So to briefly catch you up… we don’t exactly have a home right now. Last Monday, after three days of an exhausting but effective “shelter in place” hurricane strategy during Harvey, we woke up to flooding in the park behind our house and an evacuation order because the Army Corps of Engineers was flooding our neighborhood to protect an overwhelmed Levee nearby. We were told the water would rise rapidly, and would remain flooded for weeks. We quickly prepped what we could in our one-story home and loaded our three kids and our dog into our car while a Coast Guard helicopter flew over our house at about 400 feet. I’m not sure I’ll ever forget that moment, or the shock of it.
The girls in their seats, holding their lifejackets.
Justin and I were tense with one another as we loaded the car, both dealing with the stress and panic in different ways. I kept losing my phone, Justin his wallet. I wanted to leave immediately, Justin thought we may have more time. I gave each child a life jacket to put on in their carseat, in case we needed to abandon the car in route. In Houston, over and over the news tells you the roads are the most dangerous place to be in a hurricane and a flood. But now they were telling us to get into our car and leave, but not telling us where to go. We drove out of our neighborhood through the only exit that was passable, the other one was already flooding and will be under water for weeks more they are saying.
As we drove north, toward higher ground, I started to feel better. This was a good plan, we would now be safe. There were very few cars on the ground, everyone looking as worried as we did. We had plans to try to make it out of Houston, and if that didn’t work, we had three friends waiting to receive us. Whichever house we got to first was the winner. But my heart began to fall as every road we went down was flooded. We turned back time and time again, growing more afraid and frustrated. We drove backwards up a highway that was flooded. Finally, all routes out were exhausted. We weren’t even sure if we could get back home at that point. My heart was racing, I couldn’t feel my hands, my face and skin felt like they were burning. I called my sister, a nurse, because I thought I was having a panic attack but I needed to make sure it wasn’t something more serious. She reassured me, it’s a panic attack, it will stop when you are safe.
We finally saw a couple of police officers in front of a grocery store. We pulled in and I got out to ask them what to do, bursting into tears as I approached them. “We were told to evacuate – but where should we go? The road to the shelter is flooded.” They didn’t know either, they empathized with our question. They said the parking lot was full of families in our situation, told to leave but trapped in by water. They suggested a parking garage close by, stay on the 5th or higher floor, wait out the storm, in a few days the roads will open. My mind went blank. Days in my van with my kids and our dog, no restroom, no bed, in a hurricane. I went back to Justin and the girls in the car, wiping my tears, trying to control my fear. We started driving again. We saw a hotel, maybe they’d take us in. I joined the line in the lobby, making reservations at other hotels on my phone just in case. It was full. So was the second. And the third. Justin called booking.com and found us a hotel close by, I booked it on my phone while we drove. Thank you God. We checked into the 6th floor, the top floor. We snuck our dog in. We started to figure out meals. My panic attack calmed a little, but wouldn’t stop. We were still south of another failing levee, flooding on all sides, helicopters surrounded us day and night. My body wasn’t fooled – we weren’t really safe. Two more nights passed and I was unable to sleep. I tried crying and meditating, praying and walking up and down the halls – nothing worked. We hugged and talked to other evacuees as the hotel filled with people as wet and desperate as we were. So many difficult stories, so much loss.
Three mornings later the sun came out and we left Houston, the moment the first road opened. In the time since we have rested at my mom’s house in Dallas, trying to figure out what is next. I have slept quite a bit, and used anti-anxiety medications to right my body. Justin stayed for a day and then headed home. He has worked with countless kind people to gut our house, getting out everything we can salvage. So many people have given to us, gifts and money and gift cards. Every show I had through the entire month of September cancelled, my sweet parents are processing their own version of grief and fear.
So while it is still happening, and while what is next is still unsure, I needed to write about it. Because it occurs to me that there are about a dozen ways to look at this.
Yes, in one sense, we are homeless. But in another sense we have had so many offers of places to stay. We went from one home to many. We have options, which is grace to us.
We have been through a trauma, yes, but we are strong and safe. We know now what we can handle. Our marriage was stretched, yes, but it is strong. We have held each other. I took care of things at the house when Justin was in shock and couldn’t prepare, Justin took care of me after we left when I was so weak I couldn’t function.
In one sense, my girls have lost a great deal. They may have trauma effects for decades. But they have gained perspective and wisdom. They know stuff is just stuff, they know we don’t walk alone, they know people are good. They may have lost some of their clothes, but they are wearing beautiful clothes given to them by people who love them. They will know empathy and kindness, service and gratitude, because of this event. They will watch us overcome.
My shows are canceling faster than I could ever book them, but I will know by the end of this My provider. He knew all of this and none of it worries Him. We will be fine. We will have plenty. He will open some door to provide for us, He already is. People we don’t even know are giving to our family. It is humbling but unbelievably precious.
We don’t know what is next, really. We feel stuck on the big things like where we will live and where our kids will go to school. But we have options. We are free to choose the life we want.
When we moved to Houston from Dallas, we were leaving home. We knew nobody, we had no family. Three years later, we have two homes. We didn’t lose one, we gained another. We genuinely love Houston, we love our city, we love our people there, we love our home. Our family in both places are holding us up right now, we are so grateful.
My mind wants to turn to scarcity in this, it really does. It wants to obsess over every loss, every unknown detail. Justin and I have joked in recent months that we are cursed, because there are times where it seems our family just can’t catch a break. But that isn’t truth, it isn’t the whole story. We are blessed. We are strong. We have enough. We are safe. We will overcome.
We have plenty, even after Harvey. And for that, we are grateful.