Day 7: waiting


I am writing for the Two Writing Teachers March Challenge.

I have been waiting.  And waiting.  AND WAITING.  It took us forever to find the house we wanted to turn into a home.  Few knew we were even looking.  We would venture out under the guise of going to Great Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the football game.  We did do that.  But we would just stop at one to five houses for sale along the way.

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Three Years…and counting

Today marks two years since I started this blog with the post linked HERE.  I wrote that blog as a reflection of the time since my house flooded…documented HERE.  I’ve been MIA for the last twelve plus months.  Click HERE, HEREHEREHERE, and HERE if you want to see why.  Life is busy.  I know this.  You know this.  Your house floods.  Your mom dies.  You have a baby.  Somehow, the world keeps spinning.  But some things don’t change.

THREE years ago today, my home flooded.  We lost everything.  It was an epic Noah’s Arc type flood that destroyed our lives and set us on a path we never could have expected.  Three years later, we are still at a standstill.  The governmental help that was promised has yet to be executed.  WHAT?  How can that be?  I’m still unsure.  We were promised a buy out.  We have been shifted list-to-list between the Village and the County.  No one is in any hurry except those of us who are homeless.  What can you do but wait?

Well, you can plan for the future that WILL come.  Come hell or high water (pun intended), we will come out the other side.  We have purchased a new home for those wondering.  It needs a WHOLE LOTTA LOVE.  I want to start documenting the process of renovating our new home here on this blog.  When it is complete, it will be a reveal worthy of any HGTV show.

We are proud that through all of this, we have kept our heads above water with the generosity of family and friends.  We are moving forward while the little Lisle house stands still.  Stay tuned for pictures and updates as we move long on our new journey.

Memory Monday: Taking Comfort

It’s been along time since I wrote for Memory Monday.  Of course, being Tuesday, I am still a bit late.

There are just those things I find most comforting.  I’m sure it is the same for everyone.  Some of my favorites include

  • the delicious scent of a pot of soup on the stovetop on a cool afternoon
  • cozy PJs in a bed with clean sheets–bonus if it was made by Marcella the super cleaning lady
  • the buttery decadence of family recipe known as Susie’s Favorite
  • and thunderstorms…

Well, it used to be thunderstorms.  As you can imagine, I lost my love of thunderstorms shortly after the flood.  I slept so soundly the night that the house flooded that I often wonder if I had woken earlier would anything have been different?  You cannot live with the shoulda, coulda, woulda‘s.  It’ll drive you batty.  Since the flood, I have been less than comforted by raindrops against my windows.  A storm now brings anxiety and stress…

…that is, until last night.  For some reason, snuggled up with the hubby, I was once again comforted by the sounds of the rain.  Maybe it was because I was just that exhausted.  Maybe it was because I finally have put it all behind me.  Who knows.  But when we went to bed at 8:00 last night…yes–8:00…I drifted off into a peaceful sleep waking only to lulled back again by nature’s lullaby.  I would like to imagine I had a lazy little smile on my face but that would be silly.  I was probably mouth breathing and drooling a bit.  Regardless, last night, I was comforted once again.

This weekend I indulged in another comfort, the infamous Susie’s Favorite.  I am sure that it was designed to feed a lot of hungry mouths for not a lot of money.  Most people are a little boggled by this bizarre family pasta that brings me back to the house on Ridgeway with the tiny kitchen.  I remember having it most often on Friday’s during lent or Saturday afternoons at Grandma’s house.  It could be made without milk–which I am sure we were always out of with 6 kids gulping it down at every meal.  I would guess that it has more bang for your buck over a few boxes of mac and cheese.  Nevertheless, it is the taste of my childhood.  Having introduced some childhood and college friends to this yummy dish, I am sure we were the craziest family out there to pass this off as some sort of normal meal.  I put it up there with those tomatoes with bread: an acquired taste that just reminds you of home.  Although I never asked {damn}, I am sure that the one-pot-wonder was named after my Aunt Sue.  I imagine that us 6 McKenna kids turned our noses up at this orange colored, mac and cheese wannabe.  Then I am guessing that my mom called it Aunt Susie’s Favorite.  Who could argue with that review?

Susie’s Favorite

1-8 oz. box of small pasta (my mom always used elbows while grandma’s house usually had shells–I like the shells better but will settle for whatever is in the pantry)
1 can tomato soup
1/2 stick butter or margarine

Make the noodles according the the directions on the box.
Drain and return to the pot.
Add the can of tomato soup and the butter–NO WATER…trust me!
Stir until the butter is melted and serve immediately.


The beautiful daffodils that bloomed just days after the flood.

The beautiful daffodils that bloomed just days after the flood.

After the terrible flood that changed the course of my life and marriage, I never thought I would see the rainbow.  We spent days along with family and friends shoveling out our home.  Each visit back to the house brought heartache, anger, and anxiety.  Nothing was the same.  Nothing would ever be the same.


A few visits into the disaster, I was trying to clean up the trash in the backyard.  You wouldn’t believe what can travel by water:  semi truck tires, garbage cans, coolers, trash, logs, parts of decks…the list is endless.  I wandered over the the tiered garden I had so many big plans for that spring.  Then I saw it.


Amidst all the flood debris was the sign we had been needing:  beautiful yellow daffodils.  I do not remember them ever being there in the 4 years I had known my husband and that house.  This was the sign that it may take some time but everything would be OK.





I am participating in FIVE MINUTE FRIDAY.  Today’s word is:  bloom

The rules are simple. Write for five minutes flat. There is no extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation. It is unscripted. Unedited. Real.


What is a year?

365 days.

8,760 hours.

525,600 minutes.

The blink of an eye.

An eternity.


April 18, 2013 to April 18, 2014 would be all of the above.  When I think about the single incident that began at minute ZERO, I can HEAR forgotten items in our basement floating into the walls.  I can SEE the water rising higher and higher until it completely swallows the garage.  I can FEEL the bitterly cold rainwater as I take the first steps into the waist-deep unknown.  I can TASTE the glorious cup of hot coffee offered by a kind stranger at her kitchen table.  I can SMELL the rancid aftermath of the receded water.  It was yesterday.  It was a year ago.  It was a lifetime ago.  That incident changed the course of my life forever.  It took me until minute 404,413 to understand WHY.


At minute ZERO, 5:30am on April 18, 2013, I saw my life as a new bride start to slip away.  Our first home was engulfed in 10-12 feet of water; taking with it our hopes to raise a family in that little ranch house with the big backyard.  With both of our cars submerged, we showed up at my husband’s grandparents’ house in our rental with just the clothes on our backs.  Later that month, as our hopes were dashed for a quick recovery, we made the tough decision to move to my parents’ home full-time until we could get back on our feet.  We grieved our loss in the clinical way:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  I would get stuck in a stage and put all my efforts into REALLY clawing my way out.  Anger stands out the most to me.    I researched and gathered along with other flood survivors.  Let me say that again…survivors.  We are not victims.  We have shared tears and laughter, stories and information.  They are the little Lisle family that could…and will.  I attended meetings and got very involved in my local government.  The Mayor seemed to cringe every time he saw my hand raise at a Board Meeting…oh, that lady I could see him thinking.  There were a few outbursts and rude comments exchanged, by both myself and a few of the Lisle officials.  I tried to keep my cool…but I was stuck in anger for a long time


Minute 26,065 was a bad minute.  I had been driving a friend’s car since I was still without.




My husband was worried for me.  I was doing too much.  I was stressed to the max and completely exhausted.  The car was bad…not totaled but not so great.  I was no worse for wear.


Minute 72,150 saw my husband and I boarding the plane for the honeymoon we had booked just a week before the flood.  A quick flight, a night in a sweet little hotel, and a couple car rides later with my new friend, Mohammad, and we were embarking on our Alaskan cruise.  Things were looking up for us.  We had been upgraded to a beautiful cabin with a balcony.  We got the best little cabin ninja there ever was…I swear he watched to see us leave to get coffee just so he could make our bed in those 5 minutes.  The weather was unseasonably beautiful….clear, bright, and warm.  We loved every minute of that honeymoon…until minute 83,670.  That was when we got the calls and text messages that our Discover Card had been compromised while we were enjoying everything the Alaskan wilderness had to offer.  No, as a matter of fact, we didn’t charge thousands of dollars to Gymboree or TicketMaster.  No, we had never heard of some obscure store shipping items to an unknown address.  That was not a good minute.


Most of the rest of the summer and early fall had a lot of good minutes.  The back-to-back-to-back weddings of three MacMurray gal pals fell  between minutes 195,090 & 245,550.  Those were happy minutes filled with love, laughter, friends, dancing…and lots of cocktails!


Then, in mid fall, minute 284,135 stopped me in my tracks.  My mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer.   She told me on November 1, 2013 at 1:05pm.  It was early…very early…stage 1 to be exact.  They could do a lumpectomy and she would be fine—no chemo and no radiation necessary.  It was a relief.  Surgery was scheduled and was uneventful.  However, the outcome was not what we expected.  A double mastectomy was necessary to clear her body of cancer.  Pain and confusion ensued.  We were told they got it all and were thrilled to FINALLY get some good news.  Recovery was grueling for Mom and for the rest of us as no one could take seeing her in pain.  We become very friendly with the visiting nurses.  One of those nurses noticed an increased shortness of breath and we were sent to the doctor–then onward to the hospital.  A pulmonary embolism seemed to have formed.  We were very thankful to the visiting nurse who caught the problem.  Mom was checked into the hospital and things should be okay with some meds.


Minute 401,940 and the following hours saw my husband having to bury the grandmother who left behind memories of playing basketball scrimmages and baseball games on Saturday afternoons.  During those minutes, a phone call left me stunned.  Mom had a stroke but seemed stable for now.  I finished the funeral luncheon with a pale face and shaky hands.  How can I make my husband leave his grieving family?  When would enough-be-enough?  We stayed until everyone important had left and arrived at the hospital shortly before Mom was moved to the ICU.  The stroke wasn’t as minor as we originally thought and the doctors felt closer monitoring was needed.


It was minute 401,700 that I will never be able to get out of my head.  She looked at me and simply said, “Am I going to die?”  I told her NO!! and that the doctors were working very hard to make a plan to help her get better.  She said she didn’t understand then lost consciousness.  I screamed in my head:  NO!!  NO!!  NO!!  Don’t make me into a liar.  This is NOT her time.  I need her. 


It was no more than 120,278 minutes since she had been diagnosed with breast cancer…

Just 4648 minutes after being checked back into the hospital…

A mere 3 days

…and in just one moment she was gone.


Until minute 404,413, I didn’t understand why God would destroy my home just as I was starting a life with my husband.  It was so we could spend so many of these 404,413 minutes with Mom before HE called her home because she was needed somewhere else.


My husband got to REALLY get to know my mom in those 404,413 minutes.  They had so much more in common than I could ever have imagined.  Those two could watch science fiction shows like nobody’s business.  And my husband FINALLY found someone to watch those horror movies with since I couldn’t stomach them.  They shared love-hate relationship with the dogs.  They laughed together and formed an accelerated relationship full of memories that will have to last my husband a lifetime.  I learned that she had a little something tucked away for my brothers for when they finally marry.  I got to see my mom at her bravest every day.  I saw her make arrangements for her surgeries without fear and whole-heartedly believe she just knew something was happening that was out of her control.  She packed away the personalized Christmas ornaments in an unusual but highly visible place this year.  She talked to me about her regrets and wishes.  She made sure I knew how to make all the family recipes we love so much—those passed down from her own mother.  Mom took the time with an old friend to tell him exactly how she wanted to be remembered.  She made sure to have a couple of last laughs with her best girl friend.  She framed each of my wedding photos with care and let us know where she planned to hang them.  She had pretend tea parties and surprise parties and conversations with those people she couldn’t quite reach.  She spoke of HER mom and dad, sharing memories I had long forgotten.


Those 404,413 minutes were a gift.  I said it…what I haven’t said out loud even yet.  I am saying it now:  my house flooding was a blessing.


And now, on these days when I come home and expect her head peek up from over the couch, I am surrounded by memories of a life fully lived.  I spend my Monday afternoons as I did all the Mondays I was fortunate enough to live with my mom:  with the women of my past in the kitchen…where so many memories were made.  Monday afternoons were our special time together.  I carry on traditions and talk to them about my days while reading a recipe book spattered from a previous life.  I share my thoughts and fears and accomplishments over a soup pot and cutting board.  I bask in the memories of the ladies of the kitchen and am proud I am one of THEM.  If this year taught me anything, it is that now is the time to live in the moment.  Every minute counts both in the kitchen and in life.