One Year Ago Today

May 31, 2011 was a day that will be etched in my memory for the rest of my life as the day that our “normal” lives forever changed.  The morning started with the first day of summer orchestra for Luke and what would have normally taken me about 5 minutes to drive him there took me 30 minutes because all the bridges and underpasses were closed in Minot.

This was a picture I took of our house from the other side of the river on the morning prior to evacuation.

On my drive home from dropping Luke off, I got word that our worries were becoming a reality and after months of watching the Mouse River rise and dikes continuing to grow to hold the water, the rain from the Memorial Day weekend had been too much and predictions had been made that the river would over top its banks.  I immediately sprung into action and called friends and family to help us.   I remember walking into the house and just roaming from room to room in disbelief and utter confusion.  Where was I supposed to start to try to pack up a house full of stuff in a matter of hours?  I didn’t even have boxes or containers to put the stuff in.  I called Ryan for the second time and without hesitation, I told him to get me a moving truck NOW.  I didn’t want to wait one more minute to get packing, I just wanted to get out.

The river was rising and it didn’t appear that it was going to be holding back this time.  Within a matter of minutes, friends and family were at our door and all I felt like I could do was direct traffic and tell them what I wanted out of the house first.  I am sure I looked like a chicken with my head cut off just wandering around in disbelief that this was actually happening.  It is one year later and I still cannot believe that it is a part of my reality.

See the lovely Budget truck in the background? It was the very last truck that they had for rent. Good thing Ryan listened when I told him to “Get me a truck NOW!”

It amazes me just how many people dropped everything to help us that day.  We had friends, family, distance relatives, family friends, people we had not seen in years, and so many more that so willing packed and moved us out in record time.    While we were packing up, the first of many special news conferences came on to give the report that indeed, things were not looking good and the river was rising faster than expected.  We had little time from the looks of things to get out and we used every moment to our advantage to load up and head for higher ground.

Within about 7 hours, we had packed up everything we could possibly think to get and the house was empty.  We left many things in the garage, but because of the traffic, the road closures, and the mass chaos that was ensuing, we decided it was best to get out of the area.  We were told at that point that our neighborhood would be one of the neighborhoods that would be sacrificed to try to save the greater part of the valley and that by the end of that night that we needed to be out so that a large dike could be built to protect the west side of town.

Our belongings were scattered across town.  We had friends that were vacating a storage garage in NE Minot that very day as they were moving into a new house and we were able to sublease the unit from them.  My mom’s garage in NW Minot was full to the brim with beds, toys, light fixtures, and clothes including all the built in drawers from the house.  Other friends in SE Minot willingly let us use their garage and that became packed with outdoor equipment and furniture, the washer and dryer, and lots of boxes.  Ryan’s parents took loads out to their house 25 miles outside of town as well.  This included more furniture, appliances, and so much more.  It takes a lot of space to hold 3200 square feet worth of goods from the house and the contents of most of a 2 car garage.  Good thing I have gotten rid of half of our stuff so our next move will be easier!

This was the very last picture I took of our street before we drove away on May 31, 2011. 

What we didn’t realize that fateful day was that this was really just the beginning of things to come and that this first evacuation would end in the valley being spared from the rising waters.  Sadly, the worst was yet to come less than a month later.   We had rejoiced after this evacuation that we had been lucky and that we had learned some hard lessons…or so we thought.  When the water did over top the banks on June 22, it flooded over house with over 8 feet of river and sewage water on the main floor.  I didn’t realize on May 31 of last year that our future would no longer include living in our Forest House.

Looking back on one year ago today, I realize that our lives has changed drastically.  From some aspects, I feel that I have grown and changed through all of this into a person who understands the meaning of true friendship.  You realize that true friends are there for you in your moment of need and will even carry out your underwear drawer without saying a word!  I also take a lot less for granted and I now understand that things can change in the blink of an eye and we have to be ready for just about anything.  Not a day goes by that I don’t wish for the ability to be back in my peaceful Forest House and back to my life that now seems so much more simple and carefree, but I also realize that things happen and life is what you make of it.  I could spend the rest of my life wishing for the past to come back and wake up one day to the realization that it is not going to happen or I can use the experiences of the last year as a launching pad into something amazing for my life.  I prefer the second option and am striving to better myself each and every day.

The most fitting quote I have ever read and my new motto!

Between the flood in June and the news of Ryan’s company merging with another company at the end of the year, our life was flipped upside down in 2011.  Out of the adversities, God has turned lemons into lemonade time and time again.  Ryan is in an amazing new job that he loves and we are on the path of being bought out by the city for future flood protection.  I finally can say that I am finding peace in the chaos that has been our lives for an entire year. Thank God for blessings in the midst of the storm!

Renewal

Once upon a time at Forest House, there were beautiful gardens that were lush and green.  They were amazing in every way thanks to previous owners who had so skillfully and patiently tended to the many flower beds.  It was a spectacular yard almost more of a park than a yard and I LOVED it.  Looking at these pictures makes me a little choked up because it was so very beautiful.

Sadly, the flood destroyed our little piece of heaven and left it as a brown wasteland.  It was heartbreaking to see the devastation that the flood left in its path in so many ways, but to see my yard so ravaged was very hard.

Thank goodness spring has brought a sign of some renewal.  While my yard is never going to look like what it did pre-flood, there are some signs of life coming back and all was thankfully not lost.  I never thought in a million years that any of the plants would have survived after sitting in toxic waste flood water for over a month, but a couple of days ago I went to the house and in the midst of a lot of weeds, some flowers have emerged and brought me a little piece of sunshine in a cloudy season.

While these pictures don’t compared to the previous pictures, the little bit of green in the brown makes me really happy.  Even though this house will likely not be ours for much longer, I am so very happy that a little piece of the legacy will go on.

Life goes on in Minot after the flood and everyone who was affected is dealing with the heartache in a different way.  Each one of us faces a new day with new challenges in a life that will likely never be “normal” again.  Instead it is a new normal with pieces of our old lives returning here and there, but other parts gone forever…a not so distance past that is out of our reach.  These flowers give me a little sign of hope that some day things will feel better and right again and we will emerge from the disaster standing proud and tall even in the midst of the despair that surrounds us. 

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.”
– Lady Bird Johnson

 

Flood of Emotions

When I woke up this morning, I thought it was just going to be a normal day of school work and some house cleaning.  Pretty boring, but that changed pretty quickly as the days seem to do around here lately.

The day started out with a text from our pastor who was looking for some help from me on a little project for the volunteer group that is here to help with flood recovery.  After running to a couple of stores, I went to the church building, helped, and was on my way.  I decided to stop at my mom’s house to get her newspapers and mail since she is out of town and I was in the vicinity.  Little did I know that on the drive to her house that my day would change.

I try not to drive through the valley of Minot these days because it is emotionally very difficult for me.  I have spent the majority of my life residing in the valley and that is where my heart is.  I loved everything about it and it was home to me.  The flood left a huge hole in my heart for the places that I called home.

Today as I was driving to my mom’s condo, I had to drive by the house where I grew up.  This was the house my parents brought me home from the hospital to, the house where I learned to ride my bike, the house just 2 blocks from my elementary school, the house where I celebrated 18 birthdays and lived in until I graduated from high school.  It was not a particular nice house by any means, but it was a roof over our heads for my entire childhood and a symbol of my youth.

Unfortunately, this house did not fare well in the flood and for several months, it was 2x4s and a roof, nothing else.  Oh, except for the deck that my dad so skillfully made, which, I think was actually holding the house up after the flood.  I wish I had stopped to take pictures of it, but at the time, it was painful and I just didn’t want to do it.  Today was the day that I wished I had because when I drove by this morning, this is what I saw…

The house has been completely demolished and they were filling in the basement.  I ran home to get my camera and came back to snap these pictures.  The guys who were working on the dirt work, thought I was a little crazy.  They stopped to ask me if this was my house and I told them that I had grown up in the house.  We chatted for a few minutes, but then I had to leave because I was getting choked up.

It is so very difficult to see all the things that were so commonplace in my life so ravaged and destroyed.  Some days I think it is getting better (and it is), but then days like today take me right back to the pain that I felt right after the flood.

Goodbye little 16th Street House.  Thank you for the memories!!!

Oh What a Year!

The time is flying by so quickly and I finally ordered our Christmas cards.  It was hard to know what to say after the year we had, but I decided something a little sarcastic and humorous would work well.  From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!

Hope you all have a blessed day full of happy memories!  May you treasure the true meaning of Christmas in your hearts.  Take some time to thank God for the blessings in your life this Christmas and every day of the year.  If there is one thing I have learned through all of this is that there really are blessings even in the midst of a storm.

Christmas Memories of Forest House

On December 22, it will be six months to the day that the sirens blared telling everyone in Minot that the dikes had over topped and the flooding had begun.  Some days it feels like yesterday and the emotions come rushing back like the rushing of the water.  Other days, it feels like an eternity has gone by since that fateful day.

Today is one of those days where the emotions feel very real and very raw.  I think it has to do with the Christmas season quickly approaching.  Christmas was a busy time at Forest House and throughout the entire neighborhood.  It had been a tradition in Forest Addition, which was the legal name of our neighborhood, to light luminaries on Christmas Eve.  People would get together in the afternoon to make the luminary bags and visit amongst neighbors who had over the years, turned friends.  In the evening, a couple of men would go around and light the luminaries and they would glow bright all night long.  Such a beautiful tradition that lasted for over 40 years.  It makes me sad that we will no longer be a part of that tradition in Forest Addition.

Forest House was also the first house that we lived in that we were really able to deck out in Christmas lights.  I have thought many times of how great of a feeling it was to turn the corner and see our house lit up in the spectacular white icicle lights.  I loved how the house felt so welcoming with all its pretty lights aglow on a cold winter night.  It makes my heart sad that we were only able to enjoy those days for such a short time when the house was suddenly ripped from us.

As much as I try to make things feel normal and try to create new traditions, the pain of what was lost is still very much there.  People say that it was just a house and while that is true, that house was a part of our dreams.  Something that we thought we would be able to enjoy and create memories in for a long time to come.  A house that was a home for our little family.  A house that we thought would be a place where friends and family would gather for fellowship, food, and fun for a very long time.  The time was way too short in our Forest House and while there are moments where I think that I shouldn’t feel so strongly connected to it since the time was so short, it has been very hard to let it go.

I hope some day that I can look at our time in Forest House as a time of happiness, but right now, the time spent there brings a lot of sad emotions.   It is incredibly difficult to have things ripped from you quickly and tragically. 

Looking back on the following pictures, I feel like a mixed bag of emotions.  I am reminded of the wonderful memories we created during our time at Forest House, but I long for the opportunity to create even more memories as well.  Here is a short journey through Christmas at Forest House.

They say pictures say a thousand words so I will let them do the rest of the talking.

With Thanksgiving In My Heart

What is Thanksgiving or what is sometimes referred to as Turkey Day?  Sadly, most of the time, I think of turkey, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, green bean casserole, homemade buns, and lefse.  While these are all wonderful things, they are really not what Thanksgiving is all about.

This year, I am ever more understanding of what it means to be thankful, truly thankful for the blessings in my life.  Last Thanksgiving, we hosted the holiday at our beautiful Forest House.  We were surrounded by family and we had a wonderful feast, lots of laughter, and just an all around great day.  If I had known last year what life would be like between last Thanksgiving and this, I would have cherished the time even more.

This year, Forest House sits in ruin and what was once a beautiful home is now a shell with no warmth to be found.  No fire in the fireplace, no turkey cooking in the oven, and no laughter within the neighborhood, but yet, even in all of this, there is still hope and blessing.

Hope of a better future.  Hope of the unseen.  A belief that no matter what, there is a reason to be thankful for the blessings that have come our way.

Even in this time of uncertainty, I find blessings around every corner.  As I reflect on the last year, I can think of so many ways that we have been blessed and it makes my heart swell.

STorage spaces for our things after the evacuations
Hugs
Answered Prayers
Numerous people who called and listened for hours on end
Kind words
Support from so many people near and far
Generosity of friends, family, and strangers
Invitations from people offering a place to stay
MoVing days full of help from friends and family
MaIl from all over the US offering encouragement and support
Notes of encouragement
Help with Gutting Forest House
On this Thanksgiving, I say thank you.  Thank you to every single person who has been there for us during the flood.  Whether you helped us move, gave us a place to stay, offered support, listened, cried with us, supported us financially, sent cards and care packages, offered storage spaces for our stuff, helped gut our house, and most importantly, prayed us through this, we extend a HUGE THANK YOU!  You will never know how much your support has helped us in the face of this adversity.  It has made us realize even more how blessed we are to be surrounded by family and friends who truly care and were willing to be there in a moments notice to help.  We will be forever grateful for the blessings you have brought to our lives.  May you be blessed beyond measure for blessing us in so many ways.
This thanksgiving, take the time to say a prayer of thanks to God for your blessings and reflect on the many things we all have to be thankful for.  It really is amazing when you take the time to ponder on these things.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tree of Hope

Here is the tree I won at the Tree of Hope event!  Feels good to take out my Christmas decorations.  Of course, Ryan thought I was crazy taking them out and starting to decorate for Christmas already.  Thank you again to all the people who donated and organized the event!  It meant a lot to so many people who were affected by the flooding this year (especially all the children and all the children at heart).   

Free is Even Better

Do you remember a few days ago how I was looking for small Christmas tree inspiration?  I was looking for something reasonably priced and very small for our house.  I spent some time at thrift stores and in the aisles at department stores pondering just what the best option would be, but I have finally ended my search.

It all started a few days ago when I was on Facebook.  I saw that there was going to be a Christmas decoration giveaway for people who had been affected by the flood.  At first I didn’t think I would go to the giveaway because I was actually able to get most of my decorations out during the evacuation, but at the last minute, I decided that it might be a fun thing for Luke and I to go to get in the holiday spirit.  In the back of my mind I thought there might possibly be a small tree for us there.

We found a couple of cute items at the giveaway (which I will post about later) and put our name in for one of the trees that would be given away at the end of the event.  Well, as luck would have it, my name was the last name drawn and I won a tree!!!  It is a cute slim tree that is about 5 feet tall.  Not the table top tree that I was thinking about buying, but just right for the living room nonetheless.

Because of my excitement, I am going to break from tradition and decorate my cute little tree tonight.  Fortunately, my Christmas decorations were easy to find although, I think some of my tree decor at at my in laws still.  I will come back on here later tonight and post a picture of my adorable little Tree of Hope.  How fitting!!

Thank you to all the volunteers who spent many hours planning the event for all of the flood survivors. Thank you also to all the people who donated so many lovely items.  It means a lot that so many people who have lost so much in this horrible event.  It really does give people hope that times will get better and that there is life after the flood!

Just sad

Tonight I am just plainly sad.  Some days are better than others on this journey since the flood, but tonight one word sums it up…sad.  I came across some pictures on my computer of L’s bedroom.  I had taken them when we bought new (to us) dressers.  His room was really starting to come together just like he wanted it and I had snapped a few pics.  When I saw those pictures tonight, sadness struck.  It has been 2 1/2 months since we last truly lived in our house.  I really believed that it was going to be a short evacuation and then we would be home for good.  This is just not the case.

The truth of the matter is that Forest House (as L called it) is now just a part of our past.  I remember the day we went on a tour of the house when it first came on the market (in August 2008).  I had driven down the road several days earlier and fell in the love with the neighborhood.  There was a feeling of serenity that just drew me in.  When I found out there was a house for sale on that street, I had to see it.  For us, it was love at first sight.  The yard was amazing, truly a forest of your own.  The previous owners had painstakingly mapped out the gardens and have spent much time tending them to make a beautiful place.  We loved the house itself as well.  Lots of room, a beautiful stone fireplace, more than one bathroom (that was new to me) and a 2 stall garage (also new to me).  We felt like it was just the perfect place for our family to lay down some roots. 

When we moved in on September 19, 2008, we were elated.  Friends and family helped us work into the night preparing the home for our little family.  It was just what we wanted and we believed we would spend many, many happy years in our forest house.  Little did we know what was on the horizon for us.  Many of these same friends and family helped to move us out of our house on evacuation day just 2 1/2 years later. 

It is hard to think of the many hours I spent experimenting in the kitchen trying to come up with new gluten free recipes for L.  It became a huge part of my life and now in the last several months, I have basically not baked at all.  I loved the space in my kitchen.  It was perfect for me and I thought it was where I was going to spend many years baking treats and cooking healthy meals for my family.

I was also in the process of making a space in the house as a home business.  What I had found so exciting about the house was a separate entrance to a nice sized room with its own bathroom.  I had big plans of turning the space into a small salon and mineral makeup studio.  I was working on the decorating and had already bought a lot of the equipment necessary to start the business.  But, when the flood waters came, these dreams went down the river.

Many people have asked us if we plan to rebuild and as hard as it is to say, there is just no possible way to do so.  The money it would involve is too great, the uncertainty of the river makes us too uneasy, it is almost impossible to get rid of all the mold (which I have found out I am likely allergic to), and we are unsure of the future of our neighborhood if the city starts working on the dikes to build them higher.  As of right now, the preliminary map shows our house as a likely candidate for a buy out.  This means, the house would be purchased by the city and would be torn down.  This could be a long time in the future, but we don’t feel it is worth it for us to stick a bunch of money into a house that will likely not be in existence in the future.

I know that it is time to take my eyes off what I have lost and look to the future for better things, but some days it is harder than others.  On days of uncertainty, it is hard to see what is coming up ahead for us.  I know deep down in my heart that there is better, but some times my head wants to go back to the past.  And I guess considering that this past is only 2 1/1 months ago, I guess I just need to give myself some time to process and grieve.  Like I said, some days are much better than others, but tonight I guess I am just still sad.   

The Day Our Lives Changed

This is the road to my house…

As you may have noticed, I have not been posting lately.  You may have read my last short post, but if not, our house was flooded as well as most houses in the valley of our town, Minot, ND.  The sirens blew on June 22 just before 1 pm indicating that water had started going over the dikes and that our town would soon be more of a fish bowl than a town.  At this time, we still have not seen the inside of our house, but just today, I was able to see our neighborhood.  Our yard is still full of water and we will likely not be able to go inside until the city pumps out the our very low lying neighborhood.  It is a sad sight to see decks, sheds, play structures, hot tubs, toys, basketballs, and so much more floating in contaminated water.  The smell is beyond belief and I have been told that the smell inside of the houses makes a person want to throw up. Over 4,100 homes have sustained some sort of water damage.  805 (including ours) are considered destroyed.  It is sad and so shocking.

We have come to terms with the fact that our house will no longer be our home.  When we walked out the door the final day of evacuation, we knew it.  We walked away from dreams, hopes, and aspirations.  The day the sirens blared, our whole world changed.  It will never be the same.  Most days, I believe that it will be for the better, but some days, I have a hard time seeing how that could be.  I think of my dreams for that house…play dates with L’s friends, walks on our tree lined street, dinners with friends, bonfires, a small home business in the works, etc. and I am very saddened.

Every address I ever called home is flooded, my elementary and junior high school, the church where I had my first communion, our current church, my chiropractic office, our vet office, our local grocery, pharmacy, gas station, friends homes, it is just so hard to grasp onto the fact that everything that was such a normal part of my life will be forever changed. 

I, as well as most of the people who have flooded homes, thought we were safe from floods.  We had a flood system in place (dikes, dams, etc.) to protect our town.  City officials even made statements that we were so well protected that we didn’t really need flood insurance.  Guess we were all mistaken.  My understanding is that less than 10% of the households had flood insurance.  What this means for most of us is financial devastation.  We cannot rebuild our house in its location, we cannot salvage what is there and thus we have to make some very hard choices of how we will proceed.  We have no idea what these choices will mean for us.

The other side of the coin is that there is very little housing available in Minot.  The houses we have looked at are too expensive (and we can’t afford another mortgage).  Rentals are few and far between and the rent is more than many big cities.  One bedroom apartments are renting for $2500 per month.  I don’t even make close to that a month and we still have a mortgage on a house that will be torn down.  The federal government has come right out and said there is little to no money to help us and we are pretty much on our own.  FEMA will help a little, but doesn’t come close to salvaging what was lost. There are talks of some buy outs, but they may not happen for 2 years or more if they come at all.

It is a scary road to be on, but I am placing my trust in a God who can see more than I can see.  He obviously has some plan for us that is bigger than us and I guess the only thing I can do is give it to Him.  Can I just tell you how hard that is?  I like to know what is next, but I can’t see anything coming over the horizon.  Please pray for our family and the entire community.  It is a trying time, but we are forging ahead knowing that as a family, we can get through this.  It won’t be easy, but I am believing that some day, I am going to look at this situation and see God’s hand on it and feel stronger than ever before.

Thanks for being here for us, for the words of encouragement, and the offers of help.  It is very appreciated.