Texas Still Stands & We Stand Together

Texas

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Enamored

Structure

Depression – Shifting Your Perception

Depression.  If you have ever worn that label, you probably felt a heaviness in your soul just reading the word.  It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue with a magical lightness, does it?

I wore that label on my heart and spirit since I was in elementary school.  I felt the weight of the diagnosis long before it was made.  It consumed me.  I would take flight only to be snapped back to the ground like there was a chain around my soul.  I barely scraped out of my college years with my life.

I hold no judgement toward anyone who has committed suicide.  None at all in the slightest.  Truly.  I remember believing with every fiber of my being that it would be better in the long run for everyone I cared about if I just died.  I understood that they would hurt in the short term, but overall, I believed that it would be a gift of true kindness from me to them.  They wouldn’t be stuck working through all the problems I brought into their lives each day.

I didn’t have a clue about how completely and utterly untrue that was.  If you ever tell yourself that others around you will be better off if you are dead, you are more wrong than you could possibly imagine.

The people who care about you – even the ones who may be angry with you – NEVER stop hurting.  The hollow aches in their chests don’t go away.  They will always feel a heartbreak that will never be mended.  They will cry every time someone new asks about you.  They will have to suffer thoughtless comments from others who don’t understand, and they will then have to go on the defense with searing pain or swallow the unkindness like broken glass.  They will ask themselves every single day what they could have done differently, and even though the clear answer is “absolutely nothing at all,” they will always wonder.  The part of their life that will be better off will never happen.  They may be able to forgive the choice, but they will never be able to be thankful for it.

I did not know this then, but I see it now.  If you have been impacted by suicide by a family member or a friend, my heart goes out to you more than I can tell you.  There are no words to explain the level of confusion and misunderstanding people stumble through when they are at that point. People who suffer depression feel like they are broken on the inside. Like something is wrong with them.  Like they are crazy.

But what if the crazy part wasn’t actually crazy at all.  What if instead of seeing yourself as being broken, you saw yourself as being made differently than the person beside you?  If you were to look at that person and compare them to any other on the planet, I assure you that you would find unique attributes of each one of those individuals – attributes you wanted to have and attributes that you were glad weren’t on your personal shame list.

What if instead of believing that you needed to be fixed, you recognized that the way you happen to think, feel, love and hurt in extremes actually allows you to experience the world itself from a wider emotional range?  When I was younger, my days were consumed by the highest highs and lowest lows.  My eyes were opened again and again to spectacular wonders as well as dark looming tragedy.  The incessant whipsaw of emotions made me tough on certain fronts and softened my heart on others.

I always find it amusing when I hear people say that this person is on “The Spectrum.”  I’m not implying that autism is comical to me.  I am saying is that the term “spectrum” is an interesting word to choose because it encompasses all the colors we can see with our human eyes, but it also refers to colors that are there yet remain invisible.

What if people with depression are able to see the invisible parts of the spectrum?  Perhaps in lieu of perceiving invisible light, they perceive an emotional range that is out of reach of most humans.

I would never wish a diagnosis of depression on anyone.  Never.  But I wouldn’t go back and change that part of myself or my life either.  I have a broader emotional view and intutive sense than many others around me.  I see people who have a complete inability to recognize the depth in another’s tone.  They can’t hear the unspoken message in the other person’s words, but it is crystal clear to me.  I have been in that emotional place, so I feel it with all the tangibility of a wave crashing into the rocks.  My ability to sense more has helped me to guard those I love, but it has also allowed me to see others who need a hand to prevent them from drowning.

You may feel like you are a stone sinking below the waves because of that label.  Just know that the label may be the broken part, not you.  Your perceived darkness may actually be a beacon of light to another.  It may be the very thing that allows you to shine.

Lose the label.  It doesn’t define you.  If you can’t release it now, know that it doesn’t get to steal your brilliance, passion, or ability to see with more depth and feeling than most will ever comprehend.  Take off the blinders when you look in the mirror, and recognize who you truly are.  Release the curse so you can find the gift.

We would never need light if we didn’t have darkness.  They go hand in hand.

 I write these words for those who suffer depression personally and those who have watched someone they care about be torn apart by it.  If you are reading these words, they are written for you.  Know that you are precious beyond measure.  You are dear and important and perfect just as you are.  You absolutely matter.

In love and light always.  Joanna

(Day 19)

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