In The Eye of the Storm: Surviving Hurricane Harvey

gulf-of-mexico-223287_640

Monday, August 28, 2017: Ever since Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, rain kept pouring down. The streets of my neighborhood were starting to flood, with water getting higher every night. An uneasy, lingering anxiety filled my guts, even as I kept praying Rosary after Rosary. I was in my room, reading when my mom said: “Pack your bags. We’re going to evacuate.”

At this point, a lot of the things in my room were already put into bags and placed high in case water got into my house. Still, I packed a few bags and felt my heart jump when my dad said that there were people ready to take us out of our house. The next thing I knew, I was out on a float boat, the kind that people usually use for river rides at water parks. My stomach felt like it was on fire and I wanted to make sure that my backpack stayed above the high flood waters.

So while floating along the street, I did something a little crazy:

I sang.

Specifically, I sang this song:

It was kind of appropriate. And part of me knew that if I didn’t sing, I would’ve been panicking instead. My brother and I made it to the gas station across the street and waited for our parents. Dad was also on a float boat, but my mom took a jet ski. It felt like forever.

Once we were all together at the gas station, we hitched a ride to the grocery store down the street and waited there for someone who could drive us to somewhere dry. I prayed that if I had to take shelter, I wanted to be at a church where I could sleep in front of the cross or the Blessed Sacrament. Instead, we ended up hitching a ride with one of dad’s customers (a contractor) and went to another town where my mom’s coworker lived. His house had plenty of room for us, not to mention that he still had electricity, a guest bathroom, and a laundry room.

The strange thing was that even though I was at someone else’s house, worried about if water would get into mine, I felt more at ease than I was at home. Miraculously, through the rain and the flood waters, all the stuff that I brought with my was mostly dry. My laptop, keyboard, and phone were dry, my clothes were damp, and I had all my toiletries. Not to mention my tiny collection of Funko Pops.

funko pop mini squad

I also had a few books with me. One book was Every Day with Mary, a collection of daily reflections from the affiliates of Mayslake Ministries that I got at the Catholic Writer’s Guild conference in Chicago. The reflection for that day began with this Bible verse:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory thatis to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.-Romans 8:18-19

The reflection’s theme focused on abundance, but not the kind you would hear about from the Prosperity Gospel or Law of Attraction crowd. The abundance in this book referred to the heavenly reward for those who carried heavy crosses in their earthly lives. Mary is a great example of this because she also had to leave the safety of her home at a moment’s notice and stay amongst strangers for a certain period of time. But throughout that ordeal, she remained strong and did God’s will.

One of the things I prayed while I stayed at my mom’s coworker’s house was a short request to Our Lady of Fatima: “Our Lady of Fatima, please bring a miracle of the sun to Texas.”

The next day, around the afternoon, my brother messaged me to look out the window because the sun finally came out, peeking from behind the clouds. We also decided to go to my cousin’s house and sleep over there because they just came back from being evacuated.

Throughout all this, I thanked God for giving me the strength to go through all of it. I felt grateful for my family, the clothes that I had, and all the things I had with me. And then, when I woke up on August 30, 2017, I took a picture of the sky. Never have I ever felt so grateful to see the sun and the beautiful, clear skies of Texas.

I was able to get home yesterday and signs of recovery were already showing on the drive home. The streets were dry and even though my street was still somewhat flooded, the waters were no longer high. I arrived to a house with only one inch of water damage…in my garage. Every other room in my house was okay and still had electricity and running water and functional plumbing.

Which leads to the question: Why did I have to leave?

For the brief period that I left my house, I experienced what it was like to be displaced. I understand now how scared everyone in the shelters must feel. I also got to see how disasters can bring out the best in people. 90% of my social media feed shared images and stories of people who were helping others, like the priest on the kayak who was trying to find wine for Mass, the lines of volunteers, and the local furniture store owner who turned his showrooms into shelters.

And as far as the 10% of social media who keep politicizing this tragedy: look at the people who are volunteering and donating and please do likewise. Here’s a list of charities to donate to. 

Even though the storm has passed, the next chapter of recovery has just started. The entire Gulf Coast of Texas was affected by this storm, not just Houston. I am supremely proud of my city, but I want to use this blog to raise awareness of everywhere else that was affected. Not to mention that the storm has moved on to other areas who will also need help. Hurricane season is not over. But for now, I feel grateful for how everyone has come together and stayed strong.

As I am back home, I am playing “Amazing Grace” on my Spotify app. It’s cheesy and the most overplayed song in the history of Christian music, I know. Even so, the song was written by someone who survived a storm. It was through God’s grace that I was able to be strong in the middle of the pouring rain and all the uncertainty. I pray that this grace will be given to those who need it now.

DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS!

Top 10 Reasons October is My Favorite Month

autumn leaves

Lots of people look forward to certain seasons. Schoolchildren count the days to summer. Many corporations and television networks count down to Christmas. Baseball fans look forward to springtime. But my favorite season is and always will be autumn. Unlike everyone getting on the pumpkin spice bandwagon, however, I have my own reasons for loving October.

1) So. Many. Feast Days!

St. Therese of Lisieux, the Feast of the Guardian Angels, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and the feast of St. Faustina all took place within the last few days. October also has the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and Fatima, St. Teresa of Avila, and Popes Saint John XXIII and John Paul II. And that’s just naming a handful of feasts! November may have All Saints Day, but so many famous saints have their feast days in October. It almost makes me wish that October was dedicated to the saints.

2) Halloween

Of all the holidays on the calendar, Halloween is still my favorite. Horror movies, nostalgic Halloween specials, costumes, and candy! What’s not to love? Oh yeah, the fact that a lot of Christians see Halloween as associated with the devil and the occult. I’ll be doing a post about the Dos and Don’ts of Halloween later this month. But for now, all I’ll say is that for me, Halloween is the day of revelry. I learned in college that there were days devoted to merry-making as a reminder to not take ourselves seriously. And for me, Halloween is that day. Not everyone can go to conventions, after all.

3) Rosary Month

October is also the month of the Rosary. I have been praying at least a decade every day since the month started. I still remember watching a children’s movie centering on Our Lady of Fatima and the children of Fatima. In all honesty, I still struggle with praying the Rosary. But praying a decade every day is a good start.

4) So. Many. Birthdays. 

Today is my dad’s birthday. I’ve been busy celebrating Dad’s big 6-0 all weekend. Some of my relatives from the East Coast came to visit. It was my aunt’s birthday as well. On my Mom’s side of the family, we’re going to be celebrating my grandmother’s big 99th. My grandfather on my mother’s side, God rest his soul, was also born in October.

5) TV Specials and Movies

Aside from the awesome Halloween Specials, many TV shows sometimes premiere in this month. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Supergirl for the first time. I’m also catching up on The Flash as best as I can. A lot of movies are also premiering this month. While I’m tentative about Goosebumps and Hotel Transylvania 2, Bridge of Spies and Steve Jobs are intriguing me. And btw, whatever you do, avoid Jem and the Holograms. It’s not gonna be worth the price of admission.

6) Special Drinks

While I avoid anything with the Pumpkin Spice label due to my allergies, the cooler weather allows me to enjoy some dairy free hot chocolate courtesy of Burnham and Mills Silly Cow Farms Hot Chocolate Drinks. I also make more tea during this time of year. My personal favorite is English Breakfast Tea.

7) Cooler Weather

After living in Texas for almost a decade, I have learned that there are just two seasons in my side of Texas: rainy season (starts around October thru February or March) and hot/humid (the rest of the year). It took me a while, but I eventually became what you call a pluviophile, a lover of rain. It’s a peaceful sound, especially during this time of year. Things are starting to cool down here. Mornings have become cool and eventually, things will be cool throughout the day. And while I sadly don’t get to watch the leaves changing color like I did as a kid, feeling a cool breeze in the morning has become my new favorite thing.

8) Baseball/Football

October is the time of the playoffs and world series for baseball. Currently, the Houston Astros are doing surprisingly well. They’re gonna face off against the Yankees tonight. I’ll be rooting for both teams, but I’m honestly hoping the Astros will get to go all the way. They were the first team I got to watch live, after all.

Football, of course, is also going on. It took me a while to actually like it. In all honesty, I love high school and college football as opposed to the professional stuff. And I still don’t understand fantasy football. But there is something about watching a local football game. There’s still a little bit of Miss School Spirit in me, after all.

9) Local Festivals and Plays

In Texas, there is a lot more than Oktoberfest going on. Back when I lived on-campus, there were a lot of festivals going on. Many parishes hold fall festivals around this time of year. My college hosted an Italian Festival and the Greek Orthodox school next door holds Greek Fests every year. My school’s drama department also premiers its fall play around this month. Last year, I got to see them do Romeo and Juliet. Check out your local university’s drama department to see what they’re showing. It’s always good to support local theatre.

10) My Buffyversary

It all started two years ago. I had an anxiety attack. My first one in months. I needed to watch something, anything, to take my mind off things. I opened my laptop, picked a show about a blonde girl with the power to fight vampires, and clicked “Play.” October was when I first watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I haven’t been the same since.

So, starting today, I’ll be posting a recap of my Top 10 Favorite Buffy Episodes. With rumors of a new Twilight book being released, it’s time that people learn what real vampires are really like.

So why should you check out my recaps and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Because it’s not really about the monsters or the magic. It’s about dealing with problems that come with growing up. It’s about the characters you love and love to hate and wish you were real. It’s about the emotional catharsis that this show gave to me and many others.

There will be fangirling and feels in the days ahead. You have been warned.