Thursday, May 16, 2019

When Your Son Has a Son

A baby dances with its feet in the air.
Ruth Krauss

In 1988, my husband and I lived in Connecticut. We rented a house two blocks from the beach on Long Island Sound. I had a great job in New Haven. My son had the best babysitter in the entire world and we had many friends. I loved exploring New York City and New England having moved there from Utah two years earlier. 

My husband hated his job. When he was offered a job in Austin, Texas, let me just say this. There were fingernail marks in the freeway from Milford, Connecticut all the way to Texas. I wasn't upset only for the things I would miss. I was also six months pregnant. I knew no one there. And now my second child would be a Texan rather than a New Englander. God forbid. I'd never been to Texas, but.what I'd heard scared me. What if my new baby came out wearing a ten gallon hat?

Austin turned out to be a great place to raise our family. And that new little baby, my Jordan, well, he was a sweetheart.

He did grow up to wear a hat, but not like I pictured. After years of wearing one like this while running Pioneer Farms Living History Museum, 

he now wears another. That of a father. 

Last September he moved from Austin with his pregnant wife (I so felt your pain, Leigh) out to East Texas to take a job with Texas Parks and Wildlife. At the beginning of March, I was boogie boarding with a bunch of wild women aging boldly while this incredible child was born. Too much fun showing everyone my new grandson's picture. 

Miles Robert

I spent five days with Miles when I returned and they are five days I will cherish forever. 

I watched as this beautiful new family worked through the exhaustion and trials of new parenthood, My daughter-in-law quickly realized that she had prepared well, but just because women had been having babies forever didn't mean first time around they knew what the hell they were doing, especially when your body has been through the ringer and you're sleep deprived. With that simple recognition she chose to trust herself. Smart mama. Great mama.

The first bath
I watched that son of mine as Miles added more days to his young life. So calm, so relaxed. Little Miles so comfortable and safe in the arms of that gentle soul. 

Watching my children with their children is something that leaves me in awe. I'm not quite certain how to describe what I see as I'm not certain how to interpret it. I still can't believe they are old enough to have babies of their own, yet I'm proud they participate in the raising, the doing, the work of raising children. Such an exciting time in their lives.

One afternoon I watched my oldest son as he and his daughter lay on the grass in the back yard, 'noculars in hand as they searched the sky for birds.

Or another day where I watched a tired new dad sit, his new son, Miles, lying in his lap, both content with the world. 

Baby Miles. Of course we ask questions like "Who does he look like?"

His Mama?

Or his daddy?

You decide.

Does he have Uncle Ian's cheeks?

Will Grandpa teach him good stuff or bad stuff? Will Grandma have to monitor?

Will he always keep us entertained?

Aw, little Miles. So very sweet. I'm sad he is two hours away. Now I know something of what my mother used to feel, her grandchildren 1402 miles away. I do get to see him every few weeks and rock him in my arms or have him sit in the crook of my crossed leg. To show him pages from a book or play a little music for him. In his early days of hanging with me, he responded best to the Stones and Eine kleine Nachtmusik. Gotta like that.

When I say goodbye, I can't wait for our next visit. For Miles, dear Miles. Even though I might still be learning about little girls, your cousin Maisy will tell you that hanging with Grandma is an okay thing to do.

But here's a little secret. This Grandma knows how to do boys. She's well seasoned in boys. We will have great fun. Just you watch.

When my son had a son, I cried. I knew he'd be a great dad and I held such joy for him. I have no doubt Miles will become as fine a man as my Jordan, my son.

Congratulations Jordan and Leigh.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Did I Ride In My Last Rodeo?

Spending that many hours in the saddle gave a man plenty of time to think. That's why so many cowboys fancied themselves Philosophers.
Charles M. Russell

I'm no philosopher. Far from it. But I have to say that a week ago while spending a couple hours on a real horse, I did a great deal of thinking. 

As a follower of Next Tribe, an online magazine for bold women 45 to 60+ years of age (and as a member of my local tribe) a friend and I considered one of their retreats. From what I'd read of the destination -- Troncones, Guerrero, Mexico -- it was a sleepy community of small outdoor restaurants and shops. The retreat facilities at Present Moment offered a beautifully tended landscape and Palapa-style bungalows with no windows. Activities available for choice were yoga and meditation, cave hikes, massages, kayaking, writing, photography, and horseback riding on the beach. 

Other than the additional surfing and boogie boarding, the trip sounded like a nightmare to my husband. But to me? I'm 62. The women I'd met in Next Tribe thus far were fascinating, creative, and adventurous. Why the hell not? 

My friend, Beth, and I arrived in Zihuatanejo, Mexico and took a 30-minute taxi ride to Troncones, the small surfer village void of touristo crowds, marinas, and glitzy hotels. 

Upon arrival, we quickly made 20 new friends of smart, accomplished, well-traveled and fit women. We ate fresh fruits and vegetables and fish from the sea. The uncrowded beaches and a sunset to die for greeted us as well. How could this not be perfect?

Perfect it was. Of course, most of the women were younger than me, yet a couple older. All were in much better shape than me. But, hey. I'd had eight months from the time I signed up until the trip to practice my yoga. That I started two weeks before I left didn't seem to matter. Ahem. 

The yoga hut
Next Tribe had a yoga session each morning at 8. Surprisingly, I was up that early. But I walked right past that lovely group of women up there striking poses. I don't exercise first thing in the morning. In fact, I don't talk to people first thing in the morning. I poured myself a coffee from the open air restaurant and found an Adirondack chair on the beach and wrote my morning pages, allowing the rising sun to warm my Tired-of-Winter body. 

My view when I looked back at those who move in the morning.

As class after class took part in all kinds of yoga and practices all day, I waited for Gentle Yoga at 4pm. When I got in there and found out it was an hour and half long class, I winced. My yoga tapes I'd been doing so smuggly at home only lasted 22 to 28 minutes. What had I done? 

But I loved it. The waves crashing in my view, the sea breezes blowing on my face. Comfort. Pleasant moments. The next day's class I was there and ready. When I followed the leader and looped a belt around my bottom and enclosed my feet in the loop in a suspended Indian-style grip where I thought my groin muscles would detach from my torso, the instructor asked if I felt supported. I said I hoped there wasn't a fire. I had no clue how to get myself out of the loop. 

But this immersion into something I didn't know gave me confidence I could still learn something new as well as the old. When it came time to sign up for a sunset horseback ride on the beach, I was in. I'd ridden horses all my life, starting when I was 7. At camp on Lake Okoboji in Iowa every year, I signed up to get the horses brushed and saddled every morning. Often I went with my brother or husband up to Evergreen, Colorado to exercise and ride a friend's horses -- including the day my knee wiped itself off on the fence post netting the meniscus tear I ran on for the next twenty years before getting that baby trimmed up. 

My last ride had been up in the Black Hills while exploring South Dakota with my sons. I had my middle son in the saddle behind me and a car came near us with a yippy little dog. Scared my horse and he freaked and backed down into a deep gully beside the road. I didn't freak. I quickly guided the horse back up the hill and safely onto the trail, my son told to hang tight.

I knew how to ride a horse. 

When it came time for Next Tribe to ride, about 20 horses gathered on the beach. It seemed the ranch hands were assigning horses to my fellow riders. 

All of a sudden, there was only one horse left -- at the end of the pack. An old plug, just like me. When I placed my foot in the stirrup, I discovered I couldn't get my old ass up in the saddle. I couldn't plant that bad knee and use it to thrust myself up there. Nor did my shoulder strength appear to exist.

I'd seen the young caballerros help up one or two others, so I wasn't completely horrified, but I have to say the two young men who arrived to get my errant leg up, over, and across the horse weren't quite certain where to push. I'm not certain exactly where they did. I hope I haven't twisted those boys for life. 

Alas, I was aboard. Mission accomplished as far as I was concerned. I knew what to do next. Only I didn't. I'd worn the wrong shoes. No traction to keep my feet lodged in the stirrups. I also appeared a rookie, free hand clinging to the saddle horn. I attempted a photo of myself. Does it look like I'm having fun?

My bad knee didn't like the position it was in and I recalled that last ride in the Black Hills was in 1998, a mere 21 years before. But, so what? We were only walking down the beach. How hard could this be? My horse's name was Caterina and I patted her neck and said, "Get me through this alive, Caterina."

Off we went.
My traveling partner -- looking like she was born on that horse.

All was well until we took a turn and started climbing up through the rocks. My horse wanted to wipe my knees on them. Well, I let her know that wasn't going to happen to me again and I steered her away from that trick. But then she stumbled on the rocks. And stumbled again. 

Now, I know horses can do this to you on purpose, but as I patted her side and called Caterina by name, I assured her we didn't have to stumble. "Just watch where the f---- you're going."

We got through that and cruised along another beach until the next set of rocks, where my old plug stumbled again, greatly. I found myself perpendicular to a rock and I'm pretty sure I yelled out "Holy Shit" or something like that as my horse finally uprighted and stumbled again before coming out onto the next beach. 

I started to look at the places we passed on the beach. I hoped for a hotel with a bar. Me and Caterina would tie up and wait for them to come back. Have a few shots of tequila. 

No hotels. No bars. Surely we'd turn around soon. 

The sun set and in its magnificence, I tried to get my phone out of my back pocket so I could take a photo. I decided hanging on was a better idea as we came across more rocks to stumble upon. As the sun slipped into the ocean, we arrived at our third long beach and I was certain we'd stop here and some van or bus would take us back to our place. If my horse couldn't find her footing in the light, she sure as hell couldn't find it in the dark. 

But, we turned around. To go back the same way. I was so done. Which is when I started doing that philosophizing/praying the artist Charles Russell refers to in that quote above. 

Please, please, please horsey, whatever your name is again. 
Get me home safely.
Please do better on the rocks.
Get this old broad back alive. Please?

This is also where I began evaluating the choices I make. Even though when I turned 60 I agreed to go after whatever opportunities I'm given, I decided a less challenging approach might be in order. Yes, sitting on that horse, fear entered into my philosophizing.  

While I was doing the Plato thing, that old horse passed over those rocks just fine. When we cleared the last of them and had a free ride the rest of the way back, I again contemplated my future. As much as I took in the beauty of the setting sun, the opportunity to be present in this breathtaking place with incredible women, I wanted off the horse. And it was okay. Just as I'd walked off a ski slope several years before after 40 years of snow skiing, I felt no regret with the decision. There just comes a time when you know some of your riding days are done. 

The next day, I was back in the saddle. 

A saddle that fits me fine. My horseback riding days are done, but to answer the question of this essay? Did I ride in my last rodeo? Yes, but I'll still go to the rodeo.

You bet I will. Because at this one I also had THE BEST BOOGIE BOARD RIDE OF MY LIFE!


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

We're All Waiting

"Even on the road to hell, flowers can make you smile."
Deng Ming-Dao

While writing my morning pages today, I was distracted by a resounding chorus of chirping birds. In my backyard I found hundreds of red-breasted robins. We don't have robins in Austin, Texas. Growing up in Austin, Minnesota, they were the only birds I ever saw.

But right in my backyard, hundreds flitted from tree to tree, their voices drowning out the passing cars. Their activity prematurely dislodging the live oak leaves still priming the branches for their replacement's arrival next month. Like a rain of leaves.

I got out my camera and went out in my pajamas, barefoot. The patio was cold. I wanted to be quick, but my camera wouldn't work. The battery was dead. Apropos to the season. Dead, like everything else this time of year. February. The dog days of winter.

I plugged in my battery and paced the floor. Perhaps like the birds fluttering from branch to branch, impatient for the weather to warm; their migration back up north to continue. The season to change.

My morning pages of late have documented the gloomy weather.

Gray day.
Rain day.
Windy, cold day.
A slight streak of sunlight. Hope?
Absent sun.
Brown -- the world is brown. Will the world always be brown now? No hope?

My daily mediation book this year is 365 Tao by Den Min-Dao. Each morning I read a page. This day had the quote from above. Appropriately placed for February, I'd say. Would seem I'm not the only one tired of the dormancy of winter.

It could be worse. I could still live up North where I'd also mention the gray skies. Most days I'd say white instead of brown. New snow. Old snow. The old snow always worse because it would have the dirty splashes of vehicle spill turning the snow banks a dull gray or black. Sticks and errant debris crusted into the once pristine white, now its own ugly.

But even in the South, patience is required. All kinds of patience that is often hard to muster. Especially on days when something new arrives right outside my window.

My pacing prompted me to grab my cell phone and I did get this photo. A little cropping blew it up, but it disappointed me. I wanted to get that clearer, better shot, with my zoom lens. My feet chilled on the cement, I listened to the collective chirping and watched the birds flutter from branch to branch, as if they were as anxious as me waiting for that better shot. At flight. The robins, waiting to stretch their wings and fly for miles, rather than from yard to yard on a slowed trek of waiting for warmth.

My daily Tao today also says "We should take time to appreciate beauty in the midst of temporality." Only after posting this photo here, do I notice the blue sky behind. The beautiful orange breast. The Live Oak tree behind that doesn't drop its leaves until another is present. That if the crepe myrtle were not dormant  and free of green, I would not see this beautiful bird of my youth.

My camera battery is now charged, but the robins have left. I can hear them far off, a block or so away. Patiently working their way north.

The sun is out today. The weather report says we won't see it tomorrow. This is my "temporality moment." Perhaps a visit to a greenhouse is in order. The flowers to come certain to make me smile.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

What's on Your 2018 Reading List?

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. 
P.J. O'Rourke

Years ago I kept a reading journal where I recorded every book I read. A few years later, I added a tagline. Years after that, I joined Goodreads and let them keep track. Gave me an opportunity to see what everybody else was reading and their rankings.

I often compare my rankings to my friends and choose from their recommendations. But sometimes I love a book and my reading friends hate it. Or vice versa. What's wrong with them?

Based on a five-star system, I don't give away too many five stars. Sometimes I want to give a one,  yet I give a two. Or a two, I'll give a three. Just because I know how hard it is to write a book. Kind of like having been a waiter, I'll give mine a little more tip than most. Especially if they are good.

An avid reader since forever, I love all the places books take me. All the new things I learn. I always have several books going. The pattern something like this:

Daily Meditation
Poetry (3 new poems a day)
Essay or Short Story collection (one a day if I can fit it in)
Novel for night reading. Sometimes a non-fiction
Audible book for riding in the car 

At the end of 2018, I wanted a clean slate for the new year. As I finished each book, I didn't begin another. Agony. Sheer agony as my reading mind tried to comprehend another episode of Buy My Old POS Car or Take this Wheel Nut and Put it Here with my captivated husband.

On December 31, I read the last meditation in The Journey to The Heart and shelved it. On January 1, I began 365 Tao, my new daily med for 2019. I eyed my Books To Be Read shelf with glee. 

I'm rather fickle, though. How is it I can look at the shelf crammed with 30+ unread books and none of them appeal to me? Surely they allured me when I purchased or borrowed them. What I wanted to read on December 31 was completely different than what I chose on January 1.

Please note there is another of unread behind those you see.
Thus far, I 've added:

Do I Make Myself Clear --Why Writing Well Matters by Harold Evans
In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt  (finished)
Hotel Silence by Auour Ava Olafsottir
Becoming by Michelle Obama

Still need a poetry book. Any suggestions? The Rilke I ordered won't be here until mid-February.

I only signed up to read 35 books this year in the Goodreads challenge. In past years I've challenged myself to 50 and usually complete more. But I find myself getting itchy to get to that 50. I become obsessed about a number rather than reading for joy. (What does that say about me?)

This year, 35 sounds good. That will happen naturally. Without the race, I might tackle some of those thicker books stuck on my stuffed shelf. Make more room.

Please join me on Goodreads. My handle is Julie Sucha Anderson.

Tell me. What's on your bookshelf for 2019?

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Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Lists of Christmas

There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.
Erma Bombeck

Last night while babysitting my two-year-old granddaughter, I pulled out my old copy of Peter Spier's Christmas!

The colorful graphics depict the chaotic season so well. No words, just pictures of the process -- setting up of lights/trees/, the shopping and wrapping, card/ornament/cookie making, pageants and caroling, food shopping, the big dinner, the opening of gifts, the mess of it all -- the kitchen filled with dishes and the floors draped in wrappings. The exhausted parents. The unchosen Christmas trees lying forlorn at the tree stands.

Then the cleanup, the discarded trees and garbage lining the streets and the reboxing of the decorations and lights. A graphic at the end of the book says only 360 days or so until it all has to be done again.

This morning I listed in my journal all the things I could possibly do today.

Make that last batch of cookies
Sew that smaller blanket for my granddaughter and one for her babydoll
Go downtown and watch the Christmas tuba concert on the capitol's steps
Iron the tablecloth and napkins
Go see the quirky 37th Street lights

I don't feel like doing anything except sit in my bright bedroom and read. I'm tired. As I age, life seems to speed by faster and faster. Christmas arrives sooner and sooner. I swear I did all this stuff only a couple months ago. But, once again:

The decorations are up - inside and out
The gifts purchased, wrapped and mailed or under the tree
Boring Christmas letter written and mailed
Christmas Eve menu planned and ingredients purchased
Cookies made (I've lost my touch -- need to rekindle baking techniques)
Swedish cardamon coffee bread and lefsa made
A host of other little things not remembered at the moment

Pretty fine-looking piece of lefsa, if I do say so myself

But I won't lie. Christmas was definitely more fun when I was a kid. My lists then consisted only of dreams:

A new bike
A new doll
New pajamas
A snowcone machine
A new game

Such anticipation while my mother worked her tail off to make Christmas happen. I had no idea.

In my current life my lists and duties have lessened. I don't have all the children's events to prepare for and attend -- the church pageants and school parties. The guitar recitals and band concerts. My children are off on their own and my parents no longer alive so I don't have three meals a day to prepare for a crowd.

But planning for Christmas Eve is still a huge venture. Detail work.  Lots of detail work. All the little stuff that makes it special. All the little stuff possibly no one notices except me.

Which is probably why today I'm choosing how I want to spend my day before the final crush begins. I do need to dust the house and get the mailman his yearly gift. On Sunday, I'll need to make certain my fresh dill is still fresh and I don't need another visit to the insane grocery. I'll do the prep for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner and make certain everything is ready for when the kids arrive Monday morning and the festivities lasting until midnight begin.

Eggnog and Swedish coffee bread
Gingerbread House creation
Ugly Sweater decorating contest (decorating done at the participant's leisure throughout the day)
FaceTime with youngest son in NYC
Swedish meatball construction
Someone making a sandwich -- and then everyone wanting one
A long walk
Tea and scones
Facetime with youngest son in NYC
Ugly sweater contest judged via text message by extended family throughout the country
Traditional Swedish Dinner
FaceTime with youngest son in NYC
Present sharing

My list for Christmas day is nil. Where I used to make another huge dinner,  I now sleep late, my children off with their other families or headed home. No structure to this day. Leftovers. Rest. The festivities complete. Until it's time to put Christmas away.

Last night my granddaughter undressed the Elf on the Shelf and herself, put the stuffed reindeer to bed in a box, and helped me create a railroad track. I wore a crowned Santa hat and she a rack of antlers.

Had to call her Uncle Jordan to chat.

She doesn't quite understand all this Christmas hoopla yet. I don't think she cares about the manger scene and the presents under the tree. Too many other distractions. Next year might bring more awareness. More of that anticipation in the air, the excitement. A better understanding of a guy in a red suit with a white beard that can fit down a chimney.

I look forward to that and next year her Uncle Jordan will bring his new baby, too. Two grandchildren. Possible pageants and recitals to attend in the future. A new cycle.

As to what I'll do today? Sitting here writing this post has given me time to look out the window. The sun shines on the lawn in places where it didn't when all the leaves were on the trees.  The house is quiet, and peaceful. The buttercream candle offers a pleasant scent, just like the cookies I most likely don't need to bake.

Sitting here I've decided that if some of those details don't get done, it's okay. Because watching the sun filtering on the lawn is more important. Watching and noticing is how I will collect myself after all this preparation. That in this collecting, I will acquire anticipation and gratitude for those who will gather around me on Christmas Eve day. All of us together -- FaceTime or real time -- sharing gifts of time together, laughter, and fun.

Yes, today I will look out the window. And gather.

Merry Christmas everybody. Have a good one.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Life Interruptus -- With Gratitude

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. 
Thornton Wilder

Thirteen days ago I woke up thinking I'd get myself organized. Do my daily reading and writing and then fill the empty coffers in my fridge. Make something healthy for dinner. Maybe even clean the toilets. 

Then I looked at the texts on my muted phone. People asking if our lakehouse was okay. Um. Okay, so I didn't wake up until 8:30. I went to bed way past midnight with no knowledge of anything significant developing out on the Llano River. I knew they were expecting more rain, but it had been raining for a while. 

The previous week there had been immense rains and some flooding, but other than an accumulation of passing timbers and brush that parked at our house for a while, we were fine. Besides, our lake in the river chain of six is a constant level lake. It doesn't flood. We have flood gates at the dam.

A video sent to us by our neighbors of a wild and unfamiliar scene in front of our houses interrupted my husband's morning interlude at the indoor golf driving range. He arrived home as I was collecting rain gear. We drove the hour and ten minutes to Lake LBJ, me watching the news reports on my phone. Pelting rain hindered the drive. Our neighbors texted they were leaving their house. When the news reports announced our little isle was under evacuation, I didn't know what to think other than we needed to turn around. We had hoped to move things to the upper level. Tie up the boat. Move the vehicles in the garage to higher ground. Or something like that. Not certain our thoughts were quite that organized. We had never prepared for an event like this.

The volume of water thrashing down the river surprised everyone. The Llano River rose over 39 feet. While driving in, we heard the Kingsland 2900 bridge collapsed. You may have seen video of this on national news. (You can Google it going down.) That bridge is six miles from us.

Upon arrival at our isle, we couldn't get across the causeway to access the house. From the looks of it, we didn't know if the road would be there when the water receded.

A rescue was in progress via boat retrieval of an elderly gentleman from the end of the isle.

Unable to access the house, we drove up to higher ground. The rain whipped around us. We could only wonder how our old cabin fared on the other side these houses pictured below. That was our island, our house, our neighbor's homes -- flooding. I felt so bad for it. Doesn't that sound crazy? I felt bad for it. Our homes under siege by waters that weren't supposed to flood it.

We couldn't do anything. We drove back home. Grateful we could do that.

Almost 13 years ago, we purchased our cabin. We are old Yankees (Minnesota and Michigan) and lakes and deciduous trees are ingrained in our hearts and minds. To finally own a place on a lake was a dream come true.

In Central Texas, the six Highland lakes are really the Colorado River (different than the big one out west) divided by a series of dams. The Llano River joins the Colorado River to begin our lake, LBJ, which is a constant level lake.  It's a pass through lake shuffling water down the line to the larger Lake Travis, and then into Austin and beyond. Lake LBJ doesn't flood because the dams and their floodgates keep it from doing so. Where those two above-mentioned rivers join, houses have flooded in the past. But our house is six miles down, with land left undeveloped in between for waters to flow if needed. Ahem.

First constructed on pedestals in 1964, our cabin purchase was a funky collection of odd doors to added rooms and a rickety old dock. We rebuilt the dock and made do with the rest. Paint and love.

Over 400 different people have spent the night in the past 12 years. Many of those have come several/many times. This does not count those who came only for the day, or by boat. Boys Scouts, baseball teams, fraternity boys, family, bunco bitches, book club, family, WriterGrrls, writing friends, old friends, new friends, our kid's friends, our friend's friends, our families friends.

Over 400 different people. And everybody got clean sheets and helped with food prep or cleanup. If they didn't, they didn't get invited back. Unless they were family. Ha!

"A Double-Wide on stilts," my husband always says. Looks like this when all the kids are home and we fly our respective flags. 

Or like this if there's a bunch of people on the dock.

So, back to thirteen days ago. When the rain subsided that evening and the flood waters were in retreat, our neighbors waded over the causeway and sent us this photo of our dock.

Henry, You swan, you! You survived! And our boat was there. We'd seen newsreels of boats going over the dams and figured ours was one of them. Photo credit to David Hawkes

Our neighbor's dock set the pick for us, would seem.

Photo credit to David Hawkes

The next morning, we bought 20 gallons of water at the grocery and drove to the lake. When we arrived, the first thing I saw was that pink flamingo on the bottom right of this photo. Wasn't mine, but there it was, just perched on that hammered Mexican sage. When I saw it, I took it as a sign. It would all be okay. I depended on it.

After we removed all those trash cans and got through the gate, we discovered why our driveway was all rutted -- the crushed granite re-distributed along the path and all over the yard by the flood's rush.

Did not tromp through that to look inside. Not right away. 

Didn't that have a cooler on that rack?

Interesting design.

More odd sights, like our badminton rackets lying in the yard as if abandoned mid-game. 

Uh, oh. Note the water line on my Volks. 

Okay, so my arrangement wasn't so nice. Is this one better?

Then these fine young men arrived. Two
LDS missionaries offering to help. We shared that we had lived in Salt Lake City and our oldest son born there. That we are probably the only people around who know why both their first names are Elder. 

They helped carry all this out. Most comfortable recliner chairs ever. 

They carried out the neighbor's stuff too.

The other side of us hauled out also.

In that mess was a neighbor's old boat, a jet ski, a fishing boat, a shed, a roof, two jet ski docks, Tom, Dick and Harry.

My oldest son's father-in-law and his friend arrived with a power washer  (ours disabled by water) and 

within many hours of hard work, both the bunk room and the TV/bedroom/ laundry room were shoveled out from under layers of mud.  Oldest son, Jacob, arrived to assist.

Silver lining? That carpet is gone. That bed rest against the fence? 300 lbs when wet.

 Nice assortment of semi-washed off stuff.

The Red Cross had dropped off cleaning supplies to friends down the road.  We visited at day's end to assess their situation. We were all okay. It was only stuff. 

Day Two. My daughter-in-law pulls her landscaping crews from their jobs and drives out to the lake with 8 guys. Overwhelming emotion.

Scraping the mud and cleaning the debris off the dock. Trash cans pulled from the lake. 

Trailers loaded and hauled off packed with our stuff, and the neighbors, to the dumpsters in town.

The flamingo is our leader. Chelsea rocks!
Day Three. Blessed with such assistance the day before, we headed out to help friends further up the Llano River. Uh... speechless. Did what we could to help while the rain poured and the temp was unseasonably cold.

Those lumps were docks. I think.

Once our friend's dock and yard, they now have a beach. 

Their house was high up on the hill. 

Their newly renovated downstairs, which held all their belongings. The upstairs  having been emptied for renovations in process up there. If we came across a family photo in our sorting of what didn't float down river, we handled it with great care.

Day 4. Our friends from home arrive. The cleaning and sanitizing crew.

Lisa, Debbie, Terrianne, Kris, Chelsea

Miss Maisy. Two-year-old granddaughter not interested in being left out.
A local church sent loads of people to help those who didn't have other helpers. They took out loads of ruined stuff and helped break down drywall. Down the street, the couple featured in the middle of this photo had boat, dock and yard damage, but no water in their home. They make massive trays of lasagna, salad, cookies and sweet tea. Went up and down the streets inviting everyone working to come eat. Sustenance at the right moment. Incredible gift.

Back at the house, the destruction of paneling and drywall and insulation continued. I don't have more photos of this crew as I was otherwise engaged. Hard workers. Mark, Mark, Bob, Bob, Tim, Wayne, oldest son Jacob.

Almost done.

Old shower and sink gone.
And then this. I had found this on the floor on the first day and brought it upstairs. I set it outside as it was full of muddy water and ruined. As many know, my folks, now both gone, lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin for years and my boys spent many a summer day at the Packer training camp where the players mixed with the kids. My mom and dad would send newspaper clippings and magazines to youngest son and huge fan, Ian.

I didn't cry at anything else going on, but when I saw this, I cried. Just one of those things.
I sent this photo to Ian in NYC. Sad. I shared that text with two friends, Debbie and Kris, and told them I just couldn't be the one to throw it away. Debbie, who is also my daughter-in-law's mom, said she'd do it. Off she went. The box was gone when I went upstairs.

Meanwhile, we tried to unclog all the debris hunkered down under the dock. We pulled lawn up chairs and fire pits. Picture frames and trellises. Mike, the neighbor's son, got in our remaining kayak to get it flowing away from the docks.

The neighbors grandkids, all out for a work day, made great fun of the work. 
End of day. Time for a beer, wine and snacks for the exhausted workers.

That night. A hint of a sunset. Hope.
Day 5. Middle son, Jordan, arrives after his work week. He goes with his dad to help his older brother prop up his father-in-law's dock which has collapsed on his boat. He returns to our place to rip up the floor tiles, scrape off the glue, and tidies the stripped downstairs. Prepares it for fans and Clorox.

A clean mess.
The days go by.

Where, oh, where is our neighbor's boat. Left when the water receded.
A walk around the hood. 

Our work continued. Everyday, our Advil-powered bodies kept going. Hauling trash. Cleaning this. Cleaning that. Pushing logs on their way. Sweeping. Power washing. Went home for a day to do laundry. Three of my friends had taken wet linens and towels home to wash (huge help to keep me out of a laundromat), but there was still so much.

A Boil Water notice was in effect for Austin so we went out to dinner that night for oldest son's birthday in Cedar Park. After dinner, we transferred from Debbie's car to mine the massive laundry she had done for us. And then she handed me this. As you may recall from above, she said she'd take care of that box of Packer memorabilia. That she did. I couldn't speak. I hid behind this framed wonder from that sodden box, and cried.

That had to make you cry, too. 

My husband and I will recover from our aching bodies and tiredness. More important we are humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude.

No one got hurt.
Stuff is just stuff.
The downstairs might smell better -- some day when we fix it up. 
We had power and water upstairs throughout the process. 
Neighbors came together and shared tools and muscles and laughs and tears and tiredness and love with hopes for the better lake days to come.
New friends were made. 
Old friends cherished even more.

Endings bring new journeys.

There is much more I could put into this post, but I can't pull it all together at the moment. A tad tired. We were privileged by the continuous giving from strangers, family, friends. If we hadn't received that help, we'd still be deep in mud.. That has touched us deeply. I said at one point, somewhere, that I don't think I've ever been as kind as so many have been to us.

Saturday, at 3:30 in the afternoon, I sat on the end of the dock. Boats were going by like this, in tow,  

rather than upside down. The lake, still full of debris, had calmed.
We'd put everything back together at our house as best we could. All that was left to do was wait for the downstairs to dry out. Could be a while. 

My husband said, "Time to go."

We left the flamingo and Henry, the one-winged swan, to keep watch.
Would seem they make a pretty good team.


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