I had several ideas pop up in my head. Some really great ones actually. But I didn’t write yesterday. That being said, I also didn’t fail yesterday. Sit down and pour yourself a drink because I am going to tell you why.
It was, once again, Friday. Holy crap, this was a doozy of a week. I think we have ran late all week long. The Time Change Hangover is a real thing people. It was delayed but we really felt the effects this week.
Emotions ran high this week, The good, the bad, and the really ugly. We laughed, we cried, and some of us wondered how bad we would look if we reenacted the movie “Under The Tuscan Sun”. Not the romance part, no one has time for that crap. Just the part where she runs away, buys a house in Italy by herself and eats a shit ton of pasta. Alone.
Did I mention alone? Sigh.
Needless to say, we barely crossed the finish line this week and I needed a break.
I had super high hopes yesterday morning that all would be done in good time. Such high hopes that I didn’t touch my computer. I sat on my couch and watched Brooklyn 99 all morning long. ALL.MORNING.LONG. True confession.
To be fair, I also finished the following to-do list.
-drank a pot of coffee
-started a loaf of beer bread
-drank the rest of the beer in the can because you can’t waste that
-maybe ate something. I don’t remember. It’s hard to believe by the size of my ass but sometimes I forget to eat. I am REALLY bad at the self care thing.
Mostly though, I laid on the couch, watching a show I have seen 100 times.
Much to the delight of my kids, I took the grocery list and ran through the store before getting the boys at 1 pm. At this point I am still feeling really awesome about my day and had no intention of skipping a post. I even took a picture on the way home for a possible topic.
But then the kids and I decided that such a chilly day called for hot cocoa and a Christmas movie. So for the next few hours, it was cuddles and Home Alone (everyone in that movie is a horrible person by the way, with maybe the exception of the pizza guy and John Candy).
At some point in time, the bottle of wine I had just bought called my name as I started a batch of homemade pierogis. You kinda need one to do the other. I should have known at this point that I wasn’t going to write but hopes were still drunk on a delicious bottle of Dornfelder.
Do you know where this is headed?
I got pretty tipsy.
The pierogis were a success and the bread was beautiful. I made Chicken Marsala for dinner and it was a hit with the entire crowd. We were well fed and I was well hydrated.
At this point, I could have still wrote. But something happened. Red asked if I would cuddle some more on the couch. Sorry y’all. A cuddle with the kids will always take precedence over writing, every time. As he and I curled up on the couch, under a fuzzy blanket, I resigned myself to a failed day.
Was it really? Okay maybe. That being said, I had a good day. I did my favorite thing, which is nothing. I got stuff done. Cooked great food. Drank even better wine. Loved on my kids.
My soul was fed, my cup was full. If that is failure than I am okay with that. There is always tomorrow.
My life is very olfactory centric. I would say a good 60 percent of my day is spent wondering about smells. I am strongly influenced by whether I find a smell pleasing or not.
Just putting that out there.
If you ever wondered what parenthood would be like, I can summarize it in 6 words. “What the hell is that smell?”
We are 5 people in an apartment with two toilets. To be honest, at any given point in time, at least one bathroom is..ahem..in need of fresh air. Even if not that, I am convinced that someone is peeing in a corner and I can’t find it. No matter what I do, it smells like urine. Also I can’t, for the life of me, figure this out but when my boys shower it smells like wet dog. Just the boys, the rest of us leave the bathroom smelling like soap.
My kids are really beyond that innocent age when they really don’t build up much stink. Nowadays, holy hell. There is only one person in the house not using deodorant. The laundry room smells like old sweat if I let clothes pile up. My couch smells like feet. And the boys room? How much tooting can two little guys do in their sleep? I check on them every night before I crash. Opening up that door is like opening the gates of hell. How do they sleep through it? It haunts me.
The kids’ lovies all have this sleepy head smell to them. I can’t explain it but even though they may not be the freshest, I find that the smell takes me back to when they were little babes and smelled just like the stuffed animals that never left their sides.
The same goes for this spot on the back of their necks and the top of their heads. I swear, I could identify my kids blindfolded, just by that smell. I take deep whiffs when we hug or cuddle. They always laugh at me but I catch them sneaking a sniff of me too, sighing as they do. Maybe the apples don’t fall far from the tree.
Today, for giggles after I cleaned, I put some water on the stove with a cinnamon stick, orange slices, and cloves. The whole place smelled delicious and clean all afternoon. But alas, I just checked on the sleeping Bubbas and the wall of farts was as tall and deep as ever. There is no evidence of my earlier actions at all. That is okay. I still pushed through it to grab one last sniff of a sleepy head before calling it a day.
You guys. We are on day seven! I have officially wrote more blog posts in the last week than I have wrote in the last two years. That makes me crazy sad. I have so much to tell you! But short little bursts on Facebook and Instagram are so much easier than the effort it takes to write here. And like I have said so many times before, I am super lazy.
Moose asked me when I announced this challenge if I had several posts in the bag to do this. First of all, if I had posts in the bag I wouldn’t need this to work on me. Secondly, the whole point is to write every day. To get words on paper. Or hard drives, if you will. So while the temptation to write ahead is strong, I will not do it. That means a serious commitment daily to do this.
The process of putting out these posts is really hard. Sometimes I know exactly what to write about, it flows quickly off my finger tips, a few tweaks later and a post is done before lunch here. Other days, I sit on the couch at 9 pm, computer in my lap. struggling to focus enough to even write a title. Yesterday, I got half way through one topic before I decide to ditch and talk about Red instead. It was after midnight here when I hit publish.
My other struggle is that the posts are not perfect. I have to accept every single day that the challenge is to put a post out daily. NOT to create a perfect post. That will perhaps be my next goal but for now, it is all about the daily word count. Because that will be the first step in my next journey. More than likely, my writing will improve as I edge my way closer to the 30th. It has to, right? Practice makes perfect. But for now, you get what you get. And by the way, thank you all for continuing to read these posts in all their imperfect glory!
What Will Happen on December 1st?
This has been asked a few times and short answer is, “I don’t know.” It’s really too far out to be carving in that stone just yet. I do know that the daily posts will likely stop. They take hours a day and they will have hopefully served their purpose. That purpose will start needing that precious time.
Perhaps though, I will have a plan in place to continue them on some level. Maybe 2 posts a week? If I have learned anything so far about myself, it is that I was waiting for grand ideas to write about. I was wrong. I have missed out on many great stories because of that and I am sick of that. Some of these essays may even be stepping stones in the book, so who am I to judge their importance before I even write them down?
Last month, Red turned seven. He had a great birthday despite some iffy weather. Our plans to go and discover a new park were thwarted by rain. However he still got to choose his breakfast, chocolate pop tarts, opened lots of presents, lunch at Hard Rock Cafe and 4 layer chocolate cake with prank candles.
The Age of Seven
Seven seems to be a turning point for my kids. I witnessed Blondie and Dude both really cross the line and make huge leaps into growing up while they were seven. The independence kicks in along with a real ability to handle most things thrown at them with little help from me.
Both kids really picked up reading and writing . They started to truly grasp self care on a more regular basis. There was a huge shift in the amount of responsibility they were able to handle and their grasp of consequences and life choices really tightened up.
I notice with both older kids that this was the age where their need for me became less and less. Not just for the day to day needs, but also their need for affection and attention. Sure they both will occasionally snuggle up to me when I sit down but it is becoming more and more rare for them to search for hugs and cuddles. Don’t get me wrong, if I am passing out the love, they get in line but they do not initiate it nearly as often.
What About Red
Red has always been an enigma. He doesn’t fit into many boxes. He is highly intelligent although pretty lazy. We suspect he has known how to read for quite a while but he will not confirm no matter what we do to trick him. And why his teacher keeps telling me he doesn’t understand German while he stands behind her and winks at me. He has always known the difference between right and wrong but he often doesn’t care and does what he wants. Which is why when I walked downstairs and out the building this morning, I found that he wrote the word “Poop” in big chalky letters on the sidewalk to greet everyone leaving for work.
That being said…
He has always been a mama’s boy minus about 6 months when he was 2 and he wanted his daddy 24/7. I call him Squish and he promises me he will never leave me. He scurries into your lap the second you sit down on the couch. I can still talk him into naps if I promise to curl up next to him and pet his nose. He still needs a bazillion kisses before bedtime and carries his dog-dog around. His hand always finds mine when we walk.
When Will It Change?
It’s coming, I know it is. I feel the shift already and I truly believe this birthday is the magic number. The thought of Red growing up anymore makes me incredibly sad. I love this age, I love him at the age. I am sure I will love him at the next stage but this here will always linger in my heart. So please try not to judge when you see me catching sniffs of his hair. Or when I baby him just a little bit more than he needs to be. Be gentle with me, my baby is seven.
This afternoon I did something real naughty. Something I will probably pay for well into the night. I will more than likely lie in bed, well past my bedtime, cursing my earlier life choices. However, as the sun went down oh so early and the cold air still seeped into my joints well after the kids and I got home from school, I made a pot of coffee. Well, half a pot. But the damage is done. I am now heavily caffeinated.
The First Taste
I come from coffee drinkers. There was always a pot of coffee brewing in our house. At all hours, you could hear my dad shuffle into the kitchen and the clink of the pot sliding out and back onto the hot plate of the coffee maker. Come to think of it, that probably explains the unhealthy sleep patterns of my people. I am not sure whether I learned to make an White Russian or a pot of coffee first but both could have been listed on my Kindergarten “All About Me” report.
Every once in awhile, I would be allowed a coffee. My parents were Team Black Coffee all the way but of course, mine would be pretty much sugar milk with a splash of coffee. Man, did I love it from the start. Of course I did. Not only am I pretty sure coffee is part of my DNA, I literally was drinking tan sweet milk. And I was so hooked.
I was probably in my early twenties before I truly drank it on the regular. I worked 3rd shift at a hotel and often went days without good sleep. Truth be told, it is possible that I may have went to work a little tipsy from time to time too (standards there were pretty low, plus I was young and dumb). But I had a coffee pot in the office and that is all a gal needs to survive at 3 am.
When A Hobby Becomes a Habit
These days, I live for that first cup in the morning. And the second and the third. Sure, I can admit this may be a problem but it could be worse. I tend to wait until I hear Moose put the pot on before I crawl out of bed. He knows better than to rush me before that. Even the kids know that I can be influenced with some joe. They try to talk me into the bakery on a regular basis with “Mom, you can have a cup of coffee while we eat our cookies.”
I still drink it light, cream and flavored syrup. Every once in awhile, I try to limit the add-ons. You know, to be healthier. But I have never been able to limit the actual coffee. I will literally opt out of a diet plan the second I see no coffee. That is my line in the sand.
A few years ago I was having some pain that led to a mammogram. It was clear. The doctor suggested afterwards that the pain was more than likely related to hormonal and caffeine induced cysts. He said to cut out the coffee and I would feel better. I called him crazy to his face, thanked him for his time and immediately accepted that from time to time, for the rest of my life, my boobs were going to ache like I was in the 1st trimester of the longest pregnancy ever.
My Ode To Coffee
I miss my coffee pot back home, I bought a cheap one here and it isn’t quite the same. Y’all know what I am talking about. Recently Moose made a run to the States and brought back a ton of my favorite coffee and the cheap coffee pot has redeemed itself by doing the San Antonio Blend justice. So I will let it live to see another day. I just hope Old Faithful doesn’t miss me too much, sitting in a storage unit back home.
There is no grand revelation to this post. My friend Becky (Hey Becky!) posted about things that make you happy while I was sipping my 5 pm coffee. So I decided to declare my love for bean juice. If you know me, you already know this. I rarely was seen without my travel mug back home and wouldn’t be here either if I had a life. I have no plans of drying out. Nobody wants to deal with non caffeinated Copper. That is how wars get started.
On any given Sunday morning back home, I know exactly what we would be doing. Chances are, there would be pajamas, cartoons, hot coffee, and freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Now, by fresh baked I mean that either Moose or I would have popped open a couple of Pillsbury canisters, arranging them on the cookie sheet in funny shapes and waiting 10-12 minutes for the magic that is the silence of full little mouths.
We haven’t had cinnamon rolls in 10 months. Those little tubes of doughy goodness are very rare here. I think I saw them once and they were so expensive, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead we often whip up pancakes or crepes. Definitely not a sacrifice but quite a bit more work.
You Know What I Could Go For?
If you asked us what one of the biggest adjustments have been here, we would answer food. It is right behind transportation and slightly above communication. We are in no way, shape or form hurting for nourishment. There is many things, however, that we miss on a regular basis.
The funny thing is that while I considered myself to be a pretty decent cook in the states, I relied more often that not on convenience foods. Here those things don’t exist. I can remember telling Blondie the first time we went grocery shopping that we were going to starve to death. For a few months, I allowed this to really limit our meal options. I really got down on the situation. Yes, I know that is pitiful but food is life to me.
Something began to happen slowly. I began to buy new things. We had leek soup and tried fresh currants. One was a hit, the other one not so much. The kids devour muesli almost daily, their fruit and veggie intake has tripled and a box of granola bars will last a month, passed over for better choices.
Not everything can be replaced. We still get random shipments of mac and cheese. I still pine for good Mexican and hazelnut creamer. And for a country rich in cheeses, I would kill for some pepper jack. However most days, we do very well food wise.
Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks
The struggle has created a situation. A welcomed situation. I have become very good at finding substitutions and making things from scratch. It got to a point where I realized I was being a whiner and decided to find solutions to what we were missing.
My name is Copper, and I am 41 years old. Before this summer, I never made a cake from scratch. But I have now. Several in fact. And they are so much better than box cakes and really not hard. We have never been big ranch users but when it doesn’t exist at all, you want it. So I found a recipe and have been making fresh dressing every couple of weeks.
Today, I made cinnamon rolls. Fresh, made from scratch cinnamon rolls. The kind where you cook like an adult and there are terms like active yeast and kneading. It took forever, I may need to work on that part but it was so worth it. Well after lunch time, we sat down at the table and ate cinnamon rolls for the first time in 10 months. The feedback from the family was a bunch of mumbling and an empty tray.
Inconvenience is putting me into a position to learn news things and try harder. I am enjoying it and am always looking for the next challenge. It doesn’t always turn out great but more often than not, it turns out even better. I can’t help but be a little proud of that. It leaves me wondering…what should I make next?
When we moved to Hamburg at the beginning of the year, we ended up in an apartment that wasn’t furnished. This was not the original plan so we didn’t bring anything with us. We literally had our clothes. that was it. Making a home from the ground up was a daunting task. Luckily we live a mile from the one place in Hamburg that could help us handle the majority of our list.
Let’s Grab the 284
We literally have a bus that drops us off right at the front door of Ikea. I have no idea where it comes from or where it goes after. It is called the 284 Ikea Schnelsen line so I suspect it’s purpose peaks under the giant blue and yellow sign. Technically we could walk there, we live so close to it. However, without fail, our arms are full on the way back so the bus is a necessity.
For months after that fateful shopping spree, if the boys were being naughty, I would threaten them with the 284. It straightened them up quicker than the promise of taking away screen time. One time, an exhausted Red even teared up and begged me to never make him go back. For the most part, we have tried to follow through with not taking them back unless absolutely necessary. I can count on one hand how many times we have walked through those doors as a family.
So back to that fateful Friday in February. We had our walk through with the landlord, got our keys, and immediately jumped on the bus. We walked through those doors with a list, a budget, and a skip in our steps. The thought of buying all new stuff was exciting and more importantly, we were through the roof excited to finally be in our place.
Meatballs, Mattresses, and Mental Breakdowns
Who would have thought going to the busiest store in the city, in a country where you don’t speak the language, to buy literally everything to fill a three bedroom home for 5 people would be so stressful. In hindsight, I may have been way too optimistic.
I believe we made it about 20 minutes into the day before our first fight and it went downhill from there. We were in that stupid building for over 5 hours. One of which I spent giving Moose the silent treatment. I can’t remember what for but I am sure he probably made one too many of his stupid Dad puns. Lawdy, I can hear him chuckling at himself even now.
Every single one of us cried in that 5 hour period, at least once. I will swear even on my deathbed that the third time Moose had to use the bathroom, it was so he could sob privately and not because as he declared in bath linens, “He had to see a man about a Wallaby.” I personally lost my shit both deciding on a mattress and a dining room table. And the kids. Oh those poor innocent children. We pretty much owe them big time for going through the horrors that is the lamp department. Like ‘out of state tuition” owe them.
We ate TWICE, that is how long we were there. In the cafeteria we introduced the kids to Swedish meatballs, cafeteria quality mashed potatoes and waffles with cherries. They were allowed to pick a hot dog or an ice cream later. We walked out of that store exhausted, with 4 big bags, a 5 mile long receipt, and an appointment for delivery the next day.
The Point of This Is…
They say Ikea is where relationships go to die. I totally get that. That day was not our first bumpy stroll through the maze and it wasn’t our last. Things got ugly that day. Real ugly. Someone threatened to burn the place to the ground and oddly enough, it wasn’t Red. But we made it out whole. As a family. Dude cuddled with me on the bus ride back to the apartment. We had one last dinner at our hotel that night and Moose and I toasted the success of the day. Blondie and I giggled through our last night in the girls’ room and in the morning, we packed up without a single snide comment. The store almost gobbled us up that day but she failed.
Today we went to Ikea. Blondie wanted a desk and bookcase in her room which led to lunch which led to checking out the Christmas displays which led to mulled wine samples. It’s Saturday which is normally Ikea suicide and today was no different. The entire store is shoulder to shoulder. However we did it without much fuss. Did we bicker? Sure. No trip is complete without threat of pillow farts or throat punches. But the kids behaved very well and none of us cried. I couldn’t help but marvel as we walked home from the bus stop about how far we have come.
Ikea can try as hard as she wants but she will not break this family.
It is Friday! We made it. Like most weeks, we are crawling our way to the finish line. Maybe more so because of Halloween, a few days off from school here, and the time change last Sunday (don’t freak out, it changes this upcoming Sunday in the States). Nevertheless, here we are. So raise those coffee cups!
Friday is a crazy busy day for me here. No matter how much we bust our ass during the week to keep ahead, by Friday it has all unraveled. The kids only have school until 1:00. That doesn’t leave me for a lot of time to get what I need to get done, let alone what I want to get done. Groceries need bought for the weekend or, at the very least, for the day. I try to catch up on the laundry piled high from the week some so it doesn’t call my name all weekend. I try to get the house straightened up, at the very least the bathrooms and our living room. Inevitably, I have to grab a gift, buy someone new shoes, or picked up a package that our postman couldn’t be bothered to deliver. By the time pick up comes along, I am exhausted.
Sure, I could plan better during the week so every Friday isn’t like this. Planning is not really my style anymore though. Truth be told, sometimes I say screw it and do none of these things (Psst…today). I drink coffee and fantasy shop on Amazon for hours, music in the background, enjoying a few hours of peace. We are a regular fixture at our local Greek restaurant on Friday nights. Groceries get bought on Saturday with everyone in tow. The apartment stays in a comfortable state of messy. It is all about balance. Chaotic balance.
Friends, Food, and Laughter
It doesn’t matter which direction my Friday goes in though, it is the hardest day of the week for me. My loneliness is palpable of Fridays. My mind drifts often, no matter what I am up to, to where I would be if I was home. I am always aware that there would be volunteer work in the morning, likely followed by a store run for whatever trouble we were up to. Lunch on Fridays should always be loud and ridiculous, surrounded by the people I adore. We eat too much Mexican and let our favorite waiter talk us into one more margarita, more than once. Play dates at the park after school often lead to late dinners at Skeeters or pizza and card games.
It is my favorite day and here, it feels empty no matter how I fill the day. I am more aware on Fridays more than any other day that I go days, weeks even, without talking to people that don’t share my bed or DNA.
The Price I Pay
If you ask me on a Friday about our time here, I will more than likely avoid the subject. I am not always unhappy on Fridays, quite the opposite really, but my mind always drifts back to Texas. Please don’t confuse my rant for a desire to go home. Walking home from drop off, I still mentally count my lucky stars that we have the opportunity to live here and give the kids this experience. “Holy shit, we live in Europe.” passes through my lips no less than once a week.
Fridays are the price I pay for our time here, a price I gladly pay but it still hurts. It is the day I yearn to talk to my friends the most. The problem being, they are all living their Friday without me and I won’t take that away. I just mark another week off the calendar and hope they save my spot for when I get back.
Halloween is officially in the books and Christmas is right around the corner. The crock pot is getting more use and I am finally getting to wear my knit hat when I leave the house versus brushing my hair on a regular basis. The air has gotten crisp, the leaves have fallen and the trees no longer protect my TV screen from the glare of the sun during the day. This alone has opened up a lot of time for me.
A new year is approaching and like most people, it often leaves me wondering two things. What have I accomplished this year? What would I like to accomplish next year?
Those are crickets you hear, by the way. Sure, as a family, we have had one hell of a year. As an individual though, I have been knee deep in survival mode and I am not happy with how I have used my time this year. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what to do instead of doing what I want to do.
What Do You Want To Do, Copper?
What an open ended question. I want to take a nap. Pierce my nose. Get a new tattoo. Read more books. Travel by myself.
I do spend a lot of time thinking about these things. Maybe I should do them. Yes, I will do them. I promise. But is that what I am really asking myself? No. I am an individual for the first time in a long time. Yes, I still am a mom. It is still a full time job. But there has been a change in the winds and I spend less and less energy on the survival of my kids. At this point, it is about love and food and shelter and less about butt wipes and keeping them from hurting themselves. Honestly if someone swallows a Lego at this point in time, it is kind of on them not me. Besides, they will be fine. It’s going to hurt in a day but lessons are painful sometimes.
But I digress…
I am finally someone other than “Mom” for a large portion of the day. I don’t know who to be now.
Writing Words and Stuff
Except that I think I do. I love doing this right here. I love writing. Never has it been a chore for me to sit here and type away. Not once. As I walk home every day from dropping the kids off, more often than not, my mind drifts to doing this.
I want to write in this blog more often. I would love to write for other websites. Most importantly, I think I would like to write a book. Or 20. It is crazy, I know. I most likely will have to self publish, which is hella scary because I don’t know what I am doing and it can be expensive. I know nothing about the process of writing a book. I am not even that good with getting the word thingies on the paper thingy. I don’t even know where to begin. And no one will likely buy it. I have a handful of friends that love me enough to read it but surely I am not so big of a dick that I would make them pay for their copy.
However, I am going to do it. I have nothing to lose but my time, money and dignity. Most of that went out the door with my kids already. So why not?
So…What’s The Problem?
For no less than 5 months, I have walked in the door, all ready for today to be the day. Unfortunately, the first room I pass is my laundry room. So I start a load of clothes. There’s the broom! I sweep up the sand in the hallway. I take the dustpan into the kitchen to dump it and then start on dishes. Pour myself a cup of coffee and while it is getting cold, I make the bed. I reheat it and talk myself into an episode of tv and some cross stitch while I drink it. 4 episodes later. the laundry still needs flipped and I am hungry. So lunch it is. By now the horrible decision to stay up late AGAIN the night before catches up with me and I take a snooze. Boom. My day is over.
The problem is, I am horrible at habits. Sure, I have all the bad habits down pat. Like my daily routine that I just described. Or my phone addiction. Or my collection of discarded socks by my spot on the couch. But good habits, like drink more water and get a good night sleep or be a productive member of society? Nope.
Creating Better Habits
Step one for me at this point is getting myself to the point of writing every day. I have known that for awhile but I was looking at a bigger picture, starting the book. I was overwhelmed by that. So, we are going to think smaller here.
It is November and in the writing community, that means NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is here. It is simply a yearly challenge to create, to dedicate yourself to write 50,000 words to your novel in the month of November. One day at a time.
I love this idea and I wish I was in a place to participate this year but I am not. I need a little more work on me before I do. So, I have my own challenge. I am going to write a blog post every day in November. 400 words or more. They won’t all be winners. Prepare to hear about my ode to the grocery store. But I will publish them nevertheless.
Why November? Why 30 days? Because that is how long it takes for a habit to stick. 30 days of writing will put me either on the right track to start or tell me if I need to start even smaller. 30 days will give me time to organize other parts of my life so that I can dedicate my days to this. 30 days of blog writing will allow me talk myself in and out of this the obligatory five times before I finally decide to jump in.
Why Am I Telling You This?
Simply put, I don’t answer to myself very well but I don’t like to disappoint others. If I kept this a secret, I will fail. However, now you know and I can’t back down. Please tell others. The more, the merrier. I feed on peer pressure. Call me out if you don’t see a post by 9 pm. Tell me what you think. Give me writing prompts. Join me in the challenge to put your own thoughts out there. No pressure but you are now involved in my process. I could have warned you in the beginning but nah. Now you are stuck.
I will be forever grateful, maybe even mention your name in the book. Perhaps a free signed copy. When I am famous, I pinky swear to still know you in public. Just kidding, I probably won’t. It will be because I am shitty with names and socially awkward NOT because I am famous. But I will try.
The rain season is in full effect here in Germany. Normally, rain isn’t something I mind. I welcome it. It cleanses the earth, the grass gets greener, and the air is cooler. Sleep is easier and comfort food is abundant. The kids love to splash in the puddles and twirl their umbrellas. Maybe I do too, just a little.
This year I am on edge. The rain makes me nervous. It makes me sad. My chest gets tighter with every front that comes through. It’s harder to fall asleep during a downpour.
Walking to school in it the other day, the boys told me it had poured the night before while we were all sleeping. “Don’t worry mama, we had decided that we were safe 3 stories up. The flood wouldn’t reach us.” I wish I could say this is the only time this conversation has been had but it is not. They are hyper vigilant and flooding is often a subject in our chats. Even now, as we reside over 5000 miles away.
The timing of the rain season could not be any worse.
One year ago…
A year ago Harvey blew into town and hung out for days. We were prepared. We were well stocked in food, water, and beer. The propane tank on the grill was filled and said grill dragged in to the garage. All stuff in the yard put away and plans to head north if it got bad were confirmed. I spent the day before the storm hit both prepping and getting the final stuff for the kids to start school the next week. I stopped at the temporary police and rescue checkpoint, dropping off bevies, snacks, and paper goods to help them do their job with some comfort.
Surrounding areas were devastated, Rockport especially. Kingwood saw a lot of rain and wind. Power outages rolled through. There was damage for sure but we were relatively untouched. We watched movies, played games. checked in with neighbors (we even got together for dinner one night). The kids got excited because the start of school was delayed by 2 whole days. We even jokingly had a beer count going. And we felt confidant in our decision to ride out the storm, we were nowhere near a risk zone. We were safe.
Then the water came.
Overnight, a decision was made to release record amounts of water into our area. An estimated 80,000 cubic feet per second. Not gradually. All at once. We woke to no internet or cell service. Our only source of news was the radio. And the news coming from the radio was not good. The calm that we fell asleep to the night before, the calm that we had made it through Harvey, was replaced by the noise of rescue.
We quickly went into survival mode. A call out for help was made and like everyone around us, we answered. Moose gathered clothing and food from the neighborhood while I used up all the extra food I had purchased in prep mode. With a packed van he took off to one of the shelters. We had little to no idea what was going on but we knew it was bad. I sat on the porch, listening to helicopters, sirens and boat engines. They were so much closer than they should have been. We should have been safe. But we weren’t. The trucks loaded with people and canoes, bigger boats attached to the hitch, flying down our street were a sign that it was not okay. The area behind our house, like a lot of Kingwood, should have never been a problem, but it had gone so very wrong.
Moose took forever. He came home looking defeated and horrified. Water everywhere, so many people displaced and so many trying to get out. The town we knew and loved was completely under water.
We quickly had the kids pack their backpacks and we grabbed all of our important papers and double bagged them in ziplock bags (bags they stayed in until we got ready for this move). And we waited for news.
The water stopped 2 streets over. Kingwood was devastated. Some 5000 homes and 300 businesses. Our high school. the library, multiple grocery stores. People passed away. In Kingwood alone. We were only one piece of the puzzle. Some recovered, some are still working on it, and some never will.
I often wonder what happened to the donations I dropped off at the check point. Not that I care about the stuff, I just long for the innocence of the previous Friday. The checkpoint building went under like most other buildings in the area.
Maggie babysat the boys for the first time in the weeks after the flood. Moose and I left them with one phone for a few hours as at a time as we moved through the neighborhood behind us, checking to see what people needed as they returned to what was left of their lives.
Even now, when I close my eyes and allow myself to think.
I will never forget the sounds of rescue, the boats and helicopters.
I will never forget the smell. The waters that flowed through our town were highly contaminated. The odor lasted for a long time. The air quality got really bad, really fast. I highly suspect there will be respiratory issues for years.
I will never forget the look on the stranger’s face as I, a lady who just randomly walked in to her home, helped her shovel baby pictures in garbage bags and drag them to the curb with the rest of her belongings. Pushing water out of another stranger’s home into their backyard, a task that never ended. Helping push a fridge wedged into a door way so that we could reach another room and then seeing the damage left in said room. Taking turns tearing up one of our beloved teacher’s first floor as she looked on in a state of shock that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
I will never forget keeping an eye on every cut and scrape we had for infection.
I will never forget finding out over and over again that someone we knew had flooded and the relief of confirming that they were rescued and safe.
I will never forget how empty the grocery shelves were for months.
I will never forget that no matter where you turned, reminders of the flood were everywhere for months (still really). Calls for donations and helping hands. Mountains of people’s lives, heaped on the curb. Trailers full of flooded vehicles. Empty store fronts and neighborhoods. A town usually decorated to the hilt at Christmas time still largely dark and unoccupied.
I will never forget choosing our storage unit not on company or prices but almost solely on the NEW flood maps.
Look for the helpers.
I will also never forget how everyone came together. I will always remember how proud I am to know people who took people in, did huge amounts of laundry for strangers trying to salvage something (before we knew how bad the water had been and all needed to be tossed). I will never forget being so proud to break bread with our friends, (Calvin, Erin and Joey, I am looking at y’all) as they took a brief break from pulling people from their flooded homes.
I will never forget those who jumped in to help rescue. Not just local good ole boys with a boat but the Cajun Navy who rushed to our area to rescue and the Cajun Army who then came in to help clean up.
I will never forget the volunteers that drove around feeding victims and helpers throughout the neighborhoods. Delivering food to hotels to make sure that families affected atleast had hot meals.
I will never forget being able to provide assistance to teachers and staff at our school affected, due only to the graciousness of others who donated money to my little cause. I am a little greedy and will admit it felt amazing to spend the 1st day of school (over a week delayed) not doing the normal lazy lunch tradition but checking off every item on the immediate needs list of one of our favorite staff members and sneaking it into her vehicle with my sweet friend.
Who are we, one year later?
Community trauma is real. PTSD is real. Survivors guilt is real. I know this because I feel it within myself. I see it not just in those who flooded but those who stood helplessly on the edge of the water. I hear it not only in the voices of those surrounding us but our children as well.
You know what else is real? Recovery. I know this first hand too. I have witnessed it in our town and in all of Houston. Every reopening celebration with obligatory flood lines and in every sweet announcement that someone slept in their own home for the first time in a year. I know because I can leave the house when it rains now, almost without a second thought. I know because steps are being taken to hopefully keep this from ever happening again.
Kingwood is our home. No matter where we live, it will be our home. Our hearts will always belong there and we will always return. I believe in recovery as much as I believe in Kingwood.
But on this rainy day, one year later and 5000 miles away. I still get nervous when it rains.