Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Bare Facts...

Today is Thanksgiving, & I have never felt so thankful in my life. Yes... a tornado recently caused devastation to my home & wreaked havoc on my life, but all is well with my soul. It's not rocket science to realize the bare facts. It's just the truth. If we learn little else from this catastrophic event, we immediately begin to understand the significance of life.

Our home is temporary. We cannot take the treasures we have stored up on this earth with us when we die. This is NOT Hell. It may resemble Hell, but it is not. Despite the rubble, love triumphs. In fact, I have never felt so loved in my life. I feel as though I have been wrapped in a blanket & carried through this tender time. As I look back over the past week, I recognize love far more than devastation.

I wish I could share all of the kindnesses that have befallen me through this tragedy... I cannot even begin to list them as they are far too numerous! We are getting settled into our temporary abode. We don't really know how long we will live here, but I think forever would be okay with me. I feel cozy here. It is home to me. I have a place to lie my head. I am surrounded by the ones I love. I could hope for nothing more.

As for my old home, I still cannot bear to visit. It isn't so much the memories. It's the level of discomfort. The temperatures are frigid. The scenery is so sad. Rubble & wreckage are everywhere (inside & out). What was once beautiful is gone. Only the memories remain. Dinginess & darkness abide in the place I once called home. It is not safe.

Materially, my losses cannot really be tallied. #1, I had too much stuff. #2, The sentimental value is priceless. #3, I am fine without every bit of it. #4, Interesting artifacts were salvaged. If I met a man on the street, & he asked me if  certain things found in my basement were mine, I would say, "NO... I have never before seen them".  A sad commentary on having too much stuff.

Lastly, I must point out the obvious... I have my husband carrying me through this, & we have our beloved pets. My family & friends & I now have even deeper relationships than the day before the tornado struck. Bonds have been formed which once did not exist. My heart is filled with warmth. I can only be thankful.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

out of the woodwork

Sunday morning marks the 1 week anniversary of the destruction of my neighborhood. I cannot help but recall the events that took place that day. I play the scene over & over in my head. I picture the faces, the anguish, the heart wrenching sobs. I am still numb, still brain dead, & sometimes overcome with anxiety. I rejoice over much. I count every blessing I can find. I know my God has not forsaken me. I value my sweet husband more than ever. I am shaken.

It isn't so much the loss of every stitch of clothing I owned or my pretty jewelry I collected. It isn't my car. It will be replaced. It isn't the amount of work the restoration requires. No... it's none of the above. It's the devastation. My home/neighborhood reminds me of how I pictured Hell. Right now being in my home is unbearable. The temperature is so cold, it's not tolerable (even with boots, scarf, gloves, hood,  winter coat, & sweat shirt). Debris, broken glass, fluff, & filth are everywhere.  The tarp on our roof flaps constantly in the wind creating a miserable frightening sound. It is dark. It is Hell.

I look out my front window, & all I see is devastation. My neighbor's home actually crumbled into her basement. The trees resemble death. I am uncomfortable. My heart aches. Nothing is the same. I cannot find refuge in what was once my safe place. Only heartache, loss, & destruction now reside. The unknowns are great, but nothing we cannot bear. Our future is hopeful. We will persevere. No choice.

Only one thing is keeping me from self-destructing, & that is the kindness of the human heart. Without the love that has wrapped around me, I don't believe I could function. I think the devastation would kill me. Not my own, but my surroundings. I have never walked amongst such destruction, let alone lived in it. However, the one thing that keeps me from knowing I am not in Hell is this: people have come out of the woodwork to love me. They are carrying my burdens & filling my every need. The word "friend" has taken on a new meaning. The depth of my feelings I have for these kind souls is something I have never known.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Home Sweet Home

As I sit down to blog tonight, it's earlier than usual, & I am so tired I cannot stop yawning. Being out in the cold all day is wearing. As the sleet/rain began this afternoon, I began to chill. I really didn't warm up until I arrived hours later at my daughter's house for a hot cup of cocoa. At one point,  I shook the fluffy bits of insulation out of my favorite blanket, wrapped myself up, sat amongst the shattered glass, & just absorbed my surroundings (kind of in a daze). I find myself in a daze quite frequently these days.

Today our insurance adjuster came (all the way from Texas). He spent several hours inspecting our damage. The verdict is in... our home can be rebuilt. Parts of it can be salvaged. He credits this to the large beam in the ceiling of our garage. He says that's what held a few of our walls in place. Wow! Again, I found myself in a catatonic state. I don't know what I expected, but it apparently wasn't that. This one little fact quickly changed my outlook. I don't really know why, but suddenly, I began to have a sense of hope, a hope of possibly residing again in my Home Sweet Home.

Today was a day of reconnecting with neighbors. Tears were shed. A new bond has formed. Here we are in a state of shock & distress. We all feel brain dead. I guess it's like waking up from a bad dream only to find out it is not a dream. It is our reality. We have been thrust into making decisions we are unprepared to make. We are overwhelmed with what this clean up process requires. We are surrounded by devastation.

However, as always, a few treasures cannot be ignored. They remind me of flowers that somehow ease their way up through cracks in the sidewalk. I would be remiss if I didn't share them. After all, it's these sweet surprises that are getting us through each relentless day. So, here goes...

#1 Dear friends have offered us beautiful living quarters. They even blessed me with a care package.  #2  My youngest arrived today with a crew of helping hands from her college. #3  Four Bradley students showed up & spent hours cleaning our debris. #4  A friend offered to help store our belongings. #5  Samaritan's Purse lent us a hand & raked our yard (front, back, & sides).  #6  Men arrived early this morning & finished packing & removing our valuables. #7  A dear friend came with 3 others, & they oversaw all of the yard work. #8 My daughter fixed us lunch. #9  A church brought us dinner. # 10  I got to feed my grandson his bedtime bottle. # 11  My lil Godson sent us a precious video message. #12 My friend ended her vacation early to come home & help.

Tangible kindness is expressed throughout each day. This kindness keeps us human. It gets us through the rough moments. It softens our hearts. It gives us hope. It is sunshine in the storm. It actually gives our minds a break from focusing on our losses & the overwhelming job we have ahead of us. It magically takes an unbearable situation & makes it bearable. A loving hand along this journey called Life makes all the difference in the world.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Today HELP came. As we traveled to the  wreckage of our home, we were both in tears. My husband wept. We felt hopeless & overwhelmed. So many decisions need to be made,  but we are unable to think. We still could not get to our home. It took 3 attempts. Our hearts were heavy. We were weary. We had no game plan. We couldn't agree on anything. We couldn't understand each other. Life was bleak.

As we approached our rubble, a dear friend informed me that HELP was on the way. Her husband was on his way with his employees, trucks, & trailers. Our unvoiced prayers were answered. We did nothing to deserve such help; yet there we were, being helped. Suddenly in the midst of our storm, we saw a ray of hope.

As the sun began to seep through the dark cloud that rested above our heads & in our hearts, I noticed that our voices began to strengthen. We began to treat each other better, to understand each other. A game plan soon developed, & before we knew it, our daughter & her husband met us on the premises. My daughter's eyes welled up with tears as childhood memories flooded her whole being.

We didn't know where to begin... My daughter called her best friend for help. Her husband lovingly packed up the basement. I knew nothing was too much to ask this kind young man. As the day passed, dear friends dropped in to help. Each person that came brought another ray of hope. We packed & we packed & we packed.

Highlights: My son-in-law unexpectedly found my wedding rings. Caring people stopped by to help. My friend's husband brought his employees, trucks, & trailers. Our attitudes improved. Our hearts began to heal. With HELP came HOPE. We worked hard. Lighting was bad. Water damage was gross. It was chilly. But even in the midst of the wreckage, HOPE reigned. As the sun went down, despite the falling temperature, I felt warm inside.

Monday, November 18, 2013

the day after

The day after has been a slow day. Reality has begun to seep in a bit.  We are a little less shocked. We have had too much time to contemplate our losses because we have not been able to get to our house. Gas lines are being purged. The area, clearly, is unsafe. The unknowns are no different than yesterday, We are in waiting...

We wait to be able to get to our home. We wait to meet with the adjuster. We wait. We wait. We wait. As we try to occupy ourselves, we begin to think of odd things from our home that we will never see again. Most things don't matter, but occasionally, my brain pauses when something of sentimental value comes to mind.

As newly weds, we were given an antique spindle bed from my husband's parents. It was a family heirloom. It was beautiful. It was called a three quarters bed, not even a full bed. It sat higher off the ground than today's modern bed. I loved it. We slept in it until we adopted our first Lab. Dolly cramped our style a bit, & we had to upsize. The bed was consequently passed down to each of our girls. I will never see it again.

My wedding rings are missing. The diamond was a gift. My husband inherited it because his Uncle thought he was his namesake. Once his uncle passed away, we realized it was too late to tell him otherwise. So... my husband gave me the diamond for Christmas. Together we chose a beautiful setting. Short of a miracle, I will never see it again.

Yes, there are other treasures ... American Girl Dolls that once came to life when my daughters were young. All of my jewelry (my precious jewelry) is dispersed across the corn fields & to who knows where! My clothes are gone. My shoes, my beloved Bobs, are scattered across the land. My dog is traumatized. My cat is fine.

We are like lost puppies. We make a decision, & then we change it. We enter our neighborhood only to be told we must turn around. People want to help us, but honestly, we don't know how to help ourselves. We have purchased a few clothes. We've made an itemized list of our specifics. We've speculated about what we will do once we know where we stand.

We think. We rethink. We spin our wheels & feel as though we have accomplished very little. We don't always agree on what is a priority. It's a tender time. Our nerves are frazzled. No... it's not like being diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. The day that happened, my heart was cut in two. The day my house disappeared, well, it's hard to say...

I spend much of my time focusing on things of eternal value. I love to think about Heaven.  I love to ponder my faith.  I love people. So,  I have to say... these things of sentimental value: the spindle bed, the American Girl Doll,  the wedding ring, & even my wedding dress. I have to let them go. I will miss them. I am human. But... they are things. Their value is not eternal. They are not really replaceable, but I will live without them.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Tonight I cannot sleep. I cannot shut my brain off. This morning my home was demolished by a tornado. I lost my home today & almost everything in it. The basement is still intact. Our neighborhood was ravaged. It isn't recognizable. Many of the homes are only rubble. We were grateful when we found our dog. He greeted us at our front door as we made our way up the front step. We had to park & walk about a mile to get to our home. As we approached, I knew we would find destruction...

A few hours after our arrival, we found our cat. She was hiding in the basement. Funny how things landed. Mary, Joseph, & Baby Jesus survived. However, the rest of the Nativity was destroyed. Everything was strewn about. We found things in the oddest places.We are both numb. It's hard to know where to begin.

As I face this tragedy, I don't really feel devastated, just numb. Maybe it's shock. Maybe it's perspective. My daughter asked us which was worse, this or cancer? Simultaneously, we both answered "cancer." However, I saw the same anguish in my husband's eyes today, that anguish I saw the day I was diagnosed with cancer. It did't go away for a long time, & now it is back.

I am grateful we are unharmed. We were at church in a storm shelter when the tornado struck. As we drove into our town, we could see the devastation from the highway. We were in shock. It looked like what we had seen in the past only on TV. Well... now we have an opportunity to face another nightmare. Something we only could imagine before today.

The best thing that happened today was finding our animals alive & unharmed. Other highlights included our beautiful neighbors caring for us. Our daughters weeping on our behalf. I haven't shed a tear yet. Messages, prayers, & help from friends & family. If anything brings tears to my eyes it's that. I am so touched by all of the kind offers from loved ones.

So where do we go from here? Time will tell. So many unknowns. But... we have each other. We have Otis & Bella. Our daughters love us. They have taken us in. Our son-in-laws are here for us. As we walked through the devastation, my husband asked... What will we do? My answer was simple, "We will walk hand in hand, face our troubles together, & love each other." We have all that we need.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

It doesn't take much...

It's early morning, & I am unable to sleep. Since my daughter is home sick, I've been at home & consequently, doing a lot of cooking & thinking. I have been on a health craze lately & am trying once again to discover recipes that are both delicious & healthy. Strangely enough, I am enjoying it. Sometimes, I think it's good to spend more time at home, give the brain & body a rest, & remove oneself from the distractions of needless running around.

I am sure many of the people who read this blog have heard of the 5 Love Languages. Gary Chapman wrote a few books about them. Let's see if I can remember them: Touch, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, & Gifts. According to Gary Chapman, we all have a love language or a combination of them. There is value in understanding them when it comes to relating to yourself & others (especially your spouse & children).

If you can identify the love language of your family members, then you can be more intentional about meeting their needs, speaking their language, loving them. It also holds true that if you try to reach their needs through your own love language, it is less effective. Kind of like giving a gift that you would like but not something the recipient would enjoy.

I have always viewed myself as a combination of 3 or 4 of the 5 Love Languages. A few days ago, it occurred to me that my love language really isn't on the list. It's plain & simple: kindness. I love to be treated kindly, to observe kindness, & to treat others kindly. When I am not treated kindly, I am like a deflated balloon.

Nothing makes my heart tick like seeing a mother treating her child tenderly. I love to catch a married couple looking lovingly into each other's eyes. It even rocks my world to see someone loving on their pet. Whether it's reaching out to a homeless person, being kind to a child, simply a gentle answer to a question, a small favor, an understanding tone of voice, or an expression of compassion in a loved ones eyes, all of these things make my heart beat. It doesn't take much. It's just a way of life...

Friday, November 1, 2013

My plans came to a screeching halt.

Yesterday in the blink of a phone call, my plans for the week changed. I was planning on having my oldest & her lil family for chili on Halloween. The baby was dressed as a monkey, & I couldn't wait to love on him! The chili was already in the crock pot. Yes... I got up early. I had plans to spend the weekend with my stepdad whom I've had very little time with since my mother passed into Heaven. My Aunt was celebrating her 80th birthday. So special, I couldn't wait to see her. Lastly, I would be lighting a candle for my mom at her church. Sunday, All Saints Day is celebrated in her church, & a candle is lit in memory of the Saints who passed away within the last year.

Yes... it was a lot packed into one weekend, but all things I felt were important. Then the phone rang. My youngest was calling to say she had mono. "Oh," I said. "Let me come & get you." I informed my husband of our sudden change in plans, readied myself, & headed North to pick up my sick daughter. It was raining hard. Construction added an hour both ways, but I was going to get my baby. None of that really mattered.

I picked her up, & we headed home. We chatted as we traveled down the highway, & I knew I had done the right thing (not that I would have done anything else). I counted my losses as I was on my way, but somehow, everything was right with my world. Unexpected time to spend nurturing my daughter. Kind of like old times... movies, Sprite, TLC, & whatever else would be needed.

So... my plans came to a screeching halt. I regret what I cannot do, but I am so thankful to be alive to do what I can do. I am here to nurture my young adult child back to health. I am here to keep her company, to fix her hot soup & smoothies. I am here to catch up on her life. I am here to love her, & I am able.