Saturday, September 24, 2005

Our First Field Trip

We took our first homeschooling field trip to the fire department. J was pretty scared and asked right away to go home. I think maybe he thought we'd be in a fire or something! He wouldn't go near the fire truck for the longest time. We got to see where the firefighters sleep while they're on shift, and see their kitchen/living area. Fireman Tim showed us the fire truck, explaining its many different parts. H & J were too scared to sit up in the seat! H asked some questions and liked getting her picture taken sitting on the bumpers of the truck. J had fun helping Fireman Tim squirt water out of the hose! H was too afraid to try this at first, but finally made her way over there! Overall, it was a fun time and even I learned a few things! The best part was that we actually got to see them leave for a call (somebody at Taco Bell smelled gas so they had to respond to the call).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Dumps

Well, today I am feeling so down in the dumps. It started this afternoon when G woke from his nap so crabby and its just been going downhill since. I think the weather may be affecting it. After all, there is another hurricane brewing out there. That is the last thing I want to deal with. I am not wanting to run away from home again. Oh, why can't I move??? Yesterday we drove down by the front beach in Ocean Springs. We saw the Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge up close and personal. Crazy. And to see these remains of houses...did I mention the hole's in the ground? It looked like a big crater had dropped and left a hole in the ground in numerous places. And forget grass, the sand is all over. Boats parked up next to houses by the marina. It is unreal to see it for yourself. And we went to one of the many donation spots and got water and I also got this huge package of diapers. I felt so blessed. Yet we feel like we could be doing more to helping people out who have nothing. So, I baked muffins this morning and brought them to the workers where I got our diapers and water from. I think I need another good has been awhile. Usually things seem fine, in my home I try to put it out of my mind. But, driving around and seeing it...and now with Rita threatening (maybe not here, but still I know what feelings people have that are in its path)...just let the tears come...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Part II: Our Lives & Hurricane Katrina

Wednesday evening my friend, Sheila, (the one I was staying with), our children and I went out to dinner at Applebee's. We were 'celebrating' the fact that things seemed okay for us. She was finally feeling better also, as she had been pretty sick since the day we had gotten there. Thankfully the Lord has watched over us in that area also, as we haven't gotten sick! Due to some 'complications' we only paid $10 for our meal which consisted of 2 adult dinners and 4 children's meals! She was pretty sneaky and had the workers come and sing their 'Happy Birthday' song to me and bring me a free sundae. I could have cried! It was embarrassing, but I know she did it out of love:)

Thursday I was able to meet with one of my friends that also lives in Ocean Springs. Our children played together and we talked of the way our lives had changed. She was in Panama City staying with her parents, but was going to be heading to Pensacola the next day. Hmmm... I wanted to go to Pensacola too, to stay with my friend Diana and to be a bit closer to home. I wanted to run the idea past Zach first though. So, I was able to talk to Zach and plan to leave the next day to Pensacola. Meanwhile, there is so much talk about the base- is it going to close? turn into an army base? remain open? All I knew was that I wanted to move! I never wanted to go through another thing like that!

Friday we drove to Pensacola. It was nice to see Diana again, even though I had just seen her the weekend before! Our children play so well together and H says she wants to marry Alex. Diana, Sheila and I were all stationed together at Minot, North Dakota. It's funny how we all made it to the south:) We were all pregnant together with our first child, although we didn't meet Sheila until the end of the pregnancies. Diana and Sheila lived next to each other and I lived across the street. Diana and I were such close friends, but she moved shortly after our babies were born:( Sheila and I had fun going to playgroups together with our little babies and were pregnant together with our second child.

I stayed there through the weekend. The kids had a blast playing outside with all the other kids. They live in base housing, so there are kids everywhere! They got to swim and jump in one of those bouncy things, ride a Power Wheels jeep...They had it made! I also got to visit another friend, Tracy, who I was stationed with in North Carolina. Through the weekend the news kept coming that water was being restored to different areas. Zach was able to come home frequently, but still had to sleep on base. One of our friends was going to be staying with us because their house was only 2 blocks from the water and didn't quite fare so well. Finally on Sunday Zach called to say we had power and the kids and I could come home! I couldn't believe it! I was only gone for a week, but it felt like ages. It was too much drama and emotion for one week!

So, hail Labor Day, Monday, I drove home. I missed the Jerry Lewis Telethon. Rats. It was that telethon that inspired me to become a social worker. Well, to at least get the degree. I wanted to work in a Children's Hospital with children. Well, the degree is under my belt, but I'm blessed to be working at home with my own children! Anyway, as I drove home I was nervous as to what I would see. The further west I drove the more I wondered what kind of emotions were going to be stirred in me. Mobile, AL, had some trees down and signs down. I kept driving. Pascagoula, MS the bridge driving east was out. There was a big barge that had hit it! Big billboards had been blown over, trees were down and the air stunk. It was unreal to see these huge billboards sawed in half! Some of the smaller signs were fine, but many of them lay in the median of the road. Finally, my exit. What would I find as I neared home? There was no working stop lights. Each car had to stop individually. I passed some neighborhoods where a ton of siding and shingles had been blown off. Some looked fine. I turned onto the road that leads to my house. To the right is a neighborhood. Looks like a pretty expensive one, although it sits right next to the railroad tracks. Many of their fences were blown right over. "Wow!" I thought, "I didn't know those people had a pool!". The thing that really hit me the hardest was seeing the National Guard driving all over or sitting on the corners! I felt like I was living in a war-torn country. I felt safe, but at the same time I felt invaded. It still amazes me that our house did so well. Ones next to us or 3 or 4 houses down had much more siding off or shingles down. Some neighbors had trees that just escaped hitting their houses, but damaged their fences.

I got home. There was Zach. I just clung to him with tears in my eyes, so thankful that we were together again, thankful he was ok. The kids were bouncing around happy to see their daddy again. I just walked through the house, constantly thanking God for sparing us. I couldn't stop staring around, amazed that my house made it. I went outside and assessed the damage. Wow, the screened-in porch looked like something came and cut the screens right out. The glass from the door was smashed into pieces. That door sits pretty much right next to our back door. How is it that the windows on the back door stayed intact? I saw the water line on the fence. What??? It was HIGH! How in the world did that water not come into my house??? I had heard that the two neighbors to the south of me had about an inch of water in their houses. My house sits back further on our lot, closer to the swampy area behind the fence. How is that possible that I didn't' have water? And about the fence...Portions of it were lying on the ground. The swingset looks mutilated.

We didn't stick around home long. We obviously had no food. Zach had worked hard to clean up much of the yard and to throw away all the spoiled food from our fridge and freezers. We first drove down the road toward the coast. It was unreal to see. Where were all those beautiful big houses? There was nothing left of them! Maybe some clothes in a tree. A toilet here, a couch there. Cars overturned. Trees along the road. Finally, we went in search of food. Of course, nothing much was open. Zach said he heard there was a McDonald's open. It wasn't. The traffic was crazy in some areas. People coming home to assess what was left. We drove to Biloxi, to a Dominoe's. I couldn't believe driving through some of the places! My mouth was hanging open. It is so unreal to see it in person. Stuff strewn everywhere. And the stench. Man, driving through some of those places you had to block your nose good! Houses completely gutted out. Houses completely gone, only a cement slab left. It was so sad. At the same time I couldn't even comprehend what I was seeing. The magnitude of it was too great. I just stared in disbelief. I felt like I was dreaming.

Since then we have driven around in different areas as well. There used to be this store called Sharkheads in Biloxi with a big shark head sticking out of it. All that is left is the structure. Right down the road from it was Ruby Tuesday. You'd never guess there was a Ruby Tuesday there. Down by the mall McDonald's is gutted out. Ronald is still standing though, and waving. In the parking lot of a shopping center is a toilet. One house I saw was torn in half. One house would be gone, but the house across the street looked ok. It is so unreal. I still can't get used to it. When I sit at home, life seems almost normal. I try not to think of things. But, once I'm outside I'm reminded of the tragedy. It is so unreal to see National Guard and relief workers, donation centers set up all over the place! It is amazing to see, but sad also. And the stench still remains, in some areas worse than others. Our water is still unsafe. We can bathe in it and that type of thing,b ut not drink it. When I do laundry I feel like my clothes stink from washing them in that water. Yuck. How safe can it truly be here? Why do I have to be here, exposed to this? I feel so bad for people that have lost everything. It is amazing to see people who are determined to get on with life, to rebuild, to stay. I would just want to move away! That is what I want!

Speaking of moving, after we heard many rumors, I guess its decided we're staying here. The medical people are leaving since the base hospital is pretty bad. They decided to start the training again and it was supposed to begin today, but now they're saying next week. I can't understand how they can do that when many of their workers lost homes! Families are still displaced, the active duty member here, yet the family away. Our friend, Matt, that was staying with us barely had a day off. He probably didn't even have time to deal with his loss. The things he owned fit into our garage! Are people like that supposed to care about teaching? Who would have the willpower to do something like that! It is unreal! I'm so bummed that we're stuck here. In a way I know it must be what God wants...I don't want to doubt Him. But, I don't want to be here another 3 years. I don't want to see this place rebuilt. I don't want to deal with hurricane season ever again! Just move me to Alaska for all I care!

Thursday we went to Houston for a few days to get away. It was a nice vacation. The ride took longer than anticipated, but it was so good to not be in the midst of this tragedy here. I got my first pedicure and a manicure! We went to this huge mall. The stores were too expensive for our budget. Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Saks 5th Avenue...whew! It was nice to lounge in a hotel, swim in the pool, eat some real Mexican food and go to a museum. It was nice to put the reality of our lives on hold for a bit.

Now I wonder what the next corner will bring. I see there is a new tropical storm. Part of me just wants it to come and wash away what's left here so they'll move us. I just can't see dealing with this hurricane thing anymore. I try to make life as normal for us as possible. But how can it be? Wal-Mart has limited hours. We went to eat at Applebee's last night only they closed at 5!!! You try to do the normal things to keep on moving, yet sometimes you can't! I am still homeschooling and trying to at least keep life normal in the walls of our home. We're enjoying the homeschooling and the normalcy it brings to life. Even though I struggle with some of my thoughts about it all sometimes I know that God's hand holds me. He sustains me. He is watching us, guiding us and protecting us. He cares about my family and I more than I can comprehend. He is BIGGER than a Category 5 storm. He is God and I will put my trust in Him!

The toilet in the parking lot  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Monday, September 12, 2005

Our Lives & Hurricane Katrina

Here is an account of how Hurricane Katrina affected our lives.

On Friday, August 26 I received a phone call from my friend Diana in Pensacola. She said they were told to evacuate the Navy base there and they would come to the birthday party on Saturday and then head to Jackson, MS. I had told her she could always come and stay with us. Then I called my friend in Panama City and told her if she evacuated that she could come here also. I went to my first Stampin' Up party that night. Not many people showed up due to the storm that kept moving nearer to us.

Saturday, August 27 was somewhat of a normal day for us. It was the day I was having a birthday party for G, to celebrate his first year with us. Our friends were coming from Pensacola, plus we had a few families from our area coming to celebrate. It was a busy morning as I was trying to prepare for the party and prepare for school, which was to start on Monday. So, life seemed normal on this day. We kept checking the internet for the latest stats on the storm. Zach had a busy day as he had to call students and tell them when to check into the shelter. Being on the shelter management team, he had much work cut out for him and didn't get to partake in much of the birthday party. Only our friends from Pensacola and a family from our area showed up as everybody else was hunkering down for this storm and trying to figure out what they needed to do. At this point I think it was still a Category 3. My friend from Panama City called and told me if I needed to evacuate that I could go and stay with her, as it had moved more east and didn't look good for my area. I was uncertain what to do, but I finally decided I would weather (no pun intended) it out in the shelter with Zach and see how that went. I couldn't imagine life in a shelter with 3 children under the age of 5, but I didn't want to leave Zach either. So, I packed up some food Saturday night and tried to sleep, wondering what the next day held in store for us.

Sunday morning Zach had to leave early to prepare the shelter. I decided I would go there after dinner, about 5 pm. I woke up real early, not able to sleep well anyway. Who can sleep when they say the eye of the storm is coming straight for you? I quickly checked the computer and saw the number 5. My phone was ringing off the hook and it wasn't even 7 am! Friends and family were calling and telling me how bad it looked and that I needed to leave. I was frantic. I just remember seeing that 5 and feeling doomed. I tried to call Zach but the lady wasn't sure where he was. I wanted to ask him if I could just leave. I did not want to stay where a storm that bad would hit. The building I was going to be sheltering in with him was built to maintain a direct hit from a Category 4 storm, but a 5? That spelled one thing for me. Make that two. D-E-V-A-S-T-I-O-N and E-V-A-C-U-A-T-E. As I waited for Zach to call me back I answered the many phone calls and was throwing things in laundry baskets. I was gathering pictures, important papers, things I didn't want lost or forever gone. Finally, he called. I told him I wanted to leave, to go to Panama City. He got a bit upset that I was changing the plan and told me to just go to the shelter, that we would be fine. I was upset and didn't know what to do. I certainly wasn't going to drive 5 hours away without his consent not knowing if I'd even see him again. About a half an hour later he called back and said he'd be home in about a half an hour. I didn't know what that meant. He wasn't very happy with me for 'freaking out'. Maybe it was his way of dealing with the situation. He didn't seem worried in the least bit though, and it irritated me. I just kept seeing that 5 and hearing that we were doomed and I just knew I needed to protect my children and get out of town. Finally he arrived home and asked me when I was leaving. He packed up the van and we said a not-so-good good-bye. I don't think he really wanted me to drive that far by myself, and then with traffic on top of it. I don't think he wanted us to be separated or me to have to leave alone. It was not easy to leave him behind and wonder if I would even see him again. I kept thinking 30 ft. storm surge and how his building would be wiped out. I cried and prayed as I drove. I was tempted to turn around and go back to him, especially with all of the traffic. But I kept on driving east. I kept on talking to God. At one point I saw this clear picture in my mind. It was my house and it was surrounded by a huge wall on all sides and above. It was the type of wall that they built in Bible times to protect the cities. Around the outer parts of the wall were huge angels, they looked like giants, protecting the wall. It was amazing how God gave me that vision.

I arrived in Panama City and called Zach to let him know I was there. We only got to talk for a minute. It was so hard being so far from him and knowing this huge storm is headed for him. I barely slept that night and kept checking the TV. My friend didn't have cable, but that's probably a good thing. All day Monday I kept checking the internet and TV. I was a wreck. I couldn't think of anything else besides this storm taking place right where Zach was. Right where our home is. It looked awful. Being on the eastern side, I knew it couldn't be good for us at all. I was devastated. All day I wondered if Zach was ok. He was right off of the coast on the base. Did the water rise so high from the storm surge that his building was wiped out? I can't even imagine storm surge or 100+ winds. What was he doing? When would I hear from him? Surely there was no power. Had we said our last good-bye the day before? That was probably the longest day of my life. Finally, FINALLY in the evening he called. He could only talk real quick. He was ok. Their building was fine. I didn't know whether he was just saying that so I didn't worry or if it was true, but at least I got to hear his voice, even if it was for a minute or two. I had no idea when I would hear from him again.

Tuesday I woke up. It was my birthday. Some birthday. I knew my husband was ok, but what of our house? I was seeing devastation in Biloxi and Gulfport but nothing of Ocean Springs. What did that mean? Was it so bad that they couldn't' get in there? I even saw Pascagoula. We are sandwiched between Pascagoula and Biloxi. The bridge from Ocean Springs to Biloxi was gone. What of my house? I decided to try to make the best of my day. I took the kids to IHOP. I normally don't go to a sit-down restaraunt like that alone with 3 children, but they love IHOP. They did great! As I got them buckled in the vehicle to leave this elderly black lady tapped on the passenger window. I had seen her in the restaurant at a table near us. I didn't think she paid us any attention. I rolled the window down a bit and this is what she said: "I just want to tell you how well-behaved your children are and how blessed you are". I was floored. I knew that that was only from God. I mean, it was my birthday and here I'm going through the biggest storm to hit the U.S. That was not a coincidence. I don't believe in luck. Zach thinks maybe it was an angel. It just made me break into tears and thank God for my children. I thanked Him that my family was ok. I knew that no matter what else I had left, I had my family and that is more precious than anything else. That afternoon I visited with a different friend that happens to live in P.C. Her dh and Zach graduated from high school together and I met them in N.C. The downer was that I had missed a phone call from Zach. I was devastated. I at least wanted to hear his voice. Meanwhile, I'm getting all these emails from friends stationed in Mississippi with us. Rumors are flying every which way about the base and what will happen. I just know that I want to get out of Mississippi. I will go back to North Dakota at this point.

Wednesday Zach is able to drive to check on the house. He calls me. The house is okay. Our privacy fence is down (we knew that would happen as it happened last year with Ivan), our back porch is no longer screened in, we're missing 2 or 3 rows of vinyl siding on the garage and we're missing a bit of shingles. That is it! How is that possible? You all must have seen the footage on TV just like I did. I cried and thanked God. I just couldn't believe it. I couldn't even put into words the miracle God had given us. All I knew was that just like that vision, He protected us. Why me? Sure, I love Him. I try to be faithful to Him. But, I feel I fail miserably day in and day out. And yet He is SOOOOO faithful to me! What a loving Father! I just couldn't believe that our home was okay. And yet, I felt horrible for all those people who lost so much. People I know. People I probably see in the stores. People that may wait on us at a restaraunt. One of the first things I said was, "That is not my house. It is God's house and it will be open to those who have nowhere to go." He was able to protect it and I needed to give it to Him. To let Him use it as He desired.

Stay tuned to Part II of my account of Hurricane Katrina...Coming soon...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I'm Back

Ok, Just wanted to let you know I'm back. Internet is now up and running. I will try to update a bit more in a couple of days, but we are totally fine. Praise the Lord as He has protected us!