last week’s episode of Survivor on my laptop, but mostly I just chilled.

The dogs and I will become nomads again tomorrow, so I knew that we needed one more day to be still.  They’ve been nervous with us changing locations every few days, so having one place to stay grounded has helped all of our nerves.

T came out mid-afternoon, in between her household chores, and chatted awhile.  I have absolutely loved her company.  She’s down to earth, humble, and has a quick sense of humor.  She’s been a balm to my uneasy soul – a true gift from God.

I did repack my clothes in preparation for the next leg of our journey.  It was a good chance to take stock of what I’d grabbed the night I ran away from the storm.

T and L invited me to eat dinner with me.  Y’all, you know you’ve met your kind of people when their idea of a good dinner is a prepared chicken from the grocery store and leftover lunch (for me . . . sesame tofu).  It wasn’t fancy, but it was comfortable, and I felt like family.

The latest update from the Mr. is that they think they may have water in a couple of days.  There are still breaks in the lines, so they are trying to locate those and make repairs.  They are also still testing the water.  When I asked about the sewer system, he sounded hopeful about that as well.  They have to restore power to the lifts, which are used to pump waste out of the system.  That’s something they may do manually until power returns.  It’s still a work in progress.

He did tell me that if I go home, I need to be prepared to sweat.  It’s hot.  It’s Florida.  It’s only October.  We have a couple of people who will loan us generators, but they aren’t strong enough to run the AC – only the fans, lights, and the fridge.

Traffic is a nightmare.  He said that it takes three hours to go a couple of miles because people are either looking for supplies or trying to get out of town.

In other words, it’s still bad.  The decision to go home is fraught with mostly cons and not a lot of pros.

This is definitely one big roller coaster ride.  Every single day brings new emotions.  Last night was hard because the news was still so dire.

Today was much better as I saw that Gulf Power hopes to have ALL electricity restored by the 24th of this month.  Even the Mr. sounded better when we talked, so I’m hopeful that I can go home sooner rather than later.

I saw pictures on Facebook – photos of my church having a service this morning.

Though the building is heavily damaged, as is every single church in town, God is still present because the church isn’t a building at all.

It’s the people.

I saw that other churches had services as well.  What a beautiful testimony to God’s grace and provision.

Things are still so hard, but in the midst of all of it, there is so much more to be thankful for.

The quick messages on Facebook from other teachers makes me miss them SO MUCH.  There’s a lot of love out there.  As one of my friends said, “We will all be together soon my friend.”

I’ll be honest with you.

Before this hurricane hit, I was more than frustrated.  About almost everything.  I had such a sour attitude.

Much of that has changed now.

Perspective is everything – a lesson I guess I must be slow to learn because I keep being retaught it.

This is my view tonight.  It screams serenity and peace.

Thank you for your prayers.  I am 100% positive that God is hearing and answering them.

The progress that is being made is truly miraculous; the outpouring of help has been phenomenal.

Please keep praying.  There is still SO MUCH that needs to be done.  Almost everyone I know has been displaced.  Most people have damage to their homes.  There’s not a single person who hasn’t been affected.

Thanks you guys!!

From a Distance

Today is day 4 post-Hurricane Michael, and I’m sitting in a friend’s pool house in Auburn, Alabama reflecting on the past two days.  I’ll go ahead and ask for forgiveness ahead of time because there is some rambling as my emotions are all over the place right now.

In some ways, I feel disconnected from the cleanup that is going on at home.  I’m keeping up with it via social media and daily check-ins with my friend, Megan, but it’s hard to sit back while others are living out the hard stuff.

With that said, the Mr. has mandated that I stay away.  He’s working with Emergency Management to coordinate relief efforts and the restoration of necessary services to make life livable again.

Meanwhile, I’m watching from a distance and doing my best to put one foot in front of the other despite wanting to crawl into bed and sleep until it’s over.

Yesterday afternoon, the dogs and I made the short trek from our hotel to this beautiful home after spending that morning in the hotel lobby watching guests come and go.

At one point, the manager came out and chatted with me.  I’m glad he did because it gave me the opportunity to personally thank him for waiving the no-pets rule and allowing us to stay.  If you’re looking for one of the most accommodating hotels in the Auburn-Opelika area, I highly recommend the Fairfield Inn at Tigertown.

My car, at that point, smelled like wet dog.  It had rained for a day and a half thanks to the storm that had traveled northeast.

The dogs have been good sports throughout this ordeal.  Pele has been super-stressed, but he has continued to trust me – even when stuffed in a car with a lot of other things.

Notice how much of that stuff belongs to the dogs and how little belongs to me?  Priorities, people!

The house we’re staying at is the same one the Mr. and I visited last year when we came to an Auburn game.

It is akin to a resort, I kid you not.  The amount of land is breathtaking.  The dogs took to the yard immediately.

I have been filled with an incredible amount of sadness and helplessness, so this time to regroup is appreciated.

I haven’t smiled a lot, but being outside in the beautiful weather helped a little.

The dogs and I are leaning on each other with all of the strange happenings.

We stayed outside, poolside, for a couple of hours.

I can’t lie, though.  I feel as though I’ve aged a few years.  Maybe that sounds bad to say given my surroundings, but it’s about as hard emotionally to be away as it would have been to be in town.

My heart longs to be with my people . . . actually doing something to help.

My hosts are some of the nicest people you will ever meet.  T, the wife, is as laid-back as they come.  She took us for a ride on whatever the vehicle is called (pictured below).

Gambit was pretty scared, at first, but he settled in as we went from one side of the property to the other.

This place could be used as a mental health getaway, I kid you not.  It’s just so peaceful.

After we got done riding around, we returned to the main house.  T encouraged me to take the dogs’ leashes off because she wanted the dogs to be as comfortable as possible (she’s really my kind of person), and boy, you should have seen Gambit.  He was totally in his element.  I think he was meant to be a country dog.

Pele has been cautious.  At twelve years old, he’s not keen on change, so he’s sticking close to me.

T took me with her to a shindig her sister-in-law was hosting.  Y’all, if you think my current surroundings are something else, you should have seen the house we went to.  It was an architectural delight that I wish I could have taken photos of but couldn’t because it would have been rude.  The house belongs in a magazine – French style with a courtyard and everything.

The Mr. called me during the get-together, and I held out hope that I’d be able to go home sooner rather than later.

I went to bed with homesickness in my heart but also gratitude for a comfortable place to stay.  I slept well, but I found myself getting up fairly early.

The dogs and I made our way downstairs into the wonderfully crisp air.  While I chatted with Chicky on the phone, the dogs kept watch on the robot pool cleaner thing.

Pele refused to eat breakfast.  I’m very worried about him, despite the smile on his face.  That’s a stressed-out smile.

Gambit, on the other hand, is embracing this for the adventure that it is.

He’s loving the extra time with me . . . time when I’d normally be working or distracted by other things.

My hosts graciously invited me to attend the Auburn game with them.  They have a block of seats for each game.  Fortunately, I’d thrown an Auburn shirt into my suitcase when I’d packed in a rush, so I was dressed appropriately.

On the way in, we saw the makings of a wedding . . .

A tailgate wedding . . .

A short walk later, we’d found our way to our seats.

Watching the eagle make its way to the field always takes my breath away.

The entrance of the band is always fun to watch . . . so full of pageantry.

I’ve got to tell you, though, that as much as I love these games, and as glad as I was that I was there, my heart was still so very, very heavy.  The band started playing America the Beautiful, and the crowd started singing it, and I started crying quietly, tears running down my face.

I thought of home and the beauty that was stripped away so viciously.

Then, I thought about how resilient my hometown folks are.  Already, debris is being cleaned up, a long process to be sure but one that is proceeding.

I thought about a devotion I’d recently read about God using dust to create beautiful things – how He created mankind from the dust of the earth.

America is beautiful not just because of its landscape but because of the people.

Watching how the people in my city and other cities around the country are coming to one another’s aid is so humbling.

I drew comfort from T, my friend, as she put her arm around me to console me,

I found kind, listening ears in the orthopedic surgeon I met today, a friend of L (T’s husband) as he asked about my home and what everyone is going through.  He was genuinely interested and actually shocked at how dire it is back home.

The game’s preparation continued, and again, I found myself emotional as the flag was unfurled.

I thought of my sweet boy, serving his country and yet still finding the time to text me regularly to check in.

The flyover was breathtaking.

Y’all, I am a hot mess right now and don’t really know when to smile and when to cry.

I did get caught up in the game, the highs and the lows (lots of lows as our season really sucks this year).

The halftime show was sweet and ended with a tribute to those fighting cancer and those who have survived it.

The final score of the game was sad though.

After tailgating with T and L’s family, we headed back to their house and watched more football.

The Mr. called in the middle of one of the games.

His update was filled with bad news.  There’s still no water, and the sewer system isn’t close to being fixed because they haven’t gotten generators yet.  I told him about the sewage backup I’d seen in a photo in our neighborhood group on Facebook.  It’s backing up into numerous streets.

Sounds third-world, eh?

The Mr. doesn’t want me going home until both the water and sewer are restored.  We can deal without electricity, but the other two things are essential for decent living.

He told me that people are trying to leave our town – that’s how bad it is.

I’ve seen the long lines of people waiting for food, water, and other essential items.  The needs are great.

So, although I am desperate to get home and be with those I live next to and work with, I’m not.

I had told the Mr. that I needed him to be in charge – a rare admission for this go-getter, overachieving gal.

He’s doing that and with much gusto too.

He needs me where I can actually help him once he wraps his head around what he, personally, needs.  It’s funny how he can assess needs for the general public, but focusing on stuff in a more narrow scope is mentally draining.

Prayer Requests:

  • Decision making for those in charge – There are so very many small details that must be attended to before the big things can come into play
  • Wisdom – Something of this magnitude hasn’t been seen in our area before
  • Generators for the lifts needs for the sewer system
  • Protection from looters – Because bad people come out of the woodwork
  • Honest repair companies that won’t try to scam people – This is happening to people in my neighborhood!
  • Those who are living out the daily grind of cleanup, finding food and other basic necessities
  • Those of us who left and are watching from afar – It’s hard to be patient and let others do the work
  • Pele – I’m super worried about him.  He’s hardly eating at all, is drinking a lot, and is struggling physically with his back legs.  I took him to the vet the day we evacuated, and although she ran bloodwork and said he’s doing fine, I know that he’s not.  He’s trying to keep up, but he’s slowing down, and I don’t think my heart can take another loss.  I am praying that this is just stress and nothing else.

The Minutiae of Life, Post-Hurricane Michael

Have you ever read the book, Alas Babylon?

I read it a couple of years ago when I taught 9th grade Honors English.  This was the summer reading my classes had to do, so I figured I’d better be knowledgeable about it if I was going to grade my students’ projects correctly.

The book, although written in the 1950’s, is one that I’ve gone back to many times in the past two days as the reality of post-storm life begins to break through my shell-shocked mind.

I slept nine blessed hours the night after the hurricane, but it only took me moments after waking up to feel overwhelmed again.

I felt out of the loop, desperate for updates from my city, so I stalked the news and Facebook.

A lady who lives in my neighborhood was able to stay connected to the internet, and she walked around, took pictures, and posted them in our Facebook group.  I cried when I saw pictures of my home . . . and the Mr.’s car parked out front.

The back of my house and that of my neighbor’s.  Pieces of her screened in porch are in my back yard.

That broken tree was one I was concerned would fall on my house.  Unfortunately, it fell on the neighbor’s.

My neighbor texted and offered to take a photo of the front of my house.  I was so relieved to see that my front windows were not busted out, although I later learned that the storm had blown off the plywood the Mr. and I had put up.

We fared sooooooooo much better than most.  Here’s my neighbor’s house, with the downed tree . . .

The Mr. wasn’t able to call me until late in the day, and he told me that all was well.  We are missing some shingles, but we are so much better off than most people.

The Mr. told me that to get to our house, he’d had to drive through a few yards to avoid trees and other debris in the street.

He said that he’d talked to our neighbors, and they had felt their walls contracting during the storm, as if the walls were going to fall in.  The neighbor behind us, an elderly gentleman, had actually stood in his doorway and braced it during the storm.  Scary stuff.  We’ll be getting our house inspected when we can to double check its stability.

The situation in my town is very, very bad.  The entire power grid is down; electricity is not expected to be restored for weeks . . . even months.  The mayor was on Facebook Live and predicted at least two months of no electricity.

Isn’t that crazy?

It’s straight-up apocalyptic – like something from the book I mentioned.

There’s no running water.  City workers are trying to get it going, but here’s the kicker.  The sewer system is broken, so it’s going to back up into people’s homes if everyone starts trying to flush even when the water comes back on.

There’s a boil water notice; however, with no electricity, people have to use bottled water.

The only reliable cell service at the moment is through AT&T, a carrier I would never subscribe to but others do.  What a blessing for them and those of us who left since these people are the main ones posting updates.

School has been canceled indefinitely.  The Mr. and I talked about this too.  Some schools are being used as shelters, and with so many people without homes, those shelters won’t be able to close anytime soon.  We can’t run the schools without electricity, and even if we had it, with no gas, teachers can’t get to work, and we can’t get kids to school.

I’ve seen pictures of my church, and y’all, it’s horrendous.  We have two campuses, and both are in ruins.

The inside to the church campus I attend (we have an indoor soccer field, which is what you are seeing)

Most churches around here are in the same sad shape.

It’s surreal.

It’s worse than any movie a producer could conjure up.

I want to go home desperately, but like I told the Mr. when he called me a second time last night, I’m afraid to.

What will I go home to?

Yes, my house is secure, but what about the other stuff that is called my life?  I can’t go and decide it’s too bad to live in and leave.  There’s no gas to fuel up my car once I get there.  You either leave or you stay.  Period.

I feel completely discombobulated.  I went to Walmart yesterday to buy deodorant since I’d left home in such a rush and had forgotten it (along with a lot of other things), and I honestly couldn’t think straight.

I’ve gotten to where I can recognize other evacuees simply from the blank looks on their faces – mirrored by my own.

Y’all want to know something kind of funny but sad?  I didn’t even know that the hotel I’m staying at only had me down for two nights.  I’d lost track of time and had no clue what day it was.  It wasn’t until I was chatting with Super Sis while sitting in the hotel lobby that it occurred to us that I better check my reservations.  Sure enough, I was supposed to check out hours ago.  Nobody had kicked me out.  They generously extended my stay, although I was warned that the hotel was full for the weekend with an Auburn home game looming.

For a girl who can plan out nine weeks’ worth of lessons, this tells you just how devastating the storm has been emotionally.

Now, whatever you do, please don’t judge me.  I like to be happy and funny on my blog, but this is my safe place.  It’s where I come to process life, even when said life isn’t all lollipops and sunflowers.

It’s ridiculously hard right now.  My body may be in Alabama, but my entire heart is with my people in Florida.

I told my friend, Megan, that we are living out a plot from one of our books, and I can’t say that I like it much.

I’d drink wine, but I’m still taking antibiotics for my sinus infection (and feeling a little better each day).

I’m eating, a little but honestly don’t want to.  My appetite is gone.

I miss my husband, my house, my students, and my friends.

When I shared my concerns with the Mr. during our second phone call, he said, “You can’t plan far out.  You can only take it day by day – with each new update.”

I broke down.  I need order in my life and don’t have it.

I finally told him, “I need you to be the boss.  You get to be in charge.  Tell me what to do.”

Sounds funny, but as a planner, I’m usually the one making day-to-day decisions.  I can’t.  He can compartmentalize; all I see are the what-do-we-do’s.  So, I’m letting him take the reins of our life while I hold onto the reins that keep our fur babies in check.  That’s about all I can do right now.

Please keep everyone in your prayers.  The minutiae of this is not something you hear about on the news.  The million and one things that need to be done to survive on a daily basis are not being reported because it’s not personal until you’re the one living it.

Please pray that all involved have patience.  Authorities are encouraging people to stay away if they can since the resources are so limited.  This is probably the hardest thing for me.  Patience.  Why can I sit and patiently work with students who struggle with reading but have little patience when it comes to waiting for order to be restored?

I guess it’s the feeling of helplessness, which all of you know that I don’t do well with.

As always, thank you for your love during this time.  I feel a little alone, enough so that this introvert is actually reaching out to random people in far off Walmarts and hotel lobbies when I realize that they are fellow evacuees.

Our stories are the same; we are kindred spirits united by horrendous circumstances.

God will help us, though.  I continue to trust in His provision and wisdom as I and so many others navigate these uncertain days.

It’s Bad. Catastrophic

Like millions of Americans, I’ve been glued to my TV, tuned in to The Weather Channel.

I thought that leaving would be the easy part.

I was wrong.

I never went to sleep after I got to my hotel; my heart was troubled as I waited to see how things would turn out.

All I can say is WOW.

Maybe it was a tad naive to hope that the storm wouldn’t do much damage.  Have you ever seen the weather that precedes a hurricane?  It’s divine.

Then came the hours after the eye wall passed over my little city.

That’s when people started posting pictures of scenes from my neighborhood, down at the beach, and other adjoining waterfront towns.

The devastation left behind Hurricane Michael has been shocking.

I’ve been looking at pictures from the streets I regular jog down, and I am stunned.

I’d be willing to bet that eight out of every ten of the oak trees in my subdivision came down.

I finally got a hold of the neighbor I share a fence with, and she sent me a picture she had taken from inside her house.

Her screened in porch is gone, as is the fence we share(d) (the left side of the photo) and the fence behind my house (behind the pine tree).

She told me that the oak in front of her house had split in two and had come down on her house, although it was mostly on the ground, so it didn’t go through the roof.

I read that the entrance to my neighborhood is blocked by downed trees and power lines.

Another friend posted these photos of her house (I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing).

She was closer to the water.  She happens to be much braver than me.

I had always seen these stories on the news . . . storms that hit places that seemed somewhat remote.

I never imagined that such things could happen in my own backyard.

I am in shock.  I had absolutely no time to prepare myself mentally even though I’ve sat through quite a few storms.  I barely had time to leave.

I’ve been watching the news footage and looking at places I drive by every single day, and the damage is extensive.

Two high schools sustained a lot of damage.  One of our middle schools has been decimated – its gymnasium hollowed out.

Our historic downtown area has been ravished.

The beach fared a little better because it was on the west side of the storm, but I can only imagine what the coastal homes look like at the moment.

I heard from the Mr. around noon yesterday:  “It’s bad.  Catastrophic.”

Then, I didn’t hear from him for eight more hours.

That was in the middle of the storm.

I don’t suffer from anxiety, but I’ve got to admit that I didn’t do so well during those eight hours.  I called his personal and work cell phones several times each hour.

I knew, in my heart, that he was okay, but I needed to hear his voice.

I sent a message to my students halfway into the storm and then again afterward to check on them.  Many, many of them lost roofs.  One has a car that looks like a pancake.  Another told me that she “used” to have woods behind her house.  Another girl was already asking me what we were going to do about grades.  Bless her heart.  My kids are traumatized.  They thrive on routine.  This isn’t sitting well with them.

I finally heard from the Mr. around 8pm, and I cried.  He’d borrowed someone’s phone since cell phone service is spotty.  He told me that personnel can’t even communicate with each other because of that.

He told me that our city looks like a war zone and encouraged me to stay put until at least Friday or he gives me the green light sooner.  Part of me wants to get home, but now that I’m hearing about the infrastructure and safety concerns, I’m not so sure.

This feels like the worst kind of nightmare.  I know I can speak for others when I say that it’s a blessing to be alive, but we are completely overwhelmed by the enormity of what we are facing.  Hearing about the mandatory water boil notices and night curfew is scary.  It seems like something from TV, but it’s not.

I remember years ago, after Hurricane Katrina had passed through, when I drove along the interstate and saw the bent over road signs.  The evidence of the power of nature was jaw-dropping.  It took years to clean all of that up.


Thankfully, God is bigger than the storm and able to do more than human hands.  I continue to trust in His mercy and provision over the next days, weeks, and months.

How can you help?

Please continue to pray.

Our law enforcement officials and EMS workers need our prayers – for physical and emotional sustenance.  The Mr. is drained already.  He’s had little sleep and maybe one change of clothes.

Please pray for safety for those working to restore power.  The job they do is dangerous, especially with the standing water everywhere.

Please pray that the citizenry will exhibit some common sense and leave things that don’t belong to them in the homes of their rightful owners.

Please pray for our education system.  At this moment, we officially don’t have school on Thursday.  I can’t see how they won’t extend that further given the number of educators and students who are either out of town, unable to return, or without power.  Heck, the schools don’t even have power.  With several schools out of use, it’s a bit of a cluster.

Please pray for our government leaders as they seek to make wise decisions.

Thank you so much.

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