Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Perspective ...

As I watch the news and the Louisiana flooding just 30 miles away in the Denham Springs/Baton Rouge areas, the hardships that we've experienced with flooding are still fresh and my heart goes out to those affected.  If you haven't experienced such devastation, you just can't imagine what it's like.

Our first experience with flooding was the May '95 flood, when our very first house that we owned took on about a foot of water after over 19 inches of rain in less than 48 hours.  We were in an area that wasn't supposed to flood and since this was "before Katrina", flood zones weren't a thought back then.  We didn't have flood insurance, nor did any of our neighbors.  I remember sitting in the back of our pick-up truck out front (no where else dry to sit) and chatting with the neighbors while waiting for "The Red Cross" truck to deliver dinner ... better than the ice cream truck! The "Salvation Army" truck also made its stops, providing cleaning supplies, snacks and water.  These two organizations were so generous, and The Red Cross even gave us a new mattress!  I have to say, FEMA was also a blessing and they were the reason we were able to keep our sanity.  FEMA provided us and our neighbors with the funds to restore our home and put our lives back together.  We learned a lot from that flood ... that we could recover and that there are still tons of good people in the world.

One year later we sold that house and built our raised dream home on the bayou ... and we bought flood insurance!  All was good until August 29, 2005.  Long story short ... our house was fine but everything below was destroyed and covered in a thick, stinky mud.  Flood insurance won't cover anything below the living quarters, so we lost quite a bit in lawnmowers, tools, etc.  However, we were grateful that we still had a place to go home to.  We didn't move home right away, as we stayed in an RV at a friend's place for about a week while making trips to the house to clean & remove the mud and trash. That same week also included several trips about 30 miles away (close to the now flooded areas) just to get gas for the generator and a burger.  We found a truck giving out MRE's and water, and we lived off of that for a while.  Once again, the "Red Cross" & "Salvation Army" brought hope to folks and set up stations for the community.  There was no such thing as going to a local grocery story ... it seemed that just about everyone was affected by the storm.  

Below are pics of our dream home on the bayou that we built .. it was the first house Ken had ever built, and the start of his building career.

Once back in the house, we lived without electricity for about a month.  The heat was brutal!  No electricity also meant no water since we had a well.  It wasn't unusual to go a few days in the heat of August without a shower .. good practice for the boat, right?!  But again, we were grateful to have a clean place to stay .. while we fixed our flooded rentals!

We had three rentals that flooded ... two up to the ceiling and one with just enough water to have to gut it 4 feet up.  The clean-up was tough ... again, with thick & stinky mud everywhere and refrigerators full of spoiled food leaving a stench that would almost knock you out!  The two tenants that lived in the houses that flooded to the ceiling left us to remove their ruined items. They seemed to conveniently be "evacuated" until everything was on the street and ready for them to sort through.  The good news was that we had flood insurance this time around.  We needed it since we not only had huge repairs, but also lost rental income on all three of our rentals!

We also had my 80-something year old grandparents, my 70-something year old grandmother, and my mom's house needing help with clean-up and repairs. They all lost everything.  Needless to say, Ken had a lot on his shoulders, as the family looked to him to repair everything.  After all, he was the contractor in the family.  While other contractors got rich from Katrina, we spent our time fixing our rentals and our family's homes.  We were glad to help, but boy was it rough!  

Katrina really put into perspective what's important, but it also wore us out emotionally & physically.  It took us over two years to get back to a normal life, and then we were crazy enough to buy a gutted house on the water in an area we wanted to live in ... and then our little rental that got a few inches in Katrina flooded again!  We endured more repairs for another year.  We rented out our dream home on the bayou and eventually sold it & the house we bought in it's place in 2014.  We thought we were done with flooding until ... that damn lil rental flooded again in 2014 ... and again in 2015!  After just restoring the rental from the 2014 flood, the waters came again.  I tell ya, we wanted to pull our hair out.  Thank goodness for flood insurance, but it sure sucked.  We don't have much of a choice but to keep on renting the place instead of selling ... nobody wants to pay anything for a 1-bedroom house that's flooded several times.

The cursed rental in 2015 ... it's cute, but what a pain!

When storms once again threatened to flood our little rental this past week, we tried not to think about it.  We kept our fingers crossed that we wouldn't get too much rain, and luckily we didn't! We dodged a bullet, and we are so grateful!  We may have to face flooding again (thanks to that 1 rental), but at least it wasn't this time.  Hopefully it won't be for a while.

Anyway, this all started with seeing those poor folks just down the road who are now going through some really tough times.  They will endure some of the same things we did ... the brutal heat, the lack of a/c & ice, the lack of gas and the lack of security that a home brings.  My son-in-law headed towards the devastation with his Air Force Reserve unit to provide assistance at one of the Baton Rouge shelters.  He may be home Friday ... maybe.

Ken & I have become frustrated the past few months with the slow progress on Nirvana.  We'd hoped to be moving aboard by Ken's 50th birthday, which is this Friday but we've got a few more months of boat work before that happens. Work gets in the way, we get tired, and it rains.  Seeing those folks nearby sleeping in shelters and leaving their lifetime possessions really puts things in perspective.  We are once again reminded of how fortunate we are to be sleeping in a warm bed, running our a/c, and living in a dry house.

Those folks will recover thanks to so many generous folks & organizations.  I've never lived anywhere else, but I hear that us Southerners are some of the kindest people in the country ... I have no doubt. I'm hoping we can "pay it back" and get to the Baton Rouge area soon to help out the "Red Cross" or some other organization.   They were such a big help to us, and we'll be forever grateful.

Remember, when things get tough it may not be all that bad compared to others.  It's all about perspective. Nirvana waits, but we're blessed!  

Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!


Emily said...

Wow! I've lived through ice storms, snow storms, power/water outages (though never more than a few days), and hurricanes with lots of trees down in North Carolina but have never experienced a flooded home. I can't even imagine how awful that would be or how much work you both had to do (over and over) to recover from that! And the stink -- gag! I could not live in an area so prone to flooding and admire the gumption of those of you who do stick it out. You two certainly deserve to be sitting in the cockpit of Nirvana on a calm evening, drinking a cocktail, and not worrying about this kind of stuff. I hope you will get there very soon. I feel sure that you will. If you could endure all that you have in the past, you can handle anything!

Anonymous said...

What a great essay. I really enjoyed reading this. I can't wait til you cast off. Ken

Ken n Cheryl said...

Thanks Ken!

Emily, fixing a flooded home over & over does get old! Believe me, if we had the choice to sell that lil house for a decent price we would .. can't take credit for sticking it out ... LOL! The crazy thing is ... it's in the best flood zone it can be in! The parish has done things to cause problems with drainage, and they've been promising a fix for over 10 years. Ugh! Thanks for the kind words. I must admit that I do feel we've earned drinks in the cockpit! =)

Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor said...

Such a great post!! You're right - it's all about perspective. Anytime you don't like what's going on in your patch, have a look around. For sure, someone else is suffering far worse than you.

Mark and Cindy - sv Cream Puff said...

This was a great post. You and your fellow statesmen have gone through so much and to see you keep your sailing dream intact is inspiring.

We hope to see you out here one day soon

Mark and Cindy
s/v Cream Puff

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