Party Girl vs Natural Disasters

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The shelf cloud that swept into our city. The turquoise light is a power flash, likely from lightning hitting power lines.

Last week, we were hit with a derecho. I didn’t know what a shelf cloud was until I Googled it. Except I couldn’t Google it. Fallen trees had forsaken our electricity and worse, our wi-fi.

We had two options; lament or make the most of it. Character is often measured by how one rises to the occasion, and recent studies found a direct link between adaptability and happiness. We had no get on with it, darling.

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Our yard was strewn with roof shingles and plants from other yards, though we have a privacy fence.

How to make the most of a natural disaster:

BE PREPARED

It’s hard to be cheerful when you’re tossing out a deep freezer full of steaks and homemade soup. Invest in a generator so at the very least, you will have fresh food and hot showers. Keep a few gallons of gas in the garage, because if roads are blocked or flooded, you’re out of luck.

FELLOWSHIP

After the event (earthquake, hurricane, etc.) many venture outside to assess the damage. Go beyond your property. If it’s dark, grab a flashlight. After the derecho, our city streets were pitch black, save for wandering flashlight beams. We found crushed vehicles and blocked roads from fallen trees. You can lend a hand to neighbors in need, and feel thankful that you likely weren’t the worst hit. Admittedly, it’s exciting to wander around in the dark with strangers, taking in the surreal scene.

The morning after the derecho, my husband wielded a hand saw and joined neighbors in an effort to clear the road of debris. Neighbors caught up, shared bottled water and felt a sense of community.

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Bellevue, the morning after.

MOOD LIGHTING

A candlelight bath and candlelit dinners? Yes please! That lighting is much more flattering, and it lends a sense of excitement to everything. Tell ghost stories!

COOK-OUT

No stove or microwave? No problem! Fire up the grill and enjoy char-broiled rib eye and veggie kabobs rubbed in chopped cilantro and olive oil. If you don’t own an iron skillet, invest in one. That way you can still have a grill-top pan to fry eggs and heat up sauces.

POWERING DOWN

Cable wires were ripped down, so even those with generators couldn’t watch TV or have access to the Internet. While some complained, I saw it as an opportunity. I tanned on a picnic blanket and took long walks with our greyhounds. Our son climbed giant fallen pines with other kids in the neighborhood. We caught up on our reading, and I resumed a few crafting projects – things that get pushed aside on manic weeknights when all I want to do is escape into Netflix.

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Found on a back alley walk

FARMER’S MARKET

Grocery stores are likely closed, so head out to your local farmer’s market. Many are out-of-towners whose stands run on generators anyway. We dined on Vietnamese spring rolls and stocked up on ready-made foods we needn’t cook, like goat cheese spread, banana honey peanut butter, salad greens and glazed doughnuts.

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Catching up with Andrew, founder of the inimitable Reginald’s Homemade peanut butter.

PORCH LIVING

No power means so AC, so if you’re lucky enough to have a porch, go lounge on it. It’s likely that all the neighbors are enjoying the cool air. You’ll see their candlelight, and before you know it, everyone’s shouting across the street. Invite them over for a cocktail and board games on the porch. A glass of scotch and competitive Scrabble are my idea of heaven.

THE BIG PICTURE

This is America. Eventually order will be restored, and insurance (after a good fight) will cover the damages. In the meantime, look for the silver lining. Your electric bill will be smaller, you have an excuse to eat out sans guilt and you’ll likely have a restored sense of community in your neighborhood. Natural disasters do that to people. We’re more resilient than we realize. In fact, once the grid lights up again everyone is resealed into their homes, you may miss the sense of adventure that comes when Mother Nature swings her hammer.

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Fauquier Avenue, a week later.

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