Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Birthday Week

Rather than having merely a birthDAY, every year I declare a Birthday WEEK! This means celebrating and special privileges all week long, with lots of love lavished upon ME! Unfortunately, this year Birthday Week didn't end up quite as I'd anticipated.

Monday was the first day of declared Birthday Week. The day was fine, though everyone noted, with some cynicism, the usual hyperbole of our local weatherman. "This will be the WORST STORM EVER!" they declared for the umpteenth time in the last year. These men have never heard the story of the boy who cried wolf. We are all so desensitized. Nonetheless, when Michael came home he gave the radar a check. He came out of he office a little grave. "I think we should consider buying a generator." This would be crazy talk around here, in most cases, since we are in heavy "save for the baby" mode, but I felt impressed that maybe this time he was right. We zipped over to Home Depot where his dad had noticed a generator for a superb sale price. We snapped it up.

By the time we got home, I wasn't feeling to hot. Yes, I'd contracted yet another round of the stomach flu. Seriously, isn't there some sort of universal law banning pregnant women from any more barfing than necessary!!?!?! This is my FOURTH stomach flu in four months of pregnancy, for crying out loud. Anyway, it was nasty. Not as bad as some, but still no fun. I was up all night and out most of the next day.

Well, the BIG DEADLY STORM on Monday night turned out to be a bust. Michael started having a bit of buyers remorse. But, I pointed out, we had a little bit of money coming for one of my articles that would cover it. I'm a preparedness junkie, and I still thought that the generator would be good to have on hand. Finally my intestinal system settled down Tuesday evening and I started eying food with some interest. By then, as is traditional, I could tell I was getting a cold. I always get a cold on the way up from the stomach flu. Sigh. No nap, sniffling and exhausted, I finally settled down into bed about 9:30. Snow mixed with rain had been falling most of the afternoon.

At 10, the power went out.

Michael pried himself out of bed (blessed 15 minutes) and went to hook the generator up. In most places, having the power out all night would be no big deal. But in INDIANA, no power means no sump pump. And since snow is almost always mixed with rain here, that meant our basement could flood. So he revved up the generator (wow, was that sucker loud), and hooked up the sump pump, as well as the fridge. He also blew our water pipes out so they wouldn't freeze. He came back to bed. Things were looking rough out there. We finally dozed off and then jumped out of bed when there was a thump on our roof. Maybe it was just snow falling off.

Our trusty generator. Saved our bacon. Literally. We ate it for breakfast Friday.

We dozed on and off between these wooshing thumps all night until at about 5 AM there was a HUGE BANG, and a sliding sound overhead. You could hear the roof supports creak and for a moment, we were sure that our tree had fallen over and was crushing the house. (Really, I've never woken up terrified so many times as I have in Indiana. Everyone swears that the tornadoes/earthquakes/massive icestorms since we moved here must be out fault because usually it's quite temperate here...) Michael rocketed out of bed to check the windows. All the trees were still up, we could tell in the dark, dark pre-dawn and thus far the roof had not yet fallen, so he snuggled back into bed. Not much sleep that night. Remember how fun big snow-storm power outages were when we were kids? Turns out when you're the parent, they aren't nearly so cozy and relaxing.

The next day, utter exhaustion. My cold was coming along nicely, I hadn't slept in days. I stayed in bed as long as humanly possibly with a toddler, not much relishing the thought of a 50 degree house. Brrrr! I considered my late-morning doze my own personal birthday celebration. :c)

We discovered the whooshing thumps of the night before. Those had been tree branches, gigantic limbs bigger around than my hips, falling from our tree, sliding off the roof, and landing in our back yard.

These photos don't even do it justice, the ruin of our poor tree was horrific.

The stumps of these limbs are about the height of my chest. I felt extremely blessed that they didn't break through our roof. This little old house is a tough ol' bugger.

Poor beloved maple tree!

Jed and I went out to check on our neighbors. We had about 2-3" of ice covered with 5-9" of snow. Slippery!

Later, I called around to all our friends to make sure they were all right. Almost everyone had lost power except the people in the newest subdivisions up north (no old trees up there, and underground wires) and the apartment complexes generally seemed to have been all right, thankfully. For the other 75,000 locals, though, power was out and for the long haul. Literally HALF of Vectren Power's customers had lost power. They estimated that many would be out of power through the weekend.

Thankfully, Michael's handy dad got in his Honda Pilot and four wheeled it over to our place to "tether" our generator into our house. By 1 o'clock, the furnace clicked on and I could feel heat creeping through our frigid house. Oh BLESSED GENERATOR!!! The moment I felt warm, I told Michael that his generator was the best present I'd ever received. With about 5,000 watts, we could run our furnace (low), sump pump, water pump, and lights. Not much else, but even that was fantastic.

By the evening, our good friends the Rosens decided that they could stand the cold no longer and came over to warm up and spend the night. We blew up the trusty air mattress with our car pump and threw it between the couches. The Rosens (all five of them) tumbled into our living room bearing pajamas, sleeping bags, and pizza. We had a festive evening and all settled in to sleep.

The next day, still no power. Our little house handled the eight of us fairly well, but the cold and lack of amenities made everyone a little cabin feverish.

The next day, still no power. Friday. The Rosen kids (1,3, and 6) were holding up remarkably, considering their prolonged displacement and general lack of entertainment. The whole family really was the most fantastic set of guests and we were honored to have them stay with us. But at this point we were all starting to feel a tad overstimulated, not to mention frustrated at STILL NO POWER!

Fortunately, that evening our power lines were hot again and Michael could hook us up to the grid. HALLELUJAH! I used every burner on my stove AND the oven all at the same time, and cranked the furnace to 70 while the kids took hot baths. Oh, the joy of modern conveniences! What relief! I almost had a hard time falling asleep that night without the roar of generator in my ears.

Saturday, the poor Rosens were still out of power. Turned out that their lines were hot but their home hookup had been damaged. They were at their wits end and I am sure sorely sick of our living room. Hopefully they will still like us after so much enforced togetherness. Despite plan after plan to hook up power or at least a generator, they were thwarted and ended up in our living room again that night.

Fortunately, the next day at church they were offered a lovely, empty condo offered by a single woman who was out of the country for a few months. The Rosens happily chugged off to their new digs (which actually sound really nice... lucky dogs) where they still reside to this day (10 days without power! For their side of the story, check out Brooke's Blog where you can discover how the tragic saga continues...)

Saturday morning I ventured out of the house for the first time since our Home Depot trip on Monday. As I inched our car down ice-crusted streets, I was absolutely shocked at the devastation. Michael had described the scene for me, but to see it in person was unbelievable. Southwestern Indiana's luxurious, overflowing green trees are its great beauty. We live, technically, in a temperate rainforest, and in the summer with all the foliage full out and blooming, this is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. But our glory of trees became our liability in this storm. It looked as if a giant hand had reached out from heaven and torn handfuls of limbs from trees, tossing branches and trunks about, strewing them across yards, crushing cars and homes, blocking streets. Huge trees broken in half, smashed by the clean, glistening ice dripping from their branches. Devastation is really the only term that adequately describes what I saw that day.

These are the power lines across the street from us. The trees in the background line the riverbank.

In Kentucky, just a few hundred meters south of us, the devastation really was disastrous. More than 700,000 people lost power. In some parts of our stake, power is still out. They ran out of gas to run generators after a few days. The governor called it the worst disaster in modern Kentucky history. People are still literally suffering down there. The church has sent several truckloads of supplies to help, but there's not much to do. Everyone just has to wait as crews go through the laborious task of piecing back together a destroyed electrical grid.

All in all, I feel like the past week taught us remarkable lesson in gratitude. How grateful I am for modern prophets who counsel us to BE PREPARED, to have food and money and supplies on hand. How incredibly grateful I am for a worthy patriarch in my home, a husband willing to listen for, and act upon, upon the Holy Spirit's promptings. His willingness to respond saved our family a LOT of trouble. I've learned how much work we have to go before we are really fully prepared for whatever comes, but happy to see that we had plenty and we made it just fine. Mostly, I'm grateful that our family is safe, that we were able to help out friends in need, and emerge from the other side of an emergency situation unscathed, wiser, and full of thanks to a loving Father in Heaven who watches over us.

Pretty good birthday week, all told. An adventure, at least! And certainly one I won't forget for a long, long time to come.


Brooke said...

I think you did the storm justice!! Thanks again for letting us stay for FOUR days :)

NessaAnn said...

Well, Tuesday through Sunday... that's awfully close to five days. Besides, it sounds cooler than four. :c)

Aubrey said...

yowzers! glad you guys are safe and house intact. sounds like everyone will be happy to have this winter behind.

chelseanator said...

oh my goodness! that is so wild! that is so incredible that you guys did buy a generator the night before-wow! what a major blessing. that is super scary about the giant tree branches and sad too about all the damage trees. wow, i had no idea it was so bad, but then again i haven't been watching the news too much lately either. i'm so glad you are guys are once again safe and well. what a crazy place. what a b-day week for sure :] happy b-day to your and jed!!! can't believe he's 2 already, very exciting times! oh and sure hope your stomache flus and colds go away for good-that is awful!!!!!!

love, chelsea

Mike and Emily said...

I'm so glad all worked out well. We were sure worried about you guys for a few days there...