Monday, September 4, 2017

One Week After Harvey

I haven't typed on this blog since November.  I've had some writers block,  I've had some distractions, I've not wanted to write. Most of my creative writing happens in the form of a Facebook post. It's easier, quicker, more people read it. I've been micro-blogging, so to speak. But today. Oh, but today. Today I have a lot of words and thoughts - and it's too much for a Facebook status. Forgive me as I word vomit here, but I don't want to forget. I want to type this out now, so I'll always remember.

One week ago we evacuated our home due to Harvey.

It was stressful, and it had been stressful. In the days leading up to this, we were inundated with constant tornado warnings - like more than a dozen every day. We were sleeping with kids in our room so we could get to closets quickly. We had days and days of rain that just wouldn't let up. Grant wasn't focused on work, but he wasn't home either. He spent his days prepping our house for the upcoming storm. We needed to fix a pool pump, we needed to sandbag the doors, we needed to seal some cracks in the bricks, we needed to stock up on food and water.

So by the time Sunday rolled around, things were getting intense. My phone was blowing up - friends and family were taking on water in their homes. I felt like I was getting 5-6 texts per hour with more and more of my people, in crisis. Evacuating. We couldn't get to any of them due to flooded roads. The rain would not stop, it was so hard. I would stand at my window in my dining room and just stare out the window. Watching the floodwater creep up and up and up. The rain kept coming.

We started to see the shades of uncertainty and panic on my neighborhood Facebook page. Our neighbors, posting pics of their yard - water higher than anyone here has ever seen - with a caption of "Is anyone else getting nervous?"

We had a big talk, me and my man. Do we leave now? It's dark outside, the water is high, the rain is pounding - is it safe to get out and drive in the dark, rainy night? With our kids? Or do we wait, and evacuate tomorrow morning? But we assumed we would have water in our home by then. Is that the way to go? Should we just go upstairs? Can we get out in the morning by boat? Or pool float? We decided daylight is what we needed to leave, even if water would be in the house. We prayed and prayed and prayed. We got the kids to bed and started getting the house ready.

We borrowed a pump from some kind neighbors that we had never met do get some water out of the pool. We walked out to seal the front door with contractor bags. Carp were swimming around my feet, up and down my driveway. The rain was coming in sideways, and water was coming in from the outside vents on the kitchen wall, water dripping down my backsplash. Grant got a caulk gun and a ladder - I held onto the base in the swampy grass as he tried to seal some cracks shut.

We went back inside and got to work. Computers, photos, albums, important documents went upstairs. Rugs. All my Stella & Dot jewelry - my business. Chairs went on top of tables. We put all the table legs inside a red solo cup. Went into my closet and moved my favorite clothes upstairs, and the important shoes. A box of memories of our dating years. I went through the kids toys and books to pick out the important ones, the sentimental ones. The books they love the most. The toys we've loved the longest. Not gonna lie, there were a few toys that I left lying low. If the flood waters took out that dang monkey toy, then that was just too bad! :) I looked at my piano and started crying. I've played that piano since I was younger than Ellie. It's the one I learned to play, the one thing in the house that didn't feel like "just stuff" - yet it was the one thing I could do nothing about. I was gonna have to let that one go, but it stung.  More friends were taking on water. My friends from church called and we got on a conference call to pray together. Everyone was nervous and we needed some encouragement. My parents texted me a pep talk - "y'all can do this. You will be okay." We brought some food and water upstairs, just in case we were gonna be stuck up there for a few days. I remember Grant asking me "how many days of food do you think we have here?" It all felt so surreal.

We went to bed nervously. I couldn't sleep for hours. But then, I did. And I woke up and before I opened my eyes I reached down and touched the carpet with my hand. Dry! It was dry! I was overjoyed. I woke up and looked out the window, though, and the water was still high. And the forecast called for nothing but rain. Our friends Chris & Callie said they heard there was a drivable path from our house to theirs. We'd have to go a weird back way, but we could get there. We decided to give it a shot. It was still pouring down rain. We bagged up our things in plastic trash bags. Took the kids out to the car one at a time. I looked down the driveway and saw how high the water was, and I decided to just buckle them in at the chest clip and leave the bottom unbuckled. I wanted to be able to get them out of their seats quickly if I needed to - and then Grant put life jackets in the car and I realized we were both worried about the same thing. My neighbor across the street saw that we were leaving and asked if they could use our kayak in case they needed to get out. We left the garage unlocked for them and told them to take whatever they needed. Kayak, pool floats, whatever. We prayed, again, and then headed down the driveway in Grant's big Ford F-150. Getting off of our street was the worst part, my heart was pounding. We did take on some water in the truck, but made it to our friends house safely.

I sobbed when I got there. I had no idea what I would return to, but I was just so overwhelmed. The days of tornado warnings, the days of rain, the standing at the window, the texts from friends - it all just starts to mess with your psyche. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. I kept hearing about more and more friends who had to evacuate - some by boat. Some by National Guard. My nearest and dearest losing everything - and I can't physically get to any of them.

And it was still raining.

After that - the world just got weirder. There was no bread or milk in stores. No meat. Airboats were outside my neighborhood. Giant military helicopters flying over my house. School canceled for the foreseeable future. No mail, no packages. Amazon is 2 weeks out, not 2 days. Every part of town was affected, and we were all on our own little island. You can't get from one area to another. You're just in your house, trapped, and knowing your friends needed help was torturous.

Grant and I did take on some water damage from a roof problem, and we will need some roofing and sheetrock repaired - we have filed a claim. But beyond that, we are fine and healthy and dry. The waters have receded in most parts of town, and now comes the guilt. Grant leaves everyday to do demo and help people start this long, long process. But I'm here in this house with my 2 children. But I know that I have survived to serve.

So, I'm doing laundry for my flooded friends. I'm doing a lot of behind-the-scenes things like coordinating volunteers, delegating tasks, bringing meals, and connecting people with who they need to be connected with. I'm purchasing from local stores and small businesses as these people have no income if no one buys from them.

I'm praying. And praising. Seeing the help and the generosity that has come in this aftermath of this awful storm makes me sob. People are good, y'all. People are loving and good. And we are gonna be okay.

God is good.