Is There Such A Thing As A Perfect Day?

I think in this crazy world we live in, it is hard enough to be able to truly enjoy the great experiences we have. It is even more rare to know, in that great experience, that we are experiencing something special. My family and I had one of those days over the weekend.

There were no cries of boredom. There were no outbursts. In addition we spent almost no money and watched no screens. But we spent most of the day together and it was lovely.

My wife had to work in the morning and Lucas had his NYSSMA evaluation (Dorit had her’s the night before). The both did great, thankfully, and with NYSSMA behind us and the horrible New York standardized tests, I think we all felt a sense of relief that was as palpable as the warm weather we had that day as well.

We played catch outside for a little, they skated on their ripstiks, and we played some more. Then they started drawing with chalk on the driveway (making a beautiful drawing of a woman with long flowing hair). I pulled up a chair and sat and talked with them while they drew and I knew already it was a special day.

“I’m having such a great day with you guys. I love you.” I’m mushy like that if you didn’t already know.

And the look they gave me is one of the greatest feelings I have as a dad. They looked at me like they felt the same way and it meant the world to them that I also felt this way, that being with them could make me feel good. That look is always a strong reminder of the power we have as parents; they don’t realize the impact and effect they have on us but when they do they feel better and empowered. I think it gives them a better sense of value, that they have an effect on us.

Shortly thereafter my wife came home and I handed her the baton so I could go for a bike ride. When I left they were hanging out in the front yard, basking in the day.

When I returned almost two hours later, it looked as if they hadn’t moved. They were playing Scrabble and had done some more drawing and had a little picnic of fruits and cheese under our cherry blossom trees.

The only negative thing about the day was Gem was not feeling well, so she handed the baton back to me and I took the kids to Rita’s for some delicious water ice and we sat and ate and talked, the three of us catching up together. In the car we were listening to Macklemore and Neon Cathedral came on and they wanted to know what the song meant. I tried to explain to them what would make a man want to drink, how life can sometimes be very hard and have a terrible effect on people.

“Do you understand how he feels, Daddy?” one of them asked me.

“I do and I hope you never truly understand this song. Because that would mean you grew up better than I did and that’s what I want for you.”

We continued talking about the song, them asking questions and me answering them the best I could. My kids and I really connect over music and the meaning of songs sometimes brings up great topics for us to discuss, things I might not have thought or would not know how to bring up without music as inspiration.

On the way back, we stopped off at the supermarket, because I had the idea we could make a fire in our fire pit and roast hot dogs and make s’mores. Normally, our kids are not happy or helpful at the supermarket, but that day they were awesome, each holding a basket, grabbing the stuff we needed and carrying them no matter how heavy they got (maybe we should always go to Rita’s before the supermarket?).

Back at home, Gem was feeling a bit better and she joined us at the fire and we had hot dogs and corn and s’mores and marshmallows and listened to more Macklemore and the warmth of the fire could not match the warmth of our love that night.

I love my family and my family loves me. But when we all feel that love for each other together, in everything we do, in everything we say, knowing this time together is the most special of all that we do, there is no better feeling on this planet.

There may not be such a thing as a perfect day, but to me, that was about as close to perfection as I could ever want in my life.

It’s Possible My Kids Are Addictive

Relationships are tricky. I have spent more than half of my life with my wife and yet we still have things to learn from each other. It comes down to the fact that even though we experience very similar things in our shared lives, we come at them from a different perspective, making each shared experience also a unique one. I recently realized the best example of that while she was away in London.

Gem went on a trip with her best friend to London for a wedding. Not surprisingly, she had a great time (frankly, she could have a great time at anytime and anywhere). But what was wonderful, was the kids and I also had a great time. In fact, the night before she came home, three of us were feeling sad–not because she was coming home, of course, but because we were going to miss this time together. Gem is usually the one who takes them to school and picks them up. I almost never get to do that and I really enjoyed it…and already miss it.

One of the amazing things about Gem is her ability to feel and express her emotions so genuinely. When the kids sleep over somewhere, she misses them. Sometimes if she doesn’t see them after school, she misses them. In fact, she has this way of saying “I miss them” that I can’t do justice in the written form, but trust me, is quite adorable. She places enormous emphasis on “MISS” and it really sounds like she is longing for them.

“I MISS them!”

But to be honest I never understood how she could miss them. She spends more time with them than I do. I have to leave them every day and I didn’t MISS them like that. Yes, I love my children and I miss them when I go to work, but I don’t “MISS them” I don’t think. Maybe I do and I have to put that away or I would never get through the day…that is certainly possible. But I don’t really remember feeling the way she seems to when she is MISSing them.

She had left on a Thursday night and we had an event that night and then I took them to school on Friday morning and picked them up in the afternoon. We spent all day Saturday and most of Sunday just the three of us. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights we cuddled on the couch and watched movies together. I took them to school on Monday and picked them up again as well.

On Tuesday, my work had our Annual Meeting and I had to be there. I took them to school, but then went to work and their grandfather picked them up and then took them out to Friendly’s as he does every week. Since I had been out of the office for a couple of days, had come in late and needed to get to the meeting site early in the afternoon, my day was packed and it moved very quickly. By the time the meeting ended, I couldn’t believe how fast the day went.

Then it hit me.

I really missed my kids.

Excuse me, I mean, I MISSed my kids!

I rushed to catch the earliest train I could. Now, normally I am very respectful of my father-in-law’s special time with his grandchildren and almost never intrude on his special trip to Friendly’s. But on that afternoon, MISSing my kids the way I did, I texted and asked him if I could meet them for dinner.

It was on the train when I realized this is how Gem feels when she says “I MISS them.” I had just spent four days with my kids as the only parent and instead of thankful for the chance to get away, I MISSed them.

When Gem came back home this was one of the first things I told her and I think she really appreciated being understood. We have been parents for an equal amount of time, parenting in the same house with the same kids, but this experience had been different for us and now after ten years, we truly understood each other on this issue. I think it helped us be just a little bit closer.

It also made me wonder if our kids have some substance inherent to them that makes them addictive, because the more we spend time with them, the more we want to spend time with them.

What’s that line from the Supremes song? “If there’s a cure for this, I don’t want it.”

I’m happy just the way we are.

To The Next Dimension – Happy Mother’s Day!

Have you ever felt loved? I mean, truly felt it like a cozy jacket you slip into on a crisp Fall afternoon, surrounding yourself in that feeling as the warmth it provides flows through your whole body? I felt that this morning. It was so palpable, I looked up and thanked God for being able to experience the moment, it was that powerful. I actually put my hands out to my sides awed by how strong my feeling was and thought “This is why we are alive. This is what it is all about.”

Love.

I think most people grew up feeling loved on some level and have no idea what I am talking about, have never really not experienced being loved and thus think the feeling is normal. They are immensely lucky and I hope they know that.

I also think there are people who never felt loved growing up and have no idea there is an entirely other dimension to this life. When you don’t know a feeling exists, it is terribly hard to imagine that feeling is out there. How can you imagine something you have never felt?

I fall into this second category. I grew up never feeling loved and not knowing the difference…until I met Gem, the woman I am lucky to be spending my life with, the woman who has added a new dimension to my life that only gets more profound the longer we are together.

I didn’t know love felt like this. I couldn’t imagine loving a woman like this. I couldn’t imagine loving our children like this. I certainly couldn’t imagine a woman could love me like this. Could not remotely imagine the purity of love our children express to us every day. I never knew this dimension to life existed, like I had been looking at the world in only shades of gray, but Gem bought me a retinal display iPad to view the world.

The world now exists in brilliant hues, colors so bright and beautiful that I wonder how I never saw them before. In college, Gem would exude excitement when she saw the Spring green of the trees come back after a long winter. I could tell it was pretty, but didn’t experience it, didn’t understand.  Now I feel the joy beauty brings me, experiencing the world on that other dimension she has always been a part of.

Stepping into this new dimension of life has clarified what it was I never had growing up.  It is so hard to grow up as a child when you don’t feel loved. It is so hard to build confidence, to believe in yourself, to feel safe, to feel anything good quite frankly, when love is absent.

That is why I have always hated Mother’s Day.

My mother was a pretty terrible mother and Mother’s Day is one of the hardest days of the year for me. I used to joke that it was really my National Day of Mourning. On top of all she did/didn’t do when I was a child, my mother doesn’t speak to me anymore, hasn’t for decades, and that still hurts every day; she is alive, having chosen to live her life without me. The way mothers are revered in our society only serves to remind me what I never had, like when you scrape a scab that was just starting to finally heal. I have spent literally a lifetime trying to recover from what my mother did and have often wished Mother’s Day didn’t exist.

But Gem deserves her own day, celebrating how amazing she is as a mother, how she embodies true love, how she helped me to be able to love and feel love, and how we created our wonderful family together. She is, quite ironically, everything good about Moms. She has renewed my faith in the entire concept.

Lucas, Dorit, and I are so lucky to have her in our lives, to be experiencing this other dimension of life. While I grew up in the second category, not knowing love, our children will grow up in the first, where love is embedded into their lives, intertwined into how they experience life, filling their souls that will hopefully last them a lifetime.

As parents, isn’t that the most we could ask for?

Thanks for taking us to the next dimension, Sweetie. Happy Mother’s Day!

Saving A Sparrow is Great For Several Reasons

Lucas and I were alone recently and we were standing by the door when all of a sudden he said, “Remember when we saved that bird?”

“I do.”

“That was pretty cool.”

“It really was, wasn’t it?”

Let me start by saying it always feels good when one of my kids remembers something we did together fondly. It is also interesting to see how they interpret events we shared together.

A couple of years ago, Gem and Dorit had gone out and again Lucas and I were spending quality time together (Daddy/Son time as we call it) one weekend morning. It was a cold, wintry day and when I looked out after my wife and daughter had left, I saw something on the ground on our porch. I went out to inspect it more closely and realized it was a sparrow.

It looked almost frozen, like it hadn’t found a warm place to sleep through the night and had become so completely chilled, it no longer was able to move.

For several minutes, Lucas and I watched it through the door, but after a while I knew something was really wrong and I went outside, lifted the bird gently into a basket full of blankets.

Lucas and I watched some more, but even after more time, our little sparrow was not moving or making any progress. That was when I brought it inside.

I placed it on the stairs, inside the basket, cuddled up in the blankets. Somehow Lucas and I got distracted by something else and by the time we returned our little sparrow was feeling much better. Well, maybe it was feeling too good.

It was perched on the basket and as I approached it, instead of thanking us for our efforts to save it, our little sparrow flew upstairs and I started to see how terribly wrong this all could go. Yeah, let’s bring this sickly little bird into our home where it can fly all over the place, wreaking havoc. It’s possible, in hindsight, that I could’ve thought it all through a tad more before I brought the bird inside.

Lucas and I ran after it upstairs and it went into the kids’ room and perched itself atop the curtains. Honestly, the thing I was most worried about was it pooping all over their room and how the heck I was going to explain that to Gem when she got home. Hi Sweetie, we saved a sickly little bird today (and got poop all over the kids’ room, by the way).

Thankfully, that didn’t happen, our recovering bird probably hadn’t eaten in a long time and spared us that…ummm…experience.

But even so, it was quite frustrating trying to shoo the bird back downstairs without hurting it or scaring it too badly since we knew it must be still pretty fragile.

Finally, we were able to get it back into the basket and take the basket outside and let our little patient fly away. When it did, Lucas and I shared a look, impressed with ourselves that we had actually saved a bird that day. What a great feeling!

Because of the way I am, I remember wondering a day or two later, when I didn’t see any dead sparrows on our property, if our little sparrow had made it. Looking back now, that is often what I feel like about parenting. We do so much for our kids, but we just don’t know how this is all going to play out. Sometimes that is quite challenging for me. I would hate to wake up in ten years and find out I’ve actually been doing something that really screwed up my kids when I didn’t mean to in any way, shape or form.

But it is moments like these, when one of my children remind me of a special experience we shared together and I can see a little of the impact I have had on their lives. It is a pretty nice feeling, the memory of our time together and the realization of what it means.

The Standardized Tests Challenged Us As Parents

Today is the day! A day we’ve worked so hard to get to, a day that appeared in the distance for real around January. We’ve been working with our kids on this for a few months, talking to them, helping them, talking with others about better ways to support them. It has been an exhausting and trying process, but it is finally here.

The New York State standardized tests.

The most stupid, obnoxious and utterly useless tests I could possibly imagine. The kind of tests that makes me question what kind of people actually oversee the education departments in this state and country. Do they even care about kids?

Oh for a second there you thought I was talking about tutoring my kids for this test? Heck, no! I’ve been talking about helping my children deal with the stress of these tests on them (and their classmates and teachers). Starting around January our children started getting stressed and worried and anxious about these damn tests. In January! The test is here and it is the middle of April.

Why would our kids worry so much? Because they are extremely attuned to the feelings of the people around them and they can feel how important this test is to the principal and the teachers. They can feel and absorb the stress of their friends and classmates, some of whose parents believe these tests are difference makers and their kids must do well, must achieve.

Whatever happened to being a child? Whatever happened to teaching so our kids will learn, not teaching so they can take a test that doesn’t affect their grade?

Therein lies the really interesting part for us. My wife and I argued about this, but not the kind where the gloves came off. The kind of argument where you believe what you believe is right, but you can totally see where the other one is coming from.

We both felt that this was one of those moments in parenting where we were certain this is one of the big decisions we make. What would happen if we screw this up? How would it affect them down the road? We both could see if we didn’t do something, it could turn out badly for them, but we could also see if we did do something, it could also turn out badly. Both options left us worrying about dire and/or unintended consequences. We can’t look forward into the future to see how it plays out one way or the other, but we have to make the decision now.

Do we opt our kids out of these stupid tests or do we let them take them?

One side argued; What if we let them opt out and they believe they are quitters, not believing they can handle these types of situations in the future?

The other side responded; What if we let them take the test and the stress makes them sick, hurting them?

In response; What if taking the test gives them a sense of accomplishment, that even though this was challenging they still did it?

In return; What about the fact that they are 10 years old and shouldn’t have to deal with this level of stress yet?

Is there really a right argument here? Was one of us really wrong? I don’t think either of us believed the other was wrong, just that we were right. Fortunately, our discussions never got too heated and in the end we compromised: we told them they could decide whether to take the test or not.

Maybe we punted, on reflection. Maybe we didn’t make the tough decision, but left them to deal with the weight of all of this. I don’t know. But what I do know is that after some serious deliberation, they both decided to take the test. Maybe they took the test in part because despite telling them for the past couple of years we don’t care about this test, by giving them the option to opt out we finally proved to them we really don’t. Maybe that lifted enough weight off. I’m not sure we will ever know.

I leave for work today feeling so proud of my children, that they were doing something that was hard and challenging. I hope they walk out of this having faced their fears and realized that their fears are much scarier than school, life.

In the end, the only thing of value my kids can learn from these stupid tests is who they are and what they can do will never be evaluated by a standardized test.

They Need Me Differently Now

We came home from the City a little late one night last week and our kids were exhausted. For some reason, my son doesn’t want to sleep in the car, can’t seem to let himself slip into slumber. But my daughter, Dorit, when she is ready to fall asleep can do so anywhere, at anytime. That night she fell asleep and snored most of the way home.

Gem and I talked about our day and evening, enjoying the time we had in the City with our family, knowing this felt like one of those days we’ll remember for a long time. Days like that are so special, knowing something so joyful had happened that we will talk about it for some time to come. “Remember when…?”

When we arrived home, I went to help Dorit out of the car, but she woke up and ended up walking to the house.

And my heart sank a little bit.

It’s funny how you can not think of something, but then something happens and you realize it has been percolating in your brain for a long time. I love my children and I love being a Daddy. I love my family and the life Gem and I have created and built together. It is far and away the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. I can’t imagine who I would be if I wasn’t part of this experience.

But my children are ten years old and they are growing up, becoming bigger, more independent. I clearly remember coming home from car trips and even though Dorit might have been sleeping in the car on Gem’s side, I would run over because I wanted to be the one to carry her into the house, to carry her into her bedroom. I wanted to be that Daddy and it felt good, being there for her in that way.

I remember when we were trying to help her sleep through the night without a diaper. I would wake her up before I went to sleep, walk her to the bathroom, and then carry her back to her room and gently place her back in her bed, almost as if she had never left it. I remember the way her body would mold to mine, holding me with her whole body, melting into me and feeling that was one of the most spectacular feelings in the history of the universe. If someone had told me being a Daddy felt like that, I would never have been so scared about becoming one.

A couple of days ago, we were once again out a little late and Dorit was exhausted, so exhausted she didn’t even want to leave. I said if we got into the car to go home I would carry her into the house if she wanted (do you see what a selfless Daddy I am?). She nodded her sleepy head and we got into the car.

When we got home, I helped her out of the seatbelt, vowing to savor every moment and I lifted her up and remembered that my little girl is ten years old and I might need to work out more than I do. I can remember when both of my kids could be in my arms on my chest at the same time. Now it is a lot harder to carry my Sweetie Girl out of the car. There was no way I was going to be able to carry her upstairs (unless I threw her over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes). I felt heavy, like I had lost something I could never get back.

But when I put her down she didn’t look disappointed. She didn’t look like I had let her down because I can no longer so easily lift her up. She looked at me, like I’m her Daddy and I always will be. That night we sat at her bed and talked about some of the things that have been worrying her. I listened and I gave her some things to think about and even made her smile. We hugged, that delicious feeling of arms wrapping around me and some comment about the level of scruffiness on my face.

And always I love you.

“I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you, too, Sweetie Girl.”

As I closed her door that night I realized the rest of what has been percolating in my brain lately. She may no longer need me to carry her from the car and into bed, but she still needs me. My children still need me. Even though they are getting older and more independent, they still need me to care for them, to love them, to support them, to guide them through this crazy experience we call life.

Yes, they don’t need me like they used to, but they still need me, still need their Daddy.

The way they need me is very different now, but still pretty darn wonderful.

Building A Better Balance

Can I tell you a little secret? I’ve always wanted to be a stay at home Dad (I know, that’s not the secret). But I didn’t really believe I could do it. Yes, I believe men can be stay at home dads and I’m jealous of all of them. I just didn’t think I could hack it, getting our kids up in the morning, getting them ready, making lunch, dropping them off and then picking them up, helping with homework, taking them to activities, getting dinner ready, getting them ready for bed…I always worried that I wouldn’t have the patience for it, like my wife does. I was afraid I would get frustrated when they were too slow or weren’t doing something right, get frustrated and not be able to recover, spending my time with them frustrated and angry.

My wife was recently away on business for a couple of days and it was another chance to really find out what I could actually do, whether or not I could really do it or not, face my own fear.

Fortunately, it went really well and I truly loved the extra time with them.

Unfortunately, it went really well and I truly loved the extra time with them.

I was putting my son to bed last night and he asked if I liked my time being home with them.

“I loved it, Sweetie Boy.”

“Why don’t you quit your job and stay home with us?” he asked with his beautiful face looking up at me.

There’s the dream, right there. My kids are getting older so fast and I know the time they would want to be with me is quickly evaporating and I’ve worked away from home the entire time, missing the opportunity to drop them off and pick them up from school, help with homework, hear what the music teacher has to say, etc.

The fact is I’m not one of those guys whose identity is wrapped up in his job. My identity is actually wrapped up in my family, the best part of my life is my wife and children, and the best me is often when I am with them. I know what I do at work doesn’t really matter in the long run (and maybe even in the short run), but my relationship and involvement with my children hopefully is making a big difference in their present and future, building self esteem and a strong foundation that I didn’t have growing up, that will last them a lifetime.

I think what this really raises for me is creating an even better balance between work and family. I already take every day off from work that they have from school and usually take off when they are sick and have snow days. And I certainly need this job in order to be able to pay our bills, etc. But maybe I need to take more unscheduled time off. Maybe I need to call in sick more so I can take my kids to school once a month and pick them up and help with homework.

The challenge is I feel such pressure to keep my job and be a “good employee.” But the reality is I have never regretted taking time off to be with my family and I need to try and do that more often, before they are too old to be happy I am around.

Happy Valentine’s Day to My Son!

I went card shopping for Valentine’s Day last night. I found a beautiful card for my Sweetie, who I have loved for more than 20 years. I found a beautiful card for my Sweetie Girl, who I have loved for over 10 years. But you know what I found out?

They don’t really make loving cards for boys.

I am lucky enough to have a Sweetie Girl and a Sweetie Boy (they are twins). I love them both very much, but also very differently. My son is so much like me in so many ways. He is sweet, intelligent, incredibly sensitive to other people and very perceptive. He is utterly unafraid of affection and I don’t think he even knows there is an issue for many men about hugging and kissing. We hug every morning before I go to work and when I get home and when he goes to bed and any other time we can squeeze a hug and kiss in. We are not shy in my family about showing our love. In fact, if you come over, be prepared. We love and are pretty out in the open about it.

The card for my Sweetie Girl includes an emphasis on no matter what she does or how I feel or what my day is like, I love her no matter what. Sure, it had pink and purple and maybe even some flowers, but frankly, she won’t care that much about that. She needs reminders that our love for her is always present, no matter what she does or how angry we get with her.

Is it not cool to say that to a son?

Truth be told, I don’t think he worries about the unconditionality of our love the way she does (she got that from me), but I would’ve loved to give him a card that said something very similar (without the words “To My Daughter” on it). But all I could find were funny cards, joking about love and cards with superheroes on them.

I spend a lot of time in the world of fatherhood, with people who believe like I do, that fathers are extremely important to their children and that all dads have so much to offer their children just by being present. I try to help moms and dads make sure dads can be involved and get comfortable enough to be involved. I read dozens of articles about parenting and fatherhood every week.

Last night reminded me we still have a long way to go. The fact that we still think as a culture that it is not acceptable to show love and affection to our sons the way we can with our daughters means more boys will grow into men uncomfortable with giving and receiving love and affection.

But not my boy. I love my boy and he loves me and I hope the whole world knows.

Maybe Our Weekends Are Too Good?

As I was getting ready for woke this morning, my son, now 10, came to me and was upset about not wanting to go to school. Normally, Lucas loves school so it caught me off guard a bit.

“Why don’t you want to go to school?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” was his reply.

“Is it your teacher?”

“No.”

“Are kids at school giving you a hard time?” Always my biggest fear when it comes to why he wouldn’t want to go to school.

“No.”

“Is it the Jewish Exponent?” I got a little smile from that one. He is starting to learn exponents in Math and I keep thinking about the Jewish Exponent, which was a weekly Jewish newspaper we received when I was a kid.

“No.”

Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with school?

“I just want to stay home with you guys.”

And that’s when it hit me.

It’s not that he doesn’t want to go to school; it’s that he doesn’t want our special weekends to end.

I know exactly how he feels.

This past Friday we had an absolutely lovely Shabbat dinner at our Rabbi’s house. On Saturday we had a nice day and we went out to dinner at California Pizza Kitchen and then had fun shopping at Five Below (which is not, contrary to what I had always thought, a cold weather clothing store, but actually a store where everything costs five dollars or less). On Sunday we delivered water and cleaning supplies to homes and families most affected by Hurricane Sandy on Long Island.

I explained to Lucas that when I was a little younger, before we had kids, I knew it was important for our family to spend time together, but I didn’t understand how wonderful it would feel, being surrounded by love, being with the people I most want to be with. There is no one else I’d rather be with than my wife, Lucas and his twin sister, Dorit.

Growing up, it was not like this in my family. I never particularly felt they liked me all that much and I certainly wouldn’t choose to spend time with them.

But our family feels so different.

“I think you still really like school, Lucas. I think what we need to do is have crappier weekends and that will make it easier to go back to school or work on Monday. And it starts with no Thanksgiving for you!” And we both laughed.

“But seriously, maybe what we need to do is figure out how to carry the joy of our weekends with us through the rest of the week.”

We talked a little bit more and he seemed to feel better.

As I sit here and write this, I think back to myself as a little boy, more miserable than words can accurately depict. It is not possible to imagine a “problem” like this, where my life with my family is so amazing, so fulfilling, so infusing with love and good energy that everything else would pale in comparison.

How lucky are we?

Every House Has A Story

Today, my family and I volunteered to drive to one of the towns not far from us on Long Island most hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy and hand out cases of water and cleaning supplies. It was an experience I’m not sure we will ever forget.

Last weekend I had taken a bike ride to some of my favorite places in our community, the places I have loved and enjoyed so much because they are right near the water. The same places that were hardest hit by the storm surge from this powerful storm almost three weeks ago. By looking at many of the homes from the outside I couldn’t see anything wrong, but what I could see was all of the insides, the guts of their homes, lying on the front of their sidewalk, exposed for the world to see; broken sheet rock, splintered wood, ripped up pieces of insulation, rolled up rugs, furniture, and appliances.

What was left inside their houses?

Today, we found out. Almost nothing.

We picked up some water and some cleaning supplies and found our location for which we were responsible. The first person we talked to was Rachel, who had a young daughter. She described that the storm surge came over their five-foot fence and was lapping at their door even though they live on the second floor. They just got power over the weekend, but still, still, do not have heat.

Her sister moved in with them and brought her children as well. All of the children are now not feeling well, spending so long without electricity, without heat. They lost their car and don’t have a way to get to a doctor or to get laundry done or to get food or other supplies.

As we brought her another case of water, she broke down, tears dripping down her face, the overwhelming emotions too much to hold in even in front of strangers. When we got back to our car, I looked at my little girl and saw her looking sad. She’s so sensitive, like both her parents, and she was also overwhelmed, unable to handle the intensity of her emotions.

We got back into the car and all took a breath. We knew we had been lucky, but this was making it more real than we had even imagined.

We knocked on more doors, getting no answers, but also meeting people who were okay, who appreciated our help and supplies and who had things they needed to share and finally someone to share it with.

Then we met Eileen.

She is a mother of two who took me up on my offer of water.

“I’m a little dazed,” she said. Being dazed after almost three weeks struck me as disconcerting and I asked her what had happened.

She had an enormous pile of broken sheet rock and wood littering her entire front sidewalk, spilling over into the street. She went on to explain to me that she had finally gotten help ripping out the sheet rock and walls in her basement and first floor only to find out this morning from an architect that the foundation of her home had been so badly damaged by the storm surge that her house was going to be condemned.

Putting aside the money and effort that was completely wasted, I can’t imagine spending almost three weeks trying to figure out how to recover from this terrible disaster only to then find out that your entire home is going to be condemned.

I listened to her for a few minutes, gave her some water and cleaning supplies and she went to try and clean the things in her children’s rooms before the mold got to them, hoping the foundation would support her until she finished. As we left, she asked me to say a prayer for her.

I remember thinking, “She told me her house is being condemned, and I gave her water.” What we did today didn’t feel like enough, but it was better than nothing, better than showing up empty-handed.

I also hope it helped them to know people haven’t forgotten them, that as the press leaves and the attention moves on to something else, there are still people thinking of them and remembering them in our prayers.

It’s not enough, I know it isn’t, but I also know we can’t help everyone. We just need to try and help who we can and hope that it makes something of a difference in their lives, in their road to recovery.