Tuesday, June 28, 2011

An Ode to the iPhone

The day before the Tornado, I got a new iphone 4. White. It was lovely.

The iphone 4 is a thing of beauty. It is sleek, with a high definition screen with a front and rear facing camera. 

I was blissfully aware and grateful that summer was about to start, and I had a new phone capable of video, photo, and millions of other things. I was completely smitten with my new phone in every way.

With my cell company, I am only eligible for a new phone with a two-year contract and I must wait until my previous two years is up before I can get a new one. I've had my old phone over 2 years.

In Joplin, we now categorize things as 'before' the Tornado or 'after' the Tornado, because amidst the swirling destructive funnel cloud, time actually stood still for a few minutes and then rebooted. So many people looked death in the eyes, realizing immediately that life is finite.

Everything that ever has been or ever was is completely subject to the power of wind, a storm can forever instill a fear of future storms.

I look around the city that I love and can count dozens of friends and family that used to live here, but have moved away, seeking housing in other towns or states.

Everything that we held on to as 'normal' has been skewed, changed, or destroyed.

During the tornado, I was grateful for my phone.

Although some service was limited, I had trouble calling from certain areas because towers were down or jammed, I sent lots of text messages and received so many voicemails that my mailbox was too full to get any more.

Of the few phone calls I made that night, I remember calling my boss to tell her that I wouldn't make it to school the next day--a sub plan was on my desk. I remember talking to a few family members from out of state, trying to remain as calm as possible so that I didn't scare them when I explained what they were seeing on the weather channel was even more horrifying in person--and that I couldn't reach my mom by phone, so I was trying to get to her by car, then by foot.

I took photos of nearly everything that I saw, even though many of the images from that night are burned into my brain, forever. I even took a couple of videos. In fact, the first videos on my phone are from that night, seeing the destruction in Joplin for the first time.

The night of the tornado, I finally got online around 3:00 a.m. and I was able to post pictures and status updates letting my friends know what was going on. Internet was down all around town, but I could get on Facebook and I could check my email on my phone.

The photos in this post are from the 2,2010 photos on my iphone...I try to document everything. I can't help it. If there is something I want to remember on Facebook, I take a screenshot so that I have the information later.

Fast forward about 24 days. After using my phone nearly non-stop to look up phone numbers and contact apartment complexes, I finally found housing for my mom and got her moved into her new place. 

On the morning of June 15th, I was at the Joplin airport, ready to head out of town to visit my brother and nephew in Arizona for a week--a much needed break from all of the destruction.

While waiting for security to open at 6:00 a.m., I went into the bathroom with my carry-on and slid my iphone into my back pocket. BAD IDEA. Just before sitting down, it slid from my jeans into the toilet with a big splash! I didn't realize it immediately, but as soon as I saw my poor, white iphone bobbing like a turd  I reached down and plucked it from the water. I tried to dry it the best I could with my shirt and then some paper towels. Luckily, the bathrooms are very new and surprisingly clean--I remember noting before even going into the stall.

My phone shut itself off within three minutes. I assumed that it was fried and horror, dread and anger set in. I was angry with myself, I was angry that I wouldn't be able to contact my brother and tell him what gate I would be at in Las Vegas, I was angry that I wouldn't be able to check on my mom--her injured foot wasn't looking so good before I left. I was extremely pissed that I fried my iphone in less than a month of owning it.

 It is quite sickening to see the tornado damage from the sky. I took two photos. One is of a lush, tree filled neighborhood and the other is a destroyed neighborhood. Keep in mind, this is one small chunk...the devastation goes on for miles like this.

You can see blue tarps covering the rooftops of some homes and buildings. This is a photo of what is normal.

The next 48 hours without my phone were so frustrating. I had to borrow phones from people, and if I didn't know someone's phone number, I had no way to contact them. Seriously, how many phone numbers do you have memorized anymore?

Without my phone I couldn't check the time, weather, texts, play words with friends, check my calendar, check facebook, take photos, take videos, check my email, look up a map, use pandora to exercise.

I know that lots of people in Joplin lost everything and I was on vacation, in Arizona, beside the lake and I had a home to go home to...but still...the idea that I was 2,000 miles from home with no way to contact anyone and no phone numbers...and no way to get my phone fixed...I was more stressed and panicked that I have ever felt.  All the what-ifs plagued my mind. What if I get lost? What if my debit card gets lost? What if I need to access the internet about my flight? What if I need to call a doctor in Joplin for my mom? What if my mom's foot gets infected? What if someone tries to contact me from FEMA?

I had trouble falling asleep and woke up in a complete frenzie because I had no idea what time it was, and I always play words with friends first thing in the morning and last thing before I fall alseep.

I put my phone in a bag of rice and set it outside in the dry Arizona air for a day.

I left it in the ziplock bag of rice until Sunday. I maintained an extreme level of patience despite my panic.

Finally, I could stand it no longer. I drove it to the AT&T store to ask them if they would open up the back of it for me so I could make sure it was dry before I turned it on.

The girl at the store was less than helpful, she told me she couldn't and wouldn't touch it. I should drive to the Apple store in Vegas and plead my case with them. I told her it would be useless, my warranty was void the moment it came into contact with water.

When I got back to the beach house, I decided to call Apple customer support to see what they could do.

The lady on the phone was SO nice and sympathetic. She understood that it had been an accident and offered me several options.

First though, she said--'try to turn it on'...the damage has been done by now.

I reminded her that it was probably dead, so she told me to charge it for 30 minutes and she would call back and I could turn it on with her on the phone.

When she called back, I held down both buttons for what seemed like forever, and nothing happened...then I saw an apple flicker....then the dead battery symbol....while it charged, I took out the SIM card and gave her the serial number...a few minutes later, it flashed back to life!

The battery was completely dead, but by god it was alive!!

I didn't have to spend $199 to get a new phone..or $599...or whatever...based on the options she quoted me at first...my phone was ALIVE!

Don't get me wrong, I love my family and I was having a great trip.

I was spending lots of time reading....but when you are staying at a lake house with 4 males....and the only thing on T.V. is either cartoons or deadliest catch...you find yourself in dire need of a distraction.


From the moment it turned on until the end of my trip, I was using my phone almost nonstop. I took tons of photos and even downloaded the last book in my book series and finished it off with my Kindle reader.

Anyway, I had a great trip. I am glad to be home, and really glad to have my iphone working again.

I'm off to the gym...walking...with pandora playing....

the great white toilet shark lives again.....

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Destruction in the heartland...Sunday June 12th...Part 7...Hope.

A sneak peek from Joplin today, a few weeks....days, really...after the storm.

The flag still flies at half mast in honor of the people who lost their lives.

An artist carves eagles into the massive stumps in front of Joplin High School with a chainsaw.

Crudely dubbed 'HOPE' high school with duct tape to fill in the letters surrounding only the 'OP' after the tornado tore 'J-L-I-N' from the sign in front of the school.

The hand-painted sign near the newly sculpted mascot eagles reads, 'her feathers are ruffled, but she's not DEAD'....a symbol of hope and strength in Joplin.

Every single citizen has been affected by this....everyone has a story....ten stories...

Earlier this week, I saw Father Monahan in a local diner, surrounded by men of other faiths. As they ate their breakfast, they talked of the President's visit and the memorial service...a framed photo of the priest, shaking hands with Obama sat on the table with the salt, ketchup and creamer. 

Thursday, I read a comment from a man on Facebook, to a local media personality...the man said he was sick of all the 'tornado news', according to him, 'the local media needed to report on something else'. The man was from a local town, disgruntled about the fact that the humane society would not allow him to volunteer because of his disability. He was obviously frustrated, looking for a fight.

This storm changed our city. It changed the news. It changed the way I relate to the world around me.

I have to drive through 'HELL' to get home--literally, the scar across my city mars every path across town, it is hard to get anywhere without seeing the destruction.

Teams of men have begun clearing truckloads of metal, wood, and trash. I heard on the radio that a football field, including end zones and sidelines, stacked 200 feet taller than the empire state building was a rough estimation of the amount of debris that needs to be cleared from the tornado's path.

*Edited* here is a link to my flickr with a few better photos of the carvings, a downtown mural, and some pictures of an amazingly destroyed church. 

*Edited* Here is a link to my youtube video of the artist working...its farther away and windier than I realized....

(I'm off to photograph the Skaggs family!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Can you see Hagrid? and Voldemort? and Hedwig? and Harry?

I took these photos the last day of art. My kindergarteners made pocket portfolios. This kid likes Harry Potter...and that day, he made me happy. Very happy. (Almost as happy as this puppet pal video on youtube)

He didn't know how to spell their names, so he used a little initial above each character's drawing. 5-Year-Olds are so cute! 

I found these photos today and I just HAD to share. I think we are all just grasping at straws for normalcy around here....trying to talk about sports, or television...or anything but the tornado, or the weather for that matter....

Anyone know a good spell for normal?

Nellie starts with an 'N'...maybe if I make a little 'N' above a drawing of myself, I will feel a little better? 'N' can stand for Nellie and Normal....

I am looking forward to doing a lot of blogging this summer--packed with photography, writing, and some art teacher stuff. Hope you'll keep reading!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A little bit of magic...a whole lotta love!!

One of the most beautiful things about this weekend was the wedding of my friend Scott Murray to the lovely Jennifer Greer. I've known Scott since college and I was honored when he asked me to photograph his wedding.

With all of the stress and craziness of the past few weeks, I was a little worried about my photography skills...and my passion for photographing something so huge and important--weddings are stressful--especially for the photographer. I just didn't know if I would be able to convey the beauty and happiness and do it justice...too much on my mind....

Once I saw the amazing tree-lined pathway to the wedding ceremony location had been filled with twirling white hearts....my own heart skipped a beat...and I got really excited to take some beautiful, magical photos.

I pushed aside all the fear and stress and I just tried to be patient, and shoot.

Here is a sneak peek of the photos from Saturday. These are a few of my favorite photos.

Jen's relationship with her parents is so beautiful....I could not stop taking pictures of their love...it was so moving.

I had a unique aerial view of Scott and Jen's first sight of each other before the wedding.

Scott is an artist...and Jen is a stylist...they have the most amazing style...they both looked stunning!

Congratulations to the happy couple!! I wish you both all the best!

Thank you for sharing your special day with me!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Destruction in the Heartland....part 6...Friday June 3rd....Did this REALLY happen?

Everything isn't happy and rosy and perfect 100% of the time in blogland people.

I am going to write a few more posts about the Joplin Tornado....if you don't want to read, I completely understand. It is depressing. This Little Blog of Mine will return to school stories and posts about pretty things soon...but for now, I just need to write.

I just keep thinking about all the places in town that got blown away. Literally. There is nothing left. I've been in denial--like a lot of people--but the REAL is finally setting in....

This really happened.

Our town REALLY got destroyed by a massive tornado.


Joplin was on CNN. I saw Anderson Cooper in front of St. Mary's. THE PRESIDENT GAVE A SPEECH AT MY UNIVERSITY!


Many of the places on this list hold many fond memories for me.... I wanted to compile them here to reminisce....

Pizza by Stout-- When I was in college, my Art League group met there every single week--either on the patio or in the glass room on the front to talk about art.

When I graduated from college, my entire family went there for lunch.

When my dad turned 50, we gathered everyone into the party room, got a KC Chiefs cake and celebrated together.

Cupcakes by Liz--This was a new business, but it was one of my favorite places in town. It was perfect for a girls night out--the cupcakes were delicious, the atmosphere was delightful and I would recommend it to everyone for a perfect date night MUST.

Frank's Lounge and Murphy's Irish Pub--Practically the only places in town to do Karaoke. Both gone. I've had many fun nights with friends, singing and celebrating various graduations, birthdays and St. Patrick's days.

Macadoodles, Academy, Aldis, Dillons---When you lose your neighborhood grocery store, favorite liquor store (with discounted fuel once a week), and sporting goods store in one shot---its hard to figure out where you will buy things that you are used to having access to. I visited all of these businesses nearly every week. Gone.

Salvation Army, Good Will---I love to go thrift shopping for clothing, random household collectibles and vintage sheets. Good Will is badly damaged and the Salvation Army moved to its new location just a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't even had a chance to visit yet! I doubt they will remodel renovated grocery store---it will probably just be torn down now.

St. John's Hospital-- I think my doctor's office is still in tact, as it was located in a separate location....but the skeleton building that remains is just depressing and haunting to drive past. My insurance is through St. John's and my mom always stays there when she is sick or needs to have a surgery.

Elec Tric Art--A local tattoo place...my friend Dennis has tattooed many of my friends and family at that location.....now it is gone.

Jo-Ann's Fabric, Home Depot, Wal-Mart-- Wal-Mart?!?! I do not even know what to say....these are staples in my life--buying everything from lumber to sewing machine grease---at these now-gone locations.

iHOP, Taco Bell, McDonald's, Chick Fil-A, Arby's, KFC, Cherry Berry-- These are just a few of the fast food places that were damaged or destroyed. (Luckily Orange Leaf is okay---we got two new frozen yogurt places in the last month--after never having any FROYO in Joplin before. I was seriously OVERJOYED when I found out that Orange Leaf made it through the storm!

Cunningham Park, Par Hill Park, Huge parkway near Murphy BLVD--These parks used to have playground equipment, huge green trees, and they were beautiful places to spend an afternoon on a quilt, in the shade. Now they are just barren eyesores.

Most of these places will probably rebuild...but some of them will not. Joplin is such a different place to live now.

It looks different.

It feels different.

The people look different.

It is different.

The scariest part for me isn't that the businesses below are gone...its that we are not safe in our own homes. 

I've never been afraid of storms before...and many people here never took tornado warnings seriously, we have so many 'watches' and 'warnings' when spring storms roll through...we all take those things for granted.

People in Joplin have experienced loss...and devastation....and fear....

Many people were injured...many people know someone that died in the tornado...everyone knows someone that lost their home....

Friends at work ask me about my family and home....and when I tell them that my mom lost her home, I get a variety of responses depending on how far removed they are from what happened. Some are completely sympathetic...some are bracing for the worst...and some are just asking to be nice....

The co-workers that live in Joplin, or who have volunteered cleaning up debris, or the co-workers that are sharing their home with a family that is displaced...those co-workers get it....this storm 'happened' to them too....but unless you've driven through the devastation, or lost your neighborhood, or neighbor, or neighborhood grocery store, it is hard to grasp how difficult this tragedy is.

So, readers....I am very grateful to have my house....Joplin is my home and I am very proud of the city for how it managed to crisis and I am still dealing with how REAL everything is.

P.S. I think I have a home for my mom...in a nearby city...it is very similar to where she was living before the tornado took her home. If all goes well, she can move in next Friday.

Photo Collage Friday. {Number Seven}

Around the house.

In the wake of the Joplin Tornado disaster in Joplin, I am thankful for a house to come home to....dirty dishes in the sink, a screen porch, and a fridge full of magnets.

So many people in my city are homeless.

So many people have spent the last 2 weeks searching through rubble for their belongings.

I have spent the last two weeks desperately searching for a home for my mom.

I haven't had a lot of free time recently to hang out at home....between school and trying to help my mom, things have been super crazy.

Here are a few recent shots from around my house.

By the way, today is my LAST day of school....Happy summer...thanks for reading!