Friday, November 22, 2013

A tornado. A community.

On Sunday a tornado ripped through our community. "Ripped" is putting it mildly.
We were at church and completely unaware that the weather concoction which makes such violent forces of nature existed.  I should have known when I walked outside and was surprised at how warm it was.  It should have been a clue when my husband and I joked about the town's Christmas tree nearly blowing over. 
But we were oblivious until a series of phone alarms went off in the middle of a sermon about King Nebuchadnezzar.
Everyone calmly went to the basement.  The children were already there.  Lights flickered. We prayed.  At one point the sermon continued.  Whispers went around the room that Washington had been hit.  Dustin tried frantically to get a hold of our friends that were at church exactly where we heard it had touched down. No one answered.

We were told by people who know such things that the storms were headed Northeast - in the direction of our home.  I felt very safe at church. Then we were told that we had about a 30 minute window of time to get home before a second string came.  I've never watched Dustin drive so fast.

It turns out our town wasn't hit.  It was eerily normal - the leaf piles still intact along the street curbs.  We drove through our untouched village as we listened on the radio to stories of destruction - entire neighborhoods with street names we recognized as those of friends'.  Newscasters out of breath and in awe at the devastation. We had no electricity, and wouldn't have any for 48 hours.  Small peanuts. We tried to stay warm and conserve our phone batteries as we texted friends we knew were in the path, or close to it. We searched desperately for news - any news.  We sat in the dark and listened to the radio. We cried for our neighbors and shushed our children.

But this isn't a post about how we were impacted. Because really, we weren't impacted until much later. It's a post about community.

Status update after status update from Facebook friends read, "We're fine, but our house is gone!" and "Praise God! Every living thing made it." Former co-workers, former students, friends.  No one asked why.

The photographs shocked me. 

But NOTHING can prepare you for what real-life devastation looks like, and I saw that finally on Tuesday. Even from a distance it caught in my chest and tore at my insides. This was my friends' reality.  They were smiling and laughing through this.    People have spent days speculating on how an EF-4 could plummet into an entire residential neighborhood and only take the life of one.  There are miracles in that rubble.

I went down to a donation center to help with donations, but they didn't need me.  Too many people wanted to help.  There were at least three UHauls in the parking lot.  I watched as a human conveyor belt unloaded one filled to its ceiling with clothing, food, water, and blankets.  I asked where they were from.  Rockford.  Hours away.  They had come here just days after to help.

Status updates are my closest form of news.  Instagram photos of found objects, and people sitting among their debris laughing at the absurdity of it.  One sentence statements litter my newsfeed, adults finding small things like their wedding rings, and former art students celebrating the discovery of a painting they were sure was miles away.

And then the community.  It would make an outsider jealous at the strength and love they have shown one another. Part of me wishes I could walk into my old classroom with the amazing people I worked with, and watch this community heal in the only way it knows how - with stoic bravery and love. I have never been so proud to live in Central Illinois as I am right now. 

And you, my sons, will be stronger because the community you live in is the strongest I know.

(Photos totally stolen from the associated press, please don't sue me.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

September and October on Instagram

  • Visiting grandparents in Ohio.
  • Eating - a recurring theme
  • Liam trying on Oliver's Halloween costume to show me that it "fits him great!"
  • Oliver dancing in the car.
  •  Miles and Liam reading toy catalogs
  • Our view from our teeny tiny apartment before the move.
  • Miles and Liam riding scooters at the school
  • Oliver doing what he does.
  • Watching The Great Pumpkin with Nana and Papa.
  • Liam scores some extra cuddles on the couch from his friend Ellie.
  • Riding to school in the rain (because we dig the rain)
  • Celebrating a big win on the ipad.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Perhaps you've noticed a noticeable gap in writing.  Perhaps you have way more important things to worry about than blog posts by wanna-be writers.

Perhaps you didn't even notice.

A few weeks ago Dustin's family got some devastating news concerning a new addition that we were so excited to meet.  Basically, it came down to this - After 15 months of him being their son and our cousin/nephew/grandson, Korea decided he couldn't come home.

It's weird how devastating news affects you differently when you become a mother.  When your heart is no longer your own and you have no control over what it loves, you handle tales of other mothers' sadness as though it were your own story.  You can feel the tightness and dread in your chest when you force yourself to think about what just a portion of their sadness might feel like.  When they cry, you cry - not because you are trying to make it your own grief, but because you feel it.

You hug your kids a little tighter and you read Green Eggs and Ham more than just one time a day.  You look deeper into their eyes, and you mourn for them the cousin they were bound to love with every inch of their sweaty limbs.

November is adoption month.  And adoption can have grief too.  It can have deep down in the depths of your gut to the tips of your fingers GRIEF. 

May he know he was loved by many, but may he feel the love of the two that called him their son.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Writing about my life and yoga.

This must be what writer's block feels like - like starting a million posts and then feeling like none of them are good enough to finish.

I'm tired of not writing because I don't know how to get the words down before someone wakes up, or needs a cracker.

So this morning I woke up determined to write.  I tried my hand at a number of old posts, but just couldn't hit the end-all "publish" button at the top of the screen.  Which is so unlike me.  I usually have no problem publishing things that I only feel half-crazy about.

So I googled "writing prompts".

The first place I went only had prompts relating to zombies and monsters.  Which is cool, but not really my style, if you know what I mean.  I still don't truly understand what zombies are...and I used to be an art teacher. I've seen a lot of zombie artwork in my day.

Then I found a page that had all sorts of deep-thinking prompts like, "What is the most difficult decision you've ever made?" which doesn't suit me since I don't make difficult decisions.  That's part of my problem, even big decisions aren't usually difficult because I don't overthink ANYTHING.  I'm an "all-in from day one" kind of girl.  Which might be part of the problem with my life.  Maybe I should write about why I need to think things through... but that sounds boring.

Then I found one I could live with. "Name ten things you would buy with your last $20."
And I'm just going to assume that my kids are well fed and have diapers for the month.  I'm going to assume this is my $20 to spend after tithing and taxes and paying off the hit man.
My twenty dollars...

Good heavens, I can't think of a thing.  I thought that would be so easy.  My writer's block has even reached into the realms of a simple shopping trip. 

Let's try another..."Begin with the sentence "Today I will..." and write for twenty minutes."

Here it goes for real...

Today I will sit here and write until I hear the first sounds of my oldest son stretching his body across his bunk bed and sighing loudly as though announcing the morning. I pause with my fingers over hte keyboard, waiting to hear his long, lanky body plummet down the slide attached to his bed before he peaks out of his bedroom door with a smile that will fill my dark morning.
Liam will be next.  He's always next. Tiny tiptoe footprints tell us he's coming, but his silent silhouette waits for acknowledgement before he's enter the room with his tiny comfort blanket held up to his nose and mouth, as though he is shielding from the day.

We sit on the couch, me in the middle typing fervently on the computer hoping to get just one more paragraph done before all three are demanding things like attention and breakfast. The weight of two bodies against my arms create a challenge to my writing, but still I type on.  Their eyes just watch the letters press onto the screen as though they are reading the most beautiful story.

Someone asks if they can "help me".  Someone else asks if they have to go to school today.

Eventually I'll have to get up.  Eventually this peaceful part of the morning will come to screeching halt and everything will slide from calm to chaos in just a mere minute.  I will throw breakfast at them and beg them to eat it while I try to pull on something that looks like something people are allowed to go out in public in.  I will try to pretend I'm listening when they tell me a million times that they really like hotdogs and pirates and I will try to answer the trillion questions they shoot at me while I try to decide if it is worth it to brush my teeth for a school drop off. Little boys will get dressed and teeth will be brushed.  Hats and gloves will be pulled over uncombed heads and onto uncooperative fingers.
As we trample out the door two things will happen that will shape my day.  I'll see the accumulated snowfall from the night before taunting me from the grass and leaves and rooftops, "See what happens when you leave the sea."

And then Liam will turn to me and say, "Mommy, you still have your pajamas on!"

They aren't pajamas.  They're yoga pants.  Though they have never seen a minute of yoga.  Ever. 

I think my recent life is like yoga.  I stretch into positions that until this moment seemed impossible.  My legs burn and my mind races, but I hold tight to the positions, trying to balance everything I've accumulated to date. 
My life is like Power Yoga. Brian Kest tells me to push deeper and feel it.  So I push deeper and I feel it.  I don't like everything I feel, but I do it.  Sometimes I stumble over but I am strong so I always catch myself.  I have to remember to breath.  In. Out. In. Out.

Correction, my life is like hot yoga.  Because I am always sweating when I do it. 

And I'm red.  I'm always red-faced.

So I turn to Liam and say, "This aren't my pajamas, they're my regalia."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fall happened...

Fall happened.  Actually it's still happening.  I even have proof right here:
There were bonfires...

With hotdogs (of course)...

And smores (or as Liam calls them, "Shmures")...

Many caramel apples have been consumed...

Hayrides at dusk...

Bike rides on final warm days...

Making applesauce...

Visits from family...

Pumpkin carving parties...

And of course costumes to be worn...

 It's no wonder that Autumn is my favorite season of all.  I've missed it so.