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


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




Sleepless Nights


I have faith, and I believe that life falls into place as it should.  Of that I am certain.

While that belief fortifies my soul, I still feel tremendously tired and extremely worried.  I very literally have dozens of voicemails and emergency warning messages on my phone for local flash floods and tornadoes touching down around us.  My children are sleeping once more in the closet for their safety, and I find myself mentally circling all of the “what if” scenarios as I lay here listening to more rain pummeling our home and our town.

I get up every few minutes to see if floodwaters are creeping toward our home. I read the news and learn of more catastrophic occurences as well as further worsening predictions.  I watch the radar constantly.  It feels like this should be ending any moment now, but we know that there will be several more days of this still to come.  I wonder if we will still have a home once it’s over.

No matter what happens, we will be alright, and we will get through this.  I’m just ready to be at that point.  Thank you for all of your love, kind wishes, and prayers.  Your friendship and support have been such lights in this fearful darkness we have been in the last few days.  I appreciate each of you more than I can possibly express.

Much love to you all.  Joanna

Big Storms, Big Kids & Big Anxiety

Being a parent is tough.  Being a parent with major anxiety challenges is a big fat bonus.  Being a parent with major anxiety challenges in a monster hurricane with countless tornado warnings that are expected to go on for the next several days is simply fabulous beyond words.

So naturally my kids are now sleeping in the closet.  Literally.  I thought that making them camp out in the living room was my most annoying mom move for the summer, but apparently I was wrong.  Way to go me.  Always upping the stakes!

If it’s your style, we would truly appreciate your sending some prayers or a little light our way.  This isn’t my favorite evening so far, and it’s really just beginning for those of us who inhabit the areas surrounding the Texas coast.

Thank you so much dear friends.  Joanna


First Things First

I really want to talk about this…


It’s not easy being green, so it’s nice when you find another who truly understands you.

But first I need to get past this…


(Screenshot taken moments ago from The Weather Channel website)

Hope all is well with you! I’ve missed you and your blogs boatloads!

😉  Joanna

And That’s How the Birthday Party Went from DIY to OMG

Few things have the potential to spice up your kid’s 10th birthday celebration quite like the unwelcome realization that you apparently purchased balloons that should have been placed in the bachelorette party section of the local grocery store. I was concerned when I removed the first deflated version from the package, but perhaps it was just my imagination??   My husband blew up a balloon and showed me the result with the animation of one passing the salt.  Unable to comprehend why he wasn’t seeing what I was seeing, I just stared at him blankly and finally shook my head no.  Then my son ran in beaming with pride that he had also blown one up!  Despite personally having the equipment, neither of these guys was paying attention to the obvious style of the decor.  I wasn’t about to have those things waving back and forth in front of our house, so I explained that the latex was too thin and the dogs might eat it if they popped and also maybe I had read about a recall notice in the past couple of hours since purchase due to radiation contamination.  I could see confusion in their eyes, but I grabbed the balloons and redirected them to other tasks.  There would be no suburbia Latexgate.  Goodbye bachelorette balloons.

Despite the absence of the salacious address markers, the doorbell began to light into action minutes later. My husband was occupied with setting up kid-appropriate party stuff on the back patio, so I hurried to the door to greet and introduce myself to multiple sets of parents.  As all small children are sent to this planet with an innate sense of optimal embarrassing timing, my two-year old naturally understood that it was the ideal moment to decide that pants were no longer her thing.  She shuffled after me pushing her little jeans below her knees like a mermaid on a mission.  “So nice to meet you as well!  We should get the kids together for summer!  Yes my other kid usually wears pants!”  Enjoy it now small one because someday I will be in charge of selecting your graduation and rehearsal dinner video pics.  You’ll wish you had opted for pants then!

Drop-off time came and went, the tidbit child ultimately agreed to don some shorts, and the older girls cranked up the decibel level and headed to the patio. I had come up with the very clever idea to have them make their own fairy gardens.

Two quick notes on fairy garden parties:

  1. It is so easy and will save you tons of money to DIY this event at home.
  2. I recommend that you plan a two-hour + party to do this.

Allow me to add a couple more notes for you to ponder:

  1. The idea that DIY parties are cheaper is mega crapola, you get to clean your home in a big way before and after your party, and there is a strong chance that parents will leave your home with the impression that you raise pantless toddlers.
  2. Two hours is the perfect length of time as long as everyone leaves early – say around one and a half hours. Beyond that, you need an alternate activity.

Lucky for all, I had thrown the idea together over a couple of days, was totally unprepared for anything beyond gardening, and did not have an alternate activity planned. And then right on cue, a Texas thunderstorm appeared.  Within a few brief minutes, the skies went from somewhat cloudy to extremely menacing with growling thunder.  My husband and I rushed to relocate the girls and their mini-gardens.  He herded the girls to safety as I moved some of the gardening items to the new super cool shabby chic party spot we unaffectionately referred to as the garage.

While crossing through the house, I heard someone banging loudly on the front door. We were more than halfway through the allotted party time but punctuality isn’t my bag either baby so no judgement.   I opened the door to find the brother and mom of one of the party attendees in front of our home.  Maybe they had heard about our super cool garage party theme and were there to perform a prison break on the girls’ behalf.  I wouldn’t have blamed them, but it seemed unlikely given that this particular mother had been a close friend of mine for years.  Also who wouldn’t want their kid to play “Pin the Tail on the Oilspill!”

As surprised as I was to see them there at that time, that didn’t hold a candle to the shock I felt when I heard these words – “There’s a tornado over there.” The son turned and pointed past the street, and I could see the funnel cloud in the sky behind him.

I have lived my entire life in an area prone to unpredictable weather, but until that point, I had never seen a funnel cloud in person, and I definitely hadn’t seen one in person with a dozen other people’s’ children playing in my home. We raced inside and corralled everyone into the large closet under the stairs.  (When you hear that everything is bigger in Texas, they are actually referring to the closets.)  We hung out for a few minutes, joked around with the girls to keep it light, and ultimately headed back out for cake and whatever else for the remaining minutes.

To be totally honest, I’m not really sure what we did from that point on. I was so rattled by the whole thing.  I had mistakenly believed that Wizard of Oz theme parties were reserved for huge Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, and Cher fans, but clearly this was not the case.  In hindsight, I should be thankful because it did effectively fill that open alternate activity spot.

The truth is that it really scared me. I am still trying to figure out how to show my gratitude to my dear friend for coming over to warn us to take cover.  I recognize that her daughter was with us, so mama instincts will always kick in, but she and her sweet son still put themselves at risk to protect all of us.  We had been oblivious to the tornado.  As it turned out, our local warning system did notify us of the impending threat – twenty minutes after it passed – but that is how it can be with tornadoes.  The latest  technology makes educated assumptions, and then life happens however it happens.

Above all, I think the key point to remember is this – anyone can go roller skating (except ironically for me because my ankles vote no), but how many people can schedule a three location party (patio, garage and closet all in the same time slot – WHAT?!?!!?) AND bring in a real live tornado to kick it up a notch???  So stick that in your bouncy house!

And you thought DIY stuff was lame. Not here baby.


This pic was taken by a neighbor who had the time to get the shot given her lack of other people’s small humans in her home.


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