The Surreal Life – Moving Forward After the Storm


Nothing feels the same here.  Chinooks fly over our houses.  SWAT vehicles roll down the streets.  Military trucks and personnel are common sights.  I greatly appreciate their presence, but it’s not something that we ever saw before.  Each time I hear or see them, I remember once more that everything is different.

Given the inaccessibility of the roads, the potential unavailability of the staff, and, in some cases, the flooding of the campuses themselves, school has yet to get started.  Consequently I have enrolled the kids in impromptu day camps that sprung up to avert further local disasters (the kinds that spontaneously occur when your kids have been home too long and repetitively utter that most dangerous of phrases…  “I’m bored.”).

image000000_48 - Copy - CopyWe have been in a collective daze struggling just to remember what day it is, but time has most certainly taken on a new distinction.  There is time before the storm came through, and then there is every moment after that.  Even our weather reports have changed.  We watch river, reservoir and bayou cresting reports.  We know our specific location elevations and where our properties fall with regard to those crests.  We pray for Hurricane Irma to miraculously disappear into nothingness as we can’t even contemplate the concept of going through this again.  It’s terrifying.  Merely typing the thought of it makes my pulse quicken, and I feel myself growing anxious.

I’m angry because I can’t sleep, and although I want to see the news discussing storm predictions, the Weather Channel is showing a fluffy program that sensationalizes storm chasing instead.  I don’t want to search the internet because it will lead me to further sad stories about people returning to their destroyed homes all around the Houston area.  I just want the basics on the current storm predictions.  The other major channels are consumed with gazillionaires yapping away about nothing while laughing at their own hollow tales.

Where is the latest hurricane going to go?  Why don’t they recognize what this will mean?  Don’t they understand what could happen to their family and friends?  Don’t they know that the stats become irrelevant the moment you find yourself living in the impossible?

No.  They don’t.  We didn’t either.  But once you live it, you can’t forget it.  No matter how much you want to, you can’t shake the reality that although it may be unlikely, it could happen again.

IMG_4704I’m waiting for the waters to recede all over town as I struggle to return to regular life via some kind of predictable schedule.  I went to the grocery store yesterday evening for the first time since the storm.  I found myself feeling irrationally angry at the other shoppers casually milling around the isles.  They were loading up their carts like nothing had changed.  I just couldn’t wrap my thoughts and emotions around that most innocuous of moments.  Why were we restocking our refrigerators while our neighbors were busy pulling out sopping carpets and destroyed sheetrock?  Had everyone already forgotten the loss all around us?  Was I the only one who felt that thick ache in my chest?  I plastered on a smile to veil the heaviness in my heart and guard me from the threat of tears.   Maybe they did, too.

Today I began to tackle the work that stacked up in my absence over the past week and a half.  My head felt cloudy, and I struggled throughout the entire day to remain focused.  All I could think about was the relief work around me.  I want to be actively helping families rebuild their lives, but there is a part of me that recognizes that I must also address my own.  I don’t desire to further elevate the trauma of it all.  I just don’t know how to release it.

I’ve never been a big fan of normal, but I now feel like I’m floating through surreality.   I want to clear the haze and move past the confusion.  I want to rise above the heaviness of this moment and fix the pain.  Mine.  Theirs.  All who are hurting.

It comes in waves.  I see tremendous beauty in the strength and unity of my town, state, and fellow man.  But I can’t talk about it.  Not yet.  I can’t get into the emotion of it all – good or otherwise.  I keep the conversation on the surface and seek humor where I can.

I hope that peace will find its way into in my heart and into the hearts of all affected by the storm.  I pray deeply for the safety of those in the path of this and all other destructive hurricanes to come.  They change you.  They change everything.

Joshua 1:9 – “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Much love to you.  Joanna


G is for Guilt

When the doctor hands you the teeniest human freshly removed from your hoo-hah, you immediately realize the incredible responsibility you are holding in your arms. You know exactly what to do.  You have read all the books, followed all the blogs, attended all the classes, and watched enough family rom-coms to let you be certain that there will be ups and downs, but overall, it’s all good.   Unfortunately you are cluelessly in the dark about how you don’t know anything about true parenting, how those same books will be covered in macaroni and crayon in two years or less, and how you actually picked up a super-sized bag o’ guilt when you agreed to personally cook (or adopt) and keep this harmless looking tidbit for life.

We have 3 tidbits of our own, and we learned long ago that sometimes they should really be called tidbeasts. To be clear, I love these beasties more than life itself.  More than cheesecake even.  Yes.  More than cheesecake.  They are my absolute most favorite things ever ever ever and are without doubt the best creations I ever was involved in – even better than the killer cupcakes I once made but can no longer have because I am now forcing myself to eat sadlad (No – it’s not a typo.  Salad just depresses me.).  Really – they are totes amazeballs yo (the kids and the cupcakes).

The issue I believe I am ultimately facing is this – I estimate that I require roughly 10 hours per day per kid to really do everything right by that little one, so that’s 30 hours in the day.  As I expect is the case in your own world, the universe miscalculated and erroneously agreed to allot me a mere 24 hours in total per day.  Consequently everyone gets the shaft.  It’s like my boob to hiney ratio.  I should have been given more boob to balance out the hiney, but that wasn’t the lingerie layout I was dealt.

I struggle to keep our lives on schedule every day. I work crazy hours, run errands constantly, take the kids to activities, and wash and wash and wash.  Seriously – what is it with the endless laundry?  It’s like gremlins, but you don’t even have to add water to multiply it.  How many items of clothing are these kids wearing, and why do they still reek of that outside kid smell despite the incessant baths and nineteen daily outfits they must be wearing?  Also why do kids feel the need to get strep at 4:30 on Friday afternoon in conjunction with every three-day weekend known to man?  Why children – why???

But once again – I love them. No really.  I totally do.  I cart them to sports they actually adore, I help them with projects, I make pancakes with chocolate chip smiley faces – the whole bit.  I also have a husband who is an amazing dad who does tons with them, for them, and for me.  Nevertheless is still it feels like we are on a hamster wheel, but unlike the hamster, I feel much less okay with the endless loop.  I want every bit of my life.  I just want a little extra sleep, too.  I try so incredibly hard to keep it all afloat, but it sometimes feels like the waves are coming over me.  I could probably handle it if those waves meant that I was getting a shower in the process, but no.  Those waves don’t work like that.

So earlier today I played “Which Activity to Knock Out from My Innumerable Task List” and tackling the kids’ end of school year notebooks won that round. My son’s stuff was relatively uneventful with a few beautiful exceptions of poetry and emotional contemplation pieces.  I see such potential for true greatness in him at times, and then two seconds later he will put his underwear on backwards, rub toothpaste on the mirror, and leave his fly down.  The greatness sentiment will briefly be put on pause, but it’s still there just the same.

I then went through my middle daughter’s school work, and this is where the steaming pile of guilt came barreling through my emotional doorway. I have always enjoyed working – well I enjoyed working normal hours – but my hours have been terrible for many months and my exhaustion has been stomping on our mornings and my corresponding ability to be patient (my version of patient is probably more like patient lite), supportive, and mostly upbeat.  Our before school happy mornings have been circling the drain for way too long.  Thank heavens summer is here at last.

My daughter’s daily morning routine at school began with a brief journaling session on her thoughts about her day.  At that point, her day had typically consisted of being forced out of bed before the sun even considered making an appearance, being chased around to get ready (despite every attempt on my part to prepare in advance, getting ready easily appears to be almost insurmountable in the kid world), and racing to school in hopes of not being late (again).  Thanks super much for that one Teach.  I have no doubt that other kids also spilled their family sagas in these morning dish sessions, but it still bites when you read it and the dish is aimed squarely at you.

Being the analytical girl that I am, I could opt to recognize that my name came up in a negative way in a statistically insignificant amount of journal entries. I could also remember that she never said that she hated me and that she talked about many happy moments.  But you see – the rational mom in me gets pimp-slapped out of the picture by the overwhelming mom guilt.  All the guilt allows me to see is the post about terrible screamy parent (In case you are asking which parent she meant, my hand is raised.) followed by a very detailed drawing of a fire-breathing dragon with the name MOM written on it.  There were other posts mentioning how I was mad at her or her brother or just generally grouchy, but that one in particular had a special ring to it.  It was fun with a big fat F and U pointing straight to me.

Most of this past school year’s mornings were relatively good.  Some were fantastic even.  I did lots of cool things with and for the kids.  I worked hard to give them a very good life.  I know all of this.  It just hurts my heart to see how I sent her to school feeling so upset and hurt on some of those days.  I don’t want her to remember me, our mornings, or our life like that.  I am a good mom most days, and a great mom on others.  Unfortunately, I also sometimes utterly stink at the job.

Naturally, I now see my own memories of stressful times growing up as a child with my parents through very different eyes. Being a parent isn’t as obvious and easy as it seems – not in the slightest.  There isn’t any book or blog or class that will tell you how to get it right every time.  I just hope that someday my kids will see all that I try to do for them with each moment that passes.  I want them to really see me, and I want them to know that I have always seen them, too.  They are always my blue behind the darkest of clouds.

So as always, I will keep trying, I will keep working to be better, and I will definitely keep taking caffeine.


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