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Doing Things Old School

Monday night, I triple-checked my alarms . . . all six of them.

I couldn’t take a chance on being late.

I didn’t let the rain dampen my spirits either.

You see, for the first time in thirty-nine days, the student body at my school, including staff members, would be reunited.  We had been asked to wear red as a show of solidarity.  It’s one of our school’s main colors.

We had weathered one of the most horrible hurricanes to hit the United States, and we were eager to reestablish some sort of routine.

I had left the school the previous Friday thinking I was ready.

Ha!

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I don’t know that a person can ever really be prepared given the circumstances.

I wondered how many of my students would actually be at school.  I had heard that a lot of kids had left.  I was also concerned about the gamut of emotions that I was sure to face.  Although my school district had provided crisis training, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I grew nervous as I walked down the hallway to pick up  last-minute handouts.

I watched as teachers dropped their children off at the daycare on campus.  The district is providing childcare because most of the daycare centers in town are destroyed, and teachers can’t work if they don’t have people to watch their children.  Our daycare happens to be across the hall from my classroom.

We gathered in the small, middle school cafeteria since we weren’t able to return to our own school.  Our principal gave a great pep talk.

The mayor of the city even spoke.  A student prayed for us, and wow, can I just say how amazing it was?

Then, we went outside where the teachers held up signs with our names so our first period classes could find us.  It felt like we were elementary teachers, but it wasn’t a bad thing.  It was a conglomeration of pure joy.

The reunions were so sweet, and although I’d expected to spend the morning crying, I found that I didn’t.  I was so focused on giving the kids hugs and hollering out to students I’d taught in previous years that I didn’t have time to cry.

When we entered my room, the kids were greeted with this message . . .

They groaned as they realized that I’d retrieved my cell phone pocket holder from my regular classroom, but everyone put their phones away.  I assured them that they would have been very disappointed if I hadn’t.

Ha!

The day flew by.  It was extremely overwhelming.  Because classes had been shortened to thirty-nine minutes (four-minute class changes), there wasn’t time to catch my breath.  It turned out that although the kids and I shared a bit about our experiences with the hurricane, we always came around to the positives of it.  I was astounded at my students’ resiliency.  I attribute that to your prayers and God’s grace.  ❤

During sixth period, we had a special delivery.  My sister, mother-in-law, and another friend had sent items they’d donated via my friend’s son.  I took my class on a “field trip” to the bus loop where he had parked to retrieve the bags and boxes.

Getting outside was good because my classroom is one of four that doesn’t have a working air conditioner unit.  It was very, very hot and humid on Tuesday.  In fact, it was cooler outside than inside my room, so we enjoyed the fresh air while we retrieved the items.

Lunch was a bit of a cluster.  The plan had been to have our JROTC deliver sack lunches so the kids could make their way to the buses or cars without encountering the middle school students, but we were told last-minute to have them go to the cafeteria to pick up their sacks.  Every student in my district is getting two free meals right now.  It was a mess, and things didn’t go as smoothly as hoped.

I finally got to breathe at noon after the kids were gone.

Well, not really because I had to empty the garbage and sweep the room – all before the next teacher got to the room to begin his day.

We are having to do things old school around here because the cleaning crew assigned to our campus has been moved to another school.

The faculty gathered in the choir room around 12:15 for a debrief.

It was a good call because we had a chance to discuss what had worked and what hadn’t.  We wrote down questions and tried to come up with solutions.  Overall, we loved on each other.

The above and below pictures are post-Back-to-School-2.0 day.

The week flew by.  Every afternoon, staff members gathered in the media center.  We ate lunch together, laughed, and commiserated about some of the challenges we are facing.

Imagine living in your house for the first half of the day and then having an entire family move in for the second part of it.

That’s what it’s like for us.

Everyone changes:  Administration, Guidance, Attendance, teachers, paraprofessionals, and the custodians.

Guidance counselors are working in teeny, tiny offices; the Attendance ladies are sharing one desk while manning two phones; the principal’s administrative assistant is holding down the fort in an office that you need to drop breadcrumbs to so you can find your way out.

Teachers are operating with as few things as possible to minimize the footprints we are leaving in other teachers’ classrooms.  Some teachers are conducting their classes simultaneously in the library because they still haven’t gotten portables.  Can I just say that they are doing an INCREDIBLE job too?  I walked in two or three times during my planning, and the kids were working quietly.  It has been impressive.

So, it’s now Friday night, and although I am exhausted, I can’t help but be proud.

I work with some of the most dedicated educators around.  I haven’t seen a teacher who hasn’t gone the extra mile to make sure that his or her students have what they need.

There’s nothing old-school about the way we are loving on our children, providing a safe and enriching environment for them, and lending a helping hand to one another.

He Knew

Who knew that the events that transpired in my life on November 13, 2016, would be a foreshadowing of what was to come exactly two years later?

God knew though.

Exactly two years ago, I broke my ankle in the most random of accidents. It came out of the blue with the only prior warning being a bit of pain in my shin hours before.

After I was given the diagnosis – trimalleolar fracture – I cried. I was dismayed by the projected recovery time – two years was the norm. I was scared as I wondered if I’d ever be able to run again. I was out of sorts because of the lack of control that I now had over my life.


Thus began a long, painful road to recovery – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

As a person who’s used to taking care of herself, all I could do, for the first nine weeks, was to let myself heal. In fact, I did nothing for two and a half weeks but sit, with my ankle elevated. I was only allowed to get up and potty. That was it. I couldn’t risk injuring it worse the week before my surgery, and I had to let my bones begin to fuse together after the twelve pins and plate were put in. I had to learn how to let others help me. I had to trust God to do the most important work – repairing my bones.

To say that I was frustrated would be an understatement, but I was determined to make the best of it.

The eight months of physical therapy that followed were full of ups and downs and a lot of tears as I discovered basic movements that were no longer simple for me. Learning how to walk seemed to be easier for a toddler than for this over-forty year old gal. You might recall that I used a buggy at Sam’s Club to help me figure things out. It was the grown up version of a push walker, but when things get hard, sometimes you have to be creative.

I had another setback in the fall of 2017 when I had another surgery – this time to remove the hardware because it had been giving me problems. The recovery wasn’t as easy as I’d expected, but ultimately, it was the best decision as much of the pain I’d been experiencing from the pins gradually went away.

I’m a firm believer that God uses everything in our lives for good, and though I’d been seeing blessings throughout my recovery from my injury, I had no idea how much these life lessons would mean to mean to me a year later.

Fast forward to today, November 13, 2018.

Today is the day when I will open my classroom door to an unknown number of students – most of whom I haven’t seen since October 5th. That was the Friday before a long weekend (Columbus Day).

None of us had any inkling that day of what was to come. I probably told my 7th period class to make good choices. It’s something I typically say on a Friday.

I’d grabbed a couple of books in case my reading prowess grew during what I anticipated to be a restful weekend.

At the time, Hurricane Michael wasn’t even a blip on our radar. We only learned of a cyclone through an emergency text message that Saturday or Sunday. By Monday, we were beginning to make preparations for a storm we still thought would be minor.

We waited to see if school would be cancelled for Tuesday. It was, but we assumed we would be back to school that Thursday.

Then, Wednesday happened. I’d evacuated in the middle of the night and sent my students a message through Remind 101 early that morning. Many had stayed. I checked in periodically with them, but by the middle of the afternoon, those who were still in town didn’t have cell service any more.

It was frightening. None of us knew when we would see each other again. Even though we had only been together as a student body for two and a half months, we had grown close. When you depend on each other to pass a mandatory reading test to graduate, the bonds get tight.

I returned home a week after the hurricane and began to pick up the pieces of my life.  Although I saw a few students at the football game that my district arranged a few weeks ago, I still haven’t seen many others. I’m eager to lay my eyes on them.

As I sit here composing this, I can’t help but wonder what I’ll say to my students as we begin to regroup. How can I apply the lessons I learned through my own recent struggles with my ankle to what we are going through right now?

Here are some things I’ll probably share with my kids.

I think it’s important to remember that there are going to be stretches when we can’t do anything – when waiting is the name of the game. As hard as it is to sit back, sometimes God needs time to orchestrate things – to align people and circumstances.

Sometimes, we are going to need to ask for help. This is a humbling thing, but just as I couldn’t even carry a plate to the sink when I was hurt, we can’t always carry the load of rebuilding on our own. We need to allow people to come alongside us.

We need to accept that recovery will not happen in a day or a week. I’m still recovering from my ankle injury – two years later. Similarly, it’s going to take years to rebuild after the devastation left by the storm.

We need to remember that it’s okay to cry. Recovery is painful, and we will be hit by the blues randomly. Just this weekend, I experienced a lot of pain in a tendon connected to my ankle. It was random and made me cry in frustration. So it will be with this storm recovery.

For me, simply taking out old trees from my yard has hurt my heart as the memories associated with these landmarks flood in. Most landmarks will be gone forever. Every time we want to go to a store that’s no longer there or want to eat at a favorite restaurant that’s been blown away, we are going to be sad. Just thinking about Christmas shopping is depressing because, quite simply, not much is open on this side of the bridge.

We are also going to be inconvenienced. When I went through physical therapy, I gave up two or three afternoons of my week, but it was for my own good. Post-hurricane life has brought with it new schedules as most of us are being asked to attend school at different times. The increased traffic is wreaking havoc on when we expect to get places, but most of that is because of the people fixing power lines or picking up debris. Complaining won’t help as we are all facing the same obstacles.

We also need to remember that, just as my ankle injury left scars, Hurricane Michael is going to leave permanent marks on our lives. Some of them will be on the outside – altered skylines, demolished homes, renovated buildings. Others will be on our hearts. These are going to be the hardest to deal with.

I pray that as we lay our eyes on the visible scars in the months and years that follow, we will be reminded of not just the beginning of the journey but every step we took toward making things right again.

Some people cringe when they see the angry, red line on the inside of my ankle, but I always tell them that it’s okay. I see a beautiful path toward healing – one marked with so many blessings. I met the most incredible surgeon and nursing staff that tended to my broken bones. I met others along the way who either helped me or empathized with me due to their own similar experiences.

We will do the same after the hurricane. We will remember talking to the people who lived near us who we’d never had a chance to talk to because fences or walls separated us. We will remember hot meals handed out by churches and other charities near and far. We will remember the thousands of first responders, locally based and many from afar, who not only directed traffic or provided security at various locations, but who also carried water and other supplies when our arms grew weary.

We will remember strangers, friends, and family who housed us during and after the storm. They tended to our fragile spirits while tangibly providing for our most basic needs.

We will never take the beauty of nature for granted and may even become tree huggers in the process.

We will see that we are stronger than we ever thought possible – only because we stand on God’s shoulders.

I heard a line from a song that was playing on the radio the other day. It said that light shines through broken pieces. We are definitely broken, but God’s light is shining though. He will take our shattered lives and rebuild them into something new – something better – something stronger . . .

. . . because He knew this would happen but that He could and would work though it.

My First Look

I’m going to begin the process of catching you up on the past three weeks.

I returned home on October 18th after I evacuated from the hurricane.  I’d spent a week in various venues.

It was a bittersweet parting when I left Tallahassee.

I drove Super Sis to work, and she bid a tender farewell to my fur babies.

The dogs were eager for another adventure.  They had no idea what they were in for.

Truth be told, I’m not sure that I did exactly either.

The drive home seemed okay until I passed through Marianna.  That’s where I began seeing more drastic effects from the hurricane. 

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The closer to home I got, the worse things began to look. 

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My heart sunk lower and lower the more miles I covered . . .

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My eyes couldn’t believe what I was seeing . . .

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Gambit sensed that something was up . . .

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When I made the final turn onto the street that led to my neighborhood, I lost it.  It’s still difficult for me to watch the video without getting emotional all over again.

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What I’d been told about having to see it for myself was the biggest understatement of the century.

It was like something from a movie – one with the worst possible kind of plot.

Unlike a movie, these were not props, nor were the scenes the result of special effects.

This was the setting of my life.

Pulling up to my house was surreal.  I was finally home.

After what seemed like fifteen trips back and forth, I finally got everything from the car into the house.  Although I had fled the storm with very little, I’d done a bit of shopping for supplies and had a load.

The Mr. was sleeping because he’d been working the night shift.  I have no idea how he didn’t hear two big dogs and a noisy wife enter the house, but he slept through it all.

I unpacked, changed my clothes, and got ready to work.

Me, being Auburnchick, got busy.  That was, after all, why the Mr. had told me to come home.  He needed me to help clean up our home.

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I worked for a solid hour and a half.  I must have picked up several hundred shingles, and I hope I never see a pine frond again.

I found a couple of flowers that survived the storm.

The dogs sat outside and watched.

It was a little cooler on the porch.

I think they were excited to be home after wandering all over Alabama the week before.

Ninety minutes might not seem like much time, but when you’re using Hurricane Speak and have to factor heat, humidity, and no electricity, it’s like a bajillion hours.

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In between trips to the dump shingles on a waste pile, I took some time to walk around my street.  What a shock.

Here’s the poop scooping station by the pond across from my house . . .

The next two pictures are of the pond across the road from my house.  I’ve taken a BUNCH of pictures in the mornings of the beautiful sunrise over this pond.  This broke my heart.

I took the dogs for a walk because, hello, no fence!  Take a look at this oak tree that ripped up a neighbor’s yard.

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That first evening at home was surreal.

There was no electricity.  All I could hear was the sound of my neighbors’ generators.  Other than that, it was fairly quiet, even with all of our back yards exposed to one another.

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I grabbed the boom box I’d purchased in Tallahassee the night before.  I needed human voices to keep me company awhile.  I had to chuckle when this song was the first one that came on.  Chicky will appreciate this.

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I’ve gotta tell you that the first night was strange.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.

With no power, I couldn’t do a whole lot, so I set myself up on the porch.  Thank heavens for the generator, which I started without any problems.

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I grabbed a book I’d had the foresight to take home for what was only supposed to be a long weekend . . . over a week earlier.

I left the back door open to let in the tiny breeze that was flowing through.  The dogs never left my side.

Y’all, these boys of mine – well, we’d bonded even more when we’d evacuated.  They’d been my constant companions.

When the bugs started getting to me, I went inside.

I was pretty bored, so I grabbed a flashlight and cleaned the fridge.

The Mr. had already emptied it, thank heavens, but it was still disgusting.

Then, I settled in for the night.  I decided to sleep on the floor, near an oscillating fan, because it was still pretty hot in the house.

My first day back was something I’ll never forget.  It had been one filled with overwhelming emotions and sadness.  I’d seen things that had taken my breath away.

It was also the day my resilience grew by leaps and bounds.

I’ve never been one to let things get me down for too long.  I wasn’t about to let this experience be the exception.

Four Weeks Later

Today marks four weeks since Hurricane Michael slammed my little corner of heaven.

I suspect that for most people around the country, the event was merely a blip on the news radar.  That is not the case for those of us who live here.

I think that people assume that once the electricity got restored, things would go back to normal.

I can definitely attest to the fact that we loathe that word now.  In fact, I want the word removed from the dictionary.

Life is still hard.

Each tiny step forward is accompanied by challenges that people don’t understand unless they’ve experienced something of this magnitude.

Sure, some of us can live in our homes.  We are the fortunate few.  Many people cannot.  Because of that, people have had to relocate.  Some went to the beach which, miraculously, escaped much of the hurricane’s wrath.  Others went to locations farther away.

Although this sounds like a simple solution, it’s not.  Traffic from the beach to town has increased by volumes, and it takes hours to cross the bridge.  This has made what was once a simple commute extraordinarily frustrating for those who work in town or have children who must attend school in another building because said children’s schools were damaged.

Can we talk about schools for a minute?  The first wave to reopen began on Monday.  The second group returns on Tuesday.  That’s when my school will start.  Four of the high schools are doing split schedules – sharing campuses with middle schools.  High school students will attend from 7am-12pm.  Middle school will take over the campuses from 1-6. One of the high schools is being used as a shelter to house hundreds who were displaced and simply have nowhere else to go.

Traffic has increased in town because of schools reopening (the flip side of the coin).

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My school will be housed at the middle school that had its gym destroyed.  You might have seen the drone footage that was aired after the hurricane.  The classrooms received very minimal damage, if any, so they were fortunate.  These teachers have been incredible and have welcomed us into their rooms with open arms, empty file drawers, and spaces on their whiteboards for us to write agendas.  ❤

Not only are there challenges with getting kids to school; people going to and from work are also having issues.  I talked to a young man – an employee – at Ace Hardware last week.  He said that he used to live at the beach, but it was taking too long and costing too much money for gas to travel to work, so he moved.

Although some businesses have reopened, many have not, so the lines to purchase food and other necessities are extremely long.  To their credit, places like Walmart and Publix have handled the extra workload extremely well.  Kudos to them!

There aren’t a lot of restaurants open on this side of the bridge, so the places that are stay packed.  I went to Beef o’Brady’s on Saturday to watch the Auburn game, and it got more and more busy as the day wore on.

I did met some very nice Georgia fans.  I also wound up sitting next to a fan of the other school in Alabama.  Winning that game was sweet.  We need victories in all areas of our lives sometimes – just to take the load off for a little while.

By the evening games (I went back for dinner with the Mr.), there was a line of people waiting for seats.

They only took cash, which meant going to Publix to buy something cheap and get cash back.

Many of the banks in town aren’t open.  The ones that are can’t serve customers in their lobbies, so the drive-thru lines are long.

Most people still do not have internet.  In fact, I typed this on my laptop at a hotspot in Walmart’s parking lot.

Xfinity, which provides service to many customers here, hasn’t given anyone a timeline on when everything will be repaired.  I’ve heard everything from six weeks to three months.  That’s making it challenging for those who work from home or attend school.

What complicates the internet issue is that cell phone reception hasn’t been fully restored.  I will say that this is one area that is a little better than even a week ago, but it’s still challenging to do anything web-based.

No internet also means no cable for most of us.  Y’all, a person can only read so much and talk to one’s spouse for so long.  I know this sounds spoiled, but I’m just being honest.

Along with the challenges that we’ve faced, we’ve also been the recipients of many blessings.

I am meeting a lot of new-to-me teachers.  It’s interesting to see how our partner school does things.  We are sharing space and resources, which is such a wonderful example for the students we teach.  Their kids will be our kids soon; the bonds forged with these educators will continue to pay dividends for years to come.

People have been so generous during this time.  Donations are pouring in.  My own family, Super Sis, Coupon Queen, and even Sis’s husband have been shopping for clothes for my students.

A couple of days ago, a classmate of mine messaged me and said that his church in Auburn, Alabama, will be supporting my church for the next bit of time.  He was at a volunteer meeting when he learned of this and immediately thought of me.  Who would have thought that out of all the churches in the South (remember that we are the Bible Belt), this would happen?  I count this as a God-incidence.

I’ve seen evidence of God’s handiwork throughout.  My teacher-roomie is also a vegan.  He’s also very chill, which is what I need as the “visiting” teacher, and he’s completely let me do my thing in his classroom.

I would ask that you continue to support us with your prayers.  Recovering from a Category 5 (because that’s what it was) storm will be a years-long process.  Please do not forget about us even as we fade further and further into the background, overshadowed by the election and the holiday season.

Y’all, there are hurting people here.  There are people living in tents in the Home Depot and Walmart parking lots.  I’ve seen them with my own eyes.  There are teachers who are living with other teachers because their houses got destroyed.  I hugged a fellow teacher, a sweet lady who’s been in education for over thirty years, and listened as she cried on Monday.  She was overwhelmed by the number of tasks she’s facing.  Her sister lives with her, and she has to figure out what she can salvage and get it moved out so her house can be stripped bare.

While life for you may have moved on, it hasn’t for us.  We are physically and emotionally exhausted.

We’ve watched our possessions get dragged to the street and beloved trees get removed from our yards.

Four weeks later, we’ve learned more about insurance, demolition, and mitigation than we ever thought we would want to know.

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I’ve learned how to buy a wheelbarrow (they aren’t all made the same)

The one I wound up buying!

I’ve also learned how to swing a sledgehammer.

Four weeks later, we are loving on each other a little bit more and digging down deep to serve others.  Hurricanes have a way of turning friends into family and strangers into friends.

Yes, it’s been tough.  Yet, four weeks later, we wake up, forget our challenges for a minute, and thank the Lord for each beautiful sunrise, which bespeaks of God’s promise to build us stronger than we were before.

When the sun drops each evening, we are sent on our way to Dream Land with gorgeous sunsets – snapshots of God’s grace that we might have missed before the fences and trees were taken away from us.

 

Who Hid the Easy Button?

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

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

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

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

Ugh.

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

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

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

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

Don’t you dare judge me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just sayin’.

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

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

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

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

Thanks!

Hurricane Michael – Two Weeks Later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s been a humbling experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the conversations we typically have.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, thank you for the love and support.

Going Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also told me that I could go home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I make a confession?

I’m a little scared.

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

Things are going to be vastly different.

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

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

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

But y’all.  I’m going home.

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

It’s like Christmas Eve times ten thousand.

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

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

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

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