Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday -- 8-29-05

Waveland, Mississippi -- Before Katrina

Waveland, Mississippi -- After Katrina

Monday, August 29, 2011

Katrina + 5 + 1

This is a repost of last year's entry on the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Today is the 6th. 

My in-laws' first look at where their house was in Waveland, Mississippi.

 

Katrina + 5

Everyone is asking. Everyone wants to know.

How did Katrina change you?

I didn't lose my house. I didn't lose anything I owned, really. A tree in my front yard. A few shingles maybe. And a couple of fence boards.

I know people who did, though. Lose everything. And I do mean everything. Homes. Possessions. Jobs. Friends. Relatives.

My in-laws were left with a plastic grocery bag of possessions and two empty lots in Waveland, Mississippi. We lost my father-in-law four years later.

But wherever we happened to live on the vast area known as the Gulf Coast, we all lost something that day in August of 2005. We lost our security. We lost our peace of mind.

It's five years later and I live my life -- or at least four months of it a year -- ready to go.

I pay for a big SUV, not because I have a bunch of kids to ferry around or because I'm not concerned about our ecology, but because I know I can fill it with stuff when I have to.

And I will.

I know what's important. I know where it is. I know what I will take. And I know my husband won't even laugh at me.

Sure, I know to take the important papers. Insurance. Medicines. My dogs.

But I also know that I must take my daughter's baby book, her school memory books, her scrapbooks, the box of memories from the day her adoption became final, her original birth certificate with her original name.

Her art.

The two books I've written just for her.

My wedding album.

My baby book -- the one I had to re-make after a puppy named Laycee chewed up the first one.

The one album filled with photos of me, my sister and our late brother as children.

I know how important those things are because my husband has none. Not one baby photo of him survived the storm and only two of the three boys as children.

I have spent months scanning photos into my computer and uploading them onto safe places in the web so they won't be lost.

Katrina did that for us. Taught us that some things just can't be replaced. Ever.

Like our innocence. Our security. Our peace of mind.

Or the people we will never see again.

Friday, August 26, 2011

'Tis the season


I don't wish this on my worst enemy.

I've been there more times than I've cared to. And could joyfully live the rest of my life without ever having to do it again.

Because I know.

Jim Cantore is on The Weather Channel. Anderson Cooper is on CNN. And some poor sap is on some beach, trying to stand up in the wind and the rain.

And somewhere out there is a woman -- a mom -- standing in her living room. Going insane.

She's watching that big white blob on her TV screen and all she really wants to do is cry. Her phone is ringing every five minutes from family members telling her what to do, asking her what to do.  But she's standing there frozen, and she's asking herself: What do I do? Do I stay? Do I go? Where do we go? When do we leave?  How do we get there? Do we board up the house? What will we come home to? Will it be here when we get back?

And, the question that will haunt her forever: What do I take when we leave?

I have so been there. Done that. More times than I ever cared to, thank you. I've stood there in the middle of my living room, my bedroom, my little girl's room, my front yard -- agonizing over such decisions.

Some are easy: Her baby book, the keepsake box from her adoption finalization day, her school keepsake books, our wedding album.

Some are hard: Which of the other photo albums? The silver? Cherished books? The china? My wedding dress? Great-grandmother's chair? The giant portrait hanging over my piano?

And some things you just forget.  Like underwear.

But I know that the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life was lock my door and walk away from everything I own, not knowing if it would be there when -- if -- I got back.

Hurricane Katrina taught us all these lessons and so many more:
Water, batteries, gasoline, cash, important papers, medicines, glasses, radio, zip lock bags, baby wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, garbage bags, peanut butter, canned goods, potted meat, tuna, a non-electric can opener, a land line, a cell phone charger, how to send a text message, a contact outside the storm zone, solar lights (!) and every photo you can grab.  And that the most valued commodity after a storm is ice.
 
You certainly learn what is important. What cannot be replaced. What you cannot live without. What you can live through.

I do not have one single baby picture of my husband. Not that there were many to begin with, he being the third of three boys born in the 1950's.  But the few were stashed in the attic of his parents' home in Waveland, Mississippi, six years ago when Katrina churned pretty much right up their street.  They were left with nothing but a slab. And two days' worth of clothes. And a few pieces of jewelry my mother-in-law thought to grab at the last minute.

For about four days, we actually thought they had died. They did evacuate their house a half a block off the beach, but only a few miles away to Kiln, the home of Brett Favre, who reported that his mother had to swim out of her home. We could not imagine two 80-year-olds doing so.  They chose wisely, however, and escaped unscathed in a house away from water. They moved in with us two weeks later and stayed a year and a week.

I have friends and co-workers who lost everything they owned, their houses destroyed by the putrid waters that deluged New Orleans when the levees broke.

I know some who were at the Superdome, trying to survive. I know some who worked to tell the story of what happened there.

I know some who left and never came back.  I know some who died.

And I have a daughter who was scarred for years by the entire experience of watching "The Big Red Storm" as she called it, for days on TV from our safe haven in Natchitoches, in northern Louisiana. And our mistake of staying home for Rita just a few weeks later.  She and her friends in pre-school used to play "Evacuation" from the pretend house in her classroom.

Riding out the storm is not an option.

I had a great-aunt who rode out Camille in Biloxi.

My mother rode out Betsy in Houma in 1965. She tells stories of the big picture window in the dining room bowing in the wind, of the floor boards rolling, of tying my brother to her with a belt and me to my grandmother. She also rode out Andrew.

I rode out Andrew at my sister's in Baton Rouge, terrified of every noise, every sound, every report on the radio, and the fact that my poodle was cowering in the bathtub.

We evacuated for George, taking six hours to drive to my sister's in Baton Rouge -- normally a one-hour drive. We spent 12 tortuous hours driving to Houston for Ivan, and another 11 back.  With a potty-training toddler.

We stayed for Rita and scared my daughter to death.

We learned other lessons as well. How a government can fail. How a community can come together in times of crisis. How a nation can.  How quickly people forget. How to appreciate the little things. How long it takes to rebuild.

How to prepare for it the next time.

And how to pray every day that we won't have to.

To all in Irene's path tonight, may God bless you.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Flashmobbed

*Disclaimer: This story DID NOT  really happen. All characters are fictional.. Everyone knows my 10-year-old daughter would NEVER act like this in real life. 



I've never seen anything like it.

Here we were, my mom and I and one of my daughter's friends, sitting at the dining table, enjoying some nice boiled Louisiana crabs on a Friday afternoon.  My favorite. Mom's treat. Even better!

We had no idea what was coming.  But come it did.

It was a flashmob. A crying, screaming, pouting, huffing, puffing, foot-stomping, door-slamming, You-Don't-Care-About-Me flashmob. Of one, ONE, 10-year old girl, obviously in the throes of a hormonal melt-down. Or something.

Forget the Terrrible Twos. This is the Terrorizing Tweens. Lord help me.

I guess I should have seen it coming.  We know she grew up fast. A lot faster than most of her peers. She may be 10 but she looks 12. She's already nearly as tall as me. She's already wearing my shoes and trying to steal my clothes. And she does have a tendency to be a drama queen at times (can you say melodramatic?)

But this ... ?

I still don't know what happened. Or why...

All I know is, one minute I was helping my daughter's friend peel a crab and find the good stuff, and the next my daughter was throwing herself on the sofa and screaming at me. Something about being too nice to her friend and not nice enough to her.

But she doesn't even like crabs!

OK. Full disclosure?  I did kind of egg her on a bit. After she stomped across the hardwood floor, rattling the china in the cabinet and making the dogs run for cover, she stormed into the bedroom. I yelled after her.

"Hey! Come back! You didn't slam the door! Everybody knows you have to slam the door. It works soooo much better when you slam the door. Do you want a do-over?"

"NOOOOOOOO!" she screamed back.

A few minutes later she stomped back into the room, rattling the china again.

"Are you enjoying your dinner with your new daughter?" she screamed at me.

Mom and I exchanged a wide-eyed stare. Then burst into laughter.

"Been there, done that," she said to me, cracking a claw for emphasis. "I remember those days. Oh boy are you in for it!"

"Oh really," I said. "I wasn't that bad. Was I?"

"Oh," she replied, rolling her eyes heavenward. "You were terrible! You cried all the time. You were so emotional. Don't you remember?"

I had to admit, I did.  And I did try to run away from home a few times, but couldn't figure out how to take all my clothes with me.  And I wasn't allowed to go past the paint store a few houses down. Or cross the street.

"I remember," I said. "Sorry Mom. I love you."

"Well," she said. "Your sister was worse."

Lord help me.



Linking up with Erica and friends at LoveLinks.  Expand your bloggerizons.




Monday, August 15, 2011

Modern love




I sat and watched them, these two young lovers still warm from the first blushes of love.

I watched them exchange knowing glances.  I watched them laugh at each other's jokes. I watched them share their affection for one another for all to see. And they never said a word.

But they did type a few.

He sat in one chair.  She sat in another. Each had a computer on their lap.  And they both knew how to use it.

Acquaintances for -- well, ever -- they only became an official couple in June.  But they've been dating for several months more than that.

If you want to call it that.

He was in one state. She was in another. They texted. They called. They video-chatted.

Youngsters today.  They have it sooooo easy.  And they don't even know it.

Texting.  Skyping. Cell phones. Email. Twitter. Facebook. Blogs.  There's no excuse anymore.

It just isn't fair.

My daughter and her friends will grow up with no idea what it's like to lock themselves in the house for a night (or a week), waiting for him to call.  They'll never know the pain of having to go out for just one minute (or to that college class, or to the bathroom, or to the kitchen for food) only to miss it.


Or that feeling in the pit of your stomach (and your heart) when you realize he never will (even though he said he would, dammit!)


They may never even have to endure the dreaded Dad-Answered-The-Phone-And-I'm-About-To-Die moments in life. Or having your brother answer and tell him (just because he can), "She's out." 

Everybody has their own phone these days, even my 10-year-old (although hers is always lost or the battery is always dead.)


And those long, awkward silences and deep breathing exercises we used to endure because neither of us wanted to hang up (because he finally called), but neither of us really had anything to say either?  Filled now with texts messages. Or YouTube links.

Me? I grew up with my phone hooked to the wall.  In the kitchen.

I didn't get an answering machine until I was a freshman in high school.

My first cell phone came in a big, black pleather bag.

I didn't send an email until I was in my 30s.  A text in my 40s. 

So now I'm left to only wonder what kind of life might I have led if I had grown up with gadgets. I can only imagine what it must be like to not have to stay home (or locked in my dorm room with my I-Have-To-Study roommate) to wait for him to call.

What it must be like for a guy to have no excuse not to call...
(Lost my number my ass!)

Of course, my generation never had to face finding that other girl's number in his phone.  Or those photos. Or that video!!! 

And we never uttered the words, "text me, baby."

Nor would I want to.

Hey, at least we didn't have to put on makeup and comb our hair just to talk to a boy. We didn't have web cams back in the day. No one ever caught me at my computer just getting out of the shower, or in my pajamas, or on Saturday morning.

Nor would they want to.

And my mother didn't have Skype.

But she does now.

Linked up with LoveLinks.








Thursday, August 11, 2011

I almost didn't cry

I didn't cry when I woke her up and remembered that today was the first day of fifth grade.

I didn't cry when she growled.

I didn't cry when she didn't want my help to get dressed.

Or comb her hair.

I didn't cry when she didn't want me to fix her breakfast.

And I didn't cry when she didn't see the fun message I wrote for her on the bathroom mirror.

Nor did I cry when she went out to the end of the driveway to wait for the bus and I stayed on the porch.

But when she ran back to give me a hug and a kiss just before the bus arrived, well, that's when I cried.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bye Bye Baby


"Mom?" my 10 year-old daughter asked me today. "Do moms want their kids to cry when they bring them to school?"

Huh? I thought. What kind of question is that?

She was watching this Disney Channel show called "Good Luck Charlie." As Disney shows go, it's a pretty good one.  Cute kids, sharp writing, interesting characters and a really cute little girl named Charlie. (Plus they have this awesome house. Their refrigerator has been painted with chalk board paint so they can leave all kinds of messages on it. And I would kill for their turquoise living room sofa.)

I wasn't really paying that much attention to it. She was watching while I surfed the web nearby.

But then I heard her high pitched little voice say, "Aw," in that sing songy, "That was sooooo cute" tone. Then she hit me with that loaded question.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Watch." She rewound the DVR to show me a scene where the mom is bringing little Charlie to preschool. Mom, on the verge of hysteria, tells Charlie to be brave and that she'll be back really soon to pick her up, then she asks for a hug. Charlie, on the verge of leaving the nest and going off to college (even though she's only about 4), turns on her heel and runs into the classroom without a backward glance, leaving mom a withering mess in the hallway.

"Why is the mom sad," Lora asked. "Did she want her to cry?"

And I had to explain that the answer is Yes. And no.

"Well," I said. "When moms bring their little babies to school at first, we want them to be brave and have fun. But a little piece of us also wants you to miss us too. We want you to need us."

And that little vignette really hit home.

My baby girl is only 10 1/2. Not even close to being grown. But as far as she's concerned, my work as a mom is done.

She can comb her own hair (she thinks). She can set her own water for the shower. She can pick out her own clothes (um .. sort of).

She can put herself to bed.

She also can roll her eyes at me with perfection. 

Saturday afternoon as we relaxed in the pool on our vacation, I was surrounded by parents playing with their children. Mine swam away from me. Pretended she didn't know me. Left me. Alone.

Then when we stopped for a lunch break on our way home I waited by the door to help her get out of the third row seat of my SUV.

"You can go," she said, thoroughly exasperated. "I can do this."

Really? Am I really supposed to just walk away? What happened to my little girl?  Why doesn't she need me anymore.

I got my first reality check when I realized that I was only able to hold my daughter for about 3 1/2 years.  After that she was too heavy. Then she was too big.

I know some moms of my daughter's friends who still can pick up their petite little 10-year-olds. I can't. She's already almost as tall as me. She already has stolen several pairs of my shoes. I can still pick her up in the pool, but she won't let me.


Somehow I am trying to figure out how God gave me a husband who refuses to grow up and a child who grew up so fast I missed it.

That's just not fair.

While I can't hold over her head the whole "I carried you for nine months and went through 20 hours of labor," line like most moms do, I can (and do) tell her, "I waited a long time to be a mom. You have to let me."

But she just rolls her eyes at me.

This week my "baby" will begin the fifth grade. But I can still remember that first day of preschool. Marty and I driving her there with her little Kim Possible book bag. It was not long after Hurricane Katrina had devastated our area and disrupted our lives. She started school nearly a month late because of it, and she and her friends spent much of the year playing evacuation from the little house in her classroom.


"Did you cry when you brought me to school?" she asked me today.

"Of course I did! It meant my baby was growing up and leaving me."

"Aw," she said.

Little did I know it was just the beginning.


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