Wind Beneath My Wings

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I’ve been in storms, but tonight…this storm beats them all. The two oldest kids had a band performance scheduled for 7:30, so we made our way over to the stadium where we were supposed to watch it. By the time we got there, it was raining a little, and they had cancelled the performance. Andrew and I decided to wait in the car until the kids finished practice. We had books, as all good nerds do, so we were completely satisfied just to sit there and read.

We’d been sitting in the car about 20-30 minutes when the sky got really dark. The rain started pouring, and the wind picked up. I called Hannah to tell her not to come outside, and at about the same moment she picked up the phone, the wind got so bad that I basically yelled “Stay inside! Don’t come outside!” and hung up. Andrew told me to get out and run inside. Forgetting all about the running car, he got out. I reached over and turned it off and we started running into the building.

The tornado sirens were so loud! I’ve never heard them up close like that. I guess their close proximity combined with the extreme wind made me think the sirens were instead a tornado (you know how they always say tornadoes sound like a train?! I guess tornado sirens do, too!). I kept yelling, “That’s an actual tornado!” a fact that probably freaked out my southern-born husband.

About halfway into the building, the wind blew me so hard from behind that I actually felt my feet start to leave the ground a little! Before I knew it, I was lying on the wet grass! I looked over, and Andrew was, too! We managed to get to our feet, despite the extreme wind pushing us from behind, and scramble the rest of the way into the building, holding onto each other the whole way, just in case.

I looked at Andrew when we got into the high school. He had no glasses on his face! I thought to myself, Whew! I’m glad I still have my glasses…wait a minute…why can’t I see anything? I lost mine too! The wind blew us down AND blew the glasses off our faces!!

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Andrew and me, alive but still lacking spectacles!

We hurried down the hall to the band room to find our kids. We managed to find them, found a safe hall to sit in, and waited out the storm with all of their bandmates. I was afraid we’d have to get Hannah to drive us home because neither Andrew nor I had our glasses, but we actually managed to find both pairs on our way out. In the grass, not far from where we fell. Along with the keys to my office, which, hey, I didn’t even know I’d lost!

 

I could spend some paragraphs comparing storms to problems in our lives and how God works it all out and yada yada yada. I’m not doing that. I’m sure you can figure it out yourselves. What I will say is in a moment like that what I wanted most of all was to find our two kids. Once we found them and saw them safe, I just felt extreme relief that kid #3 was in Hawaii with my mom and sister and not home alone or something! Oh my! At least she was safe! And when it was all said and done, when we drove home, we saw the downed trees and branches and neighbors spilling out onto the street and I suddenly felt such an appreciation for the people in our life. We’re safe and dry, and we even saw a nice rainbow on the way home!

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Anything Else?

 

Nobody make any sudden moves. The whole place is about to blow to smithereens!

Nobody make any sudden moves. The whole place is about to blow to smithereens!

“When it rains, it pours.” “Bad things happen in threes” (or fours or fives, at times). We’ve heard the old proverbs before. Old sayings are said for a reason. It seems that way too often they’re true.

Last week those two proverbs proved true in our house, at least. It all started one night when Hannah noticed the cat doing his business on the dog’s bed. She shooed him off, but then he went to another spot and tried to do the same. This was a first for him, so we didn’t know what to do. We locked him and his sister in the laundry room with the litter box and cleaned up the mess. Then I went on an errand.

I was only gone for an hour at the most, and when I returned I expected to open the door to a quiet house with children sleeping and Andrew reading or sleeping or doing something else peaceful. Instead the front door swung open, and Emma stood in the entrance.

“What are you doing up this late?” I asked.

“While you were gone, we tried to get the cats back in the laundry room. I carried Smokey down, and she clawed my stomach and tried to bite me because she didn’t want to go into the room with the water.”

“Water? What water?” I asked. I mean, it’s just a laundry room, not an indoor pool. Although that would be nice…

“The water on the floor of the laundry room from where the laundry overflowed.”

This was not what I wanted to hear. Water on the laundry room floor means one of two things: the pipes to and from the washing machine broke or the main line backed up. Neither one of those sounded good at all.

Turns out, the main line chose that night to get clogged with tree roots, and since I’m in charge of laundry and wasn’t home, no one noticed that water covered the floor until the cats put up a fuss and somehow escaped. So our laundry room floor, which some brilliant former owner thought to cover with carpet (?!?) became a spongy, stinky mess.

The next morning, Andrew called the plumber. After he did his thing and sewage no longer flowed into our house instead of out of it, we were left with a smelly mess downstairs and a nice plumbing bill. Enter Stanley Steemer, who graciously cleaned up our mess…for a fee, of course.

At the same time that the plumber was working in the basement, the oven chose to go out. It had been dying slowly since last summer, but it must have thought, “Hey, if everyone else is freaking out, I will, too!” and gave up the ghost. The next morning, Emma sat on my lap and cried that she couldn’t see the board in class and her glasses weren’t working anymore.

I called the eye doctor, we went oven shopping, and we thought all was well. The salesguy even surprised us by saying the oven we chose was 15% off, so we felt happy to get a deal on it. The happiness didn’t last long, though. That night when they delivered the oven, they also told us that the pipes that brought gas to it were not up to code and they could not install it.

Enter the same plumbing service, which took four hours to install all new pipes to the oven, which required new pipes to the water heater and the furnace. All for a price higher than

the cost of the oven itself.  Alex summed it up pretty well when he said to me the other day, “Well, I guess I’ll have to be an aerospace engineer when I grow up after all. You people won’t have any money at all saved for retirement. I need a job that makes enough to support us all!”

Did I mention that I think the cat’s sick and we probably still have that bill coming up.

For crying out loud! I’m almost afraid to make any sudden movements now, for fear of breaking something, flooding something, making something sick. We thought about stopping by Starbucks for coffee while the kids were in youth group tonight, but then we realized that we do not have even close to enough money to pay for that coffee, so we just came home.

Let’s just hope the old proverb “It’s always darkest before the dawn” is true, too!

Why Big Sky Country Isn’t Just Montana

OK, this wasn't exactly during the rainstorm but right before it. My husband took it on his way to pick me up.

OK, this wasn’t exactly during the rainstorm but right before it. My husband took it on his way to pick me up.

Thursday the rain pelted us pretty hard. I left work and had to run across what appeared to be a newly made and unauthorized mini-canal in the parking lot. The water rolled over my shoes. We have days like that in the early summer. Clear, then suddenly the sky grows dark and the clouds empty several inches of rain in a short time. I guess we’re not unique in that. All of the places I’ve lived have had that same type of weather during the spring and early summer.

What is unique to me here is the sky. It’s huge. I mean, I know that Montana is nicknamed “Big Sky Country,” but Nebraska could also be called that. I noticed it during my first visit with my family when I was a teenager, and I notice it quite often now that I live here. On days like yesterday, I step outside at work, where there are really no significant trees for miles, and I can feel the sky looming above me. The sky just feels bigger here than it did in the other places I’ve lived, and I just feel smaller. I can almost imagine being above myself and seeing people scurrying around doing their thing below, oblivious to the fact that the whole of creation sweeps above and around them.

Did I mention that the sunsets are gorgeous, too?

Did I mention that the sunsets are gorgeous, too?

I can’t really figure out why the sky seems bigger here. Is it because there are fewer trees and buildings and steep hills (although there are plenty of dune-shaped hills) where I notice it? I don’t feel it as much in my neighborhood, where mature trees line the streets, but get a few blocks away, where fields surround the highways, and there it is: Big Sky. Or maybe it’s because the clouds pass overhead at a higher altitude, giving the sense of space above. Or maybe the air is clearer or there’s less low, dense cloud cover. Maybe a combination of those things. Who knows?

It must be raining out there, on the horizon somewhere.

It must be raining out there, on the horizon somewhere.

After I got home from work yesterday, the rain stopped. My kids and I took advantage of the break in the rain and drove to the store. On the way, I noticed wildly interesting clouds forming above us. Huge clouds. Mountainous clouds, some heavy and ominous, and some swirling in formations like I’d never seen before. Of course, I had to stop and take some pictures of them. And mind you, I was not alone. One other car had pulled over to photograph the natural wonder taking place above us. Maybe the passengers in that car are newish here, too.

Look at those clouds!

Look at those clouds! All this and not even a thunderstorm warning.

Almost looks like a blanket being pulled up over the town.

Almost looks like a blanket being pulled up over the town.

I noticed a few things about what was going on around us. Besides that other driver and me, nobody seemed to notice the show happening above us. The clouds changed minute by minute, and everyone just drove around, going to the store, taking the kids to softball practice, driving home from work. Nobody seemed impressed. I also do that plenty of times, and, realistically speaking, I can’t stop every time something interesting goes on around me or I’d never get anywhere. But what happened to the sense of connectedness to nature and feeling of awe I had when I was younger? When did I stop noticing things like a giant cloud formation sailing above me?

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I also realized that artists have attempted to paint, describe, and compose replications of such natural phenomenon for centuries and that, in reality, I’ve probably spent more time looking at the human attempts to replicate that sky than the sky itself. Mostly nature doesn’t catch my eye unless it results in something super-impressive, like a storm rolling in.

One of my favorite musicians ever has to be Rich Mullins. Even if I didn’t know he spent a lot of time in the Great Plains area, I’d be able to tell it from his songs. They highlight how the beauty in nature bears the distinct fingerprint of God, how it points us back to Him. The prairie and the Big Sky always especially remind me of the words from one of my favorite Rich Mullins songs, Calling Out Your Name:

“I feel the thunder in the sky.

I see the sky about to rain,

And with the prairies I am calling out your name.”

A double rainbow! The perfect ending to the rainstorm.

A double rainbow! The perfect ending to the rainstorm.

Location, Location, Location!

I grew up in Indiana, so I’m no stranger to tornado weather. The secretary at the elementary school I attended used to run through the building blowing a whistle as loudly as possible during severe weather to alert us of impending doom. Then, of course, everyone hurried to the lower levels of the building and assumed The Tornado Crouch: kneeling with hands on the back of the neck, fingers intertwined, face inches from the floor. If you grew up in the midwest, you know the drill. Most of those tornado scares amounted to just a lot of sitting on the floor in near silence listening for the sound of a freight train (whatever that sounds like!). For the most part, life went on pretty much as usual. It sometimes felt like the weathermen overreacted.

OK, the school secretary did NOT look like this, but she might have had this face when she ordered us all downstairs for the tornado drills.

OK, the school secretary did NOT look this young and beautiful, but she might have had this expression when she ordered us all downstairs for the tornado drills.

When we moved to the Great Plains, I assumed that thunderstorms and tornado warnings/watches would be the same here as back East. I mean, we read statistics about tornados and how often they hit this area, but I also heard those types of statistics about tornados in Indiana as a child. So we were nonchalant.

But then we noticed something. We noticed that when the weatherman predicted thunderstorms, things like youth group events and church meetings got cancelled. We saw our neighbors scurry home to beat the weather, and we started thinking that if the native Nebraskans were worried, maybe we should be, too.

This was taken in Omaha, just north of where we live. Looks like something from the Left Behind series.

This was taken in Omaha, just north of where we live. Looks like something from the Left Behind series.

Then yesterday the weather service predicted severe thunderstorms: the kind that produce tornados. We heard that planes at the nearby Air Force base evacuated to other states in anticipation of the storm and that those working on base were sent home “to prepare”. Pictures of radars and storm clouds popped up all over social media.

We are in the yellow box, near Omaha. The weather guy said they describe the storms as train cars because one rolls in just as the last storm cell rolls out.

We are at the bottom of the yellow box, near Omaha. The weather guy said they describe these storms as train cars because one rolls in just as the last storm cell rolls out.

 

This is some of the group. We holed ourselves up in the basement and watched Madagascar. We wanted to watch Twister, but our internet did not cooperate.

We holed ourselves up in the basement and watched Madagascar. We wanted to watch Twister, but our internet did not cooperate.

We did what good Nebraskans should do. We cancelled piano lessons and ordered a pizza. Oh, and we invited friends who don’t have a basement over to share the pizza and have the first ever in the history of our family Storm Party.

At about 11 pm, our guests and I crept outside to look at the storm. From the shelter of the back porch, we watched lighting streak across the whole sky. Thunder boomed, and rain poured. We looked at the trees, though, and realized that there was no wind at all. Just a regular thunderstorm. We went to bed.

This is the campus of the college where we work. No, it's not normally that dark and brooding!

This is the parking lot at work. No, it’s not normally that dark and brooding!

In the morning, I woke and realized we made it through the night fine. Our neighborhood sustained no damage at all. I saw no downed limbs or fallen trees. No power outages. Just life as usual. I started to think the weathermen overreact everywhere, but then I saw pictures from North Omaha and a town called Blair just about 45 minutes northeast of Omaha.

Might be a good time to buy a new car if you live in Blair. That is, as long as you don't mind a few dings here and there. Or maybe a broken window.

Might be a good time to buy a new car if you live in Blair. That is, as long as you don’t mind a few dings here and there. Or maybe a broken window.

Looks like maybe this house in Blair saw some hail last night...you know, just a little.

Looks like maybe this house in Blair saw some hail last night…you know, just a little.

I guess when it comes down to it, a few miles can make all the difference! At this point, I’ve decided that following the lead of the neighbors and listening to the weather report may be a good idea. Even though this damage happened about an hour from our house, it could have easily been us. Thank goodness the most excitement we saw was when the pizza man arrived!