I’m at Teachers & Twits Today!

I’ve been blogging for a while now and I’m consistently inconsistent. My plan is to start blogging more regularly; I find it helps me maintain my sanity. However, one thing I’ve been doing consistently ever since I found Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s blog Teachers & Twits is reading it. She is fantastic – makes me laugh, cry, and think. I tend to read her posts while drying my hair in the morning. And while I love Renée, she has been solely responsible for some pretty bad hair days.

So, it is with no small amounts of blogging awe (nerdy giddiness?) that I’m linking to her blog because today I’M HER GUEST BLOGGER!!! Me, she of the inconsistent posts and bad hair.

Please click on her picture below (I know, I know … she’s beautiful and smart) and comment at her place. Her place! Because that’s where I am!! (Have I mentioned that Renée has some of the best discussions in blogland in her comment section?) 

 

 

 

 

 

I Remember

On 9/11/2011, I was a 2nd Lieutenant stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base. That morning my colleagues and I stood in our Commander’s office and watched the towers fall.

Shocked. Stunned. Scared. Moments etched forever in memory.

And then the day became a blur. The base went into complete lock-down. Everyone focused with intensity on their role.
We were the secure location the President was taken to but I, personally, felt anything but secure. I felt acutely vulnerable as we braced ourselves for the further attacks we feared might be coming.

I can remember thinking that everything has changed; nothing will ever be the same.

Shortly after 9/11, I was working a deployment line filled with men and women heading to Afghanistan. It was during the first rounds of post-911 deployments. While there was a renewed sense of purpose and energy in our military community, it was also a difficult time. Families had not yet grown accustomed to war.

One moment from that deployment line will always stay with me. The large room was filled with spouses, children, and parents having final moments with loved ones in uniform. It quickly became time to end the farewells. This was my job. I walked around the room making eye contact with the airmen or tapping them on their arms. They understood that I was telling them to say their final words, give the final hug, and walk out of the room. Unfortunately, they weren’t the only ones who understood. A little girl, maybe five or six-years old, watched me tap her father. She looked at me, burst into tears, and yelled, “NO!”

One week later, I found out I was pregnant. It was one of the most joy-filled moments of my life. And then I became that little girl.

NO!

No, I do not want my child born into a world where this can happen.

No, I do not want to raise my baby in a world that no longer feels safe.

No, I do not want to have to say goodbye to this little one I haven’t even met yet.

No.

But here we are – eleven years later.

And with time comes perspective.

We all still raise our babies and live our lives in a world where terrible things happen. But it’s also a world where men and women ran towards those towers to save people. A world where passengers in Flight 93 exhibited bravery that defies explanation. A world where men and women put on uniforms every day with purposes like protect and defend.

And yet, like all of us who remember that day so vividly, my heart breaks again on 9/11 each year. Because so many will never get to write the words, “eleven years later.” So many in those towers and planes never knew that they were saying final goodbyes and giving final kisses. So many, both that day and in the years of war that have followed, never came home.

Because the world, while still so beautiful, is still so changed.

What do you remember about that day? How has your world changed?

A Joyful Noise

It’s the little things in life that seem to give me the biggest joy. The miracle found in the everyday. Tonight, it was some beauty found in bathtime.
 
My girls (8 and 4) were in the shower and, as usual, being way too loud and taking way too long for me. I went back to give them the riot act and instead was stopped in my impatient tracks by what I heard.
 
These are my babies in the shower reminding me, once again, about joy.
 

I hope your week goes smoothly and you find little, unexpected moments of joy throughout.

One Year Later in Joplin, Missouri

Almost a year ago, on May 22, 2011 a tornado hit my hometown of Joplin, Missouri.  The year since the storm was filled with joy, sorrow, tragedy, and miracle – sprinkled with refreshing moments of ordinary.  Most of you have heard the story:

On May 22 David turned nine years old.  The day started as a day of celebration. At 5:30 that evening, David, two of his friends, and I were in a movie theater watching pirates duke it out for the fountain of youth.  After the movie, we planned to meet Keith and the girls for pizza.  As we watched, I received a text from one of the boy’s mom saying “Stay put, Amy, the storm is bad and the tornado sirens are going off.”  The movie stopped in the middle of a scene, the lights turned on, and we were all instructed to go sit on the floor underneath the screen.  I called Keith to tell him to stay home with the girls and wait out the storm.  At the time, Keith and the girls were getting shoes on to head out the door and meet us for dinner.  Meanwhile, the theater crowd was laughing, talking, and in good spirits.  This is Missouri; we’re used to sirens and tornado warnings.  We were all sitting on the floor sharing any weather tidbits we could get on our phones.  Someone asked a manager why the movie was still playing in the theater next door.  The manager replied, “That’s not a movie.  That’s the storm.  Maybe a tornado …”

The mood changed.

I couldn’t reach Keith and the girls on the phone.  When the storm finally ended, people started to walk up the stairs to leave the theater as texts and calls began to come in.  It was terrifying to see people check their phones and start running, or crying, or saying “Oh my God …” The first text I received was from David’s friend’s mom.  It said, “Are you okay? Where are you? Tell M I love him.”  The next text was from Keith.  It said, “Our house was hit.” 

Across town, shortly after my initial call to Keith, he watched it turn black outside – he didn’t hear any sirens.  When his ears suddenly popped, Keith grabbed the girls and ran to the closest “safe” place – our closet.  He laid over Emily and Molly on the floor of the closet and listened as a tornado went over our house.  The tornado took our garage, trees, fence, roof, two cars, boat, and bent our walls as he and our little girls huddled together – fragile and exposed.   

That was our tragedy.

Here’s our miracle:  Keith, Emily, and Molly walked out of that closet untouched and unharmed.  In our family room, all the windows blew in, parts of our neighbor’s home came into ours, and the furniture was destroyed.  Our two dogs were kenneled in the only corner of that room without glass and debris.  They were also untouched and unharmed.  Our home, unlike the homes of most of our neighbors, stood.  It was fixable.  My parents came that night and took the kids to their home in Kansas City while Keith and I began the work of sorting through belongings trying to salvage what we could as the rain poured in.  We moved into a rental house.

And life went on.  David started the third grade, Emily the second, and Molly went back to her wonderful preschool program.  Keith continued his work at a manufacturing plant in Joplin.  I began a new job as a hospice social worker.  The kids’ usual flurry of activities continued. And, while all this beautiful ordinary went on, our home was slowly rebuilt.

Seven months after the tornado we moved back home!  Our neighborhood is still empty: the trees are gone, homes are missing, our view is a path of destruction instead of homes and trees, and many of our neighbors have moved away.  However, there is construction and progress every day.  We have new neighbors on our right and old neighbors have returned across the street.  Joplin is rebuilding and healing.  The community is a supportive place for those whose stories were more tragedy than miracle.  In fact, this city feels more like home to us now than it ever has in the five years we’ve lived here. 

Life is good and the ordinary is more beautiful than ever.

Finding Hope

A few months ago, someone planted some bulbs.  

And while the people of Joplin rebuilt homes and lives; the bulbs grew silently under the ground.

Now they’ve bloomed.  While we worked to recreate what was lost, hope grew.

What a wonderful surprise when the word HOPE bloomed through the ground.

I look back on this year of tornadoes and death and loss and I’m in awe of the journeys we all pass through in life.  And I’m filled with hope.  Not just a sentimental word but a powerful call to action:

We can be better. 

Our world can be better. 

Our actions matter. 

We matter. 

During this year, I’ve witnessed the kind of hope that carries us past our experiences and understanding and delivers us to words like faith, joy, growth, and strength. 

Our world is filled with people trapped in a suffocating darkness.  Neighbors grieve behind closed doors.  We hide behind status updates and smiley icons.  I doubt there are any of us who haven’t felt the pull of hopelessness.  It’s powerful. 

Fortunately, hope is brilliantly contagious.  I believe hope is spread through the sharing of our stories.  There is healing strength in recognizing ourselves in another person’s story. 

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.”  — Madeleine L’Engle