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Bottleneck Blog

Bottleneck Blog: So, this blog has been in the making for what seems like a very long time…months in fact. My intention was to wait until we closed on our house before actually writing my next blog. I took notes of little events that led up to the closing of the house in order to have more to talk about. What I didn’t see coming…was having no closing and too much to talk about. Hence…the bottleneck blog. In order to prevent this from turning into a book (although, now that I think about it that may not be a bad idea), I’ll summarize the small things leading up to the bigger things bringing us to where we are today. Actually, I’m not even sure I know myself where I am today. Let me set the stage first. I am in paradise right? I am sitting in a house that hasn’t had electricity in weeks, with a broken generator and no running water, no way to purify water as we are used to doing, and sweating quite profusely. I have been eating “hurricane food”, aka Pop Tarts and Fig Newtons for every meal for about 2 weeks now (cue Irma and Maria, Irma’s evil bitch of a twin…’scuse my French). The windows are all open for fresh air, so I’m listening to the neighbors try to wrangle their dog back up to their porch as Guapo goes bat sh!t crazy trying to lure her over here so he can show off his pearly whites and start a big boy fight. Jason is trying to sleep, it’s not working. We currently have no cell service, no internet, and no way of communicating with well…the world. Good times. Still…know that I’ve never felt more fortunate than I do right now. I’ll get to that. Really most of my mini topics seem quite boring now but I’ll weed through them and pull a few out that you may find interesting. First up…hiking part 1. Jason and I had a hiking trail behind our previous cottage (we have moved a few times now but I’ll get to that later as well). I’ve been dying to take to the trails to the top of Blue Mountain behind our place. The view has got to be amazing. So we set out early one morning. Approximately ohhhh about 10 steps in (if that) I hear what sounds like a swarm of bees. Sure enough above our heads the trees are covered in bees. What do I do? Decide to suck it up and keep on walking while freaking out just a wee bit. That is until we reach the next tree filled to the brim with bees. At that point I completely freak out and decide the hike will have to continue another day when the bees are less crazy. I don’t know what kind of bees this island has. They could be Africanized a-holes for all I know. Not worth the risk. Long story short…we’ve yet to take that second hike. Let’s just say a few other happenings have gotten in the way. One of the more exciting things we’ve done, thanks to our sailing friend, is take a sail to Buck Island. What a beautiful trip! The beach on Buck is just…there are no words. We sailed all the way out there. Then, per usual Leyna style, I grabbed my mask and jumped in as soon as the anchor set. As I headed to the reef about 800 feet to my northish, about 6 kicks in I see a huge spotted eagle ray just below me. He was bigger than I was and just swimming with a fish side-by-side looking for some grub on the ocean floor about 25 feet below. I turned back toward the boat excited to tell Jason about it and have him jump in to see it. When I got closer to the boat I spotted something hot green below me. It looked to be an Apple watch. Sure enough, Jason jumps in and kicks his way down there to find a shiny new Apple watch still with almost a full charge. We were able to break into the emergency contact info to find the owners name. Ironically, he was one of the contacts in our boat friend’s phone. He was a seaplane pilot out of Christiansted. Small world! We were very glad to be able to return it back to him. There are lots of great experiences here. The obvious, like exploring the beaches, the people who are just amazing…like no other place I’ve ever been, and the hunting for chaney on the beach. Chaney is old china from old ships that still washes ashore to this day. Crucians make jewelry out of it to this day. The larger, more colorful the piece, the rarer it is. Is rarer even a word? More rare…there we go. Jason has already found 4 pieces. We’re still 4 and 0 on that one, lol. So before I go into the more tragic of events that have taken place, let me try to explain our moving situation. Most of you probably already know it but here’s a short version (pre-hurricanes) of our moving situation. We left Texas to move in with my folks in Georgia for a month and a half. The day finally came when we were able to fly to our beautiful future home on St. Croix. We loved it the moment we landed…we still do. Pretty sure if we love it today…then nothing can change the way we feel about it considering the current circumstances…getting to that… So once we arrived on island we checked into the cottage we had rented. We did some house hunting a few days later and found nothing but well…a few bloody machetes, potential squatter hangouts, and rusted caribbean brewed beer cans. Sooo maybe we were in the wrong areas. You live you learn. At that point we contacted our landlord and were able to rent for another 2 months, but in order to do so we had to move into a different cottage on September 15th. About a week prior to moving to our second cottage we start becoming very very aware of the current weather situation. I begin hearing all sorts of new weather terms and following weather blogs and meteorologists on twitter and also just some random storm chasers who pride themselves on hurricane knowledge. Yes, I am a weather nerd. Those of you Texas friends of mine already know that. Lots of “spaghetti models” (if you don’t know what that is just google it). You become very aware of what they are and very dependent on whether or not they are directly overhead or not when you’re in an impending bad hurricane situation. We found ourselves smack dab in the middle of Hurricane Irma’s “Cone of uncertainty”…yes that is a thing. No…it is not a good thing. It’s basically a projection cone of where the eye of the hurricane MIGHT land. Needless to say you do not want to be in it. Meanwhile in house hunting land, we had found a house to purchase and put in a contract for it. We were set to close fairly soon but this Irma chick was about to put a huge damper on our plans. Our plan, to be honest, was to ride out the storm in the new house. We had access to the main part of the house and it is a solid concrete structure with direct access to a fresh water cistern if it got really bad. Our cottage on the other hand, is a 1 bedroom wooden frame house. Well built mind you, but we were watching Irma barreling through Barbuda and St. Martin and leaving literally nothing left in her path, especially wooden structures. All we could do was hashtag Irma on twitter and watch in real time as she destroyed everything she touched and kept heading straight toward us. Talk of a first ever cat 6 was rampant in the media. Terms like “super typhoon” were used and statements surfaced more than once saying she was the “largest hurricane in the history of the Atlantic”. Let’s just say a wooden structure was not something I’d be caught dead in…pun literally intended. So our plan was set. We began the prepping of the house, boarding up windows AND doors, securing her as much as humanly possible. The mood across the island was grim to say the least. None-the-less everyone tried to think positive as if she would miss us by some chance. We soon realized how DARK the inside of the house would be…and stale…did I mention stale? There was no breeze, no fresh air, no light, no nothing in there…nothing at all. Something I think most people who have never ridden out a storm don’t understand is that it’s not just a couple hours of hunkering and then you’re done. It is way more involved than that. You have to get to your safe place well before the winds even hit, preferably a half day (minimum) in advance. The winds themselves start to get hairy about 8 or 9 hours before the worst part of the storm even gets close. You probably don’t want to be traveling there at night. You need to give yourself plenty of time incase of a flat tire, or running into someone who needs your help on the way there. You want to be well established with all of your supplies long before that time even occurs. Then when the eye wall approaches, give yourself another 8ish hours of THAT hellish experience, depending on the forward momentum of the storm. You find yourself begging for a sign of the end of it. That’s when the tail end starts and lasts another few hours. Then when it dies down enough for you to go outside, you make some attempt at a cleanup process. Not one person is spared from this step. If you’re close enough to be prepping for this hurricane…you have some sort of damage, a full yard of downed limbs being the most minor. It’s a full 2-3 day affair. Not a 2-3 hour affair. So now that you know that…That’s about the time our realtor called and offered us to stay at her sister’s new house with her. A category 5 rated home on top of a hill in the east end away from other structures (i.e. future flying debris) was a much better option. I wasn’t certain it was the best option for us. Eventually we agreed to stay at her house. We were and still are extremely thankful for her offer and generosity. Words can’t describe how thankful I am that we were able to stay there during not one but two high cat 5 hurricanes. Just so everyone knows, storms like this are NOT common on St. Croix or in the USVI. The last storm of this degree they had was in 1989 when Hugo paid the island an ugly visit. Old videos can be seen on YouTube of the island during and after the storm…nothing left in its wake. One minute a beautiful lush island, the next…nothingness. The power of mother nature is absolutely chilling when you see it first hand. We had no idea we were about to experience the equivalent of what all of these Hugo veterans live with. Like a scar that stays with you for life, or some sort of badge of honor for actually surviving something of this magnitude. Not to be taken lightly, it changes the way you are…but I suppose when you come out on the other side you are different…stronger…more resilient…more of a Crucian in this case. When you come to St. Croix, stories of Hugo practically float through the air. Everywhere you go you hear about Hugo. It’s timeline comparable to B.C. and A.D. only in this case B.H. and A.H. Stories of civilians hitching rides out on C1-30s post-storm in order to get back to civilization and supplies to survive. Some homes still hold the scars from the aftermath in 1989…harsh reminders of the reality of the past and unfortunately the potential of the very near future. It’s becoming clear we picked a damn good time to move…said no one lol. Preparing for our first cat 5 was exhausting (prepping for any cat 5 is exhausting…I’m imaging your first one is the worst). Buying huge pieces of plywood from Home Depot (which now post-Maria goes by the name “The Om De” for the missing letters in the sign), ending up with the last 5 pieces of wood and the last 3 boxes of concrete screws, attaching these huge plywood pieces to the roof of your jeep and praying they don’t fall off…going around the house holding these heavy pieces up while Jason screws them into concrete in 90 degree heat with the sun bearing down on your back with no relief from it. The next step is going to the store and buying crappy non-perishable processed foods in bulk. Pop-tarts are a delicacy at this point in time, so are teriyaki meat sticks, fig bars, granola bars…you catch my drift. All the while you are thinking, surely this storm won’t be bad and then we’ll just have a ton of snacks left over that will last you a year or two that we can throw in future hurricane kits…best case scenario…not our actual scenario…We literally only own 1 pallet worth of stuff to our names, so in the event a roof should blow off, we thought it would be best to put our belongings into the new house and lock them up since it was a more solid structure. So, add loading up a pallet of crap, which in a Jeep is a few trips to and from, to the list. We were finally set. Said pallet of crap was in plastic bins, our important paper documents (birth certificates, IDs, passports, etc) all packed in a water tight container and with us at all times, house boarded up, food packed in a bin, first aid kit (including skin stapler and tourniquet) packed up. “Prepare for the worst…hope for the best.” You hear it everywhere you go. It sounds like a statement contrived to be a comforting one…it is not. Are you starting to catch on that there are endless amounts of things to consider throughout this process? With that said, cue mental exhaustion and add that to the physical exhaustion list. Oh and don’t forget buttloads of gallons of water to the list, batteries for flashlights, radios, medications in water tight containers, dog crates, dog food, dog leashes, dog harnesses, dog bowls…the list freaking never ends. So off we go, on our way to the safe house. Our realtor needs help boarding up her place which is ocean front so we stop there on our way up the hill on the east end. While there we pack up her parrot (yes I know that sounds cliche and adds an extra element of interesting, but there is in fact a parrot involved in this crazy experience as well…his name is Monkey for future reference. I am sure he’ll pop up again in my story later on). Eventually we make it to the safe house and meet the remainder of our first soon-to-be hurricane family. We had 6 dogs, 4 cats, 1 parrot, and 5 humans. We picked the closet as our safe place inside a safe place should the shit really hit the fan, put all of our stuff into our room away from all windows, parked the Jeep on the “safest” leeward corner of the house we could find, set the pups up in their little crate in the bathroom, board up the storm shutters…and wait… I think this goes without saying but the wait is also exhausting, and I think one of the scariest things I’ve ever gone through. I am a cancer survivor…and cancer didn’t scare me this much, just to give you some context there. My memory is absolutely horrible so I’ll refrain from trying to remember the times of things occurring but I will say by some miracle we had cell service the ENTIRE TIME. What? How is that even possible??! We lost power at 4am…I do remember that, because the storm shutters were whipping and slamming into the window and I was literally shaking in fear in the bed. Turns out it wasn’t so bad outside yet, it just sounded like it. Our realtor was absolutely amazing the whole time, making meals for us. Real meals??! I didn’t realize this was a thing. We packed Pop-tarts remember? So turns out with propane stove tops you can actually make eggs for breakfast and soup for dinner. Absolutely amazing food was prepared for us. Again…couldn’t be more grateful to her and her family. So the storm starts blowing in and winds are getting up to probably 110/125 at most. The house is situated on a hill so the winds are higher up there than down in the valley but the house is in a U-shape with a pool in the middle of the courtyard area so it is very protected from the winds in this specific scenario since Irma is to our North. So much so that we were literally IN the pool at one point in time (for photo ops only of course…I would not recommend trying this at home). We (St. Croix) were extremely fortunate with Irma. She was nasty, yes…but she did not eat us, chew us, and spit us out. She did however eat, chew, spit out most of our sister islands. It got bad…it got really bad. My ex-boyfriend was storm chasing on St. Thomas and was caught in a very bad situation, unable to get out. Actually we caught a glimpse of him on TV before we lost power. Jason wasn’t too impressed by that… “Is that your freaking ex-boyfriend?!”…errr yes…yes it is. lol. Supplies were running out there, people had no homes, roofs were torn off, houses were ripped completely off of their foundations. Everyone on STX (St. Croix) had survivors guilt and extreme thankfulness from being spared all at the same time. We had no idea what was about to hit us. Ignorance is bliss…minus being heartbroken for everyone else. We pulled together as a community and took boatloads of supplies to St. Thomas and St. John. We are the closest, largest island in the USVI. We were able to hold them up and love on them in their time of need. They were depending on us not only for survival, but to save the tourism industry on the USVIs until they were back up and running. We were now the front runner, with the responsibility to keep the entire USVI afloat. For those who are unfamiliar with the USVI in general. We have basically 3 islands. St. Croix, the more agricultural island, St. Thomas, heavily laden with tourism and partying and a slightly more expensive cost of living, and then St. John, even higher cost of living, majority environmentally protected absolutely stunning island. We are all very very different from one another. St. Croix’s tourism industry has been suffering for a while now. Most cruise ships go to St. Thomas and pass us by. I’ll spare you all the details and politics of the whole situation. I’m certain I don’t even know or understand most of it anyway. So a week or so into doing all we could for STT and STJ the weather man starts piping back up again, we’ve got Jose hot on Irma’s heels, then Lee behind Jose, and now this Maria chick creeping in behind. There were lots of jokes about how Irma ran off to be with Jose and Maria got pissed and started chasing them down, etc etc…We had a whole Mexican motif going down here. Eyes quickly started to turn to Jose and Maria. Jose was set to hit Barbuda direct AGAIN. These people had no homes left to shelter in. They had NO WAY of knowing Jose was even a thing! Can you say worst nightmare? I believe he ended up clipping just north of Barbuda and then going up into the northern Atlantic and doing a jig or something like that. At some point we lost all communication and I have no idea where Jose is today or if Maria even ever caught up with him. Maria was now out there as a tropical storm…no big right? Not until they started pushing around terms like Maria being an “RI” aka…rapid intensification. Sure enough…she went from a TS to a cat 1 in a matter of hours…in a matter of a few more hours…she was a cat 4. Rumors started flying, but the media was keeping her at a cat 4. We can do that…that’s like Irma all over again right? The only problem this time was…we were looking at a direct hit. No matter how you looked at those damn spaghetti models, they were all starting to come together right over the top of our heads. Nothing was wavering…it seemed like an impending death sentence. You started to take a mental inventory of the trees and the greenery and the homes and the beauty of the island so you could remember it when it was gone, because at that point you KNEW it was about to be gone. Once again we headed to the same safe house, we did all the prepping AGAIN. Thank God the house was already boarded up so that hard work was done. I neglected to mention the fact that you don’t sleep through this experience either…so we’re already sleep deprived when Maria starts rearing her ugly head. This storm was set to arrive in the middle of the night…which means even more sleep deprivation. Uh huh…exhausting…now double the fun. We pull the shutters over the windows, grab the candles, lose the electric and THIS TIME…ALL of our cell service. There was one spot in the driveway on top of the hill where you could maybe get 1 bar of a signal about 50% of the time. My parents and those of you that were concerned enough to be following the news and watching for our safety were thrilled, let me tell you. Tuesday afternoon rolls around and the winds start to pick up, by Tuesday evening it was already worse than Irma. This go round our hurricane family was different. We had our realtor, her daughter, her grand daughter, and another friend of theirs, then 2 more couples showed up. Inventory consisted of…10 adults, 5 dogs, 1 cat, and yes…Monkey the parrot. The group was a good one. Three very capable manly men to protect and help with the big stuff all with great senses of humor. But at this point, we were just…exhausted. At some point before the electricity went out all of our worst fears were about to surface, and completely unexpectedly. Just before we lost power we all took showers. It would be our last in days, and we already knew that. That is one shower you appreciate. As soon as I stepped out of the shower I heard the weather man interrupt the other newscaster…(that is never good news)…”hold up their Craig…we’ve got some unexpectedly bad news”…no no no no no no no no no no. It can’t be. Please God no… “Maria has unexpectedly upgraded to a Cat 5 hurricane, set to make direct landfall on St. Croix and Puerto Rico”…My gut absolutely sank, farther than it’s ever sunk in the history of my gut ever. I just started crying uncontrollably. This is not a drill folks. This is mother nature potentially threatening not only my very existence…but my entire dream. You don’t think about these things every day. You don’t think about what if something happens to me today that completely ruins the very reason I feel like I am here on this earth. That doesn’t just happen to everyone. That’s a scenario that you’re used to saying, “oh those poor people, I feel so badly for them…etc”. I knew this because I JUST FELT BADLY for St. Thomas, Dominica, Barbuda, St. Martin, Antigua, Jost Van Dyke, all the other BVIs. I now found myself on the other side of that whole scenario. And I didn’t know what to do with that information. Will we be homeless? Will we die? Will our house get destroyed and we’ll have no other choice but to move back to WHERE? Will my dogs die? Will anyone ever see me again? These are the thoughts that scream through your head, scaring you to death as they scramble around in there. All these beautiful people…what will happen to each and every one of them? What about the mongoose? (Yes this was a thought) The horses, the donkeys, the goats across the street? My mind was absolutely overflowing with dreadful horrible painful thoughts. All I could do was sob. Our future was one big question mark. Honestly, I’d love to hear from anyone who reads this blog who has ever felt anything remotely like that. The whole thing was hard but that particular part of it was almost unbearable, all the unknowns and the fears swimming around in your head. Fast forward to 10:30pm. The eye was set to arrive at midnight, but she was rolling in early. This is where it gets really ugly. Each set of people in the house has their own safe place (ish). I honestly felt like we had the safest spot. More than willing to share it as it was a fairly large walk-in closet, I was a bit worried about the rest of the house. When you walked into that closet you couldn’t hear the rain and wind outside (at least not in the beginning…that would soon change and it begins to sound like the gates of hell are opening up outside). I set my cell down on the shelf in the closet and it vibrated…what was that?! A text message?! No way! Not possible…sure enough, my old Texas realtor (also a storm chaser) had texted me… “Are you guys ok?”…This is when I knew we were right in harms way. I mean I knew that already…but we had no radar for hours and I was just praying she would go a bit off the predicted path. Not so much…I could barely text back, and I recall texting him even when I knew he wasn’t receiving the texts. Asking…begging for good news and if it would be over soon. The answer I wasn’t getting was an answer I already knew…no. Jason and I talked about pulling the king mattress into the closet. He felt it was a bit of a pain until we knew we needed it. I knew we’d need it, but I tried to stay calm until he agreed. Suddenly I heard very large hail hitting the roof. Now…we’re from Texas. You always hear hail accompanies a tornado, but in Texas hail can just be hail too. But for some reason as soon as it hit I heard a voice in my head…it basically said “oh SHIT”. I knew STX never got hail…I knew what that meant. We were in the NE quadrant of the storm, the worst to be in, the highest winds, tornados, hail, lightening, you name it…you got it. I yelled at jason to grab the other side of the mattress. We start hauling it into the closet. Meanwhile the dogs are in their soft crate which they have now turned into a hamster wheel and are barreling right at us. We’re trying to go into the closet with a giant king mattress, and they are desperate to escape and working in tandem to get the job done. They may have actually invented a new K-9 agility course activity with this one. Jason keeps kicking the soft crate back trying to get them out of the way. Don’t worry, no dogs were harmed in this scenario, quite the opposite, we were trying to keep them and US from being sucked up into a tornado through the roof that sounded like it was about to come off of the house. We finally get the mattress in the closet and as we start to set it up lean-to style against the shelf I hear it. The infamous noise you always hear people talk about. How I am from Texas and have not experienced this noise before I have NO idea…but it was unmistakable. The sound of a freight train barreling right at us. Louder than loud, closer than close. This thing was feet from us as we scrambled to get us and the dogs under the king lean-to. I could feel my eyes bugging straight out of my head at this point. I wasn’t breathing. We were just in this room with a freight train coming at us and God knows what other noises we were hearing, like sitting ducks. Even the dogs were quiet and just staring into the blackness of the night. All of us sweating our butts off under this mattress. The train sound eventually went away. It didn’t last long at all actually (thank God), and the sound of the pressure sucking the water out of the cistern and toilets took its place. The water in the toilet was literally being sucked out, all the pipes were vibrating and gurgling, we didn’t know it at the time but the cistern which was directly behind us had so much pressure pulling on it from Maria, than it looked to have busted or bowed the concrete above it, leaving a swollen hill on the back patio near the pool. She was pulling water from everything she possibly could and gaining strength. She hit her peak as she went right over the top of us. 185mph sustained winds with 215mph gusts. The finger of God. Let me give you a bit of perspective here. This storm was like being hit directly by an F4 tornado for 6 hours straight. The doors inside the house were shuttering back and forth, the storm shutters were slamming against the windows, AC units, wires, satellite dishes, other people’s roofs, and God knows what else was slamming into the walls on the outside of the house. The pipes were gargling and slurping. It was deafening. Right after the tornado passed us we could hear water in the bedroom. Jason ran in there to find the room flooding. It was coming in from the sliding glass door and filling the room as fast as he could soak it up with towels and buckets and pour it right back down the sink. He literally did that during most of the storm to keep us dry in the closet before it got to us. He was also running around the house checking on the others during the storm. I wasn’t extremely happy he was up and running around but appreciate him helping us all out. At some point the grand daughter was sent into the lean-to with me because of the safety of the room and the set up we had in there. Her and I sat in there “playing” with the dogs for the remaining hours of the storm. It was hot, uncertain, wet, scary, and loud the whole time…but we talked as if hell wasn’t exploding right out side the window. The morning after we waited for the winds to settle down before we could go outside and see the destruction. We knew it was bad. I’d guess about 7/8 am the winds were still very high but we could stand in them so we opened one shutter on the back of the house and walked out. Not one leaf remained. Stick trees as far as the eye could see. To be honest I was pleasantly surprised that at least some of the trees were still standing, even if they didn’t have leaves and all their branches were severed…at least they were still there. Roofs were down, about 75% of the electrical poles are down, downed lines are EVERYWHERE. In fact, when we were finally able to get out after 24 hours for 4 hours of suspended curfew we ran into a guy who had high centered his SUV on a line. The front of his car was about 3 feet off of the ground. We were able to help along with a couple other guys who stopped and pulled his car down off of the line before the curfew was up again at 4pm. Navigating the island consists of rolling over the lowest point in the downed lines as possible. Just yesterday someone flipped their entire car just rolling over a wire in our new neighborhood the wrong way. Nothing is open, the island is an absolute mess. Within the next few days we’d start to see things open up but with the curfew restriction, everyone was attempting to do every errand all at the same time. 3 hours for an ATM, 2.5 hours for groceries, 1 hour for gas…i’m sure those times vary depending where you are. Regardless…we are living in a war zone at this point. Absolutely heart breaking. Slight fast forward to a week (or so, i’ve lost complete track of time) after the storm…I needed to get off island to the mainland to work because I need the internet to do so. I ended up getting on the 2nd sea plane out to St. Thomas, who at this point, 2 weeks into recovery (slightly ahead of STX) had an open airport at the very least. Functioning well? no…but functioning none-the-less. After staying 2 days with gracious friends in St. Thomas, I caught my flight to Atlanta. When I boarded the plane I sat down in a huff. I was exhausted, ready, done, sad, happy, scared, nervous, literally every emotion in the book…right at that moment. When my butt hit the seat the woman next to me belted out, “baby girl we made it”. She quickly handed a Nature Valley granola bar to me. As soon as I had it in my hand (having not eaten for hours from standing in line) I said…”is this for me?” She bounced back with zero hesitation whatsoever…, “nope…I just wanted you to hold that while I finish mine up”. That’s when I knew… This woman is the most eclectic, talented, fun, life owning woman I’ve met in my life. I hope everyone who ever meets her appreciates her as much as I do. We soon came to the realization that her daughter’s house and my parent’s house were in the same town outside of Atlanta. So we quickly exchange numbers and the rest is history. We’ve hung out a couple of times and created a great friendship. It’s not every day that you are able to spend time with people that have been in your shoes, been through what you’ve been through…just…plain…get it. She’s played a part in inspiring me to follow my passions in life, things I’ve never pursued that maybe I should. It’s not everyday you meet someone like that on a plane! That’s for sure. So I arrived in atlanta and spent a couple of weeks to decide I want to go back to Texas. After all…all of my people are in Texas…Trying to find normalcy in this situation is extremely challenging, but something was telling me to come to Texas. As desperate as I was to leave it…it was calling me. I flew in and now we’ve come full circle to tonight. I’m sitting in a Marriott Courtyard alone, I’ve stayed with a few friends up until now. Tonight, I was able to see a girl that means the WORLD to me and after our visit I just didn’t want to “bother” anyone, so I came here. One bottle of wine, two white castle microwavable burgs, and some Spotify come to Jesus moments later…here I sit. Hozier is playing mixed with some country tunes because why the hell not listen to depressing music when you’re in my shoes. It’s the best. This week has been hard. There won’t be any sugar coating here. Jason is struggling alone on island trying to keep up with everything with zero resources to do so. No electricity, no water, no wife…no…anything. I am struggling on the mainland, with friendships, relationships, expectations…funds, places to sleep, you name it. People expect something from you no matter where you go or what you’ve been through. Whatever that is, is their expectation of you. What most don’t understand is that when you are here in this place, you have nothing left to give. It takes every ounce of me to keep me going alone…What’s good about that? You start to see who your real people are. You see your true friends come to the surface, the givers, the people that expect nothing in return, the people that get it. I’ve done my fair share of giving without asking anything in return. Not that I expect I deserve that right back…but it’s hard for me to visualize someone who doesn’t function that way. I realize it’s not common, it’s just hard for me to see. Fortunately I’m extremely fortunate to have a handful of friends who have my back no matter what. No matter how tired, short on money, exhausted, over it, done that I am…I know one of them will offer some sort of peace into my life. That is my saving grace at this point. Peacefulness…quiet…almost disappearing is extremely therapeutic. Those friends…you know who you are…that not only offer that but respect my decision to be temporarily incognito, offer shelter, company, and just an ear, I love you. That is worth more than anything to me at this point. My capacity and tolerance for drama, BS, guilt trips, misplaced blame…you name it… is zero at the moment. But, if you can honestly offer me a place to sleep, an ear to listen, be understanding even when you don’t understand what I’ve been through, and just love in general. I appreciate you. I’ve learned now, just as I learned when I traveled to Haiti in 2005, that you can’t quite comprehend the impact of a life-changing situation on your life until months have gone by. journaling seems to help, but I literally never go back and re-read what I’ve written. Haiti, cancer, Irma, Maria…I think I’ve done my fair share of learning from experiences, trauma, tragedy, and heartache. Each time, you get a new grasp on truth and learn to live with it a bit closer to the true you. It’s not easy…It doesn’t get easier. You just have to continue to remember to trust your gut and do you. You do you boo. On that note, it’s 5:30am and I would hate to let this comfy hotel bed go to waste…

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