I feel as though our world has been turned upside down, shaken around, and plopped back upright since I wrote the letter for our Spring 2010 Catalog. I still feel a bit dizzy from the rapid sequence of events in our already eventful lives.
A few weeks after our Spring catalog went to press, my wonderful man left for a two week mission trip to Malawi. (For those of you who draw a blank when trying to figure out which continent Malawi belongs to, I’ll tell you so you can stop wondering.Malawi is located in Central Africa.)Bidding him good-bye was hard. Since we’ve been married, Steve and I have never been apart for more than a week. We’ve gotten used to the luxury of living and working together day in and day out. (Allow me to insert here that my respect and admiration for you military wives whose husbands are away for extended periods of time has reached new levels! God bless you and your families for the sacrifices you make.)
Before he left, Steve went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure everything was in good working order in the business and in our personal lives. Yet my main concern was for him. I’ll confess to having more than a few moments of anxiety over his safety. After all, Africa is very far away and offers some of the world’s scariest diseases, most dangerous animals, rugged terrain, and less-than-stable political climates. If anybody had told me we would end up having more adventures here in Tennessee than he did in Africa I would have laughed! But the joke would have been on me.
A few days after Steve left, I woke with a start one morning to the pale face of our basement tenant looking down at me. “The basement is flooding!” she said, and I bolted out of bed. For the next two days, friends and family helped battle the water pouring into our basement. Although I realized it had been raining—a lot!—I had no clue what a tsunami had poured from the sky on Tennessee’s corner of the world.
We worked night and day to keep the water low enough so it wouldn’t ruin sheetrock or mess with electrical wiring. Around day two, the blinders that had me so focused on my own water problems were blown away by the arrival of my soaking wet mother-in-law. She had been rescued from rising waters in her yard by caring neighbors who got her out before the water could trap her inside her house. It finally dawned on me that we were dealing with an actual flood (although I still didn’t appreciate the stunning proportions of the situation), not just a problem with our particular basement. One moral of this story could be that if your basement floods, it might be a good idea to check the news to find out if the rest of your area is having water problems as well!
As hours turned into days, our home ended up looking like a refugee camp. We had seven adults and our Noelle girl stranded at our house by floodwaters. My courageous brother, John, and his dually truck saved the day innumerable times, plowing through rising waters to obtain necessities.
One wet night in the basement, bailing water gave us something to do while we hid from tornadoes that also blasted our area during the flood. In an ironic twist, Noelle stayed dry in the bathtub, where she slept in a nest of pillows while the rest of us made do, propped on couches and waking periodically to do water patrol. The power went off that night and stayed off for five days and nights.
Then, once the rain stopped, the real flooding began as the run-off dumped into streams and rivers, raising them above the 500-year flood levels in many areas. Still, we made it to a local store and stocked up on necessities like candles, easy-to-prepare junk food (emergency rations, right?), and bottled water. Our city’s drinking water was contaminated for weeks since both the power plant and water purification plant were under water.
Although the laminate flooring in our basement was ruined, we count ourselves among the fortunate.In nearby Nashville, 44,000 homes were destroyed, and within just a mile or two of our house, many homes were 100 percent ruined by floodwaters. Roads washed away. And countless properties, fences, shops, and barns were decimated.
Living through a disaster big enough to earn the FEMA stamp of approval has been amazing. I’m incredibly grateful for the spirit of people in this part of Tennessee. Whereas many natural disasters are made worse by the horror stories of chaos, pillaging, gang rule, and out of control violence, nothing of the kind happened here. Neighbors helped neighbors. People risked their property and, in some instances, their own safety to save or aid others.
Selfless giving of time, resources, energy, and care was the rule of the day. Neighbors rotated the use of one generator a few hours at a time so all their food could be saved. Another drove his truck through deep water to help stranded friends. Someone else risked flooded roads to help stop water from pouring into the home of an elderly couple. A man brought extra ice to his neighbors just in case they could use it to save their refrigerated food. A lady with a flood-damaged home offered clothes to anyone who was worse off and lost everything. Two men whose own homes were under water offered to drive down a flooded road to find the missing grandmother of strangers.
And you: I want to thank customers who ordered during this trauma for your patience. We couldn’t ship orders in the timely manner that is always our goal because the main highway to our shipping facility developed a rather drastic pot-hole (more like a Grand Canyon wanna-be). As you can see in the photo on the _______, it could have swallowed two large trucks whole. Road crews repaired a less extensively damaged alternate route within a couple of days and our local staff gratefully made their way to work—where there was internet service, hot running water, and electricity. (Oh, those seemingly small things we are tempted to take for granted!)
To say we welcomed Steve’s return is an understatement as big as the flood itself. Noelle and I engulfed him and didn’t let go for most of the day. By contrast to our time in the wild world of Tennessee, he had a safe and comparatively laid back couple of weeks in Africa. One of the highlights for him was looking out the window of his hut to see an elephant munching about eight feet from his window.
Life here has been slowly returning to normal. More roads are being repaired so we can use regular routes again. But driving by condemned and abandoned homes is a stark reminder of how many people lost everything. Most did not have flood insurance (no one will insure against floods that “can’t happen”) and are dependent upon family and friends to rebuild their lives. Please pray for their long-term healing and recovery and that the still-acute needs of many will be met.
We’re thankful our shipping facility and products sustained no damage. And we’re especially grateful our friends and family members survived this disaster. We’re likewise thankful for customers and friends who have been so kind and caring through this entire experience.
And finally: A warm-weather catalog letter just wouldn’t be complete without an update on my garden. I’m thrilled to report that my early garden miraculously did not wash away in the flood. Those little plants must have dug their roots in and hung on tight because they all survived—every single one! An explosion of growth has resulted from the rain, and it looks like we just might have the best summer garden ever. Very thankful for that as well.
Enjoy your family this summer. Have fun in the sun and take advantage of as much natural, free vitamin D as you can! If you get a little over-toasted in the quest for D, remember that Miracle Salve and HairShine are sunburn healers. Spritz with HairShine, allow its cooling effect to begin, and then slather with Miracle Salve. After the Miracle has absorbed, spritz again liberally with HairShine. Continue alternating the two until the burn heals. Although we marshmallow people have suffered some pretty severe sunburns around here, peeling is a thing of the past and discomfort disappears almost immediately when we use these two products together.
Thank you for being part of our Beeyoutiful family!
Grace and Peace,
–Steph (Walker) Tallent