The Things We Don’t Say

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My husband took this picture of my daughter looking back at him from my car rear view mirror layered with dust. At that moment, we were lost on a country road in New Mexico. The scenery was amazing and the adventure unforgettable. I love everything about this photo.

Several years ago, I started a blog called Momentum of Joy. Almost no one knew about it, and I was adamant about keeping it that way. I didn’t write for long, and I was never comfortable with the idea that someone who knew me might read about my struggles. It got to the point where I felt like I could no longer find my voice. The words just disappeared. I allowed the domain to expire, and my desire to write faded away.

The stress of this past Mother’s Day led me (and my family) to the brink of ending up on the 5 o’clock news, so I decided to blog about it. I supposed that I did it for grins as well as self therapy, but that post unexpectedly reopened a part of my life that I had assumed was long gone until that very moment (https://momentumofjo.com/2017/05/20/mothers-day-a-day-of-relaxation-unless-of-course-youre-an-actual-mother/).  When I went to reactivate the site, I discovered that someone had nabbed my old domain and was effectively holding it for cyber ransom (Yeah – I’m looking at you China!), so Momentum of Jo was born (basically because it was available and close-ish to the original name).

Most of my initial posts were primarily comical or satirical in nature, but I still refrained from sharing it in a broader format with those in my life.  As I wrote more posts, I began to dig deeper, to delve beneath the surface layers, and to get more personal. There was no reason not to because so few people even knew about the blog. It was safe.

When the hurricane hit a few weeks ago, many of us became instantly connected in a way that I can’t adequately articulate. We shared extreme anxiety and fear for our families and homes for days, and we were deeply saddened at the losses that followed. We wept with friends and strangers, and we united to help those whose lives were devastated by the storm. That continues even now. Even though life will progressively fall back into the old patterns, something extraordinary happened in those days that changed me.

The protective walls I had been holding firm for years started to crumble, and to my own complete shock, I began to share my posts with family and friends. I recognize that this may seem inconsequential, but countless bloggers can confirm the freedom that comes with anonymity. No judgement. No questions. No explanations. Or at least none of that from anyone in your daily world. You can share the raw parts of yourself without having to worry about harsh whispers a few blocks over.

But after everything I have seen over the past few weeks, I’m tired of residing in the shadows. I see too many people hurting.

The more honest I become, the more people reach out and tell me that they have been or are in that emotional place as well. We all struggle with the nuances of being a human, but we rarely talk about the parts that hurt us the most – the fears, the losses, the despair. We paint over the pain as we cover social media with platitudes and plastic smiles.

I live a life that is overflowing with blessings. My children are wild and crazy and incredible. My husband is an amazing father, a wonderful husband, and a true partner in my life. I love all of my family more than they could ever imagine. I have genuine friends that have been at my side in my best moments and my darkest hours. I have a great job, and I sincerely love my colleagues. Our dogs are goofballs, but they are our goofballs. It’s the American Dream at it’s finest.

Except when it wasn’t and except when it isn’t.

I struggled desperately with depression when I was younger and almost did not make it out of my college years with my life. I still catch myself reeling from unexpected panic attacks, I feel consumed by loneliness at times, and I must work constantly to mitigate the irrational fears and behavior patterns that go hand in hand with anxiety disorders and expressions of OCD. As a bonus, I currently have split ends coupled with a serious mani / pedi deficiency. I’m a reflection of reality.

Most days are pretty good, but sometimes, I just get knocked on my emotional ass.  We all do. But we don’t talk about it.

So often, those raw and real aspects of ourselves and our lives are not reflected in the things we say.  Those can only be found buried within the things we don’t say.

If one person receives a minuscule level of validation or healing from something that is difficult for me to share, it’s worth my facing my own insecurities. If someone is in a dark place, and they can find a spark of light or a gleam of hope in my words in that heavy moment, I can handle judgement from those who don’t understand. I don’t need or ask for their approval or validation anyway.

Our struggles forge our characters and bind us together, and our lives are too important to be lived disingenuously. Life is like my family’s journey down that dusty country road. We get lost at times, but we are never alone. It may take us a good while to figure it out, but we will find adventure along the way, we will always have each other other, and ultimately, we will find our way back home. This journey is meant to be shared, and all of our experiences happen to help us to grow. If we can stop hiding so much of our true selves from the world around us, perhaps we can embrace more parts of this human experience we are having.

Hopefully my truth will resonate with another who still can’t find the words. I’ve found my voice again. Maybe I can help someone else find theirs, too.

Love and light always – Joanna

Layered

Texas Still Stands & We Stand Together

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The last few days have been akin to falling into the dark end of the rabbit hole.  We have been living in a surreal nightmare that kept us in fear while caging us with wind and water.

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This is not a river.  This is a street.

As I have lived in Texas my entire life, heavy storms are not unfamiliar territory.  However, from Friday through Tuesday, we received more than one hundred forty tornado warnings as well as dozens upon dozens of flash flood alerts.  Those are actual numbers of alerts, not exaggerations.  Spending hours worrying if you are going to lose your home is exhausting. Spending those same hours worrying if your family is safe is exponentially worse.    rescue

I was so afraid for my children’s safety that we set up little mattresses in my husband’s closet, and that’s where they slept for the past few days.  They are just returning to their rooms tonight.

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This was taken in a nursing home to the southeast of us.  They were rescued and relocated, but my heart feels raw when I see this.

The news just said that we received 52″ of rain in this storm.  52″.  It seems unreal, but the deluge was impossibly heavy and pummeled our homes relentlessly hour after hour.  I joked to my friends that I expected to look out my window and see pairs of animals walking toward a big boat.  It was beyond belief.

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God bless the Cajun Navy.  I can’t put into words my love for these people.

Incredibly, our home and neighborhood never lost power.  We were able to keep track of the news while keeping in touch with our friends and family.  We quickly learned that we would not be facing this alone.

cajun navy2Before the rain showed any sign of stopping, many dear neighbors from surrounding towns and states were in the water rescuing those in need all around Houston.  I have friends who were picked up by boats and oversized construction vehicles at their flooded homes.  Firefighters, police officers, members of the military, and overall amazing people continue to risk their lives to help us here.  A few beautiful souls have lost their lives in the process.  I cannot express my sadness at these losses.

Countless people have lost their homes.  Hurricanes are known for their destructive natures, but Hurricane Harvey drew a tremendously broad stroke of destruction unlike any other we have experienced.

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This neighboring family was extremely lucky.  They lost a beautiful tree, but it fell away from their home.

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These dear friends were less fortunate.  It makes my heart ache to see this.

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This photo was taken by a close friend of my sister.  She took the picture right before first responders transported her and her family away from their once beautiful home to safety.

The three images above are neighbors and family friends.  There are thousands upon thousands more homes that have been terribly damaged or destroyed.

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I saw multiple military transport planes overhead as I left the neighborhood today.  I was overjoyed to see them.

Although the rain stopped at last today, we found ourselves facing yet another complication from all of the water.  The flood control authorities have initiated controlled water releases from the reservoir dams in an attempt to maintain the integrity of those critical structures.

Certain neighborhoods are expected to experience additional flooding given these releases, but I understand the need to sacrifice a small area with controlled water releases for the sake of preventing a very literal tidal wave of water flowing over miles and miles of heavily populated areas.  Despite my ability to understand the need, this does not change the fact that my parents live in the high risk zone impacted by those releases nor does it change the fact that their home will be washed away if the dam fails.  Water is already spilling over the top and around the sides.

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I wish I could tell you that this was me in my car, but it was another rescuer in a better vehicle.  Thank you for coming to our town!

So I did what any tenacious girl with stubborn parents would do.  I jumped in my 4×4 Texas mom-mobile and headed to their house to drag them out while they raged.

A dear friend (I love you K!) stayed on the phone with me as I drove.  She guided me to the best possible (and sometimes only possible) routes to allow me to avoid the innumerable streets that were closed due to high water or road failure.  My parents are about fifteen miles from me, but it might as well have been a hundred.  I weaved back and forth and backtracked repeatedly.  There was water everywhere I looked.  Thankfully there were military trucks, high water vehicles, and boats in abundance as well.

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The raw truth is that my tenacity did not make the trip any less terrifying.

Meandering through high water on unfamiliar streets and knowing that you are deliberately driving into an area with rising water that may turn catastrophic is incredibly scary.  I tend to be rather steely in a crisis, but this one had me on edge.  When I arrived, I was met with angry parents who didn’t want to go.  No surprise there.

My father recently had knee surgery and can’t walk well, and my mother has somehow hurt her shoulder.  They have no power at that house and aren’t expected to get it back for several days.  It isn’t the safest area to begin with and looters are likely to begin their hunts.  The water is rising – not receding – in front of their house, and they are within tidal wave range of the dam if it blows.  Naturally they would want to stay.  (Argh!!!  Seriously people??  Do we really have to discuss this??)  Thank heavens my rabid bulldog style of encouragement worked.  No surprise there either.  Off we went once more to head back to my house (the house with power and without rising water).

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I thanked God every single time I saw a military chopper or truck.  I said a prayer of protection for all of the people I saw working to help others.  They were everywhere I looked despite the incredible water levels, and we were blessed to make it home safely.

The drive to help others has been amazing across the board.  The rain did not cease until mid-morning, but the shelters were already bursting at the seams with donation items and volunteers within a couple of hours.

donationsPeople are doing everything they can to help those in need around them.  The response inside and outside of our community is stunning.  On a personal level, I can’t tell you how many people have invited us to their homes should we need a place to go.  They have offered everything.  Family, friends, coworkers, and total strangers – all have stood with us.  It overwhelms me emotionally.  I can’t adequately articulate my feelings, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that there is more goodness in this world that we could ever imagine.

The news should cover the beauty I have witnessed here.  It is truly a spectacular sight to behold.  I am captivated by your kindness and your love.  I am enamored by your strength and your courage.

When I say that Texas still stands and we stand together, I am saying that Texas still stands and we stand together with you.  In our greatest time of need, so many of you have served as our shelter in this physical and emotional storm.  You have extended the lifeline we so desperately needed, and now we are able to continue that with you as we move to help each other.

There is no division of economic class, race, gender, sexuality, religion, or politics.  We are one united people, and we are all here for each other.

Texas still stands.  Thank you for standing with us.  We truly stand together.

Much love to all of you. Joanna

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We Are Never Alone

 

Over the past year, we have experienced many difficulties. I have witnessed extremely hurtful infighting in relationships, our town, and our country. I have seen divisiveness and anger so often that I now refuse to turn on the news. But this storm that has flooded our little corner of the globe has shown me the very best in people. We have received kindness after kindness.

People worldwide have reached out with offers of assistance and much needed prayers. Family and friends we have known for years as well as absolute strangers we have known for moments have offered to allow us to stay in their homes if it comes to that. I have seen so many stories of people working to help and protect each other. This disaster has revealed how wonderful and amazing people truly are. Hope is powerful beyond measure. Regardless of what happens to our home, I know that we will be alright because we will never have to get through it alone.

Thank you for sharing your love, your strength, and your hope. Despite our differences, we stand together and we will always protect each other. We are blessed to have you in our lives.

Thank you. Truly.  Joanna


***I took the video at the top of the post yesterday morning.  This is a teeny creek that catches runoff water in our neighborhood.  On a normal day, you could jump over it in a couple of hops (if you felt like braving the alligators).  It has been raining nonstop since this shot, so no telling what it looks like now.  There is flooding all around us, but we are dry at this point.  Much love to all of you.

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Big Storms, Big Kids & Big Anxiety


Being a parent is tough.  Being a parent with major anxiety challenges is a big fat bonus.  Being a parent with major anxiety challenges in a monster hurricane with countless tornado warnings that are expected to go on for the next several days is simply fabulous beyond words.

So naturally my kids are now sleeping in the closet.  Literally.  I thought that making them camp out in the living room was my most annoying mom move for the summer, but apparently I was wrong.  Way to go me.  Always upping the stakes!

If it’s your style, we would truly appreciate your sending some prayers or a little light our way.  This isn’t my favorite evening so far, and it’s really just beginning for those of us who inhabit the areas surrounding the Texas coast.

Thank you so much dear friends.  Joanna

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And That’s When I Totally Lost It

This is an actual photo of me that was taken when I went bazerk earlier this week.

When my (perceived) sense of control slips out of my grasp, I become an erratic and volatile wild animal. The smallest minor nothings explode into monstrous threats under the massive magnifying glass of my emotional frenzy. A questionable tone, another task added to the neverending must do list, sporks – virtually anything that isn’t synonymous with “nothing” may viewed as an  aggressive attack on my sanity. However it never begins that way.  I don’t expect it or plan it.  Nevertheless some Wednesdays don’t care about your plans.

Although I was tired, my day began uneventfully. I dropped my young daughter at daycare and rushed back home to tackle the mountain of work that comes with quarter end. A few minutes into the professional pile, my older daughter entered my office to let me know that there was a swarm of bugs on a plant our home.

I’m not going to feign indifference. Insects are not my favorite, but in most cases, I can live and let live. Outside. Inside is more like Thunderdome. Two bugs come in. None come out. I just can’t have that inside. And there’s no way at all I will be residing with a swarm of them. Never ever ever.

That was bad.  And while seeing that you have many many bugs is way bad, it doesn’t hold a candle to the realization that holy #&@! I think that those are termites.

That was REALLY bad.  My panic attack began, and I hyperventilated my way through a desperate phone call where I begged my pest control company to come out that same day.  Yes, all good – 2-4pm window. Ok. Better. Breathing going back to normal.  Someone would fix this.  And then my phone buzzed.  House showing request at 2pm – a couple of hours later.

Bad wasn’t covering the badness anymore. Nothing says “This is the house for you!” quite like a termite inspector reviewing a potential infestation right when a buyer walks the home.  Keep in mind, we hadn’t had a showing request for over a month.  Of all the times and days, it would have to be right then.

I called the company to have them move the pest control appointment to the next day, the hand of the clock swung wildly around as the minutes flew by, and we tried to clean to show-ready status. Having OCD and getting your house show-ready is only great on picture day and day 1.  After that, it just makes every other showing feel like you’re never enough. But I can’t stop trying.

We were still racing around trying to get the house ready when the doorbell rang. Surely they wouldn’t be attempting to view the house early??  Nope. It was the pest control guy that was supposed to be rescheduled. Panic. Why was he there when I had cancelled and the buyers could appear at any moment?? As we were talking (and I was still trying to clean), the kids started hollering in the other room.

A frickin bird had flown into the window and had become lodged in the sofa cushions on the patio. Seriously bird? Clearly I wasn’t going to leave a hurt bird or fresh carcass on the patio. The kind pest control man and I went out to figure out what needed to be done. The poor little thing was lying between the pillows. I picked it up with a towel, and it fluttered off. At least one thing went right, so I felt slightly better. The minutes still ticked away.

I begged the pest control guy to please come back later as I involuntarily itched my head and arms for the millionth time at the knowledge that my home had bugs – bleh. He left as I looked up and saw a car in  front of our house. We were past time! Panic!

We couldn’t do anything else so we jumped in the car to leave. As I opened the garage, I found myself trapped by another car in the driveway. Are you kidding me universe?? The realtor came out with a look of sheer annoyance and moved her car moments later. We drove off and one of the kids said, “Oh no!  The dog dishes are still in the sink!” He might as well have said, “Oh no! Your ratty granny panties are hanging on the television!” I was mortified. I heard my other big kid snap at him, “Hush!  You’re going to make her go even crazier!” Sadly she wasn’t trying to be funny. Thankfully it did make me laugh. Panic subsided.

Ten minutes later the showing was over. Hours of cleaning. Minutes of not liking. The realtor later gave feedback that said that the prospective buyers would have bought the house had there not been dog dishes in the sink.

(No she didn’t.)

We went back home, and I started to work again. I wanted to post something on the blog but decided to change a couple of minor settings to improve the layout. Such good ideas…such poor execution. Kaboom – total website blow up. Curse you plugins!  Panic yet again. I hollered for my husband. This wasn’t a po’ lil’ ol’ me kind of move. He’s a professional tech nerd. My nerdiness is more generalized. However he isn’t a web tech nerd, so his frustration quickly escalated as my anxiety (and supposedly) my volume also went up. He then did something that never goes well for any man. He snapped and told me to calm down.

And that’s when I totally lost it.

Lost. It. Like multiple term mayor of Crazytown, USA lost it. Banging my desk. Hitting my computer. Stamping my feet up and down madly. Screaming for him to get out. I went totally bazerk.

The story ends with a major blowup conversation about anything and everything – 99% of which had nothing to do with that moment – and a website that is working again.  Thank you Chaitanya at WP support – you saved my site and probably my marriage!

I hate those moments. “Frustrating” doesn’t remotely encompass how I feel about them. It is a terrible helpless feeling to witness yourself spiralling out of control.  You know exactly what is going to happen if the stress continues to build, but life just keeps pushing. Do you remember Vesuvius and Pompeii?  It’s like that but with less ash (so far). I flip back to normal much faster than I flip into wild animal mode, but the explosions are unwieldy and incredibly destructive in the meantime.

Like the calm after the storm, it’s been quiet here since that point.  Although I wish I could stick with perpetually smooth waters, that isn’t the ocean I sail.

As a follow up note, they weren’t termites. You are going to think I’m making this up. The pest control team said that they were crazy ants.  Can you believe it?

No wonder they felt right at home.  🐞

Joanna

Other critter battles –  https://misifusa.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/ants-wasps-and-mice-oh-my/

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