Sunday Night Check-In: End of Summertime

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The weekend started out rainy.

If I was at home – (oh wait, I am at home). Alright, if I was still in Louisiana, I would be counting down the days to the end of the heat in October … or November … or like last year … December. We ran the air conditioner at Christmas last year, and it was still way too hot. My new friends in Michigan are talking about the last days of summer. Labor Day literally marks the last days of summer in these parts. It won’t immediately freeze or anything, but cool fronts do start passing, and the warmer days become little surprises that everybody treasures. Today my friends told me about ice skating on the lake here, and we talked about the stillness of winter in this busy place.

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I have literally been stuffing myself silly with fresh fruits and vegetables and even fruit pies. I’m trying to limit the pies as my waistline could be in trouble if I keep this up. I stopped by Bob’s Barn Farm Market and Bakery near Coloma and picked up a Dutch Apple – Blueberry pie for the group dinner last night. I even decided to pick up a pie at Sprague’s so that we could taste-test them. I’ve heard a lot about Sprague’s, and the gal there told me to get the strawberry rhubarb pie. We each sampled a small slice of both pies topped with homemade whipped cream. The winner is …. drum roll pleaseBob’s Farm Market and Bakery! The Sprague’s pie was delicious, too, but the bold flavor of the Dutch Apple – Blueberry pie was a unanimous winner. I even had a second piece of that one just to make sure that I wasn’t confused. I wasn’t.

I spent a little time in the store yesterday, and Ken – Bob was his father-in-law – told me about their pies. They are not ALL homemade in the store. Some are. But some are made by the Amish, and Lyn assembles and bakes them in the store every morning. Ashleigh, their daughter, said they are famous for their apple dumplings which they will begin offering at the end of this month. Nevertheless, they are baked fresh every day, and you can even buy a scoop of Sherman’s ice cream to go on top. I asked Ken if he had some fresh-ground almond butter per the sign in the store, and he made it for me right then and there. If you are in the area, it’s a great little place to visit, and they have much more than pies and fresh fruits and veggies.

The lake was busy today with skiers and jet skis. We took a leisurely ride around the lake with the dogs in the sunshine. I even got a little too hot although I mentioned that at 3 PM in Louisiana, I’d never get out on a boat ride in the sunshine. It wasn’t THAT hot. Ashok is loving living by a lake and taking a dip whenever she wants to cool off.

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I met my friends Michael and Sandy this morning for breakfast at the Mason Jar Cafe. I didn’t know if it would be prudent to order the Crab Cakes Benedict on the banks of a freshwater lake, but the waitress assured me it would be good, and it was. Sandy and Michael and I met each other when we worked at the call center here in Benton Harbor 16 years ago. We took a tour of the old building where only the bones were still recognizable. We walked by offices and remembered who was in that office, and I walked through my old cubicle area which is now where the leadership team sits. It was fun to talk about the old days and all of the things that have happened to us and our former coworkers since then. I was happy to see that the division had progressed along with the rest of the company in becoming a happy and motivating place to work.

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I’m having my crazy Back to the Future hallucinations again as I drive about and see places that I frequented 16 years ago with new eyes. When I moved home to Louisiana, so much had changed that I really didn’t recognize it. Here, most things are the same with a lot of improvements in Benton Harbor and some much welcome additions in restaurant offerings. I think I’m going to eat much better this time around which may not be such a good thing.

I’m looking forward to a new week at work. I’m rested for a change. The last month of Mondays I’ve been exhausted before the alarm went off. I rested this weekend and recharged with healthy food and great company. I even started running again in the early morning. This morning I ran at 5 AM amid the cornfields and apple orchards on a long, lonely country road. We did not even see one car in the 30 minutes that we were out. The night sky hung overhead with a blanket of fog laying on the horizon. Stars exploded against the darkness, and Ashok and I heard only the crickets as we re-engaged our running lungs. It felt good to start a routine, and, even though everything still feels new, it is starting to feel like home.

Y’all have a good week. Try to get some exercise. It’ll make you feel better. 

 

Godspeed Nancy

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Nancy’s Aprons

This morning my friend Nancy Allen Marchesseault made her transition to life on the other side. I know she is still with us, but I will miss her beautiful spirit here on earth.

I knew Nancy when we were kids because she was best friends with my sister, Susan. They were like frick and frack. I wasn’t that close to her then, but she started reading my blog after I started posting, and one day she was moved to comment about her life. I had written about the fact that I hate small talk, and I wanted to know what really moved people in life. She took that as a personal request, and she briefly wrote her life story in the comment log. I had no idea she had colon cancer, but it was one of the things she shared with me. The cancer changed her. It made her braver. And she and her husband had the courage to live their dream of moving to Tennessee.

I took it as divine providence and got over my fear, mostly. I thought, this is a really bold thing to do, where is this coming from? I looked at myself, really looked and saw that bold is what I was meant to do. I have been fearless at times in my life, I have been resolved at others, but I saw that I had always come through whatever adversity came. And I had become strong. No weak willed, mealy-mouthed, mamby pamby personality could survive chemo. It does take courage to fight cancer, it takes courage just to live at all. I didn’t know I had it. I didn’t know how strong I was. They say that if your dream doesn’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough.

~~ Nancy Allen Marchesseault

Over the next couple of years, Nancy and I wrote in a secret Facebook page about our fears and our struggles. She was always encouraging even though she had her own battles to face. She thought she had more time but the cancer came back quickly after they moved. But she still lived her life. It was inspiring to watch. I got the chance to spend a few days with her several times as I drove near their house on vacations. The last time I saw her was right before she got really sick in June. A couple of days opened up near the end of my North Carolina vacation, and I stopped by to hang out in their beautiful little house in Sequatchie TN.

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Ashok loved her, and Nancy loved Ashok. Nancy did not, however, like pictures of herself on the internet.🙂

I could tell on that last visit that she was tired. But she was as strong as always… as opinionated as always .. as compassionate as always. She was always concerned about me and my happiness and encouraged me to live out my dreams. I know that she will be with me from the other side cheering me on. I feel sure that I felt her brush past me this morning. I got the feeling that she was relieved that she was not sick any more and that she could fly. I wish her soul the peace that passes all understanding. And I have no doubt that she already has it.

I know her family and friends will miss her terribly because she was not only a courageous person but a loving and protective mother, sister and grandmother. Even as she was sick, she began making aprons and blouses for those she loved. Her passion and most beloved profession was cultivating plants, but the seeds of love that she sowed in the many gardens of her life are her legacy.

Nancy, my friend, Godspeed. You will be sorely missed, and your short stay was entirely our blessing. But I know you, and you will have everything up there under control shortly.

So, I’m going to end this book, I promise, but I just want to keep saying how much you need to rely on the truth right now and not doubt or fear. I’m glad you’re taking good care of yourself, I just hope you’re staying connected with all your peeps. I’ll be watching, but stay in touch when you can.

I love you
Nancy

Life on the Farm: First Days in Michigan

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I arrived on Sunday afternoon with my zoo and a month’s worth of stuff. The little lake house where I’m staying exceeded my expectations. (A) It’s not little so it has tons of room, and (B) the family welcomed me with open arms and lots of food. I had dinner with them Sunday night although Sunday – and even Monday to some extent – was a blur. I felt like I was in a drug-induced stupor after all the tasks of the last three weeks and the driving for three days. And I really needed home-cooked food.

After leaving Memphis on Saturday morning, I drove through the woods and fields of Arkansas, Missouri, and Southern Illinois, but there was nothing but cornfields and soybeans the rest of the trip. When I first moved to the Midwest, I was shocked at the farmland although I’d studied about heartland agriculture in U.S. history. It took me by surprise that there was so much of it. After I moved away, I missed it. I watched Hoosiers a few months after I landed in Memphis, and I remember my heart aching for that corny landscape that I had grown to love.

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I’m at Dewey Lake in Dowagiac MI. Lacking the cypress trees and mud of Louisiana lakes, Michigan lakes have homes built on every inch of lakefront. I am always reminded of Garrison Keillor‘s Prairie Home Companion radio show when I’m walking around on the lakefronts in Michigan. Although Keillor was from Minnesota, his stories resonate with images of the Midwest and days on the lakes up here. A fiend of mine in Tennessee had recordings of those radio shows, and we’d listen to them around our campfires. What I’m remembering is what I envisioned those nights as I’d never seen it in person.

 

My commute to work is about 30 minutes, and the landscape is all farmland. you couldn’t throw a rock and not hit a farm stand, and the only time traffic slows is when a tractor pulls out into the road. I’ve been lost at least 10 times on these back country roads, but it is so pretty I don’t even care. Yesterday, I stopped at a couple of farm markets to do my grocery shopping, and I got almost everything I need for the week. Between the farmers and the Amish, the locals are pretty self-sustaining – in the summer. After October, I’ll have to find a regular grocery.

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My morning commute

The Browns, my friendly hosts, are a family of 10 siblings who own and have rented the three little houses on the “compound” to visitors for over 11 years. Luckily for me, they stopped renting mid-August, and this place was available. They all live in Chicago or New York but come over here frequently since this was their business. At least one or two of my hosts have been on the compound since I’ve been here, and, from what I understand, they kidnap Ashok while I’m at work. She’s been taken for boat rides and walks and just general hanging out in the big house. With the long commute, she’s at home longer than usual, so I’m glad they are entertaining her.

My Hosts

Work is good. I’m still adapting and getting to know the culture and my role. I don’t ever have to leave the building which is not necessarily my preference, but it’s easier for now. Eventually I’ll get out and, after I get my house, I can actually go home if I want. Luckily they have lots of healthy options in the cafeteria, and the green tea latte downstairs is really good.

My time and energy are stretched right now. I haven’t made plans yet with my friends here. I need to get my roots sprouted a little before I can start planning a lot. We got past the inspection contingency on the house yesterday, and I hope to close on September 9. It seems close, but even if it’s in the general vicinity of that date I will be happy. While this place is lovely, I want my my own little spot in St. Joseph.

Happy Hump Day from Michigan, y’all!

Sunday Night Check-In: Road Trip

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I’ll keep this short because I’m exhausted, and I need to get acclimated to this new time zone. Go to bed earlier, and get up earlier! Should be a piece of cake for me.

 

I’ll just give you some brief highlights, and I’ll feel in the blanks later…..

  • Three days, over 900 miles, three animals, three different lodgings and way too much crap in my car.
  • Arrived Michigan today at 1 PM with a temp of 69 degrees.
  • Had to eat fast food the whole way because I couldn’t leave the animals in the car. I feel like a blimp.
  • Reacquainted myself with Culver’s – my favorite place for butter burgers and frozen custard. And Ashok got pup cups at every stop.
  • Had a great Memphis BBQ dinner with some Memphis friends!
  • Drugged the cats but then felt so bad for their little drunk furry selves that I decided to just let them cry the rest of the way.
  • Am now on Dewey Lake in Dowagiac, MI on the Brown Compound. Beautiful boat ride on the lake and a great home-cooked meal.
  • Life is good! Back to work tomorrow. No rest for the weary.

Goodnight…. Hope y’all have a good week. 

P.S. Continue to pray for my friends back home and donate, volunteer or help them out! They need it.

Here’s a website for info: laflood2016.com

It’s Moving Day!!

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After all of the preparations, and the interviewing and the job offer and the house hunting, it’s finally moving day! There’s no solid place to land yet in Michigan, but it’s in progress. I just got the inspection report yesterday, and there are a few items of concern, but I’ve been told it’ll work out. So, we’ll see how that turns out.

Leo and Ed, the local folks who are helping with the move got here first this morning, and we chatted about the flood and their relatives who were impacted. We were all very lucky, but each of us had numerous friends and family members in dire straits. Doug and Jeff arrived shortly after in the big Atlas moving van, and we took a tour of my house and belongings. Once they were all set, I offered to go get them some coffee and donuts, and they set about their task.

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“No Starbucks,” one of them said. “I hate that stuff.” I laughed and decided to go down to Dunkin Donuts on Florida. I forget the world has change in the last week, and DD was shut down due to flooding. I had to drive clear across town to get them donuts and coffee of the quality they deserved. My friend Laura recommended Mr. Ronnie’s Famous Donuts at Lee and Highland, and I’m glad I only discovered it the day before my departure. Otherwise, I’d be fat as my cat Bella. (Don’t tell her I said that.)

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The gal said the blueberry was to die for, and she wasn’t lying.

If you’ve never been moved by one of these big van lines, they are efficient. My stuff is allotted a section in one of those big trucks, and I’m surrounded by other people’s belongings from all over the country. Once they get it loaded, they usually give you a 10-11 day window of time for delivery. You don’t know when you will be seeing your stuff again exactly. So, yesterday, I packed up my Rav4 with perishables, necessities for the cats and Ashok and everything I would need for a month – or more if things don’t progress as planned. They will store my stuff until I get my house, and then we’ll reverse this process.

Doug and Jeff, the folks from West Virginia can’t wait to get out of here. They slept in the truck last night because every available room was booked due to the current flooding disaster. They had been told by the estimator that they would not be able to get the big 18-wheeler down my road, so they tried to rent a truck for a shuttle. They had 1000 people ahead of them in line at Enterprise and didn’t even attempt to call any of the other vendors. They are tired and there is no place to rest. For me, it’s lucky because that means they’ll get done if at all possible today, and I can hit the road tomorrow!

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My little spot on the truck.

By the time I got back with the donuts, most of my kitchen was packed, and in the time it’s taken me to write this, my living room is 85% packed. They are fast, and we have four people packing. They are all screaming about the mosquitoes because they are being eaten alive INSIDE. I tried to find some insect repellant but it’s packed already. They’ll just have to cope. After hauling the rest of my stuff through my muddy yard, I think they are going to be ready to hit the road …. and don’t come back no more .. no more … no more …no more….

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I don’t even know how to describe this area. My little island in Baton Rouge looks no different than it did a week ago. I’ve been hanging at Magpie, eating po-boys, visiting with friends and otherwise taking care of moving business. Things have been slowed significantly because every available person who offered to help is now tied up with more important business and communication sucks. Even if you get through, everybody is short-staffed. Many businesses are canceling their regular business and sending their employees out to help people clean up their houses.

At any rate, I will be leaving Baton Rouge tomorrow morning. While normally I would probably be having lunches and coffees and enjoying a send-off gathering, I will just be heading out unheralded. Everybody is busy, and I suppose it’s just as well. I walked in my house this morning and burst into tears. As I was pulling pictures off the wall, I thought of the day that I hung them. I had such high hopes for my life here. Instead, it has been very difficult and challenging which is not without its benefits. I will hang them again in a few weeks in a new place with the same kind of hope for a great future. At the end of the day today, I will have an empty house just like the first day I walked in. I have come full circle, Louisiana.

What a ride it has been!

Louisiana Flood Recovery Info and Links

I collected some some links below, but a hmarketing group put together a more comprehensive list.

Whether you need help or want to donate or volunteer, this is the place to go.

Laflood2016.com

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I’m compiling an ongoing list of links that relate to the most recent Louisiana (and Mississippi) flooding in August 2016. Continue to check this or share it on social media as I will update it.

As always, do your own research on charities to determine which ones are legitimate. I’d also like to add that you should choose to donate where her heart lies. Some people love helping the animals. Others like donating to the rebuilding process and some prefer to support the immediate recovery efforts. Still others would prefer to pack up their stuff and head down for a hands-on experience. We all play a part, and you don’t have to feel guilty for not doing it all! Together, we’ll get it done.

Please feel free to send links to me via the contact information on my “about me” page or post in the comments section below. If it’s not legit or spam, I will delete it, so keep it clean.

I haven’t categorized them because many do several things, but I have noted what they do. See their websites for more details.

For Lafayette: Daily Advertiser

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https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fginger.b.bennett%2Fposts%2F10153852957632776&width=500” target=”_blank”>Ideas for helping from a public Facebook post: Amazon and donations needed

Wildlife Rehabilitation (wildlife has to stay in the state where it was found).

FEMA Information and Resources

CNN.com (How to help with a variety of options)

Gleaning for the world (shelters in Louisiana and Texas)

Nola.com article with a collection of charities and organizations

Link to AirBnb site where you can donate places to stay

Louisiana State Animal Response Team

United Way of Southeast Louisiana

Red Cross (Initial Recovery Efforts and shelters)

Operation BBQ Relief (Cool organization that helps feed people)

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Samaritan’s Purse (Provide physical help and spiritual comfort)

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Louisiana Baptists (statewide organization)

Evangelical Lutheran Church (long-term recovery efforts)

Friendship Chapel and Celtic Studios Shelter (Local dropoff for donations. Please see Facebook page. This morning they asked for no more donations at the moment.)

Harvest Food Band Fundraising Effort (Get a t-shirt to show your support)

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United Methodist Church (Ongoing assistance after the media attention is gone.)

United Methodist Relief Committee (Help purchase cleaning supplies for those cleaning up!)

Send me more!!!

 

 

 

 

The Intersection of Chaos

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In case you were wondering, it’s kind of mess down here. The events of the last few days have given new meaning to a “a river runs through it”. I have numerous friends with needs, but we are cut off because the Amite River is running wild over all roads between us. To make matters worse, in the valley of mud, there is no cell coverage. The only way they can communicate is via Facebook and only if they have wifi. We all know that wifi generally runs on electricity. Electricity and water don’t mix very well.

My hometown…

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I, on the other hand, am on an island. My life is running along normally (sort of). Most of my haunts are open. I met a gaggle of friends yesterday at Magpie for coffee after I landed in Baton Rouge. Ironically, the last time we all gathered there was the day that the police shooting occurred here. Again, we were all a bit shellshocked from the events happening around us, but none of us were directly impacted. Each of us had friends and family who were directly impacted, but we had no way of getting to them.

 

Today the friends who can text me via wifi have kept me somewhat up to date with their adventure. They are cleaning up. They are picking up building material that has come up from the floor, tearing up sheetrock and throwing out personal items. It is muddy, snaky, stinky and very, very sad. For many, they are cleaning up their childhood homes and are worried about how their elderly parents will handle this. Thankfully, the Universe has provided somewhat cooler weather for us.

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Click here for story.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, I am packing. I don’t have to pack for long. I got the little house on Mohawk in St. Joseph, and I close the second week of September. I have such awesome friends there that I had several options on temporary housing, and I plan to stay at my friend Kathy’s lakehouse on Dewey Lake in Dowagiac.

My new house!

My preparations have been complicated by the lack of reliable phone service and the inability to get around town outside my little island. But I can’t complain. These are small problems compared to my friends in Denham Springs and Watson. My fur babies have no idea what’s about to happen, but I do believe they know something is about to happen. They are a little more clingy than normal, and Ashok is watching me like a hawk.

I had a major meltdown this morning. I’m emotionally wrecked because of the move and this flooding situation. I’m physically exhausted because I’ve been running on adrenaline and caffeine for three weeks straight. I’m intellectually stretched managing a new job and a move. A meltdown was bound to happen, and it finally did. Thankfully my friend Michael talked me down off the ledge, and I’m back in the swing of things.

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For those of you that live away, I want to emphasize the gravity of the situation here. I don’t know about the scope of the disaster, but it looks very much like Katrina in many ways. Whole neighborhoods and towns have been wiped out. There will be much rebuilding that needs to be done. Thankfully, the loss of life is not nearly as high, but recovery will take years. Massive reconstruction will need to occur. Many, many people have lost their jobs. My niece finally made it through the immediate danger, but her school took in 6 feet of water. She is a teacher, and she is unemployed with two small children. She will probably need to relocate with family to get back on her feet. She will not be alone. Most of us don’t have massive savings accounts to get us through this kind of financial disaster.

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My childhood friend Jean Ann’s beautiful home yesterday.

 

I urge you to donate your time, energy or resources to help these people affected by this flood. They need immediate assistance with food, water and shelter. My rental will go fast as housing here will be sucked up in a few days for those that have jobs but no home. Some will need to live in shelters until they can find a job and a place to live. You can donate to the Red Cross, or you can donate here locally. Others will need assistance in rebuilding. Yes, there will be government money, but workers will be needed, and supplies will be in high demand.

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Click here for link.

I knew lots of people affected by Katrina, but I know many more affected by this unnamed disaster. The hardest hit area was my hometown. They were my high school boyfriends, BFFs and basketball teammates. They are my relatives. They are my touchstones. With them I learned how to put on makeup, catch crawfish, flirt with boys and say my ABCs. I feel really weird leaving in the middle of this. I feel a responsibility to stay and help, but I have to go. The timing really sucks.

I have collected some links for donations, and you can click here for that list. Stay tuned. Meanwhile…..

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Water, Water Everywhere….

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I left the beautiful St. Joseph/Benton Harbor area about noon yesterday. I knew it was pouring buckets at home. My friend Laura told me that it was bad and asked if she could pick up Ashok for me. I had such a good week with my new job and the new house that I figured a long day flying would not knock me off my perch. So what if it takes me awhile to get back? The worst case scenario would be that I would sleep in the Atlanta airport 30 feet from a Starbucks.

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As I watched the flooding play out on Facebook, (isn’t it weird that we can watch tragedies as they unfold) I saw the usual people having problems with water. Everybody else stayed put knowing that for 25 or 30 years they stayed dry in a flood event. But the rains continued to fall … and fall … and fall without ceasing. One by one my friends from childhood started posting that they had to move family members out of houses that had never flooded before. They lost everything and were heartbroken. The news reports started comparing it to the great flood of 1983. This would be worse, they said. And the rains continued to fall.

My flight got canceled after a 3-hour delay. There were a few people that were loudly complaining about the incompetence of the airlines, and I wanted to ask them if they had been watching what was happening in our city. Their anger was misplaced. The wrath of Mother Nature was pounding the community where I grew up, and the town where I now live. If anything, we were protected. We were dry and safe and surrounded by convenience and air conditioning.

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The drama unfolding before my eyes continued to deteriorate overnight. Pleas were posted online for rescues for themselves or loved ones. The water, it seemed, is relentless and taking everything in its wake. Even those that were protected in the past were succumbing to the flood of 2016. My sister said our friend Mandy evacuated at 3 AM and waded in chest-deep water to her mother’s house which was now under water. The Bend Road – the road next to the fickle Amite River – was quickly a very unsafe place to be. Headlines screamed that people in “the Bend” needed to evacuate immediately.

Notice this is for MONDAY!!

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“Rising fast”, “Prayers, please”, “need rescue” and “this is scary” peppered my news feed amidst the normal goings-on around the country. I feel like some kind of alternate reality is happening over there in that little town while I’m sitting comfortably at a friend’s house in Alpharetta. My biggest problem is that my luggage is in Baton Rouge, and my hair products are in it. I bought new clothes and a few items to tide me over in case I’m here a few days. Delta says we are taking off at 7:45 PM tonight, but I don’t know. Even so, if the roads are cut off, I may spend a night at the Baton Rouge airport… hardly a tragedy. I feel extremely lucky in comparison.

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The flash flood warning is on until Sunday, and that just accounts for the rain. The rivers than run through that area are death traps when they flood. They will be cresting higher than ever. I saw enough of their destructive wake when I was growing up there. Now the area has become much more populated with many homes built on top of wetlands. The natural flood plain is now populated with neighborhoods. In other words, it’s not over. And the fat lady has not even begun to sing.

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My niece is waiting for a helicopter airlift with her kids on Highway 16 in Watson. Livingston Parish is cut off from Baton Rouge by surging water. The interstate is closed in several places throughout the Baton Rouge area. I don’t know how I’ll get home even if I land in Baton Rouge. My Aunt is awaiting rescue in the Bend after refusing a rescue attempt this morning. My friend Jean Ann tried to move her car to higher ground, and it’s now stalled on the highway. The new high school is flooded as is my childhood home. Almost everybody I know out there is evacuated or on the verge of it. And the rain continues to fall. There is water, water everywhere.

Please pray for South Louisiana, y’all. This is truly scary.

 

Whirlwind: Sunsets, Collaboration and Insomnia

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Whew! What a week! I started my new job this week at Whirlpool. Honestly, my mind is in a harried state although I did sleep the whole night through las night for the first time since I got my offer about 3 weeks ago. There is nothing better than a full night’s sleep after a bout of insomnia. But I know next week I’ll be right back to it. My estimation is that my sleep will get back to normal at the end of September or early October… whenever I get permanently settled. I know me. My mind does not rest when there is stuff to do.

Me and my coworker Ann took a stroll on the beach in New Buffalo last night!

And I have plenty of stuff to do! As I anticipated, they were waiting on me. It has been intense these first few days. I’m in charge of training (YES!!), and I’ve had to get up to speed enough to make decisions on some key items in addition to having the usual new hire learning curve. I decided last weekend that I was going to table my social activities up here until I get back permanently because I wanted to focus on work and house hunting. And I’m glad I did. I don’t have the emotional or energetic bandwidth to handle all of that.

If I had to use one word to describe my new job it’s collaborative. The number of meetings that people have on their calendars is mind-boggling. And the workplace is designed for collaboration. I am back to cubicle living, but I’m never there. All over the building, in every corner, there are conference rooms (for over 6 people) and huddle rooms (for 1-5 people). Colorful, comfortable furniture is scattered all around so that you can work alone comfortably in privacy OR grab an area for a quick group pow wow.  I absolutely love it! And if you are ever looking for me and can’t find me – look here!

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There is a fully functional coffee shop downstairs complete with a barista and homemade pastries from the favorite local bakery here – Bit of Swiss. I’m trying to stay away from the pastries for the time being but I imagine I’ll indulge soon. The cafeteria features local fare, fresh organic vegetables and even a station where you can have a featured ethnic dish prepared by a chef. It’s not your typical cafeteria food. I felt like I was at a wonderful restaurant, and my dish was only $7.

In my off hours I’ve been searching for a house. I’ve found three suitable candidates. A lovely 1920s home in downtown St. Joe is my favorite. But my second choice is tied between a beautiful little beach-style condo right on Lake Michigan and a larger, more traditional condo in a quiet garden-style setting. All of them are amazing, and I had a hard time picking one. I made an offer on the downtown St. Joe house, but it has another offer on it as well. I’ll know today who wins. If I don’t get it, I’ll make an offer on one of the condos. I’m still trying to decide what’s my favorite. They both have advantages, and that lake is so beautiful. Below are some shots of the backyard at the lake condo.

Downtown House: Click here for the listing.

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The one thing I have made time for this week is the local sunset ritual. The sunset is so beautiful over Lake Michigan. People gather on the shore and hang out to watch the sun set. On some days in the summer, the sun hangs over the Chicago skyline. It’s been too hazy while I’ve been here to see it, but it’s beautiful just the same. Elderly couples drive up with their picnic dinners to watch the sunset. I wonder how many sunsets they have watched together over the years. It’s so relaxing and a beautiful way to put the day to bed. I’ll leave you with some photos. I haven’t filtered any of these.

I’ll be home next week to pack up and get out of the steamy south. I have to say I’m dreading stepping back into that sauna – especially given what I have to do next week. Wish me luck on the house!

Sunday Night Check-In: A New World

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Yesterday afternoon I had a few minutes by myself within four walls, and my inner critic decided to ambush me. What the hell are you doing? What if you end up feeling lonely up there? Are you sure you want to deal with winter again – by yourself? I felt the grip of fear squeeze tightly on my heart. I panicked for a second, and then I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The grip did not loosen, but my conscious mind reached for my mantra that I chose from a book a long time ago – Feel the fear and do it anyway. (Click here for the book.)

I let myself feel it, but I went down my mental list and reminded myself that I’ve done this any number of times before. There is always a moment or two when I want to turn tail and run. But it doesn’t mean anything. I’ve learned to tolerate the pain of endings because my experience has taught me that new beginnings are worth the effort.

I woke up about 2:30 this morning stoked about the first day of my new adventure. This was it. All of the planning and waiting was over, and today I was starting to move forward into my new life in Michigan. I’ll get back to Louisiana next week to move, but I’ll be here in person to look for houses and start work. I couldn’t stop smiling as I stood in line to board the plane. I had some things I wanted to do in flight, but all I could do was bask in the “sauce” that I had created for myself with this change. So, I just cleared my mind and dreamed about the future.

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I arrived around 1 PM, and I stopped by my friend Jill’s house which was 9 minutes from the airport. She made me a grilled cheese sandwich, and we chatted briefly over fruit and veggies. After lunch, I checked in to the hotel and decided to go for a run on my old running path.

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*** I went for a run at 4 PM in the daylight on a sunny day in August. ***

For somebody who has lived in the south for the last 10 years, that is monumental and somewhat unbelievable. I didn’t even sweat the first mile. By the end of the three miles, my shirt was sweaty on the neckline, and I had a ring of sweat near my hairline. THAT …. WAS …. ALL!!! I wasn’t even too sweaty to go to the grocery and shop for a few essentials. Woohoo!!! I could probably pick up running again.

St. Joe was bustling. Everybody was out on Silver Beach, and the town was hopping to the beat of the last days of summer. I thought I’d give you a first look at my new little hometown. Oh yeah, and luckily I brought a sweater. It’s going to be in the low 60s here tonight – upper 50s close to the lake. I don’t want to catch a chill!!

Y’all have a great week, and think of me tomorrow at 9 AM Eastern Time. It’s my first day of my second career at Whirlpool!! That’s a pretty big deal.