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Category Archives: Inspirational

Working While Not Working

This title may be a little misleading. This post is about what I’m doing while out of work for social distancing, but it’s also about aging and the challenges of taking care of myself (I’m not saying I’m old, but I am older than I was). I guess with more time alone each day I’ve had a chance to contemplate and try to understand it all a bit more.  I really want to grow old gracefully and be healthy for years to come. I want to stay active into my old age and die peacefully in my sleep one night, not from some preventable disease. I want to “rage against the dying of the light.”

Like many others right now, I’m not working. But I’m also not sitting on the couch, binge-watching Tiger King with a family-size bag of Cheetos in my lap. In fact, I still only watch tv in the evening, and then I try to exercise my brain with a puzzle or something stimulating while I sit.  I still set an alarm, just in case I don’t wake up early on my own, so I can get up and work out before I start my day. As my weeks at home have stretched past a month, I am also putting more time into my daily workouts.

Why? Once I blew out the candles on my 40th birthday cake, it really was like a switch had flipped. All my life, I was always the thin girl who people tried to make feel guilty for it. And no, I really didn’t have to think about what I ate (other than being a bit hypoglycemic); I did not gain weight from chocolate cake or second helpings of pizza, or anything, really. I just had a really good metabolism. But just like all the curses I used to receive, such as, “Just wait, it’ll catch up with you one day,” warned, when I hit forty, my luck ran out, I guess. I gained at least 10-15 pounds, and it does not want to go away. My running pace and my metabolism both suffered at the kickoff of my fourth decade on this blue marble, and I’m a couple years into it now.

I used to be able to just work out a little more or eat a little better and see huge results and quickly.  It’s just not that easy anymore.

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I am not at all comfortable posting anything where I don’t have make-up on.

These pics of my arm muscles (please ignore and don’t get too judgy about the sweaty no-makeup mess that is the rest of what you see of me in the pics) might lead one to believe I’ve got a rock solid body to match. I will be honest. I only took pics of my arms because they tone and show definition much faster than the rest of me (and I do laugh when I cannot wear the shirts I’ve had for years because the sleeves and shoulders are now too tight). I do not have it all together, but I’m working on it. This is my progress in the last month. I think I finally figured out how to speed up my metabolism a little. I try to mix and balance cardio and strength training. Most people think just cardio will do it, but when all I do is run, it is not enough. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest, so you can get even more out of those cardio workouts if you also have muscle, right? I do know my energy level has increased.

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I ramped up the calorie burn in April and am off to a good start for May.

So I’m gaining muscle, but my body weight is not really changing. I hope this is because muscle is more dense and maybe I hadn’t been trying quite hard enough until about a week ago, but I really need to get rid of my gut and the flab in my thighs. I had no idea it would be so hard. So there I was in mid-April, thinking I should be looking better with more workouts and fairly healthy eating, except my husband works at a grocery store that carries amazing chocolates and cookies, and it was Easter candy season. Basically, if it’s in the house, I WILL eat it because I like yummy stuff and because I’m super cheap and will make sure my money has not been wasted. So he brings it home, I eat it. I told him to please stop. We have agreed on that. Also, we had to slow down the beer drinking. I’m not a drunk, but I do enjoy a tasty beer, or a few of them. Limits. I must have limits! We eat well all week, and we allow ourselves a cheat day over the weekend. We have just implemented this…again.

I refuse to partake in any diet that cuts out any of the main macro-nutrients (fats, carbs, proteins). Our bodies were meant to have a balance and there are far too many health risks involved in cutting out all of any of the above. Our bodies were not designed to function at their max capacity with these deficits, especially not if we are also exercising. If you have found a quick diet to lose weight, it is probably damaging your body in a way you just may not know yet, and the weight loss will not be lasting, though the damage to your organs may be. I want a diet that isn’t a diet, but a way of life. But when I do settle down in the evenings, I like to snack. No more of that. I have decided to have tea in the evenings instead. Hopefully this little Jedi mind trick will work. And I’m eating more, but smaller meals. I learned long ago that this helped with my hypoglycemia, but I got out of the habit. It is also supposed to help your metabolism work more efficiently.  I already drink and pee a lot of water all day, so I’m good there.

Goals are important, so I have come up with a number I would like to see on my scale ( I will not share that here). But I am mostly looking to attain goals in the inches I can lose and where I can lose them. As I build muscle and lose weight, my proportions should change. I’ve always weighed more than people thought, so that number is not the important one. I want to carry it well. I also signed up for a challenge to run as many miles as possible in May. I believe I opted for 75 miles as my goal, but my real and secret goal is to reach the 100 mile mark (shhhh). I like to have a goal, but I don’t want to beat myself up over it either, so a secret goal is good for me. If I hit it, I look like an overachiever, but if I only hit the slightly lower goal I still know I accomplished something good.

So now I’m running more. The past couple times I increased my mileage, I also injured myself. This made me realize I need to create a better balance in the types of workouts I’m doing and to let certain muscles rest more between. Part of me just wants to be a beast and run five miles every day while also doing an hour of weight training. But I know I cannot do that without hurting myself in a bad way. I need to cross-train, but I don’t need to die. This morning, I ran a mile as a warm-up, did a twenty-ish minute upper body workout, and finished with a half hour of yoga stretching. I didn’t want to go that easy, but my muscles had been so tight, I knew I needed it. I felt amazing when I was done, and I’ll be ready to move and burn calories tomorrow without injuring myself.

These are my struggles and self solutions. Maybe this can help someone else. I’m just being honest about me. We are all different. I do recommend a couple resources though. I love the workout selection at fitnessblender.com and it’s not too late to sign up for the challenge to run, walk, or treadmill (boring-zzzzz) as many miles as possible in May. You can enter your miles up to two days behind and it’s only the 4th now. You get a cool shirt when you’re done and the feeling of accomplishment. Plus the Facebook group that goes along with it is so supportive. https://runsignup.com/Race/FL/Deland/MilesdeMayoChallenge?fbclid=IwAR3el7TzZbG9DsqENrZ-mc5pXsH3mzb5vNGUCSl2A2kZzympMRfjOcqXKgo

How a Non-essential is Coping During COVID

I am not an expert in anything except my own struggles, but maybe some of you just need to know that even though you are currently encouraged to be alone, you aren’t really alone.

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Is anybody else struggling knowing that you’re not an “essential worker”? Or as I had come to see it, actually being non-essential? Because if you’re not essential, you must be non-essential, right? And, wow, are there a lot of feelings of lacking self-worth that go along with that. My husband is essential, and seriously, I thank God for that because it means we will not starve as I wait (without holding my breath or I’d be dead already) for Florida to figure out the unemployment system. And even though his essential status means that he’s at risk of picking up this virus every day, I guess I’m a little jealous. Jealous of his importance, not the catching the virus thing; if he gets it, I’d likely be right there with him because he’s the only person I have contact with. This is also why I don’t get to have in-person contact with other humans right now at all. I don’t want to put anyone else at risk, even in groups smaller than ten. But so far so good, though there was a bit of a scare last week that turned out to be nothing.

I have a job, but I’m not working. My industry has to do with manufacturing goods used in the entertainment of people in large crowds. I mostly think my job will still be there when this ends, but I don’t know what it will look like yet or when it will happen. It really all depends on the actions of one other particular and rather large company. So we wait.

Honestly, I was excited at first. As an introvert, I thought this would feel like a vacation, and I was getting paid for the first two weeks, so it kinda was. I knew it would end up being longer and unpaid, but I think that news was harder on me than I realized it would be. That’s when I began to question my worth. I am used to having a full time job, frequent meetings in the evenings, and a dog to take care of. Then my dog died, meetings got cancelled (including meetings to prepare for a mission trip we were to go on this summer which was also cancelled), and I got furloughed.

I could write a country song.

With no routine and no sense of purpose, I started to feel depressed. I missed people, but I just didn’t want to talk to anyone at that time. And the sarcasm in a text I received right in the middle of feeling suddenly worthless was, “You have quite a busy schedule…” Yep, that hurt deep. Because I realized that in the midst of having no routine, I have been trying to create a routine. I need it. I want to make my life feel as normal as possible. And that means scheduling my day. It’s not like I break it down minute by minute, but I have given myself chunks of time designated for different activities, and it is really helping me. But that comment felt so mocking. It came from someone who has the ability to work from home, AND thus, has a steady income, so she couldn’t understand how empty and unimportant I was feeling. She also said it to hurt me, and it did.

But I am learning to cope with this mess better and better every day. I work out and/or run first thing every morning, have my coffee while spending time doing devotionals on YouVersion, and I do my Spanish all before I take a shower. The rest of the days have been broken down to cleaning and organizing (I have to feel I am earning my keep somehow and I never had the time or drive before), then maybe reading, then preparing dinner, and ending the evening with my husband. This week I decided I need to add something else back into my life…writing and organizing previous writing. So here I am on my blog. There are a few other projects I am working on that have sat untended on the back burner for a long time. I even had a virtual meeting with my church’s local mission team last night, and it was great to have that scheduled and then to see everyone in their little designated Brady Bunch boxes. It gave me something to look forward to and helped me remember I am still part of things outside of my house and outside of my brain. I also have a standing weekly virtual wine date with my best friend who is three time zones away. This has been one of my favorite things about social distancing and a wonderful thing to look forward to each week.

This is a lot like when I had summers off as a teacher, except that I still had an income then and I knew when I would start back at work each year. But I just needed to find my rhythm. I’m not sure how much longer this will last and this Friday will be my first with no paycheck, but this is why I spend time doing devotionals every morning and talking to God. He has always been there in the struggles of my life, and I’m still here. If you are struggling now and feeling non-essential, find your rhythm and a place to put your trust.

The Body is a Temple

Studies conducted by “they,” once upon a time, and probably in a galaxy far, far away, show that writing things down makes us very much more likely to do whatever it is we write down. I agree. At least I have found this to be true in my own case. So, whether or not the 12-13 of you who may stumble upon and read this blog post hold me accountable, I am hoping I will at least be more accountable to myself.

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Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

I truly hate getting caught up in the beginning of the year hype of resolutions and such, but I have been on a similar cycle the last few years, and this is where the pattern brings me. Every January or February my husband and I do a 21 day fat flush diet and then keep fairly decent habits for the rest of the year, or until the holidays roll around. It’s not some crazy diet where it’s all about cramming in weird chemicals that will “cleanse” our insides. It really is a diet plan that has us eating a lot more fruits, veggies, and fiber. Nature takes care of the rest. Good food, high in vitamins and minerals go in, and the bad stuff comes out. Our bodies do need a good internal deep clean once in a while. We use this as our kick start to better eating, though we don’t commit as hard core after that initial phase.

Then there’s the workout cycle. I usually set a race goal sometime early in the year to train for, and then I give it my all until I actually achieve it, or I injure myself, get depressed and give up. It’s good to have a goal, but I’m such a goal oriented person that this can actually be a huge stressor in my life, sort of canceling out any of the good I otherwise achieve. If the weather (which I cannot control anyway) is bad and I cannot get out to run, I panic. “Oh, no! I’m missing one workout. Now I’ll have to make it up. But when? Maybe I will just skip that fun thing I was going to do or get up another hour earlier…” Yeah, it’s not good. By the time I either injure myself or accomplish the goal, I’m a frazzled mess and so burned out that I just stop completely. Usually this is somewhere between my birthday and Thanksgiving.

So… between November and the next calendar year, I binge junk food and sit around not burning any more calories than necessary to breathe or walk slowly…to the fridge. This is an unhealthy cycle. I’m not doing it again.

There. I wrote it. It shall be as I say. I have reflected on my failures in food and fitness, and I will do better this year.

Tomorrow is the start of the 21 day fat flush. Every time I do this, I become more tolerable of foods that used to terrify me, like asparagus. I still refuse to eat broccoli though. The mushrooms are pushing it. But once I get started, things change quickly. I find I have more energy, my immune system gets stronger, and my clothes fit like they’re supposed to again. I even find I like some of the dishes, and my jaw gets stronger because I have to chew so much.

Last year my goal was to get back to my early 20’s weight, which I was certain would happen when I was in half marathon training. Thing is…I injured myself. Yep. I was doing 4-5 workouts a week, on top of the mileage I had to run each week. I was feeling great, and then all of the sudden, I just felt old. I overdid it. I know older people than I who are in way better shape than I’ve ever been, but my body had reached its limit, and I flailed after that. When this happens, I get depressed. Then I make excuses.

So this year, as I begin the fat flush, I am only going to start with 3-4 morning workouts per week, and not crazy hard ones either. When the flush ends, I’ll go full on P90X, lean or classic, I haven’t decided. We will continue on a basic 40-30-30 eating schedule (I found a great site to help us with meal planning, etc. FormulaZone), because that really does seem to be scientifically the best all-around plan for truly being healthy in food choices, rather than extreme diets that cut out one part or another that your body actually needs to function best. Once I get through the 12 week workout plan, I’ll incorporate running into my life again, but with a balance of strengthening and cardio. If it rains, I won’t stress. I live in Florida- it’s going to rain! If I want to sleep in one day, I will. I won’t beat myself up or run myself ragged.

My goal is not to train for anything other than enjoying being healthy and fit. I refuse to add the stress. This way, when my birthday rolls around this year, I will be a fit and happy 42 year old, still on track with my workouts and diet. I may never get down to my 20 year old weight, but then again, I was on the scrawny side then and not as strong. The Bible says my body should be a temple, and I need to treat mine better. Also, my life expectancy looks pretty high, so I might as well be healthy for all those years to come. There’s a lot of this beautiful planet I still want to see and so much I still want to do. When other 60 year olds are putting around Walmart on the electric carts, or shuffling around complaining about whatever ailment they have that was avoidable by lifestyle choice and diet, I want to be hiking an autumn trail, building houses in Guatemala, riding roller coasters, or any number of things I don’t even know about yet in places I’ve never been.

It’s super cliche, but true: If you take care of your body, it will take care of you. Oh, and I plan to keep my brain sharp too. People laugh at me because I read all the time. I also love puzzles, and thinking games. A good diet and exercise helps brain functionality. I want to be that person that is way older than anyone realizes.

The Morning After

20181207_200612As a kid, I remember making construction paper ring chains to count down the days until Christmas. It was such an exciting time of year. My sisters and I would skulk around the Christmas tree and shake the gifts with our names on them. My mom made  amazing sweets, and in great quantity. I remember the decorations and how warm the house felt.

We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve evening and got our stockings Christmas morning. My grandmother was usually staying with us for most of the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas and on Christmas we usually went to one of my aunts’ houses or a few would come to ours for a day of feasting, games, and more presents. I was by far the youngest in the house, so was not always included in game playing, but I still enjoyed just being there in the chaos. The day after Christmas seemed so quiet and subdued after all the excitement that had lead up to and culminated on Christmas day. I had all my new stuff to play with (and if I was lucky enough to have been gifted a book I could read for hours), but somehow there was a sadness that the experience was over.

As I’ve gotten older, my Christmases have gotten smaller and we don’t generally have many gifts under our tree, but the warmth, the decorations, and the love are still precious to me.  And sometimes the day after Christmas still seems sad. Now that looks a little different to me, because I have realized the warm feeling at Christmastime wasn’t as much of a physical warmth as the feeling of love. People are generally kinder to one another, including strangers, during the holiday season. Somehow it is easier to put aside differences and see each other as fellow human beings. Charitable donations and acts of kindness are on the rise. The idea of “peace on earth” seems almost possible.

And then Christmas is over. Slowly, the kindness and warm feelings fade and we all go back to our normal lives and our routines, and many forget until somewhere around the end of the next November.

The thing is, Jesus was the greatest gift ever given, and a gift that is everlasting. Those feelings of love and joy are intended to be kept all year. We are commanded to love one another, and I doubt that was meant to be a part-time job. Love takes work sometimes, and we get frustrated and tired, and life happens, distracting us. But let’s try to show love and kindness, even if only in some small way, each day. Be on the lookout for those opportunities. When we bless others, we in turn are also blessed, and then it is easier to keep it going all year long.

How to Be Thankful

Three years ago, I should have been in a dark place. Maybe I was actually in a dark place, but there was a light in the darkness.  And light overcomes darkness. As long as I knew the light was there, even if it seemed dim, I knew I could go on.

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2015 started with a startling surprise that left me questioning my life and marriage and set us up financially to lose everything.  Only by God’s grace did we make it through that, and without once failing to pay a major bill or even damaging our credit. I won’t go into details, but none of it made any sense on paper. It was truly a miracle. Then as the year came to a close, we found out we would lose the little girl who had been the biggest part of the light we’d had through all that. The girl we had never known we needed, and now didn’t know how we could could live without, would be taken from us. And if we weren’t careful, we may never see her again.

I was living through a nightmare, so deep in stress and heartache I sometimes had trouble breathing, and I was on the verge of tears at all times. Nothing in my life had ever felt so difficult before. I can’t even remember all the details anymore- maybe I blocked them out- but I know we faced car issues, emergencies around the house, and any number of financial and emotional surprises during this time that made me feel like I was down and getting kicked in the ribs every time I struggled to get up.

But then I took a look at all we had made it through and all the people who had been there to love and support us. I began to actually see where God had been, even in the middle of the worst year of my life. I could not make it through this on my own. I knew that. I just wasn’t strong enough in my own power.

And that’s ok. I wasn’t supposed to be. God wasn’t bringing these things into my life and standing above me laughing. He was allowing them because He knew I would reach out to Him in this time and that He would be the strength I needed to make it through. Even as some new calamity would strike, it always seemed there was something equally good that would happen, often in unexpected ways. He was letting me know He was there, and though I could not see why I was experiencing these hurts or how they would turn out, He had the big picture and was making it all work for my good.  I even began laughing when disaster would strike. What else could I do?

I prayed so hard for our girl to stay with us, but in the middle of 2016, she had to leave. We had done all we could to prepare for that, but I had still been in denial. I thought God would come in with some crazy miracle at the last minute. He didn’t. I was angry about that at first. I couldn’t understand, and still often don’t, how her new situation was a better place for her. But maybe that’s not what it’s about. She loves God, and maybe she needs to learn how to trust Him in the difficult times too. Maybe this is the building of her character, because while I was praying for God to make a way for her to stay with us, I also prayed that if that was not part of His plan, that she would be given the strength she needed and it would make her a better person. It is also a reminder that though she had been placed with us for a time, and we cared for her as our own, ultimately, she is a child of God and He will care for her. I had to give her to Him in that time.

It has been hard. The blessing is that we do still get to be part of her life and she spends every other weekend, and some extra time here and there, with us. To others, she refers to us as her aunt and uncle, but when she’s with us, we are still Mommy and Daddy, and I think it will always be that way. She has been out of our direct care now longer than she was with us, but the bond remains. It’s hard having her less than part time. Our lives had to “go back to normal” to some extent, so weekends with her turn our routines and our “normal” upside down. The disruption can be difficult emotionally, because our lives are on hold at those times… but having that time is precious. She’s still a light. She is our sunshine.

If it had been up to me, I would have wanted to eventually adopt her and to never have experienced most of 2015 and 2016, but then I would not have been able to grow. Neither would she, or my husband. It was awful, and we are still in a constant state of recovery from all of it, but we were blessed through it too.

I’ve realized that bad things happen to everybody. Some people just dwell on the bad more than others. Perspective and optimism go a long way. Everything I went through in that time changed my overall perspective and helped me find HOPE. Sometimes I still have to react emotionally, and even cry it out. But then I remind myself to look to God and all that He has done to take care of us.

Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Be Something Better

There has been so much to tell over the last few years. I decided I would one day write a book and meant to be writing about all the details as they occurred, so I wouldn’t forget. The problem is that as one heartbreaking moment after the next took place, actually reliving it to write it down while it was still raw became increasingly difficult. Somehow, having a running tally of the wrongs my little girl suffered while I could only watch brought me heartache and suffering on her behalf (not to mention the mire I was wading through in other areas of my life). But it’s time to begin to use this and time to begin to tell the story.

Recently, I was told I couldn’t understand a hard life because I “came from a different world” from this other person… this person who has no idea where I’ve been or the life I’ve lived. That is a careless assumption. And coming from a hard place is no excuse to stay there and drag others along who could otherwise have a better life. How selfish!

This is not an excuse for a lack of humanity, ethics, or sense of responsibility.

Yes, I grew up blessed to always have what I needed, but I never took that for granted. Having what I wanted was usually a privilege I had to earn, and I thank God I was taught old fashioned values, responsibilities, the importance of hard work, and how to apply common courtesy in my everyday life. I was taught to appreciate what I had, to put others first, and to keep my word. I was taught that “things” are not what is important, but people and loving them are.

I have struggled. I have made mistakes I had to learn from. And I have been beaten down by others even when I didn’t deserve it. I never expected the whole world to pity me because of it or that anybody owed me because of it. I learned to look to God, prayed, and let Him pick me up and carry me through it.

I guess I do come from a different world than yours. In mine, I didn’t make myself a helpless victim. I didn’t make up excuses to not make an effort. And I will never let my girl see herself as a victim either, even though you have helped make her one, because I will teach her to be strong and to know her worth and value. I will teach her that “things” don’t matter, but people do. And I already marvel when I see how strong she has become. With this I also see that she can break your cycle, and that she can one day use this to grow and be a powerful woman who seeks justice for others. I pray she will not use this as an excuse, but instead as fuel. Her seeing both worlds will help her to see that she has a choice. We will continue to show her the better side because she is better, and she has a future.

 

 

 

Beauty from Pain: Reflections from Irma

So much is on my mind, but so little time is available to write about it.

I continue to watch the increasing devastation in almost numb disbelief- Harvey, Irma, earthquakes in Mexico, wild fires burning Montana and Idaho, and now Maria. What a pounding. There’s a morbid fascination in watching and reading news clips and images. It feels surreal, like an over-the-top movie. But this is real and there’s an aching to help, but I feel so small.

My home and my immediate neighborhood, aside from loss of power and freedom to flush for about a week, came through Irma well. But families in other areas of my community, my county, have lost everything: their homes, their vehicles, their momentos, and their sense of security.  But I do hope they’ve felt a sense of community and love in the outpouring of local high school sports teams, volunteers for disaster relief organizations, local church groups, and just good samaritan individuals, their neighbors, coming together to help them tear out soaked carpeting and furniture, tarping their damaged roofs, and feeding them.

You never know when you will be the one who can serve or needs to be served. It happens so fast. Where do they go from here? How do they, how do any of us, get back to a “normal life” after this? Is it even possible?

My husband and I fluctuated back and forth for days on whether or not we should leave before we finally decided to take our animals and go. Nobody could tell where Irma was going, other than she was the size to cover our entire state no matter where her eye went. There was stress and confusion. Once people decided to leave, where was it going to be safe to go? Nobody could tell where Irma was going after she left Florida. But she was a big storm, and we were offered a safe place, so we took it. We boarded up our windows, moved as much as we could off the floors, packed up our smaller valuables, and headed out in the still dark hours that Friday morning, praying and hoping for the best.

I stayed strong throughout. What could I do anyway? I was worried for my sister in Tampa and relieved when they missed the brunt of the storm. Our side of the state took the tornadoes and had a major storm surge, and all I could really do was check Facebook for updates as my freinds all rode out the storm in the middle of the night, with the noises of howling wind and “things” they could not see hitting their houses. Some managed to sleep; most did not.

Then it was over and where I was we began to see images on the news of the destruction. Even then, I was shocked, but I shed no tears. After a few days passed (we had some tropical storm type remnants in our haven), we headed home. I still had not cried, which is probably unlike me. I tend to be much more emotional than I like to admit.

Upon heading home, it became much more real. On I-95, there is generally a good mix of out of state cars with Florida cars. On the way out, almost every car was a Florida car. I’m sure everyone else had already left. On the way back, the personal vehicles belonged only to Floridians, and I wondered where exactly they were headed and what they would find when they got home. Would they even have homes? But there were also caravans of out of state trucks and vans heading down to restore our electricity, our internet, and to help cut and haul away our debris. The National Guard was bringing drinking water by the truckloads.

And that is when I cried. When we passed the “Florida Welcomes You” sign and I looked at all these people coming to help us, I cried. It didn’t matter to them what religion, race, or political affiliation these Floridians they were coming to help belonged to, but their fellow man needed help so they left their families behind and came.

Thankfully, my power is restored, and our home suffered only a few broken shingles from a palm tree that snapped in half, but so many others have rebuilding to do. I hope they see the love of others who have been and continue to come together to help. I hope they can see this as a chance for a new beginning, even as they mourn what they have lost.  I hope and pray they can find beauty from the pain.