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Never Lose Hope

My posts, of late, have been rather dreary.

I do apologize for that, but I’m definitely one who wears her feelings on her sleeve – or rather on my blog. I’ve never been accused of being fake, that’s for sure.

And then came Sunday . . . Easter Sunday . . . the first since October 10th when things went so very sideways (literally).

Just as Jesus rose from the dead on that very first Easter, so has hope been renewed in my own heart.

My church had been making plans for this holy day for weeks. We had been praying for good weather because, for the first time since December, we’d be having our service back in our original church parking lot.

Yesterday, I saw this picture posted on Facebook . . .

That’s an aerial view of my church. I wasn’t exaggerating when I’d previously written about its destruction. It still takes my breath away.

What can also be seen in the photo, near the top, is a tent, chairs, and what looks like a stage.

There had been many people working around the clock to ensure that we had everything we needed and many donations pouring in to help church leaders bring to fruition the plans that God had laid upon their hearts.

When I saw this picture, hope stirred within me.

Seeing, from ground level as we arrived this morning, what I’d only viewed online was something else altogether.

What you can’t see from the above picture are the other tents – a large one set up with tables and another set up with other things. There was a welcome center and tables to get coffee, water, and snacks.

There were people on media stands ready to film our service. I suspect that there was a soundboard and light thingamabob too because what occurred during the next hour resembled a concert of the most professional kind.

One of our worship leaders was singing as people arrived. I could listen to him all day; he has an incredible voice.

I posted this picture on Instagram – hence the location tag and text.

The Mr. and I settled in . . .

While behind us sat our hurricane-ravaged church building bearing witness to the fact that God’s Spirit cannot be contained within man-made structures . . .

What followed was one of the most incredibly inspiring services I’ve ever attended.

The song lyrics made me tear up; my sunglasses hid my red-rimmed eyes.

Against the backdrop of broken trees, we poured out our hearts to the One who has promised to make all things new, beginning with the sacrificial gift of His Son that day so many years ago.

My pastor’s sermon was a call to view our circumstances in a positive light – as the force to affect real change. He called for our county to stand out as different because of what we had endured.

And so, although I’ve been incredibly overwhelmed by a deep sense of frustration lately, the gathering of like-minded people, the songs we sang, the message preached – well, God used all of these things to buoy my spirit.

Rather than merely repairing what Hurricane Michael broke so badly, God will remake all of it . . . the physical and the emotional.

At the conclusion of the service, each family was encouraged to select a flower pot to take home and plant.

Unsurprisingly, the Mr. and I selected orange flowers.

They’ll be a bright spot in my front flower bed and a reminder of one of the most special Easter services I’ve ever experienced – of the hope God placed in my heart – of the reminder that though many have forgotten about us, He has not.

Happy Easter to all of you. I pray that you, too, will experience God’s personal touch in your lives today and that, if you don’t know Him, that you will seek Him out and discover, personally, a saving knowledge of His Son, Jesus.

We Told You So

191 days ago, Hurricane Michael hit my town and cut a viscous path through a number of other counties as it made its way north before finally expending its energy.

“Experts” labeled it as a strong Cat 4 storm . . . one mile shy of a Cat 5.

We knew, immediately, from the horrendous damage left behind, that these “experts” were wrong.

It was a Cat 5 through and through.

Well, it’s taken a minute or two, but today, we received official word that the storm has been reclassified as that of Cat 5 status.

I echo what every other hurricane victim is saying right now: “We told you so.”

#sorrynotsorry

The Mr. texted the news to me first thing this morning; he knew that I was doing all of the teaching things and didn’t have time to follow the latest updates.

How did I feel when I read his words?

It was a mixture of emotions . . .

Vindication for the insistence that I and everyone else I know had been putting forth about how horrible the recovery has been.

Anger at the powers-that-be for visiting my city, getting my hopes up by promising that they would help my community rebuild, and then failing to pass a funding bill to pay for recovery efforts.

Sadness at the reminder of what existed before the storm and what was left behind.

That’s the street that I drive onto every time I leave my neighborhood – a street I have frequently run up and down during my virtual races – a street that took my breath away for its beauty before the storm and now takes my breath away because it’s so shockingly devoid of standing trees.

Disappointment in a political system that claims it is for the people.

Y’all, it’s not.

It’s not for the everyday people in itsy bitsy towns struggling to survive every day.

History has proven that unless a storm hits a metropolitan area with a lot of clout, it doesn’t get the attention it so desperately needs.

This was a sign that was held up during a rally in our state capital this week. We are up to 191 days. And counting.

It’s very hard to believe in our “esteemed” political process when it fails to support the very people who elected those sitting in the drivers seat

I watched one of the national news broadcasts tonight (NBC, I’m calling you out) and was SUPREMELY saddened when I saw not one story about the change in the storm’s status.

Not one, y’all.

What the hell?

Sorry for my Redneck French.

But seriously though.

Oh, but I got to see a story about vaping.

It moved me to tears.

#notreally

I am so thankful that Hurricane Michael will forever sit in the history books as only the fourth to make landfall as a Cat 5 storm. It deserves its place for all of the havoc it has wreaked on our lives.

Today’s announcement, though, has taken us back, emotionally, to the early days of recovery. During my planning period, while I was in another room retrieving makeup tests that some of my students had taken, I had a long conversation with two other school employees. The topic: our experiences during and immediately after the storm.

We are scarred; we are battle-weary; we are stressed.

The government and media’s lack of attention continues to exasperate us.

The refusal by the Florida Department of Education to answer our requests to waive state test scores this year is pissing us off.

Thanks for putting the kids first.

#insertsarcasm

I am sorry for sounding so negative, but the public deserves to know what we are really going through since the media and political people have seen fit to sweep things under the rug.

Would you like to help? Please contact Florida’s governor and state representatives, @ them and President Trump on social media, and reach out to them any other way you can.

A big group of local teachers, students, and volunteers (I see you, Michael’s Angels) visited Tallahassee this week to make their voices heard. It was awe-inspiring to watch teenagers speak up for their education and the educators who will probably lose their jobs because of the lack of funding post-storm.

We face YEARS of recovery, and it will require many, many, many millions of dollars to do so. We cannot do this on our own. We need our country to stand beside us in deed rather than in word.

It never really feels good to say, “I told you so.” It means that someone, somewhere, did a wrong that needs to be fixed.

This is one HECK of a wrong.

It needs to be fixed.

It’s never too late.

6 Months and a Day

It’s been six months and a day since Hurricane Michael hit my sweet little town.

I was going to write a post yesterday, but quite honestly, I was on overload after reading the various Facebook posts acknowledging the half-year anniversary.

Hurricane PTSD is a real thing, y’all.

If I had to describe how I’m feeling six months and one day later, I’d have to use the word tired.

I’m tired of waiting for a new roof. My house is currently the last one on my street still sporting a tarp — well, three tarps, to be exact. We’ve been told that we’re next on the list. That could mean next week or next month. We have no idea.

I’m tired of walking my dogs in my back yard because I don’t have a fence yet. Trying to avoid stepping in piles of dog poop at o’dark thirty is a tricky thing on dew-laden grass.

I’m tired of driving down treeless streets. I don’t think I ever truly appreciated nature before the storm destroyed the landscape around me.

My street . . . sans trees . . .
So many bushes destroyed that need to be replaced . . .

I’m tired of getting lost on streets that I’ve driven thousands of times because six months and one day later, entire houses and other structures – landmarks, if you will – have been torn down.

Six months and a day later, the realization of the far-reaching effects of this storm is weighing heavily on my mind.

This week, I’ve had two students tell me that they are moving soon. One young man has been living with his aunt, and he’s being forced to leave (I can’t remember the reason). He’s looking to live with a cousin, but he’s not sure where they’ll wind up . . . either across the bridge or down south in another part of the state.

A different student, a young lady I actually got to know last year, told me that her family is being kicked out of the home they’ve been renting. The owner is either going up on the rent or has some other reason for displacing them. The saddest part of all was hearing her tell me that she’s going to have to get rid of her pets – a thought that she cannot bear.

These stories are wearing me down. The kids I’ve taught over the years have always had tough lives; however, Hurricane Michael has thrown monkey wrenches, or should I say storm-related debris, into the mix. The kids are carrying heavy burdens – often unspoken yet visible on their sad faces.

I am tired of waiting for state and federal policymakers to assist us. Today, my school district’s superintendent had a news conference that explained that legislation is pending to help us out with this year’s financial shortfall and no legislation to help us fully fund next school year.

Because of that, the district may have to let 600 people go. That’s a lot of people – people who might have to move – people who would take their children with them – which would make our school district have fewer children to teach – which would lead to fewer jobs. Do you see the trickle-down effect?

It’s sobering.

I’m tired of state education policymakers who have given us no information about waiving student test scores this year. I’d say that I’m at a complete loss for words, but I’m a blogger (can we not speak of the irregularity of my postings the past few months – ahem). I have LOTS of words.

What the freaking heck is wrong with these people? Do they not realize that most of our children RODE OUT THE STORM and THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO DIE.

This is true. I read their essays.

How can you expect traumatized, displaced students to focus on STUPID reading tests when they LOST THEIR HOMES and an entire month of instruction.

I’m tired of priorities being a$$-backwards.

For real though.

Oh, and did you know that six months and a day later, we have not received the kind of financial help, overall (not just in education) that other, LARGER cities received after other storms hit (for example, Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Harvey).

I guess that Lynn Haven and Mexico Beach (not to mention all of the itsy bitsy towns around us) are not considered important enough cities to provide funding for despite the fact that a near Cat 5 storm – one of the strongest ever – hit us square on.

Six months and TWO days ago, I had absolutely no idea what hurricane survival and recovery looked like.

Now I do.

It ain’t pretty, y’all, and it sure as heck ain’t easy.

Pardon me for sliding back into my Redneck vernacular.

With all of that being said, there continue to be positives. My school hosted prom last weekend, and it was definitely a community effort. It was held downtown, and many people volunteered their time, money, and other tangible items to make it quite memorable for our kids. Without the generosity of so many, the prom would not have happened.

Another positive, I guess, is that the hubby and I eat dinner at home most nights. We still miss our favorite Mexican restaurant, which we hear is being rebuilt at a different location. I’m not sure if it will be the same, though, without the familiar people who used to take such good care of us. Still, it’s nice being at home most evenings.

That’s all of the positives that are coming to mind right now because, in case I haven’t mentioned it, I’m tired.

I have a countdown to summer vacation posted on my white board at school. Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard not to do this because some kids actually enjoy being at school, and long summer breaks can be tough on them, but y’all, we are DESPERATE for a lengthy vacation. We need time to lick our wounds, regroup, and recharge.

Six months and a day isn’t far enough removed to be healed from a painful milestone in our lives.

To be sure, we will heal, but it’s going to take a lot more time than the point we’re currently at.

I sincerely hope that when I blog about the one year anniversary, my words will be more upbeat – that I’ll have my new roof, a fence, and maybe (fingers crossed) a new floor.

For now, all I can do, like everyone else around here, is take things one day at a time, look for joy in the mundane, and praise God for still being in control.

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.

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.

Sigh.

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.

Ugh.

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.

Sigh.

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.

Sincerely,

Auburnchick

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.

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.

A Renewed Sense of Thankfulness

All is quiet, for the moment, in Chez Auburnchick as I await the arrival of my clan, and despite the dishes I need to begin preparing, I feel as though I must take a few minutes to gather my thoughts.

When I woke up this morning, I found myself very emotional.

This has happened at the most random of times since October 10th when Hurricane Michael decided to disrupt my life and that of those around me.

Although I wish it had never come, it did, and so I choose the look for the blessings that have come from it.  One of those is a renewed sense of thankfulness.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’re well aware that I try my best to find joy along this journey that’s called life.

As I get ready for the day ahead and listen to Christian radio, I am reflecting on the fact that forty-three days (six weeks and a day) ago, I didn’t think I’d be able to cook Thanksgiving lunch for my family . . . a long-standing tradition.  I didn’t know if my house was still standing or if it was, what kind of shape it was in.

I didn’t know if my husband was okay because the last words I heard from him at one point were, “It’s bad.  Catastrophic.”

I didn’t know when I would see my precious friends again . . . coworkers, yes, but more than that.  Family.

I didn’t know when I would lay eyes on the students I currently teach and those who have moved on to other classrooms but still have pieces of my heart.

I didn’t know that people who had lost so much would come together to serve each other with joy and not sadness.

I didn’t know that I would transfer online friendships to real-life connections.

I didn’t know that slanted trees don’t dim the beauty of a sunrise.

Maybe in a few years this storm I have weathered will be a blip on my life’s radar, but honestly, I hope not.

I pray that I will never take for granted the little things in life because I know, firsthand, what it feels like to think you’ve lost them.

The collective experience of the past month and a half is but a snapshot of the attitude that should live in my heart day after day, storm or no storm.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.  May you use today, especially, to look for the little blessings in your life as well.

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