Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Welcome Home... Love, Irma

Where do we begin?

Shit is hitting the fan in Florida, folks... although to taunt any sweaty Floridians with the promise of a fan is just cruel. In case you've been out of touch, a big, fat hurricane named Irma hit our little town of Naples and pretty much all of Florida. The anticipation leading up to her arrival was dramatic, confusing, overwhelming and terrifying. To evacuate? To not evacuate? So many questions. And then, on Sunday, September 10th, she made landfall.

A lot of people ask us why we write this little travel blog... which gets over 1000 views per post but only 4 Facebook likes... LOL... Come on, people! Click the "like" button after you read! The truth is, it's not for everyone else, it's diary of sorts that we hope to someday pass on to our kids. All these adventures, all this time, all this planning... we just want them to know how much we love them and how blessed we are to be able to explore the world together. Of all our adventures, though, we're sure that these last few days will forever stand out in their otherwise carefree minds. Here it is, kiddos.. the story of your first hurricane.

It's hard to believe that just 3 weeks ago we left beautiful Bar Harbor and faced the 1,800 mile drive home. We cruised through beautiful Maine, stopping at LL Bean for school supplies, and then scored one of the most delicious meals we have ever had at the Old Stone Trattoria in Chappaqua, NY.

Having driven almost 10,000 miles in total this summer, Mark was exhausted. His shoulder, specifically, was bothering him. He had injured it during a Jiu-Jitsu workout in Newfoundland a few weeks earlier, but was determined not to expose himself to Canadian health care.

I know what you're thinking, ladies... he cooks, he cleans, he's an Eagle Scout, he can fix computers, he's super handsome and he's got mad fighting skills... but he's all mine :) 

He's also now 37... being that he celebrated his birthday on August 21st, the same day as the much anticipated 2017 Solar Eclipse. Being that Mark was super excited about the eclipse, and that Andrew was super excited to visit Antietam National Battlefield, we combined the two into a box-on-our-heads-wearing, battlefield exploring, solar adventure.

We had an amazing day, but we had to admit to ourselves that we were tired of the open road and ready to be home. We missed our house, our dishwasher, our laundry room, our DVR, and, most importantly... the boys needed to go back to school! 

Naples has had a lot of rain this summer, and our drive home and subsequent arrival was no exception. Standing water everywhere, mosquitoes, and humidity so thick that when we exited the truck after having last been out of it in the Carolinas, it literally took our breath away.

What is this dense, soggy, substance I'm breathing? Is this air? Good golly... Why do we live here? 

We may have been soggy, but we were happy to be home. As always, our house seemed huge after spending nearly 3 months in an RV.  The kids ran off to their rooms to reunite with their toys as we relaxed on the couch... just kidding... we spent hours unloading the RV and then stayed up until long after midnight to prepare for Max's 6th birthday the next morning. He wanted a Mario cake and balloons, and (thanks to the fine folks at Decibels Audiology running around and getting those things for us), that is exactly what he got. Happy Birthday, Maxer! 

Do you know what Max wanted for his birthday? A pet. Do you know what Andrew was asking for at least a million times a day? A dog. Do you know what Mark is desperate for? A dog. 

Put this puppy-obsession together with the fact that our friend Terri had a friend who was in need of a home for some Portuguese Water Dog puppies, and you've got the makings of this heartwarming Target video. Fun fact... April's parents surprised she and her sister with a puppy in the exact same way back in 1980-something. It was a day they will never forget, so we had to recreate it!

As the video describes, we had to wait a week between picking out our dog and picking up our dog from the breeder, so Mark took this "down time" as a chance to go get his shoulder checked out. Long story short ... Mark found out after several doctor appointments, a physical therapy session, and two MRIs that he had torn his left pectoral tendon off his arm bone. Ouchie. Serious. Expensive. 

Surgery was scheduled immediately, and the reality that mark would be able to use only one arm for the next few months set in. No driving, no dishes, no lifting, no strenuous exercise. That's fine... it's not like any large weather events were forming out in the Atlantic or anything.  

The day after Mark's surgery, the kids were finally back to school! Here we come, 1st and 3rd Grade! 

While the kids were at school, groggy Mark and driver April pick up our newest bundle of joy.. Gatsby. 

Gatsby, who is both cuter and smarter than any other dog, busted in to our lives with cuddles and licks and a bladder that just won't quit.  For those who say that puppies are like babies... I can say that babies are definitely harder... but only because you can't put them in a cage.

Now, I don't know about you guys, but just reading all this nonsense so far makes me tired. It's a lot, right? It's just a lot to take on... but we weren't done yet! Hurricane Irma was pitching a fit in the Atlantic and threatening to get all up in our town.  The national news was dramatic and terrifying. The local news was like "Here we go again. Get some water, you fools." We were in the cone, and then we were out of the cone. We were all going to die, and then we were all for sure going to be safe. With a forecast that assured us we were in the clear, April boarded a plane to Minneapolis for a quick work trip to Starkey, assuring Mark that she'd be back to help in less than 48 hours.

By the time April landed in Minneapolis, CNN informed the world that Naples was very much back in the damn cone. Talk began of THE SURGE... and how Naples would certainly be destroyed.  Too late to fly home, April called Mark as soon as she could and learned that his Dad, Ray, was already headed down to Naples to save the day and help one-armed Mark board up the house. Anxiety showed up.

Ray then drove Mark, the kids, and Gatsby to Lakeland, where they rode out the storm surrounded by awesome family.  Did Gatsby poo on Ray and Martha's white carpet? You bet he did. Whoopsies.

While having an otherwise awesome time at Starkey, there was nothing April could do but stare at the TV and try not to vomit.  Waking up on Saturday morning to the news of an expected Category 5 direct hit to Naples literally brought her to tears. Watching it make landfall on Sunday morning was excruciating. But, through it all, Mark kept the kids and pup safe in Lakeland and Starkey treated April like gold, taking care of her every need. Looking back, it's hard to believe how much time this kind of impending doom takes up.  It's hard to get anything done other than worry.

On Sunday night (as Irma was still beating up Florida), a flight suddenly opened up to Atlanta. April threw her stuff in a bag and headed to the airport, getting to the gate just as they were boarding for an early departure due to... you know... the giant hurricane. One bumpy ride later, Starkey had the Atlanta Airport Embassy Suites waiting for her as she settled in for more CNN coverage of THE SURGE.  

Morning in Atlanta and Lakeland brought an agonizing wait with no information about our house, our RV, our businesses, or the whereabouts of our friends.  So many people had stocked up on supplies to survive the storm, but didn't think about living through the aftermath.  No power, no supplies, no food, no running water. You may have a generator... but there is no gas to run it. No stores, no services. Flooding, downed trees and power lines, curfews. Cell towers either destroyed or without power. In a world of information overload, the sudden lack of communication is a shock to the system.  In short, folks, America is not ready for the zombies... no matter how much Walking Dead you've binged. 

Slowly but surely, messages came in. Good friends and neighbors rose to the occasion and surveyed the damage.  We are incredibly blessed that our structures were all spared. Our pool cage was destroyed and our trees are down, but everyone is safe. As grateful as we are, we are sensitive to the fact that this is really hard for so many. It's hard to work and rebuild in one hundred degree heat. It's hard to have no income. It's hard to have your kids out of school with no electricity or running water. It's hard to find gas or supplies. It's hard to sleep. It's hard to read that it will be 10 more days before FPL restores power. But it's also a time to help each other and thank God that Irma fell apart before the second half of her took our homes and livelihood with her. So grateful. So happy. 

Decibels Audiology on Immokalee Road... with Ryan "reporting" from the scene: 

Decibels Audiology on Michigan Avenue: 

Our kids' clubhouse, pool cage and yard... not too shabby! 

So, that was our summer! Happy to be home and ready to clean up and get back to work. Hug your family, hug your neighbors, hug your friends... but not until after the AC comes back on and they've all taken a shower. Feeling incredibly blessed in Naples. 

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