Monday, November 5, 2012

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Living in GA, and having traveled quite a bit, I have run into a lot of people who have been to, or know someone that lives in New Jersey. We always play the what town game, and the do you know so-and-so game. It's always funny the different reactions I get when I say I'm from NJ. Do you know the Sopranos, do you fist pump, and once I actually got an "Oh, all Yankees I've met are the same" After an actually enjoyable conversation with this guy for 2 hours (at a friend's party then later at a bar), when he realized I was from Jersey, he didn't want to talk to me anymore. I held back my Jerseyism and thought I couldn't even dignify his ignorance with a response.  I pocketed my fist and just turned my back on him and continued to talk to the realest person in my life, my Jersey Husband. haha (love you david!)

What has always remained the same in these interactions is my PRIDE in being from this awesome state. It has SO much to offer... Being the suburb of Philadelphia and NYC, home of Atlantic City, the Appalachian Trail, Hoboken and our beloved Jersey Shore. We have mountains, cities, beaches, and plains, and some of THE BEST FOOD IN THE COUNTRY. People with tough exteriors, but big hearts. You're naturally born with street smarts, quick wit and a left hook if you're born in NJ (more or less ;))

So many great movies, and not so great, but still as addicting, reality shows are based in our state. There's not one person I've met that doesn't have something to say about NJ.

Sadly, there's not one person I know who hasn't been affected by hurricane Sandy. Countless friends from all over the state still don't have power for over a week now. My brother, sister-in-law and cool ass nephew have been pretty much raising their new little girl Amish style since she came home. She was born just days before this storm hit. Thank goodness, not during!! My parents are also without power. And so breezy about it. Every time I call they're "just fine". Coming from the humble means they grew up with in the Philippines, hot water and electric weren't always an everyday thing. "We've got the gas grill outside to boil water and a bag of ice in the fridge" seems to be the only thing they need.  My mom says "God always provides."

I have another friend, she may likely be a friend of yours as well, who lives in a small shore town Tuckerton, NJ - one of the areas predicted to be hit the hardest when this storm was coming.  When she was told to evacuate, I asked her if she's brought anything with her. She said my photo albums and the important framed pics I have of Sami, her sweet and sunny 6 year old daughter.

Hurricane Sandy literally washed through her house filling it up with water.

The days after the power went out, I would get texts from her.  Worried and nervous,  4:00 am: "I can't sleep. I am so anxious and sick to my stomach over the local pics I've already seen. I know my house is going to get wiped out from all this flooding." She sat for days not being able to even drive into her town to see the wreckage Sandy had left. She sat for days, holding her breath, and all of us praying that her home, her life, were salvageable. All the while she kept up a positive outlook and strength I don't think I could even have. "They're just things, they're replaceable.  We are safe."  Me, always bubbly and seeing the bright side of things... My heart was breaking for her and her daughter.

Nicole finally got to go "home" on Saturday, November 3rd. Almost a full week after they evacuated. And there was barely anything left that wasn't water logged or washed away. The entrance of the house is crooked and the foundation has a crack. No more plumbing, electric, heat - it's all shot. And that is just the structure.

Her yard looks like an old abandoned sea town.

What was once a sweet little home for her and her daughter looked like trash just strewn about.

Permanent damage to her prized possesions.

Some of her neighbors were not this "lucky"

What she and her family built over 12 years of making this place their home is now a pile at the end of the driveway.
And despite all of this, her heartache and burden of where the heck to start to build her life and home back together, she hasn't asked for anything... yet posts this on Facebook with the caption: "This movie was way at the top of my closet. Forgot it was up there. I'm totally going to be paying it forward!"

After the insurance adjuster, and meeting with FEMA and trying to figure out how to start putting the pieces back together again - she is told it could be about 3 months before they can even start to rebuild, and a year, at the least, before she can go home. Many friends and family have asked for a list of things she's lost that they could send and donate, but sadly she doesn't have anywhere to put anything. Thankfully she is staying with family nearby, able to get to work and her daughter to school. But after all this, and the dust is settled, it is just the beginning of what else she must endure and go through to get back to normal. After tiring days, she still doesn't have the comfort and security the rest of us may have to GO HOME!

She text me again yesterday and said "the song Home by Phillip Phillips is so appropriate, but it brings me to tears."

This is where I ask for help from my friends, her friends, the community that I have had so much pride in being a part of and growing up among, some of the biggest hearted and bad ass people in my life. If you can, please donate to helping Nicole and Sami to get back to normal. 100% of your donation will go directly to her for the things she needs to save for that have washed away, bills that need to be paid and contractors who need to be signed to start rebuilding their life so she can go back home. Every little bit counts and will make a huge difference in the life of our friend. Thanks for reading. Thanks for helping. Nicole - we are all sending you the biggest of hugs, and the strongest of prayers. We love you.

I have created a donations account under Nicole's name and I will keep this fund open for a few weeks so the article has enough time to circulate.  Thanks to Holly Campbell (Pelt) for helping me whip this together.  We know everyone is doing all that they can to help so many people, a prayer and positive thoughts go a long way too!

UPDATE 7/1/13:  Thank you to all those who donated and sent prayers for our friend Nicole.