The Day the Devil Came to Play

October 2nd, 2012

My husband and I had just finished eating lunch.  He was getting ready to go meet with DNR (Department of Natural Resources) at the local gathering place in our little town.  The pager, since my husband is not only in law enforcement but he’s also a volunteer fire fighter, was going crazy.  There were plenty of red flag warnings for that fateful day.  It was hot, dry, and super windy.  It is a day that will live in our hearts, minds and psyches for many years to come.

Let me go back.

I had just flown back into town that Sunday after spending 10 days with my parents in San Diego, California.  I flew out to be with them since my mother was going to have a total hip replacement.  She’s 71 years old and honestly, we were all concerned about her health…and whether or not she would make it through the grueling surgery.  I hit my knees the day of her surgery, in my old room, crying out to God that He give me a little more time with her.  I begged that if He decided to take her that day, if it was her time, the He let her know that her family loved her.  She came out of surgery with flying colors.  She is well on the path to recovery.  Amen and Amen.

The night before I flew out, my mother had a particularly bad night.  For a woman who is used to doing everything on her own, it was humbling for her to have to ask for help to even use the bathroom.  My dad went to sleep at 9; my mother at 9:30 and I stayed up until 11 because I was finishing laundry.  I wanted to be completely packed so that my dad and I would only have to get ready and stick my luggage in the car and go.  At midnight, I could hear my dad and mom yelling at each other.  My mom had had an issue, got upset and was yelling.  My dad was trying to find some pills for her…and he could not.  We finally got her calmed down and back to sleep.

My dad and I sat next to each other on the couch.  It was now a little past 1 am, my flight would leave at 6:30 am.

“What time you want to leave?” He asked gruffly.

“Give me an hour to get ready,” I replied.

He nodded.  “We’ll leave at 2:30.”

We left at the designated time.  I got to say goodbye to my mom.  I hugged her hard.  I had not seen my parents for two and half years.  I don’t know when I will see them again.  I live 3000 miles away.  It’s not as easy as it once was to go and see them.

My dad stayed with me at the airport until about 4am.  We talked about my mom and her recovery and what his role was going to have to be with her.

When I arrived in Grand Forks, I was exhausted.  I had had less than an hour of sleep in 36 hours.  I was literally falling asleep as my husband drove us home.  We received our first phone call about a fire on Pembina Trail on our way home.  Our neighbors, adopted parents and grandparents, had also been in Grand Forks and they advised us that there was a fire on the road we would take home.  We would have to go around.  Not a big deal.  We would just take the long way around.

My husband is amazing.  He made supper for us, let me sleep for two hours (though, he didn’t have a choice since I totally passed out on our bed the moment I walked into our room and dropped the stuff on the floor) and got the kids ready for school for the next day.

Monday is a haze.  I slept in.  Tried to get bills, laundry and everything else organized after being gone for almost two weeks.  My husband did an amazing job…but there are things that I pay attention to that no one else does.  Sigh…such is the life of a stay at home mom, I suppose.

Tuesday dawned clear and bright.  Warm and windy.  Beautiful fall weather boding of beautiful things for a lovely October.  My husband and his colleague were discussing the fire on Pembina Trail and the fact that the conditions were ripe for a fire bug.  The fire department they both volunteer for had issues with a fire bug in the spring…would the fire bug rear his ugly head?  If he did…it would be bad.  After my husband’s colleague left to check something out, we had lunch and he took off as well.  I had just poured another cup of coffee and the pager started going crazy.

I overheard the dispatcher calling Karlstad Fire Department to the site of Sunday’s fire so they could monitor the situation with DNR.  Okay, no big deal.  There was a fire in Viking.  Another fire had sprung up in another town.  Typical.

12:30 PM

Then I saw smoke and called my neighbor, Corienne.  Where was the fire?  It’s in the swamp she says.  Hmmm…well, the swamp is far enough away.  Since I have only lived in this area for 2 years, I did not realize that MY swamp is also the same swamp that borders Pembina Trail.  How could I be so stupid?  MY WHOLE TOWN SHARES THE SAME STUPID SWAMP!  I ask her if she thinks it’s serious?  She doesn’t know she says.  She will have her husband call me when he gets back from in town.  Okay, I say.

About ten minutes later, after listening to the pager go off like crazy and watching the smoke rise into the clear blue sky I receive a phone call from my neighbor, Wayne.  What’s going on, I ask.  Well, he says, you might want to get your hoses out and hook them up.  Wouldn’t be a bad idea to get the water going just in case.  Okay, I say.  My 3 year old daughter is already dressed and is watching cartoons.  I tell her to stay inside and out-of-the-way.  I go outside, unhook a hose from up front and drag down to the back yard.  I pull it out to the middle of our back yard which goes all the way down to the other street where my neighbors live.  He then advises me that I should lean a ladder against the house and hook a hose up there too.  We might need to hose down the shingles on the roof.  Hmmm…going from bad to worse.

After running around and doing that stuff, I noticed something bad.  Real bad.  The wind had shifted.  Instead of blowing northwest, it was now blowing northeast.  Crap.  My neighbor went and picked up her mother in law, Vivienne from the local assisted living home.  When she was back, Vivienne went to my house to sit with Eve, my daughter.  I asked Wayne, since he’s an insurance agent, what should I get ready?  How many days does he think we will be out of the house?  Documents, he says.  Insurance papers.  Clothes, money and pictures.

At 1:40, I received a phone call saying they were evacuating the school and that the kids would be put on busses and brought home.  I heard later that the school was completely evacuated in under 9  minutes.  Amazing.  I waited until 1:45 and the kids were not home.  I then received a phone call from my daughter letting me know they had been evacuated behind the local furniture store, Germundson’s.  Are you going to pick us up, my daughter wants to know.  No, baby.  I can’t.  I tell her.  Then I ask her where her brother and sister are.  She says they are on another bus.  Damn.  They are not together.  In between this conversation, I am busy getting socks, underwear and money from my daughters’ rooms downstairs.  Any important jewelry they might need.  I run upstairs and throw these items in the back of my van.  I had moved the van outside and left the keys in the ignition.  I put the keys to the trailblazer in the ignition as well.

By this time, the smoke is thick and brown and is really pushing toward our neighborhood.  Corienne has already gotten Eve and Vivienne out of my house and has them in her van.  I gather all of our important documents from upstairs, clothes, toiletries, money, guns…and run outside to put it in the van.  Now, the thick brownish red smoke is literally rolling over the roof of my house.  My neighborhood is almost dark from it and the stench is choking.  I run back inside my house and grab my husband’s laptop and the dog in her crate and run up the stairs.  My neighbor comes over and asks if I need anything else.  I say no.  I run out the door and forget to close the garage door.  The DNR and fire department are literally outside my house and they have just disced my front yard.  One of the guys I know yells at me, “Mo, you gotta leave now!” I look at his bleak expression and believe the worst.  Our neighborhood is a goner.  I put the dog in the van and as I am backing out of my driveway, I watch floating debris fall from the sky and land in the neighbor’s yard.  It is on fire.

We end up across the highway.  I can see that my husband has set up a perimeter around the town.  He can’t talk with me.  I don’t know where my kids are, I just know that they have been evacuated.  We move further down the highway to a neighboring property.  I walk up the highway to talk with my husband and realize I left my wedding rings at the house.  After rushing through trying to get everything we would need…I leave the thing that is super important to me.  My wedding and engagement ring.  I am devastated.  “I forgot my wedding rings,” I tell my husband in a bit of a hysterical yell.  He looks at me, his eyes kind, “It’s okay.”  He hugs me and then tells me he’s got work to do.  His face is now impassive.  He’s now in Law Enforcement mode.

2:00

We notice the wind is now hitting east and the we keep hearing our street is gone.  Wiped out.  We move from our location because the fire is coming right at us, further down the highway.  I finally hear from my daughter that they have been moved again…and they are being moved to another town because where they are is right in the line of fire.  We literally are on our knees on the side of HWY 59, praying…crying out to God that He will protect our homes and our loved ones.  We pray and we cry and we thank God for his wonderful provision.  We form groups of prayer and we come together on that highway to be a community of bedraggled survivors.

I wish I could give you a further time line after that, but I can’t.  It was very chaotic and I am trying to remember things from a while ago.  My best friend ended up picking up my kids and taking care of them over at one of her church member’s house.  We have been told multiple times that our street is gone.  I did not hear from my husband…except for the occasional call outs on the radio that I knew were him because of his call sign…for almost 5 hours.

I found out my husband and the volunteer fire department saved our neighborhood.  Fire literally was in my back yard and came right up to the back side of my neighbors garage.  If it wasn’t for my husband and his determination to not let our neighborhood go, I probably wouldn’t be writing this story right now.  It was that.BAD.

7:45

We are finally allowed in our neighborhood.  Literally, I was still putting hotspots out in my back yard.  I took my neighbors to get something to eat at the local gas station since they had nothing to eat all day except for some crackers.  I still have not heard from my husband and don’t know where he is.  I go up to one of the other guys I know who work for the same agency he does and I ask them to call Papa 6 on the radio and give him a message that his wife and kids are back home.  The guy proceeds to pull out his CELL PHONE and call him.  I about lost it.  Poor guy.  I looked at him, with 2(!!!) cell phones in my hand and say, “If I wanted to reach him on his cell phone, don’t you think I would have done that already?  Please call Papa 6 on your radio and let him know that his wife and kids are at home.”  The guy looks at me…and I am sure at this time I was pretty scary looking: ratty hair, ash covered…a little funky smelling.  Yeah, I was that woman.  Little bit of crazy in her eyes.  Oh yeah.  I was that woman.  He does as I ask and I walk away.

The next day we receive a bit of rain and snow.  A miracle!  The next day we have a blizzard!  All the power goes out.  We prayed for rain and got a blizzard instead.

We survived.  And the whole town smelled for months.  But we made it through.  I believe 6 houses were lost and more outbuildings were destroyed…but my neighborhood, directly in the line of fire was not lost!  And not a single life was lost. I don’t even think there were any injuries reported from all the law enforcement and fire fighting personnel who helped out.

I am thankful for God’s protection and His provision.  He heard us cry out to Him.  I know He was with us that day the Devil came to play.

Adventures in Homeschooling

So…we have survived the first week of homeschooling.  It was not pretty.  In fact…it was rather overwhelming, which is a bit embarrassing to admit especially when I have the curriculum, the lesson plans…the whole 9 years laid out in front of me.  Am I good enough to teach my own kids?  What makes me qualified to think I can teach my kids?  I am not a teacher, am I?  I mean, I’m pretty good at having kids, but actually teaching them?  Oh dear Lord, sister…that is a whole different ball game!  I love it when doubt rears its ugly head.

My 2nd Oldest.

My 2nd oldest was rather upset that her version of home school…and my version of home school were apparently vastly different.  She thought it was going to be easy-peasy…and well, I selected curriculum that is more geared to where I feel she should be.  We researched lots of curriculum and I chose the one I did because it reflects our beliefs and it also believes in a firm foundation of fundamentals to help a child achieve academic success.

I have learned that my 6th grader does not know how to put together a simple sentence.  By that I mean, she can write sentences, but she has no idea why what goes where.  This was something I did not know and makes me feel like a loser for not knowing that my daughter was struggling this much in a basic English function.   She simply does not know what a subject of a sentence it.  She does not know what a predicate of a sentence is.  She does not know how to separate the two nor does she understand how to identify them.  Whoa!  This is an issue.

She absolutely refused to write in cursive.  A 10 minute lesson took between 30 and 40 minutes to do because she was that resistant to actually doing the work.  Once I got her back in line and focused she did it grudgingly.  The next day, no problems.  She did it without complaint.  Score!

The first day she flipped over her spelling words.  35 in all and we go over the Latin roots, prefixes and suffixes.  Again, a lesson that should take no more than half an hour…took almost an hour and a half because she fought it.  Today…she only missed 6 in her pre-test.  And we laughed through most of it.  Yay!  Another win in my book!

Science and History she has not fought me on.  We just got her math in today and will start that on Monday.

But already, her attitude is improving.  Thank You, Jesus.  And I am not being facetious about that.

What have I learned?

I do not have to go by what the pre-written lesson plans say I do.  I was starting to freak out and worry because we are already “behind” based on what my books say we should be.  Day 1, Lesson 1.  Day 2, Lesson 2…Day 3…still on Lesson 2.  OH CRAP!  We’re falling behind.  Here comes the stress.  I hate stress.  I do not thrive well in a stress environment and if I am stressed, then baby you know my whole family feels it.  But wait.  Who says we have to follow the lesson plans verbatim?  No one.  Liberty and freedom! 😉

I have learned if we have to take more time to make sure the lesson cements in her brain…then that is what we are going to do.  If it takes a week to get her to understand Imperative, Declarative, Interrogative and Exclamatory sentences and their sentence structures…then we will.  If she needs a remedial course in subject and predicate then that is what we are going to do.  I don’t want to shuffle her through because she is “acceptably” meeting the standards.  I want her to exceed the standards because she understands it.  I want her to comprehend it and be able to put that knowledge to good use.  Knowledge itself is not power; Applied knowledge is power.  Learn how to use it…and she will.

My son.

My son is in 1st grade and has the attention span of a gnat.  I can get through his lessons in no time flat…and I worry because it’s like: I sent him to freaking school for 8 hours a freaking day.  The boy cannot sit still in his seat without his little butt cheeks scooting off and half sitting/half standing at the table.  How in the world did her survive 8 hours?  the 1st 2 days I gave him “busy” work because while I was doing lessons with my older girl, I felt he should be doing something.  How boring is that?  So on the 3rd day, I took him later.  Let him play with younger sister and watch TV and draw and read and go outside.  His lessons got done and he was super happy.  And tired.  The boy ran around outside and played and played and played.  He has slept well.

Our mornings.

Our mornings are nice.  My husband gets up for work and makes coffee.  He wakes me up, wakes up the kids.  And it’s a nice way to get up.  No rush, rush, rush to get clothes and sandwiches and lunches and breakfasts all done before the bus driver comes screeching to a stop in front of our house.  Nope.  We watch it pass by and I breathe a sigh of relief.  There’s no screaming.  It’s rather quiet, considering.  My daughters are not snipping at one another.  They in turn are not yelling at their younger brother to stop being a lump on a log…and I in turn am not yelling at all of them to get their collective butts in gear.  Sigh.  So far, so good.

All in All.

All in all, things remain good.  My oldest is going to public school online and she is loving it.  She’s been doing it for 2 weeks now.  She puts in between 6 and 8 hours a day on the computer and there’s no homework…for now.  She is totally busting butt on it and I am so proud of her.  She gets up, turns on the computer and goes to work.  She gets herself up before 8 a-m and is at “school” by 8; checking into her classes and starting her lessons.  She goes to a “live lesson” once a day and is contact with her instructors throughout the day.  She seems to be enjoying it and is being challenged which we both enjoy!

This was not an easy decision.  It was something we prayed over, fought over, cried over.  It is not for everyone, but is the right fit, right now, for our family.  It totally has to be something that God puts on your heart.  Yeah.  He’s our decision maker right now.  And it’s scary and comforting to know that He is leading us.  Be blessed, friend!

Book Review: Angels by My Side by Betty Malz

Angels by My Side by Betty Malz is a short and sweet little book  that gives us mere mortals an “insiders” view of Angels at work in our lives.

Betty Malz experienced a near-death experience when her appendix ruptured and she was clinically dead for 28 minutes.  Her time in heaven was a pivotal moment in her life and she went on to tell about her experience and impact other people’s lives.

The book is a great way to open the doors to our minds to believe that Angels are real and that they are sent by our heavenly Father to protect us, watch over us and keep us safe.  But, please do not mistake that they are there to command or expect to do things for us.  That is not their duty.  Their duty is to obey God’s commands and help us mere mortals.  It is comforting to know that God has helpers attending to us when we are in our deepest need.

Malz winds scripture and real life stories from other believers who have had amazing encounters with Angels.  She shows why calling on the name of Jesus is so important and how God really does care for all of his people.

This book would be a great pick me up for a friend down in the doldrums or even a pick me up for yourself.

I was given this book by Chosen Books and I am not required to give it a favorable review but I did because I liked it.

Belonging

For the past two years I have volunteered at a local venue which is host to some pretty good country acts.  I enjoy the music.  But there is a longing inside me to belong.  I want people to see that I am willing to pitch in and help.  Do I get a benefit out of it?  Yes, I get to hear the music.  That’s a huge boon.

I have some odd skill sets.  I know how to set up a store thanks to my time at Nike as a merchandiser.  I know how to heat press t-shirts thanks to owning a heat press machine and making shirts at my business.  I know the “art” of selling thanks to my reading and learning about what makes a good salesman.  I can emcee, record commercials and talk on radio…thanks to the things I have learned in my sum of years.  There are other skills in there too…but I don’t want to digress too much.

As I was at this event, in the mercantile, I was ridiculed or maybe gently poked fun of, because I know how to heat press t-shirts.  I guess, if you know how to do something, and you do it well, you should keep it to yourself.  Anyway, I let others run it because my skill set was not needed.  And I was being a punk.  Hey, if you’re going to make fun of me…I’ll take my ball and go home.

The next day, I was asked to work in the beer garden selling coupons for beer.  (Which totally got me thinking about Ron White and his whole “coupons” for beer schtick he used to do in his show.)  There were two other women working with me and basically, all I did was stand there and smile at people and thank them for their money.

Amidst all this hub-bub…I found myself lonely.  Deeply lonely. Soul-achingly-lonely.  I have no one to call my own.  No crew to belong to.  These folks have known each other, some literally, since infancy and it has been made clear to me on many occasions, that no matter how much my family has assimilated into the community…we will never truly fit.  And usually, usually this does not bother me.  All I need is my family.  We are a pretty good fit.  But then, amidst all that…God spoke to my heart and asked me: “Is THIS where you truly want to belong?  Look at them.  They slaver for oblivion when they should be hungering after me.  Is THIS really what you want?  To belong to this?”

Crap.  No, Father.  You are right.  I don’t want to belong to this.  These are not my people, my crew.  So I did what I was commanded to do.  I prayed over them.  Every single one that came to the table to slap their money down, $10, $20, $100 dollars dropped for beer or alcohol they will just piss away.  I prayed God would forgive them for loving alcohol, oblivion over him.  “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.”  I prayed for salvation and freedom from addiction.  And it saddened me.  I don’t want you to be confused, gentle reader…my sadness is not out of pity for me or them…just that they don’t love themselves enough to love God enough to let their addictions go.  And I certainly don’t want you think that I think I am better than them.  I am not.  Oh, my…I am FULLY aware of my own failings…believe you me.  I prayed and I prayed and I prayed.  I prayed for forgiveness for all of us.

As I told my husband this story…about God’s revelation to me in a beer garden, I started to cry.  That’s how much it upset me.  Not the drinking.  Not the belonging.  But that these folks are so far from my Lord.  So far from the best salvation.  So far from the Father’s love.  And not that He doesn’t love them.  Because He does.  Oh, how He does.  And not that He has forsaken them…because He has not.  He is there.  Waiting for them to turn to Him.  They just don’t realize what they are missing.  Am I making sense, gentle reader?  I am heartbroken and upset with myself that I was involved in it.

So next year…I won’t be volunteering.  I can’t.  It’s too much and such a waste of literal human flesh.  God Bless them all.

Book Review: Happy, Happy, Happy–My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander by Phil Robertson

A few weeks ago, I finished Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson.  And let me tell you, Jack, it was a great read.

Phil Robertson is the patriarch of the Robertson clan out of Monroe, LA.  He started Duck Commander back in the 70’s and we all know it because of the the hit A&E show “Duck Dynasty”.

Phil’s book talks a lot about his faith, his family and hunting.  It’s an in your face look at his life and how he has succeeded because of the Grace of God.

We see Phil today and he seems like a stern man.  And he is.  And we love him for it.  He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy.  Work hard and play hard and love the Lord your God with all of your heart.

But it wasn’t always that way for Phil, Ms. Kay and the Robertson boys.

Phil was a boozer.  As he says he was into, “Sex, drugs and rock and roll.”  He lost his livelihood, his wife and his boys.  He almost lost his life several times.  But he came back.  He went to the Lord and he worked it out.  And I believe things have worked out quite well for him since.

Phil talks about coming to the Lord at age 28.  Which is interesting, because I recently had a conversation with a man I greatly admire for his faith in the Lord and we talked about how men don’t really become men until the age of 28 or 29.  That this is when they finally decide to make a living, stop messing around and get on with their lives; and how they come into their own with their faith.  (This is a generalization and not how things are done…it was just an interesting coincidence that I read this and had spoken about the same thing.)

Anyway, I really enjoyed reading about the Robertson clan and how Phil came to learn to love the Lord.  It’s a great story on how anyone, no matter how far down the path to ruin and destruction, can turn their lives around with the help of God and a good woman! 😉

The only part of this book that did not interest me…and I must say, I did a little speed reading, was the chapter on duck calls.  I am not a hunter.  I do not claim to be.  So, this section of the book was skimmed.  I do admire the fact that he listened to the ducks and made actual calls based on their sounds.  That takes a lot of perseverance.

If you want to know more about the Robertson’s, how they got started and where they are headed, then this book is a great read.  It is full of what this country needs:  hard word, enterprise, love, family and FAITH!!!

Psalm 118, a Hymn of Thanksgiving

It’s good.  Really good.

You should read it gentle reader.

A few years ago I read a blog about “Life Verses” and I didn’t understand what that really meant.  This wonderful writer was talking about how her pastor talked about “life verses” and how they could positively impact our lives.  Those verses from the Bible which speak to our heart of hearts.

Then, funny enough… I looked around my house and there were life verses everywhere.

In my foyer, I have John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

In my living room, I have 1 Corinthians 13:4

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud

These words, these vows…my husband and I spoke over each other years ago…for which I did not remember until I viewed my wedding video again after 14 years.  Sigh.

In the basement, I have Psalm 118:24

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.

Something I have told my husband and children for years without thinking about it.  It was just habit to do so.

Oh dear and gentle reader…I do have life verses.  Amazing.  Who’da thunk it, right?

Do you have a life verse?  I bet if you look hard enough…it’s there.

Blessings be on you today, gentle reader.  Blessings be!

Going into Business

So…yeah.

I’m trying to decide if I should once again go into business for myself.

I have my studio set up.  My sound is good.  My experience is there.

I have resources up the wazoo…but…

It’s the getting started that scares the Bejesus out of me.

What if I fail?  What if it’s a whole lot of money invested…for a whole lot of nothing?

I am confident in my abilities.  I am good with my surroundings.

Sigh.  Making decisions is never easy.  Spending money is never easy.

Plus, this whole sequestration and losing 40% of our pay is starting to wear on me.  Like, really.

Yesterday, I was in a bad mood.  No reason.  Just in a bad mood.  And I could not get out of it.  It really sucked.

Today is a better day…but I am struggling with thoughts of pay and money…and feeling like I HAVE TO GET SOMETHING IN PLACE BEFORE OUR PAY GETS CUT!!!!!

Gentle reader…we are looking at losing over $2000.00 per month.  With reducing some things, I can cut out about $800.00 from our budget.  (Getting rid of Dish Network and getting rid of our savings…sigh.)  But that still leaves us with a $1200.00 short fall.

Sigh.  My husband has worked hard to get where he’s at and works hard everyday.  I know we are blessed with what we have…and I am SOOOOO thankful we can still give where we feel we can!  Praise the Lord for that!

And I am not being facetious, gentle reader.  We will continue to give.  It’s not our money anyway.  It’s His.  We are where we are because of Him.  All the glory and honor go to Him.

So, that being said…to Him I will continue to turn my countenance.  Look for His face in all things.  And once again cling tight to the promise given us in Jeremiah 29:11. (paraphrasing gentle reader)

For I know the plans I have for you, Plans to prosper you and not harm you…

Amen and Amen for those words.