• Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 158 other followers

  • “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers” — Isaac Asimov

  • Recent Posts

  • Pages

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 165,564 hits

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.

The Unfinished Game

I am of the belief that anyone who goes through a natural disaster should be given at least a one-year reprieve from having to endure more of the hard stuff of life.

Can I hear an amen?

I guess it’s probably a good thing that I’m not in charge because that would involve a lot of people since this has been one heck of a year for many of us – what with Hurricane Michael in October, the fires in California a few months later, and the horrific tornado that ripped through Alabama most recently.

Seriously though.

Yesterday evening, my community’s heart was ripped open when we learned of the unexpected passing of a beloved doctor.

Image from WJHG.com

He was also a friend of mine – our lives first intersecting many years ago when the Mr. and I moved our family to Lynn Haven and our families’ daughters played on the same travel soccer team. The girls were the same age and wound up finishing middle and high school together.

I’m so thankful for the evolution of the smartphone. Facebook helped us stay connected after our kiddos went to college. Words with Friends was the main way we communicated, though. I could always count on him to give me a run for my money. Well, okay. If I’m being honest, he usually beat me pretty soundly. I guess you have to be kind of smart to be an OB/GYN.

One of the first things I always do when I get home from school is check on my WWF games, add my own words, and then wait for my friends to take their turns.

Although Mike was a busy doctor, he never left me hanging for long.

Except for yesterday, when I never got a response.

It was a few hours after I played my word when I heard the devastating news.

The accolades immediately began flooding his Facebook page; he was so beloved – so skilled at his specialty – so thorough in his care – so personable – so kind.

I don’t believe that I ever heard him yell a single word at the many, many soccer games we watched together. He was a calm presence on the sidelines, quietly cheering on the girls, seemingly immune to the nerve-wracking close calls we frequently endured.

I’m going to have a bit of a cry when our Words with Friends game times itself out. I refuse to end it prematurely.

Though our game will go unfinished and will eventually clear from my game history, his memory will live on.

Mamas and daddys will remember him as they watch their children grow into toddlers, teenagers, and adults – children he helped bring into the world.

Friends like me will remember close (and not-so-close) word games, gentle smiles, and photos of his recent fishing adventures.

His family will remember sweet times spent together at their large get-togethers. I know that his absence will be difficult in the coming days and months.

Please pray for Mike’s family and our community as, once again, we have been dealt another rough blow.

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.

Three Years Ago

Three years ago, we watched our sweet boy and his beautiful fiancee of three days recite their vows to love one another.

Although we were bundled up in sweaters to ward off the chill of the crisp, spring day, our hearts were warmed by their eager young faces.

It wasn’t long until their real adventure began with a move across the country and lots of travel back and forth since then.

We are so thankful that God brought them together. They compliment each other perfectly.

Happy Anniversary, sweet children of ours. May this year be full of lots of laughter, more adventures, and an Auburn football win over the “other team.”

😀

It’s Been a Minute

Oh y’all, I have been such a bad blogger.

I was reading Joyce’s blog recently, and she stated, near the end, that good bloggers write two or three times a week.

Sigh.

I could come up with a hundred different excuses, but the reality is that I’ve been so busy doing life, that I haven’t had a lot of time to write about it.

I was having a hard enough time as it was, and then Hurricane Michael hit, which complicated things further.

It’s funny how quickly the time has flown.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been 159 days since that horrible storm made regular, everyday life so very challenging.

When we returned to school after New Year’s, we had a scant week and a half to finish up our first semester, move back to our old school, and begin the second half of the year.

Talk about CHAOS!  About 75% of our teachers had to relocate to what we affectionately call Tornado Park.  It’s a group of portables, and let me tell you, they’ve had a rough go of it.  The first weeks back saw numerous issues with technology – or a lack thereof, bathrooms (this is an ongoing issue), and muddy paths that led to many ruined pairs of shoes.

The portables are located a half mile from my classroom.  I clocked it one day when I had to walk from the teachers’ parking lot, located beside the portables to my building.  It rained nearly every single day when we returned, so kids were soaked to the bone from walking back and forth to classes.

I’ve been fortunate.  My classroom did not sustain damage, so I was able to return to my old digs.  I have counted my blessings every day – especially after watching my coworkers struggle.

Teaching and testing have continued.  The Florida Department of Education has not seen fit to waive reading requirements for our upperclassmen.

As I’ve often said, the state cares about numbers, not people.  That is a fact.

Today is our first full day of Spring Break – hence my post, which I have time to write.

When we return to school next week, we will finish up our third quarter and will start the fourth nine weeks.  Trust me when I say that the countdown will be ON.  We’ve had probably the toughest year of anyone in education, except for the other victims of the numerous natural disasters that have happened in recent weeks and months; we share a kindred spirit with the victims of the fires in California and the tornado in Alabama.

I’m not sure what I’ll do during my week off.  You can bet that I’ll be sleeping a few more hours a day, working out at a decent hour, and reading a lot.  I also hear Netflix calling my name.

I’m going to try to blog more.  Now that my testing season is over, and I have most of my lesson plans for one prep written, I’m hoping that I’ll have more time to write.  We shall see, as I have frequently made this promise to myself and then reneged.

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.  ❤

%d bloggers like this: