Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
- Top 5 Things We Were Glad We Had: flashlights, corded phone, water, wipes/sanitizing gel, something new and distracting for the kids to do (weaving potholders! Legos!).
- Plus: we realized that the best food to have on hand was bread, with honey, nutella, pb & j, the cheese before it went bad. We could have lasted a long time with just a few loaves of bread.
- Back to that "old-fashioned" phone which fascinated the kids with its cord and lack of "speaker" function. It was funny to hold a cradle phone and walk around with a cord winding around my feet. Took me back to 8th grade, when I spent a lot of time on the phone. Except back then, I didn't forget what that little switch on the cradle meant and toggle it when I talked. I accidentally hung up on Gommie!
- I was again reminded of the importance of friends and neighbors for help, information, a sense of safety in that we knew they would come to our aid if we needed it. And vice versa, of course, which is also a good feeling to know that you can help others.
- But I also realized how isolated you can feel cut off from the larger world. We are usually so interconnected via technology. It felt strange and small to just be us in our house. I relied on neighbors (and their rumors) for information about our town and only got information about the whole effect of the storm from Gommie and Pop who were watching it in Texas (thanks to technology, of course). Oddly, I was a bit sad when power came back on. And I think I liked the closeness we had, the togetherness. Not that we aren't usually pretty cohesive, but this was different, special. However, I'll see if we can repeat it without a major natural disaster. (Also, it was very strange to plug back in and see the world had gone on without us and our hurricane. We were so absorbed in it that it was odd suddenly to see that life continued along outside of Irene.)
- I think it was important for the kids to have the "hurricane experience," in a way. Not because the hurricane itself is so important but knowing they can endure and survive something unexpected and challenging, something outside their control, and adapt, gives them confidence, allays fears, provides a sense of empathy for the hardships that much of the world experiences. Blizzards are different--less immediately frightening and threatening, fun in their way, pretty even, and usually not nearly as devastating or tragic.
- Being over-prepared gave me confidence during the storm (and that confidence allowed me to stay calm). In fact, I wouldn't say we were over-prepared, in that we needed almost everything we prepped, from water to non-perishable foods to batteries. We didn't need our "to-go" bag or valuables or, thankfully, first aid kit, but I don't regret organizing them.
- Speaking of valuables, it's interesting to do that walk-through of your house and actually pull out what you'd want to save. We had Bud's kung fu trophy and medals, Sis's medals, their special critters (Mr. Big, Amy, and Shirt), their baby books, my baby book, some pre-digital pictures of me and Mama in our pre-parent days, Morgan's ashes, our civil union photo (which I like better than our wedding photo), Mama's photos of her parents' wedding, the "first year" frames of both kiddos, my keepsake recipe binder of handprinted family recipes, Mama's childhood stuffed animals, my Amish doll, my treasure box (with their hospital caps, my mosaic fragment, and other little things), and our computers and harddrives. What a strange mix.
- Usually, Mama Hungry and I do our best to optimize and maximize every situation, to make it the best we can, to get the most out of it, to be prepared, organized, and efficient (okay, in everything but the organization of our house, but more on that later). And we did that in our preparations, but otherwise, we just had to take the storm as it came and make do; we weren't in control (though, I know we never really are in control, really, but usually the facade of control is there). It was an interesting situation. Though, I suppose, in many ways, we still tried to make the most of the experience, in the sense of using it as a teachable moment about weather, disasters, history, as well as quality family time. Except we never did grill--just too tired. I'll have to ponder our need for optimization further.
- My childhood memories of storms and nightmares since then are very powerful. I remembered that funny butterflies-in-my-stomach feeling when the storm comes in, the excitement of being without power (I liked it as a kid, well, once the actual storm was over), the scary howl of wind that shakes the house, bends the trees, and makes unseen crashing sounds around you, even the hurricane parties of my parents repeated by my neighbors. I never thought I'd go through that again, but it was actually okay. (Now earthquakes are a totally different story . . . .)
- I learned some practical things about food: apparently, most things in the fridge aren't good after 4-6 hours, especially the milk products and cooked foods, if the fridge reaches over 40F, but uncut fruits and vegetables, as well as hard cheeses, are usually okay, as are condiments with vinegar--but not mayonnaise!--and jams/jellies with sugar; also, things in the freezer last 24-48 hours depending on how full the freezer is (the fuller the better, which is why it's good to fill the freezer with bags of water/ice before the storm hits) and the food is good if ice crystals are still visible and thawing hasn't occurred. When in doubt, though, throw it out!
- Note: apparently, if you don't have flashlights, solar-powered yard lamps work. And so they were selling out fast at Home Depot before the storm.
- Finally, I was grateful that we have the resources to make it through a storm, the money and the flexibility from work to buy and do what we need to. I can clearly see how class lines determine a person's experience of (and even survival of) a storm, having, of course, witnessed such a thing with Hurricane Katrina but now also living it. I recognize our privilege, as I've discussed before, but I saw it even more this weekend.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Because we got power back about an hour ago!
And how did we celebrate? By going outside! Where Bud did cartwheels and Sis ran obstacle courses.
Funny, in a weird way, I'm sorry our little break from the normal, plugged-in world is over. But only sorta.....
To Mama Teacher, for the warm shower, cold drink, and cell phone charge (we still don't have power--up to 7-10 days, though the water is okay now, just not heated);
To friends in town, for keeping me updated on town damage, school cancellations, and also offers of help (we'll be at your house tomorrow!);
To Gommie and Pop, Ma and Gong, Goo, and Cousin Susan for emailing and/or calling to check on us.
We are so grateful for your care and help!
Also still no use of the tap.
And probably delays of the first day of school.
Bud says, "Hurricanes are terrifying.". He changed his mind to "terrible."
He's right on both counts, of course, but not so much in our case.
But now they're playing, so everything is fine again.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
The wind picked up in gusts so the kids are camping out downstairs again.
We might not have power for 7-10 days.
And now we don't have water, at least we're not supposed to use the tap. Thankfully, we have bathtubs, buckets, and gallons of it.
It feels almost like fall with the windows open.
Gotta keep looking on the bright side. It could have been terrible.
We're in the basement for the duration, listening to Broadway tunes, playing Legos, and doing a new woven potholder project, safe from wind and all our windows.
Turning off my Droid--yes, it came back to life after its swim--to conserve battery. Our coded phone is now plugged in.
The wind is howling and rain pummelling the house. We still have power. I've slept off and on, keeping an ear to tv for updated tornado watches. Mama is downstairs with the kids, though I doubt she slept much.
Lights just blinked twice....gonna post this just in case. But we have lots of flashlights.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
- Harry Potter exhibition
- Ball drop (at the NYC Visitor's Center--the real ball is lit and "Auld Lang Syne" sung regularly)
- 1,000 taxi cabs (and Bud actually counted, out our 33rd -story hotel window)
- Lots of Broadway theatres (they liked spotting shows they knew, like Rent and Lion King)
- Lots of little shops and stores
- Love the fast fast elevators (we were at the Marriott Marquis and the computerized elevators are impressively fast)
- Makes you want to sleep (so tired after walking everywhere and staying up late to see the lights)
- The Amy before she was mine (Sis found a new, white bunny at Toys R Us, where Mama bought the original)
- Hot dogs (eaten at the TKTS bleachers, during the earthquake we didn't feel)
- New York City
- Times square
- Lots of people
- Ton of people
- Big big buildings
- Our giant hotel (they liked going up to the 48th floor to see the revolving restaurant, though we didn't stay)
- Makes you tired
- New wiggle penguin (Bud's NYC souvenir, with a tail you pull to make it dance)
- I liked seeing the GWB and Intrepid on the way in
- Early check in--our hotel let us in at noon!
- Fancy fast elevators...computerized now. . . I remember when they weren't and guests stood around pushing each other out of the way to get to the rare arriving elevator
- Best view ever--all of Times Square, from end to end, from our corner room on the 33rd floor
- Chocolate stores--the kids loved the colored M&M wall (Hershey wasn't nearly as impressive, though it smelled more chocolatey)
- We were in a little independent film being made behind us when the kids were eating those hot dogs near the bleachers during the earthquake which no one noticed--we only knew where we were when it hit because we have a photo timestamped two minutes later
- I really enjoyed the NYC Visitor Center, which I swear is in an old theater where I saw Hunchback of Notre Dame years ago. I liked the colorful ball drop, the elaborate old theater, and the costumes from Into the Woods and Phantom of the Opera on view. And the shop is great, with a book called Only in New York which I devoured in my downtime. (Do you know why the NYPD caps have 8 points? The original 17th-century police force, the Rattle Brigade, had 8 members!). They also had smoosh-a-pennies!
- Juniors Cheesecake . . . and egg cream . . . and strawberry blintzes . . . and black and white cookie. Mmmmmmmmmm.
- Cel-ray soda--Mama got it and Bud liked it, bubbles and all!
- I liked walking around what I consider my old neighborhood (I lived at 44th near 6th). My old grad school building is now the swanky Euro Hotel Mela. They let us go up to my floor and it looks the same! Better carpet but same exact layout. Hope the leaky windows and mice are gone (but the grandfathered-in SRO tenants are still there!). In the area, the old pizza place (Belizzi's) and Thai place are gone, as is the old standby Ollie's, but the Belasco and Cafe Un Deux Trois are still there. And of course, Virgil's, where we got take out for dinner--mmmm, hush puppies with maple butter, sweet tea, greens, cheese grits, and all the rest (I know, BBQ in Times Square seems just wrong, but it made me less homesick when I lived there). I'm not used to those pedestrian zones, though it sure makes for more room on the sidewalk. The pre-theater rush just wasn't that elbow-to-elbow anymore. (And I'm not sure I heard the familiar pre-theater bell carillon.)
- Theater shop--Mama loves the little shop in Shubert Alley, with its posters and libretti and programs
- 5 fire trucks--it was like that kids' game of Rush Hour as the cars moved to make room for the trucks responding to what looked like nothing across the street
- Cartwheels down the hall--Bud learned cartwheels at kung fu camp and he loved doing them in the big, empty hotel hallway
- Times Square at night--no, you don't need a flashlight! You almost need sunglasses. At night.
- Not much to do in Times Square but shop--they liked Toys R Us and the Disney Store and their long hike to Legoland.
- Bright reflections like an urban aurora borealis on our ceiling at their very late 10 pm bedtime.
- Swatch watch--Mama bought a fancy one. Sorta an anniversary present.
- The Harry Potter Exhibition (the real reason for our trip!) was fantastic. The kids were a bit scared of the movie clips, especially the Death Eaters etc., and anything to do with the dark side (to use their Star Wars term). But they were fascinated by the sorting hat bit in the beginning, though neither volunteered. Since we'd just started the book, they were familiar enough with the characters and the culture and enjoyed seeing both film clips and movie props. Mama and I loved the costumes--especially those of Prof. McGonagall, Prof. Trelawney, and Prof. Dumbledore--and the props like the wands, Marauder's Map, canopied beds, trunks with personal belongings, Hagrid's hut, the Hogwarts Express engine, the candy like chocolate frogs, well, really all of it! And of course, the exhibition store. The kids now have wands and Quidditch brooms, which they've played with almost constantly since then.
- Late check-out--we didn't have to leave until 1, which means we were in NYC for 24 hours and 40 minutes.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
- Have batteries and know where your flashlights are. Remember, you can't dig through closets easily in dark to look for them! Have cell phones charged and a battery-powered radio, too.
- Have food you won't need to cook--bread, snacks, fruit, whatever you like. Recommendations are usually for 3+ days.
- Don't open your fridge, which can maintain its temperature for 24 hours. If power is not back right after the storm, start cooking all that frozen and refrigerated stuff out on your grill. (Read here about Houstonians cooking out for weeks after Hurricane Ike in 2008). REVISION: apparently, most things in the fridge aren't good after 4-6 hours, especially the milk products and cooked foods, if the fridge reaches over 40F, but uncut fruits and vegetables, as well as hard cheeses, are usually okay, as are condiments with vinegar--but not mayonnaise!--and jams/jellies with sugar; also, things in the freezer last 24-48 hours depending on how full the freezer is (the fuller the better, which is why it's good to fill the freezer with bags of water/ice before the storm hits) and the food is good if ice crystals are still visible and thawing hasn't occurred. When in doubt, though, throw it out!
- So have extra charcoal/propane to cook out after the storm.
- And do not go near downed power lines. If you can, report them to UI at 1.800.7 CALL UI.
- Have water on hand. And not just bottled water for drinking. Fill your tubs with water so you have extra for other needs, like flushing toilets.
- Don't forget your pets--be sure to have extra food on hand for them. And in case of evacuation, know which hotels take pets (in general, Homewood Suites does).
- Fill up your cars with gasoline in case a). you have to evacuate or b). gas supplies get disrupted/gas stations aren't working.
- Get cash in case ATMs or credit cards aren't working immediately after storm.
- Unplug major electronics, like computer, DVD player, televisions, during storm. (Seriously, we've lost electronics to surges, even on "protectors.")
- Secure outdoor furniture and toys, birdfeeders and windchimes, etc etc etc.
- Know how to reach your insurance company, in case of damage (and remember, you might not be able to Google their phone number without power). Take pictures.
- Hurricane myth: taping windows helps. No, it doesn't. Don't bother. Now, if you have plywood . . .
- Tornado myth: opening windows equalizes pressure. No, it doesn't. Don't bother. If a tornado is coming, get in your basement.
- Some great unusual supplies to have on hand, from This Old House: baby wipes for cleaning, solar-powered fan for when it gets hot, gloves for clean up, fishing line for tying down all sorts of things, vinyl tablecloths (cheaper than tarps)
- The Red Cross before-during-after list
- Mentioned on the Weather Channel: freeze bags of water to turn your fridge into an igloo after the power is out.
- Use solar powered sidewalk lights inside after "soaking" them all day.
- Buy your emergency supplies before they're talking about your storm 24/7, or the shelves will be empty.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
...in a long, long time.
Yep, we've had our mini-vacation in Times Square.
And not even an earthquake (which occurred while we were wolfing down hot dogs near the bleachers at the TKTS booth, though we didn't know it at the time) could mess up our trip!
Much more later....
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
- Read something.
- Learn something
- Create something.
- Work on a work-in-progress.
- Clean something.
- Connect with someone.
- Be outdoors some.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
- cultivate slowness, which reminds me of "when you wash the rice, wash the rice" and other Zen mindfulness teachings
- cultivate vision, or really look at what is in front of you
- cultivate craft--I recently heard of the "slow craft" movement (called "slow clothes" in this article on sewing in Brooklyn)
- cultivate cleanliness, going back to Zen, this reminds me of much of Karen Maezen Miller's writings, including her book Hand Wash Cold
- cultivate solitude, a "mommy time-out" to meditate for me
- cultivate space, space and light being two major aesthetic principles
- cultivate silence, which for me is turning off the noise of technology
- cultivate sabi, or respecting the beauty that comes with age and history
- cultivate soul, by embracing people over technology in what you buy, keep, and do
- cultivate imperfection . . . because I won't be able to enact all of these all the time!
- cultivate hospitality, so that I have a warm drink and a treat on hand for friends
- cultivate simplicity, again people over things, experiences over objects
Saturday, August 13, 2011
- I've purged magazines while watching through backlogged episodes of "David Rocco's La Dolce Vita;"
- read some of the NYTimes, but really can't bear to hear about Rick Perry or the Tea Party or the GOP, which leaves little left to peruse;
- rearranged the fridge magnets (okay, that just sounds pitiful, but they needed a purging) while listening to Broadway showtunes;
- sorted and trashed and saved various papers from the end of the school year (getting teary as I looked at their worksheets from the beginning of the year when they were learning letters);
- walked on my treadmill while reading through two UU Church of the Larger Fellowship tracts (one on grace, more on that later);
- prepared lunch--a big salad and a prepackaged risotto entree (that's going well--I've lost 5 lbs this week, probably a lot of water weight);
- and, now I'm blogging while watching an old "Glee."
Friday, August 12, 2011
- Common humanity: I have become more aware of the suffering (using the Buddhist term intentionally) around me and more connected to the people around me through it, as I described here. I have more compassion, more patience, for the weaknesses and faults and trials and challenges others and myself now . . .
- Compassion: the kindness of friends and family has been overwhelming and indispensable. From childcare to meals, from visits to email, from rides to errand help, and 6 weeks of TLC from my folks, I have witnessed and benefited from the compassion and generosity of others. And for all of this, I have lived in a continuous state of . . .
- Gratitude: I am thankful for my family and friends and for all of our privilege. It is hard not to want to pay everyone back, so to speak, for what they've done--but how do you pay back people for saving you?--so I will pay it forward.
- Power of the mind: this is a double-edged sword. My mind could take me to depths of despair and fear and anxiety and loneliness, but also to places of calm and resilience and patience and perseverance. And my mind kept me from teetering over the edge of boredom--learning colonial history, studying Italian, reading books on Buddhism. Through meditation, I have tried to lean one way more than the other. And, as Diana Nyad says, to be my most courageous self. Because it takes courage and stamina to walk through pain. But as I've learned the limits of my body, I've learned the limitlessness of my spirit. Adjacent to this is . . .
- Adapatability: I can adjust to a lot. I can do without. I can cope with change and live with limits and disappointment. I don't need what I thought I did. So can Mama Hungry. So can our kids, who have been amazing at adjusting to a mom who can't sit or bend or drive. When I drop things, they pick them up without thinking; when we have to find a way to play or color or read in an awkward position, they make it work without complaint. And when I do something, achieve something, I haven't in awhile--like come downstairs for dinner or go on an outing, they celebrate by dancing around and giving me high-fives. It's been wonderful to see their innate empathy.
- Personal Responsibility: I am much more aware of how my choices affect me and those around me. When I overdo it, Mama and the kids pay through my absence, in addition to the discomfort I experience. Or my folks give up weeks of their lives to come take care of us all. Or worry about us when they're not here. I have to own that while I don't intentionally cause any of that, I am the vehicle of it. And so I'm now much more vigilant in my movements, exercises, medications, diet, obligations. In a separate realm, I have also become much more pro-active in my own health care choices, realizing that I have to stay on top of doctors, diagnoses, medications, and pursue that which doesn't work or feel right. I'm usually really loyal to doctors, and loathe changing, but realize that gets me nowhere. I need to be my best self and find those who can help me.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
The kids have little tripartite banks they received at school that are labeled "spend, save, share." They were fascinated by the three slots and enjoyed putting money in each, not caring what the category was.
Like most 6-year olds, my kids vacillate between utterly selfish and surprisingly generous. There's really little telling when one will fetch a lovey and a bandaid for the other . . . or knock'em down again.
Of course, as Mom, I want to encourage the former, stress the "share" part of the piggy bank. We haven't done any family volunteer activities, mainly because of my situation this last year, but do regularly involve the kids in giving--to the food pantry, the coat drive, the gift collection at Christmas and Easter for kids in the shelter, and even sending money, including a part of their Chinese New Year money, to animal projects, the Red Cross during disasters, and the like.
And then I read Nicholas Kristof's Op-Ed today about Rachel, a young girl who routinely cut her hair for Locks of Love and also canceled her birthday party and had friends donate $9 each for clean water for children in Africa. Tragically, a month after her birthday, she was injured in a car accident and later died. In her name, $960,000 has been collected, up from the $220 she collected from her birthday. It's not what her family must have imagined for her ninth year, but it's a beautiful gift in her memory.
Similarly, and closer to home, a wonderful project is taking place in Austin, Texas, in honor of Janna Plentl, a friend of my family's, whose life was similarly cut short by non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She was an architect devoted to environmental causes and this year Austin's Habitat for Humanity is building a green house for a single mom with funds raised in Janna's honor and matched by her family.
We'll be donating to both causes, with the kids, who will also start getting $3 a week to put in those banks of theirs so that they, too, can learn to give to others, just like Rachel and Janna.