It’s hard to imagine that little more than a week has passed since we first heard about the epic storm that would engulf the entire state of Florida and all the beautiful islands around it. That was when forecasters started talking about the hurricane following Harvey (you know, the one that brought immense destruction to folks in Texas and surrounding coastal areas just one week earlier?). Since “I” follows “H”, we learned it was named Irma. . .At first blush, it seemed like a pretty gentle name, sort of like your “Great Aunt Irma” or that aging librarian named Irma who checked out your books recently (even letting an overdue book slide by because she thought you were cute). But did you know that, in German, Irma means “war goddess?” Well, in this instance, it’s a fitting moniker for a storm that wreaked havoc on so many. . .
Thankfully, we’re on the other side of this storm, and I am so grateful that my family and I fared well, compared to so many who lost so much, and my heart breaks for them. Today’s the first day I don’t feel emotionally and physically drained, so I’m ready to resume some ‘normal’ tasks, but I’m still on alert that we may have to go through this again. Hurricane season ends November 30 and I, along with countless others, will breathe a sigh of relief when that day comes.
As I sat at my desk to write a post, I was stuck. What the heck would I write? I certainly couldn’t post a recipe that would be irrelevant to the many folks who still don’t have power, or food, or a home in which to cook. So I decided to simply share some of the heartwarming things I experienced over the last week:
1. Cheetos and Tito’s Save the Day. During the lead up to the storm, my kitchen was abuzz. To keep myself from climbing the walls, I made brownies, banana bread, soup, spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, oatmeal cookies, casseroles and salads. Some dishes were to simply use up what was in the fridge in case we lost power. Others were to provide comfort, like that meatloaf. I was at the grocery store at least 5 times in 4 days. There was stress eating happening everywhere – friends and family reporting the same story in their own houses. Truth be told, if there was food around, I was all eating it in large quantities, even stuff I don’t normally eat, like double fudge brownies, chips (we went through 2 bags in 1 day), chocolate bars, and so much more. It was never more evident than when we were in lock-down at the hotel/shelter. Our friends brought out Tito’s Vodka, orange juice (for screwdrivers, of course) and a big bag of Cheetos Puffs. As I sipped my cocktail, trying to calm my nerves while watching graphics of the monster storm that literally covered our entire State, I single handedly consumed one half of the bag of Cheetos. Yes, it was a rough day. But those Cheetos saved me, at least for a little while 🙂
2. Stuff is Stuff. I, like many, was faced with deciding which ‘things’ are important when looking at the possibility of losing everything. For those who are lucky enough to have time to plan for a possible disaster, it’s a sobering exercise — aside from our loved ones, including our pets, what do we take? Initially, my husband and I planned to ride out the storm in our house, which included an interior safe room. But as weather predictions revealed the storm was heading for our backyard, the reality hit that if it was a Category 4 storm, and a possible direct hit, our house could be leveled. So, we ultimately decided to go to a nearby hotel that had recently been built, capable of withstanding a Cat 5 storm. I stood in each room of our house and surveyed every item, deciding if there was anything I couldn’t live without if the entire house was destroyed. What could I fit easily into a suitcase or bag? If I had to start all over, which items would bring me comfort, such as a treasured family heirloom, a pretty object I’ve collected in my travels, or something soft or warm? Which of my husband’s paintings would we save? Should I pack our wedding album or just rely on iCloud to access the pics? Aside from critical house insurance documents that we’d have to quickly access, what other paperwork should I keep, like stuff for taxes next year, or business documents, or whatever? I packed several items and placed them in the dishwasher (because I heard somewhere that it’s a safe place?) and it was surprising to me how little I actually put in there. As we left the house, I broke down and sobbed with the realization that we may never come back to this happy place in which we’ve built a life and a business. But as I looked at my sweet hubby and my cute little dog, I knew we’d be fine as long as we were together.
3. The Gift That Keeps on Giving. When Brendan and I were planning our beach wedding 12 years ago, we were faced with the choice of renting a floor for the tent, or making one ourselves. Being on a budget, we opted for the latter. For weeks, we researched where to find 64 sheets of plywood at a reasonable price. But as our big day approached, with no plywood, our stress level was high. Until one gift of a day. . . While Brendan was driving on Manasota Key to deliver artwork, he spotted a sign that said ‘Plywood for Sale’. The guy amazingly had 100 sheets of plywood at $10 each. My deal-loving hubby told him we needed 64, so he got them for the bargain price of $7 each! The guy even let him use his trailer to get them to our house. When he called to tell me the news, I burst into tears because I couldn’t believe how blessed we were. We have lovingly referred to it as our ‘wedding wood’ and it has served us well over the years. We gave many sheets to friends (one even used it to remodel his condo ceiling, telling us that every time he looks up, he remembers dancing on the floor at our wedding!), we’ve laid sheets under new flooring in our house, put them to use in a variety of projects and, most importantly, used them in several hurricanes (most notably Wilma, which hit after we moved in). Every time we use our wedding wood, we say a little prayer of gratitude. We used the last sheet of it to prepare for Irma, and once again smiled about how it has gotten us through many happy and sad times.
4. Banana Bread Helps to Rebuild a Carburetor. Over the years, my husband and I have been diligent about running our generator periodically to ensure it works. Somehow, this fell off our radar in the last several months and, when we went to run it 4 days before the storm, it didn’t work. We tried everything, to no avail, so when Brendan’s gear-head brother said “it’s definitely the carburetor” we knew we had to get professional help, fast. The repair shop was overwhelmed with similar issues and wasn’t keen on adding more to its plate, but my charmer of a husband got them to put our precious carburetor into the queue. The curmudgeon-y guy at the desk was clearly having a rough day. He was stressed and understaffed, trying to get emergency items fixed before the storm. I overheard him say to another customer “I don’t even have time to eat my lunch!” (note – on the counter, there was a salad in a Tupperware container). At that moment, I caught Brendan’s eye and we smiled because we knew there was something special in my bag: fresh baked, warm banana bread. We gave it to him to show appreciation for getting us “in”. His eyes lit up, he smiled and said “Oh, banana bread. . .Yessss!” then he ripped off the plastic and took a big bite. We walked out of there with our rebuilt carburetor, peace of mind, and the knowledge that we helped a carb-starved guy get through the afternoon 🙂 Thankfully, we didn’t have to use the generator, but we did loan it to a friend who needed it.
5. Where There’s a Will There’s a Way. Finding plywood was tough last week so we had to use what we had. When all our wood was gone, we panicked, realizing we still needed to cover two windows. But my creative hubby said he had a solution. Here’s the backstory: our neighbors a few doors down recently put a ping pong table to the curb with a sign “Free to good home – lots of fun for the family!” When Brendan spotted it, he made me stop the car and he got out to look at it. With a huge grin, he said “We’re taking this baby home!” and proceeded to roll it back to our house. Their advertisement was correct — we played in the garage for a few weeks and enjoyed it immensely. But that table was destined to serve a bigger purpose. Brendan put aside his love for the game, got out his saw, cut it up and screwed it to the windows. Afterwards, he sent me a text which read “Come outside – I just put up the ping pong table!”
6. Lasagna Makes You Forget Your Worries. My family had to delay some birthday celebrations due to the storm, but not before I had bought all the ingredients to make lasagna for the special dinner. Fearing everything would go bad with no power, I decided to make it. Little did I know how many people that pan of lasagna would feed! I shared it with the friends we rode out the storm with, as well as, friends who’s loved one was on mandatory duty at the fire station. I felt they needed a home-cooked meal in her absence, so I invited them over and we feasted on lasagna, salad, brownies and ice cream. For two hours we laughed, told stories, enjoyed good food and somehow forgot about that bad-ass storm barreling toward us at 150 mph.
7. Libby Saved Us. Many of you know that my husband and I adopted a dog a few months ago. We named her Libby. She’s part Maltese, part Jack Russell, and a whole bunch of happiness and love. She’s the first dog we’ve had after 18 years of loving two wonderful kitties who left us this year. Going through this hurricane with our new friend was a lifesaver. There were many days of worry, angst, fear and tears (mostly mine) as we prepared for the huge storm. But every time we looked at her little face and saw her bounding around the house, it all washed away and we couldn’t help but smile. At our hotel/shelter, there were many dogs, birds and cats, and Libby wasn’t daunted by any of them, including the huge dogs and a talking parrot. The place was filled with visibly stressed and exhausted people, but it was easy to see the comfort their pets provided (truth be told, they also provided barks, squeals and a few surprises on the rug, but that’s just part of the deal!). As we watched the storm approach, our little pooch kept our stress levels in check, and for that we’re eternally grateful 🙂