Job’s Tears from Laura Tuesday, Sep 15 2020 

The rosary bracelet Maria made for me from Job’s Tears

Today was rough. And hot. And sticky. As I combed through my things in the cleanup I found a rosary bracelet that a coworker gave me years ago. She’s a lovely faith filled mother and grandmother who immigrated here years ago, and like many immigrants she works in service to others. She cleans homes for families and babysits children and always has a smile. She’s the most giving person of anyone I know with less means than most. Every Friday she brings me a banana and usually writes a special message to me like, “God Bless You” or “Have a beautiful day!” It’s a great conversation piece so I leave it on my desk and as people pass through they ask about it. I tell them about Maria and her kind and generous spirit, and usually another friend comes in to play ball around lunch time and takes the banana. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. It’s been six months now since she’s been able to work with us due to COVID-19 so that’s 24 bananas that I’ve missed, and I miss her every time.

She gave me this bracelet years ago and told me of the Cajun legend of the Job’s Tears rosaries. I am born and raised in south Louisiana but had never heard the story until my immigrant friend explained it. When the Cajun were sent away from Nova Scotia and settled in south Louisiana, they had very little. They’d been persecuted and were starting a new life in a new place with what they could carry on their backs. Someone discovered this plant native to the area with hard seeds in the shape of a tear drop and a natural hole through the center that were perfect for stringing rosaries. Good cajun mamas could tell if their children were saying their prayers with the beads because they became glossy over time as fingers traced over them repeatedly.

Job was a man greatly tested and tried who had remarkable unwavering faith. I’ve read somewhere that as his tears fell to the ground, there sprung the plant so that his tears would not be wasted. Maria grows this plant in her yard and uses them to make humble bracelets, more of which she probably gives away to people like me than actually sells. She’s always said that she receives a blessing when she gives to others so that’s why I let her do it so often. She is blessed in so many ways and has been tested as well. She’s been one of the hardest hit and tested in this storm.

Hurricane Laura tore through our area just three weeks ago. Maria’s garden where she grows the beads along with so many beautiful native plants is where she toils and labors when she’s not on the job with us. She lost her home. It’s no longer standing. She texted me not long after the storm to check on me and when I asked about her she first said she was safe and then said what she’d lost. She praises God in all ways always.

As I washed the scum of the day off of me tonight in water that isn’t drinkable, I saw my bracelet and thought again of her. I’d been angry earlier. My phone now rings almost hourly with new scams from people pretending to be contractors that must be preying on people in our zip code. I politely ran a guy out of my yard today for lying to me under the guise that he’d been sent to help me. I swear to you, I. Was. Tested. It took me til this evening but the bracelet reminded me. There ARE good people. Maria is the perfect example. So is the guy riding through my neighborhood in a blue pickup wearing a chef’s coat that asked me if my son or I were hungry because he had some leftover meals to handout so that they didn’t go to waste. THOSE are good people. I start back at my job tomorrow, and I’ll do my best to pray for the ones who prey upon the vulnerable. I’ll also do my best to focus on the quiet humble helpers like Maria who’ve lost everything but still give.

Maria’s home
Maria’s garden

My Steel Magnolia Sunday, Sep 6 2020 

After all of the months of planning, purchasing, and prepping, I never thought I’d end up sending my daughter off to college with pens and pads acquired from the great Hurricane Hilton Homewood Hotel Tour of 2020 as opposed to the carefully selected supplies from all of the online suggested lists. Things don’t always work out like you plan though and sometimes you’re better for it. Growing isn’t always comfortable.

How 2020 that she’ll be the only one of us in stable housing for a while and starting her college experience 11 hours from home without ever having returned home from our evacuation due to Hurricane Laura. With all of the strength I could muster, I sent her off with a final bag of necessities – box of Kleenex and dish detergent courtesy of the Homewood Suites. She’ll be fine, and we’ll send things piecemeal as we’re able. We’ll also learn what’s truly needed and what was just fluff after all. I worry that in a new place surrounded by new people and ideas, those new clothes from Target just won’t do the trick. She doesn’t feel like herself, and I don’t want anything about her to change. I told her how proud I was of her and that the most difficult things in my life have made me who I am today so she deserves that experience too. I swelled with pride and pent up emotions that escaped my eyes, rolled down my cheeks, and fell to my chest further just adding to the stains of my fourth outfit in my evacuation rotation. We hugged and I kissed her forehead and sent her off in her new spirit shirt from the sale rack at the student bookstore. As I pulled away and watched her walk up that hill to all of the opportunity that awaits, I felt like a vulnerable teen again leaving a piece of me behind.

I believe in signs that sometimes come as a whisper and sometimes flash like a thunderbolt before you. My son spent the last few months of COVID building and planting a new garden. That’s our thing. We’re gardeners now. We’re learning and killing things along the way, but the beauty is there as well. We slowed down and finally stopped to smell the roses. Laura came along a week ago and decimated Lake Charles and the surrounding areas as the worst storm on record. Trees were toppled and houses were destroyed yet we got word that our little scrawny magnolia that we’d snagged from the sale section had survived and was completely unscathed. We rejoiced, and at least one of the kids and maybe a grandmother as well suggested that we should all get magnolia tattoos in honor of our little standing tree. See, it was FLEXIBLE. It was well cared for and well planted but what mattered most was that it bent when nearly Cat 5 winds uprooted and twisted stately sturdy hardened trees. Every shingle blew off of the roof, the fence is flipped and the sturdy mature Bradford Pears lost their limbs and split at their trunks because they didn’t.

As I was driving away today I got my sign. Just as the magnolia standing in the midst of our devastation back home, Jane Claire would as well in Nashville. The sign was there. As I pulled away and off of the new campus for her to start this next chapter, I looked up through the tears and saw the street sign at the edge of campus. MAGNOLIA BOULEVARD. She’s going to mature and remember to remain flexible through the strongest of storms because that’s how she’ll thrive. My Steel Magnolia.

#HelpLakeCharles Wednesday, Sep 2 2020 

After Hurricane Laura 2020

It’s been a week now since Hurricane Laura came through and devastated our city. The images don’t do it justice. We made national headlines and fodder for celebrity tweets because a statue called The South’s Defenders was twisted and toppled. That statue doesn’t represent the SWLA that I know. THIS ONE DOES, and I’ve blogged about it before. For years I kept a framed photograph near my desk of a statue on our church grounds taken after Hurricane Rita tore through our community in 2005. So much spoke to me about what was represented. Calm in the midst of the storm. Broken but standing. I sat near the base of that statue years ago and planned a life forward for my kids and I, and I’m asking for help for my community to do the same.

My city is facing even worse devastation this time as the strongest storm to hit our area in more than 150 years has come and gone leaving a thriving coastal community to pick up the pieces one piece at a time. Peace will come again in time, but we’re not there yet. We “dodged a bullet” as the media is saying only because we aren’t also covered in 15ft of water. We’re still salty though. We need help. Some folks stayed behind and are braving unimaginable conditions by modern standards. Nobody is waiting for help because there isn’t time. Neighbors are helping neighbors and strangers are helping strangers, but more help is needed. Elderly folks without access to social media are trying to get back because they aren’t being flooded with images from the storm, wind, and water. Regular middle class working people won’t be getting back to work any time soon because we need water and utilities and basic structures for that. Crippling deductibles were allowed to pass and have families bewildered as to how anyone will be able to rebuild. I have a friend with a $65,000 deductible whose husband has been out of work for months due to COVID, and she’s not unique. Friends with little or nothing aren’t getting money thrown at them from government or disaster relief yet they’re relying on their higher power and higher credit card limits to get through the short term if they can. HELP. Keep us in the news. Keep the pressure on elected officials to help. Let SWLA know that you see them and hear them. Do what you can and spread the word.

After Hurricane Rita in 2005
Lost dogs at the statue