Category Archives: Step By Step


Photo Credit: Jenn Tylbon

Photo Credit: Jenn Tylbon

With wide swaths of Oklahoma in pieces, I feel weird. Relatively speaking, I was physically unaffected. I can safely say I’m getting real tired of that burn in your throat the develops as you choke back tears, so I’m not emotionally exempt but my house (apartment) still stands. Bryan’s old house, while slightly damaged and will likely need a new roof,  escaped the worst of it. Our mementos and things are safe and sound. Thousands of others across the state cannot say the same thing after two days of tornadoes swept across the landscape.

Tuesday,  Bryan and I inched back into Moore to retrieve the greater part of his earthly possessions. We had already decided to move him into my place this weekend. Mother Nature had different ideas. I’m choosing to believe that this is her way of saying “You two are GREAT together. Why wait?” Because that’s way better than thinking she’s a total bitch who got bored one Monday afternoon in May. We both took the day off and set out to begin a move a few days ahead of schedule.

We crept through crawling traffic and pedestrians hiking in to help, snaking around back ways to get into Bryan’s neighborhood. Police blockades and damp National Guardsmen (because screw fair, it rained again) denied access to the most heavily affected areas. We managed to the very edge of Bryan’s neighborhood (the half that still stood anyway) and an incredibly kind OK County Sheriff’s deputy decided to allow us to drive in when he was well within his rights to make us hoof it.

I couldn’t help but feel a tiny twang of survivor’s guilt as we pulled into his driveway. Power lines still littered the road and the house was dark and musty. The smell of unconditioned air smelled weird and though everything was exactly as it should have been and cloud-filtered sunlight poured in through the windows, it was still creepy, a disjointed experience that neither of us could explain. I shut down the emotional center of my brain as we dissembled furniture and wrapped valuables to keep them from breaking. I categorically ignored the knowledge that folks a mere four doors down were looking anything at all not already dissembled or broken.

After we tetris-ed the truck full of boxes and belongings, I felt what I imagine a refugee feels as they bundle up their goods and trundle down the road looking for higher ground and safer keeping. Only I wasn’t  refugee. I wasn’t fleeing anything. I was simply going ahead with plans already discussed, just a little earlier than initially thought and surrounded by something that, honestly, we’re accustomed to seeing. Of course when a storm takes out your home its a shock and I can’t begin to think I know what that feels like but I’ve seen the aftermath before. I’m as safe as I ever am, my family protected and all my things intact. I should feel lucky or blessed or privileged, and I do but it also feels weird. Like I should feel something else; I should feel worse or better or something other than perfectly normal because my life is still perfectly normal.

Perhaps its because this is the first major tornado in my area since the onset of adulthood. The previous tornado that had held any sort of impact on me or attacked people I actually knew, hit when I was 18 at best and I don’t really care what the law says, I wasn’t even close to being an adult then, though my 18-year-old self would have argued that point vehemently.  The one before that, the infamous May 3rd (Yes, we named it by its date. This one will be called “The May 20th.”), struck when I was in middle school.

Perhaps because it could have easily been me and my family and now that holds different implications.  Once you have kids everything changes, including, apparently, emotional reactions to weather events.

Perhaps it’s just because I’m mushier then I used to be.

Perhaps it’s all of the above.

There’s a few of my perhaps’. And they all feel weird.




I live in tornado alley. I was born and raised in Oklahoma and tornadoes have always been a part of my culture and life. I’ve crouched under mattresses and crammed my family into hallway cabinets; I’ve listened to the Doppler sirens drone on and on; I’ve looked up to the sky and saw it spinning. I’ve listened to the news and watched the power flashes.  I’ve rescued cats and searched for keepsakes. I’ve shoveled wreckage away and comforted the displaced. We all have. Because we’re Oklahomans.

We know when its coming. Most of us can accurately predict the storms we can do nothing about. The phrase feel it in our bones isn’t a colloquialism. We have become sensitized to the barometric pressure changes, to the little prickle at the back of your neck the sudden rise in humidity gives you. We’ve seen green skies and red skies and black skies and helped pick through the devastation of our neighbors’ homes. And sometimes our own. We know exactly what a freight train sounds like as it smashes through your residence. And we know the pain of stepping out onto the concrete pad our house once proudly stood. We all have stories of where we were and how close it was.

It has happened again in my home state. This particular storm struck closer than ever before, the flattened, tattered landscape a mere four doors away from my fiance’s residence. Still, though, I am not a refugee of nature like so many others. Our resiliency and ability to rely on each other is being called upon. Moore was ripped up by the roots and thrown back down for all of us to clean up. The familiar sites of insurance SUVs, National Guard HumVees and Red Cross relief trucks are offering a little comfort and a lot of hope. Helicopters zip across the sky and utility trucks are climbing over mountains of debris, scrambling to reset, restore and resume normalcy.

The stories range from heroic to heartbreaking. Turn on the news and see what pain, loss, fear, heart break, frustration & helplessness look like in flesh and blood. Then keep watching. Because when the camera pans away from the dirt-smeared face of a man who has no idea what to do next, you’ll see Oklahomans doing what Oklahomans do best; helping rebuild, helping move on.

The question constantly posed by those outside is “Why? Why would you live there if this is so common? Why not just move to some place safer?” Because we’re Oklahomans and this is our home. We are born of Native Americans and Oil Roughnecks and people hardened by the desolation of the Dust Bowl. Nature can have the houses.  Our home is not made by the buildings we construct and the things we amass. Our home is made by the people we love and that love us back. When our house is blown away we know our neighbors will bring it back, piece by piece if necessary. When tragedy strikes, total strangers arrive with shovels in hand and hugs at the ready.  That’s why this is home. That’s why this will always be home.

Pickles, Revisited


After a post on Facebook by a friend struggling with opening a pickle jar reminded me of this post, I decided to repost it. It was a good memory in a weird way. This was originally posted on 12-14-2010.)

I had a mild psychotic episode tonight.  Over a jar of pickles. Nothing is more frustrating than a jar of pickles.  No, really.  I love pickles. They are tasty, green and a decently healthy snack if you ignore the sodium.  I like things that are green. I hate the jar pickles come in. I can open juice bottles and beers and peanut butter jars and even those god-forsaken juice pouches you have to stab the little straw into.  But pickle jars annoy the hell out of me.

I mean really, the things are soaked in a brine that is more salt than liquid.  In a pinch it can be used as embalming fluid. You can leave a jar of pickles in the fridge for over a year and the damn things are still edible.  How fresh do they need to stay that the lids need to be clamped on quite so tightly?

I was actually doing fine with struggling against it. I had already used the knife-tapping trick and was about to bang the edge of the lid on the counter when the errant thought occurred to me.  A single errant thought that sent me into a rampage.

“Chris would be handy right-about now.” Chris being Christian, my ex-husband.

No sooner had the thought floated across my brain that I had a total melt-down and a small crisis of identity soon followed. If I couldn’t open a jar of pickles by myself, how then would I support my daughter? How could I expect myself to maintain a budget and keep my daughter out of trouble and repair the car? I had spent so long in the company of someone else that I was no longer sure how to function sans that presence, useless as it may have been. I was near tears, fully in the throes of pickle-induced panic; the salty, chartreuse waves of self-doubt that threatened to overcome logic.

But threaten is all they could do. After all I was an independent strong woman.  I am intuitive and ingenious and innovative and all those empowering “in-” words chronically single women employ to make themselves feel better. I have left my life of constant company and the mild comfort in that comes in not being physically alone, even if you are emotionally alone. I left in favor of freedom and overcame great obstacles like touching roach traps in my newly single life.  Little things like opening a pickle jar would not defeat me.

Thirty minutes later, some very distinct curse words I’d not yet had the chance to employ, and a hammer later I sat on my kitchen floor eating a pickle spear.  The southwest corner of my kitchen was dripping with pickle juice  and broken glass, but I had my pickle spear, no husband needed to retrieve.  It’s a small victory.  But an important one.


Wow, over two years since a moment with pickles. Lots has changed. I’m happy to report I’ve done fine with the bill-paying and child-rearing.  My life has moved forward in monumental ways. For instance, after learning how to live independently and enjoy my own identity, I’m learning how to do that with another human. But I’m pretty sure I’ll never ask him to open a jar of pickles…