Irma Evacuation Part 1

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Before I even begin, I have to preface this with the fact that this is an evacuation story, not a hurricane story. There is some real devastation happening in the state of Florida right now–not to mention Houston’s residual heartache after Harvey–and ours is more of a flee-the-scene-turned-wild-adventure that, yes, involves some anxiety, inconvenience and a few tears, but it ends okay. I mean, our frantic exit landed us in a Georgia lake house where we’ve been sipping coffee watching the news at a very comfortable temperature (FALL!) for the past five days which is more than my friends who stayed back home can say right now and certainly nothing compared to those whose homes were destroyed this past weekend. So, we’re good. Our home was spared. The pool cage is ruined, and there’s a broken window and crap blown everywhere in the garage, but that’s less than what I expected. Our home itself is intact, and once the power is back on, roads are cleared and gas stations are restocked, we will make our way back to where this all began…in my kitchen last Friday morning when I lost my shit.

Maybe it was when I woke up to check the latest projections on how Irma was shifting and watched Jim Cantore take his finger through the map on the screen and practically draw the exact route from my favorite beach to our house.

“It could change,” Brett said calmly, “Nobody can really predict this.”


Or maybe it was all my friends who, a day earlier, assured me they too were riding it out–I could count on them–and then I woke up to find out they all escaped and left me in the middle of the night. So, yeah. The trauma of childhood rapture nightmares revisited.

“Oh my God, Brett. We’re the only ones left. We’re those people you see on the news when everyone says “WHY DID THEY STAY?”

“We’re going to be fine. Stop panicking,” he said. But it got to a point where we have very different comfort levels with–oh, I don’t know–CATEGORY 5 HURRICANES COMING RIGHT AT US.

While I knew Brett would be safe (he studied elevation maps, had a plan with my dad and his dad along with a shelter back-up plan), I couldn’t take worrying anymore, not to mention the idea of riding through the storm with three scared kids, one of whom is terrified of storms. In fact, Nella’s little school friend’s mom called me after the hurricane and said that during the storm, her daughter said, “But Mom, is Nella okay? She’s really scared when there’s a storm at school.” Friday morning, I was picturing those horrible dreams I’ve had of who will grab which kid in an emergency, and I finally decided entertaining it all was insane when I still had time to get out. We knew there were gas shortage issues and mass exodus traffic, but Friday morning the news reports were telling people, “The time is NOW. Get out.” Thankfully, my wonderful mother-in-law (lucky to have two of them–this is Brett’s dad’s wife) was equally anxious and uncomfortable and offered to come with me and the kids. So we hugged the boys who were holding down the fort (and our dogs!), and left early Friday morning with no plan or destination. It was surreal–packing my kids’ baby books and keepsakes, running through the house knowing time was running out, throwing things in bags, reassuring the kids everything was fine. Also, I’m a bit dramatic, so I shine in these moments. Like, I threw out the term “evacuation” as much as I could that morning for effect.

Hotels were booked all over Florida, and there wasn’t really a city free from Irma’s wrath, so we just kept driving north, tracking gas availability on gas apps and stopping whenever we could to top off our tank. We drove for 19 hours straight amid this eerie scene–all these cars headed north with the south traffic practically non-existent but for an occasional parade of National Guard trucks.

So many of you reached out on Instagram, offering your homes. Good Lord, it was comforting–so much love in this community. I had reached out to a few friends who I knew would take us in, but shortly after we crossed the Georgia line, my cousin texted me that her best friend who I met once when I was in college offered her empty lake house in Blairsville, Georgia for us to stay as long as we needed–the kindest gesture we will never forget. So we kept driving north until 3:00 a.m. when we landed in the driveway of the home that’s been the most wonderful retreat for us this week.

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And then we waited, calling back home and tracking the storm every second until we knew it was time. And when it was? Well, let’s just say Sunday is a day we won’t soon forget. “It was unreal,” Brett says of the winds. “The house was shaking, and at one point the sliding glass doors literally bowed in. That’s when we ran.” The worst winds on the east wall of the eye lasted for about an hour, and during that time, we watched the news live (so weird to see national news talking about your neighborhood during a time like that) and made as many calls to the men back home as we could. And yeah, it was a little scary.

(the kids’ baby clothes quilt–the first thing I put in my car when I knew we were evacuating) photo print 1_zpsjkjbhkjv.jpg

Our people are safe. Our house survived (“It’s just a house,” I told myself many times), our friends’ houses survived, and though our town looks like a war zone, we are so thankful that what could’ve happened didn’t (our town didn’t get the surge that was expected, praise be). But for many people, it did happen, and my heart breaks for so many losses I’ve seen on the news these past few weeks due to the hurricanes. There’s a lot to be done to rebuild both Florida and Houston, and it’s going to take time. I’ve felt so helpless being away, but I’ve done what I can from where we are–donating to the Red Cross, families that have been hit harder than us (my friend and fellow D.S. family, the Eichers, lost so much in Harvey) and registered with Volunteer Florida to help when we get home (if you live in Florida, it’s quick and easy to register).

And the rest? Well, we ride the storm in our own way, searching for adventures and memorable moments on this crazy adventure.

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We’ve tucked away so many stories and look forward to a big family get together when we get home where we all get to share our hurricane stories and laugh (that time we got pulled over at 2 a.m. after 18 hours of driving) and hug and feel grateful.

The best part in all of this is witnessing the incredible human spirit of togetherness and love and support. The little town we’re staying in is full of evacuees–Florida license plates as far as the eye can see, and everywhere we go, people are so welcoming. I checked out at a little shop the other day, and the store owner–in her southern drawl–said, “Honey, we’re glad you’re here. We’re glad we can make ya’ll feel safe away from home.” And it makes me want to hug the entire state of Georgia.

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There are still massive power outages at home (our house has no power, but Brett’s at his dad’s with a generator), the roads are impassable in many places, the water and sewage systems are a mess, and school’s been canceled at least until next Wednesday (we’ll have to make it up this summer). So we’re waiting until we know it’s a good time to go home. Inconvenient? Yes. But, man, have we ever had fun on the journey. The memories we’ve made will be tucked in a special place, retold for years to come.

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And our friends who’ve been so generous to let us use their place?

 photo print 60_zpsta2o8xrg.jpgThey just happen to have the coolest house ever, and even went so far as to bring a big bin of old toys their kids used to play with for my kids to enjoy.

 photo print 14_zpsstv72vtq.jpgWe listen to records all day–Bing Crosby and Count Basie–and have fallen into a little Irma routine with memories I know my kids will cherish.

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We make lemonade…that’s what we do. And when you’re given the Georgia mountains, a lake, a beautiful home and a lot of love, you can make some damn good lemonade.

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Thank you for all your sweet comments and love this past week…we really are okay, so you can send some of that love to those who really need it by donating to the Red Cross or help my friend, Lisa.

More from Blairsville, Georgia soon.

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Help! I Suffer from PDHE–Public Display of Holiday Enthusiasm

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Well, it’s officially September, so I guess I can say this: Happy Fall. That’s right, I’m calling it, two weeks and two days early which is hardly significant if you suffer from PDHE. I’ve had it since I was little–Public Display of Holiday Enthusiasm–and a common side effect is launching into seasonal festivities before they’re actually due. Forget this “Official First Day of Season” crap. The calendar I measure all things in life by is the one Target sends out to their set-up crew employees for those specialty back aisles erected three months before the holiday they’re promoting. In fact, I got so excited for the Christmas aisles going up the day after Halloween last year, that I was with the set-up employees as they put them up: “Um, ma’am, we’re not quite ready yet. You might want to come back tomorrow when we’re finished.”

“What’s your name tag say? Phil? Yeah thanks, Phil, but no. Let me help! Pass me that box of tinsel. OH MY GOD, PHIL! THESE REINDEER PILLOWS!”

The fact is, one day is simply not enough to celebrate my enthusiasm for holidays. Remember, I’m a minimalist. Just kidding. Honey, there are 18 tricycles, 9 scooters, a bike with a broken chain and two pogo balls in my garage on the off chance we’ll host a big driveway party and need them all to make sure every kid feels included and has a toy. Minimalist genes don’t run in my family, and PDHE certainly doesn’t jive well with KonMari’s approach because, in case you haven’t noticed, ALL the holiday things bring me great joy. All of them. My life motto: MORE TWINKLE LIGHTS, and Marie Kondo can whittle down my collection of holiday knick-knacks when she pries them from my cold, dead hands.

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I find this time of year gets a little tricky though with PDHE. There’s a split crowd, and the ones fighting for the preservation of “the season it still is” aren’t always so understanding of premature ejaculation of holiday spirit. Listen, we can’t help it. It’s a condition. I once knew a girl (who shall not be named to protect her identity) who posted a photo of a Christmas tree on November 1 with the caption “Yay! It’s that time of year!,” and her social media community paid to have her killed. Okay, I made that up. But I thought I should be transparent here and tell you and that late August, when I post a picture of a beach on my Instagram to appease the “Too Early!” crowd, just know that my caption “Still loving summer!” is code for “I’ve already put in 6 hours of research on ways to decorate with hay bales, and there’s a pumpkin pathway up my driveway.” K? Good, glad we’re straight.

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Another problem with PDHE is that we’re not really into the subtle decorating thing. I see your simple white-pumpkin-against-white-walls scene that subtly whispers “faaaaaaallll” (Does it?), and I raise you some decorating vomit of a giant “HARVEST” sign next to my cornucopia of glittered pumpkins in the room I just painted “Autumn Blaze Orange” for this very occasion. Why whisper “Fall” when you can scream it? Listen, I don’t do surface relationships well. I want intimacy, and this year will be my 38th year with Fall. “Subtly” isn’t how I want to celebrate; we’re past that. Go ahead, September. You can touch my boobs.

4-foot “HARVEST” on barn wood sign. Too much? I kid, I kid.
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The problem with living in a tropical climate though is that we don’t have weather shifts to signal seasonal changes and upcoming holidays. The only thing we really have to launch us into festive displays of enthusiasm are shop aisles and the release of merchandise that leaves no room for questioning the calendar. Who needs the sight of the first robin to mark spring when there are 200 packages of pink sugar-coated Peeps that told me in Target three weeks ago?  Our cider mills, our hay rides, our pumpkin patches, our tree farms? Why, we find them in the aisles of Hobby Lobby, in the end caps of Target, in the wreath rows at Homegoods. These places are Messengers of God to a PDHE living in the hot holes of southern Florida, and because he’s a gracious giver, he grants us access early–pinecone turkeys in September, snow-dusted evergreen boughs in October.

Hey Mom, can I have this pumpkin? Thanks.
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These establishments are holiday churches in a way, and walking through the garland-strung aisles of fall splendor in any of these stores sets off a rush of dopamine that puts me in a full-flung pleasure stupor. The pumpkin-shaped molds for little individual spice cakes? Great joy. The Halloween cat tights and dangly skeleton earrings? Great joy. The wheat bundles I have no idea how to decorate with but love them just the same? Great joy, great joy, great joy.

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So, forgive me now as I prematurely break forth into Seasonal Festivities Mode. From here to forth, you may see me wearing tights on hot days, skipping beach outings to bake pumpkin bread and throwing around the word “cozy” far more times than you can handle. “Tone it down” isn’t a phrase you’ll hear around here until the last of Target’s Christmas aisles are picked over and cleared out. It’s time to dial it up–because, after all, it’s Fall.

Happy September, folks.

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Step Forward: New Running Goals

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This post is sponsored by Famous Footwear.

I get my greatest mom advice from my sister. She laid the stones for this path several years before me, and the stones are now settled and weathered so that all I have to do is step where she’s already walked. Her parenting mottos have become mine, and we laugh that one of the most repeated ones would make a horrible t-shirt: BE SELFISH. Because sometimes we forget to think about ourselves when, since the moment we knew a baby was on the way, every cell in our body changes its programming to take care of them first.

As awful as “be selfish” sounds, it’s the most loving thing we can do for our families. When we don’t make time and space for our own well being, we’re giving a shabby version of ourselves to our kids. I know it because I’ve felt it–pushing aside the little voice inside that says “Pay attention to me! Listen to me! I have needs too!” to sign the kids up for another activity, help with homework, make a lunch, read a book, prep the dinner, clean the house, put away their laundry. That voice, if left unattended, can scratch us up inside so that we’re resentful, ill-tempered, short-fused. It all comes out ugly in the end.

This time of year is the danger zone. Back to school puts added demands on our families, and new routines require more of us. I’m thrilled to be joining Famous Footwear in helping us remember to take care of ourselves in their Step Forward campaign, encouraging women to make sure one of the new routines you’re taking on this season is FOR YOU. Try something new, set new goals, make some space for an activity that’s strictly for your own well being. September is New Year’s for moms.

My step forward this season?

I’m picking up my running game. I’ve never considered myself “a runner,” but I run–not necessarily to stay fit, but because I find it works to reset everything inside me to “All Clear.” When I’m frustrated with my kids? Running calms me. When I’m anxious about the future? Running assures me. When I’m feeling icky and tired, lazy and gross? Running makes me feel powerful and productive and strong. So I run. But waiting to find a good time at the end of the day isn’t working for me anymore–it’s getting pushed aside.

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New goal: RUN IN THE MORNING. I’m setting my alarm to wake up before my family. Just 30 minutes. Because I’m selfish like that. I find that when I run FIRST THING, it sets the tone for a super productive day. I eat better, I drink more water, I answer more e-mails, write more stuff, keep my house cleaner, think of new ideas. Because “I ran today” powers me through. I prove to myself first thing in the morning that I can do something hard–everything else is cake.

A few things that help me?

Use a running app. I love Nike’s Run Club app. It keeps track of all your runs, lets you rate them, cheers you on (celebrities like Kevin Hart pop in to give you a pep talk while you’re running), and allows you to compete with other runners as well as yourself.

Make a good playlist. I continually add songs to my Spotify running playlist and know which songs to use to motivate me when I think surely I’m going to die.

Get a running friend. Stay accountable with your runs and workouts by inviting friends to share your goals. On Wednesdays, I run with a friend in her neighborhood. On other days, I call my sister to compare running goals.

Stay flexible. I don’t beat myself up if something shifts in the plan and have alternatives for when things change. When Brett’s gone on a work trip, instead of running, I lay a yoga mat out early in the morning and do a home workout instead.

Let your kids see you being selfish. It’s SO good for kids to know we take care of ourselves first. When I’m running out the door for self care or headed on a run and one of my kids cries for me to stay or wants to go with me, I get down next to them and tell them, “Mom’s going to go listen to her heart for a little bit so I can use it to love you better when I come back.”

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Running buddies! Step forward with me. Meet you on the pavement tomorrow morning.

*I’m wearing the Nike Flex Contact running shoes from Famous Footwear in this post.