MyStoryYourStory: Neither an end nor a beginning …

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on…" – Hal Borland

Greetings and salutations,

Another year has come and gone. This past one reads like a chapter from Noah's Ark and an episode of Happy Days combined. Instead of building an ark, we built a sandbag levee surrounding our house. And we were blessed with new life in our family.

It all started with a flooded basement last January due to the water sensor valve failing in our old washing machine. Arriving home after work one evening, we found our washer flowing like a fountain and three inches of water covering the basement floor.

You guessed it; we gutted four out of the six rooms downstairs and hired a contractor to renovate the area into a lovely lower-level suite.

Soon after, the Army Corp of Engineers gave us a few days' notice on their planned release of epic volumes of water from Gavin's Point Dam up river on the Missouri. Worst case scenario – the lake we live on would rise 15 feet, potentially flooding our new basement. We planned for the worst, hoped for the best and started building a levee.

Our town turned into a virtual war zone with Blackhawk helicopters swarming above from sunrise to sunset and hundreds of Army Reserve troops deployed to build and patrol levees, provide security and direct traffic. God bless our troops!

Strangers of all ages from surrounding areas descended like angels, helping in whatever way they could. For several days, we religiously filled, hauled and stacked 60-pound sandbags higher and higher. We didn't quite build an ark, but it sure felt that way. My aching back!

It wasn't long until record-breaking flood stages consumed farms, businesses and entire towns. From Yankton to Omaha and beyond, the Mighty Mo carved new outer banks spanning several miles from its previous containment. As the river stage climbed, so did ground water levels. This caused our lake to swell, reaching the bottom of our bank from its original shoreline some 150 feet away to the higher bank on which our house is situated.

Hemmed in by sandbags, we staved off the threat of flooding with a statue of Mother Mary, a rosary, a blessed bottle of holy water and other religious relics propped in our picture window.

Ceaselessly, we petitioned the heavens with prayers. Finally in October, five months, which seemed more like 1,000 years, later, we breathed sighs of relief as water ever so slowly, began to recede. During all of this, we realized how good and generous the human spirit truly is.

Before and after the great flood, we were blessed with the births of our two grandsons Oliver Elliot on Feb. 19 to our son Nicholas and daughter-in-law Melissa. Eight months later on Oct. 13, Cecil Hughes was born to our daughter, Vanessa, and son-in-law John. Cecil joins our 14-year-old granddaughter, Gracie. As you can imagine, we love being grandparents!

Brian is nearing his 32nd year at Mercy Medical Center, where he is a psychotherapist in the Pathways outpatient group therapy program. The local media have taken an interest in Pathways, interviewing Brian several times this past year regarding the addition of art and pet therapy, the economic times and recovery in general.

Paula is in her fifth year at Briar Cliff University, where she is director of marketing and communication. Outside of work, she writes a column titled "My Story.Your Story" for the Vermillion Plain Talk and the Carroll Daily Times. Her columns garnered third place nationwide in the 2011 National Federation of Press Women communication contest. She conducted pro bono readings of her stories in Nebraska and South Dakota in 2011. Over the years, she has done readings and book signings at libraries, senior centers, nature centers, civic clubs and churches in five states. So if you are planning a banquet or fundraiser and need a program, call or email Paula to book a reading.

Last but not least, we were ever so grateful to have you in our lives this past year. So as the new year is upon us, may this letter be as a sacred text that blesses you, may God's holy nudging encourage you and may God's sweet perfume soothe you.

Christmas blessing all year through….

Paula and Brian Damon

2011 © Copyright Paula Damon.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at my-story-your-story@blogspot.com and find her on FaceBook.

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