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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.

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