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So Long 2018.

As I wait for friends to arrive to help us ring in the new year, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on the year we will (happily) say goodbye to.

2018 was not the easiest of years.  I had so hoped that it would be better than 2017, which as many of you know, had kicked me squarely in the behind.

January started off rough as I recuperated from what was supposed to be a fairly minor surgery to remove the hardware from my ankle.  It took months to heal and regain my strength.

I joyfully watched almost every senior I taught as they walked across the stage and accepted the diplomas they had fought hard for.

The summer brought in a time of adventure as the Mr. and I ventured out to California to visit Rooster and his beautiful wife.

The rest of the summer break was a time for rest and some sadness as I dealt with the emotional one year anniversary of Molly’s passing.

I also confirmed, once again, that I am the world’s biggest klutz.

School began in August, and boy was it a doozy of an opening.  I faced two two preps, huge classes, and a bunch more students.  I felt as though I was fighting battles every day thanks to a lot of teaching-related red tape.

All of those things I shall forever term The Before.

As all of you know, October 10th forever changed my life.  Hurricane Michael destroyed my town and many other communities around it.

Life hasn’t been the same since.

Wednesday will mark three months of living in The After.

This year has redefined the word “grateful.”

This year has taught me how little some things mean and how important other things are.

I’m thankful for family and friends who took me in when I fled from the hurricane.  I am thankful for strangers who donated time and supplies to get us back on our feet.

Mostly, I’m grateful for the daily reminders that God is still on His throne and that He will make all things new again.

I pray that 2019 will bring about a reprieve so that God can restore us physically and emotionally.

Happy New Year!  May God bless each and every one of you.  ❤

11 Weeks . . . There is Hope

We are now eleven weeks post-Hurricane Michael, and the word that has stood out to me over the past few days is hope.

After last week’s dreary post, I needed something positive to focus on.

When you’ve been through something as devastating as a Cat 5 storm, the only thing you have to hold on to is hope.

I’ll admit that it’s been elusive at times – especially when you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

We haven’t even begun repairs on our home and have no idea when things will get started.  Although vegetation debris is getting picked up from the sides of the roads, there are still so many trees that need to be cleared off of people’s properties.

We hear of smaller communities north of us who are suffering greatly still – of neighbors who, even now, almost three months later, don’t have cable or internet.

For a first-world country, it’s mind-blowing.

Sunday, my church’s pastors and their wives handed out ornaments they had made from the downed trees that once towered over our church.

See the Bible verse?

It’s no coincidence that it echoes, almost word-for-word, the comment that Rebecca left me last week.

I’ve worked out long enough to know that muscles get stronger when a person lifts weights.  It’s actually after the microfibers have been torn a little that new growth happens.

I’m also aware that, oftentimes, trees must be cleared to allow the younger ones room to flourish.

I somehow doubt, though, that anyone would purposely clear such a large volume of trees at once.

Despite this, I know, with every ounce of my body, that God will grow us stronger – that He will fill in the void left behind by nature.

When our pastor told us that every family was being given one ornament, he encouraged us to not pack them away when Christmas is over but, instead, to keep them where we could see them as a reminder of the promise God had made long ago.

I went back as I was writing this and looked at when and to whom God spoken those words. I caught my breath when I saw that it was Job who was the recipient.

God promised this man, who had lost everything, that He would restore that which was lost.

At one of the darkest times of his life, Job was given hope.

It’s a promise that is still true today and one that I cling to fervently.

I don’t know what I’d do without it.

Christmas 2018

Although this is the second Christmas without our boy and his sweet girl, thanks to technology, the distance was bridged, and we were still able to include them in our traditional family photo.

It’s been one heck of a year, and we have been, once again, reminded of the importance of our faith and family.

The dogs accompanied us this year as we’ve traveled to celebrate.  We’ve all been through so much that being separated from one another wasn’t even a thought.

I pray that however you spend the day, you will take time to reflect on the WHY of the season.

It’s not about the gifts, and it’s not about the ham or turkey (or leftover Massaman Curry, if you’re a vegan like me).

This holiday is about the Savior leaving His heavenly home to take on human form and save us from our sins.

Merry Christmas, sweet friends.  May you feel especially loved today.

10 Weeks . . . What Once Was

We have two ponds that greet us when we enter and leave our neighborhood.

The one at the entrance used to look like this . . .

It was lush with greenery and trees . . .

On Saturday, as the Mr. and I left to run errands, I was struck by the barrenness that has replaced what existed ten weeks ago, before Hurricane Michael hit.

I snapped a couple of pictures when we returned home a few hours later.

The difference is sobering.

I try my hardest to be positive no matter what’s going on around me, but can I be honest with you?  This is the week that the permanence of my new reality has hit me the hardest.

I think that I was in denial at first.  It’s possible that I thought that new trees would magically sprout from the piles of debris that lined the roads.

When you’re recovering from a Cat 5 storm, you find yourself dreaming impossible things.

The heaviness of this realization seems to be at its height on the weekends when the Mr. and I are out and about.  It’s at those times, when I’m riding in the passenger seat of the car, that I’m free to look around at the landscape rather than at the traffic around me.

This is when the difference between what was and what is brings tears to my eyes.

Every time.

When we were at the mall paying for a purchase, the salesclerk asked if we were local.  We told him that we were, and that we lived in Lynn Haven.  He sadly shook his head and said that things would never be the same – at least not in our lifetime.

I trailed behind the Mr. as we walked away and had to wipe my eyes at the truth of his statement.

Despite the Christmas music playing overhead, I was sad.

When most people think of Panama City, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the beach.

For us town folk, we think of trees.

Lots of them.

Rather, we used to.

Now, everywhere we look, we see either an absence of trees or trees that are broken in half – lots and lots and lots of trees that have yet to be cleared.

Every day, when I pass these trees, I wonder, “How long am I going to see this?  Will anyone come along and take these trees down, or will they be allowed to disintegrate and slowly fade into the scenery?”

You’d think that I’d be accustomed to the sights by now.  Ten weeks might seem like a lifetime to some.  I mean, it’s almost three months.  Ahem.

I’m not used to it though.  When you’ve called a place home for as long as I have (many locals have been here their entire lives), you see ghosts of what once was.

I haven’t been on a long walk since a few days before the storm came through.  My route used to take me to the other side of my neighborhood.  I need to, but I’m dreading it.

I know I’m going to cry when I see some of my favorite selfie spots – the ones closest to the main road a neighbor watched a tornado rip through.

It helps knowing that there are people who understand.  Just this week, our school received dozens upon dozens of Christmas cards written by students from Clear Springs High School in Texas. These kids survived Hurricane Harvey, which devastated their area last year.

I was moved to tears when I read their kind words yesterday morning.

They know what it’s like to lose what you’re most familiar with.

They’re still dealing with the what was, but they’re closer to the other end.

We’re just at the beginning of our journey.

In the midst of my wistfulness, God has reminded me that He’s still here.

I have said this a number of times, and I suspect that I’ll continue to repeat myself, but the sunrises we have had since the hurricane have been nothing short of spectacular.

This morning, as I drove into work, I did so with my jaw on the floorboard.

I’m not sure that I would notice the sunrises as much – especially at that early hour – if it wasn’t for the absence of the trees, which blocked my view before October 10th.  I guess I don’t have that problem any more.

The colors are always so vibrant (even behind the sign at the gas station) . . .

They bespeak of renewal, much like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Please continue to pray for us.  We still have hard moments, but God is speaking life into us one sunrise at a time.

Dear Sorrelli

Dear Sorrelli,

Enclosed, you will find my bracelet and necklace.  I am hoping that these can be repaired.

Before you begin to inspect them, I feel the need to share the sordid tale of how they came to be in their current condition.

You see, it all started with a little visitor we had on October 10th.

His name was Michael, and he arrived with a vengeance.

He thought he was going to be sneaky, but boy when he left, he gave us a few things to remember him by.

Even though it’s been two months, evidence of his little visit is strewn everywhere – in the form of tons of debris.

It was such detritus that is to blame for my misshapen bling.

Well, that and a little thing I call Hurricane Brain.

You see, last Monday, I had dressed and gotten in my car to head to work at the butt crack of dawn, another wonderful change since Michael departed because, well, we start school at 7am now.

I rushed out, jewelry in hand.  I figured that I’d put my bracelet and necklace on in the car at a red light.  I had already put on the matching earrings and ring because I was afraid I’d lose them.

I got about three houses down my street before I remembered that I needed to check my tires.  My pressure gauge light had alerted me to the fact that something was amiss, and the car had been feeling like it wasn’t riding right.  A few days before, I had run over a piece of debris that was in the road.

So, I stopped the car, got out, and took a look.

That didn’t look good, so I sent a picture to the Mr. and asked if he thought it was flat.  He told me to take it by the Toyota place after work just to make sure.

Then, I got back in the car and drove to work.  When I got there, I looked for my jewelry.  I’d placed it in my lap when I’d left.

I couldn’t find them.

I got out and looked all over my car . . . to no avail.

And then I knew.


I knew that I’d dumped those glittery pieces of happiness right in the middle of my street when I’d looked at my tires.

My heart fell.

I called the Mr., who had gone back to bed.  He doesn’t have to get up with the roosters because his work hours are for humans.

He groggily answered.

I felt so bad about waking him up again.

I told him what had happened and begged him to go down the street to see if he could find my baubles.

He fussed at me but ultimately agreed.

He texted me back a few minutes later and said he hadn’t been able to find them.


The bell for first period hadn’t rung yet, so I walked as fast as I could back to my car.  I tore that thing apart on the hunt for lost items.

Then, he called me.

He’d found them!  This time, he’d walked down the street instead of driven.  He had missed them the first time because they’re the color of the asphalt.  Who knew that asphalt could glitter too.

I apologized, but he assured me that it was okay.

When I got home and looked at my jewelry, I noticed that they had not fared well.  Instead of laying flat, they now twisted around unnaturally.

Take a look at them for yourself.  It would appear that someone, whether it was me, the Mr., or a neighbor, had run over the jewelry.


I’m kicking myself over what was a stupid mistake.  It’s as though Hurricane Michael is trying not to let me forget him.  As much as I’d like to put him in my rear view mirror, I’m finding that an impossible task.  Cat 5 hurricanes have that effect on people.

And so I’m sending you this letter.  Please let me know if you can repair my mangled bling.  It would mean a lot to me; this is one of my favorite sets.



What I Heard

The poor Mr.

Living with me isn’t always easy – especially when I randomly shed tears, as I’m wont to do often of late.

This morning at church, we sang “Oh Holy Night.”

Now, I usually get in my feelings during non-seasonal praise songs, but there was something about this one that struck a chord with me this morning.

As I closed my eyes and sang, the raised communal voices of those around me made me think.

Before Hurricane Michael destroyed our church, our sanctuary was adorned with brightly-lit Christmas trees, wreaths, and garland.  We used to sit in pews embellished with glittery ribbons.

Now, we attend service in a bare school gymnasium – one that will eventually need to be repaired.  We sit on folded chairs and bleachers that volunteers set up each Saturday morning and other volunteers put away on Sunday when our service is finished.

When I closed my eyes, I was reminded that the outer appearance mattered not one iota.

The lack of festive Christmas decorations wasn’t taking away the joy that the season had brought – a joy that we seem to have, holiday or not – a joy born out of a deep sense of gratitude.

What I heard during that song was the beautiful sound of a congregation praising our God for His most incredible gift to the world – His Son.

With my eyes closed, I imagined what early churches must have sounded like as they, too, worshiped without official church buildings.  Parishioners gathered where they could.  The setting didn’t matter.  They were together giving thanks to the one God who loved them and had provided a way back to Him.

The storm took a lot from us, but it didn’t steal our faith, which has been built on a foundation that no Cat 5 hurricane can ever blow away.

9 Weeks and Counting

Nine weeks, y’all.  It still seems so surreal.

Just last night, I was out with a friend, and we kept saying how we are still shocked that a hurricane of this magnitude hit us.

I hope you’re not tired of reading these updates, but they are important to me for a couple of reasons.

First, just as I did with my recovery from my broken ankle, I want to document the challenges we are facing each week along with the progress we are making.

Second, I want to keep a record of this for the next time this happens because it will.  The Southeast seems to be a magnet for them.  I’m now a member of the clique that calls itself natural disaster victims.  New victims need to be able to read others’ accounts – to see that they have not been overcome by such devastation but have, instead, emerged stronger.

That’s what we are trying to do, nine weeks out.  It’s not easy though.

This past week, I was once again reminded of the lack of medical care currently available.  When I went to the hospital’s wound care center to have my stitches removed, I discovered an unoccupied portable.  All of the doors were locked.  When I called the hospital to ask where to go, they instructed me to visit the outpatient surgery center.  After having my car valet-parked, I was told that I was in the wrong place – that I needed to go back to the ER.


I was embarrassed.  I didn’t need emergency medical care, but this was my only option.  Before they could remove my stitches, they had to take my vitals.

I even got a bracelet.  Yay.

The most basic of tasks are cumbersome.  We live in a constant state of inconvenience.

A friend I work with traveled across the bridge to a bank.  She was going to either deposit her insurance check or get it endorsed.  I can’t remember exactly.  Regardless, the insurance company had not included the full name of the bank, so it couldn’t endorse the check.  She had to send the check back and wait for another check.


It’s hard not to lose your patience after awhile – especially because people out of town sometimes don’t understand what an extra week of waiting can feel like.

The Mr. and I went shopping on Saturday.  When I couldn’t find what I wanted at the Dillard’s in town, we decided to go to the mall at the beach.  Oy vey!  There were so many people.  I suspect all of the town people were there for the same reasons we were.  A person can only do so much shopping at Walmart.


The moments of joy we have are tempered with the sadness that randomly hits when we least expect it.

This past week, we learned that one of our hospitals will not be reopening for some time.  Many staff members were laid off.

A day or two later, the news announced that our local mall would not be reopening because the damage was too bad.  Granted, the mall was not the best, but it was right down the road and was easy to run to should the need arise.  Stores like Bed Bath and Beyond, Sears, and JC Penny served as anchors for the mall.  Smaller stores and food court establishments employed quite a few teenagers.

I had no clue how financially devastating a hurricane could be on a community.  The hits just keep coming.

Traffic is still crazy.  Last Thursday, the Mr. and I met friends at one of our favorite restaurants.  Actually, our favorite place was located on our side of the bridge.  We frequented it a couple of times a week.  It was destroyed by the hurricane and won’t be rebuilt.  There’s another site across the bridge, so we were excited.

It took over an hour to get there.  It was a nightmare.  I checked the WAZE app, but every route showed the same traffic headache.

I was so happy to see our friends.  I hadn’t seen the wife since before the storm.  Looking at the restaurant sign made me smile.

We saw a couple of employees we recognized from the town location, and the menu was the same.

The food wasn’t quite as good, though, and the margaritas weren’t as strong.  Our town bartender took real good care of us.  Ha!  We left with a bit of sadness in our hearts, wistful for the way things used to be.

Do you want to know what else is hard about hurricane recovery?  Regular life goes on, and you’re expected to keep up.

This week, I sat at the Toyota place getting a tire fixed (I ran over debris and got a nail in it).

While I was in the waiting area, I was simultaneous reading my students’ essays and sending emails to my district’s higher-ups requesting them to fix my VAM score (a VAM score is how a teacher gets rated).

I spent ALL week juggling professional and personal tasks, and it wore me down – to the point where I shed tears a few times.

Want to hear a funny?  As I sat in the dealership’s showroom, the power went out.  Nobody batted an eye – because we’re kind of used to not having power.

It turned out that a big truck had hit a power pole and had taken out a transformer.  The dealership was out of power until the next day.  Fortunately, my car was off the jack.  They had to email my receipt to me after swiping my credit card through one of those portable box things.

One other thing that happened this past week that caught me off guard was that I had a dream that I was at home when the hurricane hit.  I could see the wind blowing across my yard in the near white-out phase of the storm.  I don’t know if the stress of the week contributed to this or if it was reading my students’ essays, but I woke up very agitated.  I can only imagine what those who actually sat through the storm deal with at times as they process the events of the past two+ months.

So, let’s talk about the positives from the week.

My classroom finally got air conditioning.  It was an amazing feeling!

After dealing with my VAM stuff – a most unpleasant experience – I was feeling pretty low.  My spirits were lifted when this bag of goodies was delivered to my classroom during my planning period . . .

It was accompanied by the sweetest note . . .

Being relocated to another school hasn’t been the easiest.  I can’t even imagine how people feel being displaced from their homes.  This bag of supplies, which I’ve already dug into, became my life preserver that day.

I had been so stressed on Friday that I stopped for a pedicure on the way home.

While I was there, our stump grinding guy came by and took care of eight stumps in our yard.  The Mr. didn’t think to take pictures during the process.  I’m the blogger, not him.  I had talked the stump guy down from $400 to $300 a day or two before.  He wasn’t going to be at our house until mid-week, so his early arrival was a pleasant surprise.

There used to be a beautiful oak tree here.

Once upon a time, a tree sat just outside of Chicky’s window.

The rest of the back yard.

Another source of joy for me was watching my boys play basketball.  I went to the game last Friday night.

Our gym was destroyed by the hurricane, so the kids are having to practice on a half-court owned by a church.  Games cannot be held in our gym, so we are utilizing a neighboring school’s facilities.  Even though we lost Friday’s game, it was fun cheering them on with some of the people I work with.

On the left is a para who was in my classroom eight years ago.  In the center is our Support Employee of the Year.  She’s the sweetest lady!!

I mentioned that my students are writing essays.  One of the sections they have to include must describe some life lessons they’ve learned from the hurricane.

Here are few of mine, nine weeks out:

1.  The federal government, though well-intentioned, is laughable.  It’s mired with so much red tape that nobody can find the end to unravel the knots.  I don’t know of many people who have actually received assistance from FEMA.  We certainly didn’t.  There are hardly any trailers to be had, so friends are scrambling for places to live.  Chartwells, the company that is in charge of feeding our students, is a joke.  They are funded federally and simply don’t care about the food they are giving our kids.  I’ve taken photos of undercooked burgers that were put into sack lunches.  Our kids are afraid to get lunch – that they will get sick – so they are going home hungry.

2.  The people running the SBA (Small Business Association) loan application process are incredible.  We closed on a low-interest loan today thanks to the help of a wonderful employee who walked us through the paperwork.  We will be using the loan to fix what the insurance company doesn’t cover.

3.  I have learned that people are incredibly generous.  At church on Sunday, my pastor announced more donations that had poured in recently.  I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, but one of my high school classmates attends a church in Auburn.  His church has partnered up with ours and has been sending very large donations.  Every time I hear his church’s name, I shed a few tears of thanks.  With it being Christmas time, many toys and other children’s gifts are pouring in from places all over the country.  The kids in our community will have gifts, even if their parents cannot afford to buy them.

4.  I have learned that I can do without a lot more than I ever thought I could.  Being in a small classroom away from my home base has taught me that students don’t need fancy things.  Walking my students through the writing of their essays has been a little overwhelming, but hearing their stories has deepened our relationship.  Sure, we’re working on grammar and all things MLA, but all of that is centered around the content – this catastrophic event that will leave a permanent imprint on all of our lives.

5.  I continue to be reminded that God is my provider.  When I’m at my lowest, He gives me strength.  When I’m disillusioned, He sets my face forward and reminds me what my purpose is.  When I’m tired and overwhelmed, He urges me to rest and gives me a burst of energy afterward to get the job done, whatever that job may be.

Nine weeks out, there is still so much recovering yet to do, but we are making strides.  I, for one, am trying to take things day by day.  I’m trying to focus on the season and enjoy as much of it as I can given the circumstances.

I’m trying to remember to be thankful for what I have.  When my friend walked in to pick me up last night, she commented on how pretty my tree was.

Her words put things into perspective.  She lost her entire house and camper.  She, like so many around here, will be experiencing a very different type of Christmas.

As always, I ask for your prayers as we continue to navigate through uncharted waters.

Will you pray, too, that my contractor calls us to come by for an inspection?  We know that we are on his list, but we don’t know how far down.  I want to hear roofers on top of my house and see people putting up a new fence around my yard.  I am eager to get all of our home repairs started.  These things will happen in due time, but it wouldn’t hurt to pray.  🙂

Thank you so much! ❤

8 Weeks: A Never-Ending Game of Playing Catch-Up

Eight weeks may seem like a long time, but for those of us who were hit by Hurricane Michael exactly two months ago, it’s been but the blink of an eye.

Here’s some perspective for you.  We were in school eight weeks and two days before the hurricane snuck up on us and changed our lives forever.  We have, essentially, spent the same amount of time regrouping as we did getting our classrooms under control and functioning smoothly.

Routine takes time to establish, don’t you know.

There’s certainly been nothing routine since October 10th.

Y’all, we are still struggling.

So much.

A friend posted a Facebook update yesterday that read, “This is exhausting! I’m going to need to go on a mega vacation when this is all over. 😩 Mentally, emotionally, physically draining.”

My response?  “Yes.”

Here’s a video I made yesterday on my way home from a friend’s house.  It’s the same route I drove when I first came home and saw the destruction.  Not much has changed.

My principal decided, a week and a half into school, that he would allow teachers to leave earlier than the original 1:30 mandate he’d handed down at the beginning.  I, for one, have been thrilled because my brain simply cannot function a minute past when the final bell rings.  To be sure, I go home and work from there, but there’s always a nap in between because, y’all, hurricane recovery is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through.

Evidence of my brain not working too well . . . I can’t find Joseph . . .

I also realized, while I was paying bills Sunday night, that I’d forgotten to make my car payment in November.  Yikes!  I called on Monday and explained about a maniac named Michael.  I also begged them not to call a collection agency; I’d never been late on a payment before.  My car company isn’t charging me a late fee, and I get to make TWO car payments this month.

Joy to the World.

Oh, and more evidence of Hurricane Brain?  Last week, I bought pickles because I needed them for a recipe.  They were B1G1.  Y’all, I forgot to get the free jar.  I went back and got it yesterday.  Sigh.

Eight weeks post-hurricane, our roads are still lined with debris.  Some of the piles are getting smaller while others are getting larger thanks to errant contractors who are illegally dumping their trash onto other people’s mountains of waste.

Trucks are making their way around neighborhoods as quickly as they can, but it’s a daunting task.

I was ecstatic when I got home yesterday and saw a truck on my street.

I was in tears when I noticed my house, which it had just passed, leaving my yard debris-free.

For eight weeks, we have lived with piles of fences, gutters, and shingles where trees used to be.

I’m not even sure my eyes believe what they are seeing – my neighbor’s trash can not playing peek a boo with the stuff that used to sit to the right of it.

Here’s a video that shows a little more of the neighborhood . . .

I’m thankful for the brief moments of joy because they help offset the harder stuff of life right now.

A little funny here.  As I was typing this post, I ran out to move my car in the garage (hello, Universe, but can I please have a new garage door opener – STAT?!).  As I went to pull the door down, I saw the Mr. in his car . . . about to pull into the neighbor’s driveway.  He saw me and sheepishly backed out.  Then, he pulled into our driveway.  He admitted that things look different every single day.  Without our tree beside our driveway, it’s hard to recognize things.  I almost cried – no lying there.

You have to find humor where you can, even when tears are sitting just below the surface.

When I went out to run errands about an hour later, I got stuck behind the same debris truck.

Take a look at the couch being disposed of.

It’s actually very sad as you watch people’s belongings being carted off like that.  You realize how truly unimportant material things can be.

Traffic continues to be a nightmare, and it always seems as though I’m stuck in the middle of it at the most inopportune times.

Last Monday, I cut my finger pretty badly with a brand new kitchen knife I’d purchased on Black Friday.  Chicky’s words as I paid were, “Don’t cut yourself.”

It needed stitches, so I headed out to find a walk-in clinic.

I turned to the right to go toward town, and traffic was backed up for over a mile.  When I finally got there, the place was closed despite the hours that I’d seen posted on the internet.

I turned around and made my way to another clinic, once again facing traffic, only to find that it was closed as well.

I wound up going to the emergency room.  It was packed and was partially staffed by people from Texas.  They had come over to give local nurses a break for Thanksgiving.  I joined the multitude when one of these nurses gave me a tetanus shot.  I think that nearly everyone has gotten this shot since the storm hit.

Still bruised a week later

I talked to the doctor who sewed me up (four stitches – because I’m an overachiever), and he minimized the damage to his home.

Two shots to numb it – down by the bottom joint – and my finger swelled up!

I finally got him to tell me that his roof had gotten holes in it from the trees that had fallen on it, but, as everyone around here says, he was better off than most people.

That truly is the saying.  I’ve seen homes completely gutted, and people will still say that others have it worse.

Eating out is still challenging.  We went to Chili’s for lunch after church on Sunday.   The gal who waited on us has been our bartender (we like to sit and watch TV on the bar side) before.  She’s a sweet girl, but she told us that the main reason why the place can only stay open until 5pm is that they don’t have enough workers.  The ones they have work until closing – every day.

She also told our group that recently, when she’d been shopping in Walmart, someone was getting very angry about the long lines at the checkout.  She asked where he was from, and he said he was from Pensacola.  She then explained to him that our little area lost 40% of its workforce – hence the wait.

That’s really an astounding number.  It’s a huge reason why restaurants and other businesses can’t open – besides the damage that needs to be repaired.

Other issues we continue to deal with are long lines at the gas station and the bank.  Most stations were destroyed by the storm, and banks are still being repaired.

Just when we get used to living with partially-torn out floors and no fences, we get assailed by new reminders of things that need to be fixed.  The hubby noticed that some unknown object had punched a hole through our gutter during the storm.  So, we have our own waterfall now.

Speaking of fences, thanks to not having one, I can step out any day I want and see sights like this . . .

The people who own that home had to have it gutted.  I was glad to see their chimney being rebuilt.

Our church moved its Sunday service to a school up the road.  God proved Himself so amazing with timing; it rained on Sunday – our first meeting in the gymnasium.  It had not rained any day we had met in the parking lot prior to this past weekend.

Believe it or not, some people are still without essential services like electricity.  I have friends who still don’t have internet service at home.  I talked to tech guy in my district, and he does a lot of work from home.  He said that he feels like he’s constantly playing catch-up.

I think that sums up so well how we are operating these days.  I think it’s why we stay exhausted.

I can’t seem to keep my house clean because I’m constantly making choices, with the energy I have, as to what I need to get done first.  If something isn’t finished by 7pm, it’s just not happening.  I am in bed by 9:30 most nights – unheard of by this night owl.

It doesn’t really feel like Christmas season, despite the tree we decorated and the one in front of my house, because we missed an entire month of our lives.

If you ask any of us here what we’re doing for gifts, we will tell you that we’re shopping online.  Personally, I don’t want to face the traffic to cross the bridge.  Even if I did, I’d have to deal with large crowds, which I don’t do very well.  Sigh.

Hello Universe, can I get a do-over for October?

It’s like I’ve spun too many times in one direction and need to spin in the other to balance myself out.

Unfortunately, we can’t reverse time like Superman did by flying around the world in the opposite direction from its usual rotation to save Lois Lane.

A friend commented that I’d been a trooper through all of this.

Y’all, I do not feel like one, and quite honestly, I’m tired of being one.

The good news is that I’m not by myself in this.  I am surrounded by so many people who are going through the same thing.

We laugh together, and we cry together.  We vent angry words to each other, and then we might have adult beverages together because, well, I kind of think we’ve earned it.

I’m thankful for the prayers of family, friends, and complete strangers.  I’m grateful for the tangible donations that have come in from near and far.  Please keep praying.  We need this about as much as we need new roofs and floors.

Most of all, I give all praise to God.  Every morning, He reminds me of His presence – often through the gorgeous sunrises He sends in my direction – colors of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

We continue to be #850strong, standing on God’s shoulders, buoyed by His Spirit, and aided by heavenly and earthly angels.

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