Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016, A Year Later

contents waiting on the curb for garbage pickup

view from down the street following morning

On Memorial Day 2015 we spent the morning at the swimming pool.  For lunch we enjoyed grilled chicken with fresh salads made from an abundance of fresh market produce. The house was clean, tidy and the kitchen stocked.  That afternoon we relaxed, played, took our family walk, napped and did food prep for the week.  The week ahead was the last week of Kindergarten and we were feeling like the year was ending on a good note.  We were imagining a leisurely summer of playdates, pool, arts and crafts and reading.  Later that afternoon our neighbors asked us if we wanted to come over for a swim. Normally, the answer would have been yes; however, I had been in the mood to relax. Ironically, the dry and tranquil evening I had imagined turned into a night of terror, a night of 3 feet of water entering our house from all angles.  Memorial Day would be the last day we would live in our house.  We would leave in the middle of the night with just a few belongings, having to cross our street, now a pond.  We were to be soaking wet in a different kind of swimming pool.  

We were so lucky that our neighbors saw our unclear texted cry for help in the middle of the night and responded. In waist-high water we were guided out of our house.  We carried our boys on our hips down the road to their house which sits up a few feet from the street. We crossed rising water in sheer darkness. When we got inside I was a total mess.  I was frightened and my foot was bleeding. My neighbor's children helped us dry off and get a change of clothes.  In my small bag I only had my phone, wallet, 2 diapers, Epipens and Benadryl.  I was crying and processing what was happening and in shock, picturing our house halfway drowned in black water.  At one point I started to feel relieved to be there in a safe, familiar space where we were out of danger.  At the same time, I was fearing  that they too could flood in this impressive amount of rising water if it didn't stop threatening to come closer to their door.  So many questions about how much damage had happened and if everyone else was ok.  Next thing I knew, we were all next door for the rest of the night at our other neighbor's house up on their second floor. Many of us had ranches and didn't have a second floor to climb up to.

I'll never forget the gorgeous, sunny morning we woke up to after just one hour of restless sleep. The neighborhood was out on the patches of dry grass watching the water recede and processing the disaster from the night before.  There was a canoe taking people around the streets. This canoe went to my house and brought back to me a few requested items.  Of course, the first thing I wanted was my Thermomix. 

We then spent the rest of the week between two of our neighbors' houses.  We began the arduous tasks of sorting through the flooded mess left behind and dealing with flood insurance and remediating.  I will forever be grateful to our neighbors for helping us retrieve, wash and dry whatever was salvageable from our wardrobe. They even went out to buy us some essentials.  They were in constant helpful, action mode for us and even stored, in their guest room, everything they had helped us pull out and clean. We literally took over our neighbors' spaces. Meanwhile some friends came over in intervals to watch our kids for us there so that we could work. Another good friend was always available to watch our boys at her house when needed. 

A big topic for me is how to eat with food allergies while living in crisis mode. Of course we had to eat.  How was I going to feed my littlest with so many food allergies? We didn't go out to restaurants, except for two safe options along with Whole Foods, and find it very difficult to accept food from others.  It's one thing to have one food allergy like both myself my oldest have. Our littlest has such a long list of allergies that I felt like I was in my nightmare situation. How was I to accept food from others unless a bag of fruit, or a specific item I asked for?  Share a meal at someone else's house? This is usually not an option.  Luckily, I was able to get a few dry pantry items from the house the morning after the flood, but I needed to figure out more than that. I needed to make meals. An example of someone understanding and meeting our needs was when a good friend brought me grass fed ground meat, kale and carrots. I even had a moment of calm cooking and sharing this meal with the neighbors we were staying with. I had my own pan, spoon, heat source, clean surface area and safe ingredients.  Another awesome thing was good friends giving gift certificates to the places where we can eat out.  It felt like a huge treat to go out during all the stress. 

We lost all of our furniture, appliances, and most of our belongings. We lost the space to keep them.  The specific loss of my kitchen space and almost everything in it was just awful.  I found our new fully stocked french door refrigerator belly-up in flood water.  It felt like a metaphor of disaster.  This fridge was perfect for how I cook and store food; dairy products in their own corner, fridge doors too high for Little Brother to open. When I picked up the 50-year-old stainless, electric skillet my mom gave me I burst into tears; I had trusted that it would go anywhere with me in life.  

The night after the flood, while staying with our neighbors, we received a message asking if we had somewhere to live. We were offered perfect accommodations for the summer in a fully furnished garage apartment with beds, sheets, towels, bathroom, kitchenette, access to laundry and a short walk to a favorite park. Here we would live until we could find a place to rent.  Here I had a cozy home base to take care of my boys, myself and was able to tend to the flooded mess of our house. 

Today is Memorial Day, 2016.  A full year has gone by since we left our house.  A year of many changes, transitions and emotions.  Looking back I can see how the flood for me was a time in my life when I had to face many fears. I learned how to ask for, accept and receive help. The flood was stressful, yet we were ok.  I did find that I desperately needed to take a break and go to my yoga class regularly. We all need time for ourselves.  Self-care is essential as is, it is more so during times of stress. I just needed someone who could watch my allergic child where there would be no food around. After searching, a rainbow appeared in the form of the most wonderful lady I adored instantly.  She would watch my boys so that I could find space to  breathe, heal and revitalize.  Just one hour and I could go back to my day. 

With time, we slowly started back up in the kitchen with food routines. At first, it was survival mode with a new skillet and the simplest meals. In time, we started buying again many of the useful items we lost such as a new waffle maker, yogurt maker, slow cooker and ice cream maker. This year, while away from this blog, we had some food allergies go away such as watermelon, cucumber and peas (a questionable one).  I had intended to keep up with our food world on the blog, but I never returned to visit with so much going on. Today is a good day to sit and reflect.  It seems appropriate that a brisket from Law Ranch is in the oven as I write; a favorite family meal to celebrate the year and Abuela's visit from Chile.  The brisket cooks in the same Le Creuset dutch oven I had professionally cleaned at the store many weeks after the flood. The stench of it, along with everything else, was revolting. I wasn't able to rescue everything, but I was able to keep the dutch oven. 

Today is Memorial Day, 2016.  I post again again for the first time one year after walking out of our house in the middle of the night holding our boys tight above waist-high water. Today I am taking a moment to write about what happened.  Memorial Day, 2015: the time we were displaced by a flood along with so many other families in our neighborhood. 

I am asking myself how I want to pick up from here. How do I pick up where I left?  Last year, I was feeling the urge to modernize this blog and make it something cleaner and fresher.  That said, as I pause and sit down right now, I think I will move forward and continue the blog as it is. The opposite of the perfect isn't the good.  I'll do this so that I can continue, even with a gap in time, a visual memory of what we eat and how we prepare it.  I can go back and post some of the food highlights from the past year.  The posts have always served as a way to find joy in our everyday food, no matter the limitations, and archive recipes.  They also weave together glimpses of our life over time through the lens of food that I want to remember and share back with my children.

knocked-over fridge 

hauling stuff away

drying bay leaf soon to drown
kitchen mess

while working on clearing out house, someone drove by
and saw me sitting and crying on the driveway.  Before I knew it,
he was back with lunch free of all top allergens from Fadi's.

The best present

one of the many rainbows to appear


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