If you live in the Midwest, you know that the weather can be...persnickety. What started as an unusually beautiful 68 degree day in November turned devastating for many in the Michiana area. A tornado touched down in several places causing massive power outages and general destruction, including throwing a tree through the roof of my house as I stood just ten feet away.
I'm not ashamed to say I screamed when an 18-inch piece of barn siding flew past my head as I headed for cover in the basement. Needless to say, my forgetfulness in posting yesterday--with a trip to the State Farm agent, shopping for a generator, cleaning up the inside of the house, and getting a contractor to remove the tree and cover the gaping hole in the roof--is understandable.
The tasks involved in cleaning up this type of chaotic event give you time to process and find the life lessons. So, here are the things that I learned (or remembered to know) from this craziness.
- I chose the very best husband in the world (for me). I don't want to imply other people's husbands are not "the best." But my husband is the perfect person for me and I was reminded of it during the tornado. We were watching TV and the wind starting picking up. I ignored it (as I tend to do with anything that might be scary if I think about it too obsessively). My husband did not. He didn't panic, but he was definitely paying attention. He recognized exactly when the wind outside was not normal and sent me down to the basement.
- Part Two of "I chose the best husband." Not only did he send me down to the basement, but he immediately ran to the bedroom where the dogs were napping in their cages. When my husband and I first met, he wasn't much of a dog person. But because I love dogs, he agreed to become a dog person. Over the years, he has developed a deep affection for our puppies and I learned in this crisis that it wasn't just an act. He loves our dogs...enough to instinctively run for them despite the dangers. When I called my dad later and told him the story, his first response was that next time we should leave the dogs. My husband's response to that ("yeah, right") makes him exactly the husband that I need.
- The attitude from which you approach a problem makes all the difference. With the immediate danger passed, but the power out and the wind still howling, we decided to spend the night in the basement--just in case. We blew up air mattresses, brought down the blankets, flashlights, bottled water, computers, and cell phones, and set up camp. And "camp" is exactly how I thought of it. We were camping in the basement. We got all snuggled up and continued watching movies until the computer's battery ran out. It was fun and a nice distraction from worrying about the big hole in the roof. By focusing on the fun part, I made it through the ordeal without falling apart.
- Devastating is all about perspective. It doesn't diminish your loss, but it helps you appreciate the level of severity and appropriateness of your reaction when you step outside of your own small world and see what else is out there. A hole in our roof and no power is terrible. But my father-in-law actually had the tornado touch down on his property. Twenty-five year old pines that he and his family planted together had their tops ripped off or were completely uprooted. He lost over forty mature trees and has tens of thousands of dollars of cleanup, for which his insurance will cover only $500. He was lucky that the house--where he and his wife were protected in the basement--wasn't touched. The tornado was right there in full force and could have easily leveled the house with them in it. Perspective.
5. Last, but not least--there are many ways to deal with problems and the "standard" response won't work for everyone. When we went to the insurance company, they said that since our house was uninhabitable, they would pay to put us up in a hotel for as long as the hole was in our roof and the power was out. But we have dogs. We didn't want to kennel our dogs after such a crazy experience and live out of a hotel for who knows how long. Once the roof was covered, we decided that we'd rather just rough it at our house. No power or running water, but we live on a creek (for toilet flushing) and we bought a small generator (probably not covered by insurance) for light, electronics charging, and TV. So yes, I have to put a pot of water on the grill and use my French press for coffee. And yes, I have to keep running to the barn for wood to burn in the fireplace. And yes, we are sleeping on the couch in front of that fire, which is the only source of heat. And yes, we wash our dishes and brush our teeth with bottled water and use the shower at the gym. But we are home, and we are together, and we make it work; we count our blessings and treat it like an impromptu adventure. So I learned that we can solve problems together and that "together" (including dogs) is what works best for us. Roughing it doesn't have to be so rough, as long as you meet your most basic needs. Our most basic need is being together...that and satellite TV.
So, I didn't write yesterday. Instead, I experienced life and the aftermath of chaos. And I learned to remember some things that, if not forgotten, are important to hold in the front of my mind to appreciate the amazing gifts I possess.