Friday, February 6, 2009


Martha S. would have been proud of the neat labeling of all cords.

Generators that made all bearable.
Ice looked like diamonds against the blue sky.
'Viking' Elliptical cooker that was our main cooking source.
Hard situations brings out the worst in people for a variety of reasons -- fear, ignorance, panic to name a few. But, it also brings out the best in many folks and I was able to see that daily during this ice storm ordeal.
Once people realized that we were without power extending into the weekend, we received several invitations to use their showers. Some of these folks have 8-12 "guests" in their homes so it did mean a lot to us that they would extend their warmth to us.
Of all people, my mother-in-law, came to the house on Wednesday. You have to know ,I have not seen her in over 4 years. Lots of background that would be inappropriate to get into. Upon realization that she was in the car, I panicked, "4 years, and she picks today to come down?" But, I quickly recovered as she walked in. She truly was concerned for us and wanted to ride down with father-in-law Jim who was delivering another generator and fuel to us. They both were shocked at how cold it was even with a fire and the rigged furnace. The yellow cord tentacles were a shock to both as well. I laughed and said, "Sorry you couldn't visit under better circumstances." We all laughed. A visit from both of them was an hour of talking that took my mind off of the situation. As they were getting ready to leave, they begged us to come up and stay, with the dogs, and get away from this house. David nipped it right there, "We're not leaving the outside pets." But, the geniune expression of concern and help was warming.
Most of all, David was a source of warmth. He worked tirelessly to ease my fears. Many times I told him was fine, and I was, but he kept on. I really think checking the generators, all plugs, the water jugs helped him through this. Every morning he left to refill water jugs, get fuel, check the office to see if power was restored. Never a harsh word to me or the dogs; however, he did grow weary of fueling the generators and let everyone know it. I wanted to learn how, but he said, "outside work is mine, inside stuff is for you." And, that's how it went. The most touching thing was the rigged "Hot Tap" shower. The car battery outside the bathroom was so funny. But, you know, the shower was steamy hot. By Thursday-Friday, if I closed my eyes, things seems somewhat normal because of his tireless work to "make sure I was comfortable." The Hot Tap even worked in the kitchen and I was able to wash the dishwasher load that I didn't get to run the week before. Sunday was 54 degrees, with the warm dish water and the breeze coming through the window, I closed my eyes and imagined a lovely day in mid-March. I had to open my eyes though and view reality, a Hot Tap hose running through the window.
My husband's acts of love, daily, kept my spirits up and moved me forward to the next day. I, in turn, told him how much this meant to me, hugged him every time he walked through the door, and joked as much as possible to make him laugh. I worked to provide fairly normal meals. The whole 'food is pleasure' was true those 6 days. We talked in the mornings about what to lay out for dinner that night. In the afternoon, we discussed cooking methods. While cooking in the evening, we talked about side dishes. It really helped us cope.
We looked for people that we could assist, and was able to provide one family with a generator. Warmth from love was so helpful those long six days.
The internet was down yesterday. The phones were also in horrible shape. No problems this morning so I don't know if I can post tomorrow. If I can, I will tell you about the neighbors, Amish neighbors...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Have You Ever Been Really Cold?

Front yard

Tops are snapped out of all the elms

Tuesday night's dinner

The maple by the back door

A limb against the house
When the power went out at 8:45 pm Tuesday evening, it was not actually cold because of the residual heat. We had not eaten yet because I kept waiting all afternoon and into the evening for the inevitable which in itself was emotionally draining; the knowing and yet not knowing when it would happen. So, the spaghetti and meatball dinner I had planned turned into meatballs warmed in the iron skillet over the grill served on hamburger buns; the worst meal of the 6 day ordeal.
There are many kinds of cold. The physical cold came in the early hours of Wednesday morning. It greeted me at 4:00 am with an icy veil. Cold does not blanket, it veils. It felt thin, lacy, veil-like. It's the description that kept coming to mind over the next days.
Cold feels wet. It's not, really. Actually, it is very drying. Our noses burned from the drying effects of the cold. Our throats were sore from the cold air. But, yet it feels wet. My skin was cold and the layers of clothes were cold. And these cold layers touching my skin gave the sensation of wet. I constantly patted myself to see if I actually was wet, but it was the cold. Seeing the dogs shivering even with their sweaters on was difficult. Wednesday morning I fed the Yorkies and Poodle. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Fergie leaning towards her plate and then coming back up without a mouthful. I turned to watch. Her back legs were shaking so badly she couldn't lean all the way down to eat. I picked her up and hand fed her a few bites, but looking into her eyes, I could see she was scared. I took all the dogs into the living room where the fireplace had a warm fire. But, again, the cold was so excessive the fire couldn't penetrate more than a couple feet out from the fireplace. So, I huddled on the hearth with the dogs trying to warm them, and me. I pulled blankets from closets and nailed them over the door openings thinking that blocking off the room would help the heat chase away the cold. David's and my hands and feet were numb. We kept tripping and stumbling because we couldn't feel our toes. Cold adds weight. Our legs felt too heavy to lift. At some point the shivering stopped. I noticed that when I set by the fire the shivering would start. Several times I went into the cold kitchen to stop the shivering because it was wearing me out.
David was panicking as I was. We had never been in such a life threatening situation. We knew this was a matter of survival. Could we do it? We were so spoiled to all the luxuries electricity afforded us. Thankfully, the instinct kicked in. We looked at each other, hugged, and said, 'let's beat this together'. At that moment, taking charge helped fight the panic because we had a plan. We pulled on our snowsuits, and got out the one generator. David figured out how to wire the furnace to it. He came up from the basement. "Good news, bad news. I got it wired up and it worked, but the exhaust vent is rotted." "We're in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning." I called Knight's Electrical. They couldn't send a guy out until Thursday. We were scared to risk keeping the furnace on. We built a blazing fire and kept it going through the night. The living room was bearable, but the dogs wanted to be with us. So, we removed one of the blankets across the living room opening, and the warm air rushed upstairs into the bedroom. It fought the cold, but even then, the cold was still there.
Cold hearts were also evident. Thursday afternoon we went to the home improvement store to stock up on yellow electrical cords. David had made a phone call to Louisville, and he was able to secure another generator. Water was also an issue. We are on a well and without electricity the pump wasn't working. David saw an acquaintance who asked how we were faring. David proudly told him of rigging the furnace, and pulling out a camping toilet to use in the house. It was easy to see the guy was grossed out. David asked him how he was doing. He told David, 'fine, I only lost power for a few hours." Half seriously, David asked if he could come over and take a shower. "Uh, did I say I had power?" "Uh, I don't have anything, not a thing." Jerk.
While David was getting extension cords, a woman walked up in tears. "Do you know anywhere that I can go and buy a heater to keep my kids warm?" David, who always tries to fix the bad for anyone, was shocked. He could only stammer, "maybe you should find a shelter." That bothered him for days. While standing at the front of the store with the water, I observed a family buying a grill. It was so obvious they had never been in this situation before. The mother's voice was shrill as she commanded the children to behave. She told them Daddy was buying a grill and they were going to eat good that night. Daddy was patiently waiting for the cashier to ring up the order. The patience wore thin as the cashier was having problems. I watched and realized he was paying for it with public assistance. The cashier didn't know how to ring it up. The man was whispering instructions, but the cashier wouldn't even look at him. The man's whispering turned into loud hissing, "Just slide it like a credit card." He didn't want others to know his situation, but now his line was the longest and people were noticing. It didn't help that the shrill voice of his wife was bringing attention to their plight. Plus, the children were using the buggy as monkey bars. It was bad.
Even when folks reached out and brought friends and family in from the cold, several of those rescued sat by and waited to be served. Those cold hearts let the hosts cook, clean, and provide for their comfort. When the sewage backed up at one friend's house, it was the last straw. He asked the "house guests" to pitch in a bit. A few packed up and went back to their cold houses rather than help
Death's cold came Thursday night. Bob Walker, our dear friend died. The physical cold was nothing compared to the ache in our hearts. Death's icy scythe had ripped our friend from us. And yet, a warm outpouring of friends and family helped lay him to rest Monday afternoon. The gripping wind didn't stop those who had been touched by the warmth of his friendship from celebrating the greatness of his life. We all know that the earth's chilly embrace didn't hold our Bob. He had reached his reward and the riches that he deserved. He is resting in the warmth of heaven's arms.
Monday night the power came back on. David looked to the sky and whispered, "Thanks, Bob."
Next blog will highlight the warmth that shined through the cold...