natural disasters

(This week’s column.)

I don’t think my parents will ever get a break from raising me.

I am a thirty-two year old mother of four. I have a college degree, have lived in more interesting places and met more interesting people than I ever thought possible, and I still need my dad to gently nudge me into place now and then.

We have been in Germany for seven weeks, but have been living out of suitcases since the beginning of June. I’m too tired to do the math, but I can assure you that it all adds up to one seriously grumpy woman.

I’m tired of clothes that have no drawers, chairs that have no cushions, overhead lights and my one borrowed spatula. Between the can opener that no longer works and the hollow, cavernous house where every little whine echoes throughout like a call from the Grand Canyon, I’ve about had it.

The other night I called my dad on the phone for a little catch-up. We’re currently between homes and have some big decisions to make  before we settle in, and I find a little advice from my well-seasoned father always comes in handy. Also I like to hear the sound of his voice.

Straight out of the gate he wanted to know how I was. And so I unfolded my laundry list and started in on all the terrible inconveniences that come with transient living. Poor, poor me. Poor, poor us. Our stuff won’t be here for three more weeks, what if I die of stufflessness?

“You know, Annie,” he said, “I know it’s hard, but you are so very lucky. Just think of all the people out there right now who are without a home or without any of their belongings and might never see their things again–”

“Yes Dad,” I said with a big intercontinental eye-roll, “I know. Other-people-have-it-much-worse-and-I-should-be-grateful.” Then I did what any intelligent teenager would do and quickly reminded him about why my situation is hard for me, doesn’t that matter to him? This was followed by an abrupt change of topic.

But the next morning I couldn’t get my Dad’s reprimand out of my head so I did a little googling to see just how self-centered I really am. Turns out I’m a total banana brain who probably deserves to have all my belongings dropped in the Atlantic Ocean as penance for my brattiness.

Did you know that the United States alone has experienced a record of 10 extreme natural disasters in 2011? That means over a billion dollars in weather-related injuries with more than 700 deaths. Five tornado outbreaks, two major floods, a drought, a blizzard and Irene. That’s not counting the earth quakes or any of Mother Nature’s less sizable catastrophes (nearly 100 of them in the first six months of the year).

And we have four months to go.

I read those stats and thought about something I heard on NPR this past week while I was cleaning. A man was being interviewed in Vermont. He lost his home and every single possession, but it’s worse than that. He had no bank account, ATM, credit card; every scrap he owned was in that house. Gone, gone, gone.

So many people have nothing, nothing, and here I sit complaining because it’s taking an extra week to get my junk delivered.

We’ve all got problems. Work, health, relationships, money, there isn’t a soul on this planet who hasn’t been handed his share of challenges, and there are times when the shares do not seem fair. I guess the real test is whether or not we can find value in whatever it is the good Lord has dished out to us.

Today I thanked God for a dry place to sleep and a slightly overcast sky. In lieu of what so many other’s are experiencing right now, my cup-o-blessings is so full it’s spilling all over the counter.

I don’t mind the mess, we’ll chalk it up as job security.



  1. I am in Northern Vermont and we were lucky to be spared much of the flooding by Irene, but the Southern Portion of my state was not. It is a mess, a true emergency. One of my clients at work lost his Dad AND his Brother to the flood. Houses are demolished. We lost 3 historic covered bridges. Roads are gone and people are STILL stranded weeks later. The police were called in to ration out water and supplies. And through all this, people throughout the state have pulled together. People, not organizations, but regular joe’s started collections on the street to send supplies and money to the Red Cross. Through the devastation there is a glimmer of hope, and humanity is shining through. Neighbors are pulling together to help those in need. Yes, people have lost everything (and yes, it truly stinks to be without your belongings), but what is important that you have your family safe and within arms reach! Possessions come and go, family is forever. 😉

  2. thank goodness for dads eh
    it is good we have others who help us keep things in perspective
    When I am at my LOWEST self…….and people say to me “others have it so much worse then you”
    I roll my (not incontinental eyes) but (immature, self-pity eyes) because at the moment, I only care about myself
    “other people” don’t exist for me at that moment
    so I need to have someone slap me across the face……… I remember
    We are all in this “LIFE” stuff together. I don’t know why some have it easy and some have it hard…….I’d like to ask the Lord that. Yes I would. I have lots of questions for him.
    I wish I were there to lend you a pot or towel, or ——WAIT, what about all you shoes,heels??
    That alone is catastrophic.
    You’ll be fine Annie (now don’t you roll your eyes at me)………go to the bakery and have some of that great German Chocolate Cake and know we are all thinking of ya, and soon your “stufflessness” will be there.

  3. Thanks for the lesson in humility Annie. I also needed to hear this today as I have been having a pity party of my own. We are very blessed people! I try not take the things I have for granted but I admit sometimes I really do. I will work on being thankful for what I do have and pray for those that are suffering from the natural disasters that seem to becoming more rampant day by day.

    Good luck in getting settled. It will all come together very soon!

    Thanks again!

  4. Well said and I am contemplating the reality of stufflessness.

  5. This made me miss my daddy very very much.

  6. Annie,
    I’m experiencing the very same stuff less ness and self pity as you! We’re in transit in Spain. We’ve been w/o our things for only 3 weeks. I’m blessed to have a friend who found your blog and sent me a link for my virtual birthday gift. I can relate to nearly all of your posts very personally – except it’s our first international experience and we’re clashing with Catalan culture in Barcelona. Thanks for aptly saying what I’ve been feeling. I know I am lucky, I know I am blessed. But it is so comforting to know that the frustrations are shared.
    When I get my head out from under the covers I’ll post on my blog about these same things. I’ve neglected my blog for a while now know that all I had in my heart to share was a bunch of complaining! Here’s to living out of suitcases and feeding children out of an in room mini bar!

  7. We all need a good reminder sometimes! Thanks for reminding me! I heart you! P.S. What a good Dad!

  8. hope your STUFF arrives soon! hang in there, at least once you get out of your self centered rut, you realize what IS most important, most people don’t! believe me i’m with ya on the selfishness, it just seems to be a part of me 🙂

    good news, we got our property that we’ve been wanting…

    more good news, it’s everything i “prayed and wished” for, i just have to laugh…the power of the secret! {rolling my eyes}
    but no, really, i am grateful 🙂