The call for mandatory evacuation didn’t scare us; the city of
Long Beach stretches between the Atlantic and the bay with less than a mile
across. It often cried wolf before a storm.
“Guys, don’t go crazy packing—we’ll be home in a day or two. Just
two outfits and a sweatshirt.” Andrew dropped his baseball gear on the wooden floor
next to Stephen’s new guitar amp; Elijah and Aaron left their video games on
the coffee table. Jordan threw a few Barbies back in her toybox. I finished a
load of towels and left them in a laundry basket on the floor.
Gene shook his head as he stomped downstairs. “My mom refuses to
leave, so I’m staying.”
I grumbled, but at least our dog could stay back too.
I drove our five kids to my parents’ home on Long Island’s north
shore, away from the ocean. As the wind howled, trees cowered; one snapped and
knocked down power lines. In the dark, I checked my glowing phone every two
Mom squeezed my shoulders
in a bear hug. “Don’t worry. I’m
sure they’re fine.”
“I know.” I dialed again. Why
wouldn’t he answer?
After the storm calmed down, Gene finally called. “Everything’s
“We’re fine, but the whole first floor is ruined.”
“The ocean met the bay, and water rushed in like the Titanic; it
filled the basement and rose two feet high on the first floor.”
Was it worse than I imagined?
“…Are you still there?”
“Yeah. At least everyone’s okay.”
“Hug the kids for me. I love you.”
If anyone asked, I’d smile and answer, “We’re okay.” We were a
healthy family, had food and survived Hurricane
Sandy; how could I complain?
So we endured. God provided us with strength to deal with the many
challenges and inconveniences. My mother-in-law stayed with relatives; we moved
upstairs in her two rooms while workers gutted the first floor.The kids slept on blow up mattresses or piles
of blankets for two months. Without heat and hot water, we warmed pots of water
for bathing. We cooked frozen food in a toaster oven. On Thursday nights, we
gathered ten garbage bags of laundry to wash at the Laundromat and drank
coffee. After so much was taken away, we rejoiced at every step back to
normalcy. Even clean clothes.
Government aid (FEMA) covered the initial cost of gutting our
house, but we were left with a skeleton of a house without kitchen, first floor
bathroom, or even doors. Finishing the house would cost five times what we
spent on de-molding.
Gene’s forehead creased as he spoke softly: “I know you want to keep
homeschooling Jordan, but we have to be realistic.”
My face muscles tightened.
“If you work full-time, we can pay our bills…and we have two kids
in college next year.”
His whispered words sounded painfully loud, but I nodded. I knew.
I wanted to curse the storm for changing everything, but I prayed instead.
The day after we talked about me getting a better job, I was promoted
at work; I’d work nine to five at double the pay. Thank you, Lord. Having more money helped, brought us closer to
enough, but without having flood insurance, fixing our house still seemed
impossible. Our home felt more like camping, like we’d be camping forever.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His
glory in Christ Jesus. (Philipians
Ten months later…
Pastor Pete asked us, “How are you guys?”
“Have you applied for help from Samaritan’s Purse Ministries?”
They’d set up their offices at our church since the storm hit, but
we never thought to ask.
Four weeks after applying, we began telling ourselves, “There are
so many people who need help more than us. We’ve been blessed with a healthy
family, and…” but truth is we were disappointed before we ever got an answer.
Five weeks after applying, we got a letter from Samaritan’s
Purse—a “Yes” letter. Our house would be fixed—mended by the loving hands of
Today, willing volunteers show up in orange shirts, ready to help
us rebuild and share God’s love with our community. I look back at this year and
the time wasted worrying, and He reminds me: “See how the lilies of the field
are clothed?” (Matthew 6:28-34) How
can I ever doubt how God provides
again? Even after a storm.
Me at age 12, performing a very dangerous skateboard trick.
Don't try this at home without proper training.
what you wish for…it might not fit. At age twelve, I wished I could hang-glide
and skateboard. Knowing Mom/Dad wouldn’t go for the hang-gliding, crashing-into-a-mountain
idea, a new skateboard topped my Christmas list.
portable radio was set on the twenty-four hours of uninterrupted Christmas
music channel. Jingle bells danced in my head. But it wasn’t music keeping me
awake—just the hopeful sound of wrapping paper crunching and possibly wheels
turning on a new skateboard. My dream present.
soon as the slightest sliver of orange lined the horizon, I darted to my
sister’s bedside. “Wake up, Laur! It’s Christmas!” She popped out of bed like
our old Jack in the box—fast with a bit of morning squeak to her voice.
wake ‘em! I hope I get a baton.”
scent of candy canes and steaming coffee smelled like Christmas, like I might
get that skateboard.
opened colorful sweaters, a pair of earrings, and an art kit, but no big
mom hinted, “I think you both have one more gift hidden in this room.” With our
hope rekindled, we dashed around the living room until we found our gifts.
Laurie twirled her new baton, and I skated down the hall on my new skateboard.
We declared this the best Christmas ever.
1980, skate parks weren’t everywhere; Dad found one forty-five minutes away and
signed me up for lessons. He warned me the place might be intimidating.
skatepark smelled like old tires and grilled hot dogs. I don’t know what I
expected at a skatepark—girls wearing tutus? This was a boy’s playground--boys
in band t-shirts and jeans. We were early, so I watched the kids skate up the
ramp, twist and turn, and zoom back into it. I wanted to do that. It looked
easy and scary…like the high diving board that didn’t look too high until I
stood overlooking the water and shivering in my bikini.
skate park sounded like a thunderstorm during a concert. Dad looked at me with
his mouth moving. “What?”
nodded yes, the wrong answer.
instructor, Matt, about eighteen, squeezed a tight helmet on my head. I felt
like a pre-school student on her first day. His wavy black hair skimmed his
shoulders. Dark eyes. Cute smile. And he could skate. I was sure I was ready
for the big ramp, but Matt brought me to the mini-ramp, the bunny slope of the
skate park.I stepped on my board, ready
to push up the incline…
smiled or was it a smirk? “So you’re goofy footed?”
what?” Aside from red as a radish, did I look as silly as a cartoon?
start with your right foot forward.”
yeah, I do have goofy feet.” I knew that.
laughed. I melted like a shrinky-dink.
what do you want to learn? How to drop into the half-pipe? Kick-turn or do a
stared at him. Totally blank. Do skaters speak another language? “I want to
skate on that ramp and learn how to turn.”
called the half-pipe; and you kick-turn like that guy’s doing. Watch him. Or do
a fakie, switching lead foot without a turn.”
demonstrated a kick-turn a few times and left me to practice. So I practiced
and fell, practiced and fell, practiced and fell, while Matt talked with the
only other girl there, the cute redhead selling hotdogs.
were all the beginners? Am I the only one with a sore bottom? Are they all born
with the ability to kick-turn? Where are the girls? The expression “fish out of
water” came to mind. I wanted to turn around and swim back to my little pond,
practice skating down my driveway with only my cat to watch me fall.
like to tell you I met the challenge, stuck it out, was the first girl to skate
the half-pipe; I broke my arm, but didn’t give up, so you could cheer: “Good
for her.” And cry tears of joy. But the truth is I quit, said: “No way am I
going back there. Please don’t make me.”
God I have a nice daddy who didn’t want me to break any bones; he was happy to
hammer two nails in the garage to hang my pretty skateboard right next to the
pogo-stick I got last Christmas.
for a new dream.
(written for Faithwriters.com weekly writing challenge--1st place editor's choice)
is wrong about getting up before the sun, but I do. Waking to moonlight could
explain my werewolf mood of the morning. Pure willpower and possibly too much
defaf coffee before bed force me to dash upstairs to the bathroom. I don’t want
to, but in our house of seven plus grandma, it’s the only way to have a
soul is just not ready to start the day. Or ready to start their day…
first, gentle words grace my lips, full of love for my sleeping children: “Rise
and shine, my little chickadees. Time to get up and go to high school.” Just
like Snow White singing to her bluebirds. Okay, minus the little chickadees,
and minus the rise and shine part. “Get up,” said in a reasonable decibel.
no sign of my boys anywhere but snoring under the covers in a room that smells
of rotting broccoli. I’m sure fur is growing along my spine and claws are breaking
through my paws—I mean hands. The bark builds inside me until I burst out: “Elijah!
Aaron! Get…up…NOW! You’re going to miss-the-bus…AGAIN!” When Gene and I named
our little boys, I never imagined a day I’d be screaming the Bible prophets’
names out loud for the neighbors to hear.
full moon hides behind the poplars, and the morning fog dissipates, but I still
want to howl.
the empty threats:
you miss it, you bike to school.”
taxi money today.”
dad left already, so no free ride.”
walls shake a bit. Could I cause a small earthquake with my bark?
the boys get up, but I’m not done. It’s hard to talk with fangs poking my lip.
But if I don’t announce the time every ten minutes, they’ll miss it by default,
and say they didn’t know how late it was so they stopped to tie their sneaker.
They could be a shoelace off from catching the bus. Sometimes it’s the lost
sneaker or missing backpack. Today it’s a “Can’t find my socks day.” My heart
races as if I’m trying to catch the bus.
You’ve got two minutes!”
forgot to brush my teeth.” Elijah disappears upstairs.
minute! Where are you Aaron?” He flies past me and out the door.
you too. Have a great day.” My fangs begin to recede.
sweeps by me next.
you too. Run!” But I know the time.
minutes later, he’s back. “I missed it.”
sigh; all the bark in me, expended. He smiles, knowing the werewolf is gone
like the bus. And I won’t bite. “Could I please call a taxi?”
rolling clouds do suggest rain, and I wouldn’t want him sick, biking in the
cold…so I call.
my daughter’s turn to get up, I open my Bible and read Ephesians 4:26… “In your
anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…” In
this case, the moon. As sunlight streams in through the window and warms my
face, shame fills my body. I failed again, let that werewolf out and barked
half the morning away. I close my eyes, pray, and let the warm sunshine travel
to my heart. I know I’m forgiven. Again.
I’ll do better under tomorrow’s waning gibbous moon.
is dedicated to all the werewolf mothers of teens…I can’t be the only one. There
is hope that we’ll be ourselves again. Graduation day?
I’ve always wanted to be funny…but we don’t
always get what we want. Thanksgiving, age thirteen, was the first time I realized
how humorless I was. Sitting at the kids’ table with my cousins, I listened and
laughed as each one took turns telling jokes…but I had nothing to say. I didn’t
know one joke to tell other than: “How did the chicken cross the road?” Wait, I
even got that wrong. I also lacked confidence, so was afraid to try being funny
for fear that I’d be the only one laughing like a big goober. And this is with
relatives—imagine how quiet I was in school!
I made up for my serious and sensitive soul by
having funny friends and marrying a funny guy—hoping it would rub off or just
opposites attract? Gene and I produced five funny kids. I’m sure funny is a
dominant “gene.” Ha ha, get it? Or do I have to point out the pun? And I love
writing—can edit forever until I almost sound funny or at least make myself
laugh. And it’s okay. This is me, the me God made. He knows what He’s doing and
can use me the way I am. Funny or not. So for anyone else who ever wished they
were funnier, prettier, smarter, thinner, or more normal, accept who you are
and you’ll find contentment.
“But God chose the foolish things of the world
to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
1 Corinthians 1:27 Not that I want to lump myself into the foolish category,
but the point is that God can use the imperfect to do His work and love people.
What could be better?
rather a room dripping with paint like a Jackson Pollock. This classroom felt
sterile and prisonlike. The walls were bare, void of anything inspiring. The lingering
smell of newly painted walls mingled with burnt steak from a restaurant nearby
and fogged my head. Maybe I was in the wrong room. This had to be where
juvenile delinquents earned a diploma, not where art was taught.
woman glided in draped in what looked like large scarves for a skirt. A twisted
one in a different paisley pattern wrapped around her head, securing her
dreadlocks in place. Tassels swung as she moved, and her cheeks caved into two
dimples when she smiled.
passed out packets of four papers: the first one had the directions; the next
three were blank.
woman swooshed to the front of the room.
will have two hours to finish three drawings. Be creative and demonstrate your
drawing skill as well. There’s a lot of competition this year, but you’ve made
it this far. The judges from our faculty will choose the top three artists to
receive a full scholarship here at the School of Visual Arts. Please title your
work. Okay, you may begin.”
hours seemed more than enough time, but my heart pounded as I read the
directions: Draw a scene on each page, from the past, present, and future. Each
scene must repeat an element or object in a different way. I glanced at the
clock. Ten minutes had passed already? Think, think. I waited for an idea to
burst into my brain, something so unique and creative the judges would
instantly pick me as the winner.
more minutes passed, so I informed my brain that this wasn’t funny; I needed
enough time to draw. Was the paper growing? The white empty space expanding?
I’d swear it was. And the clock hands moved faster than normal…thirty-five
minutes had passed. The only pencil mark on my paper was my name. The boy next
to me scribbled away like his pencil was on fire. He wasn’t the only one; to my
right, to my left, in front, and behind, pencils wiggled at every desk. I was
alone in my blankness.So I danced my
pencil around as if it were drawing. Tick, tick, tick…how does anyone think or
draw under this pressure? I prayed silently: “Okay, Lord, do you want me to be
a math teacher? I’m about as creative as a worm right now.”
what the guy in the blue Mohawk and cheek piercings was drawing, I stretched my
neck and leaned just a bit in his direction. In my pink plaid shirt, next to
his black ripped jeans and chains, I felt too, too pink, as if I wore pigtails
and bows. He turned his shoulder to cover his paper. “Relax, buddy, you can’t
cheat on an art test. I’m not about to copy your skulls, even if they are
amazing with the rose vine weaving through the eye sockets.”
as I stared at my white cloud of paper, I had an idea that didn’t completely
stink. A test. I’d draw a boy taking a test today, in the 1800’s, and at the
end of life.
present was easy; I drew Mohawk boy taking a test from an odd angle of an empty
room. For the past, I drew a one-room schoolhouse; in a close up view, through
the window, a boy—without a Mohawk—was hunched over, taking a spelling test. I
didn’t have much time to get into detail so the drawings were mostly contour
with a hint of shading. I had ten minutes to finish the futuristic scene. Angels
surrounded a boy who leaned over a cross and held a paper with one question
etched on it: “Do you believe?” His pencil hovered over the yes and no box.
I sketched the final scene, my heart rate slowed down and peace replaced the
pressure I felt to win. My bold question wouldn’t score many points in an art
school, but maybe one for heaven.
few kids finished early and left after the first hour. No doubt, they turned in
masterpieces of creativity. I stayed until the woman of many scarves announced:
“Time’s up. Please bring your packets to the front.”
knew it wasn’t my best artwork, and was a bit corny, but at least it wasn’t
Long Beach Boardwalk destroyed in Hurricane
like Long Beach, and I’m thankful it’s home. Last summer, as I rode my bike
along the red path overlooking the bay, I thought the same thing. Living in
between the Atlantic Ocean and the bay is like living at a vacation spot. The
beach is beautiful with soft sand and rushing waves. The boardwalk is great for
running, biking, or walking with a picturesque view. I can bike anywhere and
don’t need to depend on a car; everything seemed perfect in Long Beach. Then
Hurricane Sandy flooded our town. The ocean met the bay and filled our homes.
Water filled our basement and continued to rise two more feet on the first
floor. Those who stayed, like my husband, lived through a scene from Titanic. Well, almost.
many Long Beach residents who evacuated, we returned to a ruined home.
Everything wet had to be tossed out to prevent fast growing mold; the streets
became lined with ten-foot mountains of garbage. Brand new washers, dryers,
ovens, and mattresses waited their turn for the crane monsters to lift them
away. The surging water had smashed the boardwalk and carried sections of it blocks
away as if a bomb had exploded.
National Guard drove army trucks filled with emergency supplies to central
areas.The Recreation Center became a
storage place for donations. We filled yard bags with needed supplies, towels
and warm clothes for all of us. We wore our donated FEMA clothes, happy to have
more layers as the temperature dropped in our drafty house. Nothing was the
same. Even the evergreen trees turned burnt orange from salt water. It didn’t
feel like home for more than half a year.
I have to thank God for blessings today. Samaritan’s Purse Ministries is going
to fix our home sometime around mid-October. Shortly after Hurricane Sandy hit
Long Beach, Samaritan’s Purse volunteers came to help our town and set up their
offices at our church. I’ve heard of their ministry through church and knew
they travel all over the world to help where natural disasters occur and help
the poor, but never thought we’d experience their help personally.
special aspect of how this ministry works is that they depend on volunteers and
even our family will be required to volunteer and help with another family’s
home. It will feel good to encourage someone else going through a similar
experience. Hopefully this will be something we can continue even when our home
is so faithful. Even though our hope and faith sometimes wavered, He had a
plan. Going through hard times does bring blessings we could never experience
otherwise. It opened our eyes to have compassion for others who experience a
similar loss and to appreciate the wonderful people who care and go above and
beyond in helping and providing for the needs of others. Every act of kindness
during that difficult time brought tears to my eyes and prayers of blessings
for them in return.
intend to update posts of the progress in our home. Can’t wait!
of “Clair de Lune” mingle with the steam of boiling noodles. My quiet kitchen
is transformed into a music classroom as Stephen, my oldest son, practices his
keyboard and classical guitar in his favorite room of the house. The gentle
notes transport me to the scene of a foreign movie. I sit on a wooden stool in
a stone cottage and shell beans. Sunlight streams through the open window until
a beep pierces the air . . . the fire alarm jolts me back to reality and I bang
it off with a broom. His steak is done.
reality is that this is not my kitchen anymore.
used to like eggs. Ever since my nineteen year old aimed to look like Arnold
Schwarzenegger I’ve had to endure the smell of eight eggs boiling every morning.
Sulfur gases spiral through my nostrils as he peels the shells, leaves six
yolks to roll around the plate and pops two in his mouth. Stephen devours eight
egg whites, a bowl of oatmeal, and a bowl of bran flakes, and I wonder if he is
really my son.
used to like being in the kitchen.
heavenly scent of a cake rising, the comfort of sprinkling cinnamon on toast,
the sizzling sound of chicken cutlets frying. My favorite scents have been
replaced by the smoke from burning steak. Stephen doesn’t seem to mind that
it’s ninety-three degrees outside and even hotter in the kitchen. He needs to
eat and eat and eat.
can’t help but ask him, “Why don’t you cut back to six eggs so a carton will
last two days?”
looks at me like I’ve asked him what two plus two equals. “That’s not enough,”
he answers while mixing his protein shake.
I was his age, I was obsessive in the opposite way of counting calories and
eating only enough to keep from passing out. I can’t relate to the concept of
wanting to gain weight.
is how it works,” he explains, “I need to eat a protein food every three hours
and after working out to gain the most muscle mass.”
hours after his power breakfast for champions, he’s in the kitchen. Again.
Stephen bakes plain chicken and boils brown rice, overcooked rice that smells
like popcorn. He consumes a portion that could feed a poor family of eight. I
want to tell him. Sometimes I do. He just shakes his head and says, “You don’t
understand the science of body building.” And why should I?
wonder if he’ll ever leave the kitchen.
must be wrong; I hide boxes of bran flakes. Stephen has his own box that he’ll gobble
through in two days; mine will last two weeks if he doesn’t find it. I get mad
when he steals my flakes. Backpedal one hundred or even fifty years: Moms wore
aprons and served their sons hearty meals to grow strong. They didn’t say,
“This is your grain, so stay away from mine.” Yes, something is wrong with our
kitchen. (It’s supposed to be mine not a six foot tall non-stop eating
kitchen does not look like my kitchen.
dishes and clutter spread throughout the kitchen like gangrene. The shiny
counters of the previous night are decorated with used spoons, empty boxes,
bowls of cemented oatmeal, crumpled paper towel balls, protein powder dust, egg
shells, and even the skull of a pepper. Every cabinet stretches wide open to
catch a breeze. The floor catches whatever rolled off the edge of the counter.
was an empty kitchen a better kitchen?
I’m not complaining about the lack of counter space for two cooks, we talk,
share our creative interests, our hopes and dreams, and share our beliefs and
faith. I need to close my eyes, enjoy the chords of melody, and drift back to
the days he cooed as I fed him oatmeal (that didn’t turn to cement.) When I
open my eyes the anxiety of the kitchen chaos returns. I want my kitchen back.
I try to remember priorities; the Mary and Martha lesson with a twist.
a healthy muscle-bound lad who cooks, fills our home with music and loves God—more
important than the trail left behind.
kitchen has become a good place to pray and learn…a little about myself, a
little about my son, and a whole lot about patience, pride and protein.