Although this is not an actual account of what happened to me on September 11th, I was in fact a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines and woke up that morning in Indianapolis, IN to this sight all around me. I was not yet 21 years old and I was stranded in that hotel for over a week. I will never forget flying an empty plane out of there and empty planes for several days to come. The thought still haunts me..
STAY CALM by Grace Davis
The Captain’s voice, a silencing boom, resonated through the plane, “Flight attendants please secure the cabin for landing.” Immediate panic as each of us realized we were 37,000 feet in the air, followed by curious passengers who would only be answered with darting glances from their youthful crew. Pounding hearts, racing minds, and a noticeable buzz zinging off the walls of the cabin. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. STAY CALM.
Southwest Airlines Flight #2367 was not scheduled to land in Chicago-Midway for at least another hour. Why, then, were we being asked to secure the cabin for landing? Was our bird out of fuel? Was there an equipment malfunction? And most importantly, why had we not been informed of our situation by our pilots? My 20 year old heart took a nose dive deep into the queasy pit of my stomach as I realized something was wrong. Something was very wrong. We were about to go down. STAY CALM. I was the Lead on this flight and, by God I was going to pull it together. Hands were raising, bells were ringing and a sound slowly crept into my ears, not a sound close to me. It was coming from the aft of the plane, overwhelming however distant. Yet I could hear it, piercing and small. A child was whimpering. Vacant blue eyes, speckled green eyes, dark amber eyes, short lashes, thick lashes were consuming my every move. Fear was suffocating the 737 Boeing and without answers mayhem would ensue.
“ What is going on,” I gasped. “There is an emergency and we must divert into Indianapolis. Please STAY CALM and keep the cabin CALM. We are not sure of the exact details but have been notified we must land immediately. Again, you must STAY CALM.” I turned. I faced them. I praised God nothing was wrong with our plane and set out to do what I was trained to do. STAY CALM. I explained the situation to my crewmembers and decided to address the empty faces seeking a shepherd. A sound wafted through the intercom system. A sound so hollow and flat it was unfamiliar to me, unrecognizable, distant: my own voice. “For reasons beyond our control we have been diverted to Indianapolis. Please STAY CALM. The plane is in complete working order and we are not in an emergency landing situation. I will advise you of the details as they become known to me. Again, we appreciate your cooperation and ask that you STAY CALM. Please make sure your seatbelts are fastened, your tray tables are in their full upright and locked position and that all of your carry on items are completely stowed. Flight attendants, please be seated for landing.”
The mind reels. Perhaps it is something as minor as weather. That must be it. The weather in Chicago is……it’s September…..too windy. It must be too windy to land in Chicago. STAY CALM. You’ve worked hundreds of flights. No, more than that. You’ve worked at least five hundred. It cannot possibly be the weather. Maybe Captain Thomas is not feeling well. Perhaps something is going on with his heart. Shit, what if he’s having a stroke? He’s got to be over 60. Jesus, what will we do if the Captain has a stroke during landing? Don’t look into their eyes. They will see right through you. They will sense your fear. She’s crying, 3A is crying and, my God, 14B has a newborn in her lap. STAY CALM. STAY CALM. I need to call my parents. Wait. They are in Paris and your cell is in your bag anyway and they will see your hands trembling. Something is wrong. Something is terribly, terribly wrong. Your fists are dripping sweat. Unclench your fists. They see your fists. Breathe. Why is my heart slowing down? Shouldn’t it be racing? Does it feel death lurking 30,000 feet in the air? What if the landing gear is jacked up and he’s just not telling us? Shit, I am going to die on this plane. I am 20 years old and I am going to die. What if there is a hole and everything breaks in half? That’s not possible right? We won’t all get sucked out of some gaping hole into thin air? Dear God, please just let us land safely. I beg you, for myself, I am 20 years old. I have so much life left to live, but mostly for these innocent people, babies crying, mothers patting, heads bowing. God, forgive me for all the crappy things I’ve done in my life. I’m sorry I had too many beers at happy hour and I’m sorry for using a fake ID to get into happy hour. Do you hear me God? I am not old enough to die. I am not even old enough to drink. I’m sorry for not going to church enough. I am a glorified cocktail waitress. I am not prepared to be the last hope these people have. God, I will do ANYTHING you ask. I will STAY CALM.
What the hell? We are circling. Why are we circling? Why aren’t we landing? This is taking entirely too long. People are shifting; their shoulders lowering. They know. They feel the scales teetering. They are reaching. Their breaths are becoming rapid. Will it be their last breath? Should they write a note? Ha. Should they make a call? STAY CALM. STAY CALM. Enough. I’m going in there and asking them what in God’s name is going on.
“A hi-jacked plane has flown into the World Trade Center. STAY CALM.”
Thursday, November 3, 2011-Many months ago, a vegetarian friend of mine introduced me to an author by the name of Johnathan Safran Foer. After all the Super Size Mes and other crazy food documentaries, his non-fiction book, Eating Animals, actually made me stop eating meat....for about a month. I remember reading the book and feeling differently about myself...something had stirred in me. I felt a bit smarter, a bit more open minded and a bit changed. Me, little ole me, started thinking bigger thoughts.
Amarillo College sponsors a Commonreader program every year. They select an author/book and host all sorts of activities around it ie visual arts contest, art exhibit, etc. This year's author was none other than JSF and my English prof suggested we enter the writing contest for extra credit. The prompt was to write a poem or personal about JSF's latest book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or something related to 9-11.
I completely forgot about the competition until the day before and threw something together so I could get the extra points for entering. A few days later Mr. S notified me I had placed third out of over 50 entries. I was, I'll say it, ECFRIGGINSTATIC. Yesterday the Amarillo Museum of Art had a reception for Joel Meyerowitz photography display followed by a lecture at Amarillo Globe News Center.
I almost did not go. I felt silly about being proud amongst the two other 18 year old winners. I felt silly about being 31 and attending a junior college. But I went, and Dr. Matney recognized me and my work was displayed all over the place and something hit me. BE PROUD. Look how far you have come in the last year. You write well. It's not the best ever but at least you dang tried and you just shook JSF's tiny hand, cool no?. You are bettering yourself to better your daughter's life. And when I called home to check on my greatest accomplishment, she said in her tiny little voice Mama, I am so proud of you!
I thought about our miscarriage the other day and then I thought about how I never think about it anymore. It was like a phantom that snuck in and then left as quietly as he arrived. Like an unwanted house guest that overstays his welcome but not until you boil over the breaking point does he finally leave. Weeks of being polite and bearable and hospitable until you lose your $hi* and send an eviction notice. Time’s up. Get out. Move on. I don’t even remember now how long it all lasted, weeks I know, but maybe not quite months and months. I thought about how fortunate I am to barely remember. How blessed we are to not be tracking a loss date or thinking about how old the baby would be now. I often feel guilty because that short stint of suffering was immediately replaced with a new beautiful life and so many people are not so lucky. I thought, on this day, that I would go through every single second again one million times over to have this baby boy in my life. I talk so often about light and darkness and suffering and triumph. I have been through those cycles in my life and if there was ever a story of low and high, this son of mine is the epitome of strength that comes from pain. I cannot imagine the finality and heartache I would feel now if he had not come along. It’s as if God had to make room for him in our hearts, A HUGE space, the biggest space He could and then that empty space was filled with so much life and love I can barely put it into words. But so many I know still just have the space. Empty. Waiting to be filled.
It is no secret that our first son was not planned. Total surprise and a shock that caused some major changes in our lives, mainly getting married which we should have done long before but Ashley was too scared and durn if I don’t blame him. I had not been a parent in a very long time nor had my hubby and our anxiety was through the roof. It really felt like starting over again, learning all over again, and even though we were better versions of ourselves, we still had a lot to figure out. Also, we did not sleep for three years so there’s that. I begged for another baby pretty much every day after we started sleeping again (makes sense right?) and so I would consider TAP a joint decision, planned if you will. Ok, close enough. Then came the news of needing to have a c-section and I felt that terror all over again, the phantom was back creeping around, causing that heavy looming omniscient feeling of doubt. I had never had major surgery, never taken any sort of pain meds or any prescription meds for that matter, besides antibiotics. I was afraid of death and scarring and death and pain, being too out of it to breastfeed, becoming addicted to opioids (way too many Intervention episodes). You name it and I was afraid of it. I prayed every day for that baby to get in the right position and it just never happened. Meanwhile just for precaution my doc decided to have my family donate blood in case I had complications from his position thing and I am a tad anemic when I am preggo so that gave us a very queasy feeling. The day after Christmas morning we checked in and I legit thought I might have a panic attack. I will never forget the stainless steel, sterile as hell operating room and the 8 million people in there about to see me in all my glory. I am so private in so many ways and the random drug rep in there on his cell phone just about did me in. It is hands down the most terrified I have ever been in my life. I could not let AAP see my fear so somehow I hunkered down, prayed my heart out and made it through. I will never have to do it again I said over and over and over to myself…..
And then I heard him cry and then I saw big huge crocodile tears rolling down Ashley’s face and I knew I would do it 100 times again just to see and hear those sweet sweet sounds. All of the trials from beginning to end, loss to love, somehow magnified that beautiful moment to words I cannot express. He was perfect. Quite frankly, knock on wood, he still is. He reminds me so much of Betty who rarely cried, slept like a champ and was an overall delight. He smiles and smiles and smiles some more. He smiles so much his paci falls out. He laughs and goes to bed at 6:30 and sleeps all night and is the best best baby. He is a blissful snuggly ball of baby fat and smell good Iove I could kiss for eternity. He is perfect. He is Heaven on earth. He is everything we wanted and needed 1,000 times over.
I have wanted to give up at times in my life. I write about it all the time and I think we all grow weary and cranky and first world spoiled sometimes. That’s just life. It’s hard. It’s challenging. It’s scary. But I have found that there is always always always a plan for those challenges. There is always something on the other side of that trial or tribulation that is even better than what we ever imagined. God made room in my heart for a new tiny life and who he is, the light he shines, the joy he has brought, is more than I ever knew possible. Every single thing we endure shapes us into what God has planned for us. It takes fire to meld gold. What is on the other side, what is our God given plan and destiny becomes stronger and more beautiful by the trials we face. I have thought a lot about Anthony Bourdain lately. I identify with him because he loved food and travel and writing. I have wondered if he would have stuck around just one more week or even one more day, if his plan would have been revealed. I wonder if it was and he just couldn’t ever get there, couldn't fill that big ole space. I do not care that he had a previous drug problem or was an alcoholic or that he took his own life. His life was very beautiful to me and I am sad he is gone. He was someone’s snuggly smell good baby boy and he has left an insurmountable space.
"As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small.”-Anthony Bourdain
I hope today and every day we all realize how profound the marks we leave behind are, however small. I hope we know that the slightest changes we make in this world can have the most impact. You may not know it but your smile may change someone’s day, may save their life. This world is nothing but all of those slight changes and small marks coming together to create life and love. Your small mark and slight changes matter in more ways than you will ever know. Fill your space, fill your space, fill your space. To my son Theodore and to all of my children, YOU are my plan and my destiny and the slightest change that has made the biggest impact. YOU are my never giving up. YOU are the greatest mark I will ever leave behind. I am so very glad I did not give up and filled my space with YOU.
Two years ago today. After two years, I still do not believe he is gone and after two years I have no idea if I will have the words. Two years ago today the devil won but Jesus took him home.
Ryan was a light. He was always smiling, laughing, hugging and making you feel good to be in his presence. He was a jokester and a big ole teddy bear. Huge in stature and even bigger in heart. He loved his family and friends and rap music and making people smile. The world was a better place with him in it and people just gravitated towards him. You wanted to hang out with him because you laughed until you cried. You wanted a hug from him because it made you feel better somehow. I had lunch with Ryan’s big brother, who was my first and longest friend at Amarillo High School, and we both admit we feel like we just haven’t talked to Ryan in a while….as if he’s gone on a long vacation or joined the military or something. As if he will be back any minute and we can all go have a beer together. Ryan left a hole in our hearts that won’t ever quite be filled, a secret chamber that will always be empty because when you know someone like him, when you love someone like him, your world becomes bigger and better and changed for the good. Your heart grows and expands and knows a new light and when that person is gone, the space is still there but smaller and emptier somehow.
Two years ago today Ryan was found in his apartment in Houston by his momma who he loved more than life itself. He had overdosed sometime before and his light had burned out.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
Addiction is a deep, dark, sad, pit of a disease….a disease with no cure. No surgery or chemo or pill to take to stop a person from destroying their life and their family’s lives. No answer. No saving. No winning. So many people think it is a choice. It is not. I assure you. People do not choose to live in the deep dark pit, alone, scratching and clawing their way out of the clutches of the devil himself. No one chooses it and often times it cannot be escaped. In my life I have found that most of the time, people suffering from addiction or mental illness also have the biggest hearts. So many people I know, just like Ryan, seem like the happiest folks on the outside but are struggling so badly on the inside. Ryan was the nicest guy. He had a good job. He was handsome and his smile lit up a room. He was my friend. He was a great man who was addicted to heroin. I have often asked myself why God would ever create a person with those tendencies. I think of Jesus up there on the cross saying where are you God? Why have you forsaken me?? Because I think that is what it feels like. When you are at the bottom of the pit....forsaken and suffering. I think I understand what God must have felt as he watched his son suffer that day.
We despised him and rejected him;
he endured suffering and pain.
No one would even look at him—
we ignored him as if he were nothing.
“But he endured the suffering that should have been ours,
the pain that we should have borne.
All the while we thought that his suffering
was punishment sent by God.
But because of our sins he was wounded,
beaten because of the evil we did.
We are healed by the punishment he suffered,
made whole by the blows he received.
In my life I have been blindsided by this disease. People I know and love with lives destroyed. It has broken me and crushed my spirit at times. As I remember Ryan, like so many others, I want to shake him and bring him out of the pit. But I cannot, no one can. That hole that we feel without him, that hole than only God can restore was too big for Ryan to bear. That hole, if not filled with the Grace and mercy of God, consumes you and sends you to the fire.
Watching people spiral down is inconceivable. You can only understand it if you have been there alongside someone you love destroying pill by pill, drink by drink, drug by drug. It is a painful process that has no words. Gut wrenching. Absolutely gut wrenching. It is as if you are standing at the edge of a pool watching the person you love the most drowning. You cannot jump in and save them. You cannot throw out a life vest. You are screaming at them to SWIM. SWIM. SWIM. But they do not. Or they might swim, even if just for a minute. They might swim and even walk right out of that pool but the very next time you turn around they are there again, diving right back in, forgetting how to swim, drowning.
Today, after searching for the words for at least two years, I heard a quiet voice say: Go, God will help you find the words, go write. If you know someone who is suffering from addiction, if you are suffering from addiction DO NOT BE QUIET. DO NOT STAND ALONE. GO GET HELP. Just as satan sneaks around at night in the quiet darkness seeking to steal, kill and destroy, so does addiction. For far too long, we have treated this ailment as a secret, as something people should not talk about, as something shameful and self-inflicted. That cannot be further from the truth. It is not your fault. Seek help. Call a friend. Talk to your pastor. Call me. Do not listen to the whispers that you are to blame, that you can conquer this alone or that you are less of a person because you are an addict, you are not. Do not let the devil win.
"But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”
- 2 Thessalonians 3:3
Today and every day, but today more than ever, I have looked at my own tiny sons and wondered how a mother could ever survive such heartache and loss. I have seen the toddler pictures of Ryan and the smile that melted your heart. He was a tiny son unscathed and strong. He was someone’s brother and son and friend and his memory will forever live on but he lost his battle. I believe the battle can be won. I believe if light can be shed on this disease, if the whispering can stop, if we beging to talk openly about it....We must start with recognition and compassion and understanding that addiction is not a choice. It is a disease. I pray over my own children EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. that they will never suffer in this way. It is a suffering like none other. I pray they will live many many years of happiness after I am gone. I pray that no matter what, no matter what that I know Jesus will be taking them home after they have been old and gray.
Two years ago today my life was forever changed. Two years ago today we lost a great man. Two years ago today the devil won but Jesus took him home.
We don't really take naps in our family. It shows weakness. Never tire. Never give up. No napping allowed.
I screwed up the family mantra and took a very short nap last weekend and when I awoke it was like an outtake from Fixer Upper. Side note: We should be the real reality version of Fixer Upper. The version that shows crying and cursing and WHAT THE FRENCH TOAST IS GOING ON HERE and running out of money and moving hundreds of bricks yourself and saying this is the last project I am ever doing 15 times and and and. Because ya'll. That is what happens. Chip and Jo Jo surely scream at each other from time to time because I just don't think it is possible to endure a remodel without some tears shed and f bombs dropped. It's real. Fo true.
So on this particular letting my family down nap day I had several missed calls from the one I love the most and little did I know they signaled great distress in decision making. Also little did I know when I was forced out of my slumber by distress calls that I would arrive at the building and that ever last loving piece of sheet rock we had upstairs would be gone. BYE. Bye walls, bye dream of being so close to starting to build back up instead of tear down. Bye budget and bye promise not to fight during this remodel. Ok, I am being somewhat dramatic but in the blink of a shut eye my hubby and contractor decided all sheet rock was rotted and must be a)demoed b)rehung c)insulated d)taped e)mudded f)painted. "What the mother french toast is going on here," I said. Insert head in my hands crying. My sweet business partner said all of the sheet rock is rotted so we have to rip it out and so I had the lumber store bring new and we will insulate while we are at it. Insert me storming down the stairs and hearing OH GROW UP being shouted at me. Oh man I am laughing as I type this.
Here's the deal folks. Ashley and I are very, and I mean very, different remodelers. I am the sort that likes to put lipstick on a pig and still call it a pretty little pig type. I would have covered the sheet rock with shiplap or tin and moved on. No need to insulate when you don't have central heat and air but whatevs....He is a perfectionist. He wants everything done right. He always has. This is not news to me. I should not be so shocked. Sadly very meager budgets don't allow for that sort of perfectionism ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU AREN'T LIVING THERE. But I digress.
Did I mention naps are not a good idea in our family. While you were sleeping....indeed...
Against our initial plan of making this place 'just liveable' everything will be ripped down to the studs and made brand new. New electrical. Check. New plumbing. Check. Now new sheet rock with brand new insulation for that brand new heating and air we can afford in 10 years. Check. Here's the thing. Mr. Perfect is, well, almost always, right. Dead on. A thousand percent R I G H T. And although it will take twice as long and possibly cost twice as much everything we produce as a team is done the right way because of him. People may think I am the shining star of this duo (I doubt it but just in case) but I am 1000 percent NOT. The quiet, hard worker in the background, as hard to admit as it is, is what makes us be the best we can be. He is the one that makes it all happen the right way and nothing would be good without him.
I am so so so excited for the next phase of this project. That's another thing. You know the cute #demoday t-shirt at Magnolia Market Farms Bakery Restaurant Empire? It should say #demodaysssssssssssanddaysanddays. Many days. It should also say you will most likely run out of your prelim budget right in the middle of #demodaysssssssssssss because your plan will inevitably be rerouted by rotten sheet rock or some other nonsense. Here's what I am saying folks. Remodeling is not for the feint of heart and it sure as hell isn't like what you see on Flip or Flop or Fixer Upper or Trading Spaces. Listen, I love Chip and Jo as much as the rest of us but IT AIN'T REALITY. Reality is hearing OH GROW UP and knowing you really should. Reality is belly laughing at the first fight of a project that may not get completed until 2035 at this rate (we will still have kids in the house so who cares right?). Reality is working through it and moving forward and knowing that you have learned a heckuva lot since you remodeled your house three years ago and durn if you aren't even keeping an expense spreadsheet this time. I read Chip and Jo's book and what I took away from their experience is that with each project they learned something new and found a deeper love for one another. I also learned that he buys random house boats and that they spent a lot of time broke in the beginning. I am the Chip, no doubt. Reality in remodeling is just like it is for every other aspect of life. Ups, downs, disagreements, happy days, mad days and a whole lot of hard work. It is recognizing your weaknesses and trying real hard not to make the same mistake twice. As I looked through the pics below I just feel so proud of the work we are doing here. I feel proud that I grew up a little and realized insulation and sheet rock are pretty dang cheap (much cheaper than the two fireplaces I insisted on adding). I feel proud that we can work through anything and just keep learning from one another. These projects, however draining they may be, are such a blessing to me. As you scroll through, I hope you can see what I see which is a clean, cozy, comfortable, happy spot where you might be able to curl up in front of the fireplace and take a good ole Saturday afternoon nap.
For about five minutes, my MOVING SALE SIGN read CLOSING SALE. And it just didn’t look right. It didn’t feel right and CLOSING just wasn’t working for us. Closing is sad. Closing reminds me of the part in You’ve Got Mail where she remembers dancing in her mom’s old bookstore. We aren’t closers. We are movers.
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”-Newt Gingrich
Yellow Bird has been more successful than we could imagine but for a minute, I felt like we weren’t capable of juggling it all. I felt as if we weren’t making a difference and just going through the motions. I felt like I didn’t have a plan that was working. And as usual, God intervened with HIS plan instead of mine. I pray every day for Yellow Bird Boutique to bless others and for God to show me what HE has up His sleeve when it pertains to our little business on the corner. I pray that it is more than just owning a business but that we actually help people and serve our community and make people feel happy. I pray that we are in this together as a family and I pray that my children will be blessed by hard work and tackling all sorts of surprises. In the 4 years of our relationship, we have married, had a baby, remodeled a home, opened a business, had another baby, painted about 43,000 pieces of furniture, traveled to 116 auctions all the while maintaining full time jobs and raising our childrens. We decided it was time to close up shop and recharge and focus on our family. We both agreed that when YBB started to jeopardize one ounce of time with our kids, we would figure something else out. So figure something else out we did. That closing mindset lasted for about 5 minutes and without a FOR SALE sign even being hung, we found a new home. When I walked into the 100 year old newspaper building down the street with its tin ceilings and original hardwoods and exposed brick, my mind was made up. And when my partner love saw the amazing workshop soon to be brewery? Coffee shop with rooftop patio? Dance hall? with cedar beams in the back, his mind was made up.
Yellow Bird Boutique will relocate to 213 Main St. this month and I am beyond ecstatic for the project ahead of us. I tingle with excitement with thoughts of exposed brick, 10 ft. ceilings, concrete floors and the usual YBB industrial farm twist. We have big plans for the retail space downstairs but the 3 bedroom loft upstairs is going to be the coolest and possibly only NYC style loft in town. Think pulley lights and a claw foot tub and open windows with geranium filled window boxes and subway tile, lots and lots of subway tile. We are changing things up instead of closing things up. We are putting our babies first but also launching something completely new in our precious little town. A dear friend of mine told me today, “The devil is stagnant. Jesus moves us.” She is right! We are moving! We are movers and shakers and I cannot wait for you to see what is up next!!
Thank you for being patient with us! We have some great things just around the corner and we will keep you posted on an open date! We will be back with the same Yellow Bird charm and some completely new concepts too! As always, thank you to my husband who does not just support all of my crazy dreams, HE DREAMS WITH ME. And to our family who teaches us about hard work and perseverance every single day. And to Feathers who pretty much runs the show and especially to each and every one of you. We hope we bless you as much as you bless us!!!
“You only live once but if you do it right, once is enough.”