Texas Still Stands & We Stand Together


The last few days have been akin to falling into the dark end of the rabbit hole.  We have been living in a surreal nightmare that kept us in fear while caging us with wind and water.


This is not a river.  This is a street.

As I have lived in Texas my entire life, heavy storms are not unfamiliar territory.  However, from Friday through Tuesday, we received more than one hundred forty tornado warnings as well as dozens upon dozens of flash flood alerts.  Those are actual numbers of alerts, not exaggerations.  Spending hours worrying if you are going to lose your home is exhausting. Spending those same hours worrying if your family is safe is exponentially worse.    rescue

I was so afraid for my children’s safety that we set up little mattresses in my husband’s closet, and that’s where they slept for the past few days.  They are just returning to their rooms tonight.


This was taken in a nursing home to the southeast of us.  They were rescued and relocated, but my heart feels raw when I see this.

The news just said that we received 52″ of rain in this storm.  52″.  It seems unreal, but the deluge was impossibly heavy and pummeled our homes relentlessly hour after hour.  I joked to my friends that I expected to look out my window and see pairs of animals walking toward a big boat.  It was beyond belief.



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God bless the Cajun Navy.  I can’t put into words my love for these people.

Incredibly, our home and neighborhood never lost power.  We were able to keep track of the news while keeping in touch with our friends and family.  We quickly learned that we would not be facing this alone.

cajun navy2Before the rain showed any sign of stopping, many dear neighbors from surrounding towns and states were in the water rescuing those in need all around Houston.  I have friends who were picked up by boats and oversized construction vehicles at their flooded homes.  Firefighters, police officers, members of the military, and overall amazing people continue to risk their lives to help us here.  A few beautiful souls have lost their lives in the process.  I cannot express my sadness at these losses.

Countless people have lost their homes.  Hurricanes are known for their destructive natures, but Hurricane Harvey drew a tremendously broad stroke of destruction unlike any other we have experienced.


This neighboring family was extremely lucky.  They lost a beautiful tree, but it fell away from their home.

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These dear friends were less fortunate.  It makes my heart ache to see this.

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This photo was taken by a close friend of my sister.  She took the picture right before first responders transported her and her family away from their once beautiful home to safety.

The three images above are neighbors and family friends.  There are thousands upon thousands more homes that have been terribly damaged or destroyed.

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I saw multiple military transport planes overhead as I left the neighborhood today.  I was overjoyed to see them.

Although the rain stopped at last today, we found ourselves facing yet another complication from all of the water.  The flood control authorities have initiated controlled water releases from the reservoir dams in an attempt to maintain the integrity of those critical structures.

Certain neighborhoods are expected to experience additional flooding given these releases, but I understand the need to sacrifice a small area with controlled water releases for the sake of preventing a very literal tidal wave of water flowing over miles and miles of heavily populated areas.  Despite my ability to understand the need, this does not change the fact that my parents live in the high risk zone impacted by those releases nor does it change the fact that their home will be washed away if the dam fails.  Water is already spilling over the top and around the sides.


I wish I could tell you that this was me in my car, but it was another rescuer in a better vehicle.  Thank you for coming to our town!

So I did what any tenacious girl with stubborn parents would do.  I jumped in my 4×4 Texas mom-mobile and headed to their house to drag them out while they raged.

A dear friend (I love you K!) stayed on the phone with me as I drove.  She guided me to the best possible (and sometimes only possible) routes to allow me to avoid the innumerable streets that were closed due to high water or road failure.  My parents are about fifteen miles from me, but it might as well have been a hundred.  I weaved back and forth and backtracked repeatedly.  There was water everywhere I looked.  Thankfully there were military trucks, high water vehicles, and boats in abundance as well.

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The raw truth is that my tenacity did not make the trip any less terrifying.

Meandering through high water on unfamiliar streets and knowing that you are deliberately driving into an area with rising water that may turn catastrophic is incredibly scary.  I tend to be rather steely in a crisis, but this one had me on edge.  When I arrived, I was met with angry parents who didn’t want to go.  No surprise there.

My father recently had knee surgery and can’t walk well, and my mother has somehow hurt her shoulder.  They have no power at that house and aren’t expected to get it back for several days.  It isn’t the safest area to begin with and looters are likely to begin their hunts.  The water is rising – not receding – in front of their house, and they are within tidal wave range of the dam if it blows.  Naturally they would want to stay.  (Argh!!!  Seriously people??  Do we really have to discuss this??)  Thank heavens my rabid bulldog style of encouragement worked.  No surprise there either.  Off we went once more to head back to my house (the house with power and without rising water).

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I thanked God every single time I saw a military chopper or truck.  I said a prayer of protection for all of the people I saw working to help others.  They were everywhere I looked despite the incredible water levels, and we were blessed to make it home safely.

The drive to help others has been amazing across the board.  The rain did not cease until mid-morning, but the shelters were already bursting at the seams with donation items and volunteers within a couple of hours.

donationsPeople are doing everything they can to help those in need around them.  The response inside and outside of our community is stunning.  On a personal level, I can’t tell you how many people have invited us to their homes should we need a place to go.  They have offered everything.  Family, friends, coworkers, and total strangers – all have stood with us.  It overwhelms me emotionally.  I can’t adequately articulate my feelings, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that there is more goodness in this world that we could ever imagine.

The news should cover the beauty I have witnessed here.  It is truly a spectacular sight to behold.  I am captivated by your kindness and your love.  I am enamored by your strength and your courage.

When I say that Texas still stands and we stand together, I am saying that Texas still stands and we stand together with you.  In our greatest time of need, so many of you have served as our shelter in this physical and emotional storm.  You have extended the lifeline we so desperately needed, and now we are able to continue that with you as we move to help each other.

There is no division of economic class, race, gender, sexuality, religion, or politics.  We are one united people, and we are all here for each other.

Texas still stands.  Thank you for standing with us.  We truly stand together.

Much love to all of you. Joanna




Stormy Weather

I feel relatively grounded on average.  However there are times when I feel life piling up around me, and I lose sight of the sun.  My thoughts become cloudy, and I focus on an unrealistic desire to resolve all pending worries in the immediate moment or else.  When I get into this ultimatum frame of mind, I attempt to remind myself that there is no way that everything will be resolved immediately and seek to access my calmer analytical side.  I ask myself “What does ‘or else’ really mean?”

On 90% of the items, the plain truth is that if those things don’t happen, no biggie.  They just happen later or life goes on anyway.  The remaining 10% are almost exclusively highly improbable, and even if they do happen, will not be improved by torturing those around me.

Despite knowing this, I opted for the “free torture for all” approach yesterday.  Opted isn’t really the right word.  It was more like having my mind invaded by a frenetic wild-eyed doppelganger who looked like me in the mirror.  I needed the pragmatic rational me to kick the irrational “what did you mean by THAT comment” me out of the driver’s seat.  Frenetic doppelganger would still be hanging out in the vehicle, but at least she wouldn’t be driving the bus.

Work was in high gear (nothing new).  I need to have surgery on one of my hands (that is new), and due to various reasons, have to have the procedure done next week.  Thankfully it’s on my right hand, and I’m right-handed.  Also I can type with my toes and allow my young children to create complex spreadsheets whenever they need a break.  Wait.  No.  I’m thinking of the clever octopus in Finding Dory.  I do actually need my hands to type.  I started to worry about this yesterday, and the panic train began its exit from the station.

I wanted to write a post but there was no time.  I wanted to search for a low-key vacation spot in the area but again there was no time, no cash, and no freedom since we are chained here by the looming possibility of a house showing.  Thinking about the possible showings had me thinking about the house and the cleaning worries began.  The mental to do lists were already cycling.  Once more I remembered that I needed to work before any of that could be tackled.  So I worked as the panic increased and the noise in my mind grew.

Tech turn off time rolled around.  Those of you who live in an area with hurricanes have probably seen the way these storms can stall over water for a short period of time before moving along their paths.  It seems as though they are taking a leisurely respite, but in fact they are often building in strength and becoming disastrous destructive powerhouses.  Yesterday’s tech turn off was analogous to this storm stall period and ultimately led to a category 3 Hurricane MoJo.  Bless my poor kids and husband.  They all opted for duck and cover or just ran whenever I got within range.  I swear I heard one of them tell another, “Serpentine!!! Serpentine!!!”

Thankfully that particular storm blew through the area within a few hours, but all affected residents are still under watch for ongoing heavy emotional floodwaters and scattered hot messness.

I just get completely overwhelmed with it all sometimes.  Work worries, house worries, family worries, health worries, money worries, worry worries.  It can be incredibly hard to stop it all from circling my mind once it gets going.  Second verse…  Same as the first…

Tech turn off was hours behind me, and I was tethered to my laptop once more.  My tidbit teeny kid came in and wanted to help me work.  Language can be subjective, but I feel like she and I have widely divergent interpretations as to what the word help means.  To me, help means help.  To her, help means jack up my spreadsheet beyond repair.  Semantics are funny like that.

So when she offered to help, I said, “Don’t even think about it lady.”  Being her mother’s daughter, she had no interest in heeding my silly warning and climbed into my lap anyway.  Damn she was good.

Next plan.  Turn on music.  What can I say.  The kid likes to shake her bon bon and typically can’t resist a beat.  It is a solid deterrent to kid destroying behavior.  Cheese also works, but I had no cheese.  So music it was.  And then she started to sing.  She’s two.  She doesn’t always get her own name right.  I had no clue that she knew the song at all, but she absolutely did.  Admittedly it was totally her own version of the lyrics, but if you know the song, you know where she is going with it.

In a matter of seconds, she made me smile – really smile – that big fat make your cheeks hurt smile.  My heart sang with her as she sang into her flashlight (that had randomly appeared) and shredded the lyrics.  I turned off the work right then, parked her little hiney in my chair (at a safe distance from the aforementioned computer), and recorded a video of her in action.

It was the smallest moment, but there was such tremendous magic in it for me.  I never cease to be amazed at the way life feels like it is hanging by a thread, but then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, reminds you that you are where you need to be.

Nothing had changed from one moment to the next.  I still had the same items on my list.  Work, surgery, house, family, etc.  But there was clarity around them.  I could even see unexpected blessings in some of them.  Knowing that I will likely be limited in what I can do for a week is forcing me to seek more help at work.  We have done a lot on cleaning the house, but some of it will just have to be whatever it is.  Oh well.  Maybe we can’t do a vacation away, but we can look at little day trips.  That’s totally doable.  And then there’s family.  They love me even when I’m certain that they can’t stand me.  I do the same when they form their own personal hurricanes.  Their love is boundless.  So is mine.

As much as I seek to avoid them, I learn so much about myself and those around me during and after these storms.  I am terrified of leaving a path of destruction instead of following a path of enlightenment.  So often we feel like we have to be on one road versus another.  We decide that there can be no shared space between the two.  No commonalities.  No crossover.  But what if there aren’t two paths at all?  Maybe the difference lies in recognizing that your choice isn’t about the path but rather how you let it shape you.  We are where we are supposed to be right now.  Sometimes it feels like we lose our way, but we are never lost.  Not really.  We get so focused on where we want to go that we forget where we are.

I pray that we see the benediction and grace along our paths even when they appear to be lined with anything but blessings.  Find the magic in the moment, and remember where you are and who you are.

Blessings to all of you.  Joanna

(Day 20)


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