Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hurricane Journal: Final Thoughts

Hurricane Sandy descended upon New Jersey one month ago today.  Weeks later, reading over my hurricane journal from the benefit of a warm, well-lit house, it seems like our experience was rather a penny crisis.  No one in my family was hurt and the damage to my house was both cosmetic and minor.  My friends also fared well.  Though my county was among the hardest hit, people in nearby areas like the Jersey Shore and Staten Island had far greater damage.  The state of New Jersey estimates that the storm caused more than 30 billion dollars worth of damage but I don't need that number to factor the devastation caused by the storm.   Every day I see stands of once-familiar woods rendered permanently changed by the sheer volume of trees felled.  Every street in my neighborhood features houses with damage, piles of branches, or trees chopped into firewood and stacked neatly.  My 8 cold dark days are more toward the long end of the electricity-free spectrum but on November 11, when I first started preparing these notes to post on my blog, more than 1,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey remained without power, not counting the homes on the shore that are destroyed for good or will remain inaccessible for months to come.  We were lucky and we are blessed.

Even so, I'm struck by the number of conversations about the storm that I still hear.  I am aware of the way some of the fear and anxiety of a week spent in the darkness and cold can linger.  When I finally took the plunge and drove to get heat and a semblance of normalcy on day six after the storm, I was still seriously concerned about the gasoline shortages.  My car was the only way I could charge my phone and our only sure way of getting warm, not to mention get out of the state should it come to that.  To let the gas tank get below half seemed risky.  Even six days after the storm, dozens of traffic lights remained down and most of my regular routes out of town were blocked off.  

For days after the storm, I would see power crews from other states and the sight of these fleets of trucks would bring sudden tears to my eyes.  I've written their names down, these strangers from states far away from New Jersey.  I saw trucks from Ohio, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Iowa.  A crew from Nebraska was responsible for re-connecting the wires at T's house.  I'm not sure I can express how much hope the sight of these crews inspired in me.  They were a welcome reminder that we weren't alone and that help was on the job.  I know it sounds corny, but I wrote the names of the companies down and I've sent every one of them a note to say thank you.   

I am more convinced than ever that extreme weather conditions like Sandy will be more common as we move forward.  I have enduring hope that as New Jersey and the area resumes its new normal, we will take action to prepare ourselves for our changing planet.  Updating the power grid, disaster preparedness, and responsible policies to curb global warming seem like such obvious policies to adopt.  I've long-favored them, of course, but these days the issue has risen to the top of my political priorities.  I suspect that I'm not alone.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vocab with T: Pig on Ice

This month's vocabulary lesson isn't so much a word as it is an idea.  And, as the snow and ice season begins to embrace us, it's a very fitting one: pig on ice.

I first heard T use it to describe a wonky grocery cart.  Pushing a cart with wheels that wouldn't operate properly, she described it as a "pig on ice."  I was amused and recognized it for a very useful description.  These days, most any unwieldy item is likely to get accused of being a pig on ice.  

Cars on yesterday's slushy roads?  Pig on ice.  The lumber cart at your local home improvement store?  Pig on ice.  My plastic wheelbarrow, laden with garden waste?  That's a pig on ice.

It's a handout description for all the annoys you and refuses to move forward.  That being the case, I think we have a new name for the Republicans in Congress: With John Boehner and Mitch McConnell at the helm, those folks are like pigs on ice.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In Praise of Freedom

My school has a diverse student body, with nearly half of the students in the Upper School coming from families of color.  This comfort with diversity is a tradition at the school and I suspect it informed a decision to enroll a small population of international students three years ago.  Though we also have students from other nations, most of our current international students come from China.

The introduction of foreign students into my American Government and U.S. History courses has added a rich layer of diversity to class discussions.  From matters as simple as explaining why the northeastern states are known as New England (not to mention helping a student to locate said "New England" on a traditional map!) to matters as complex as explaining individual libraries and political freedoms to students from a nation which recognizes neither of those ideas as essential to the human experience, my own teaching has been happily altered by the presence of these students in my classroom.

Last year, I made the decision to encourage two of the international students to participate in the Model Congress team that I coach.  I settled on two because it's a steeper climb to prepare non-native students for a Model Congress.  First, students with evolving English language skills must practice their English for a political debate environment, one that moves quickly and requires a new level of communication skills.  And then they have to be taught about the American political system and how the Congress works.  They have to understand the idea of an elected, representative body seeking to make laws for the nation while being accountable to the people.  They have to understand the constraints of political action when a Constitution effectively protects individual rights.  These notions can sometimes be difficult for American students to fully comprehend.  They are even more challenging for students who come from a nation where ideas such as freedom and participatory democracy have some very distinct boundaries.

Last year, two international students took me up on the invitation and gave Model Congress a try.  Both were bright and engaged and worked mighty hard to benefit from the experience.  Though neither won an award, I was proud of their efforts and thrilled by the way their own experiences and questions influenced the ideas and understanding of their native-born teammates.

This year, one of last year's students joined the team again.  I added another two international students, 10th grade girls who were outspoken and capable.  Then we set to work, drafting bills and talking through arguments in favor of their proposals.  Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, we lost two weeks of debate preparation and I felt it most keenly when it came to the international students.  But the students were excited to participate and I had always thought of their membership on our team in terms of how it would shape their understanding of the American political system, so there was no downside to competing.  Veteran B, one of last year's international participants, was a great help in getting rookies A and C up to speed.  And so we set off for the competition in Washington D.C.

At the close of the competition, awards are made to the participants who rank among the very best.  My team usually earns a few of those awards and as we sit together to hear the award announcements, I am always proud when my students earn recognition for their efforts.  But I don't know that I have ever felt the thrill I experienced when B, a Chinese student, won an American Model Congress award.  B is passionate about freedom and democracy; he's always eager to explore such ideas.  His contributions to our practice debates and discussions are rich and thoughtful.  He earned that award through hard work, enthusiasm, and faith in American freedom.  I was thrilled for him.

In a happy coincidence of timing, his contributions to free debate at Model Congress earned him an award on the same weekend that his native country had a closed-door meeting to select the leader of the Communist Party.  Every teacher has a collection of memories of days when it all clicks, when she can venture to hope that her work with students has made the world a better place.  I added one more event to that handful on that Sunday afternoon, when a kid born in an authoritarian state exercised his natural rights, freely expressed his opinions, and demonstrated the enduring power of freedom and liberty.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Showing Some Skin

This morning I hit upon the brilliant idea that I should wax my eyebrows.  Somewhere between consuming my first cup of coffee and unloading the dishwasher, I fired up the microwave to heat up the wax.  Experienced readers (hi, KO) are now getting excited, thinking that yet another story about me waxing off my eyebrow is about to unfold.  Alas, this incident of personal stupidity does not find me sans eyebrow.

It does find me with a burn on my left hand.
Instead of setting the microwave time for 2 minutes, I accidentally hit 4 minutes and only realized that was the case when I came back into the kitchen wondering why the wax wasn't finished heating up.  The sensible among you would have been careful with the wax, realizing that by now it is incredibly hot.  But I am not sensible and while removing the wax from the microwave, I managed to spill liquid wax all over my left hand.  The searing pain of that moment was only briefly offset by the realization that now I would have to find a way to remove wickedly hot wax from my skin.  I contemplated the ways and means of that task while holding my burned hand under the cold water and castigating myself for my incredible stupidity.

Once the wax was cooled, most of it could be pealed off with the help of some warm oil.  Much of my original skin remains.  The same cannot be said for my dignity.  Sometimes it's a wonder I've kept myself alive for 45 whole years.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hurricane Journal: In Search of Warmth

Early after the storm, my sister tried to persuade me to get in the car and drive to a hotel room in Philadelphia.  I resisted, worried about the cats and my home.  As word of gas shortages spread, I also fretted about keeping my gas tank full, since starting the car was one surefire way to charge my cell phone and get warm.  In hindsight, my anxiety about keeping the car fueled was unwarranted.  The tank never got below half and I can drive 400 miles on a single tank of gas.  But at the time, we saw gas station lines that had more than 100 cars and dozens of folks with gas cans in hand also waiting.  The concern didn't seem unreasonable.

On Saturday night, tired of the cold (the house hovered at just below 50 degrees) and fearing the arrival of early darkness (we turned back the clocks that evening), I had a melt-down on the phone with T.  She over-ruled my gas concern and persuaded me to pack up our electronics and laundry and hit the road in search of warmth and electricity come the morning.  That's exactly what we did on Sunday, November 4th.

On that late date, five days after the storm, I still couldn't drive any of my regular routes because of downed power lines and fallen trees blocking the roads.  When I finally got to the R-K family, who live in a county without gas rationing, I was able to easily fill my gas tank.  That experience renewed my confidence that it would all be okay.  The combination of adult companionship, electricity, warmth, and laundry facilities made for a lovely day.  Realizing that cold nights at home were much more bearable when accompanied by more normalized days, I immediately made plans to seek warmth for the Monday, .

JT and I waited until well after dark to head home on Sunday evening and as we drove into our neighborhood, we could see that electricity had been restored for some of the blocks in town, though our street was still electricity-free.  We would repeat that experience the next night as well and it was excruciating to get ever closer to home only to find our block bathed in darkness.  

On Tuesday, our third day on the road for warmth and our eighth day without electricity, JT and I went out to breakfast in the morning.  It was my birthday and I was determined to celebrate.  I voted and then we scored a birthday cake and headed to friends for the afternoon.  We had plans to make supper together, eat birthday cake, and watch election returns.  That evening, as Barack Obama moved closer to re-election, I got text messages from friends in town: We had electricity!  I called my answering machine to be sure (it's old-fashioned and operates with electricity) and when I heard my voice on the 4th ring, I was thrilled.  I didn't tell JT, figuring that he would welcome the surprise.  That evening, as we drove home, still more blocks in our town had electricity.  Just a few blocks from our house, well after 9 pm, we saw a half-dozen trucks from an Ohio power company still at work on the power lines.  JT, determined not to be disappointed, announced, "we probably still don't have power."

As we pulled onto our street, front-porch lights and street lamps seemed brighter than usual.  I looked over at JT and could see that he was in disbelief.  As we pulled into the driveway, we could see the cats in the front window.  Behind them was the light from the lamp I  leave on a timer.  JT said, "Oh, Mama," and we hurried inside to light.  We turned on the furnace and soon the radiators were creaking with warmth.  We settled on the sofa with mugs of hot chocolate and stayed up late into the night, bathed in light, warmth, and electoral victory.  For a day that began rather bleak and cold, it ended on a high note.  The next day would give me the opportunity to assess the past eight days.  And that's a story for later this week.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Seasonally Prepared

Yesterday was a warm sunny day with temps in the mid 50s.  I headed outside for some fall clean up chores.  Though Sandy blew away many of my fall leaves, plenty remained and those needed to be raked into the garden.  From there, they will be used by the handful whenever I make an addition to my compost bin.  The rest will decompose into the garden soil and by spring I'll never know they were there.

The day was so lovely that I wore short sleeves and tackled a few other chores.  The driveway needed cleaning up after the neighbor's newly constructed fence was installed and that meant that a lot of dirt and detritus needed to be raked away.  The front lawn also needed its final mow of the season.

Those chores complete, I came inside for a shower and considered tackling bulb planting and Christmas lights later this weekend.  Though Sassafras House rules prevent the turning on of Christmas lights before December 1st, I like to get ready before then.  Hanging lights is sometimes an occasion for cursing and it's a less taxing chore when I have sun and warmth on my side.  Yesterday was so nice, I hoped that today would also be lovely.

Ha.  Cloudy, windy and with temps in the 40s does not exactly qualify as nice.   But I am well-rested and after a trip to Home Depot, I was in possession of 60 half-price daffodil and tulip bulbs.  That calls for planting and as of this writing they are all happily in the ground in the front yard, ready to winter over and bloom come the spring.

Filled with inspiration, I hung the Christmas lights on the front porch and made some plans for decorating the iron table that lives on the porch.  Next week, I will add holiday greenery.  In the meantime, it's nice to have the hard parts completed.  That's happy!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mother Nature at Work

Last weekend, I was in Washington D.C. with my school's Model Congress team.  While the students were busy showing Congress how to get things done (by passing bills to legalize marijuana and forgive student loans), we got to explore the city.  Among the places we explored was the U.S. Botanic Garden.  I'd never been there before and all I can say is that it will now be a regular part of any trip I take to the capitol.
Located in a corner between the Grant Memorial the Rayburn and Longworth House Office Buildings, the garden is a building filled with beauty.  From the moment you enter the main hall, it smells amazing.  I've a feeling that the many orchids growing under the glass ceiling have helped with that.  This one was especially lovely.
Throughout the main room are replicas of famous D.C. landmarks made out of organic materials and set among the plants and flowers.  I liked this version of Congress a great deal and I bet the folks who work in there have learned to cooperate.  
The plants are accompanied by explanations of where they grow and how they can be used.  I didn't need that explanation for the coffee beans, which may have been my favorite plant in the building. 
JT gave the nod to the cocoa plant and later reported to me that in his imagination, you could just crack open one of these seeds and it would be filled with ganache.  Mother Nature, if you're reading, that's not a bad idea.
The hostas that grow around my house could take a lesson from these giant tropical versions.
I've decided that when I win the lottery I will build myself a glass greenhouse.  Inside it I will grow all sorts of amazing-smelling tropical plants including a whole bunch of ferns like these.
I'm thinking that I will drop a note to the Members of Congress to advise them to take a break and have a stroll around the Botanic Garden.  It's right near their offices, after all.  And it's free.  It gave me a sense of wonder and peace that might be just the sort of thing they need to work out their differences.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful 2012

My dad always says that Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday.  When I was a little girl, I found this claim suspect.  There was no Santa, no Easter Bunny, no gifts at all on Thanksgiving.  Just a lot of (admittedly) good food and the company of family.  Nice, of course.  But clearly a second tier holiday in my eight-year-old estimation.

These days, I can see why my dad likes Thanksgiving so much.  There's the food, of course.  But it's so much more than that.  Thanksgiving is a chance to sit at a table with loved ones, enjoy a meal together, and pause to be thankful for the blessings in our lives.

This year, as we are still cleaning up after the hurricane, I've many blessings to count and I am filled with gratitude for them all.   I'm thankful for a warm, sturdy home.
I'm thankful for old man tree, a tall and strong sentinel on duty in the backyard.

I'm thankful for the electricity, warmth, and light that made this meal possible.
And I'm glad of friends and family both near and far.  They share joys and anxieties, laughter and tears.  They are the biggest blessing in my life.  
Whatever life has brought you this year, I hope that today you can count at least a few blessings. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hurricane Journal: In the Cold

In the midst of our extended period without electricity, around day seven, a friend of mine had a thought that really lingered with me.  "The first two days without electricity are fun," C said, "and then reality sets in."  For us, it was a very cold reality.  In hindsight, the days rather blur together in my mind.  Now, more than three weeks since the storm, the eight days we spent without power seem like a lost week.

As the cold settled in, the temperature of my house steadily declined.  When I have electricity, I listen to NPR for hours at a time.  Without the radio, the steady sound of my day was the whir of generators in town, a loudly humming noise that was a reminder of our lack of power.  JT spent some time tuning in my Eton crank-fueled radio and by Wednesday morning I could once again hear the sounds of WNYC, my local public radio station. 

Once the radio was operational, we had company again.  And it was company on the form of actual news and facts instead of the over-the-fence rumor mongering and anxiety that had quickly taken hold in the absence of solid information.  I could learn about the damage elsewhere and hear about the help that had already arrived.  My town and its authorities, who had been so useful in Hurricane Irene, were pretty useless in the period after this storm.  Warming and charging stations would have been welcome by Wednesday evening, but it took until Friday night for our town to make them available.  As temperatures sank and gasoline proved scarce, people became increasingly anxious.  Though it wasn't the case for anyone I knew, the radio assured me that others lacked food and water.   T and I checked in with each other a couple times every day, though our need to keep our phones charged meant that long conversations were not an option.  I had to start my car to charge my cell phone, which was a lifeline to friends and loved ones as well as my sister KO's daily power company updates.  The cell phone also kept me informed about school cancellation, which was handled on a day-by-day basis as the school also waited for electricity.

As it became clear to me that we were going to be a long time without power, I headed up to the attic to find my Nebraska-rated bedding, which I layered on to our beds.  On top of the flannel sheets went a warm blanket.

And then a down comforter wrapped in a flannel duvet.

On top of that was a quilt, to hold in the warmth of the down.  The beds looked like a stuffed goose, but underneath those heavy covers we were very warm as we slept.

For a couple of those cold nights, a friend who lives in town and I combined forces to share suppers and warmth.  Thanks to natural gas, we both had the ability to take hot showers and cook on our gas stoves.  My house faces north and didn't get much passive heat during the cold days, but M's house faces east, with windows to the south and her living room was much warmer in the cold evenings.  On Friday, M scored some bags of ice which we used to keep a little cold food.  Between the ice and night temperatures in the 30s, I was able to keep milk, cheese, eggs, and a newly-opened jar of mayo.  Somehow, this made me feel more civilized.

That same afternoon, I called PSE&G for an electricity restoration update and the automatic service told me that our power would be restored by the next day at 3 pm.  JT and I were euphoric and that night the cold seemed easier to bear.  But come 3 pm on Saturday, there was no power.  My sister learned from the PSE&G website that we were now slated for restoration in the following week.  It's not an exaggeration to say that I greeted this news with desperation.  Worn out by the cold, JT and I threw caution to the wind, fired up the car, and went over to a local mall for a few hours.  We came home to a cold, black darkness and my anxiety began to rise.  That night, T, herself still without power, persuaded me to visit some friends with electricity for the day, and I fell asleep thinking about a plan for Sunday.  The next three days found us traveling about, seeking warmth and charged electronics.  And that's a story for another day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Word!

I started writing this blog in the spring of 2006 and for more than six years I have managed to blather on about my life with a regularity that has surely frightened at least some of you.  The lack of new postings in the last week surprises me at least as much as it must thrill the Internet.  Suffice it to say that I was busy, busy, busy.  But as of this afternoon I am on a much-needed Thanksgiving Break, time I will use to rest and get caught up with a whole bunch of things, including this blog.

In the meantime, we are happy and well at Sassafras House and looking forward to a quiet Thanksgiving.  We've blessings large and small to be grateful for and I intend to celebrate them all.   But first I'm going to get some sleep and try to crawl out from underneath the pile of laundry that has consumed my home.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hurricane Journal: The Day After

When I awakened on the morning of October 30, the rain had stopped and the winds were gone.  Unlike the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, which dawned sunny and spectacular, this day was cloudy and grey.  It was cool outside, with temps just in the 50s.  JT was still asleep but I went outside to look up and down the street.  My neighbors were there and we compared notes.  Tree branches were down everywhere; like me, my neighbors were without power.  In the next few hours, I would discover that there was no power in our town and not in nearby towns either.  I called the utility company to report the outage and the automated system informed me that my electricity would be restored by Monday, November 5th.  In hindsight, that was my first inkling that the storm had been massive, though I glossed over the fact at the time.  When we had lost power in Irene, they had warned us it would be gone for 5 days and we were restored in 3.  Surely this wouldn't be worse?

I came inside to a functioning gas stove and the ability to make coffee.  While the water boiled, I grabbed the bags of ice I had earlier stored in the freezer, and moved food from my fridge to the ice chest, which I stored on my front porch.  What I couldn't save, I threw out.  I saved the ice cream for JT's breakfast.  When he got up, I let him eat it from the carton, an indulgence he is always asking for but receives only in the aftermath of hurricanes.  We took a walk around town and began to get a sense of the extent of the damage.  There were downed trees and tree branches everywhere, so much so that sights like these could be seen in too many front yards to count.

Larger trees and power poles also came down, including more than a half dozen on one of the main streets out of our town.  This picture is from a distance because there were power lines down for a length of two blocks and I didn't want my 12 year old anywhere near them.

One block north of my street, an enormous tree came down.  You can see the root ball in this photo.  This tree took out a fence and a garage, but missed the houses it stood between.

Farther down the same street, another tree crushed a car.

I'm not sure that there is any way to really explain the volume of the trees that fell in my town, let alone the way things looked in the aftermath.  In some instances, like this one two blocks west of me, houses were damaged (there is a flattened dormer window under that tree).

By the time JT and I returned home from our first post-hurricane outing, we were sobered by what we had seen.  We felt incredibly lucky.  Our messy front porch and one bent piece of trim were nothing to worry about compared to what other folks had experienced.

Later that day, we set to work tuning in our hand-crank radio so that we could get some news and information about the rest of our area.  That's a story for another day.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hurricane Journal: The Storm Itself

On October 28, a Sunday afternoon, just as the very edge of the hurricane winds were starting, JT and I drove my parents to the airport for their flight back to California.  When we got home, word that school was cancelled for Monday came via e-mail.   But other than the bits of wind and the ominous forecast, nothing happened.  Sunday need up being an anxious day of preparation for the unexpected.  I washed every bit of laundry I could find, charged up my cell phone, and hoped for the best.  For reasons of logistics, T and I were riding out the storm separately.  She lives in the woods and was practically guaranteed to lose electricity, though with a generator to help out.  Previous storms, including Hurricane Irene, had us convinced that the aftermath of this storm would be harder in her area than mine, and I have cats and my beloved home to look after, so JT and I couldn't just re-locate to her house.

Monday morning dawned dark and windy.  On and off throughout the day we had light rain.  Winds picked up steadily and at some point I realized that I could hear it blowing all the time.  By 4 pm, the local weather was reporting that Sandy was moving a little faster than expected.  The storm was upon the shore with winds in excess of 70 miles per hour and would soon be upon us.  Darkness came and the winds steadily picked up but we still had lights.  I kept expecting the winds to be joined by heavy rain but that never materialized.  As it was, the winds were enough to do some pretty colossal damage and we are incredibly lucky that the rain wasn't as heavy as the forecasters had feared.

Even as I grew confident that my basement wouldn't flood (and it never did), I began to fret about trees and the power lines.  Unlike my native California, power lines around here are above ground.  I could stand in my living room and watch the swinging lines to my house, a pretty frightening way to spend your storm hours.  At 8 pm, after one last flicker, the lights went out.  Winds were now sustained with gusts blowing over them (I later learned that some of those gusts were in excess of 80 mph…..I can believe it).  In the darkness, we could only hear the storm and the sounds were terrifying.  A piece of siding trim blew down off the house and then crashed about in the driveway until  ran outside in the dark to grab it before it could do more damage.  JT and I played cards and then went to bed to read in the darkness and listen to the storm.  To my complete surprise, I was able to sleep.  Now that the worst was upon us and I knew what it would be like, I was oddly relieved.  I woke at some point in the middle of the night and the wind was gone.  All I could hear was the sound of light rain.  I slept through the rest of the night, relieved that the worst was over.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hurricane Journal

I write every day in my journal.  For some years now, my journal has been on my computer.  Some of what I write serves as fodder for my blog and the blog itself is a kind of journal.  In the midst of the hurricane and the power loss that followed, charging my MacBook was not an option.  So I had to revert to a paper journal again.  It felt all sorts of old-fashioned to be writing on paper.  It was oddly comforting to be doing something so familiar, albeit in a now-unfamiliar fashion.  All told, we were without power for eight days, some of them quite cold.   I wrote every day.  The storm happened two weeks ago tomorrow and for the next few days I will post some excerpts from my Hurricane journal.  

In the hours leading up to Hurricane Sandy's on-shore arrival, I wrote a few postings about storm anticipation.  Here is what I wrote on Sunday the 28th.  On the day of the storm, I posted two small pieces before we lost electricity.  Those can be found here and here.

 I slept pretty poorly for the nights leading up to the storm, lying in bed running through my preparation lists and hyper-aware of every unusual sound.  My storm prep was actually done as of Saturday afternoon.  Then came an extended dance mix of waiting.  More about that tomorrow.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Real Life Conversations with KO: Equality edition

The backstory: I love Keen shoes because they are so comfortable.  My sister KO is convinced that a fondness for sensible shoes is one of the many signs that I am a lesbian. To which I respond, "guilty."

KO:  Wearing my red lace-up Keens today.  Hope I don't turn gay.

Me:  You can get married in 3 more states if that's how it plays out.  Or get elected to the Senate.  Both worth considering

KO:  It's about freakin' time.

Sassafras family values rule.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Adding Insult to Injury

Yesterday's restored power found me happily back to my household routines.  I drank my morning coffee brewed in my magical electric coffee pot,  I went to the market for some fresh food (milk, fresh veggies and deli, oh my!), ran the dishwasher, washed clothes, took some of the heavy bedding off our beds, vacuumed, and cleaned things up.  I thought about putting my candles and flashlights away but refrained, mindful of the Nor'easter headed our way.

Turns out that was a wise choice.  The snow was falling by mid-day and JT headed out to play.  He was delighted by this turn of events because he loves to play in the snow.  I was worried.
As the evening came on, the snow kept falling, and the winds picked up.  Another piece of trim blew off my house.  Our lights flickered around 7 pm and then at 8:30, everything went dark.  It would be fair to say that I rather lost my mind at that point.  We took to our beds and I let despair lull me to sleep.  Around 1:30 am I was awakened by the brightness of the hallway light.  At first, I thought it was just a dream.  Then I sat up and realized that it was a dream come true.  The lights were back and my house never even had time to get cold again.  I shot downstairs to check out my neighborhood's glowing porch lights and plug in JT's iPad.  Then I returned to bed with a most happy heart.

This morning the winds are gone and the sun is already melting our fresh snow.  I can afford to be cheerful.  Mother Nature, if you are reading, I get it.  You can count on my support in this whole global warming debate.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

An Electrifying Night

At Sassafras House, my election day birthday dawned cold and a little bleak.  It was our 8th morning without electricity.  Though I had great confidence that Obama would secure re-election, I  expected a day of nervous waiting.  The polls looked good, Nate Silver was giving me terrific odds, and yet I wasn't in a mood to count on much.  I've been disappointed on election day birthdays in the past, most notably in 1984, when Ronald Reagan swept the nation and defeated Walter Mondale.  When you care about politics as much as I do, you hate to make assumptions.

JT and I headed off to a local diner for breakfast and then I voted in a FEMA-powered temporary polling station.  For the afternoon, we joined the T-N family for companionship, heat, and electricity.  I began to troll the web for exit-poll data.  I was anxiously hopeful.  After supper, we had some birthday cake and as I blew out the candles I opted for my nation and wished for an Obama victory instead of power for my home.  

We turned on the telly at 8 pm to watch poll returns.  As polls in the east closed, the southern states provided numbers for Romney's column, but that was hardly surprising.  New York and New Jersey were predictably blue.  Pennsylvania was good.  Then, more surprisingly, New Hampshire went for Obama.  Soon the numbers began to shift in Obama's direction.  As I began to relax in the surety of an Obama victory, my friend M, who also lives in my town, texted that she had power.  I called my home and heard the re-assuring voice of my answering machine and I knew that I too was back on the grid.

Within the hour, JT and I drove home, confident that the day had brought us a whole lot of blessings.  We switched on the furnace and settled in to watch more swing states line up on the blue side of the equation.  Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico…the news was good and getting better.  We stayed up late, determined to watch Romney's concession and see November 6 out on a much happier note than it had begun.  Electricity and an Obama victory?  In one day?  Our cup overfloweth.

Later this week, I'll have some thoughts about what Obama's re-election means.  Hint: the numbers in Congress may be virtually the same, but the game has changed, a fact Republicans must understand and acknowledge.  But today is for celebrating the blessings of democracy, citizenship, electricity, and four more years of an Obama White House.  We are blessed.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Empowered Democracy or Why I Support President Obama

Today is election day.  It's also the 8th day that my New Jersey town is without power.  In the midst of some pretty bleak conditions, we were able to vote, thanks to a FEMA-provided generator used to power our fire station and our electronic voting booths.

In another universe, I intended to write a post today about why I am hoping for a Barack Obama victory in this election.  I had a long list of Obama successes to highlight.  But in light of the current state of life in New Jersey, I think just one example will do.  That example is the work of FEMA in our state, including the generator it provided to power democracy for my small town today.  Mitt Romney has called for privatization of disaster relief, an idea that is so hopelessly ignorant and out of touch that I can hardly fathom what he must be thinking.  

President Obama understands that we all flourish when we support one another.   He knows that ours is a government by and for the people; that it is the institution that can make all of our lives better.  He has done right by this nation for the past four years and we need him for the next four.  I voted for a little more hope and change today.  I hope that you will consider doing the same.

11:11 pm
Networks are starting to call this race for President Obama and we came home to a house with electricity.  Amazing election day and one hell of a birthday. This is a November 6 I will never forget.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Alive and Well!

Greetings to all from the other side of Hurricane Sandy.  Sassafras House and all of its inmates are alive and well.  As of this writing, we don't have power and aren't sure when we will have power.  We came to a friend's house for the day to score some power, get warmed up, and surf the Internet.  That's a very welcome respite from the off-the-grid lifestyle we've had since the lights went out on Monday evening.  I have loads of photos and will post a full report of our hurricane experience as soon as we are electrified again.  Until then, stay well Internet.