Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stormy Days in May

I didn't take a direct hit from any tornadoes this week, but I'm in a bad way nonetheless.  I feel emotional turmoil coursing through me and I figure one of the best ways to take another small step in processing it is to write it down. Totally not intended to be a 'pity me' party, as others have suffered far worse.

Somehow I missed the Joplin news coverage until noon on Monday. I pulled out my netbook while eating, and my lunch went cold as I read in horror about the devastation wreaked upon Joplin, a city about four hours from OKC. I felt anxious and sad for the rest of the day on Monday. I had the heeby-jeebies because I knew storms were forecast Monday evening in OKC, and part of me just wanted to curl up and not leave my house Monday night.  This was impossible, as there was yet another Thunder game that BJ wanted us to attend. Sigh.  Mondays in May, especially stormy Mondays in May, continue to be a problem for me even after all these years. You've read my chronicles of Monday, May 3, 1999, the day that the strongest tornado in recorded history destroyed large portions of my hometown. Images from Joplin were eerily reminiscent of what I witnessed firsthand in 1999, and I felt shaken on Monday. Ugh.

Then Tuesday happened.

On Tuesday morning the Sports Animal Radio Station I listen to was abuzz with forecasts for the day. The news was no good: the National Weather Service had confirmed that OKC was at "high risk" for a "tornado outbreak" later in the day. "Outbreak," they said. Double ugh. If you weren't in Oklahoma yesterday, believe me, it's all anyone talked about all day long. I met my mom for lunch and we worked out our plan. I was to leave work, get Silas and Tex, wait for BJ, and then my dad was going to pick us all up and take us to my parents' house because they have a neighbor with a cellar. Their neighbor spends most of her time in Texas and was not home this week, and she promised my mom she could use the cellar anytime. Thank God we had a place to go.

3:25PM there was a knock on my office door, interrupting my session. My boss gently said, "Time to wrap up your session. We're having a mandatory shutdown at 3:30. Tornadoes are already on the ground. Get home and good luck." I jumped in the car ten minutes later and learned that there were in fact two tornadoes on the ground, one of them a half-mile wide and headed for the western parts of the city. My heart was pounding, it was gray and sticky outside, the streets were packed since everyone else's boss was as kind as mine, and all I could think were two thoughts: Get to Silas. What's in store for us tonight? Get to Silas. What's in store for us tonight?  These thoughts were not unique.  Many people I talked to throughout the day verbalized the same fears: Am I going to be okay? What if it hits us? What a gut-wrenching day.

*Fast-forward through the storms' arrival, the tornado sirens wailing for hours, loading in the truck in the hail, running through red mud to the cellar in my work clothes and not caring, watching crazy-looking circulating clouds, listening to the radio in a hot, dark cellar for an hour with BJ, my parents, a confused baby, and two scared dogs, and finally realizing we were in the clear.*

We made it home, turned on the TV, and I promptly saw that a three-year-old boy from Piedmont was missing in the rubble, despite his mom following instructions and taking him to the bathtub and hiding under a mattress.  I started crying at that point and could hardly stop. I cried on and off for more than two hours, grateful my own boy is fine, imagining the terror and grief of that poor mother and boy (who is still missing), grateful that most friends we checked on were fine, although some lost everything. And suddenly I felt 18 years old again, scared and overwhelmed as I was in 1999.  I remembered being lost in my own town I had lived in for so long as we distributed water and supplies to damaged areas. I remembered huddling in the cellar with 25 other people tucked in cannonballs all the way up the stairs, listening to the roar of the F5 as it hit a mile and a half north of us (yes, it was so big that we could certainly hear and feel it). I remembered looks of grief and tears from my school friends' faces when school finally resumed, the friends who had lost homes and possessions. I remembered my mom telling me her friend had died trying to get in the tub, as he had gotten his wife down and was about to climb on top of her when a truck came flying through their bathroom and killed him.  I remembered seeing a home in the rubble in the neighborhood where we were volunteering, and it had this huge thing sticking out of it at an angle, and how I finally realized that the 'thing' was a semi-trailer. The meteorologists' frantic warnings; the muddy outlines of human figures under the I-35 overpass where people had died; clearing the large, lightweight debris from our yard; the debarked, jagged trees; the two-by-fours impaled cleanly into the brick walls of the Baptist church; ambulance sirens all night; brown, murky, dirty skies for three days afterward from all the dust that had blown up. I could go on and on. All of this I remembered from 12 years ago, and I couldn't stop crying last night.

Even though the bad weather was past us, I was SO tempted to sleep with our windows open so we could hear tornado sirens if they sounded, just like we did on May 3rd. After all, the small tornado that our family DID take a direct hit from in 2001 was in the middle of the night. I wanted Silas sleeping next to me so I could grab him in an emergency, but I also refrained from that. As I laid in bed last night I finally realized after all these years that this May 3rd tornado is something that I'm probably never going to fully get over. I guess you can take the girl out of the tornado, but you can't take the tornado out of the girl. Good thing Oklahoma girls are strong, because I know I'm not the only one saturated with grief this week.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Photo Addition

Here's a shot of Emily and Silas enjoying the zoo, to go along with the previous post. Photo courtesy of Jamie. Aren't they so cute?

Times At the Zoo

Silas and I would like to give a shout-out to Uncle Billy and Aunt Jenny for giving Silas a spectacular first birthday present: a one-year membership to the Oklahoma City Zoo! What a creative gift, one that I never would have thought to ask for, but it has been perfect and fun. The pass allows two adults to get in free, and Silas gets in for free because he is under two years.  It's really great because the free adult can be either me or BJ, but can include a guest. Hence, today for instance, my friend Jamie and her baby girl Emily came with Silas and me, and we all got free admission. Sweet!

Needless to say, the last few weeks have found Silas and me zoo-ing it up! (Yes, "zoo" can be used in verb-tense. In my world.) We've gone with Cyndi and Elizabeth, Laurie and Miles, Grammy, Pop, and BJ, and today, like I said, Jamie and Emily. Silas is still a bit young to fully engage in the experience with the animals, but he certainly does observe, particularly when the animals are right in his little face. Look at how close this black bear came!

Silas is also an active participant in petting the numerous goats in the children's zoo area. A year with Tex has fostered not a bone of fear in this little boy when it comes to animals that are bigger than him. He doesn't even seem to mind when he gets baaaaa-d at in the face by a silly goat, which has happened on a couple of occasions.

So thanks, Billy and Jenny! We are having a blast with your gift!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Silas in Hats

Lately Silas has taken to wearing hats. I find this to be an adorable development.

Look at him here, just like his Dada.

His Auntie Jenny added just the perfect touch here. Ride 'em, Cowboy!

Er, maybe this one is a headband, not a hat. Mean old mamma!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

P-Dub Is a Winner Again!

On Cinco de Mayo, Pioneer Woman posted a list of some of her favorite Mexican recipes that she has gotten from others. I was particularly drawn to this recipe by Josie for Creamy Baked Chicken Taquitos. We were not disappointed! One bite into his first taquito, BJ sweetly announced, "These taste just like they came from a restaurant!" They were crispy, as taquitos should be, and creamy on the inside, as also taquitos should be.  They also had a slight kick to them courtesy of a pinch of cayenne, which I increased a bit for our own taste. Best of all, they were incredibly easy to prepare! Josie calls for baking the chicken breasts in an aluminum foil pouch, so here was my take on it:

  • Buy "trimmed and ready" chicken breasts (seriously, who has the time? I'll pay two quarters for not having to do the labor involved with raw chicken.)
  • Line a baking sheet with foil while Silas is doing this in the cabinets:    
  • Cut open the chicken and throw it into the middle of the foil-lined baking sheet.
  • While I'm washing my hands, remember that the Celtics are playing the Heat and plan to make a dash to the remote.
  • Make a dash to the remote and tune to the Celtics/Heat game.
  • Salt and pepper the chicken.
  • Fold the foil into a pouch and put the whole mess into the oven. Wala! Just in time to hastily rescue Silas who is steadily crawling toward the chemical cabinet.
During Silas' nap-time I assembled the rest of the goods, and as BJ was driving home I got the mess into the tortillas and threw it all into the oven. BJ made his incredibly famous guacamole when we got home and all was right with the world as the three of us ate a delicious dinner together. (Silas' dinner was NOT taquitos.)

This is Josie's photo, but honestly mine looked just as good. Okay, okay...maybe mine looked a little better.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mondays Are For Mischief

I love my Mondays spent at home with Silas. I feel like I get to see the 'real him' on those days, although I'm not sure how much sense that makes. The day for both of us, from start to finish, is spent on our agenda. Yes, we have to do things each Monday like grocery shopping and sometimes extra errands like the post office and the bank. Those kinds of things are just fine. What I'm talking about is the freedom of not having to be a billion places at a billion different times, which is what typically happens on other days of the week.

Often Silas sleeps in on Mondays, and this is how I usually find him in his crib. Please note, I typically end up waking HIM, instead of the other way around, and usually it's somewhere in the ballpark between 9:00 and 10:30. This apple certainly didn't fall far from the tree.

The day proceeds on with loads of mischief, mostly from you-know-who, and to a lesser extent from me as well. For example, this is Silas extremely excited about the garbage truck going excited, in fact, that he was caught climbing up onto the window seat.  I wish I could say this was a rare occurrence, but it's not. Honestly it's even a tame pose, as we've jumped up quickly and run to him when he has stood completely up and plastered himself Leslie-Knope-style against the window.

(I'm sorry, I've looked, and I just can't find a picture of that Parks and Rec episode where Leslie plasters herself up against the door because she's feeling her Red Bull. This one will have to do.)

Another example is when I began digging through the cabinets to prepare dinner, and what do I behold but this...

In this picture you will note my nesting glass bowls with...what inside of them, you might ask? Ah, that would be a wooden baby block, a tupperware lid (NOT my doing), and one of Tex's chewed-up tennis balls. Excellent job done by Silas to open cabinet doors and stick curious odds and ends where they don't belong. The sad thing is, I didn't even wash that bowl before I used it.
Just kidding.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Political Incompetence

I don't like getting into my politics on my blog. Mostly this is because politics stress me out, and partly it's because politics are such a divisive topic and I have no interest in deterring my friends from reading my posts. Let it be stated, however, that I am quite disillusioned with the two-party system on which this country operates. As I belong to a political party that is neither Democrat nor Republican, each election is a crapshoot for people like me, as I struggle to determine which issues are currently most dear to my heart and then subsequently choose a candidate that will support some of these issues but will also invariably be opposed to some of these issues. Even worse, Oklahoma has an antiquated registration policy and will not allow voters to register as official members of any parties other than Democrat, Republican, and Independent. So, if you want to belong to the Green Party or the Libertarian Party or the "Rent Is Too Damn High Party" (click here if you've yet to witness the hilarious antics of this party's leader), you're out of luck. Frustrating. Thus, I have developed what we psychologists call an 'external locus of control' about politics. I could tell you all about locus of control, since that is what my disseration was about (locus of control in tornado survivors, for the zero of you whose interest is now piqued). Basically LOC is the extent to which a person feels as though they have control over events in their lives. An internal LOC person believes strongly that they effect change for themselves and are in charge of their own destiny, while an external LOC person is more likely to believe that fate, chance, or God determines the course of their lives. Most people are generally somewhere in the middle. When it comes to politics though, I'm as external as it gets these days, which means that I have complete avolition when it comes to generating change. The only stance I take is a refusal to register for a party that I don't belong to, which often ends up meaning that I don't get to vote.

The above picture will likely be voted 'photo of the week' somewhere, and has become quite the popular picture in the past couple of days since Osama Bin Laden's demise. I am using this photo to illustrate the sad state of affairs regarding my political involvement these days. Upon viewing the photo last night I said to BJ, "I only recognize two of those people." He used his mouse to point the arrow over the man's face second from the left and asked, "Do you know who this person is?" I said, "Yes, obviously." Then he moved the arrow to the woman's face on the right side, second from the right and asked, "Do you know who this is?" And I replied, "Yes, obviously." Then he took his arrow to the face that is furthest to the left and asked, "Do you know who this is?" And I said, "No." He asked, "Are you sure?" and again I said, "Huh-uh."  He said, "Well, he's second in command." My thought process was as follows, "Okay so it's the Vice President. Who's the Vice President?" I closed my eyes and said, "Okay, I know it's not Dick Cheney. Okay and it's not Joe Lieberman. I don't know." And BJ said, "You were close the second time." And I said, "Aha! Joe Biden!" And that's how sad it has become folks. I could not recognize our Vice President when looking at a photo, and even when given hints, I struggled to come up with his name.

I'm sorry.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Silas' Birthday Bash

So for those of you who have been reading my recent posts, today is Silas' first birthday. Part of me can hardly believe it has gone this quickly, although part of me also feels as though it has definitely been a year! Things have certainly changed in our household, but Silas has also done his fair share of adjusting to our lifestyle, and we thank our lucky stars that he is up for adventures like airplanes, Thunder season tickets, frequent overnight trips, and jogging strollers.

Silas' party was a cookout on Saturday, and we had quite the crowd, although most people were family members that we wrangled in for the event. As I also mentioned the other night, some close friends that swore they didn't mind the agony of a baby party also joined us. Our awesome friends Sara and Jeremy showed up at our house 30 minutes early, thinking that the party was supposed to have started then. It was so enjoyable to have them there for the half-hour before other guests arrived that from now on, someone's invite to my house for get-togethers will be a half-hour earlier than everyone else's. Perhaps it will become "a tradition unlike any other" <insert ridiculously wide-open Phil Mickelson eyes>. (Don't worry if you didn't get that joke.)

Here are some pics to highlight the party, in as few words as possible. I bet you'll never be able to guess the theme.

The cake, courtesy of my talented friend Natalie:

The set-up:

The adorable boy and his dad unwrapping gifts galore:

The pig-out (beginning with a tentative sizing-up)

and culminating in THIS fiasco.

Silas seemed pleased with his loot, which included contributions to the education savings account, clothes, books, some toys, and a wagon. A gift card will also be put toward a baby pool. Thanks to all of our loved ones who were able to attend, and for the unnecessary gifts as well. BJ and I feel so loved and we're glad that our little boy is a part of your lives.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Memorial Marathon

Each year for the past eleven years Oklahoma City honors those who lost their lives in the Murrah Building on April 19, 1995, by holding a Memorial Marathon. The event is absolutely enormous, attracting thousands upon thousands of runners in events like the marathon (duh), half-marathon, marathon-relay, 5K, the Kids Marathon (which sounds awfully cool), a wheelchair marathon, etc. The race starts and ends at the beautiful and respectful memorial site, winds its way through Bricktown, past the state capitol and up the Paseo District to Lake Hefner before turning and winding its way back down. This year, members of my family and I decided to run the marathon relay, although throughout the training process we lost both of my siblings to injury and substituted them with friends instead. In the end, it was my mom, BJ, and I, along with our friends Taylor and Jorgy, that took to the roads.

Let me begin by talking about the weather. Boy, oh boy, was it harsh. The temperature during the run itself was a frigid 49 degrees, a stark contrast to the weeks before. Accompanying this temperature were blustering winds from the north (which, incidentally, was the direction that my leg of the race was mostly headed) and rain. And hail (that part hurt). But mostly rain. It rained EVERY step of my leg of the race, which was the first leg with a distance of 10K. Then it rained every step of my mom's 5K leg, and nearly all of BJ's 12K leg before it began absolutely pouring on Taylor's 5K leg and then hailing during Jorgy's 10K homestretch. Right on.

The experience was quite awesome. I set a goal that I only told two people about, which was 80 minutes for my entire leg. Unlike the Turkey Trot 5K that I ran on Thanksgiving Day, in which I forced myself to not walk a single step of the race, this one I didn't care how much I walked, as long as I made that time. I was kind of hoping to be able to run four miles of the six-mile distance, and in the end I figure that I actually ended up running about five of the six miles, for a finishing time of 78 minutes. At the point that I hit mile five, my watch read 65 minutes, so I knew that I was certainly going to hit my mark if I just kept running...and I did. Yay! I was so proud of all of my team members too. My mom kicked some 5K butt, and then BJ proceeded to shock us all by running his entire leg of 7.3 miles without actually walking a single step of it.

After my leg I rode shuttles around to the endpoints of my mom's leg and BJ's leg, cheering them on and picking them up along the way. It was freezing and we were absolutely soaked. By the time I hit the third mile of my race I could actually hear the 'squish squish' of the water inside of shoes with every step. It's hard to complain about a day like today though, when I not only accomplished previously-unmatched feats for myself but also was able to honor the victims of the blast, along with brave rescue workers the likes of my own dad. At the risk of losing my camera to water, I didn't take any pictures today to post. It's too bad too, because there were lots of unique and uplifting experiences throughout the day.

Now I feel like I'm 87 and I'm ready for bed. My knees hurt and I'm tired. I still feel a little chilled too, even all these hours later. Even this cup of hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream didn't help too much.

Perhaps I should have followed the advice of a fellow shuttle rider who loudly announced, "I've never needed a beer so badly in my life as I do right now."

In memory of the 168.