Hypothetical vs Reality

This is something that has come up a few times over the past several days. A few people have asked why I decided to stay in Orlando and ride out Hurricane Irma, instead of evacuating to a place far away from danger.

I remember talking about hurricanes a lot when I lived in North Dakota. I remember saying that, if I lived in Florida, I would just fly home if/when a hurricane was approaching, and then I would go back to Florida after the storm had passed. Some people have asked why I didn’t just do that. And, well, there are many reasons.

Things seem so simple when you live in a place that is 1,500 miles from the nearest ocean and you have no chance of being affected by a hurricane. Hurricanes tend to not pop up suddenly. It can and does happen. Usually, you know days in advance that a hurricane could be headed your way though. Irma traveled thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean. People knew about it for over a week. But, this storm had a mind of its own. The experts who have been studying and forecasting weather for decades didn’t know exactly where this storm would pass through Florida until it started to happen. It’s a bit of a surprise when you wake up in the morning thinking you will be 75 miles from the eye of a hurricane that day, and then you end up inside of the eye wall of the storm just a few short hours later. That’s life. Life throws you curveballs sometimes, and you just have to roll with it and adapt.

Irma was expected to turn to the northwest. The storm moved due north. Almost nobody predicted that. Everyone was surprised. That is not the point I want to make though…

When people go on trips and fly across the country, they plan those trips well in advance. Travel arrangements are made and money is saved months before the trip. When you find out that a massive hurricane is headed directly toward you less than a week before it hits, you can’t always just get on a plane and fly across the country. Flights are expensive. Taking a trip and being away from home for several days is expensive. There is planning involved. Even in an emergency, packing up and leaving your home suddenly is not as easy as you think it would be. Flights fill up quickly as people start to decide to evacuate. Airports close as the weather gets too bad. You only have so many options. There are only so many flights and only so many seats in each plane.

During a hurricane, when evacuations are ordered, millions of people have to try to leave the area at the same time. When the Florida Keys and Miami were evacuated, millions of people tried to get out as fast as possible. Roads were jammed. Traffic was stopped. You can’t just get in your vehicle and leave Florida quickly when millions of other people have the same idea. Many coastal areas were evacuated, but Orlando was not. This is one of the places where people came to take cover when they had to evacuate their homes.

As I said already, everyone was completely caught off guard by the exact path of Hurricane Irma. When everyone was told that Orlando was not expected to be in the direct path of the worst of Irma, none of us who live here had any reason to believe that evacuating was necessary. Some people chose to leave, because they felt safer not staying here and riding out the storm. If they felt safer elsewhere, then they made the best decision for themselves.

Orlando is in the center of the Florida peninsula, so there was no chance that we would have to deal with storm surge. That is key. That is why people were not evacuated here. Storm surge is the biggest reason that people die in hurricanes. We were prepared to deal with the wind and rain, but storm surge was never going to be an issue here. Everyone has their own set of circumstances and comfort levels, but I would not have planned to evacuate even if I had known well in advance that I would be in the direct path of the worst part of the storm. I know that a lot of people worried about me and were concerned for my safety. I really appreciate their concern, but I never felt that my life was at risk. I don’t want to die. I would never intentionally put myself in a situation where I could lose my life. I planned all along to ride out Irma at home, and have no regrets about that decision.

I remember watching news coverage of several hurricanes while I lived in North Dakota. Specifically, I remember Hurricane Andrew. I remember seeing the damage and destruction that storm caused. That is something I have never forgotten. I remember thinking how scary it would be to experience a storm like that. There have been a few pictures that have popped up on the internet that compared the size of Hurricane Irma to Hurricane Andrew. I’m sure a lot of you have seen that picture. Irma was MUCH bigger than Andrew. I don’t know how many people really understand just how massive Irma was. This storm was enormous!! It was definitely something I will never forget.

Since I experienced it for myself, and it was my first real experience feeling the full effects of a hurricane, Irma will always be more memorable for me than it will be for some Floridians. You can see pictures and watch videos of hurricanes, but you will never fully understand the power of these storms until you experience one for yourself. The power of nature truly is incredible!!

I could probably make many more comparisons between talking hypothetically about a hurricane and actually living through one, but I will just discuss one last point. The times in North Dakota when I said I would just leave during a hurricane and then return to Florida later seemed a lot easier, because, at the time, Florida was just a vacation destination to me. I live here now. This is my home. This is my life. I can’t imagine just leaving behind a place I love so much just to avoid a storm. If I felt as though I were putting my life in jeopardy, then that would be a different story. Just leaving to avoid the storm itself just doesn’t make sense to me though. Abandoning my home and the people I have met here just doesn’t make sense to me. I love this place and I love the people here. We’re all in this together. We experienced the storm together, and we will recover and rebuild together. I’ve said this in previous posts, but this storm will bring our community closer together. It just wouldn’t have been the same for me if I had left. Everyone views things differently, but I am glad I stayed. If I had the option a million times to go back and do things differently, I wouldn’t have changed anything about this past weekend.

I don’t know if anyone who asked why I didn’t leave will ever read this, but, if they do, I hope this gives them a better idea of why I made the decision I made. They still may not agree with me, and that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their own views and opinions. Staying here and experiencing the full force of Irma seemed like the right choice for me, and I still fully stand by it.

Unless you’ve experienced something for yourself, you really don’t know what it’s like, and you can’t honestly say for sure what you would have done if you were in that situation. You can’t judge people for doing what they feel is best for themselves. Hypothetical situations versus reality can change in an instant. There are just too many factors involved to really know what you would have done in any given situation. Remember that things always seem a whole lot simpler when you’re on the outside looking in.

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What I Am Seeing So Far (Hurricane Irma Update)

Hurricane Irma has moved out of Florida, and I finally got some sleep today. The curfew here in Orange County has been lifted, and people are starting to get outside again. The elevator in my building is still shut off, so I will be staying on my floor until that is turned back on.

I did get a chance to look around outside a little bit from my floor though. What I am seeing so far is about what you would expect the day after a hurricane… it’s not pretty. Trees are broken or just completely knocked down. Branches are scattered everywhere. There is unrecognizable debris. It is hard to tell, but it appears there may be some roof damage to nearby buildings. Metal signs are bent and twisted. As bad as that is, the people who live near me were the lucky ones.

It sounds like my friends all made it through the storm safely. However, some of them are now starting the process of cleaning up damage, unfortunately. Millions of people have a long road ahead of them to get life back to normal. For some people, clean up will take days. For others, the process of cleaning up and rebuilding could take weeks, months, or years. I always try to find a way to put a positive spin on things, and, as much damage and destruction as Irma caused in Florida, I am thankful we didn’t have to deal with the storm being as strong as it was when it hit numerous Caribbean islands. The storm was bad here. It was really bad. After seeing the strength of the storm here, I can’t even begin to comprehend what it must have been like for the people in the Caribbean. I hope people from around the world pull together to help those islands and help those people put their lives back together.

Hopefully tomorrow I can get outside and get a better look at things around here. If I can, I want to help people get life back to normal as quickly as possible. I just don’t know how much I will be able to do. Maybe the best way I can help is by staying out of the way. I guess we’ll see.

Once again, this isn’t a very detailed update. Hopefully I can update in more detail over the next day or two. I think perhaps the best thing for everyone tonight is to just relax and take a break from everything storm-related. Crews are working around the clock to restore power as quickly as possible to people who are still in the dark. While they are out working hard, I think it might be good for the rest of us to just take a breath. We made it. We’re safe. There is a lot of work to do as we move forward and get Florida put back together, but taking one night to unwind before that work starts could be a good thing for everyone.

People have shown throughout Irma and the preparation for the storm that we can pull together and love each other. People have shown that we can unite and set aside our differences. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again… I hope people remember this time. I hope we can learn from this experience. I hope Irma is the turning point that this country (and this whole world) so badly needs. We all share one planet and we are all human beings. If we want to, we can all unite. We just need to stop talking about how nice it would be, and actually start to make it happen.

While You Were Asleep… A Night I’ll Never Forget (Hurricane Irma Update)

While most Americans settled in for a good night’s sleep, I had an experience I will never forget. As I said in a previous update, I have always been a “weather nerd”. Many people are scared to death when they hear a storm is headed their way. When I lived in North Dakota, storm chasing was a hobby of mine. Driving out to a random country road to get a good view of a tornado is a thrill that can’t be beat. This storm, however, caught my attention, but also made me curious. My whole life, I have absolutely hated missing out on things. I would rather be exhausted the next day than miss out on something the night before. It’s just the way I am. Live for today!!

Before I continue, I want to apologize in advance if there are spelling/grammar errors in this update. I normally proof-read my posts 4-5 times before publishing them, but I have done some decent damage on a case of beer tonight as this storm has moved in, so editing is not something I’m concerned with right now. haha

Anyway, Hurricane Irma basically got ripped apart over central Florida. Wind shear caused the eye to get destroyed. In the process, the strong winds were expanded by almost 450 miles!! That is pretty unbelievable. People as far away as North Carolina experienced strong, damaging winds from a hurricane that was centered over central Florida. That just doesn’t happen… ever… except tonight. As a result of this change in the storm, the strongest winds ended up hitting where I live. I ended up inside the eye wall of Hurricane Irma.

I am struggling to find the words to do justice to the experience. Imagine a jet hovering directly above you for an extended period of time. That may not fully describe what it was like here, but I can’t think of a better description. It was LOUD!! Palm tress that are 30 feet tall were completely bent over. The tops of the trees were touching the ground. You know those things you see on TV, but you think “that will never happen here”? That happened here. I was stunned and amazed. It sucked me in and I couldn’t look away. Now that I am safe and out of danger, it was SO COOL!!!!

Throughout this storm, I have been hoping that I would not lose power. My lights flickered for about 20 minutes as the worst of Irma moved in. I have no idea how, but the power never went out here. Millions of people were not so fortunate. I have heard that well over 3 million people across Florida have lost power. The storm is nowhere near being done here, but I am hopeful that I won’t end up in the dark, now that the worst of the storm has passed.

All night long, I have been hearing loud bangs outside. I have no idea what those sounds are from at this point. Perhaps I will find out tomorrow. The only real concern I have had during this storm is that my car is parked right next to a tree. The trees that I am able to see from my balcony are all still standing, and very few branches have been lost. I am hoping when I get a chance to go check on my car tomorrow that there isn’t a tree on top of it.

Growing up in North Dakota, one experience you never think you will have in your life is being inside the eye wall of a hurricane. I experienced it, and it was incredible!! I will not say that it was “fun”, but it was something I will say I am glad I got to experience, now that I’m out of danger. This storm did a lot of damage, and areas of Florida will take days, weeks, months, or maybe even years to rebuild and get back to normal. I have said this all along and I will say it again, Florida will come out of this thing stronger and better than ever!! People will pull together. We will all help each other to get life back to normal. Friendships will be made. Neighbors will become closer. Communities will be stronger. I’m an optimist. I just am. I don’t want my personal experience to diminish the damage and destruction this storm has caused. Now is the time for all of us who were very fortunate to step up and help others in need. We are all Floridians. We are all Americans. We are all human beings. Nothing else matters. Now is a time to love each other and help each other. We can all pull together in times of need, so why can’t we all pull together like this ALL of the time? We can. We just need to remember times like right now and remember how easy it is to be kind to each other and help each other. Irma was, and is, a horrible storm that has changed many people’s lives forever. Let’s all use this storm as a turning point to unite and spread love to everyone around us!!

It’s Show Time, Folks!! (Hurricane Irma Update)

The worst part of Hurricane Irma has started in central Florida now. It is here, and it announced its arrival with a bang… literally. I have no clue what that sound was, but it was loud!!

About two hours before the hurricane force winds arrived, a possible tornado passed through the area where I live. I didn’t seen any damage, but it hit suddenly. The only way I can describe the sound is that it sounded like a jet was flying about 100′ above my roof. For a few minutes, I couldn’t even see the building across the street from me.

Winds have gradually increased throughout the day. I still have electricity, but the lights have flickered a few times. The strongest rain bands (accompanied by the arrival of the hurricane force winds) just hit here about 45 minutes ago. Once again, it hit suddenly. There was no gradual increase this time. I heard some loud bangs outside that I have to assume were from debris hitting something.

The biggest change, which none of the “experts” predicted is that this storm is moving north… STRAIGHT north. It was supposed to move north-northwest, and the eye was supposed to pass over the Tampa Bay area. The eye of the storm, if it stays on its current track, will either pass directly over (or just to the west of) Disney World. If that is the case, the eye of the storm will pass just a few miles to the west of where I live. There is even a slight chance that I could end up inside the eye of the storm.

As I am typing this, the constant roar I have been hearing outside for the past hour or so seems to have calmed down a bit. Not a sign that anyone can let their guard down, but it is nice to hear things quiet down for a little bit.

So far, I haven’t seen any damage, but I have to imagine there is some damage in this area. The wind has been crazy at times. The rain has been blowing sideways most of the day, and, at times, it has been so heavy that it has looked like snow. In a way, watching the rain blow over the buildings around me reminds me of a North Dakota blizzard.

The rain is still pouring down here right now, and the wind gusts have to be well over 80 mph. The wind will likely continue to increase as the eye of Irma moves closer. Strong winds will continue until around sunrise tomorrow. After that, we can start to breathe a sigh of relief.

I may or may not write another update again tonight. I imagine the rest of the night will be more of the same… just windier. If anything comes up that is worth sharing, I will do so, if I can. If not, I will try to update everybody again tomorrow once things start to settle down, if I still have power.

And Now, We Wait… (Hurricane Irma Update)

Hurricane Irma has officially made landfall on the southwest coast of Florida. The wind here in the Orlando area is now gusting up to around 50 mph. Moderate to heavy rain has been falling for the past few hours. I didn’t sleep very much last night, due to getting notifications for Tornado Warnings on my phone every 45 minutes or so. You know you’re in “hurricane mode” when a Tornado Warning alert doesn’t even phase you anymore. haha

I hope everyone along the coast who was told to evacuate listened and got out safely!! I have seen pictures and videos from both the Gulf coast and the Atlantic coast. There is already a ton of damage, and this storm is just getting started. While I am on the “dirty side” (the bad side) of the storm, I am very thankful to live in the middle of the peninsula, and not on the coast. There will be wind, rain, and possibly tornadoes here for the next 12 hours or so.

I slept in as late I could today to make sure I’m as well-rested as possible for tonight. The worst of Hurricane Irma is expected to impact central Florida at around 2 AM tonight, so I will likely not be sleeping tonight.

Hopefully I will still have power so I can update again later, but all I can do now is wait. I spent the afternoon finishing some last minute prep work at home. I have plenty of water and food to last me for several days, if needed. I am now done with my storm prep. I am as ready as I can be for Irma.

In such a serious situation, it’s important for people to not panic. We all need to stay positive and remember to laugh on occasion. Keeping your sense of humor and positivity helps to keep things feeling a little bit more normal. I was watching a live hurricane report from a local golf course a little bit ago, and, while the reporter was standing in a foot of water on one of the fairways, there were guys on the course playing golf!! hahahaha Obviously, that’s not smart, and I hope they get home safely, but it was nice comic relief from the seriousness and severity of this storm.

This isn’t a very detailed update, but there’s still not much to update everybody on so far here in the Orlando area. Conditions are continuing to deteriorate, but the storm seems to be weakening some now that it has made landfall. Hopefully it will weaken more quickly than forecast. If possible, I will write another update later tonight. Hopefully there won’t be much to talk about then either. Stay safe, everybody!!

The Eve of Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma started its turn to the north a couple of hours ago, as predicted. The storm has moved off the coast of Cuba and is headed toward Key West, FL. This will be my first experience feeling the full effects of a hurricane. I got a little taste of the power of hurricanes last October during Hurricane Matthew, but Orlando was on the weaker side of that storm. In the area where I live, I think the highest wind gust we had was 68 mph. Irma will be a completely different experience.

The strongest winds (outside of the eye wall) in a north-bound hurricane are on the northeast side of the storm. As Irma makes its way along the Florida Gulf coast and through Tampa/St. Pete, Orlando will be on the northeast side of the storm. Nobody knows yet exactly what we can expect here. A slight shift in the storm one direction or another could make a big difference, either good or bad. The last few updates have moved the path of the storm slightly farther west each time, so the eye keeps moving farther away from me. A big shift to the west isn’t likely at this point, but those of us here on the Florida peninsula can always hope this storm stays offshore.

Friends and family have asked me two questions repeatedly so far: 1. What’s the weather like there right now? 2. How bad is it supposed to get where you live?

The answer to the first question is, tonight was a beautiful night… but things are changing. Anyone who has ridden out a tropical cyclone of any kind before knows that it just has a different feeling to it. It’s hard to describe. Florida is always humid, but it’s almost like Florida humidity on steroids. You go outside and everything just feels wet instantly. The outer bands of Irma have arrived, and the wind has started to pick up with gusts to 30 mph right now. There is some heavy rain coming, and there will be a high risk here over the next two days for very weak, short-lived tornadoes.

The answer to the second question is, I’ll know tomorrow night. The storm is looking like it will weaken slightly more than was originally forecast, but winds here in the area around Walt Disney World could still gust over 100 mph. Sustained winds could possibly still be around 80-90 mph. Between Sunday afternoon and Monday night, the Orlando area is expecting to get around 14″ of rain, so flooding will be an issue in areas. I do not live in a flood plain, so that shouldn’t be an issue here. I also don’t live on the ground floor of my building, so I have no concerns with flooding.

A lot of people have sent me well wishes and have expressed concern for my safety. I very much appreciate everyone’s concern and positive wishes, but I ask that none of my family or friends who read this panic. This storm is going to be bad, but I am remaining calm. I have always been a “weather nerd”, and am more curious than anything. I am not scared, and I feel safe. I am prepared. I have food, water, and other supplies to last me for several days. I am more concerned for my friends who live along the coast, especially the Gulf coast. The biggest reason people die in hurricanes is because of storm surge. I really hope that anyone who lives in an area that is vulnerable to storm surge and flooding made the wise decision to evacuate.

As much as I am curious about what this storm could bring, I also am not stupid. I know not to take risks. I am in a safe place and will not be going outside until probably Tuesday.

At this point, there is not much else to say as far as an update. There will be occasional heavy rain and gusty winds overnight tonight, and a chance of a weak tornado. Starting early tomorrow afternoon, conditions here will start to deteriorate. It will get progressively worse throughout the day. Between 9 PM on Sunday and 5 AM on Monday is the time that people in the Orlando area are being told to “hunker down”. The worst of the storm will likely be around 2 AM on Monday here. I will try to write as many of these updates as possible throughout the storm, but widespread power outages are expected across Florida. If I lose power, I won’t be updating, obviously. If that is the case, then I will fill everyone in on the details of the storm after power is restored in my area.

Please keep sending positive vibes and prayers to everyone in the path of Hurricane Irma. It looks like the forecast will not change much now, but we can always hope for a miracle. I hope everyone in the path of this storm, especially everyone on the coast, stays safe!! While preparing for the storm this week, I was reminded several times of just how great this place is. I am proud to live in central Florida, and am amazed how people here never fail to pull together in times of need. We will all make it through this storm together! Irma may cause damage and destruction, but Florida will come out of this stronger and better than ever!

The Life-Changing Power of Music

For as long as I can remember, music has been a major part of my life. When you stop and think about it, I think most of you would start to realize that there is some kind of connection between music and some of the most important memories of your life. Music is powerful. It draws emotional reactions from its listeners. Music has the power to make you laugh, to make you cry, to make you happy, to make you sad, to make you angry, to make you relax, to inspire and motivate you… I could keep going on and on. Regardless of the style or genre of music you prefer, music is powerful. Really great lyrics can sometimes say what you have been thinking, but struggled to say yourself.

When I think back to most significant memories in my life, or think about the people I have met, music nearly always seems to have a connection to those memories in some way. If a certain song happened to be playing or happened to be stuck in my head at the time I have met somebody, I often associate that song with that person. The song may not have anything at all to do with the person, except that I was hearing that song when I met them. Whenever I hear that song, I think of that person, and vice versa. Maybe that isn’t as common as I think it is, but it’s just the way my brain has always worked.

When I was a little kid, I wanted to grow up to be a musician. It was the only thing I wanted to do. I have a pretty wild imagination, and have always been able to daydream such specific details that it can almost feel real at times. Countless nights while growing up, I would stay up incredibly late listening to music. I would put headphones on and turn the music up loud. I would close my eyes and picture myself onstage in front of thousands of people performing the music I was listening to.

My neighbors probably thought I was crazy, but, a lot of days, I would stand on my driveway or on the back deck and strum a plastic guitar while singing along to whichever artist’s music I felt like listening to that day. In my mind, I was on a stage in a sold out stadium playing to 50,000+ people.

I realized quickly that I had very little actual musical talent, so my dreams of being a star someday faded quickly. But, my love for music and its connection to the most important times in my life continued to grow.

It’s amazing that even today I can listen to a specific song and instantly have a flashback to a specific person I met in first grade. I can remember where we met and remember exactly why that song reminds me of that memory and that person.

As I started to get older, I started paying closer attention to lyrics and the stories in songs. It was almost like having an epiphany. Songs I’d heard countless times throughout my life took on a whole new meaning. I finally realized what those songs were about. This opened up a whole new world for me. Artists I had never paid much attention to in the past started to become some of my favorites. To this day, the lyrics are the first thing I pay attention to when I hear a song for the first time. My taste in music has changed a lot throughout my life, and the lyrics are a big reason for that. I absolutely can’t stand listening to most music that is popular nowadays. I feel like I’m 90 years old saying that, but it’s true. I would rather listen to the music I loved growing up than new music, in most cases.

Music is the reason I am the person I am. Music completely changed my entire life. When I was in high school, I dealt with several traumatic events and major losses in my life within a very short period of time. It was the kind of situation that would be difficult for anyone to deal with, but high school is such a confusing time that it just made things worse. I started to get depressed and felt lost. Very little in my life seemed to make sense suddenly.

One night, I was listening to music, and the Garth Brooks song “If Tomorrow Never Comes” started playing. I had heard this song literally thousands of times in my life, but I had never listened to the lyrics closely. The second verse completely stopped me and grabbed my full attention.

“‘Cause I’ve lost loved ones in my life
Who never knew how much I loved them
Now I live with the regret
That my true feelings for them never were revealed
So I made a promise to myself
To say each day how much she means to me
And avoid that circumstance
Where there’s no second chance to tell her how I feel”

Those were EXACTLY the words I needed to hear at that time in my life. That night, I made that promise from the song to myself. Since that night, I have tried my best to tell everybody in my life exactly how I feel about them. Whether they feel the same way about me or not, I just want people to know how I feel about them. I don’t want anyone to ever have to guess. If, for any reason, I should leave this world unexpectedly, I don’t ever want anyone to have to wonder how I felt about them. Fulfilling this promise to myself has resulted in several awkward moments and conversations, but I don’t regret any of them. I said what I wanted to say, and am happy I said it. My life has been pretty great so far, and it makes me feel good when I have the opportunity to tell someone that I appreciate them, and let them know that they have brought happiness to my life in some way. I hope they appreciate it, as well. Even people I don’t know well, or at all, who have, in some way, made my day a little brighter and put a smile on my face should know that they have had some kind of positive impact and that I appreciate them. I would hope knowing that would make them feel good. If I ever have the opportunity to meet Garth Brooks, I want to share this story with him, and just tell him thank you for the impact his music has had on my life. The power of music truly is amazing!!

I could tell a ton of stories about how music has impacted or changed my life, and I will probably get to more of those stories in future posts. This is something that has been on my mind for a while, and I wanted to share it. What kind of impact has music had on your life? Do you associate music with memories as often as I do? Has music changed your life in a major way like it did for me? I would love to hear stories from anyone who reads this, if you can relate to it.

And since I mentioned that I always want to try to make sure people know how much I appreciate them, I would like to take a moment to say a huge thank you to everyone who read this, and to the people who have read my previous posts! It really means a lot that people actually take the time to read the things I write! People told me for a long time to start blogging, but I just wasn’t sure if it was something I really wanted to do. Once I started, I wished I had started earlier. I enjoy sharing my thoughts with the world, and I am genuinely surprised and appreciative when people from around the world take the time to read my blog. Thank you all!!

 

Me Playing Guitar

The Calm Before The Storm

This is a change from my regular posts. In fact, my next few posts might be a bit different from the things I have written to this point. Feel free to come along for the journey, if you’re interested.

Last year, my first full year in Florida, I had my first experiences with tropical storms and hurricanes. Growing up in North Dakota, we had tornadoes fairly frequently during the summers, but any form of a tropical cyclone just isn’t something you ever encounter up there.

Both as a way to update my friends and family back home, and, also, as a way to create memories for myself to look back on, I posted a few videos on social media during Hurricane Matthew last October. Now that I have started blogging, I figured it would make perfect sense to use this as a way to update everyone as we prepare for Hurricane Irma to impact Florida in a few days.

Over the next week or so, I will probably post regular updates on the storm if/when Florida does get hit by this storm. Obviously, that will depend on whether or not I still have electricity.

Here is what we know so far…

Hurricane Irma is now the strongest hurricane to ever form in the Atlantic Ocean before moving into the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico. This is a bad storm. It’s VERY bad!! Several islands throughout the Caribbean are going to be impacted by this storm, unfortunately. I can’t even begin to imagine what those people will experience, if they weren’t able to evacuate the islands.

Here in Florida, there is still a lot of uncertainty. We are expecting this storm to impact the entire state, yet there is a chance that we could end up missing the worst of the storm. We won’t know much more information for a couple of days still. Preparations, however, are well underway. I started buying food and other supplies on Sunday. I will get everything else I need to prepare over the next day or two.

Several of my friends have decided to evacuate and not take any chances with this storm. I don’t blame them one bit. That is a smart decision, especially for the people who have families to protect. We can always replace any possessions that we may lose, but people cannot be replaced.

Since I am single and don’t have any family here with me, I have decided to ride out the storm in the Orlando area. I feel safe and prepared to get through the storm at home. If I lived closer to the coast, I may have a different mindset though. Being in the middle of the peninsula, I feel this is the safest place to be in all of Florida.

Floridians are now preparing for the worst, while hoping for the best. Since no one knows yet where this storm will go, we all have to prepare for what could potentially happen, but hope nothing happens. I do want to say this though… I have been thinking this for the past week, but felt better when I heard other people say it, too. Nobody wants a hurricane to make landfall anywhere. Nobody wants anyone’s life to be affected by a devastating storm. But, at this time, I would much rather see this storm hit Florida than continue its current path and impact Texas. The people along the Gulf Coast who were affected by Hurricane Harvey recently have been through enough. They don’t need to deal with another storm. I would much rather see Irma hit Florida than Texas. I would hope most people would agree with that.

Anyway, there isn’t much to talk about at this point, but I just wanted to give everyone a quick heads up and mention that my posts might be a bit different for the next week or so. I have been working on some things that are more in line with my usual posts, but they just haven’t seemed as important with this storm coming. I will get back to those posts in the near future, after Irma passes and life gets back to normal.

I hope everyone in the path of this storm stays safe!!

Be Nice to People, It’s Really Easy

This world is full of hate, negativity, and things that just don’t make sense. Tonight reminded me how awesome people can be. Nothing specific happened that made the night extra special. It was just one of those nights where everybody I spoke with and everybody I saw just seemed to be in a good mood. Everybody was smiling, everybody was polite, and it was just a wonderful night. My initial reaction has stuck with me all night long… why can’t this always happen? That is not a rhetorical question. I seriously would love for somebody to explain to me why there is so much hate and negativity in this world. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and everything in between. I just can’t comprehend any reason to not treat the people around you well every day. If you don’t understand something, do research and get educated. If you disagree with someone, ask questions and consider a different point of view. You may not always change your mind, but at least you tried to see things in a different way. If you dislike something, what is the point of judging someone who does like it? I just don’t understand. This world is diverse. We are all individuals. We all have our own opinions, dreams, goals, beliefs, etc. Why do people get pissed off when someone doesn’t agree with them 100% of the time. I just don’t understand.

With all of the crap that we all have to see and hear about on the news every day, tonight was incredibly uplifting and refreshing. I interacted with people from four different countries. Every single person was smiling, polite, respectful, and just enjoying life. I know that I’m a dreamer, but that is the way the world is SUPPOSED to be, people!! Be a good person. Be nice to the people around you. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, how much money you make, what color your skin is, which language you speak, what your sexual preference is, which religion (if any) you practice, which gender you are… I could go on and on. None of that matters. We are all human beings. We all share one Earth. My wish for this world is that nights like tonight become more common for everybody, everywhere. People who don’t know each other and don’t speak the same language found a way to communicate, and were very nice to each other. I feel very fortunate to have witnessed it and to have been a part of it. This world can be a pretty great place. Why don’t we all get together and make it as great as it can be? Being a good person is easy. All you have to do is be nice. It’s simple. Treat others well, be respectful, don’t judge people, and be open-minded enough to at least consider other opinions, even if you disagree with them. Life isn’t difficult unless people make it difficult.

This is a bit of a random rant, but I hope people take the time to read this and get something out of it. I honestly do believe that love conquers hate. Over time, I hope more people start to realize that and keep spreading the love with everyone around them. Every small change helps. It can start with you. Be a good person, and make someone smile. Never underestimate the power of the little things in life. I hope everyone is having a fantastic week!!

Gulf sunset

“The End of the Road”

“The end of the road” was exactly what it sounds like, it was a dead end in a road about one block north of the house in which I grew up. At the end of this road was a wheat field. Off in the distance, there were trees. Beyond those trees was the fairgrounds. This was the edge of my hometown growing up. Most people who ever saw “the end of the road” never paid any attention to it, because it was just a dead end. But, to a bunch of kids, this was the coolest place in the world to hang out for a few years. Some of the greatest memories of my life are from “the end of the road”.

When I tell people I’m from North Dakota, they tend to ask if I grew up in the country. My answer has always been, “No… but I grew up one block away from the country.” At the west end of the block I grew up on, the backyards met fields. This was the edge of town at that time. Since then, things have changed a lot. The small town I grew up in is now a growing city. I haven’t gone back to visit in over a year, and I fully expect to not recognize most of the city next time I’m up there. When people I meet nowadays ask where I’m from, I tell them Fargo, North Dakota, because people who aren’t from that area have never heard of West Fargo. Yes, West Fargo and Fargo are two separate and very different cities. I always used to make a point of telling people I am from West Fargo… “the GOOD city”. I was proud to be from West Fargo, not Fargo. Since most people I meet now know nothing at all about North Dakota, I have learned that it’s pretty much pointless to explain the difference between the two cities, so I now just say “Fargo”. And no, it’s nothing like the movie.

I grew up in a time that seems like yesterday, but also seems like a completely different universe. As fairly young kids, my friends and I would go to “the end of the road” and spend several hours there most days. This was back before everybody had cell phones. Our parents weren’t there watching everything we did. We all told our parents where we were going, and off we went. Nowadays, I can’t imagine kids that age would be able to do that, which is very sad to think about. Some of the greatest times of my life never would have happened if I had been born just a few short years later.

For as long as I live, I will never forget summer afternoons at “the end of the road” with friends. We always brought baseball gloves and balls, footballs, and anything else we could think of to play with that day. For over a week every June, those afternoons faded into evenings with beautiful sunsets, and the music from the nightly concerts at the Red River Valley Fair providing the soundtrack for those incredible memories.

Many times, there was a group of us who went to “the end of the road” together. Sometimes it was just a couple of us. Eventually, I started going there by myself when friends were busy. The times I spent there alone watching the sunset and letting my mind wander fed my already wild imagination, which led me to enjoying time to myself just sitting quietly and thinking as I got older. I never thought about this until right now as I am typing this, but those times I spent alone as a kid watching the sunset and thinking at “the end of the road” are actually what probably led me to start blogging all these years later. I learned as I got older that I couldn’t bottle things up inside of me. I needed some way to express my thoughts and feelings, and writing became that outlet for me when I started college.

Of all the great memories I have from “the end of the road”, my favorite memories were always when the fair was in town. Since I very rarely got to go to the concerts at the fair back then, I really looked forward to listening to them from “the end of the road”. Being less than two miles from the fairgrounds, the music was loud and clear, especially when the wind blew from the west. Although my friends didn’t all share my taste in music, they still seemed to have fun. I probably enjoyed those nights the most because I was creating great memories with friends while also listening to some of my favorite artists.

I have always been a dreamer, so, in my mind, I was able to make some already great memories even better by just letting my mind wander. I’m not sure if this is exactly normal for a 10-12 year old kid, but I remember evenings at “the end of the road” listening to concerts and imagining how great it would be to have a girlfriend to share those memories with. With an amazing sunset view, music playing in the distance, and perfect summertime weather, the only thing that seemed to be missing was someone special to share it with. As I started traveling when I grew up, the memories from “the end of the road” and the thoughts in my head from those times stuck with me. I started searching for quiet places everywhere I went where I could not be completely surrounded by people, and just enjoy being in the moment.

Now, many years later, I still have those same thoughts all the time. Whether I’m at the beach, at Disney World, or somewhere else, I always try my best to find a spot where I can just unwind and let my mind wander. I enjoy the beauty of the sunsets every night, but still can’t help but think how much better it would be to have someone special to share those moments with. Someday. Someday…

As my friends and I started to get a little bit older, we gradually started to spend less time together at “the end of the road”. We started to actually buy tickets for the concerts at the fair every summer, and life came busier for all of us. Each time we went to “the end of the road” at that point, our group seemed to get smaller. The last time I went there was by myself when I was 14 years old. It was December 31st, 1999. New Year’s Eve in North Dakota is usually ridiculously cold and there is normally a lot of snow on the ground. That year, there happened to not be any snow on the ground yet, and that day was unseasonably warm. While I didn’t go to “the end of the road” that day planning on that being my last time going there, I knew it would at least be one of the last times. My friends and I were older and had started to out-grow a lot of the things we had enjoyed in the past. Also, the field that began where the road ended had been sold. Construction on a housing development would be starting soon, and the road would be extended.

To this day, whenever I get a chance to pass by that spot, I still picture “the end of the road”. It is now just the middle of a city street. Only a few people in the entire world will ever know where that spot was where my friends and I created so many amazing memories. Most people will never know about the great times we had there. Most people wouldn’t care. My friends may not remember those times in the same way that I remember them, but I know that they still cherish those memories, as well. It’s pretty crazy to look back now and realize that the place that, in so many ways, has led to me becoming the person I am today no longer exists. “The end of the road” may be gone now, but those memories will live on for the rest of my life.

ND sunset