So, I said that I would tell you about the 13 and 1/2 hours in the car with 4 kids and a dog and I will, but not today. Today I am going to get my hair colored to cover the myriad gray that streaks from my roots screaming to the world that I am old. (I am not old, just gray, by the way). After my stress highlights are taken care of, I may try to sneak off to a movie with my husband. Alone. Since we are in Alabama and have free childcare via 2 sets of grandparents who want to spend as much time with the 4 minions as possible, we try to take full advantage while we can. Tomorrow we are leaving bright and early on yet another car ride to North Carolina with my mom to take the kids to Grandfather mountain for a few days, so I will probably not be posting again before Friday. Be sure that you come back to vote everyday even though there won't be a new post because you know how important that is....
Maybe I will combine the 2 trips into ONE travel blog -- a "How To" on travelling with 4 kids. Although it will more than likely be a "How NOT To" since we always seem to learn the best way to do things by first failing miserably. Adding my mother into the mix, and the fact that this second trip will be in 2 cars with me bouncing back and forth between riding with my husband and 2 kids and riding with my mother and 2 kids, will give me a whole new level of experimentation on the kid-road-trip insanity.
Since arriving in Alabama, I have discovered that I have forgotten a few things in MY suitcase. Ironically, my kids and husband got here with more than they will need, but I managed to forget my spare swimsuit, my long jeans (I only packed capris), my Sunday shoes, and my tennis shoes. I have informed my husband that as soon as he gets back to Texas he will need to gather these things and mail them to me in a flat-rate box from the post office. I have signed up to work as a volunteer in the clean-up efforts here in North Alabama and if I show up in flip-flops and Yoga pants, I am pretty sure that they will send me home.
On the way here, we drove through Tuscaloosa -- just a quick loop down McFarland, down University, through my aunt's neighborhood and up 15th street. We did not see all of the storm damage, just a small part of it. It was unreal. The areas I drove through and frequented during my 4 years at The University of Alabama were forever changed....some were just GONE. I cried. With my hand to my mouth and the phrases "Oh my God" and "Unreal" echoing in my head, I realized that the storms were more than 7 weeks ago. So much work had already been done and yet the devastation was still staggering. That pile of rubble -- broken brick, twisted metal, and splintered wood -- wasn't a pile on April 28th. Then it was spread over the landscape and the road. As we left Tuscaloosa and went through Birmingham, it was already dark. I was certain that there would be no visible damage in Birmingham and Cullman now that the sun had sunk behind those Alabama hills I have missed so much, but I was wrong. As we came through Birmingham, even in the darkness, it was clear where the monster tornado had crossed the Interstate. The first clue hit my nose with a fondness before I realized it -- freshly cut pine. Images of the woods at my grandparent's home in Shelby County flashed in my mind and I looked up. The huge interstate light-posts that stood hundreds of feet over the road's surface, were bent over like pipe cleaners and laying down on their sides. The endless shadowy trees that whizzed by stopped abruptly and for what seemed like a half a mile there was nothing but the silhouettes of the broken, stripped, tree trunks that hadn't been uprooted or snapped by the winds. The freshly cut pine was from workers cutting up the downed trees to be burned or carried away.
This afternoon, we drove through the areas nearest and dearest to me -- neighborhoods where my husband had worked when he had owned his own fencing business and others where I had babysat so many children growing up in Huntsville. We drove through Anderson Hills and my dad pointed out how much work had been done since those first few days when he and my mother were out volunteering. We drove down Old Railroad Bed Road, to Countyline Road, to Hwy 72 and we'd see entire small neighborhoods where every house was damaged or destroyed and so MANY huge, beautiful, old trees that were snapped, uprooted, stripped of branches and bark, either cut up for disposal or removal or waiting to be dealt with. Occasionally, in the midst of the destruction, there would be a house that appeared untouched and all I could think was "How?!" or "Why?" I know the owners of that house were beyond thankful, but it drove home the illogical randomness of it -- the storm did not discriminate, but it did not get everyone. There was no reason for why your house was destroyed and yet your neighbor's house was not. That is just the way it is.
Facebook pages dedicated to storm recovery and assistance and seeing how many teams of people had been out every weekend, every day, since the storms hit, I assumed that there wouldn't be anything much for me to do once I got here. I was WRONG. These areas were devastated -- they look like war-zones. People lost EVERYTHING. So, as I reflect tonight, I am saying a prayer. I pray that those who lost loved ones will be comforted. I pray that those who were injured will be healed. I pray that those who lost homes will find shelter. And most importantly, I pray that you will all know, remember, and share with others that this is not "fixed" -- far from it. If you can volunteer, I hope you will. If you can donate, I hope you will. But we can ALL pray. And I hope you will.