Summer Blowout

In case you missed it, we have had a couple of things going on in Texas over the past few weeks. Consequently, we are starting school a bit later than originally scheduled.

In a strange yet wonderful miracle of the universe, my husband suggested that we go to the beach for the day. He’s an amazing dad without question and will gladly take us wherever we want to go (and if not gladly, we never hesitate to combine our mom and kid superpowers of dramatic pouting and loud endless begging until we irritate him into caving to our whims). He just doesn’t tend to suggest taking day trips. Ever. Even the kids didn’t believe me when I said that it was his idea, but of course, we were all game for the plan.  We just wanted a “normal” day.

Driving down to the coast led us to newly familiar unfamiliar sights. We saw caravans of military trucks. There were mountains of demolition and refuse piles flanking the storefronts. Signs flashed messages of gratitude for volunteers and told us that we were Texas Strong. We didn’t need the reminders, but I appreciated the sentiment. We became a unified front committed to helping each other over the past few weeks, and we will continue to stand together once the evidence of the storm has long faded from view.

When we arrived at the beach, the kids jumped out of the car and dashed for the waves. I’m panicky on a good day and perpetually hear John Williams conducting the theme to “Jaws” in my head whenever my children put a single toe in the water. As a bonus, our beaches are blessed with alligators and rattlesnakes, too. (Given that our backyards already have those, we don’t sweat them too much.) But I wasn’t worried about the sharks (as much) this time around. I was hyper focused on Hurricane Irma’s gift from afar to our local beaches. Rip tides – the treacherous invisible currents that knock you off your feet and carry you helplessly to the ocean away from your mama. Kinda like “Moana” but minus The Rock, the singing, or the happy smiley conclusion.

Anytime the kids would step into water that went above their knees, I would start barking like a madwoman for them to come closer to the shore. My husband thought that I was absolutely bananas (nothing new there). This struck me as bitterly ironic given that he doesn’t like for our daughters to sleep in shirts that have sequins because he feels like they may be choking hazards. Yes. Sequins. He sees them as fashion’s hat tip to danger. But rip tides?  Ah that’s silly child’s play.

I did not like that.

Thankfully, I was not to remain incessantly worried for long. Ok that’s not true. Not in the slightest actually. I worried incessantly, so the crazy woman screaming for them to get back closer to shore never stopped. But I did get moderately distracted.

A nice SUV with out of state plates parked on the sand next to us. I won’t name the state, but I will tell you that it rhymes with Markansaw. A family of forty-five people poured out of the car and ran happily to the water. They loved it! I believe that it was their first time to any beach ever. You could tell by the way they all jumped in the waves with sheer joy and giggled with delight like small children as the spray coated their faces. You could also tell because they went in fully clothed. I’m not talking t-shirts and shorts (although that ensemble was represented). I mean long pants, long skirts, socks, and shoes. Maybe you don’t have a bathing suit with you, or maybe you don’t have one at all.  No judgement. I just thought that maybe you might wanna roll some of that up or possibly remove your socks and shoes before entering the water.

I couldn’t help but watch the show and had to work very hard to suppress my own laughter when they carried their drippy socks and shoes back to the car before heading once more to the waves. As funny as it was to see, it was also wonderful watching them enjoy life fully in their own wacky style.  Some people mystify me, but I can’t help but love them anyway – especially when they just own their oddity completely and totally.

And that brings me to my son. As we were preparing to leave hours later, my husband nudged me in the arm and said, “You wanna talk about that?” while pointing in the direction of our boy.  I glanced his way and immediately noticed his backside staring back at us through the massive ripped hiney of his suit. It was like a hospital gown for the beach. I don’t know how long the moon had been out, but there it was shinin’ away. We wrapped him in a towel and pointed out the end of summer blowout he was sporting. He was about as worried as a pet rock. Boys – argh!!! So we loaded Senor Godiva and his siblings into the truck and headed home.

It wasn’t a fancy day.  Nothing earth shattering happened. No one was gobbled up by sharks or sucked under by rip tides nor were we assaulted by dangerous sequins lurking in the every closet belonging to a female in our home (yet…). I couldn’t help but glance at the weather radar for the hurricanes on the move, and I still worried about those in their paths.  But it sure was nice to feel like life was moving along and that we could end the summer with a smile or two.

I hope that everyone experiences these little moments of magic with those whom they care about. I also hope that all of you come to the beach fully clothed and jump in the water next to our crew.  That s@#& was plain funny.

Best wishes for a beautiful week for all of you.

Joanna

Peculiar

All Donations are NOT Created Equal

donations1

This is a portion of the donations we received in one day at our house for pickup by families in need.  One day – how awesome is that!

My beloved city and state have been through so much.  We have watched our friends and families walking through chest deep flood water and cried with complete strangers as our hearts broke into a million pieces over and over again.  It has been so hard, but I have seen another side of this, too.  Insurmountable hurts have faded or melted away all together.  People have softened toward each other.  I recognize that reality will seep back in as time goes on, but the beauty I have seen over the past week will remain precious and treasured in my heart forever.

Most people in Houston area homes that were spared have taken in flood evacuees until a better long-term housing solution can be determined.  Countless shelters have been set up, and they have more donations and volunteers than they could ever use.  People race to places as a need is announced, and most of us have been turned away because there’s too much help.  It’s an awesome problem.

On a much smaller scale, several neighbors and I began collecting and sorting goods for area families who weren’t comfortable going to a shelter but still needed replacement clothing and bedding, etc.  They come by the house and pick up whatever they need for themselves and / or their friends and families.  Whenever people have asked me what kinds of donations would be best to help victims of the flood, I have repeatedly said, “Please think about the critical essentials you would want if you were stranded somewhere with your children for several days.”  The donations have poured in, and the tremendous generosity has left me awestruck.  Out of the darkness has emerged a stunning light of humanity that is impossible to articulate.

However something else has emerged out of the darkness as well…

doll

I’m sorry, but did you just donate a doll that crawled out of your TV while you watched “The Ring” a few years ago?

I recognize that people are giving these items without compensation and that they are free to the recipients.  I genuinely appreciate that countless families have taken time to look through their closets and toy baskets with the hope of sharing what they have with someone facing a horrific reality.

But those who lost their homes and belongings have enough wreckage to sift through.  They don’t need someone else’s garbage, too.

ketchup

When I was going through the donated foods, I initially thought that this was a bottle of BBQ sauce.   It wasn’t.

Let’s talk about food.  If it isn’t safe for you to consume, maybe we don’t give it to others either?  I can promise you that I have unintentionally donated expired food in the past as well, but this is beyond the pale.  Based on my beloved spice rack (you know the one!), I would bet that I have unintentionally fed some out of date foods to my family, too.  Sorry kids, but hey – at least now we will have the answer when we wonder why we get botulism someday!  Before you give food, please check expiration dates.

And then there’s clothing.

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This is my favorite donation box of all time.  Epic stuff right here.  Please note that this gem was with tons of other boxes of clothes.  It just happened to be a box that ended up with underwear.  I need to believe that this was a universal joke that only I would notice and not a warning by the person who packed it.

While this particular box did not match the description it seemed to indicate, we received too many sketchy undies.  That’s okay.  NEVER.

Underwear can be very hard to find in shelters because people often dislike donating them.  I get it.  Seriously.  I.  Get.  It.  While some people will make trips to the stores, most people won’t go out and buy new underwear for donation.  Consequently, shelters often accept gently used, good quality underwear.  Translation – No one wants your ratty, dirty, holey, broken elastic, formerly white panties.  No one.  NEVER EVER.  And I’m not even going to talk about the fact that some people gave serious lingerie.  The point is to try to help people get back on their feet – not off them.IMG_20170901_204443

And then you have socks.  There is always an endless need for socks.  However those old things that your heel and big toe peek through aren’t socks.  Those are rags you should use to clean your mirrors, or better yet, line your trash can (on the inside of a bag that will disappear sometime within the week).  In addition, the fluffy soft socks are fun, but when I say that people need essentials, your pajama party socks should not be in greater abundance than the normal day-to-day socks.  People can’t go to work in these.  They can’t clean their homes  while wearing these.  They need real socks.

We received the shoes below today.  Fabulous???  You bet your sassy butt they are!  Essentials?  Not so much.  With that said, I should note that whomever gets these shoes might also want to inquire about the lingerie mentioned above.

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A blue morph suit was received at the high school shelter this week.  The example pic is below in case you aren’t a weirdo and don’t know what that is.  Allow me to stop you before you see the photo and say, “But Joanna – every flood victim could use a blue morph suit.”  I hear you and normally I would 110% agree.  But that’s only true when we are talking about a GREEN morph suit.  No one in their right mind would wear the blue one.  That’s so last year’s flood attire.

morph suit

I promise it’s true.  A friend found a blue morph suit this week at our local shelter.  My greatest sadness is that she didn’t put the damn thing on and take a pic for me.

I would also like to give a shout out to all of the following attire donation choices:

  • Full length wool winters coats – These are always a must have in Texas in August as well as every single month of the year.  It’s important that our legs don’t get cold while we wear our shorts at Christmas.
  • Shirts with stained pits AND holes – Why have one when you can have both!?!?
  • Ugly Christmas sweaters – Thank you.  Just thank you.  Again, we all need this, and more than any other time, we need it in August in Texas.
  • Unbearably hideous clothing that is so bad that the tags never left them and never will – I don’t mean a little ugly.  I mean so intentionally ugly that we can tell that you hate your kid or were trying to win a contest (and clearly won).
  • Heavy winter scarves, thick winter hats, and ski gear – 85 degree Christmas will never have to feel cold ever again (when it rolls around months down the road).
  • Full bag of clothes than may have been covering parts of a decaying body – The bag o’ smell you dropped off was super fab and amazing!  I wanted to throw it away, but my trash can locked its lid tight and would not allow it.  I loved watching another volunteer drive away with the bag on the hood of her car because we were worried that the smell would melt the seats if it came inside her vehicle.
  • One shoe / one sock – We have had very few peg leg pirates picking up donations this week.  They all had boats, so they were fine.  No need to send more of those.

Moving on to housewares…

IMG_20170901_204432This could be my fault.  When I said essentials, I did not include the Texas dictionary definition, so maybe it’s a regional slang thang.  In Texas, essentials are usually taken to mean “stuff people actually need.”  I recognize that some states may view broken flamingo napkin rings and matching corn cob holders as imperative items, but to my knowledge, they aren’t on the list here.  Full disclosure – I may be giving someone something really cool of mine in exchange for these flamingos because I can’t effing believe that they exist.  It’s like I found a family of unicorns in the pile, and I just can’t set them free.  They are so funny, and I truly pray that one of my friends donated these and reads this post.  If so, tell me please and know that I will be showing up at your house weekly while eating corn in style.

A few more notable items that have been received include:

  • Wet pillows – Wow.  That’s EXACTLY how I would have wanted them, but I was uncomfortable asking people to be sure and moisten their pillows before bringing them.  Thank you for taking the initiative on behalf of others.
  • Clocks – Because why bring a watch when you can bring a whole clock.  If I had a dollar for the number of times I had been fleeing my home and wished that I had grabbed a clock instead of a watch…  (I would have NO DOLLARS.)  (Also I recognize that the thought may have been that someone might have wanted some decor items for their home, but these are not critical must have items on week one post flood.)
  • A deflated inner tube – So this would have been great with air during the actual flood.  Maybe a deflated inner tube is less useful today???  Clearly you didn’t grab your crap bag from the garage and bring it for donation.
  • Toiletries and cleaning supply bottles with one more squirt or spray – I, too, hate it when I mix up my donations and my recycling.  Of course that explains why you dropped off a whole box of these with the word DONATION hand-written on the side.  (Being used is not the issue.  Being garbage is the issue.)
  • Threadbare towels rife with holes and large patches of dried flaking mud – The crunchy ones with large areas of dried paint, chemicals, and animal ??? on them are fab, too.
  • Pregnancy test – Please be sure to request this in conjunction with your shoes (above) and lingerie (above above).

Please think before you donate.  Please be considerate of the people who will be sorting and distributing these, and much more importantly, be considerate of the people who will be receiving them.  Recognize what is helpful and what isn’t.  Share your valuables.  Don’t purge useless items when essentials are in need.

At the end of the day, 99% of the donations are wonderful.  And as for the people who give them, sort them, and distribute them?  Well, the shirt below pretty much sums up my sentiments about all of you.

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Please note – this is AWESOME and I am keeping it.  I will be exchanging this for another shirt out of my own closet, so the donation balance shall be maintained.  To whomever donated this —> I love you.

To the volunteers and those giving actual donations – I love you, I am thankful for you, and I truly appreciate everything that you do for others and for our communities.

Love, light, laughter, and incrediballs – Joanna  😉

***My husband is not happy about my writing this post because he is not down with shaming or being critical of others on social media.  Normally I am absolutely in agreement with him, but I strongly disagree on this topic.  It is truly bad behavior to pass off your junk to another.  Given the anonymous nature of donations, we can’t discuss it with the offenders directly.  I would mention it to them if I could, but I don’t know who left this stuff.  All I know is that my trash can runneth over with other people’s garbage that was initially flagged as donations.  It’s inconsiderate, and it isn’t kind.  Please think about what you give when you give.  Generosity from the heart is a true blessing.  Thank you for your consideration, love, and support for those in need.  Also thanks for keeping your skanky used lingerie out of our donation bags.  You can so keep that all for you!

#incrediballs

***Side note – Several people have been sending me pics of ridiculous donations that they have received since I originally posted this entry.   The  photo below was too fantastic not to highlight.  Rarely can one obtain unique art and tetanus simultaneously.  I don’t know why it’s so hard to find decor comprised of old, rusty barbed wire and hand cut sharp metal in stores nowadays, but it is so thank you donator for this rare gem!  I have requested that my friend please send the follow up photo of the dirty old band-aid that I’m certain she will find in the same shredded bag of goodies that contained this southwestern wonder.

Critical

Peculiar

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