Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hurricane Irma

We almost didn't leave for hurricane Irma.  Our ward was split about half and half.  Half of the people we knew were leaving and half were staying.  Most of those staying had hurricane shutters and we did not.  My family kept sending me frantic text like, "Get out NOW!" I even got some screenshots that showed a conversation with a stranger about us and our decision to stay.  It was saying that I was in a mandatory evacuation zone and if I stayed I'd be all on my own.  First of all, this wasn't true.  There was no mandatory evacuation where I live.  Now, at some point they evacuated the base housing and the areas East of my house.  The evacuation zone was close to my house but I was not in that zone.  It wasn't helpful to have people freaking out on me, especially people that didn't even know me.  It was quite stressful to decide if we were going to stay or go.  I didn't want to leave and I also didn't want to get stuck in our house for days on end with no power.  We decided to just wait and see how we felt as it got closer.  Mike went into work and almost all of his co-workers were leaving and as I thought about it, I felt we should leave.  It was stressful to get ready.  We were going to leave in the middle of the night but everyone Mike talked to was doing the same thing so we figured no matter when we left we would be caught in the traffic.  

The trip to my sister's house is supposed to take 6 1/2 hours.  It took us 12 to get there.  It was a long day.  We arrived at 2 AM, exhausted but mostly in good spirits.  It was nice and cool at my sister's house and we had a really good visit with her.  I took my camera and got some pictures of our stay so I'll post some of those later.  Being at my sister's house was nice.  The kids were happy and we had a great time.  There were a few hic-ups like the time the baby fell off the counter and we had to rush her to the hospital.  Then, later that night, we discovered my locket in the washer.  That was an emotional day (after a CT scan we found that the baby was actually okay thankfully).  

I had been in contact with my friends in Florida and they said that when the hurricane hit it was a stressful, scary night but not too bad and not too much damage.  They checked on our house and we discovered that the fence had fallen down in some places and the orange tree had some damage but for the most part, that was it.  But the power was out.  Most of the members of my ward had power restored within a few hours and I kept seeing more and more reports of the power coming back on so I assumed it would come on quickly.  I wanted to wait at my sister's house for at least one more day to see if the power was back on but Mike wanted to get back.  He is an optimist, always, and thought that the power would be back on and he just wanted to get back to life.  We left on Tuesday morning and it took us 13 hours to get home.  The gas stations had long lines of people and some of the pumps were empty but we were pretty lucky to get off at gas stations that had gas and not terrible lines.  We also saw a man on the side of the road outside his house hanging out free water bottles to the cars stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.  I thought it was so nice of him to think of all of us and wanting to help in any way he could.  We had water but I appreciated his offer none the less.  

At one point Piper had to go to the bathroom but the exits for a 40 mile stretch were all closed.  I told her she would have to pee on the side of the road or I could get one of Felicity's diapers.  She chose the diaper.  I held it up to her bum in the car and she peed.  Kind of sad but there weren't many options available.  

We got home and the power was out, like we figured it would be.  It was out until Saturday evening.  It was in the high 90's all week and hotter in the house.  Our bishop offered his generator and we hooked up box fans and the fridge.  Thankfully, we didn't lose a lot of food because I had packed the freezer so full that it still had ice on the food inside.  We ate up most of the fridge food before we left but I did have to throw out some of that food.  We had plenty of water and food storage so we wouldn't have starved but when we went to the grocery store full aisles of food were gone.  Almost no produce and most of the freezer food was gone.  I had made sure we had all our flashlights and headlamps available before we left and we had plenty of toilet paper and other essentials.  

At night time we used the fans and there was a breeze that helped cool things down a little.  We all slept in our underwear on top of our covers and took cool showers before bed so we would be cool when we went to bed.  

There was a snake in our pool that we had to fish out and quite a bit of debris and worms but I let the kids swim anyway because it was so hot and they needed to cool down.  The base got power back on pretty quickly so we headed to their library to cool down.  They have an x-box the kids could play and blocks for Piper and the baby.  We also ate ice cream for lunch and went out to eat for dinner so we didn't have to light the gas stove and cook in an already disgustingly hot house.  The kids played card games and stripped down to their under wear and laid on the tile to cool off.  

On Wed evening Mike, Will, and Isaac went around the ward with the youth and their leaders to help people in the ward fix fences, pick up debris, etc.  While they were gone I put the baby to bed and then Eli, Piper and I sat outside where it was cooler and looked at shapes in the clouds and played outside.  When it got unbearably hot we went into the van to charge our cell phones and get a much needed break from the heat.  Eli is afraid of the dark and I know this was a real personal challenge for him at night but he was so brave and never complained.  I was so proud of his courage.  He always stayed close to someone else at night but that was the only indication that he was afraid.  

The kids were all so awesome during this entire time.  There was less bickering and they had an overall positive attitude.  I think they enjoyed the excuse to go out to eat and have ice cream because that definitely isn't a normal occurrence in our home.  

At night it was just too hot to have them sleep upstairs so we carried their mattresses down stairs and they slept next to the box fan in the window.  We gave them melatonin so that they could fall asleep quickly and for the most part they slept okay.  One night the generator stopped and we woke up dripping in sweat (more so than we already were!) and Isaac found Mike and told him that the generator was not working.  I woke up to find Mike dressed and grabbing his keys and asked where he was going.  He said he hadn't realized the generator needed both gas and oil and it was out of oil so at 3:30 in the morning he headed to the store to buy oil so we could survive the rest of the night.  

There were a few times when things got hard for the boys.  I had to take them to the dermatologist to get some warts burned off and I think the heat and the discomfort from the warts got to them and poor Isaac was in tears that night.  He had kind of reached his limit.  He asked for a blessing of comfort and seemed fine after that.  Eli also fell apart the night that we told him he couldn't get in the pool because it was now too gross to keep swimming in.  He has used up his courage and patience and asked to be alone for awhile so he could cry and collect himself.  He sat outside alone for some time and then walked to his desk and got out a pencil and paper and began drawing and before long he had calmed down and was cheerful again.  We talked about how the Holy Ghost can inspire us to know what to do to bring us comfort and peace and the inspiration to draw was, for him, the way to feel peaceful.  

The baby didn't really nap that week because she was just too hot so she was tired and cranky and that made things a bit hard for me as well.  People were sad and surprised to discover that we still didn't have power and before long they were offering to have us over for dinner or over for play dates or even over to sleep.  We appreciated every single offer but I didn't take them up on the offers for play dates mostly because I was feeling discouraged and using up all of my energy to keep things feeling happy and light at our house and I was afraid that if I went to visit with a friend my resolve would come to halt and I'd end up complaining and not able to get back to my positive attitude or that I'd feel like I had to pretend that it wasn't as bad as it was so I just avoided anyone I knew.  For a few days I even avoided answering the phone so I wouldn't have to talk.  

At one point, Mike and the kids left and I took a cold shower and fell apart.  The stress of everything from the move, selling the house, the unpacking, starting another school year, enduring Felicity's reflux issues (which were only just starting to end), having to leave for the hurricane, losing the locket, and living in a house that was as hot as hell just finally all came out.  Everything I'd been holding in for months just came out.  I felt frustrated to be in a new place in an already low point only to be in a situation that required relying on so many people for help.  I hate being the one needing to be carried.  I was (am) just so tired.   

That night I woke up and had a strong impression that I was supposed to use this experience to teach the kids how to endure.  I wasn't quite sure how to do that when I felt like I was barely holding on but in the morning I gathered the kids and we sat on my bed and talked about the week.  We talked about all the instances we had noticed God's hand in making things bearable.  We talked about all the things were were grateful for.  We discussed the things we felt we were learning from this situation and I explained that in their future there would be much worse experiences they would have to endure and they could use this experience (that was not fun but not life threatening) to remember how to endure later.  We talked more about the Holy Ghost and how Isaac was able to find comfort through a blessing and Eli was able to receive inspiration about how to be happier.  We talked about the ways we had tried to make our situation better (shadow puppets, serving, ice cream, swimming, playing games, etc). I felt like that conversation was a turning point for me.  

On Saturday we had to go help clean the church and we all welcomed being in the air conditioned building.  Isaac was vacuuming and had a vacuum that was hard to maneuver.  He said a silent prayer that he would be able to make this vacuum work and immediately the building coordinator came and switched vacuums with him.  He said, "It was an answered prayer!"  He later confided in me that he felt really happy that the Lord was answering his prayers.  When we were driving home we got an email saying that the power wouldn't be back on until Monday night.  We were the last 7 % of people without power and were were all bummed.  We decided that we would take our friends up on their offer to let us sleep in their cool homes and made plans for the boys to sleep at a friend's house and the girls and Mike and I would sleep at another friend's house in their little guest home.  We enjoyed dinner at another friend's house and felt thankful for all the offers of help.  We drove home to get our things and deliver the boys to find that the street lights were on, the neighbors were celebrating in their driveways, and our lights were on!  The boys were bummed that their sleep over got canceled but we let them have "late-night over" and we all slept well in our beds that night.  Probably the most rewarding moment for me was when Isaac pulled me aside and said, "The only reason I'm sad the power is back on is because I don't think I've ever felt closer to Heavenly Father as I have this week.  I know that now this is over I will have a harder time feeling close to him."  He wrote about this experience in his journal and he has since told me that this experience has been a testimony builder for him.  

That seems like it was all worth it then.  

I can't say that I'm totally over this.  I still feel unsettled.  I still feel so tired and long for a break.  I keep thinking and praying for those in Puerto Rico and South Florida and Texas, the people in Mexico who suffered damage from the earthquakes, and those suffering from all the fires.  I keep thinking about how I feel not quite normal yet and nothing really even happened to us.  I keep thinking about how they are feeling and how they have to rebuild their lives and I feel so sad for them.  

Playing cards

cooling down in the van

Piles like this are all over in the streets

I couldn't strip down like the kids so I wore my moo-moo instead.  Very flattering

No comments: