So you see how we ended 2017. It was not what I would have chosen. Clearly.
But it is what it is. And I’m going to control the things I can control. And I’m going to try my best to be the best me even when things are hard.
We walked into the house after driving 5 hours from Joplin (after a week in OK), and my dad said, “Oh no—your house is falling apart.” I thought for sure he was joking—maybe the tree had fallen over while we were gone.
But the walls were swollen with water. Plaster littered every single surface. The ceiling was gone from most of the living room and dining room. And there was a waterfall landing directly on our couch.
I looked around at the debris, and the first thing I noticed was that some decorative Santa plates on the dining room table were knocked over but not broken. Then, I grabbed my Dyson and pulled it to dry land. Who knows if the damage was already done?
There were a few Christmas presents under the piles of sheetrock, and one of our bookshelves had splintered from being water logged. I sighed with relief when I looked into the corner and saw Scott’s grandad’s leather chair untouched. I had this thought—that might be the only thing in this room that I’d be sad to lose.
My initial reaction truly was: it’s just stuff.
My dad and Scott found the main water line and quickly turned it off. The boys took the girls upstairs where thankfully there was no damage and entertained them while we started making the requisite phone calls—property manager, insurance company, case worker. I snapped some photos and posted to Facebook because if it’s not on Facebook it didn’t happen.
And then the kindness began. So many people posted “Oh no!” Misery really does love company. Others immediately invited us to live with them, to bring meals, to do “whatever we can from where we are.” I got a message from one of the young men we’re helping in Togo—he started rallying his friends to pray for us because that is always his gut reaction in all things.
Will came downstairs at one point and was holding back tears as he looked around. He was sad about the house, but in typical pre-teen fashion, his first response was “I’m really upset that we can’t play video games with our friends because the wi-fi isn’t on.”
I looked straight at him and said, “I’m going to say this in as patient a manner as I can. Our entire house is falling apart. We are trying to figure out where we are going to stay tonight and probably where we are going to live for who knows how long. I need you to look at the big picture for a minute.”
He didn’t have a response. I wasn’t mad at him—his reaction was exactly what should be expected from a preteen, and I also have all kinds of grace for people in those first moments of crises. None of us reacts exactly as we should. It is hard to be your best self when it feels like the world is crumbling.
My parents took the kids to their house, fed them pizza, and bathed them. Thank goodness we had just come from Christmas with our extended family and brand new, clean, soft (matching!) jammies were easy to find in the Clampett style mess in our post-vacation car.
Scott and I stayed behind to talk with the plumber and the restoration contractors who showed up an hour after we called our property management company. If that isn’t a miracle on New Year’s Eve, I don’t know what is.
Our friends, Josh and Amanda, were ready to spend the holiday cleaning our house—asking us the whole time about what kind of tools they would need to bring and when we would need them. In the end, we knew nothing could be done that night, so they bought us dinner and gave us somewhere warm to eat it for half an hour before we had to head back into figuring out the next steps.
I have said it one million times—food fixes things. When things are bad, eat first.
We were lucky to get a TLF (temporary lodging facility) on base. These are often difficult to procure, especially on short notice—another New Year’s Eve miracle. We got the girls settled in their pack & plays and stayed up until midnight for the sake of doing so. Before we went to bed, Will FaceTimed me to check on us, and he lead with “Sorry I didn’t have the right perspective on things earlier.”
Because he’s a miracle too.
Today, we got up, fed the girls, fed ourselves, and started planning the day. The boys will go to a sleepover tonight with some friends who have said they can stay there indefinitely if it makes things easier on us. We’ll spend the evening watching football and eating black eyed peas in the comfort of our temporary lodging. (One more miracle—they found us a pet-friendly TLF to move into today with a 30-day stay and possible extension if needed.)
We have basically five months left here in IL, and being displaced isn’t going to ruin anything for us. We may be able to get back into our house, and we may not, but for now, we’re starting the New Year knowing that this is how life works—stuff happens, and we deal. Like the great prophet, Vonnegut, said—so it goes.
2017 was the weirdest year of my life—I think it was for a lot of people. Aside from things happening on a grand scale, I have had to learn a totally new normal. Everything that has happened in our home has taught me some really important lessons—more than ever, I am saying yes to only the best things and no to a lot of things that don’t matter. I became hyper aware of my strengths and better at asking for help in areas where I need improvement.
2018 might be better. I’m too much a cynic and skeptic to say anything more than that. It might be terrible. More than likely, it’s going to be a little bit of everything. Whatever comes—I’m ready.
Happy New Year, friends!