Posts Tagged ‘ Hope Remains: Tide Loads of Hope carnival ’

To the Sea

{by Nola from NOLA Notes}

For those of us who returned after Hurricane Katrina to the Gulf coast, and to New Orleans, we frequently get questioned: Why did you return? How could you have returned? We evacuated to Little Rock on Sunday. Monday, my husband flew to Philadelphia for his job; he returned two weeks later. I spent much of those two weeks in a stupor, worried about my future, the future of New Orleans and the entire Gulf coast area.

Monday, September 12, 2005, Little Rock, Arkansas.

As I drove to the airport to pick up CS, I was barely able to keep the tears back. I should have been ecstatic to be seeing him after a two week break, but, I realized, a lot of my emotions had been at bay with CS not around. Now that the one person to whom my emotions could not be concealed was returning, my emotional dam was breaking. I think he assumed my stand-offish welcome indicated that I wasn’t as happy as him to be together again. In truth, my heart was breaking anew and if I spoke of it in detail, the tears would come.

We returned to the hotel in relative silence. I retreated into a hot bath; CS joined me. I lay my back on CS’s chest; he snaked his arms and legs around me and buffered me from the outside world. And in that steamy, watery cocoon, with the overhead heater whirring us into further isolation, the angst released from me. I wept and grieved. I wailed and convulsed. I dissolved into the bath water and became the whirring of the heater.

* * * *

One hundred and fifty years ago, ancestors on both sides of my family traveled from Europe to America with little more than the clothes on their backs and hope in their hearts. They traveled rough seas in steerage compartments of overflowing vessels. They landed in New Orleans and put down roots.

I never knew WHY my ancestors chose New Orleans over, say, New York or Galveston. But I do know they never looked back. This became their new home. They got jobs, bought real estate, paid taxes, married, lived, and died.

Five years ago, I returned to New Orleans alone. My husband was working long hours in Little Rock and I felt I could be of better use back home. There was no discussion of NOT returning: our home did not flood; our jobs remained in place; our mortgage was still due.

That Thanksgiving, we traveled to Taos, NM. We were still bruised from Katrina but brave enough to venture out. A clerk in a store inquired where we were from. “New Orleans?” he snarled with a sneer, “I don’t know why they are bothering to rebuild. It’s not worth my tax dollars…”



The Cone of Uncertainty

{by Rachel from A Southern Fairytale}

Southern is more than geography, it’s a lifestyle, it’s in the beat of our hearts, the soft lilt in our words; it’s in the traditions of cotillion and bunco, of cowboy boots and front porch swings, of moonshine and moonpies.

boots and tree

Southern is a birth right and a blessing.

One of the little things that we who live both in the South and on the Coast get to experience yearly is this little event you might be familiar with… it’s known as Hurricane Season.

Down here we live on the Coast and from June to November (because Hurricanes use calendars, of course) we live in this thing called The Cone of Uncertainty.

Cone of Uncertainty; I read those words as if they were said by James Earl Jones and giggle even while a chill races down my spine and my stomach tightens. We who live on the coast can do that. It’s called survival instinct.

We choose to live on the Gulf Coast where the breezes taste of salt and sand and the humidity is a gift to skin and a curse to hair, where even in the winter you can comfortably walk in the waves collecting shells.

We choose to live in the Cone of Uncertainty because the beauty of the Southern people is unmatched anywhere else. You’ll never meet a stranger and you’ll likely never have a door closed in your face, we raise gentlemen and strong southern ladies down here. Yes Ma’am and No Ma’am sprinkle the speech of even the youngest southern children. Three year olds open and hold doors for others because they want to grow up to be just like their daddies.

It’s like picking dewberries in the summer, watching dragonflies flitting among the honeysuckle on Granny’s fence and family portraits in bluebonnets.

Being Southern is who we are, it’s in our bones.

I know why we return, why we stay and why we remain hopeful.

I know what it is to have numbered plywood in your garage…



One Bad Day Out of Every Seven-hundred

{by Trisha Haas from MomDot}

Standing on the edge of the water the past few months has caused me some great reflection. As my toe touches the sand, now dotted with black specs, no doubt remnants of the oil disaster, I can’t help but feel lucky; blessed.

Blessed you say? Blessed for what? The brackish water, the industry falling apart, the tourism detracting?

Yes.

Because if you don’t live here you don’t see. You don’t know. You can’t feel.

And that’s it, isn’t it? You can’t feel what we feel.

You can’t know what it feels like to wake up and smell the salt, to feel the wind whipping in your hair as you drive over a bridge, only to be greeted by so much never ending water that it must have been supplied by God.

You can’t know what it feels like to have a stranger, someone who is standing over their own pile of rubble, grab your hand and tell you its going to be alright.

And it will be.

For the beauty that I have spent my entire life witnessing can only be rivaled by the camaraderie and community I have been privileged to be a part of.

When I was 16 I lost my house…



Still We Remain

{by Tara from If Mom Says OK}

Early in our marriage, my husband was being recruited for a new job. One of the companies he was interviewing with was located on the Gulf Coast of Florida. At the time our oldest was three and I was epically pregnant with our second child.

While he was schmoozing with the suits, the toddler and I were frolicking on the sugar white sands of Fort Walton Beach. I wanted to enjoy the full experience of a trip to the ocean, having come from the mountains of Tennessee, and wanted to avoid a lop-sided tan.

So, I took a page out of the sea turtle mom’s handbook. I dug a hole in the sand, not too deep, that was just the right size for a 8-month baby bump. I then laid my beach blanket over the nest, eased my swollen belly into the warm, soft sand and basked in the Gulf sunshine.

I think at that moment, nestling my yet-to-be-born son into a shifting bowl of fine, white quartz, I fell in love with the Gulf Coast.

During the intervening years, we have basked on those beaches many times, swam in the crystal green waters, and soaked in the sunshine Florida claims as it’s namesake.

We have also abandoned our home in the dead of night, fleeing from the devastating winds and rain of Hurricanes Opal, Ivan, and Dennis. Days would pass without knowing if we had a home to return to, or if we would be starting over with just the clothes on our backs.

Weeks would pass without electricity or potable water. Neighbors would gather at each other’s homes, joining in spontaneous block parties to grill thawed steaks and chicken in efforts to not let it spoil uneaten. Returning friends would pass out bags of ice they brought from unaffected towns to keep what food we could save from going bad.

In our garage, standing against the back wall, are numbered sheets of plywood. Each cut to fit specific windows facing the bay and the most likely direction of building-destroying strength winds.

Jugs of fresh water are stored on shelves along side of the dogs’ travel crates. In the kitchen, behind the seasonings are bottles of feline sedatives. Our cats are not good in a crisis…



Hope Remains: In the End, Life is Always Kind

{by Heather from Queen of Shake Shake}

When Megan called and asked if I’d write about why we’re still living along the Gulf Coast as part of Story Bleed’s Hope Remains carnival, sponsored by Tide Loads of Hope, my answer was so authentic that it came quick and unbidden, much like seeing boobs in a Rorschach test; no thinking, just open your mouth and the deep-seated perverse truth spills forth.

“Because we’re crazy.”

That’s undeniably true. It takes a special kind of crazy to live here – a type of insanity where you enjoy the smell of sweat and can hear double negatives without going cross-eyed.

Living along the Gulf Coast also takes a special kind of sexy to look good in 5000% humidity with frizzy hair. Not everyone has it, but I do. Ooo, my frizzy hair and shiny makeup is so sex-ay, you have no idea.

It also takes $230 a month just to insure your home, but don’t faint! This works out in the end and is one of the Gulf Coast’s best kept secrets. Since you are paying so much, the insurance companies promise to send your firstborn child to college for free.

Wait, Wally is now telling me our insurance company will not be sending Payton to college, that we have to pay for it and the extortionate premium. Huh. Now I’m not sure our decision to live here makes any sense at all.

It’s not like coming to Mobile, Alabama, was my bright idea. My bright ideas consist of things like, hmmm, I wonder what would happen if I pretend I’m in college again and economic visions, such as saving money by teaching myself how to knit via YouTube instructional videos. (Hint: while you may save money on knitting classes, you will spend more money on anti-psychotic drugs, because huh? They twisted the yarn this way to loop over that way only to pull through, loop again, wha?)

How we ended up in Mobile is a funny story, if you call losing your only source of income a funny story. If that’s the case, there are hundreds of thousands of people laughing it up in this economy!

For us, it wasn’t 2009, it was the spring of 2005. I received an urgent phone call from Wally that pretty much turned anything solid in my bowels into liquid goo.

“Honey, I’m losing my job.”

One week later…

“Honey, I have a job offer in Mobile.”

Mobile? As in Mobile on the Gulf Coast? Where the hurricanes fly? You’re joking, right? You saw what happened to Florida over the past two hurricane seasons. That could be us! Remember Ivan just last year? It’s one thing to weather hurricanes mid-state, it’s an entirely different thing to weather them so near the coast. Seriously? Mobile? Do we have to?

Yes, we had to. So we did.

There’s no need to keep up pretenses, this was 2005…



Hope Remains Five Years Later

{by Bridgette from Experimental Mommy}

My blog, Experimental Mommy, just passed it’s second birthday. As the site grows, I have had the privilege of traveling with the purpose of meeting bloggers, connecting with brands and honing my skills. Most of the round table discussions begin with each person in attendance standing up and stating their name, blog name and where they come from. It generally goes something like this:

Hi! My name is Bridgette. I blog at Experimental Mommy which is mainly a product review site with a scientific twist. I am a Native New Orleanian and live with my husband and two daughters.”

And then it happens….I am answered with “the look.” You know the look of which I am speaking….squinty sympathetic eyes, a meek smile, the head slightly cocked to the right, and a small nod as if to say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, honey.” I have grown to become accustom to this look as I know the wearers mean no harm. They are genuinely concerned for what happened to My City that fateful day nearly five years ago. “The look” is almost always followed by “the question.”

“Are you still living in New Orleans?”

In my head, the answer goes something like this:

“Why yes, I do still live in New Orleans. Why on Earth would I leave? Where else could I sit outside while eating a beignet at midnight and listening to a lively brass band play “When the Saints Go Marching In?” Where else could I take a steamboat ride on the Mississippi while sipping sweet tea and eating crawfish etouffee? Where else could I walk down the street and see ten friends, three family members and our priest who all inquire “How’s your Mom and n’em’?” Where else can I take my kids to a Mardi Gras parade, stand on the neutral ground and immerse them in the rich culture that is my City?”

But most of the time, I just smile and say, “Of course! It’s great! You should visit some time!”

My home, my place of business, my car and my city were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, but my spirit, my courage and my resilience were not…



We Stay. Home.

{by Maria from Mommy Melee}

In the summer of 2005, when hurricane season began, I filled a big Tupperware container with batteries and flashlights and some canned goods and Band-Aids and whatever else I thought might help us in an unimaginably bad situation.

That August, my husband and I had only been in our first home for four months. When hurricane Katrina swept across South Florida, we boarded up our windows and missed a day of work and then laughed a little about what a non-issue the hurricane had turned out to be. Nothing like Charley and Bonnie from the year before.

I was pregnant with my first child and grateful that our little house had remained absolutely safe.

Then, the next day, the reports started coming in from the Gulf Coast around Louisiana and Mississippi.

Devastation.

On my lunch break, I walked to a restaurant where my best friend waited tables. I sat with the newspaper and a salad. She came and took a break with me, and we tried to wrap our minds around the loss of life, around the destruction. But we were safe and dry and fed and sheltered in the back corner of a little Italian restaurant.

I bought diapers that week. Shampoo. Tampons. Wet wipes. Bottled water. I parked outside of Target and loaded my bags onto the back of a moving truck decorated with signs of hope and faith. I didn’t need to belong to a church to feel the spirit moving the truckload of young volunteers who were about to try to drive into the aftermath of a Category 5 hurricane.

I rubbed my middle and thought about mothers and little babies. I cried.

**

Why do we stay in Florida? Why do we stay on the Gulf Coast, when three or four months of the year leave us in the middle of a cosmic game of roulette?

Maybe we’re just stubborn. Maybe we can’t let go of those fiery summer sunsets, the towering shapes of thunderheads and lightning that bulb-flashes through the night…



Hope Remains with Tide Loads of Hope: Five Years After Hurricane Katrina

Hope Remains with Tide Loads of Hope: Five Years After Hurricane Katrina

Find yourself where stories blur the lines. That is our challenge to you here at Story Bleed. Find yourself where the edges of our stories bleed together, where eager hands smear wet ink, where our boundaries become permeable. Push yourself to see your own story in the narrative of others.

Five years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, Story Bleed Magazine is partnering with our sponsor Tide Loads of Hope and hosting Hope Remains, a blog carnival designed to celebrate the passionate resilience of Gulf Coast residents and simultaneously encourage you to unearth your own passion for your local culture.

To inspire you to write about your home, we asked Gulf Coast writers, “Why do you stay on the Gulf Coast? Why do you remain?” We believe their answers will inspire you to share your own story of what your local culture means to you, whether you live in Alabama or Oregon. Dig deep and reveal part of your personal story that you may not have shared with your own readers before, then come back here and share your link in our reading list below.

We are asking readers to look more closely at the stories they discover. Draw parallels. Ask questions. Do you not share the same sense of place as our writers? Challenge us in the comments, lay bare possible reasons why our connections to the places we call home diverge so wildly. Our bet is that our stories merge more than you expect.

Hope Remains will culminate in a glorious celebration of hope and strength in New Orleans on Tuesday, August 24: Tide Loads of Hope is proud to present Faith Hill in concert, along with the Dirty Dozen Brass Brand, at the Mahalia Jackson Theater.

A gift to the city of New Orleans, tickets are being given to local families that have used the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry truck, volunteers that have answered the call during natural disasters along our coast, and other special guests.

Live in the New Orleans area? Check out Velveteen Mind for details on how you can win tickets through local radio stations in Louisiana and Mississippi.

I am grateful to be one of Tide’s special guests, so follow @VelveteenMind and @StoryBleed on twitter for updates from the event, including time with Faith Hill before the concert. She’s a fellow Mississippi girl, but we are all the Gulf Coast down here; New Orleans is our pride, too. Long may she reign.

Want to help? Visit TideLoadsofHope.com to learn more about their program, a mobile laundry truck that answers one of the most basic needs of victims of natural disasters nationwide. No area of our nation is immune to natural disaster. This story belongs to all of us…