Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lessons from Sandy

The night of the hurricane, our power went out at 8:30 pm.  The girls climbed into bed with me, because we were all a little scared and Jason slept in Piper's room.  I lay there thinking how grateful I was that there was not a lot of rain and that Jason had taken down the dead tree that had been next to our bedroom during Irene.  I was thankful for our new roof, with 6 nails per shingle.  I was thankful that our neighbor had already set up an emergency water source for us for if the power went out since our well would not work without electricity.

On Tuesday morning, we awoke bright and early to find the storm had passed.  We were grateful because it passed sooner than the weathermen had predicted.  We were grateful because our house had no damage, no trees down, no siding or shingles missing.

Then we saw it.  One neighbor's shed had blown through the fence into the other neighbor's yard.  My dear friend Stephanie's house was covered in trees...five trees had come down in her yard and were all over her house.  We went for a walk and found neighbors assessing roof shingles missing, siding missing, trees down everywhere...on cars, fences, homes, sheds.

Jason was chomping at the bit.  He is an arborist.  He doesn't wield a chainsaw so often anymore, but he can...he can get the tree limbs off of powerlines to restore power, he can remove trees from roads so the roads are passable, he can get trees off homes so people can go back home.  He called both offices he works at and one of his boss's answered with, "Come in."  No hello, no how are you, no what do you want?  Just "Come in."  And Jason was off...and we have barely seen him since.  He leaves before sun up and comes home way after dark, I get some food in him and he crashes hard until the next morning.  But this is his calling.

I was so grateful that we were okay, that there was no flooding, that our home was okay.  Although many telephone poles were down and the cell phone towers had been destroyed, I was grateful that we could drive to my parents' house to check on them and they could drive to my Grandma's house to check on her.  Although we had no cable, no internet, we listened to battery-powered radios and we knew that we were not alone.  We knew millions of other people were without power as well.  We knew how hard Jason was working and that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of other men and women out there working to restore power.  More than anything, I think, I felt so very grateful that we have a tough-ass Governor like Chris Christie who understands this state and its' people.  Chris Christie made me feel so confident that he would put the power companies in their place if needed, he would fight for help for us if needed, he would do whatever it took.  After 9/11 I could not have imagine a better Mayor for New York City during that crisis than the awesome Rudy Guiliani and after this catastrophe, I could not imagine a better Governor for my state than Chris Christie.

There were many lessons learned during this time.  First of all, how strong I am.  My husband was working 14-16 hour days clearing power lines and getting trees off of homes.  It was all on me to keep my girls' spirits up.  If I cracked, they would crack.  If I was calm and made it fun, they would take away a message of resilience and strength.  

We don't have a wood stove or a fireplace.  I was so SO SO grateful that we had upgraded to gas cooking last year.  I quickly realized that I could boil water on the stove to keep my house warm.  I realized my cast iron pots held heat longer.  I would wake up in the morning before the girls and start the pots.  I brought tables up from the basement and in from the garage and set them around the house with hot plates.  I would put those steaming pots all over the house like make-shift radiators.  Jason would come home every night and say that you would never know that we don't have heat.  Our neighbors with fireplaces would come over and say our house was more comfortable than theirs.  It is amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.

Our town handed out ice and water, but I went to the supermarket for ice and we had already bought water in anticipation of the storm.  Since we have been eating mostly meatless, I had very little meat in the freezers--yay!  And what I did have I cooked in the first couple of days and Jason took leftovers to work to share with the other guys.  I managed to consolidate the things we did have in the freezers and the refrigerator into a cooler so we always had milk and cheese and eggs...and pumpkin ravioli and butter (priorities!!).  We ate great meals from lemon chicken to Sopa de Seca to Asian Albacore to pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and dried cranberries (the produce store was not open for the sage and with the gas shortage, I was not going far to get it).

Homeschooling was a huge blessing.  This was reason number 467,345,986,988 that we love homeschooling.  The streets were deemed unsafe because of the fallen trees, or tree limbs hanging precariously in the branches or downed power lines.  We had to basically stay inside.  Each morning the girls and I would tidy up the house--do you know how easy that is when you are living so simply?  And don't have distractions like the internet???  -- Then we would sit down and read our history book and discuss the writing of the Constitution and George Washington's presidency.  Sure, I missed finding video links and websites, but the girls notebooked and summarized and discussed.  We finished our Mind Twisters book and the girls agreed they want more of them.  We began a new discussion based Logic curriculum.  The girls learned to use water as a conductor with their Snap Circuits.  They almost completed their Geography workbooks.  Since our math requires watching videos, they did mostly math review but I was really encouraged by their retention of even formulas and conversions.

We realized that if we moved my bed under the big window in my room we got more light in the afternoon.  We could read by the light of the sun until at least 5pm every day.  We would snuggle up in my bed under quilts and down comforters and read together every afternoon.  We finished Charlotte's Web and discussed based on the Deconstructing Penguins book.

Having girls who LOVE to read was another HUGE blessing.  We hardly watch TV.  We canceled cable in the spring.  When I went back to work last week I kept hearing how people NEEDED to get generators because their kids were in TV withdrawals.  I thought that was so irritating sad.  I know that sounds judgmental and I am sorry, but get out a game, read a book...I have just never been a fan of TV and the idea that people waited in line for gas to fuel generators to watch TV makes me think: No wonder our education system sucks and we do poorly in math and science.  Pick up a book, play a game, take apart an old VCR ...DO SOMETHING!  Don't just watch the idiot box.
Desperate Reader Reads by candlelight after Hurricane Sandy ;-)

Playing Scrambled States one morning
Other things we did to pass the time while the power was out:

Being the awful & neglectful parents that we are--and I did feel that way when I realized this!--we had not bought pumpkins for our girls (this was partly because I planned to buy them when we got back from Allume, but still...bad mom!) Thankfully Jason remedied this one evening on his way home.

* We looked through the girls' baby books and were so thankful that we had all of this, I kept thinking of the people that lost wedding albums, scrapbooks, family photos, baby books...couches and washing machines and even homes can be replaced but those precious photos can not ever be replaced.

 * We had a dinner party.  Yes, I am insane.  No, seriously, I had a lot of pork tenderloin to get rid of and no power to keep it cold so we invited friends over for dinner.  The kids played games, the adults drank beer and talked by candlelight.  it was actually really fun.

*Allie and I gave each other foot massages using the Peppermint Oil I got at Allume.

* Since the freezer was not working we HAD to eat the cake I bought at Trader Joe's just to have around in case we had an impromptu dinner party--because we never have those around here ;-)

* When the girls were christened, I set out stationary and envelopes and asked the guests to write them letters.  We went through some of those letters last week.  It was nice to feel so loved.

We took a lot of silly photos...because...that is what we do around here ;-)

I was SUPER grateful for the beer we brought back from our tour of the Troegs Brewery in Hershey!

We were all super duper grateful to our awesome neighbors who tied us into their city water while our well was down.

Our water heater split down the seam during this whole thing.
I think it was the stress.  No, not really, it was just time.
We were REALLY grateful to my dad for coming over and installing a new water heater and showing Jason how to get 'er done!

These head lamps may look goofy--but they are awesome when the power is out!

I learned a lot from Sandy.  I learned how strong I am.  I learned how awesome our neighbors are.  I learned that we have a lot of people who have our back.  I learned that we can live with a lot less and I became more sure than ever that the more we have the more stressed out we are.  I have a renewed interest in simplifying our life even more.  I learned that I really don't like to leave my house and in many ways not having power meaning not having to leave the house felt like a decadent vacation for me.

I also learned that as long as I don't crack, my girls won't crack.  On Tuesday I broke.  The girls activities started up and it was hard to get back into the swing when we didn't have power.  I loved being home with nowhere to go for a week.  I didn't like the hustle and bustle of a schedule.  I started getting angry that it seemed that all these other people got their power back but not us.

I will never forget this moment.  We came home Tuesday from some activities, it was late, it was dark and it was cold in our house.  Boiling water to keep the house warm is a full-time job and being out for 6 or so hours set us back a lot.  I lit the candles, started boiling the water for heat and for pasta.  Then the tears came.  I had fought so long to keep them at bay.  I didn't want to break in front of the girls.  But the girls were in my bed, wearing those super chic headlamps, reading their new Mother-Daughter Book Club books and I bent my head to the faucet in my kitchen and just let it all out.  Despite my effort NOT to have my girls hear, my girls came running and put their arms around me.  Piper decided we should pray and we did...and then the lights came on.  We all stood there, in the kitchen, holding on to each other and looking around in complete disbelief.  I honestly know that for a few seconds I wasn't sure if I was seeing things or not.  Then we started hooping and hollering.  The fire trucks started going up and down our roads, lights on, sirens blaring, horns honking.  I decided to open a bottle of champagne and even let the girls have a few sips!  Our neighbor came over and joined us for a glass!

When our neighbor went home, I started getting nervous that maybe the fire trucks going up and down the streets were not celebrating, but maybe someone's house was on fire.  I went outside and saw lights flashing at the end of the street.  I ran toward them knowing if there was a fire there was nothing I could do, but maybe give someone a hug.  It was not a fire at all.  It was the utility company.  I got to thank them all personally.  I wished I had something to give them.  Cookies, coffee, food...something...because they gave us back something that we had taken for granted for so long and now we realized just how lucky we are to have all of the many comforts that we enjoy as a developed country.