Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Save it for a rainy day: How #Groupon is helping us in the #laflood

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are mine.

While you can't save and hold value of a coupon (or Groupon) forever, you can certainly purchase and redeem a Groupon in times of need, which help with the financial burden and peace of mind for both you and your house.

Currently, I'm sitting in Not My Own House, at Not My Own Address, and am at heightened awareness about any money I spend (thanks, #laflood!). And because of how the unprecedented weather and subsequent effects in Baton Rouge in the past few weeks have impacted my family, I find myself trying to save pennies and nickels and dollars now more than ever.

But thanks to Groupon, even though our house flooded recently, we have been able to indulge in some creature comforts and replacements such as these Groupon Goods without needing to spend additional money, which is a tremendously huge relief.

And, also thanks to Groupon, we can treat ourselves to eating out occasionally by having an indulgence and feeling normal while not being so limited as we were before all this.

It's been a nice reprieve to the shock.

I've been Grouponing for years. The Louisiana flood may be a rare occurrence, but saving money is vital and necessary in real life, especially in times of crisis.

Monday, August 29, 2016

#Katrina11 + #laflood = brand new perspective

Biloxi, before and after 

Hurricane Katrina.
Eleven years ago today, Hurricane Katrina changed the landscape of the Mississippi Gulf Coast where I grew up.

As tragic as that day, the months and years to follow have been, I didn't think I could feel any more strongly about personal belongings being destroyed than I did in 2005.

I thought, "You know, I'm FROM the coast. I get the sense of loss. I'm as close as you can come to being the one who actually lost everything."

And maybe I was. Maybe. 

Or maybe I didn't realize that while being away and not being able to help in the ways I wanted pained me, just as a picture of a destroyed landscape doesn't show a 360 degree view, nor does not living in it.

Panoramic view from our driveway in Baton Rouge, 

taken this evening.

Maybe I kind of missed out on the fact that driving past debris piles daily wears on you. Seeing others' belongings sitting on their street is saddening in ways you can't describe. And hearing about diggers climbing on debris mounds is both infuriating and heartbreaking at the same time.

And there's no maybe about this one -- I certainly didn't think about the toll a mass displacement takes on hosts and hostesses during this type of crisis. "Yes, please come into my home. I want to make you feel welcome. What can I do to help you?" And then silently, surely, "How long will this last again? They're nice, but...my family needs some normalcy, man." 

Then the guilt. Everyone involved feels the guilt.

Those of us who went through it wonder what we could've done better, how we could've been proactive.

Those of us not present to help want to be there to help, even when there's nothing tangible to do, and maybe even nowhere to stay while we do the nothing that's so important for us to feel like we're doing. (This was 100% me in Katrina while I was three hours' north of my family, by the way.)

Those of us present bend over backwards to help however we can. Laundry? Dishes? A place to hang out? A meal? My home? A ride to work?

It's all over the top, and we are over the top, and our emotional barometers are full before we can ever brush our teeth in the mornings.

Each anniversary of Katrina, I reminisce on my beautiful upbringing and all the places and faces I call "home."

This year is different.

This year I'm empathizing with Nan, and all the times I offered to give her something -- you know, a basic, like a nail file, and she replied with, "Well honey, I used t'have SEVEN of 'em, but now I guess they're FLOATIN' in th' GULF a' MEXICO."

This year I'm thinking about my Mother, and her multiple washings of Nan's and others' clothes to make sure they got that "Katrina smell" out and saved the saveable clothes from ruining. (God BLESS laundry and dish washing angels!)

This year I'm thinking about Pop Ball, who diligently worked at contacting FEMA and filing insurance claims and making repairs like it was his job, and I'm thankful for a husband that is doing the same, on top of his own full-time job, plus spraying the house nightly for mold and sorting through clothes as we organize ourselves in another new place.

This year I'm thinking about the many who hosted families like my own little Maricelli bunch of Baton Rouge in their homes when they were displaced by that storm.

This year I'm thinking of all the power outages, which I am thankful we are not dealing with, and all the nasty heat on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in August '05 and in Baton Rouge in August '16, and how we are all getting so much sun, but not in an ideal way.

This year, on the anniversary of the storm that changed the landscape of my upbringing, I'm thinking about the first 18-wheelers I saw coming into Baton Rouge post-flood, and how they were all from my Mississippi Gulf Coast. And the first of still ongoing Red Cross trucks that delivered meals to my neighborhood, and how they were from my Mississippi Gulf Coast, too.

No, this memory and day aren't all about what we went through in Baton Rouge, but I'm experiencing a different sort of commemoration of Hurricane Katrina, and it's all because of the flood we just experienced and, though we [read: me] are terrified, we have been shown enormous kindnesses.

Mainly, I'm keenly aware that while eleven years ago today Hurricane Katrina changed the landscape of where I grew up, and that while two weeks ago a flood changed the landscape of my present life, I am from a resilient people, and a pattern has been set to overcome tragedy. Michael and I will not just survive; we will thrive.

Our perspective may have changed, but our resolve has only strengthened.

Of all the beliefs that remain unchanged, though, there's this: good riddance, Katrina.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Unprecedented: How the Louisiana Flood Seeped Into Our City, Home and Hearts


That's the word I kept seeing to describe the flood waters and the back flow that crept into Baton Rouge last weekend, turning my sweet, fun-loving city into a crest of the unknown, and then into a smelly row of debris piles.

Once meteorologists and city officials led us with the term, it became a key word around here:

We've had an unprecedented amount of rainfall...

The parish and surrounding areas are seeing an unprecedented amount of flooding...

This crisis is, aside from hurricanes, completely unprecedented for the state of Louisiana...

Our neighborhood, when we came home
Sunday after evacuating Saturday night.
I took this picture and am standing at the
street corner, about 8 houses from ours.
The guys you see are our friend Scott and
Michael, waist-deep in water. They have
just been to our house for the first time.
When my husband and I got back to our home of one year and one week the day after we evacuated, we saw that the meteorologists and city officials were right: this flooding and back flow were, indeed, unprecedented.

Parking at least a mile away, we passed tired, tearstained, sunburned faces pushing children in Target shopping carts and knew we had made the right decision to leave the night before. What we couldn't have imagined was that our home, some forty feet above sea level, could have taken water. After passing boats still rescuing our neighbors and wading through knee- and hip-deep water into our subdivision, we learned that not only was water in our house, it was in it nearly two feet high.

Thankful for the gracious friends who had insisted we come to their house but still fearful of the unknown, we waited two days for the water to recede. Once it did, we faced the devastating truth that our area, once laughed at for no flood insurance due to its high elevation, was now sitting in two to four feet of water.

Unprecedented, indeed.

Half of our neighborhood looked like our house. Much of Baton Rouge is the same. The stench, we fear, will never leave our noses.

The two quiet towns east of us, Denham Springs and Walker, and a lovely town northwest of us, Zachary, are badly damaged. No one we know doesn't have some kind of story about someone losing everything.

For Baton Rouge, that is unprecedented.

But also unprecedented, we noticed immediately, were the calls, texts, Facebook messages, and outreaches to us and our families on our behalf checking on us. People drove by our house, trying to see if we were all right and offering assistance. One of our best friends came right away, and seeing our shell shocked faces, whipped up a team from our church to help clean up the debris the next day. She also insisted on setting up a Go Fund Me account for us, and secured our storage unit.

The same friends who are housing us didn't ask, but prepared meals for us every day and night, and could not if they tried ever make us feel more at home. Their son, our ring bearer just a year and a week before, greets us every time we walk in with an enthusiastic, "Hey Michael! Hey Rebekah! Hey Ringo!"

Probably most unprecedented for me is the way I see our neighborhood coming together. The night before the flooding, when Michael was checking the drainage ditch every 30 minutes, he would mention, "Rick said so-and-so" or "Robbie mentioned this," and I was all, "Um, is that the neighbor?" Today, to quote Nan, I would know our whole street if I saw 'em on th' big road, hon-ey. I think that's how it's supposed to be. But still, it's unprecedented.

The majority of our things are in a pile on our street. I know that's not the most important thing in life; the most important thing is that we are safe and healthy and together. But the furniture that Michael's granddad made and the things Nan gave me can never be replaced, and so we grieve because while those things are just things, they are our things that are precious to us.

We have just been married a year, so many of our registry items were nearly brand new. Those were just things, but we picked them out together to start our life together, and they are ruined, and it was kind of sad to throw them on the heaping pile of soggy trash in front of our once nice and neat neighborhood.

All of this, for us, is certainly unprecedented.

But also unprecedented is the overwhelming compassion we feel for one another. I am more protective of this man I married than I ever dreamed possible. I have butterflies like I did when we said "I love you" and got engaged and got married, only they've grown. Maybe they're more advanced butterflies now? I'm not sure. Unprecedented, certainly.

We are absolutely blown away by our church, and The Church. The sheer love we have seen from our friends, family, church family and people who don't even know us is just, well, overwhelming. As Michael said to me on like Day 2, "You know these people love Jesus, but when you see them doing for you what He would do for you, it's just a completely different chapter of the story."

And he's right. It is. It is an unprecedented love we've been shown.

It has only been eight days since the Louisiana flood seeped into our city, and our home, and our hearts. And while it's going to be quite a journey without flood insurance, we are forever grateful for this unprecedented love we are encountering.

One thing is for sure: the circle will certainly not be broken. We will pay this unprecedented kindness forward.