I Am For You

I AM FOR YOU | Accidental Okie

Growing up in San Diego, our church was situated next to a long canyon that started in our little suburb and stretched the five or so miles to the ocean. If you looked closely enough at the canyon, you saw a collection of large, nondiscript cardboard boxes that blended in with the dry, brambly landscape. The boxes didn’t attract attention, and most people who saw them pretended they weren’t there. They housed a community of illegal immigrants, men who gathered every morning in hopes of finding day labor.

Among the men was Victor, who not only lived in our canyon but came to our church.

Victor was short with a thick mustache, proud cowboy hat and self-conscious smile. His already dark skin was prematurely weathered from the the sun. He’d occasionally pack a travel-worn, hard-shell suitcase with everything he owned, return to Mexico to proudly give his family all his earnings, and then sneak back over the border to his cardboard box.

Despite living in a box, only a small blanket separating him from the dirt at night, Victor’s pearl-snap, collared shirts and jeans  were always inexplicably crisp, as though he’d just picked them up from the dry cleaner’s. It was a detail that’s always stuck with me. Poverty is skilled at hiding itself in plain sight.

Immigration is a complex issue, and illegal immigration – that’s a whole other can of worms. The ramifications are broad in our society, economy, national security, and a host of other big ways. Frankly, I don’t read enough or watch enough any CSPAN to help me form an educated opinion. Sorry, but it’s the truth. I don’t know how I fully feel about every aspect of immigration — what I am for and what I am against.

But here’s what I know: I am for Victor.

It’s been almost two decades since I last saw my crisp-shirt wearing illegal immigrant friend, but still his story anchors and colors everything I hear about immigration.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, this for and against thing.

God, in his wisdom and righteousness, laid out all His standards of right and wrong. He gave us a list of commands. There are plenty of things to be against. But his two commands, the ones he placed the greatest emphasis on, were to love Him and to love our neighbors.

Love God. Love People. It’s become the battle cry of my generation.

What I love is that God laid out all the do’s and don’t’s, while knowing we wouldn’t be up for the task. He took care of that himself in the hardest, worst, most beautiful way imaginable. And He showed us – over and over, generation after generation – that despite our problems, our failures, our blatant disobedience, our temper tantrums, He is for us.

Paul even said it. “If God is for us, who can be against us.”

How is that even a thing? It’s grace hard to even comprehend.

Amidst gratuitous grace and not-at-all subtle commands to love, it seems like Christians – or at least evangelical churches in America – are against more than we’re for. And it makes me so very weary.

Somehow the message has been warped: God is for us. We are against you.

Who am I for? Who am I against? What am I for? What am I against? I’ve been pondering this for weeks now. And the past weeks have provided excellent, tragic and lame fodder for pondering. Especially when two things happened during the same time frame.

First, there’s the Target gender-neutral toy section “scandal” – like seriously, don’t even get me started on that soap box. I will just say this, copied from my personal Facebook status:

The week the Target gender toy thing was going on, I was creating a brochure for new college freshman female STEM students with inspirational quotes from young professional women in STEM fields. Their quotes and the reality of the discrimination women still experience was sobering. “Expect to be looked down on because you are a woman.” “Nothing will be given to you.” “Prove them wrong.”

It made me stand up and cheer that little girls don’t have to go to the boy section any more to buy building blocks and regular Legos (not the lame smoothie shop girl Legos).

Heaven forbid a girl wants Star Wars sheets or a boy wants Olaf sheets.

Excuse me while I fetch my fainting salts.

As if on cue, Christians everywhere freaked out. Franklin Graham called for a protest, and people inundated social media with promises to never even drive through Target parking lots again. The fake Target customer service Facebook account made for excellent entertainment, but seriously people. Come on.

It’s like any piece of news large or small warrants a preacher-pundant with a $3,000 suit, spray tan and blindingly white teeth to appear on all the cable news channels and tell us all that this…law, policy, social media platform, entertainer, obscure ruling, celebrity haircut…is something we Christians are AGAINST.

We have become caricatures of ourselves.

I know what you might say. The differences between boys and girls should be celebrated. That’s true. Maybe you’ll call it a slippery slope. Here’s all I can say: 1. Pegboard colors, people. They changed the pegboard colors from pink or blue to a light wood grain. That’s it. 2. The reason we have seven aisles of girls/boys toys is we’ve swallowed the pill that we need all.the.things. Kids don’t need half the crap in those aisles. 3. I’ll see your slippery slope and I’ll raise you piles of dead babies and mass graves.

The Target pegboard “crisis” occurred in the middle of the the Planned Parenthood videos breaking. Planned Parenthood, the organization founded by a self-proclaimed racist and eugenicist who preyed on the poor, the vulnerable, the desperate. Now they’ve been caught selling baby parts. They’ve been caught harvesting organs from late-term, aborted, whole, alive babies.

I once watched a future dystopia movie with Scarlet Johansson that had nearly the same plot. (And just so we’re all clear, the people harvesting the organs were the bad guys).

What they are doing is horrible. It’s unthinkable.

In reaction, Christians organized a simultaneous nationwide protest to encourage our lawmakers to defund Planned Parenthood and better fund the many nonprofits that provide essential, life saving women’s and maternal health services that are not lining their pockets with livers and brains.

In my head I totally get the reasoning for the protests. Demonstrating to leaders that their constituents are against public funding is valid. Doing it en masse provides support to the assertion that defunding PP isn’t something only the crazies want, but a lot of people who fall on many points within the political spectrum.

But as I watched pictures of protests pop up on my news feed, I felt so uncomfortable. Something gave me this feeling of ick, and after a day of pondering, I could finally name it:

I am against abortion, but to the women walking into the clinics, I am for you. It makes me cringe that even one of those women saw the protesters and felt condemned, less than, shamed.

I watched the pictures of the protesters and the women walking into the clinics, and I prayed for the lives that would be ended and the lives that would be forever changed, and I wanted to scream, I am for you!

In fact, it is these very women who cause me to be both a feminist and an abortion abolitionist. Women who have abortions have higher likelihoods of suffering from things like suicide, depression, infertility and certain cancers. To the woman struggling in mental anguish days or decades after an abortion who were watching those same protests on her Facebook newsfeed, I wanted to scream to her, I am for you! Jesus is for you!

I thought about Planned Parenthood and I thought about Target, and I could not help but mourn for everyone.

When Christians scream with equal volume and indignation about pegboard colors and infanticide, we are ridiculous. We diminish our voice, we forfeit our influence, we waste so much.

Are we so busy running around being against things that being for things has become like those French verbs I used to be able to conjugate? Ten years of inattention and that skill is gone.

The 24-hour news cycle did its thing. I think another celebrity couple broke up. Another famous person got a new haircut or a new purse. And all we remember from the already fuzzy, but not so distant past is that things happened and Christians were against them.

Then my pondering on for and against took an even more tragic turn.

It took a little Syrian boy – his shoes just like the shoes I put on Dub’s feet, his fingers just like the sweet baby fingers I kissed this morning – to wash ashore with the bodies of his brother and mama, all three still covered in the tears of their helpless daddy and husband – to wake the world up to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Why did it take so long? And I’m asking myself that question.

I learned that we’re witnessing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. More than 200,00 people have died, more than a million are seeking refuge. They risk it, though, because if they stay they will surely die. Oh, and America is going to take in 1,000 of them.

I forced myself to look at Aylan’s picture. I said his name. I slapped myself awake up from apathy. Then I leaned into the sadness, let tears fall freely, and I didn’t resist when his lifeless image infected the haunting dreams of restless sleep.

Oh sweet boys, oh sweet mama, I am for you. I am for you.

I have this dream, and I want to tell you about it.

I dream of a day we mobilize as passionately and efficiently for the things we are for as we do for the things we are against. If we did this, we would be unstoppable. We would be so amazing.

What if that day of protests against Planned Parenthood was followed up by a day of service in the same communities?

What if protesters scrubbed the toilets of a dilapidated free clinic where elderly ladies get their mammograms? What if another group called a crisis pregnancy center and asked, “What do you need? Make us a list.” What if the free breakfast pantries of low-income schools were full?

I know there are a lot of churches and Christians doing wonderful things for their communities and world, and I don’t want to minimize that. To everyone who is already mobilized, whose hands are dirty and feet are barefoot, you are rad. To the pray-ers and the people quietly and faithfully serving, you are so close to God’s heart.

I’m not suggesting we chuck discernment out the window and become a people who stand for nothing, nor am I’m saying we need to be bombastic self-promotors. No one likes those people.

I’m saying, what if we are for as loudly as we are against? I think if that happened, people would start to believe us when we say we were for them.

Maybe the poor and the suffering would stop believing we were treating them like pawns in our causes, because maybe we’d stop treating them like pawns in our causes.

It’s my dream that every person who attended a protest; every person who is awash in grief for the refuge seekers, the hurting and the unborn; every person who is used to pulling out markers and poster boards for the next protest or checking off another business to boycott; that all of us would pick something – someone – to be for.

I took the first step today. I researched and found an organization that helps refugees who are in the Oklahoma City area. I want to stop just donating money and start donating time. I’m a natural purger, and take great delight in hauling big trash bags of unwanted clothes and stuff to good will. Maybe I should stop donating things with holes in it. Maybe I should remember the pride Victor took in his appearance. What if I ironed the clothes and organized them by size and dropped them off at a women’s shelter, and found matching earrings? What if I showed how much I care?

I’m committed to making my for’s louder than my against’s. And I’m gobsmacked that through all my stumbling and failing, I am loved by Jesus who said through word and action over and over that He is for me.

Also, I still shop at Target.

Praying for a Second Miracle

praying for a second miracle

We’ve never had nice cars.

I’ve always had Volvos, and I like them. I’d rather have an older, safer Volvo than something new. I was the middle-income kid at a high school that was named snobbiest school in America by Time Magazine my junior year. A handful of my classmates had Vipers. I had Jean Claude, an aging Volvo station wagon I talked to in a French accent.

Jean Claude – he was awesome. I’d show you a picture, but I think I destroyed everything from those horrible brassy hair-dye years.

The Professor is the same way. His first car was an old oil field truck he used for pumping wells in college. It was gone long before I came into the picture, but I hear it was sturdy, but battered, and covered in red dirt and crude oil.

Yes, some Oklahoma stereotypes are very real. 

I think the truck racked up 300,000 hard miles before The Professor and his dad limped it to the lot and traded it in for a used SUV after he got his first teaching job.

Last year, right in the midst of our fertility treatments, our old but reliable cars started dying fast. Both of them. Simultaneously. My Volvo sedan was well over 200,000 miles and the Professor’s old Explorer our “reliable car” was suddenly very unreliable.

It was a time of big stress, but even bigger prayers. I prayed so hard, so often that sometimes I felt a little inside out. Like I dwelled in my heart more than my body. Those were days of deep, intimate times with God.

Now I added our car need to my big prayers. God, both our cars are crapping out, and if they die at the same time, we’re screwed.

Can you say screwed to God? And crapping out? I think you can.

As I prayed, I had this vision of me strapping our baby’s car seat into an SUV. I saw this vision over and over as I prayed, so I began to pray specifically for it. 

I cast a wide net, looking on Craigslist, online, newspapers. Nothing was in our price range.

Some friends were moving back to the mission field after a year back in the states for her to have a kidney transplant. Maybe we could buy their car?

I learned it was on loan to them from an older couple in our church, people we knew. So I emailed the car’s owners, apologizing for my impertinence, but would they be selling their old SUV? What would be the cost?

It was the quintessential casting a big net moment. Praying hard and following any lead.

Just 30 minutes later, I got a phone call from our friend. It went something like this. “Oh Sarah! What an answer to prayer you are. We were just praying about what to do with that car. We have no place to put it and no use for it. So we’ll just give it to you!”

Really, give it to us?

Had God just answered our prayers in this big, majestic, undeniable way? He had, and it was a lot to take in. I started crying. Not in a socially appropriate, pretty, I’m-so-thankful-for-you sort of way. No, slobbering, snotty, ugly crying on the phone with the classiest, most composed lady I know.

A month later, our friends plus one new kidney went back to Nicaragua where they help rescue children from human trafficking. And we got our new car. It was was 12 years old – way newer than our cars. It was our first car with keyless entry. And it was fancy.

I prayed for that car with yearning, and God gave it to us. Really, I just prayed for a car we could afford, not a free one. But that’s what he provided. It was beyond anything I could have imagined.

The next day I had my second miscarriage.

It was hard and horrible because miscarriages are hard and horrible. But this time, I had a glimmer of hope. Intertwined in my prayer for the car was the vision I had of putting a baby in an SUV. Logical or even theologically correct I still don’t know, but in my mind, God gave us a car to put a baby in, so I knew he’d give us a baby.

He had to. 

The next month, we got pregnant again. And miracle of miracles, we stayed pregnant. It all felt so perfect, driving our miracle car with fancy keyless entry to the doctor to check on our miracle baby. We drove it to Texas for baby showers. We transported our loaned bassinet in it, and we thanked God and our friends for such an answer to prayer. 

Then one morning when I was 35 weeks pregnant, we woke up early so I could get to the city for a midwife appointment. I walked outside to find that our SUV had been stolen in the night.

Like really, actually stolen. It was the strangest feeling.

How do you process your car getting stolen? Especially when you live in a nice, low-crime town. We live in a cul-du-sac at the end of our well-kept, but not fancy neighborhood. One of our neighbors told me he leaves his keys in his car and has never locked his house. Another neighbor accidentally left her garage door open the night before and nothing was taken. We almost always put it in the garage, but just hadn’t that night.

It was, in every way, an anomaly.

Being the middle of summer, we figured a few bored kids found some trouble, and the car would show up in a day or two in an empty parking lot or underpass. But it didn’t. Also, our insurance guy had advised us against full-coverage insurance because of the payout versus premium. So, no insurance coverage. And I was 35 weeks pregnant! 35!

I cried out to God with honesty and confusion. What are you doing, God? We’re about to have a baby! The Bible is full of honest prayers, so I think God was fine with those. I really do.

But here’s what he’s not okay with. He’s not okay with us forgetting who he is.

I prayed so big, so boldly before, but I didn’t this time. I didn’t because God already gave us a miracle car. Who was he to provide us with a second miracle car? Add a miracle baby on top of that. We had reached our supernatural provision quota. We were on our own with this one.

I couldn’t ask for more, I decided. And so I didn’t. 

My initial Psalms-like “where are you, God” prayers quickly turned to bitter, accusatory rebukes. 

This was the car God provided for us, for our baby. In just a few weeks, we were going to drive it to the hospital and a few days later actually buckle a baby into a car seat.

Now what? Now what, God? You let this happen, now fix it. 

This went on for a few weeks. A few very unproductive weeks. Shock.

One Saturday three weeks later, I was driving home from the grocery store praying my usual, “What were you thinking, God?” I can tell you what intersection I was at when I heard a voice deep in my heart, deep in my ears. 

“STOP!”

And when you hear God tell you to stop, you stop – your angry prayers that is, not your car in the middle of traffic. There have only been a few moments in my life where the Lord’s voice has been so…so present, so undeniable. It was a stern rebuke, but it was gentle and loving, too. 

“Pray that I would work this out in a way that would give me the most glory.”

To my shame, in three weeks, it never even crossed my mind to pray that prayer. Even knowing our car being stolen was a complete, total anomaly, I never thought about God’s glory. Instead, I had assumed I was marooned, forgotten.

When I forgot who God is – that he doesn’t abandon, he doesn’t forget – I began to focus on my inconvenience, my suffering, my beautiful ideal vision shattered. 

So I prayed, God work this out in a way that would bring glory to you. Let this be a story about you, not a story about a car. The more I prayed it, the more I believed it.

Later that day, we got a phone call from some family members. I won’t mention who they are because that would embarrass them, but they are awesome parents, foster parents and intentional in their community.

They needed a different car and couldn’t get a fair trade-in value for their older-model Volvo SUV. They were so annoyed that they decided they’d rather give it away to someone than essentially give it away to a car dealership. Did we want it?

Wait, what?

The story unfolded. Two weeks prior, they realized they weren’t going to get a fair trade-in value. She started dreaming of driving halfway across the country to give us their car, but that’s ludicrous, right? So she kept it in her heart. Then, on that Saturday, her husband brought it up to her. He had been praying about it, too.

We could only afford to pay them what the dealership offered, but they refused and God worked in some cool ways to get a few repairs it needed done at a lower cost. Our family came together and paid for some of the repairs. The Professor’s dad flew out to help them drive the car to Oklahoma. They arrived the day Dubs made his eventful entrance into the world.

It’s equal parts amazing and humbling. No, it’s more humbling to be loved in such a real, sacrificial way. 

God is not a genie in a bottle. He wasn’t waiting for me to say the magic words so my wish would be granted. But he was, I think, holding out his grand solution until my heart changed, until I remembered who he is.

It’s hard to ask for a second miracle.

It’s hard on our egos and it really seems just too much. God already brought miracle provision. He can’t possibly do it again. He forgave that massive screw up. No more grace for me. I already prayed for and had a healthy child. Can I pray for another miracle? Like, am I even allowed to?

Over the coming weeks after Dub’s birth when my postpartum anxiety/OCD became very bad, that car became more than a car. It was a standing stone (errr…a rolling stone) of God’s faithfulness, and a reminder that I could come to him moment by moment.

That vision I had of buckling Dubs into his carseat in an SUV came true. Like the rest of this story, it was completely different than I had imagined. Our first trip by ourselves was three weeks after he was born and we went to my first counseling appointment to begin tackling my postpartum anxiety.

I’m by no means wise or anything like that. But after this experience, this is what I know: When we believe God is who he says he is, we can pray for a second miracle. Or a seventh or hundredth.

Because who God is, is enough.  

Losing My Mind and Finding it Again: This is Postpartum Anxiety/OCD

 Most people have heard of postpartum depression, but very few know about postpartum anxiety/OCD. I didn’t even realize it existed until I began searching for answers to why things were happening in my mind. I wrote this post to give you a glimpse into my struggle with it. Like a message in a bottle, I hope this makes its way to women who have found themselves in this unlucky situation. For spouses and friends of women suffering from PPAOCD, I hope that in reading, you might be able to understand better and help more effectively.

We were in our going home clothes.

Me, a nursing dress, Dubs his embroidered sleep sack, and The Professor, who, well, never got to wear any special clothes while we were in the hospital. I lay in the bed, Dubs snuggled in my arms, waiting for discharge papers, listening to music on my iPad. Then the song, “He’s Always Been Faithful,” by Sara Groves began playing.

Season by season I watch Him, amazed
In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me

The song was an anthem in my college apartment as we prayed for the wonderful husbands God would eventually bless each of us with. I’ve heard the song a thousand times. But this time, the verse caught me by surprise. In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways. The tears began to flow. Slowly at first and then quiet sobs, oddly both at home and out of place of this peaceful moment.

A few hours before, our midwife came to check on us. It was the first time I had seen her since Dub’s birthday. She explained what they theorize caused our scary birth. The umbilical cord was wrapped multiple times around Dub’s body, so much that it held him in place. After 15 hours of labor and no progress, an epidural caused him to finally come down enough to break the waters. Once the waters were broken and he wasn’t floating, the cord was pinched and he was in distress. That’s when our peaceful hospital midwife birth became an emergency. That’s when the grace of God, an excellent medical team, and a bunch of seemingly unrelated circumstances converged to avoid a cord accident. 

Now two days later, I lay there on the bed with my perfect baby and I realized all the what if’s. All the near misses. I thought about our desire to labor at home as long as possible after my water broke. Heart racing, throat clenching, the logical conclusion of the what ifs played out in my mind. It was too much to think about. So I held my baby, and leaned against my husband, and I listened to my song, and through the quiet sobs, I said aloud “thank you,” over and over.

Manic Alertness

Postpartum depression and its cousin, postpartum anxiety/OCD can happen to any new parents. However, they are more common with traumatic births. Thinking back, my postpartum anxiety/OCD and PTSD symptoms began while we were still in the hospital.

It began with anxiety. I’m not talking about worry, but elephant-on-your-chest, full-bodied fear.

The best way I’ve heard it described is manic alertness.

I was at once infuriated that my mostly irrational fears weren’t shared by The Professor or my mom, and at the same time, I was too afraid to voice them. Warring within me was the understanding that my anxieties were irrational and a fear that if I said them out loud, they would come true.

It was little things at first. I was afraid to touch my phone and then touch the baby. I washed my hands about 10 times an hour. I was afraid to take off my wedding ring. I knew that if I did, something terrible would happen to The Professor. I wear an anchor necklace that reminds me of God’s faithfulness during our fertility treatment and early miscarriages. At the hospital, the thought of taking it off put me in a panic. Taking it off meant not remembering our lost babies. And if we didn’t remember our lost babies, how could we be trusted with this whole, perfect one? Taking it off meant something would happen to Dubs.

Once home, I was terrified of putting up our “please don’t ring the doorbell” sign. If we did, they’d know. Who was they? I have no clue. But they certainly would know that we had a perfect, vulnerable baby in the house, and they’d come take him in the night. The thought of The Professor leaving the house to go to the grocery store put me in a full-blown panic. 

I lay awake all night long and watched Dubs breathe. If I took my eyes off for a moment, he would stop. Six months in, and this one is still a struggle. It’s as though I feel like my hyper-vigilance is what is keeping everything safe.

This monster, this thief, became a security blanket.

A few days after we were home, my mom and I ventured to Walmart in search of underwear tall enough to go over my c-section incision instead of sitting right on it. I already hate Walmart with the passion of 1,000 yellow smiley faces, but Walmart seemed the logical choice for granny panties (it’s not, by the way – we ended up with expensive maternity undies that got the job done).

As we perused the aisles, I had to keep touching Dub’s hands to make sure he was breathing. About the tenth time, I had a realization. I had Walmart germs on my hands. I touched his hands. He puts his hands in his mouth. That’s when I had a real life, honest-to-God panic attack. At Walmart. New low, people. New low.

As fast as my post-cesarian body could handle, I booked it to the car, my mom trailing behind, still trying to figure out why her daughter was making a scene. There I found diaper wipes and wiped each of Dub’s hands with three wipes.

On the way home, at one point my mom quickly changed lanes – well she attempted and I still hold that it was a dumb move that could have easily caused a fender bender, but nothing more.  However, at that moment in my mental state, I lost it, bursting into big, ugly tears. She had put me and my little, helpless baby in perilous danger. Already, the people were going to come and steal him in the night. Horrible things would happen if I took off my jewelry, and now this.

It waxes and wanes with victories and defeats, but the anxiety is never far from me. I have to remind myself this manic alertness is a problem, not my very own super power that holds the world together and keeps everyone safe from a thousand spoken and unspoken dangers and fears. This anxiety, it is not my friend.

Intrusive Thoughts

The next day, was the start of one of the hallmarks of postpartum anxiety/OCD – intrusive thoughts. I picked up Dubs, and as newborns do, his head bobbed a bit for the millisecond between when I lifted him and when my fingers got in place to support his head. In that moment, I saw in my mind Dubs being shaken, his neck whipping back and forth. Was I the one shaking him? Was someone else? The momentary intrusive thought put me in a tailspin.

For a the whole day, I wondered. Would I hurt him?

Despite everything I tried, the thought replayed each time I picked him up and supported his neck. Soon there was another scary thought that replayed multiple times a day, and then another. They all left me reeling, scared for my baby, scared for me, and scared of me. Filled with fear and shame, it took me several days to even tell The Professor.

Thankfully after a late night feed, I messaged a friend in another state who is a psychologist. She agreed that these were more than just baby blues and that I see a local counselor. I already knew one, and we quickly started meeting. It was helpful to have someone to talk honestly to. To say the fears out loud and not be hushed when my mind wandered through the what if’s of our birth. To realize that once our fertility treatments and miscarriages began, I got on battle mode and never quite stepped off that treadmill. I learned steps to dial down my anxiety and a process for dealing with intrusive thoughts. Apart from medicine, there’s nothing really to do to stop intrusive thoughts. You just deal with them head on. Every time.

I acknowledge I had that scary thought. But I know it’s not real. It’s just my brain feeling a bit confused. That thought holds no power over me and I know I won’t act on it. I am a good mama.

Over the coming weeks, the intrusive thoughts intensified and multiplied. Now my mind played on repeat the worst things you can imagine. There were a dozen scary thoughts and each could rival any horror movie. Six months later and the neck one is the only one I can talk about because it’s the only one I still don’t occasionally struggle with.

Many of the thoughts revolved around things in the kitchen. That whole adage “if you start thinking about putting your baby in the oven, it’s more than the baby blues.” It’s true. The Professor would sometimes come home from work to find me hunkered on the sofa, surrounded by a nest of necessities for the day. I had barely eaten and hadn’t heated dinner, all because I was afraid of going into the kitchen. 

Isolation & Needs

Caring for a newborn is exhausting. Being alone with a baby all day is isolating. Add all of this junk to it, and I was spiraling downhill fast.

I would long for The Professor to return home for the day so I wouldn’t be alone, but I’d dread night – the time when my anxiety was (and still is) at its peak. Even though I was on maternity leave, I longed for the weekend – when my parents would come visit and The Professor would be home, and finally I wasn’t alone.

I began reaching out. It was no easy task. First, between not sleeping because of the new baby who eats every 45 minutes and not sleeping because of the massive anxiety, you have to be awake enough to carry on a conversation. Then you have to be vulnerable enough to tell a friend these bizarre struggles – a real difficulty when you’re pretty sure you’re losing your mind. Then you have to put forth the effort to actually call. Finally, and most difficult, you have to be brave enough to articulate the question, “Can you please come over and sit with me?”

Which, let’s be honest, feels pathetic to say out loud.

This wasn’t a quick phone call to see what’s up. It was a lifeline.  I began being a little more honest about my struggles. I began learning how to say that I needed help and that things were not a perfect, happy Baby Gap commercial at my house.

Some friends were amazing. They would appear out of no where and sit. They would come bearing tacos and cupcakes.

They would invite us for dinner every week so I could be out of the house. They would message me to check in.

Near or far, talking once a day or once every few weeks, these are the people who showed up. Who didn’t let go.

For some, I could tell I was a bother. Sometimes I think this was in my head, because that’s what happens when you are isolated, anxious, depressed and out of sorts. But many times, it wasn’t. I had become the needy annoyance, spoken to in patronizing tones.

I would remind myself – No! You moved to New Zealand by yourself. You are competent at work. You have been lost in far away cities without problem. You are not needy!

The truth was, at the moment, I wasn’t needy, but I sure did have a lot of needs. And that’s an important distinction, I think.

Others were brazen enough to tell me they knew I was struggling, but were purposefully staying away because I needed to learn how handle this on my own. Or that this was my fault – the result of excitedly preparing for an unmedicated childbirth that I should have known was unattainable.

People actually said those things – like out loud.

And by the way, I’m not saying these things because I want to shame or embarrass anyone. That’s not my heart. My heart is that someone finds this post who is or knows someone going through this little-known form of postpartum depression, and they have an idea what to say or do or not do or not say. That’s my heart. God knows I hold the record for the stupidest things said at the worst moments. So, there you go.

I found an amazing traumatic birth support group on Facebook, and I knitted together a group of friends who all had babies within a few weeks of each other. We are part 3 a.m. comedy club, part support group, part eager advice givers and takers.

By the end of my maternity leave, I knew who was there for me and who wasn’t, and I stayed cocooned in my little safe circle. And that was a very good thing.

Throughout it all, The Professor was amazing.

On days that were bad – which thankfully became less and less – he would come home and not say a word about having to make dinner, do all the dishes and clean all the mess.

He bought a few chunky necklaces from Charming Charlie, my favorite inexpensive accessories store. When he would come in to find me having a bad day, he’d go out to his car and come back with a necklace.

That man. He’s a keeper.

One day when I was crying about not finishing my thank you notes, he boxed them away and told me my priority was our baby and my mind, not thank you notes. 

Now

Dealing with this, it’s big and it’s long and it’s hard. There’s no big conquering end to my story.

Going back to work was a huge help because I wasn’t sitting around, stewing in my own anxieties all day. It’s much better, but I still struggle significantly with anxiety. I know that part of that is standard new mom worry and part of it is a true struggle with anxiety rooted in a traumatic event. It all equally has to be given to the Lord every day.

One of the most helpful things was learning my triggers – the things that caused anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Isolation is a big one. Once I realized this, Dubs and I tried to get out of the house once a day. We wandered around Target or visited local shops. I also learned that reaching a certain level of exhaustion is probably the biggest trigger, so The Professor and I are very careful about me getting rest. As weird as it sounds, there are still foods I can’t cook because they are still triggers.

It’s difficult to explain the intensification of the anxiety/ocd symptoms while also looking at the day to day. Some days were great. Some days I had no anxiety and no intrusive thoughts. Some weeks even. But as they came, there was an escalation of the fear, and then slowly, a few months in, a deescalation as my hormones normalized, I learned to deal with intrusive thoughts, and I worked through my emotions.

Since I’ve been back to work, there have been two week-long stretches Dubs has been sick, and I’ve stayed home with him. While I love the extra cuddles, the exhaustion and isolation quickly start to take their toll, and the intrusive thoughts begin again. Once again, I start my multi-step process of dealing with them.

Overall, this experience, it changed me. 

I learned that I cannot invest my time and emotions in people who are going to be at best dismissive or at worst cruel. My close circle, it’s significantly closer and smaller than it used to be. And that’s okay.

At the same time, it’s showed me how to have better grace with others. We all are going through hard things. Seeing past the saccharine Facebook statuses – there’s nothing quite so valuable. 

I’ve also learned to have a lot of grace with myself. If you want proof, just come to my house and see how badly it needs vacuuming. 

I have family members who have dealt with chemical depression their whole lives. I don’t understand that struggle at all, however I now have a glimpse. I now understand what it’s like to not be in full control of your mind. I have my own sliver of understanding at how scary it is. I now understand the value of showing up and just sitting and watching Gilmore Girls in silence. 

I’ve learned to listen differently.  If I get a call from a friend going through a hard time who wants to get together, everything might be fine. She might just want an adult conversation or a pedicure buddy.

Or that phone call might be the loudest cry for help she can muster.

I’ve learned that when I bring dinner to a friend who just had a baby, I need to ask questions like, “How are you feeling emotionally?”

This year – fertility treatments, miscarriages, pregnancy, labor, scary birth, anxiety – I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever thought possible. But I’ve also learned that I’m weaker and more vulnerable than I knew. There’s beauty in this strength and fragility.

I’ve learned that, just like that song said, God is faithful. He’s faithful through the hardest of hard times. He’s good.

If your friend or wife is going through this, all I can say is this: Show up. Just be there. Be the one she can call. Be the one who doesn’t judge. Arrive to do dishes or watch the baby so she can go to counseling. Be her support, even though what that looks like might change from day to day or moment to moment.

The closer you stay, the better you’ll know what she needs.

I know this whole thing doesn’t seem rational. That’s because it isn’t.

If you’re going through postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety/OCD or PTSD, I wish I could come give you a hug. I wish we could sit in silence, together. I wish I could take your scary thoughts and throw them far away. Since I can’t, I’ll just say this: Go to counseling – don’t mess around with this. Get medicine if you need it. Release the guilt. Know that you can simultaneously hate what’s going on in your mind and fiercely love your baby. Find the friends and family who will truly support you, and don’t worry about the rest. Learn your triggers and avoid them like the plague.

And slowly, it will get better.

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A Few Things

1. Duck Dynasty Season 3 comes out on DVD in a few days. The beards. The river. The camo. Be still my heart.

When I bought season 2 on its release day, the cashier asked me if it was for my husband. I thought about lying and saying yes, but I proudly said no. I love that show with my whole heart.

2. Getting my annual haircut on Thursday. Suggestions?

Warning, my hair easily becomes too short. And when that happens, I look like the lady in the Dilbert comics with triangle hair.

3. I’ve been killing it at the gym lately. Eight pounds g-o-n-e. Boom.

4. Speaking of healthy choices, in case you think I have it all together in the culinary world and every night we eat a home-cooked dinner with homemade salad dressing and freshly baked gluten-free confections, let me set you straight. Last night we had gluten-free frozen chicken fingers, gluten-free mac and cheese from a box (I cannot lie. I love me some squeeze cheese) and frozen sweet peas that I had to pour boiling water over because they had frozen together in one block after being partially defrosted several times when moonlighting as an ice pack.

5. It really has been a year since I got my hair cut, not counting bang trims. Maybe longer. I think I got bangs last April. So a year and a few months.

6. I’m growing out my bangs. I’ve decided that my will to have Zooey Deschanel bangs is not as strong as the willpower of my cowlicks. And every time I did my bangs, they looked great. But only in the mirror. Then I’d embark to the wide world and instantly my bangs would go all wonky. The pictures. Oh the pictures. Also, my buddy/bang trimmer quit to have a baby. The best part of my bang trim was gabbing for 15 minutes. What’s with that? Priorities, Kelly!

7. We started free-feeding Charlie instead of feeding him on a schedule. I guess he’s happy because he stopped pooping on the garage floor. He’s now eating a little more than before. Yes, I know. His weight will surely kill him. Even so, his life expectancy is now greatly extended from when he was pooping in the garage – if you know what I mean.

I explained this to the vet. She met the decision with disapproval until she listed off a dozen ideas to help him lose weight and I had tried every one of them and failed. We had already even attempted her suggestion of kitty cardio time chasing the laser pointer. We tried that. He chases it for about a minute and then lays on his back and follows the dot upside down with his eyes.

What can I say? Charlie, he’s consistent.

8. Next week is salad dressing week. Be looking for two great salad dressing recipes.

9. If you’re growing basil, you’re really going to like salad dressing week. If you’re not, you’re going to be stuck re-examining your priorities, your life decisions, your very soul.

10. Pippa and Charlie went to the vet last weekend. Charlie laid on the floor on his back and impressed the vet with his stellar personality. Pippa – ummm…she did her best impression of a feral cat. And I was like, “Pippa, you were not raised by wolves.” But that didn’t help. Then this happened.

Yes, I know I’m evil for stopping to take a picture in her hour of distress. Sorry Pippa.

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 And when I say evil, I mean that I am probably the best cat parent ever.

Shop ‘Til You Drop

sarah sproutsLast time I told you all about how I was one of two semi-finalists for a shopping spree at Sprouts Farmer’s Market. Although I didn’t win the big prize, I won a substantial gift card that paid for a lot of groceries for more than a month.

My original plan for the gift card was to supplement my normal grocery budget by only buying produce, meat, sale items and a few staples every week, in the hopes that I could use the gift card for six or seven months. Then life and a lot of unexpected bills happened, and I used the card for almost all my grocery shopping. What a blessing it was!

All too soon, there was only $100 left on the gift card. Sad, right? Even though I’d been using the card for weekly grocery shopping, I still wanted it to help our budget in the long term. That’s when I devised a plan of attack.  I would use that last bit of money to royally stock our pantry with staples and go-to items. It was the shopping trip dreams are made of.

After going through our pantry, I split my dream shopping trip items into three categories:

  • Expensive staples we’re always running out of – like extra virgin olive oil and gluten-free pretzels
  • Quick meals – like ingredients to make pasta
  • Splurges – I don’t need a few bars of chocolate…wait who am I kidding? Of course I do. Other splurges were things like a tube of high-quality tomato paste and a bottle of chipotle Tabasco sauce.

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And here it is…the bounty of my dream pantry-stocking shopping trip.  Oh, and it cost a little more like $150.

I’ve taken individual pictures of many of the items, but here is a quick rundown, left to right: Balsamic vinegar, raspberry balsamic vinegar, two bottles of extra virgin olive oil, grape seed oil, four packages of gluten-free pasta in various shapes, rice, coconut milk, whole-grain mustard, local honey, almond butter, dijon mustard, three bottles of chicken broth, chocolate, three bottles of high-quality marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, gluten-free pretzels, gluten-free crackers and cookies, bell peppers, Tabasco sauce, bulk almonds and bulk pinto beans.

Oh and wouldn’t it have been helpful if I’d closed the back door and moved those chairs before the picture?  

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 I also got some meat, but I put that up as soon as I got home. Bacon, chicken thighs and ground beef. That ham hock’s for a big pot of beans.

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White and brown jasmine rice, how I love thee! I also grabbed several boxes of Schar pasta. It’s my favorite pasta brand, and Italy’s number one according to the box. I love their tagliatelle.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 4Here’s where it gets really exciting – local honey, pure maple syrup, dijon and whole grain mustard. These are things I use all the time in cooking, whether it be for pork rubs or salad dressings. It always hurts the budget on shopping trips I have to buy a new $10 bottle of maple syrup, so having it on hand is amazing. Also, thanks Sprouts for carrying local honey. Way to be awesome.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 5This is my favorite chick stock. Buy it. Use it. Heck, bathe in it if you want. Allow it to change your life.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 7I splurged and got some nice pasta sauce. Emergency pasta dinners are ready to go.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 8Glutino is probably my favorite gluten-free brand. Their bagel chips are as good as anything with gluten and our house is seldom without a bag of their pretzels. Then I got Schar shortbread cookies. You’ve seen the amazing things I do to those

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 9File this one under necessity. These are my two favorite chocolate bars.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 10Sprouts has such high-quality, inexpensive produce and their produce workers are so knowledgable. They had bell peppers on sale, so I obviously bought 20. I mean five.

Produce isn’t really a pantry staple, especially because I use it up fast. However, you can dice bell peppers and freeze them. And that totally counts as a staple.

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Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 11

The last thing I used my gift card for was a very special Easter dinner. My dad came up because my sister and mom were en route to Massachusetts. I made a rack of lamb, roasted parsnips and carrots, roasted asparagus, marinated tomatoes and a Schar gluten-free sourdough baguette. My dad, who is not gluten-free, said the baguette was one of the best he’d ever had.

My gift card is now empty. I keep it in my wallet, though. It’s a reminder of a lot of things – of friends and community, of God’s provision, and of the time I got to stock my pantry full of staples for a busy day, a rainy day, or a day I just need some chocolate.

Who am I kidding. That chocolate is long gone.

The Time I Won A Shopping Spree

One day, I was closing up shop at work. I checked Facebook before shutting off my computer. That’s when I saw a call to enter an essay contest to be a part of a supermarket sweep at Sprouts Farmer’s Market for their grand opening in my town.

I figured what the heck and entered the 50-word essay contest about why I was Sprouts’ biggest fan. Because I’ve shopped at the Sprouts near my parents’ house in Dallas, I really am Sprouts’ biggest fan. So I wrote a funny little essay in five minutes about how thankful I was that Sprouts finally got my ESP messages to come to my town and how I was going to gorge myself on New Zealand lamb and giant bell peppers. Hey, I figured, that master’s degree in professional writing has to be worth something, right?

Then I pushed send and forgot all about it.

Until a few weeks later when I got an email that I’d won.

That was not expected.

I was one of two finalists picked to have two minutes in a store by myself to pick out groceries. That’s a lot of pressure.

I strategized for days, coming up with items that could fill our pantry. I was excited, thrilled. Winning came the month our finances went cray-cray with thousands…yes, THOUSANDS…of dollars in unexpected taxes, doctor’s bills and repairs on The Professor’s ancient SUV. And at that time, we were still blissfully unaware my tires would need to be replaced and this ball joint thingy holding my wheel to my car was about to break off. Oh, and that our house was being eaten by termites.

A supermarket sweep was a huge blessing, and I had my game face on.

On the day of the sweep, I went to Sprouts at the appointed time and found out  I was completely. utterly. wrong.

This was not me running through the store to get my supplies. This was a supermarket sweep like that game show I used to watch as a kid where people throw frozen turkeys into their carts.

This was me running through the store at the same time as a competitor, grabbing the most expensive items possible in two minutes with the goal of having the most expensive bill.

I wasn’t a winner. I was a semi-finalist. There would be a winner. And a loser.

I froze.

I hate competition. As a kid on my soccer team (go Orange Crush!), I’d never play because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. In high school on the club swim team, I begged to not have to actually compete. All I wanted to do was go to practice and enjoy swimming. And don’t even get me started on kindergarten gymnastics.

The world was spinning and I was losing all ability to think. What would I do? How? And now that I looked, Sprouts’ prices were really low. 

My spiral of self-doubt was interrupted by a familiar voice calling my name from across the store. I looked up and saw four of my good friends who came to cheer me on.

I was saved!

One of these friends is my sister-in-law, Amber. Unlike my lackluster athletic career, Amber was an NCAA athlete. The stories of her competitiveness are the stuff of legend. Amber, Amy, Rebekah and Janet walked the store with me and helped me strategize. The vitamins and meat were off limits, so we settled on an expensive dog food and infant formula plan. All to soon, I was at the go position with my competitor and we were off!

Two minutes flew by. I loaded up on dog food, never thinking about putting bags at the bottom tray of the cart. Then I went to infant formula where my competitor had already been. I grabbed some other expensive infant items and then loaded up on pricey organic almond butter. They were $18 each, and two fell onto the ground into a giant glassy mess. I kept going and got to the checkout station early. I didn’t think to grab any pricey cashier items in my remaining seconds because I hated every second of this and wanted it to be over.

sarah sprouts

I look happy there, but on the inside I’m screaming, “Someone get me out of here! I just want to practice swimming, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and don’t even try to make me do the splits!” 

In the end, my competitor and I both managed to put more than $800 of merchandise into our carts in two minutes.  But I lost by about $15, or one jar of organic almond butter.

I was bummed and sad that I’d taken off work and had nothing to show for it. Thankfully the nice people at Sprouts had other plans. We both won substantial giftcards. Substantial as in more than a month’s worth of groceries. She just got $100 more than me. 

Afterwords, I found out that her essay was about how she was a single mom struggling to afford groceries, and I was glad that she won. Also, she was new to the area and there at the store all alone.

Looking back on that day and my cheering squad, I feel so blessed. To be sure, the giant gift card was a huge blessing that helped with groceries during the months when we didn’t know if we’d have enough to cover all our expenses (which we always miraculously did).

No, as I think about the blessings of that day, I think about my cheering squad, my community, the people who have helped make this red-dirt land home.

Stay tuned on Thursday for part two where I explain how I tried to use my gift card to be the biggest help in our grocery budget.

Confessions of a Blonde

sarah silly copy

I thought I’d compile a list of the stupidest things I’ve ever said. This is, of course, a condensed list. I’ve said way more stupid stuff than this.

I have blonde hair. I can’t help the ditzy things that sometimes escape my lips.

It’s not my fault, really.

1. Talking to a friend about music. (Disclaimer, this happened like 10 years ago).

Me: What kind of music do you like?

Tim (shaggy hair, hipster says coolly): I’m into indie music.

Me: No way! I love Bollywood music! Have you seen Bride and Prejudice!

I start this little Bollywood dance with my hands and he looks at me like I’m certifiable.

For those who don’t know, indie music is independent music. Not Indian music like I thought.

2. Seeing a guy at school with the College shirt John Belushi wears on Animal House: (Disclaimer, I was in high school, so this was a loooooong time ago).

Me: I need one of those shirts. Were you just tired of everyone asking you where you were going to college, so you just got a shirt that says college? Where’d you get it? I’m tired of people asking about that, too. Now people will just know that I am going to college. Somewhere.

Guy: Just looks at me, partly amused and partly dumbfounded. Probably decides any number of things about me from my naivete, my basic lack of pop culture and social skills to my basic intelligence for not knowing about that iconic shirt.

Then he walked off.

Then I went to find my own College shirt. 

Then I found out about the movie. Oops.

3. Trying on an outfit to wear for an evening on the town, while living in New Zealand.

Paula (my host mum): That shirt looks smart.

Me: I’ve never really thought about this sweater making me look smart. (Now really excited.) But, I’ll put on my glasses and then I’ll look even smarter!

I go and put on my glasses to show my super smart look.

Paula: No, smart as in dressed up nicely.

Me: Oh.

So as you can see, not only do I say stupid things, but I commit. It’s sort of a problem.

Please tell me I’m not alone!

Welcome Home

Cha-cha-cha-changes!

Notice something new on Accidental Okie?  Or, heck, everything new?  Yes, the Accidental Okie redesign is complete!

My blog redesign comes after months and months of work, planning and coordination between me and my amazing website guy, Chris Krycho.  That’s a nice way to say that over the past few months, I’ve been Chris’ number one harasser, stalker and all-around nuisance.  I think he’s glad to have me out of his hair.

There are a lot of reasons I redesigned the site.  I’m now self hosted, which means I can have ads on my site.  It also means I have greater control over the design, customization, analytics and features.  And when I say I have greater control of the design, it means I send Chris an email and say, “What if we made this font different?”  Then he changes it because I know CSS about as well as I know Swahili.

The changes will help you, too!  You can now access Accidental Okie by typing www.theaccidentalokie.com or www.accidentalokie.com.  There are no longer hoops to jump through to post a comment – just your email address and your website if you want.  The fonts are easier to read, you can find related posts at the end of every article, and the two rows of headers make things easier to navigate.  You can also get printable versions of the recipes on the recipe posts.  (I’m not finished moving my recipes to the printable version, but I’m getting closer, so bear with me on that).

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Along with the site, I now have an Accidental Okie Facebook Fan Page.  Make sure to become a fan if you want to see new blog posts and read all my snarky thoughts on life.  And who doesn’t want that?

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One of my visions for Accidental Okie was for this to be a place to blog about all of my fun jobs in my stationery business.  Chris and I have just completed the Swoon Designs website as well, which you’ll find linked in the header and social media icons.  I wanted the two sites to be independent of each other, but also somewhat unified.  Chris and I came up with two sites that are different in form and function, but contain the same color schemes, fonts and overall aesthetic.  We’re very excited about the two sites together!

(Swoon Designs still has one major hiccup that we’re working to fix with the theme developers.  It doesn’t work on smart phones.  So if you click the link on your phone and you can’t get any of the menu items to work, we know.  It should be resolved soon.)

I hope you enjoy the new site.  Please contact me if you find any issues!

When the World Falls…And Then Gets Back Up Again

I’ve had so many swirling thoughts about the tornado that ravaged my state.  I’ve never said on AO where I live in Oklahoma, but I will say this: we were close to the tornado.  Fifteen minutes away.

May 20th.  I was home with the stomach flu that day.  I turned on the TV because the skies looked menacing.  The general rule here in Oklahoma is that if the meteorologists haven’t commandeered the airwaves, it’s not that bad.  A soap opera was playing, so I was happy to see  it was indeed not that bad.  My relief was short-lived.  Within seconds, the soap opera was gone, replaced by a meteorologist who said, “Folks, we’re going to switch to the weather for a while.  Something could be brewing.”

He was right.  It didn’t start out all too menacing, though.  There was a suspicious cloud with a hook, ready to spawn a tornado at a moment’s notice. For now, a menacing but harmless thing. Then there was more rotation.  Then it was a little funnel, just barely touching the ground and dissipating.  Then it tried again and wisped away.  It was just another little tornado, the things that populate our spring television sets, allow us to beef up our arm chair meteorologist cred, and momentarily disrupt our lives.

By May 20th, the sirens had already gone off two times in our neighborhood this spring.  The first time, The Professor and I sat in our closet with the cats to wait it out.  The next time, we knew the storm had passed our neighborhood by a few miles, so we did rednecks proud and stood in the street and took pictures of the developing funnel cloud.

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Bad weather, it’s sort of normal around here.

And that’s what this tornado looked like – sort of normal.  Trying to touch the ground, not succeeding, and trying again.  Gaining speed to become a little EF1 or EF2 tornado and then back to originally scheduled programming.  Except, that’s not what happened.  Eventually it hit the ground and stuck.  And in seconds, it went from a small wedge to a behemoth. A super cell, long track tornado headed straight for the city.  The stuff of nightmares.

It was hard for me to comprehend how big it was.  Soon it was crossing rivers, plowing through roads I’d driven on and intersections I could see in my head.

And then The Professor’s school was one of the landmarks on the weather map.  My heart dropped.  But I did the projection, geographic calculations we Okies, accidental or not, can do in our sleep.  Storms travel North East.  This one was traveling East North East.  He would be safe. I was safe too.  That’s why I stayed on the sofa when the tornado siren began screaming.

I watched powerless as the shaky TV footage showed the tornado taking out houses.  Then whole neighborhoods.  Then businesses.  And schools.  The debris cloud was so dense that the tornado and its conquests were one large dustbowl extending from the evil skies.  It was on the ground for 40 minutes.  A two-mile wide monster leaving death and destruction in its wake.  Then it was gone.

I watched helplessly as reporters made mad dashes to assess damage.  Helicopter footage showed large swaths of neighborhoods gone.  Then they discovered the schools.  One reporter relayed news while the other listened to police scanners, their normally tidy anchor desk covered in paper, their words less smooth.  One school had every child miraculously accounted for.  But not the other.

Then a reporter started to cry.

We’ve all watched disasters unfold on TV – 9/11, floods, tsunamis.  I was watching this one on TV too, but it was happening 15 minutes from my house.  It was a cognitive disconnect I still can’t quite comprehend.

As if to serve as a reminder that I wasn’t watching a feed from a far away place, our wireless Internet and cell phones went out.  They’d stay out until 11 that night.  Even if the phones had come back, reporters were relaying desperate pleas for people to stay off their phones and keep the network unclogged.  I got one text out to my mom that we were fine.  Everyone else had to wait.

A few hours later, The Professor came home. He’s not emotional in this sort of situation – facts, by the book.  But his voice was anchored in sadness and concern.  We watched the news for another ten minutes and then turned it off. The sadness in our house was thick, and we didn’t want the news reminding us of why we were and would continue to be heartbroken for our community.

It’s been several days now since it felt like the world fell out from beneath us – since 25 of our friends, neighbors, classmates lost their lives to the menacing skies. Part of our city looks like a war zone.  Then for people like The Professor and me who weren’t directly impacted, things are normal, or as normal as they can be.  It’s a strange set of realities.

Mixed with sadness and loss are stories – miracles great and small.  A friend was on the team of meteorologists who surveyed the damage and the path (and other sciency things, I’m sure) to determine the tornado’s place on the EF scale.  He said he was encouraged by the number of stories of unlikely survival.

This week, I’m more proud of my accidental state than I’ve ever been.

The Home Depot next to one of the neighborhoods hit became a drop off and triage site for all the pets found in rubble.  Now the farmer’s market where I buy watermelons every summer is housing lost pets and orchestrating sweet reunions.

The local gluten-free communities are banding together to provide gluten-free food for displaced celiacs.

The entire community came together to give a new backpack filled with goodies for every kid whose school was leveled.  That was 1,000 backpacks collected and filled in about 18 hours.  Our local cupcake bakery supplied 1,000 cupcakes.

Big Truck Taco, the world’s greatest gourmet taco-truck business was serving breakfast tacos to first responders the next morning.

My university is housing 100 people in dorms.  Employees gathered supplies like sheets, toiletries, and diapers and the university set up a free store for families to shop from.  Our state school is partnering with a church to provide free daycare for the kids staying in the dorms so the parents can sleep, talk to insurance adjusters or sort through the rubble.  And our cafeterias are serving meals to search and rescue crews that have come from across the country to help.

Volunteers were sent away because so many people showed up.

Within hours of the disaster, the churches in my town were a mobilized and unified front, a single Body of Christ meeting needs 24/7 for a week now.

Westboro Baptist Church, a sad cult of deranged and misled people, are reportedly in town to picket children’s funerals.  The Freedom Riders got to the funeral first along with thousands – yes thousands – of citizens who created a human shield for mourning families.

The grocery store I shop at is donating huge proceeds of their sales to the Red Cross. The value supermarket in town provided 20,000 snacks for kids.  The bake sales and car washes manned by children on almost every corner are donating all of their sales.

(If you want an even more impressive list, look at this blog post).

Last night at 10 p.m., The Professor and I drove up to Oklahoma City after a last-minute need came through our email from church.  A jewelry store in Midland, Texas, had put a call out on the radio that they would collect donations and buy supplies.  The store, along with a few other local businesses, was packed with people dropping off money and supplies.  Midland sent the high school band’s semi with 100 tons of supplies.  My heart skipped a beat when I saw the huge Texas flag streaming off the back of the truck.  The Texans had arrived.

The supplies were amazing – tons and tons of bottled water and Gatorade. Diapers and wipes. Someone donated garment bags full of nice suits.  There were Pack-N-Plays, nursing pillows, shovels, scrubs, and boxes of new pillows and blankets.

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Most of the water bottles were heavy 40 bottle packs.  Then we’d get to the more precious offerings – 5 rolls of toilet paper from someone’s home, a four pack of Gatorade.  Gifts from people who gave what they could, meager as it was.  The widow’s mite – sure to be blessed and multiplied.

As I hauled in my place, I found myself praying over the boxes.  That each item would find the right person.  That the business man who needs to get back to work would find the nice donated suits. The nursing mom would find the nursing pillow. The Disney princess backpack would find just the right little princess.

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I don’t know if you know this, but I hated Oklahoma when I moved up here.  It was my duty as a Texan to hate it.  But the longer I’ve been here, the more I’ve come to love this place.  It’s not a “getting used to it” sort of love, but a deep affection.  This week, amongst the tragedy and the triumph, my heart is soaring for this state.

Here in Oklahoma, when the whole world falls down, we get back up and put it back together.Oklahoma Home

We’re Okay

Oklahoma Home

I know I’ve been silent on my blog lately.  It’s been a busy season for my business.  I’m coming back soon with some big surprises for Accidental Okie and Swoon Designs.

But I wanted to let you all know that we’re okay.  The horrible tornadoes that ravaged Oklahoma were too close for comfort – just miles away.  The movie theatre currently being used as a triage center is where we saw Batman and Harry Potter and Les Mis.  But we’re safe, unharmed, thankful, and praying for those who can’t say the same.

Pray for our state.  Pray for our neighbors.