Posts Tagged ‘tornado’

Sunday, July 31, 2011

One year since “the phone call!”

One year ago today, after completing the mock triathlon with my training group prior to my first triathlon, Ceecee called me and asked me to move back in with her.  Why I had it so firmly in my mind that when I completed the triathlon, somehow we would be reconciled, I don’t know.  I just had an incredible amount of faith for that.  Of course, I thought it would be when I completed the actual triathlon; I never imagined the mock tri having any significance.

Anyway, that was exactly a year ago and two days later, I moved into the loft with my wonderful wife and a week later, the restoration tour began.  Now it’s nearly finished and it seems that it’s only been a few days and that it’s been forever, both at the same time.

Two days from now, one year to the day that I moved back in, we leave on our second honeymoon!  We’re going to Big Cedar Lodge, a world class resort south of Branson.  My wife used to work there and we have quite a history with the place.

Just go to the search bar on this blog and search “Big Cedar” and you’ll find numerous posts related to it.  From the tornado, to the ice storm, to shortly before we split up, Big Cedar Lodge has been a part of our lives.  Now, we will restore that beautiful place in a way that I’m sure neither of us will ever forget!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Took our bikes down the South Creek Trail today and enjoyed the nice weather in the early part of the day.  This is one of the places where we go to train and it’s a pretty ride and a great place to run.  We also brought a picnic in backpacks so we can eat in the park after our ride.

Later today and tonight, some severe weather is supposed to move in and my wife especially still gets quite scared when there is even a chance of tornadoes.  I know this, so I got us some movies and some foot cream and I’m going to set her up in comfort for some pampering tonight to help her relax and keep her mind off the weather.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My wife used to cook at Big Cedar Lodge, a world-class resort near Branson, Missouri.  I often used to sit behind the Worman Steak house, one of their top eateries, waiting for her to finish her shift at night.  Last night, we had reservations there.

Earlier in the day, we spent some time at Branson landing, a favorite hangout of ours.  It’s an outdoor mall right on the shore of Lake Taneycomo, and we’ve always enjoyed the atmosphere.  It just seems like people are usually happy there.

On a day when we were restoring the night of the tornado, and the damaging years that followed, being in a place where people are happy seemed incredibly appropriate.  We spent a few hours on the landing, then headed south toward Big Cedar.

I had not only made a reservation for a specific table, but had let them know who we were and why we were going there on that specific night.  I wasn’t necessarily expecting extra special treatment, since their service is always impeccable, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

We had an amazing dinner, and did seem to receive some extra attention from the staff.  As we watched the sun set over the lake, we also received two complimentary Champagne flutes with the Big Cedar logo and the year inscribed on them.

We had our picture taken on the balcony outside as another keepsake before heading home.  It was a beautiful night, and just what we needed.

That’s the point of the restoration tour.  It’s not just an idea, but it’s taking specific actions to replace the old, bad memories with new, positive ones.  Instead of seeing March 12 as a traumatic day that altered our lives for the worse, we can remember March 12 as a night of celebration and beauty.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Five years ago today, the tornado that changed our lives ripped through our house on a Sunday night outside Republic, Missouri.  We were asleep just moments before it hit, and with no sirens to warn us, we would never have known it was coming if it weren’t for God.

He woke me up and, while I didn’t hear any audible voice speaking to me, somehow I knew that a tornado was about to hit us.  I woke my wife and we crawled on the floor into the hallway, calling for our two teenage kids.

We told them to get down and we got on top of them as it sounded like the house exploded.  Suddenly, I could feel wind, rain, and swirling objects hitting my back.  In those moments, which actually were probably only a matter of seconds, I believed that I was going to die.

I had two prevailing thoughts: I hope it doesn’t hurt and I’ll never see my wife again.

Our daughter didn’t know that Taylor had woken up and was with me and she was screaming, “Where’s Taylor?”  My wife was thinking the same thing I was about whether we would die and hoping that, if we did, it would be quick and painless.  Taylor was quiet and had no outward reaction.

Almost immediately, faith began to rise up in me and I began to pray aloud and then to thank God for saving us.  My wife also began to thank Him, saying, “He saved us!” as we realized that the tornado had gone through and we were still there.  The fact that we were also now homeless was secondary to the fact that we were, miraculously, unharmed.

Little did I know then, that this event would affect our lives so deeply.  While it was a great testimony of God’s protection, I also developed PTSD and didn’t do anything to treat or take care of it, even after I was made aware of it.

I don’t know if he even knew today was the anniversary, but a friend of mine wrote to me on Facebook today asking about that house.

Tonight, we have special plans that I’ll write about next time.  Last night, Ceecee and I went to the little theater to see, “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”  It was light and fun, and we had a great time.  I’m really glad we’re finally living the life that we used to only talk about!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We’ve lived in the Missouri Ozarks for about five and a half years now, and we’ve never had a winter with as much snow as this one.  We thought when we moved here from Western Kansas that we would be moving to a place with nicer and less extreme weather.  Yeah.

A tornado destroys our house in March of ‘06.  An ice storm leaves us without power or running water for 23 days in January of ‘07.  Now, in the winter of the restoration tour, we’re having blizzards and snowstorms every other week, it seems.  

The difference is, those other storms were a bad thing for us and our marriage.  They interrupted and changed our lives in negative ways and I especially didn’t handle them well.  Where they seemed to be a curse to us, these snowstorms have been a blessing.  

Yes, we are home yet again experiencing ANOTHER snow day!  

These days have not been filled with the hassle of shoveling driveways and walks, dealing with the lack of electricity, or wondering where we are going to live or what we are going to do.  Instead, they’ve been joyous days of bonus time to spend together, cooking, playing, trying new things, and nurturing our ever growing trust and intimacy.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rather hilarious place we found ourselves this evening. Let’s just say that lately, our physical relationship has been off the charts and we were “otherwise engaged” when the tornado sirens went off. I was hearing them in the back of my mind, but not enough to comprehend what they meant.

When we finally realized that the sirens were sounding, and had been for some time, we jumped out of bed and frantically began trying to figure out what to do. We were in the loft building on the second floor and had no idea where to go, or even if there was any kind of shelter.

You’d think we would have been scared because of our past and my PTSD, but I had been getting treatment in therapy to overcome my fears of tornadoes and we found ourselves laughing and treating it like a silly adventure. Of course, it helped that the radar showed us to not be in any real danger.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

One of my friends picked me up last night and took me out for some beers and wii bowling. It helped get my mind off things for a few hours.

Yesterday afternoon, I got out my Bible and began writing out every verse I could find about love and marriage. Then I just started saying them out loud. I also realize that evil is working in this situation and that I need to fight for Ceecee. She probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening, but she is in spiritual darkness and is blind to the fact that she’s being led astray.

I can’t let the things she said yesterday affect me. I have to stick to the plan, which is to love her and show her how much I care. I’ve realized that I can’t change her. I can only change myself and pray to set her free from the things that are holding her back.

This morning I was at the gym and listening to worship music while I was on the treadmill. I was thinking about how much I wished I could go to another church that had really dynamic music where I could just get lost in worship and not worry about people looking at me and knowing what was going on. It was crazy, but my friend Adam called me up out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to go to North Point with him this Sunday. I told him that I did. That was God answering a prayer before I even prayed it!

Today, I emailed Ceecee a comic from “Love is…” that showed a guy playing a guitar for the girl and the caption said, “When he changes his tune.” Then I went to the pharmacy and bought her a care package of vitamins, sports creams (she has some shin splints and muscle soreness that’s affecting her running), a new heating pad and things like that.

She likes receiving gifts. That’s her love language from the book, “The Five Love Languages.” My selfishness has been part of the problem in our marriage, so I want to show her that things are going to be different.

I told her I wanted to stop by and bring her something and she said I could, so I just came to her loft, gave her the care package and told her it was just because I just wanted her to have it. I didn’t try to talk about the other morning or ask her for anything. I just gave it to her, told her I cared about her, and went on my way. I think it surprised her.

In the past, it wouldn’t have been like that. I would have obsessed over what she said and made it into a huge deal that just would have ended up making her feel guilty. I wanted her to see that I wasn’t there to get anything, but to give her something. It was really hard to just leave, but I felt like it was what I had to do.

Afterward, I met Angie at a deli in Republic to talk about what’s going on. She’s having a really hard time with all this because her real Dad abandoned her when she was little and I’ve been as much of a “real” Dad to her as a step-dad could probably be. I just wanted to bring her up to speed on things and also she if she had any insight.

Anyway, it turns it she was the one who signed me up for Mort Fertel’s emails. Apparently, after I called her crying that day and we both realized that this was really as serious as it is, she found a brochure with his website on it and signed me up. She and her husband had their premarital counseling through him and she still had a video series or something that they had bought. I told her how much it was helping and how it seemed like God Himself must have been the one sending them.

I also called a behavioral health center and talked to them about me going in for some counseling. I told them that my marriage was failing, but I think I may be experiencing some PTSD symptoms going back to the tornado of March 12, 2006. Our house outside of Republic was destroyed by a tornado that went through the house while we were in it. It was a Sunday night and we had already gone to bed when I woke up and immediately knew that a tornado was about to hit our house. We didn’t have a basement, so we called the kids and crawled into the hallway, where we laid on the floor while the house was pretty much ripped apart.

I never understood it, but things were never the same after that. I was never the same. Some friends of ours thought we might have PTSD and recommended that we go for counseling, but we never did. Now, I can’t help but wonder how much that event changed me and if that’s really when I started my losing my dear wife. Anyway, I made an appointment for myself and we’ll see what happens.

Driving home from Tennessee took the better part of a day, but the very next morning, we were back in the car heading toward Dodge City, KS.  We had lived there before moving to Missouri in the Summer of 2005, and we still had family and friends in the area.  The stated purpose of our visit was to see two of our daughters and my wife’s Mom and Stepdad over the Christmas holidays.  On a deeper level, we needed to go back there as part of the restoration tour.

It was while we lived in Dodge City that my spiritual problems really came to the surface.  I never wanted to live there, but my wife and I both felt that God was calling us to, so eventually we went.  We had a very difficult time there on many levels.  We were the victims of numerous property crimes, which isn’t particularly unusual with the gang problems that city has, but it was still frustrating.  My job became less and less satisfying as well, to the point that I seriously considered getting out of teaching and finding a different career.

A lot of people would say that if we were really doing God’s will, then we should expect to face obstacles and adversity, and that would be true.  What we didn’t expect to face was all of the internal problems and fighting that went on within the church that we were trying to work with.  There was sexual misconduct among the leadership, power struggles over who was going to be in charge, and way too much of people pursuing their own agendas.  Our family went through a lot of disillusionment and hurt during those years and, unfortunately, I blamed God for choices that people made.

When we finally left, it was bad for us financially in that we owned two houses in Kansas and hadn’t been able to get either one sold, but I felt that I was literally dying out there and something had to change.  I asked God to have grace and mercy on us and to let us try to start over.  I had good intentions when we moved, but I didn’t see things through.  Once we had lived in Missouri for just a short time, we went through the tornado and I really never recovered.

Last July, toward the end of our separation, I was going to visit my daughter, who lives in a small town near Dodge City.  My Mother-in-Law said it would be good for me to come stay with them, so I took that as a good sign for our marriage and I did.  They have a guest room in the basement of their house and that’s where we usually stay when we visit.  It was good to see everyone, but it was also agonizing to sleep alone in that bed.  Beyond that, it was terribly difficult being 400 miles away from my wife at a period of time when I had no idea what she was up to or if I would ever be able to win her back.

When we went there last Christmas, a lot of healing took place.  It was the first time we had been there since getting back together, so it was a celebration of more than just Christmas.  We were also rejoicing in all that we had overcome.  For me, it was wonderful to be back, but not alone this time.  It meant a lot to me that we also spent some time walking around and revisiting some of the places where we had really fallen hard and suffered a lot of losses in the years prior.  We can never get those years back, but we don’t have to live with bitterness and anger because of them.

Today, the restoration tour took us by bicycle to the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.  It’s a historical site of a civil war battle that has, in a roundabout way, played a role in our lives ever since we moved to Missouri.

Our first house in Missouri was located on about 80 acres that the landlord ran cattle on.  Just to the north was the Wilson’s Creek Battlefield.  If you walked straight out our back door, you would come to the boundary of the battlefield, where Terrell Creek merges with Wilson’s Creek.  That was the house that was destroyed by the tornado on March 12, 2006.

The history and effects of that tornado have already been documented in this blog, but that event was the single biggest factor in the changes in myself that led to the downfall of our marriage.  The fact that the battlefield was there was incidental, but it did provide the backdrop for many good hours of fishing, hunting, and exploring before the tornado.

When we moved back to Republic in 2007, we always talked about going out to the battlefield some day, but we never did.  Then, last Spring, my wife got into cycling right about the same time we were splitting up.  We also got interested in becoming triathletes and we heard that the trail through the Wilson’s Creek Battlefield was a good place to train because of the hills and conditions.

I got my wife her first road bike for her birthday that year, and I also bought her a pink cycling jersey.  This was during the time that we still lived together, but that she no longer thought that she loved me, and things were already in motion to break us apart.  I took her and her bike out to the battlefield so that she could ride the trails while our son and I ran.  We took pictures of her with her bike and her jersey and I tried to be happy for her despite the circumstances.

About a month later, she bought a new bike and moved out.  We only went out to the battlefield a few times together, and I went several times by myself after that.  I still have those pictures, and they’ve always made me kind of sad because of the memories they invoke.

Since we’ve been back together, cycling and fitness have been, once again, a big part of our lives.  We both have nice road bikes now, and during the summer, we practically live at the gym or out on the many trails near our home.  During the school year, it’s not uncommon for us to cycle the 18 miles to work.  This August, on the day of our renewal ceremony, we plan to spend the morning riding the 62 mile Tour De Cox.

Just recently, after much indecision, my wife decided that she does want to compete in the Tiger Tri this August.  Since we really do need to step up our training, we decided that this morning, we would ride out to the battlefield, do some running once we get there, and ride back.  This led to a comedy of errors, thanks to the navigator on our phones and some unmarked country roads that we may or may not have been supposed to have taken.

We did eventually reach the battlefield, and as we rode into the parking lot where we used to unload bikes from the back of the car, I realized that my wife was wearing that same pink jersey from more than a year before.  I hadn’t intended today to be a restoration tour stop.  I just thought it was going to be a long ride and brick workout, but when I saw where we were and the memories came flooding back, I realized that this was a part of our restoration just as much as the planned stops.

Sometimes that’s the way restoration works.  Sometimes you’re just doing work that needs done, and you discover something you didn’t expect.  It could be a color of paint underneath that shows up while scraping.  It could be a discovery of something that was built over, but is still there and can be incorporated back into being part of the house again.  The great thing is, those discoveries happen, and then you get to choose what to do with them.  Whether it’s a house, a life, or a marriage that’s being restored, it will almost always end up being a combination of the things you planned to do and the things you discover along the way.

My spiritual decline had begun in Dodge City, where I had become so disillusioned with church leaders and so disappointed in the way things had gone that I was angry at God and the church.  Not that I had ever been that great spiritually, but there had been a time when my faith was real and vibrant and I was really trying to serve God.  My heart had never been completely right, but by the time we left Dodge City for the Missouri Ozarks, I just didn’t have it in me anymore.

The changes to my demeanor and personality that happened after the tornado were more difficult to put a finger on.  I quit being interested in any of my hobbies.  I worked too much and withdrew from friends and family.  I carried an anger that smoldered just below the surface.  It rarely broke through, and when it did, it was almost exclusively aimed at the one person I loved the most and who deserved it the least.  In those moments, I did terrible damage to my wife, who had no way of understanding why I would treat her that way. 

For some people, therapy is a way to relieve their guilt and say they tried.  Many people don’t really want to change, and no amount of therapy can change a heart that doesn’t want to.  In my case, I was willing to do whatever it took to fix what was wrong inside and become, once again, the man that my wife could love.  I had already allowed God to change my heart.  Now I needed to fix my mind and my emotions.  The next logical step was to find a therapist.

When I made the appointment, my plan was to talk about the tornado and see if I was, in fact, suffering from PTSD.  The doctor had his own agenda, and that was to get to know what made me tick and look at the whole picture.  On the first visit, he asked me a series of questions that seemed unrelated to anything and I found myself thinking, “This is a complete waste of my time.”  I figured that I would finish the session, pay my bill, and never come back. 

So, how do you feel today?

What a shock it was when, after about 45 minutes, those seemingly unrelated questions all connected up like a dot-to-dot puzzle and I was looking at a picture of myself that was very telling and undeniably accurate.  Things that I had never realized meshed with things I knew, but didn’t understand about myself.  I didn’t find my answers that day and we didn’t even get to the subject of the tornado, but there was enough that made a whole lot of sense to make me realize that we were onto something.  Now, I found myself thinking, “Either this guy is really lucky or really good, or else God just directed the whole conversation.”  He gave me a homework assignment and I agreed to continue. 

Over the next few weeks and months, I came to understand that there had been a pattern throughout my life that now was at the root of my marriage problems.  When I experienced something traumatic or very stressful, I would shut myself off emotionally, and withdraw inside myself.  I shut others out and pushed everything down instead of dealing with it.  That would manifest itself as depression and mood swings, a bi-polar disorder.  It also showed up as some dissociation, where I would almost become a spectator in my own life.  It was as if these things weren’t a part of me, but rather I was seeing them happen to someone else.

When I shared some of this with my wife, she listened, but said nothing.  She was going to need time.  She told me that she was going to be watching me.  She needed to see changes in me, not hear about them.  I was ok with that.  I knew that she deserved much better than I had been giving her and I knew that nothing was going to stop me from getting to the place I needed to be.