Saturday, May 8, 2010

You Look Tired

Occasionally, there's a well-meaning co-worker who will comment,"you look tired." Several of us have commented that she may as well say, "you look fat" but we do admit that the intentions are probably not as malevolent as they are received. I like to think it's a weird way of saying "you look busy. Is there anything I can do to help you?"

This has been a week, let me tell you. It had already been a busy stretch beginning March 31st with what was, has been and will be 11 pretty big events that I'm in charge of planning, coordinating & executing. These are in addition to other various duties of my job plus my "other" full time job of wife, mother & daughter.

Last Saturday rocked my world. I was already tired and run down and just seeking a little rest before the next group of events come around. Ha. One flood, one fire, one week later and I'm still searching for that rest.

Sunday and Monday, I dug through wet ashes at Daddy's house.

Tuesday, I returned to work for a little while only to find that my building had flooded over the weekend and got to dig a little more, rescuing as much as possible, moving stuff and trying to relocate offices.

Despite a series of events coming fast & furiously, my efforts turned to attending to our families and faculty affected by the storms. I set up a makeshift work space and began triaging those in need and trying to match up those who wished to help with those who needed it.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was much of the same. Getting a few new calls from those needing help and a massive outpouring of love and support from those wanting to offer assistance. We also moved offices twice more and got to experience the challenges of not knowing where we would be from day to day, whether we'd have the basics (phones, computers, printer, etc.). When I left Friday, we had 20 families who had been identified as needing help, all in various stages of devastation. We have over 100 families, though, at the ready, offering their help to those in need.

Today, we held a garage sale at our house. I know the timing seems odd but we've been trying to have a garage sale since March. Our garage, and, of late, our kitchen, dining room table, foyer, etc. has been consumed by "stuff" that we'd like to see move so we can move on with our lives. We came home Thursday and had a flier in the mail announcing that a neighborhood sale was planned for today so we scurried and hustled and got ready to participate on little notice.

So, for the last week, I feel like I've been running mad, carrying and lifting heavy stuff, living with uncertainty and just feeling generally drained every which way - emotionally, physically, etc., etc.

There is good news though:  I'm alive to feel tired. (Some lost their lives.) I have a computer with which to communicate. (Some still don't have power.) My house is standing, safe & sound, and without mud or water standing inside. (Some are dealing with incredible challenges and clean up ahead.)

My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. (Exodus 33:14)

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Daddy Update 05.03.10

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
-- Jeremiah 29:13

We're doing OK. It was a long, 12+ hour day today but we accomplished what we set out to do. Jason and I went over to what was left of the house with Daddy today and packed up any remaining items of interest, value, etc. At least the sun was shining. It was exponentially harder yesterday digging through rubbish, piles upon piles, while the rain beat down on us through the open roof.

Today, we worked our bottoms off. And chatted with well-meaning neighbors, chased off nosy ones with cameras, and talked to contractors, sub-contractors, insurance adjusters, city Police, city Fire, and city codes. The firemen who came by today told us we all needed to be wearing masks so we ran to the store and got those. The smell is just gross. It's dirty and wet and sad with just the tiniest hint of that sweet campfire smell. After a while, your eyes and nose burn and you're coughing. Our clothes and any exposed skin were covered in black soot. Jason gets a special thank you for allowing me to run to Target looking like Hitler. I went in the rest room and was dismayed to see I had a tiny, jet black ash mark right under my nose.

As I write, Daddy is settled into what will be his home for the next few months - an extended stay hotel near his house. They accepted pets and their rates and amenities were good plus it's conveniently located to his house so it worked out.

The insurance company couldn't write off the house completely so the plan is to bring in a contractor who will tear down and rebuild the affected part of the house. They predicted a 3-month timeline. Knowing how these things go, Daddy is prepared for a 6-month stay at his hotel.

Thank you all for your calls, emails, prayers, etc. We truly are blessed. God is good. 

And, there are lessons galore in this little incident and I will share as many as I am able to learn with you all as possible. Here goes the 1st few:

1.  Don't put off to tomorrow what can and should be done today. That may mean "write your will." Or, "increase your homeowners' insurance." Or perhaps it's just "tell that person how much they mean to you."

2.  You do not need 18 mixing bowls. Or 7 winter coats. If you're reading this, you are blessed beyond words. We have too much stuff in our lives. We're cluttered. Now I'm not planning on selling off all my possessions and going to live on a commune but this has made me realize how much stuff we accumulate. And that's all it is...stuff.

3.  Make copies of all your important paper work (including important phone numbers and contact info) and put it in a safe place (i.e., somewhere other than your home).

4.  If you have a neighbor who suffers a similar fate, here's what to do (and not do):  DON'T: call; drop by just to say hi; stand out front just shaking your head; keep driving by slowly just to look out your car window; take pictures of a stranger's house; allow your kids to ride bikes and walk around while the people are trying to clean up. DO:  bring bottled water if the family is there working; offer your clean/functioning bathroom if you live nearby; offer to run errands/go pick up lunch; text or email your sentiments so they know you care but can keep working and don't have to stop what they're doing to answer the phone; bring empty milk crates, Rubbermaid tubs and trash bags.

5.  Do not get a leather wallet wet. And, if you do, don't put it in the microwave to dry out. And, if you do, two minutes is too long. There's a popcorn setting and a beef wellington setting but not a wallet one so I guessed. Guessed wrong. (See pic above)

Back of house from driveway. Kitchen on left; garage on right.


Standing in den. Hallway on left. Foyer on right. New skylight above.

Jason standing in front yard beside some old bicycles which were in the attic over the garage and flew to opposite side of yard during explosion. The road you see behind him is the one where the river is on the opposite side. Compare this picture with previous picture (#1) in this album. It's the same intersection, two days later.

Juxtaposition of beauty and devastation.

Some things escaped almost, if not completely, unscathed.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Hello all - 

After a very strange - and long - Saturday, I have some sad news but a happy ending. My Dad's house, the place I grew up and still consider home, was struck by lightning tonight and is almost completely gone. The bright side, and yes, there always is one, is that both he and his dog were not there and no one was hurt.

Tonight was the Jimmy Buffett concert in downtown Nashville. Jason got tickets to this show for his bday in March and we had secured Daddy as a babysitter for tonight. We had been out Saturday morning and then were home, watching the news, all afternoon, keeping an eye on the storms. Never did they mention in their occasional references to flash flooding that we - Middle Tennessee, Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin - were experiencing some of the worst flooding in my lifetime. 

So we took off for Daddy's house at 3 pm this afternoon with a bag packed for Bird. I grabbed Bonnie, our little pound puppy, at the last minute and brought her along for the ride as she was freaking out from the storm. Imagine our surprise when we encountered a road in our neighborhood that was completely under water and we had to turn around. You all have seen the news, the pictures and the videos by now so I won't verbally paint the picture for you. It took us about an hour and 45 mins to get to Brentwood, a drive that normally takes 17 mins. By the time we finally got to Daddy's house, which is located across the street from the Little Harpeth River, we knew we weren't dropping Bird off but, rather, were picking HIM up. During my last call, as he was describing how fast the water was rising and that it had gone from the street to his mailbox to his yard to his doorstep, I instructed him to pack a bag and grab the dog. They got in our car and back we went to our house in Franklin. Another hour in the car, now with an anxious Calleigh, two dogs and some questions about our plans for the evening.

We decided to try to get to the concert but knew we would need to leave asap. We got home, changed clothes, gave some cursory instructions for the babysitter and ran out the door, leaving Daddy with no car (Jason's is at FRA where we rode together Friday) and a barely stocked fridge.

65 North was still a mess heading out of Franklin but we got to Harding Place and zipped right into downtown. We arrived in time to grab a quick bite and then head to the arena. The show started at 8:00 PM. At appx. 8:45, Jason pulled his phone out to take a picture and noticed a text message from Daddy. It read "neighbors called my house is on fire damn." We jumped up and ran down the stairs and out into the concession area to call him. He had sent the message just a few minutes after the concert began. He didn't know much. Said one of the neighbors had heard something, saw it, called 911 and then called him. The way they described it to him and he to us was that it was a fire contained mostly in the garage. We asked him what he wanted to do and he assured us he had no intention of going over there tonight so we stayed and finished our concert, planning fully on swinging by and doing a drive by of his house on the way home.

As we pulled onto his street, we had to take a detour due to the water still being over the road, and then as we came up another side street, noticed fire engines still nearby. Apparently, they had done a first round of putting it out but had to come back as it sparked up again. Jason and I sloshed across a soggy yard with water up over our ankles. I noticed some items in the yard/water that shouldn't have been there - specifically, I noted a mason jar. Later, I found out from the firemen that these items had been in the garage and had been strewn all over when the EXPLOSION happened.

Their best guess right now is lightning struck the house at the garage, started a fire and then it was just a bomb waiting to go off between the 2 cars, lawn mower, gas cans, gas water heater and gas line running under the house to power the washer and dryer plus the grill on his patio. It's an old 60s, one story, ranch house and about 1/2 of it is still what they call "structurally sound," meaning might be able to be salvaged. The entire garage is gone, just a shell, with what looks like two shells of cars sitting in it. The roof is gone as is the the huge attic that was above. The next three rooms are soaked from firehoses and rain (as there is no roof over them either) so the kitchen, dining room and living areas are gone. The remainder of the house (bathrooms, 3 bedrooms and the office) were spared from the actual fire/explosion but have serious soot/ash damage and have that awful smoke smell.

Anything plastic anywhere in the house is gone as is just about anything paper. Also counted among the items that are now just a memory:  Mom's wedding dress, 2 cedar chests full of pictures from both Mom and Daddy's side of the family, almost all of my baby/childhood pictures, any remaining clothing of Mom's that Daddy hadn't already donated to Goodwill through the years and countless other items that I may or may not have known of and just thought "I'll go through them someday."

But all of that is material, through and through. The true blessing and what literally brought me to my knees tonight as I first took it all in was the events leading up to tonight and what prevented my Daddy and my daughter from being in that house when all of this happened. About 16 million "what if's" ran through my head. And I offered up praise and thanksgiving to my God, my Saviour, for sparing these two tonight. They would have most certainly been in the affected part of the house had everything gone as planned this evening.

I don't know what the next hours, days, weeks, months will hold for us. One thing is certain: a lot of uncertainty. But we will get through it. Together. Because that's what family does. Daddy has the clothes he threw in that little suitcase when we evacuated him, his dog and his watch. Everything else is gone. His cars. His lawn mower. His appliances and all the food in the house. His computer. His Scotch. His coffee maker. His golf clubs. Gone.

Please pray for us and especially him as we begin the difficult task of rebuilding.