Archive | April, 2011

The Story.

The Storms

I’ve done it a million times.  Literally, for ten years, I have been the one to sweep the office, corralling people into our safe areas when a tornado warning was announced.  I’ve been the one to quietly insist that they stop whatever they’re doing, because nothing is THAT important, and I usher them into the room with a blue stripe around the top.  After I’ve made sure everyone is safe, I’ve snuck back to my desk to continue my work.  Whatever I was doing.  Because it was that important.

But after we were awakened to tornado sirens at 5:45 that morning, I felt like I shouldn’t go back to my desk.

We all sat in there, hot and frustrated, as we all sat around one laptop screen.  At first, we were typically jovial and dismissive.  We smiled and laughed about how everyone always freaks out about the weather.  About how all of this is always a firedrill.

Then the lights flickered.

We watched as the laptop showed us pictures of down the street — pictures of tornados touching down, winding down the streets.  We realized that this was different.  Calls starting coming in to panicked spouses — calls of damage.  Property torn apart.  Swingsets uprooted.  Roofs pulled off.  The panic began to set in.

The school systems -which had delayed school starting due to the severe weather – had a badly timed dismissal, putting parents on the roads in a hurry to pick up kids as more sirens blared.  Hail fell and there was panic everywhere.  Bryan was lucky enough to be out and about and able to pick up Tony and I hauled ass home.

We stayed glued to Twitter and the radio as we lost our satellite.  Our lights stayed up until 9:00 p.m., but then it went dark.  Totally dark.  Nothing came back on.  We lit candles, made impromptu night-lite arrangements, and went to bed.  We imagined the lights would be back on in the morning.

They always are.

The Clearing

Tony woke up at 5:45 a.m. in a panic.  Everything was dark and that was different.  He had no green light to look for.  He had no any light to look for.  He crawled in and we waited for the sun to rise.

When we moved to the living room and began our usual morning ritual of fruit snacks and juice, we turned on the radio.  And that’s when the realization hit.

This was not like always.  This was a disaster.

We heard stories of disaster that I’ve never heard before.  Entire blocks leveled.  Entire families killed, trying to hold on to eachother in winds of excess of 175 mph.  Pianos toppling over.  So many people dead.  So many children.  Entire communities destroyed.

We looked at eachother.  We immediately called Jack’s house, any house associated with him, and there was no cell reception.  There was no 3G, Edge, or even GSM.  Nothing.  We were in a blackout.  We were in a disaster.

The Skies

There was not a cloud in the sky.  Blue skies as far as you could see, with a cool breeze sweeping across the grasses.  People went outside, met their neighbors for the first time, walked their dogs, played with their kids.  Our town was fortunate: little to no property damage, no loss of life.  The outlying counties — the ones were Jack lives — were not so lucky.  We tried to dial all day in between dog-walks and frisbee games.  No luck.

The Stores

Bryan, unable to sit still with the not-knowing, went to a neighborhood grocery store.  Most neighborhood grocery stores were open, working from cash or checks and selling what they could.  He waited in line for two hours.  He helped one lady back to her car after she fainted.  Everyone was orderly, he said.  Everyone pulled together.

Stores began to open on emergency power, but the panic was on the edge.  Rumors of gas shortages began to circulate, as did rumors of looting after dark.  There was immediately a curfew put on the entire region: no one was to be out between dusk and dawn.  Some complained, but most understood.

The Choice

On Friday, the not-knowing about Jack had driven us to a breaking point, and Bryan went on a hunt for gas.  By then we learned that the entire Tennessee Valley Authority power plant had been taken offline and we were hearing predictions of power outtages of 5-7 days before the MAIN system came back online.  That meant even longer for residential areas.

We also knew that the death toll was over 150.

We had very little idea of the big picture — we still had no cell service and we only knew what we had heard in rumor.  To the credit of the local media, all operational studios opened their lines without screening to local callers.  To the credit of our community, the calls poured in with aid.  People, individuals who did still have power, offered their personal homes to those in need.  Offered to cook for those they’d never met.  Offered hot showers to those who needed them.

I kid you not that I’m crying as I type this.

As someone who watched Katrina happen, this is something I did not expect.  I’ve watched communities turn cannibalistic on eachother, and ours DID NOT.  We opened our homes, our pantries, and our hearts to eachother.  Callers called in with questions and needs, and more callers called in with answers and promises of aid.  I have never been so proud.  Never.

Bryan found gas after three different stations and two hours.  Price gouging was happening, but he was lucky enough to happen upon an honest gas station and got a full tank.  We made a choice that not all of our family agreed with; we chose to head north to pick up Jack and then leave.

We headed to Chattanooga.

The Ending

I don’t know.  I didn’t know the full story until we got away, didn’t realize the massive death toll, the huge amount of distruction.  I’m working on borrowed internet time now so I don’t have time to link to the full devastation.  I know that we went for 48 hours without knowing the status of some of our immediate family members, but we had a happy ending.  I know that when we got to Jack, his face was somber and his eyes were tired.  And though we’ve been judged by some for leaving, I have a picture of a Jack that has dead eyes and I know we made the right choice.

But it isn’t over yet.

We head back tomorrow, and we are stopping at the closest full-powered town and stocking up on as much as our SUV will hold.  We are dropping water, diapers, wipes, and other perishables off at local relief points.  We are stopping in with friends to drop off what they need.  And I’ve been working my ass of in social media to make sure the relief effort is wide-spread.

YOU CAN HELP.

If you’re reading this in a feed-reader, please share this.

If you’re on Twitter, please retweet this information.

If you’re on Facebook, make this your status.

You can help by texting “REDCROSS” to 90999.  That will donate $10 to the Red Cross and the Alabama Relief Efforts.  We currently have close to 600 people displaced from the storms.  Our county alone has over 300 houses that were destroyed or declared inhabitable.  And that county was not even declared a disaster area.

$10 will help provide water and shelter to families in my area.  These are the people who are now giving their own food away to help.

I don’t ask for donations or help often, because I believe people should give where they feel their heart leads them.

I am asking your heart to lead you to my state.

Comments { 4 }

To Boys Who Like Pink

Good.

No, really, that’s it.  Good.  I like pink, too. It’s my favorite color, in fact.  Much like my son’s.

My son picks out EVERYTHING pink.  He always, always goes for the pink toys. 

He also takes a lot of grief for this.

He loves baby strollers, and pretending to be the Daddy.  He loves gardening, and this year, insisted on pink flowers.  He doesn’t really care for the Princesses, per se, but LOVES the color of the line.  When given his choice of playground balls at Walmart, he picked out the pink sparkly one.  He wants me to paint his nails the same color as my toes – PINK.  Most toys for his age range come in either blue (with a masculine voice or character behind it) or pink (with a female voice or character); he always, always goes for the pink.

IT IS A COLOR.

This will not determine his path in life, his career choice, or his future loves.  It will not mean success in academia, nor will it condemn him to a sordid life.  It is merely a color, and it is a color he loves.

I feel like I will be spending the better part of his childhood defending my boy and his right to be a boy.

Comments { 8 }

A Weekend of Nothing

I soooooo needed last week.  Even though I slept in exactly ZERO times last week, and got exactly a grand total of ONE (1!) nap, not having to be anywhere all week was glorious.  And.. honestly.. made me itch to go back to work.

But!  Good times!

Thursday night, we attended a local arena football game — which was odd in a reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on — but we had a BLAST.  It was the first time all four of us attended something like that.  Of course, Tony gave himself a shiner within ten minutes of us being in the arena, but he did so while dancing.  Sometimes, the dance wins.

(See?  Doesn’t it look like he’s having a blast?!)(Note the swelling and bruising on his right temple.)

It was awesome because 1) it was NASA appreciation night, so my company had a large contingency there and 2) they had the INFLATABLE PEOPLE there, which, seriously, pretty much own my heart.  They are like big ole puppets.  And I LOVE PUPPETS.

(Jack also liked the inflatable folks.)

It literally took me two days to figure out why the whole evening .. including our walk in the park .. felt so nice to me.  It’s because, five years earlier, we did the same thing.  And Bryan proposed that night.  ALMOST FIVE YEARS TO THE DAY, Y’ALL.  Very odd, no?  Ended up with free surprise tickets to an indoor football game, were entertained by inflatable people, and had a great time?  VERY ODD.

Friday became Mommy & Tony Day, part AGAIN because although we had done the same thing Wednesday, Friday was just gorgeous outside and .. frankly, I missed my son terribly on Thursday.  So he stayed home with me on Friday and we had a BLAST.  We went to the mall, which doesn’t sound fun, but he’s suddenly this little PERSON and it was SO MUCH FUN.  We shopped, he played in the kids’ area, he bounced on the bungee thingie that you pay $6 for, and then he asked to do this:

Like, he ASKED to sit on the Bunny’s lap when we got there, and I said sure and dismissed him, and as we were leaving, he huffed and reminded me that WE HAVE TO SEE THE EASTER BUNNY, MOMMA.  Yes, sit on that CREATURE’S lap, cause he’s not at all terrifying.  But sweet old men?  He’s not a fan, remember?

Anyway, he wanted to sit with the Bunny, so he did.  And he thought it was AWESOME.

Saturday brought the most awesomeness EVER: Avenue Q!

And Sunday brought more awesomeness, as the Easter Bunny actually visited and brought some joy in the form of chocolate.

It was a perfect way to wrap a week of nothing up.  Because by today, I was ready – READY! – to get back to it.

(Related to nothing: I just love how gangsta he looks here.)

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A Matching Pair

Watching my energetic and jubilant three-year-old bounce around, you would never have imagined that his foot looked like this when he was born:

But it did.  Posteromedial bowing of the tibia, to be precise.  His foot lay perfectly against his shin, like some little bonzai kitten.  Which is a completely inappropriate likeness, but whatever.

We deemed it the Lucky Foot. You can read up on it here.

He’s worn corrective braces, we’ve done inserts, and all of this was just to make ourselves feel better.  The specialist warned us in the beginning: surgery was inevitable.  When he was an immobile infant, we did extensive stretching exercises.  We insisted he wear a brace.  We bought inserts to make up the length difference.  In reality, the specialist was right, and surgery still looms out on the horizon.

BUT!

Where it used to be a question of surgery before kindergarten or surgery before high school, the problem has corrected itself at least to the point that we don’t need to look at surgery in the next year or two.  Which, I guess, blessing and a curse.  Part of me really, really wanted surgery early (if we had to have surgery at all), because kids are so resilient at that age!  He’ll barely remember!  And it will be better by the time he starts school. (No judgement from other kids.)

Again, this is a blessing.  Chances are puberty would’ve caused ANOTHER length discrepancy, so this is just a one time surgery.

Our yearly visit to the “foot doctor” was a few weeks back, and Tony is now old enough to start realizing that his feet are, in fact, different.  He asks why they don’t match.  And while I knew that conversation would suck, knowing that he’s having trouble with bullying at school already made it that much harder.

When the doc suggested lifts – not inserts, not invisible, no-one-knows-but-us inserts – my heart sank.  Lifts.  On the outside of the shoe.  Where everyone can see.  It’s the difference between Invisalign braces and headgear, in my mind.

(Of course, it never fails that while I’m wallowing in pity for my child on one of these visits, we see a child who has a much harder journey to travel.  And I’m snapped back to Thankful-town.)

We had started to notice that Tony was running and compensating for the difference in his legs.  He swings his right leg out to the side, throwing his stride completely off-whack:

So we knew we had to do something.

An odd happenstance of conversation at work revealed that a coworker had a child with a similar issue, and he had run the gamut of places in town to help out. He referred a local cobbler, and I brought the name and address back to Bryan, who was immediately skeptical.

Bryan stopped by one day last week, but was won over by the man’s immediate love of our son. (He’s pretty lovable, that blonde-haired, blue-eyed, lucky-footed baby of ours.) Bryan handed over a pair of New Balance shoes and we waited.

Today, we picked them up. The difference between the two sounds so small (3/4″), but the two shoes looked vastly different.

I was incredibly worried that something was wrong. And Tony would notice something was wrong. And this would spiral down into a world of shame and despair and..

“LOOKAMEEEEE, MOMMA! I RUNNIN’ IN MY NEW SHOESSSSSS!”

And he was. Running. With both feet swinging normally behind him, his arms pumping furiously at his sides. His hips are now aligned with his spine; he doesn’t need to fold his right leg underneath him when he stands. This is the closest we’ve been to normal since he was born, although we’ve never felt anything but.

His feet finally match.

Comments { 12 }

The Inevitable Crash

Yesterday – my first day off in almost a month – was filled from 8:00 a.m. till 11:00 p.m. with barely a minute to rest.

I made it that way.  I couldn’t sit still.

After completion of my latest proposal at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night, I called in to a status meeting on Monday morning and then promptly declared my attack on work/life balance ON LIKE DONKEY KONG.  I mopped/dusted/scrubbed/decluttered/shopped/laundered/exercised enough to make up for three weeks gone.  BY NOON.

Part of my playing catch-up involved scheduling a nail appointment for 8:00 a.m. this morning.  I figured it would be good to get it out of the way, especially since I’ve got energy coming out of my pores.  Except last night was The Crash.

The Crash is hard when you have OCD.  Because when you’re busy, man, you’re ON.  But when you’re not, it’s like you get lost in undertow.  There is no gray area with OCD; it’s black and white.  You’re busy and purposeful or you’re not.  If you’re not, there is NOTHING GETTING DONE.

I made my nail appointment.  I forced myself to.  But now I sit, on my back deck in the sunshine, and I want to do nothing.  Ever again.  I don’t want to go pick up my son — WHAT KIND OF AN AWFUL PARENT AM I? — and spend time on the playground.  I don’t want to boot up my work computer and get caught up on the mass of email waiting for my return.   Hell, even writing this feels forced.

I just want to not be needed for awhile.

I’m giving myself an afternoon.  No running around to do, no appointments to hold, no errands beckoning.  I’m not trying to get caught up on tv shows backlogged in the queue, nor am I planning meals for the week.  Just a little bit of time to do nothing and to breathe.

Catch you on the flipside. (Which very well may be in half an hour.)

Comments { 4 }