Sunday, May 9, 2010

Water, water, everywhere and all the spores did stink...

... Water, water everywhere nor any for my sink.

Okay, so that's not exactly how Coleridge put it, but that's pretty much the reality around here. I live just south of Nashville, so to say things have been a little crazy around here this week would be the understatement of the century, or five centuries, as it were. For those of you who don't know -- because there've been a few other things going on in the news like an oil spill and an attempted terrorist attack -- we had a 500-year flood here, or possibly even a thousand year flood. Who even knew those existed?

Although my family was not personally flooded, the entire Middle Tennessee Region has been affected. The roads near my home were very scary for awhile, both front entrances to my subdivision were impassable, and you couldn't get north to Nashville or to the west, either. But that was small potatoes compared to other areas of town.

Almost every Nashvillian I know (and yes, those of us in the 'burbs still consider ourselves Nashvillians) watched the news last weekend, first with slight amusement or irritation, then with curiosity, then with dread, and finally fear as the rain continued to pour.

We watched a portable building from a Christian school float down the interstate, break apart, and go under a bridge. That happened about 7 miles from my house.

We saw our beloved Opryland Hotel fill up with 6 feet of water, ruining the beautiful gardens where we take our children to have their Christmas pictures made. We saw our new symphony hall fill with water and lose its custom-made pipe organ and two concert pianos. Yes, there is more than just country music around here.

But we also saw the Grand Old Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame fall victim to the same flood. Thankfully, the Hall of Fame sustained damage only in the basement and re-opened mid-week. The Grand Old Opry's building was devastated, but it has returned to its roots and is playing once again at the Ryman.

Our Titan's stadium and our Predator's arena were both full of water as well. Even our beloved Vanderbilt Children's Hospital flooded and those poor, sick children were moved to higher floors as a precaution, but no child was injured. Praise God.

This storm did not care about race or creed, rich or poor, famous or folk, it hit us all. Country stars lost their road equipment, and regular Joe's lost their homes.

It's been hard to take a deep breath around here this week. Everything about this week has had me out of my comfort zone. And coincidentally, I've been thinking about my "comfort zone" a lot these last few weeks. The lovely, talented, did I mention beautiful?, ladies over at Five Full Plates have been challenging everyone to get out of their comfort zones, but I'm pretty sure this is not what they had in mind.

Be that as it may, I'm out. I've been out since Saturday afternoon around the time my husband dropped off our 3-year-old at a birthday party, and then spent 30 minutes trying to get himself and our other two children home through a flash flood that we didn't realize was happening, and then had to wonder for two hours if we'd be able to pick her up, or if she'd have to stay the night with her friend. Praise God there was a break in the rain and the waters receded enough for him to go get her and bring her home.

But what about consciously getting myself out of my comfort zone? Well, I did that too. I lived up to my state and Alma Mater's moniker, and I Volunteered. I've never volunteered during a crisis, and I'll admit it's a little intimidating. I've always wanted to help during things like a tornado clean up, but you always here warnings to stay away. I'd never bothered before to figure out how to become all official-like and get on the scene. But just a day after the flood, my pastor sent an e-mail saying that one of our sister churches that's in one of the hardest hit areas of town was asking for volunteers. It also happens to be the church my husband grew up in, and that's when I knew what I had to do.

So, I posted on Facebook that I was going, and I asked for someone to take my 3-year-old for the day. I know, how tacky is that!?! But I didn't think I could help with her along, and I really wanted to help. I also really wanted someone to go with me. Right away my friend said she'd take my daughter, but no one offered to go with me. Fear, trepidation, discomfort, they all set in. Was I really going off to this church, where I knew exactly two people, to help all by myself? Uh, yes.

When I got there I took a deep breath, got out of my minivan and started unpacking stacks of unused boxes my husband had given to me. A couple of people came over immediately to help, and then I walked in the door, dropped off my stack of boxes, walked up to the one person in the room I knew who also happened to be in charge, and said, "Hi. Remember me? I'm Jeff's wife. How can I help?" And just as easy as that, she put me to work.

So what did I do? I delivered meals to the volunteers who were helping people in an area of town that looks like something from a Hollywood disaster movie.

I went to the Community Center to gather information for the victims about FEMA and the Humane Society and where to get rides for the elderly and how to get help if you lost your medication.

And I bought more supplies and delivered boxes, and I even got a FREAKIN' TETANUS shot while I was at the Community Center before I realized I'd only be delivering lunches and supplies and not actually working amongst the tetanus germs. And for that poor decision I spent a couple of afternoons this week in bed with a fever and chills from a reaction to the shot, which meant I also couldn't give blood, which was the one out-of-my-comfort-zone challenges I had promised to do. Fail this time, but not off the hook for next time.

So what did I learn from being out of my comfort zone? A few things. It doesn't matter if you're the volunteer ripping out drywall, the one delivering lunches to the ones ripping it out, or the one taking care of small children so others can go rip stuff out, you are needed and you are appreciated and you are part of the overall Relief Effort, and God bless you for doing it.

I also learned that as long as you are volunteering with a trusted organization such as the Red Cross, a church, civic group or company that is volunteering, you can get on site without being hassled. The police are only worried about keeping criminals and Looky-Lou's out, they are not trying to keep out people who actually want to help.

Another valuable thing I've learned from the flood? We waste a ton of water in our daily lives. We're voluntarily rationing our water right now, and you can get by with so much less than you think you need. Did you know that you don't actually have to flush the toilet every single time you use it? You can actually wait and flush every third time you use it. Also, you don't need to take 15 minute showers every day (but HAVE MERCY you will miss them!) In fact, you don't even need to shower every day or shave your legs for that matter. You can even go a week without submerging your children in water and just washing them off with a wet wash cloth. Did you know this? I certainly didn't (except for the part about the kids). Heaven help me, I'm not even in the same sniffing distance of my comfort zone at this point!

Another challenge I had planned to do before the Great Flood of 2010 was to help raise money for a water well in Africa. Due to the circumstances here right now, I'm going to put that challenge on the back burner. But I know that I will never again take for granted the pure, clean water that runs out of my tap any time I turn it on. I knew that millions around the world live without access to safe drinking water, but I've never known the fear of that until now. Although we still have safe water right now, the danger is that if we don't conserve we could run out.

I also learned that floods stink, literally and figuratively. Everything that the water touches has to be ripped out, ripped up and thrown away. All drywall, carpet, insulation, hardwood, everything but the studs. If not, it will mold and mildew and stink so bad and be full of so much bacteria, you couldn't possibly ever live there again.

And insurance companies don't pay for any of it, unless you have flood insurance, which hardly anybody does. So that means I also learned that the good people of Middle Tennessee are going to need outside help whether we like it or not. And we're just not used to that.

Because what I didn't learn was that good ol' boys will navigate dangerous flood waters in aluminum boats during raging thunderstorms to pull strangers out of their homes before the "rescuers" even show up on the scene. And that good Samaritans will pull into a stranger's driveway to see what they need and then go to the store and get it. And that Stars will come out shining to raise millions of dollars for Average Joe's that live in their community. And that not every area of the country will loot and take advantage of one another when the going gets tough.

I didn't learn all those things, because I already knew all those things...I've lived here for 14 years. Another thing I already knew? I live in the greatest town in the greatest country on earth, and I want to live here until I'm old and gray and I want to see my children's children raise their children here, and when I die, I want to be buried about a mile down the road. Yep, that's something I already knew.

And in case you are wondering, I've been thinking about the name of my blog this week, too. Seems a little apropos, doesn't it? The creek really did rise this week, but the Good Lord was willin' to keep me here writing. And I will be here writing, albeit sporadically, until He isn't -- willing that is. Please say a prayer for Nashville tonight. We could use it.