Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Naomi Exists, or How I Met My Husband, part II

When Katrina hit, Daniel Clem was living in Tulsa, Oklahoma and working as a manager at a Papa John's pizza (the one at 91st and Yale, for those who are interested). He had come to Tulsa to attend Oral Roberts University, and then just stayed in town, working. His brother John and sister-in-law Rachel also had attended ORU, where they met. Daniel was in the process of buying a house, and had gotten the last t's crossed and i's dotted when Katrina hit. Since Rachel was from the coast of Mississippi, she and John decided to take a long weekend and drive the 12 or so hours down to help out her family. Daniel felt his heart go out to those affected by the storm, and really felt like God was leading him to go down and work some magic with a chainsaw. So he asked for a long weekend off from work, which just doesn't happen for a pizza shop manager last minute like that. At least, without God's help it doesn't, because Daniel was able to take the time off. For Daniel, this trip was a mission trip.

The three of them loaded up in John and Rachel's car after some last-minute vehicle maintenance that delayed them, and headed towards Hot Springs, AR, where John and Daniel's parents lived. They arrived very late, or rather, very early in the morning, and crashed on their couches to sleep for a bit. The next day, they got a rather late start, as they had slept in all morning after driving all night. 

They arrived in Jackson, MS at about 8 o'clock that night, after the sun had set, and they needed a place to stay because of the curfew, so they looked up my parents. My Dad was actually out of town, so at the house were my Mom, my Grandma, my roommate Michelle and myself. I had never met Daniel before. Although he'd been in John and Rachel's wedding, I was out of the country when it took place. My mom had taken pictures for me in lieu of my attendance. My first impression of him was a tall, handsome guy on the thin side, with red hair and ears that stuck out slightly, wearing an awesome tshirt of a band I liked. We caught up on the news, and heard that Rachel hadn't been able to make much contact with her family since many phone lines and cell towers were down. Even in Jackson, texts were taking an hour or more to go through. I had heard, though, that if you tried to send a text to someone on the coast, that it would go through whenever there was an open moment. After I told the Clems this, John and Rachel both pulled out their phones and started texting people on the coast. I looked at Daniel, who was just sitting there, and asked him if he felt left out. He poked out his lower lip and nodded. "Okay", I said. "I'll send you a text. What's your number?" I swear I wasn't hitting on him. I honestly thought that since he lived in Oklahoma, (where I'd only visited for 30 minutes once when I was 12) I'd never see him again. I believe my text said, "Have a safe trip, Beaker." Beaker was because of the red hair. He had mentioned that he was sometimes called Beaker. The text didn't go through for another hour, and I was already in bed when I got his response. We texted back and forth for about 30 minutes before he said he needed to get plenty of sleep for the drive the next day. I woke up early the next morning to be able to cook them a solid meal (bacon, eggs and toast) since it might be their last for a while. I asked them to keep me posted on the storm damage.

When they got to the coast, they discovered that Rachel's grandmother's house was completely gone. All that was left of it was the foundation and a little bit of debris throughout the yard that needed to be combed through in case any treasures could be scavenged. At Rachel's parents' house, though many trees were down, none had hit the main house. The chainsaws roared. A tree had caved in the roof of Mr. Wilcox's studio, an outbuilding where he worked.

The news coverage was awful. Though Katrina had hit the coast of Mississippi at a category 5 strength, the national news only covered New Orleans where it hit at about a 2.5 to 3 strength, because of the politics. Katrina only damaged the retaining walls in New Orleans, and the consequent flood was covered by the news, especially with their mayor claiming that white people had done poor work on the walls because the walls were near black neighborhoods. Katrina completely wiped off the map a mile inland of my hometown. It wasn't just some damage to flood walls. It was GONE. When I visited several months later, I cried at all of the tile floors, foundations, and concrete pads that were all that was left of some of my favorite locales. The Taco Bell we went to every Wed. night and Sun night after youth group had managed to keep one of the tables that was bolted to the floor, and a chair that was attached to it. Everything else, walls, windows, kitchen, trash cans, doors, parking curbs, etc. were gone. My home church lost 3 of its 4 walls. It had been a solid brick building.

On their way back to Tulsa, John, Rachel and Daniel only stopped briefly through Jackson, long enough to see Rachel's sister Ruth, and then headed back to Tulsa. But Daniel kept texting me. My heart began skipping beats whenever I would receive a text from him, and our text conversations sometimes went on for several hours. One night, he called me. And then the next night, and the night after that. He often called me late at night, sometimes 1 or 2 in the morning after he got off work. I would often talk to him until the sun came up. 

September 15th, 2005: Daniel had called, had a normal conversation with me, and hung up. But then he called me right back, and we had "the talk". He said "I don't know how you feel about me, but I know how I feel about you..." he went on to say we either needed to start dating, or stop spending so much time talking to each other. He didn't want an answer right away, but wanted me to think and pray about it. It didn't take me much praying, because I got an answer right away. I knew that this was what God wanted for me! 

So we started dating long-distance. I graduated that December, and the spring semester I had to perform my senior piano recital. Memorial Day weekend, 2006, I moved into a house in Tulsa with 2 other girls who needed a roommate. 

March 15th, 2007: We had been dating 1-1/2 years to the day now, and Daniel planned a nice, formal dinner. He set up a table by the river, and brought catered food. The table had wineglasses and candlesticks. There were geese swimming in the water nearby. I gave him a cd I'd made him of songs that were special to us, and he gave me a wood carving he'd made of the two of us. That night, he dropped me off at my house, and left. But less than a minute later, he was back at the door, and my heart was pounding. He said, "I don't know how you feel about me, but I know how I feel about you..." and then recited a poem he'd written for me, dropped to one knee right there at the door, and proposed. I was so excited. I said "yes" right away, then he came inside while we called our families with our exciting news.

September 15th, 2007: Six months to the day after his proposal and 2 years to the day after we started dating, Daniel and I got married in Ridgeland, Mississippi in a beautiful outdoor ceremony in a park by a lake. It was absolutely perfect. That was only the first step of many in our life's journey together.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How it All Started - Part One

Hello, blog readers. Today I will share with you the story of how Daniel and I met...and it's pretty awesome, if I say so myself!

Late August, 2005: I am in my last semester at Belhaven University (then College). It's been a long college journey of 4-1/2 years for me because I double-majored. Belhaven is in Jackson, MS, a 3-hour drive inland from the coast. We hear there's a hurricane coming, and it's going to be a big one, but no one is sure exactly where it's going to hit. Now, having grown up on the coast of MS, I've lived through my share of hurricanes. Heck, at my house in Long Beach, my family even had plywood boards cut to fit each window of the house, and brackets that would hold them in place! I wasn't too worried.

August 28th, 2005: Katrina hits. Three hours inland, we are stuck in our dorms as the storm rages around us. The school forbids anyone to leave their buildings. There are people in the stairwells playing guitars and singing. A day into it, a few of my friends and I are restless, and decide we're going to leave the building anyway, so we do, and head out for a walk. The tall pine trees are beautiful, and as we look at all the downed branches in the rain, I'm reminded of their shallow root systems to be able to tolerate Mississippi weather, and how this makes them fall over much easier. Later on, I found out a lady in the neighborhood died when a tree fell on her through her house. As we walk, we come upon what looks like a naked, curled up rat lying in a puddle in the rain. At first we think it is dead, then we realize it isn't! It's a baby squirrel. My friends laugh at my change, from the initial "eww, gross!" to picking up this baby and carrying it back to the dorms with us. During the course of the storm, I hear that some close family friends, the Wilcoxes, who live on the coast have gone to a coliseum for shelter, later I hear that the shelter collapsed and killed many people. I pray my friends are safe. My suite-mate who was also one of my best friends from high school still lives on the coast. She knows her parents came up to Jackson for the storm, but she's still worried about her home down there. I put a lot of hope for our survival in this baby squirrel. We name him Luther.

August 29th, 2005: Of course by now, we are without power. We will remain so for a week. The storm is pretty much over, and Jackson is picking up the pieces. Luther made it through the night. We had made a warm nest for him in a poptarts box, and after scouring the dorm, came up with an eyedropper to give him water every hour or two through the night. We find a friend who's dad has raised flying squirrels, and they give us a recipe for replacement milk, using evaporated milk and egg whites. We decide to head to the store. Driving there is like making our way through a labyrinth, because every street we would normally go down would eventually have a fallen tree and we'd have to turn on a different one. But eventually we make it. The store has no power, and is ridiculously busy. They can only take cash transactions because their credit card machines are down. Thankfully, they haven't run out of ice yet. But they are out of eggs. We buy the evaporated milk anyway, figuring it's better than nothing. Belhaven cancels all classes until power returns. All students are encouraged to go home if they can, and go to someone else's home if they can't. Most people leave, as there is no power, and no air conditioning in Mississippi in August is nothing short of miserable. We hear of a lady in the neighborhood who raises baby squirrels, and decide that we will see if she will take Luther, as we know we are ill-equipped to care for him much longer. We walk him down there, and she takes him!

August 30th, 2005: We are tired of staying around with no a/c, but my family in Madison is without power as well, and worse, without plumbing, as their sewage lift system is electric. My roommate's family is too far away in North Carolina, but we hear that her boyfriend's family, about an hour north, has just gotten power, and hence, a/c back! So my roommate, her boyfriend, my suitemate and I all head up to Kosciusko, Mississippi.

A few days later: I find out that the Wilcoxes, who had been planning to take shelter in the coliseum that collapsed actually wound up staying with my parents during the storm, and were safe. They headed back down to assess their damages as soon as the storm stopped raging. My suitemate got news from her neighbors on the coast that her entire bedroom was ripped off their house. She also had promised to take care of someone's fish on our hall, so she wants to head back to Jackson and be with her family. I don't want to leave the cold a/c, but I tell her that if my parents had gotten power back, I'd go with her. I called my parents, and they'd had power for about 2 hours, so I pack my bags and we head back to Jackson.

That night, the Wilcoxes' oldest daughter Rachel shows up with her husband John and John's brother Daniel on their way down to the coast to help her family with the cleanup and to bring gasoline and fresh water. There is a curfew instated that no one can go down to the coast after dark because it's too dangerous in the dark. The three of them had driven in from Tulsa, and needed a place to stay in Jackson, so Rachel said, "Hey, I know a place! My parents actually stayed with them during Katrina." So they pull up in the driveway, and after a bit of shuffling around, we all find a place to sleep.

To Be Continued...