Monday, August 31, 2015

TEN YEARS

Ten years ago today, we watched & heard about the destruction of some big hurricane that made landfall on the East Coast. To most mid-westerners, a hurricane is a foreign thought, much like ice storms in Atlanta, so I hope to share the event from a perspective of someone who witnessed Katrina aftermath first hand. 

To give some history, Katrina began over the Caribbean, worked it's way up Florida, over to the Gulf of Mexico, and up to Louisiana before dissipating further up the rest of the East Coast. It reached category 5 somewhere near Florida and by the time it hit New Orleans, was a category 3. As it stands today, Hurricane Katrina was the most costly hurricane to ever hit the U.S., coming in around $108 BILLION in property damage, according to the National Hurricane Center. 

It is easier to understand Katrina and its eradication by understanding the composition of New Orleans. Imagine the city as a bowl floating in a bathtub. At the top of the bowl; on one side is Lake Pontchartrain and on the other is the Mississippi River outlining the rim. To help keep the bowl from drowning, levees add additional height to the sides. Unfortunately, the wrath of Katrina was able to breach many of the levees and either flooded over them or broke them by force, essentially "flooding" the bowl.


Approximately 3 weeks after my 15th birthday, the nightly news my family watched devoutly at 5:30pm CST began to flood with Hurricane Katrina reports. The phrase swept the media as we sat in the Midwest, waving summer goodbye. Growing up, I have learned most people do not get the feelings I do, however watching the news day after day and hearing "Katrina this, Katrina that, Katrina, Katrina, Katrina..." made my ears bleed, figuratively speaking. Afters days, weeks, months of hearing and seeing the progression of Hurricane Katrina, I started to beg my parents to go help New Orleans. Don't ask me the miracles God worked, but somehow before I knew it, my family and I along with about 40 other Mid-westerners were on a coach bus headed to New Orleans to help with the reconstruction. 

December of 2005, 4 months after Katrina hit was when we went to help. The shock we had upon arriving in New Orleans was unimaginable. Initially, just seeing piles of abandon cars under the freeways, convenient stores that looked like they had been closed for years, and the Super Dome gated and shutdown was enough of a shock. We stayed at a church (don't ask me where) that had cots setup for us. The next day when we woke up, we split into teams based on expertise and were given our assignments. We hopped on the bus and headed to the first home we were going to "gut". Before arriving, we were driven around as a local from the church briefed us on what we were about to experience. 

Slowly, we started seeing houses with water lines easily depicting where the water stood after the storm. They began about knee height and before you knew it, the water marks were almost to the second floor. I vaguely remember hearing our leader mumble "respect the owners, this is their life..." as I fixed my eyes on buildings with large spray painted "x-codes/Katrina crosses/search codes". It was horrifying driving through neighborhoods, I will leave it at that. The areas we went into were still completely uninhabited and even blocked from entry apart from relief teams. 

I don't remember how many houses I helped gut, but I will guess ~4-5. Some, the owners were there, some they weren't. It was extremely somber. When we arrived, someone in our group would survey as much of the house as possible, since there were kids in our group, there might be things we just shouldn't find. Most often, the house was so destroyed, you couldn't even get inside without starting to clean. We wore white hazmat suits and surgical masks because mold had infested everything. The 2 most memorable parts of the experience to me were; the refrigerators and swinging a sledgehammer. The refrigerators were bio-hazard and had to be treated as such. They nearly all still had water in from the storm, believe it or not. The strong men would carry them out to the curb where we had begun a "garbage pile". After having one explode open and be the worst smell I have ever experienced, they started putting straps around the doors to prevent that. Secondly, sledgehammers. So, these houses were ruined from sitting in water for weeks that we had to empty everything in the house down to the bare bones structure. Ask my parents about watching me, as a 15 year old, swinging a sledgehammer 1/5 my weight at kitchen cabinets. Needless to say, my feet may have left the ground a time or two. 

It was heart-breaking to be around the homeowners. I could see myself in their shoes just knowing natural disasters can happen anywhere to anyone. You didn't want to disrespect their things, yet even their most personal belongings were not safe to keep, including picture albums or family heirlooms. They cried, and all you could do was say we were there to help them worry about one less thing. They thanked us profusely and explained they had signed up with 10+ organizations to help clean their house. The church we worked for was telling us about the HUNDREDS of people who had signed up for help.

While there, we saw a lot of the city. We stopped on Canal Street, because it was one of the few places with any people. It was touching that as we walked down the street in our matching "Volunteer Relief" shirts, the number of locals that thanked us. 
I think we found an open restaurant, Craw Daddy's maybe, and ate outside because the 60 degree weather in December was somewhat amazing to us Wisconsinites. It was the only semi-normal experience we had on our trip.

I visited New Orleans last year, in February 2014, for a work event of my boyfriends', which was my first time being back since 2005. I definitely had goosebumps most of the trip and many flashbacks about my first visit. It was astonishing how life has moved on since then, which is awesome. From what I heard, there is still evidence of the storm, but I'm sure they try to hide it and forget about it. Among us visitors, it came up a couple times in conversation about Katrina, but mostly shrugged off since life has seemingly moved on.

I certainly won't forget the lives I touched and that equally touched me along with the experience I had. =)

References:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Inside Out

The recent movie, Inside Out, explained emotions very well, in my opinion. I think I need to watch it 2 or 3 more times to catch everything. It is so far beyond my understanding of how emotions work, how they differ between people, how to control them, and how to properly convey them as to be unbelievable. Regardless, I recommend you watch the movie unless you are a stoic person with zero emotions.

Drastically switching topics, I want to post my yearly rant on different political hot topics, namely; nationwide gay marriage passage, confederate flags, and education. I say "yearly rant" because I usually hate getting involved with politics because I am not entirely educated on these subjects and can only provide my little slice of the pie. Besides; I am terrified of getting slammed by people that have opposite opinions as me when I really only mean to convey how I feel and am not trying to change the world into having the same opinions. Just to re-iterate, this is my blog, that I share with the world, to hear my opinions and discussions about the thoughts in my head and to give you a better glance at who I am. I encourage you to have your own opinions, but please be courteous of mine as well. Let's get to it...

1- Gay marriage. To keep this short I will only say a few things. First, I don't judge anyone on their life choices. The sins I have committed (and continue to commit) are equivalent to everyone else on this planet and as a Christian, I know I am no "better" than anyone else and choose to repent those sins because of reasons too detailed to discuss here and now. That being said, I am Christian and thus my beliefs do not promote the unity of same sex individuals. My life choice is believing in the bible and God's Word and keeping his teachings as my core morals. I could write a lot more, but I recently read an article that captures the essence of my beliefs on gay marriage and aligns close enough to share with you. To read in full, click here.

2- Confederate flags. In case I or anyone else looks back on this post, there was a recent shooting in South Carolina by a 21 year old (accused white supremacy advocate) at a predominately African American church. (Google: Charleston Church Shooting). Anyways, as a spin-off, since the 21yr old had a lot of confederate memorabilia, it has become a nationwide issue of banning confederate flags from nearly every aspect of society. Most stores have stopped selling them including Amazon who took down all of their confederate items. Enough back story...I can't say whether I agree with all of the societal repercussions happening because of this incident, but I can certainly attest to the southern cultural norm of confederacy pride, for lack of better words. I can't count the number of times I was called a "Yankee" while spending time in Memphis, TN last year. I found it extremely offensive considering half of my family did not arrive in America until AFTER the civil war and even though the "Yankees" won the war, I certainly DO NOT/HAVE NOT ever flaunted it. Since the war was 150 years ago, I really question why people want to represent a time period our nation has fought so hard to change and give us ALL the freedom we have today. The confederacy lost, and for good reasons we can all be proud of. If anything, those flags should be a reminder of what we already fought and conquered. I understand and can appreciate family history if your roots are from the South, but you also need to support the greater good of the future and decide what you want to represent for your children/grandchildren.

3- Education. I think I'll save this for my next post. Those two sections took the steam out of me...


Monday, June 8, 2015

Confessions

In the past week, I've been asked 4 times (that I can specifically count) if I have lost weight. There is no easy way to talk about this and quite frankly, it is an awkward conversion to have with anyone in person, but that is why I blog. The easy answer is yes, but I have more to explain and talk about than a simple "yes".

I grew up wondering what my body genetics would turn out to be considering my mom has always been able to eat anything she wants and not gain weight and my dad could look at food and gain weight. By the end of high school, it seemed like I was taking my moms metabolism weighing less than 115lbs and standing maybe 5'4" tall.

I went to college and somewhere mid-way through, I remember stepping on the scale and seeing 148 pounds. Needless to say, I freaked out. Nine months later, I saw my brother cry for the first time when he caught me in the midst of my coping mechanism, what I can now admit was an [un-diagnosed] eating disorder. Seeing my brother have that reaction to something I was doing was enough to find a means to an end. Apart from my family, I have really only talked to 3 close friends about that period and maybe some day I will elaborate, but eating disorders are never really cured, so it is still a healing process. All I know is that I was not comfortable with my weight, wanted to eat anything and not gain weight, but decided there had to be a healthier way.

I slowly changed my eating habits and carved out the most unhealthy habits I had like; eating fast food daily, drinking soda, snacking before bed, and binging on sweets. Five years later and 28 pounds lighter, I feel like I am finally at a good place physically. So, yes, I have lost weight and I hope that losing 6 pounds a year is healthily acceptable. The image I see in the mirror may always be distorted, but the scale doesn't lie. I have spent countless hours thinking about food and weight, like most women, and don't want to fall into the trap of "freaking out" again.

Honestly, I'm not sure what a healthy weight means for a 5'5" tall woman, but to me, it means comfort-ability. Until recently, I was not happy or comfortable, so that is my answer.

I have mixed feelings when I am asked if I have lost weight. Part of me is ecstatic that it is noticeable and part of me wants to cry when I am reminded every time what I have gone through to make it here. Magazines make me seem fat yet getting the comment " you're skin and bones!" makes me feel unhealthily skinny. I get that everyone's perception is different and mine is likely also skewed, but again, I am finally comfortable and got here in a healthy way.

Thanks for your support and listening.

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

10 YEARS in Wisconsin!

Hello internet!

It has come to my attention that I have not blogged about a very important event in my life. I have lived in Wisconsin for 10 years!!! If I am still here when I am 28 in January of 2019, I will have lived here half of my life, which I do not think I have ever been able to say before. However, that is 4 years away and I hope I live in a warmer climate by then, but I never would have thought I would have been here this long already.

The grass is always greener on the other side, so it will be very interesting to see my life in 10 more years!

That was my moment of "celebrating", now life goes on..