Category Archives: Rock Me Like a Hurricane

It Takes a Hurricane to Raise a Village

As I piece this column together on the cusp of Election Day, the fate of our presidential race has yet to be decided. Granted, over the past several weeks multitudes of early votes have been cast, absentee ballots from near and far have been duly harvested and an embarrassment of straw polling has dominated the news cycle to the point of intolerableness. Never mind the ever-present spin of so-called pundits, the glut of ugly ad campaigns and the pervasive climate of divisiveness that that sort of milieu begets.

Even so, it is impossible for me to know which candidate emerged victorious.

Oddly enough, I don’t especially care anymore. It’s not that the issues are any less important to me, or that I’ve grown disinterested in the direction this country may or may not be headed. It’s just that the tragic nature of Superstorm Sandy was and continues to be so much larger than any political event could ever hope to be. Perhaps more importantly, the outpouring of empathy for those affected—regardless of party affiliation—coupled with coordinated relief efforts in response to such an epic scale of devastation have been nothing short of remarkable. The silver lining, as it were, in these darkest of times.

Day after day, as I tuned in to witness unprecedented ruination up and down our nation’s eastern shoreline (as well as further inland) and listened hard as people from all walks of life shared their stories of loss and unparalleled upheaval, I was taken by the virtual nonexistence of politics. It was as if the tumult of impassioned citizens, ones who were thoroughly obsessed with the notion of voicing support for this or that candidate only a short while ago, had been silenced. Instead, voices of compassion, solidarity and true grit prevailed—as floodwaters rose, as fires raged and as an ungodly number of homes and livelihoods were swallowed by the sea. By and large, people set aside their differences in the wake of a monster storm to do what was right and to do what was necessary in order to help those in need. In the process, they became more human.

Aside from restoring my faith in the idea that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things, Hurricane Sandy has also plagued me with guilt. While the storm ravaged neighborhoods, cities and towns across more than a dozen states, Canada and the Caribbean, my greatest source of angst revolved around the question of how we’d keep our bearded dragons warm in the event of a lengthy power failure. Of course, my husband almost bought a generator, so we were fairly certain that we (along with our dear lizards) would almost stay warm. There was also the dire matter of keeping our pajama-clad, home-from-school-again kids entertained for godknowshowlong. Naturally, I fed them a steady diet of electronics prior to Sandy’s arrival, banking on the notion that we wouldn’t be afforded that luxury for very long.

But I was wrong. We never did lose our electricity, or the extravagance of hot showers, or access to fully functioning toilets or even a modicum of heat throughout the entire ordeal. We also had a roof over our heads, warm beds each night and safe drinking water. To say we were fortunate doesn’t begin to describe our lot—even if the kids did wear their pajamas for two solid days. Never mind the wind that roared outside like a freight train, or that I sent my husband on a battery-procurement-mission-from-hell, or that I prepared enough food for a small country and did roughly 37 loads of laundry in preparation (i.e. engaged in some sort of deranged hurricane-induced nesting behavior).

At any rate, I can’t shake the shame. Nor can I wrap my mind around the devastation so many people faced as a result of this superstorm. That said, elections may come and go, but the tangible, almost village-like sense of community cultivated by this inherently nightmarish event may endure—which is a beautiful thing. Likewise, altruism is an equally beautiful thing, as evidenced by organized efforts to garner aid for those impacted by the storm. To learn more, visit CNN.com and search for an informative piece (dated November 1) entitled “How to help after the superstorm,” an article which details at least eight ways people can become involved and offer assistance to those in need.

Also, be sure to visit www.zazzle.com/PlanetMom to aid Hurricane Sandy victims. I plan to donate 100% of my profits to the American Red Cross for the entire month of November.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (at times, inspired by humanity). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Political Poop, Rock Me Like a Hurricane

Still is the Night

Shortly after the big, yellow school bus groaned to a halt and deposited Planet Mom’s brood at the curb, the skies grew angry and the winds began to whip, swirling all manner of leaves and debris about the place. The heavens rumbled in the distance and massive clouds moved swiftly as she and her children hurried up the grassy knoll to the safety and comfort of their home. Together they sat, perched at the northernmost bank of windows, and watched with amazement as a monstrous wall of gray swallowed the September sun as if it were a mere lemon drop. A raging storm was indeed very nearly upon them.

A sudden shroud of darkness then descended upon the land whilst towering pines swayed in the yard and lawn chairs skittered like spiders across the wooden deck, tumbling into the bushes and startling the children and their curly-haired dog. Shortly thereafter, lightning lit the skies and thunder shook the house unmercifully, causing the dog to cower in a corner—its springy, white tail hidden between its legs. Lights flickered ON and OFF and ON again while rain began to pelt the roof in fitful waves, thwarting all efforts to keep the smallish creatures in question focused on their homework. It was a school night after all.

“Are the lights going to GO OFF and STAY OFF, Mom?” one of the pair asked, a hint of apprehension in her voice. “What’ll we do then?”

Their mother, not being particularly gifted in the realm of meteorological topics, shrugged her shoulders and tried desperately to think of something that might divert her daughters’ attention away from the impending doom that seemed all but certain to strike.

“Get back to your schoolwork,” she instructed, all the while pretending to ignore the deafening cracks of thunder and the sirens that wailed in the distance. “It’s just a thunderstorm.”

“But how will we see to do our homework if the lights STAY OFF?” the wisp of a child probed further.

“Yeah,” her infinitely inquisitive counterpart added. “And how will we watch TV tonight?”

“I’ll think of something,” the mother asserted and then silently lamented the notion of being without television (and the computer and the microwave andso on) for what would surely seem an eternity.

Lo and behold, at some point during the ferocity of the storm, the power did, in fact, fail and legions of flashlights (many without functional batteries) were summoned from beneath beds and forgotten drawers. Cleverly, the woman lit scented candles; however it was soon determined that her progenies had mysteriously developed an incapacitating aversion to being near an open flame—despite having enjoyed countless marshmallow toasting events during the summer involving (gasp!) campfires and whatnot. “My homework will catch on fire, Mom!” So out the candles went directly, along with any bit of cinnamon-y goodness that might have emanated from said waxen devices.

Dozens of minutes elapsed and darkness fell. Soon the woman’s mate returned from work and joined the anxious bunch, eager to instill calm and assurance where fear had begun to creep. Savory snacks and a multitude of shadow puppets were instantly produced to the delight of many. Needless to say, the man’s offspring were mightily impressed with his skills and mesmerized by the uncommon and authentic nature of the railroad lanterns he managed to unearth from their pitifully disordered garage. His wife was equally impressed with the aforementioned feats and in return promised never to divulge the number of times he flicked light switches like a fool—because she, too, stupidly flicked switches.

Eventually, the punishing storm passed and the winds subsided, although the power outage continued. Nevertheless, an abundance of laughs were shared as were stories of parental hardship involving crippling snow storms and great floods during which both heat and electricity were lost for days on end. “Wow! That must have been horrible, Dad!” (Translation: “How did you survive without the Disney Channel, Dad?!”) More importantly, the family reconnected in a way that they hadn’t in a very long time. Everyone took turns recounting the day’s ordinary and not-so-ordinary events. The dog’s ears were gently stroked and beloved books were read within the soft glow of the lanterns as the children nestled upon their mother’s lap.

At the close of each chapter, just before she began reading the next, she paused ever-so-slightly—and that was the moment during which a strange and wonderful thing befell them. All was perfectly still—aside from the crickets outside calling to would-be mates, the dozing dog and the breathy whispers of children completely engrossed in the deliciousness of literature. As it should be. No ever-present drone of the air conditioner could be heard. No television blared in the background. Not even the familiar hum of the refrigerator or a solitary screen saver could be detected. The sacred wedge of silence was magical, entrancing and wholly alien to those huddled upon the floor and sofa.

Just then the power returned—an abrupt and unwelcome guest. The household whirred and lurched back to life, removing all but the vestiges of ambiance and intimacy. The children blinked as if snapping out of a trance. Their squinty-eyed mother closed the book and used it to shield herself from the brightness, now everywhere. Her mate sat up suddenly, forcing himself to process the transformation. The dog awoke with a start. Shortly thereafter, everyone went their separate ways—back to the tired and the familiar. The spell had been broken, irreparably so. Or had it?

“We should do this again, Mom! We should have a fake power outage everyweek!” the children insisted at breakfast the next morning, smiles all around.

And so it was. Fake Power Outage Night was thereby established as a new family tradition and it was duly noted that batteries should be abundantly stockpiled.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (paying tribute to the ever-masterful Garrett Rice, aka Neanderdad, and his patented writing style). Be sure to visit Planet Mom on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Family Affair, Love and Other Drugs, Rock Me Like a Hurricane