After a recent storm caused a multi-day power outage for our family and many others, we were reminded that we have many reasons to be thankful.
Last week we experienced a large storm that produced a significant amount of rain and high winds that knocked down area power lines, causing a multi-day power outage affecting over 200,000 families in our state, including ours. Other times when we’ve lost power at our house, it’s lasted a few hours at most, but this time the power company estimated we’d be without power for four days. For us, having a power outage means no lights, no heat and no water (we have a well). Now imagine experiencing all that with two small children in November. I shiver a little just thinking about it again! It was a rough few days for our family, but it gave us a glimpse into some things we take for granted in our everyday lives. As we approach Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to reflect on some lessons learned from the power outage last week and share five reasons we have to give thanks.
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1. Our power outage problems were minor in comparison to what many other families in the rest of the world experience
While our power outage was cold, stressful and inconvenient for us, I’d be remiss if I didn’t first acknowledge how many, many other families endure far worse conditions as a result of disasters. Internationally, the recent typhoon in the Philippines has displaced over 600,000 people. Last year, World Renew helped over 777,000 people affected by disasters around the globe. Domestically, the American Red Cross responds to about 70,000 natural and man-made disasters in the U.S. each year, including fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills, transportation accidents and explosions. These are just a few examples. There are countless other organizations helping families survive local and global disasters every single day. Our short power outage gave us a small window into what those families experience, a very small minor glimpse. We were cold for a few days and couldn’t flush our toilets. So what? Our home wasn’t destroyed. It wasn’t even damaged. We weren’t hurt and didn’t have any fatalities. For our lives and our home, we give thanks.
2. For our geographic area and climate, a power outage could have been far worse this time of year.
November can be downright frigid in the Midwest US where we live. It’s possible to have major snow falls this time of year or torrential rains. While the initial storm that caused our power outage included high winds and down pouring rain, the storm only lasted for a night. By morning, the rain was gone. The storm could have been far worse. This time of year, it’s possible that a power outage could be caused by freezing rain or a blizzard. We could have been trapped in our house for days. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. The power outage only lasted two days, which was shorter than the power company predicted. Temperatures last week were only in the mid 30s; so we layered sweatshirts and socks, wore knit hats to keep warm and snuggled under blankets. Road conditions were also clear so we could come and go as needed to work, to the store or to a restaurant to pick up meals. For protection from the weather, we give thanks.
3. Our family has access to resources to help endure a power outage
During the storm, as lights flickered indicating that the power outage was imminent, we quickly rushed around to fill water jugs and grab every flashlight we have in the house. We have candles, blankets and knowledge necessary to survive a short power outage. We were surprised to find that the LED light bulbs we invested in earlier this year stayed lit long after the rest of the neighborhood had gone dark which gave us a little extra time to gather resources when the power outage began. With the rain pounding against the house, we were relieved to hear the kick into gear. We just finished our basement last year and thankfully thought to purchase the back-up battery to prevent our sump pump from overflowing during a power outage. At the time, we thought the $200+ price tag seemed high, but looking back if we hadn’t made the investment, our basement would have surely flooded during this storm destroying all our hard work in the basement.
We went to bed that first night assuming our power would be back by morning. When it wasn’t, we were thankful to have smart phones so we could communicate with the outside world. My husband quickly called a friend who let us borrow his generator and some long extension cords. This allowed us to power up the refrigerator, the stand-alone freezer, a few lamps and our phone chargers. Having smart phones also allowed us to quickly research online about food and water safety during a power outage. We knew not to open the door to our refrigerator and freezer once the power outage began so that the food would stay cold as long as possible, but didn’t know how soon it would go bad or that we should have grouped food items as closely together as possible to slow down the warming process.
As the power outage continued, my husband was able to reconnect our gas fireplace, which we’d dismantled to keep safe from our children. This gave us heat in at least one room. We still didn’t have running water but were very thankful we had hand sanitizer on hand to “wash” our hands after we used the restroom. We have an infant son, so we also had baby wipes available to clean-up our small children after meals. I often use anti-bacterial surface wipes for quick cleans on a regular basis so we also had those at our disposal to clean counters or other places you’d normally clean with water.
When we sensed that the power outage was going to occur, I filled two jugs with water to drink, make formula for the baby etc., but it didn’t occur to me that it would take an additional 2 1/2 gallons of water to flush each toilet. You may have heard the phrase “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” when it comes to water conservation and using less water to flush your toilet. During a power outage, that’s the only option we had. Thankfully, I’d spent some time living abroad in foreign countries where the plumbing systems didn’t permit you to flush toilet paper so it occurred to me right away that we’d need to put toilet paper in a waste basket next to the toilet so we wouldn’t clog the toilet. We have multiple toilets in our home, but there’s still only so long that you can let that yellow mellow before it becomes a concern. Had we known the power outage was going to last for several days, we should have filled our bathtubs with water in addition to the water jugs.
We have cell phones, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, flashlights, candles, a gas fireplace, a generator on loan and a million other things available to us. For bountiful resources, we give thanks.
4. We had amazing friends who offered us safe places to go during the power outage
After the first night without power, I posted a photo on Facebook of my youngest son and I with the caption “Baby, it’s cold inside” and mentioned our power outage. Within five minutes of posting the photo, a good friend called, texted and sent me a personal Facebook message inviting us to come live with her family for the week. She was gracious, generous and insistent. We declined her offer saying we’d try to stay home to keep an eye on the generator and take care of our dog. She lovingly assured me that if we changed our mind, there would be clean sheets on the bed and a warm dinner that night. Within hours, we had at least four or five other offers from friends encouraging us to come to their homes to warm ourselves. While we ended up being able to stay in our home thanks to the resources I previously mentioned, those kind offers from amazing friends helped me sustain my spirits throughout the ordeal. It gave us confidence and reassurance just knowing there was a back-up plan–if we got too cold, too miserable or too grumpy about the power outage, we could escape! For amazing generous friends, we give thanks.
5. We kept a positive attitude throughout the power outage
By nature, I’m a glass half-full kind of person, but being cold in a dark home with an infant and a toddler can be taxing. I knew, though, that if I acted scared, nervous or irritated about the power outage it would affect how the kids saw the experience. I wanted the boys to wear knit caps to keep them warmer, so I wore one too. I wanted both boys to stay positive, so I did too. My three year old cheerfully insisted “Mommy I’ll just turn the lights on!” every time we entered a dark room and then asked me 20 questions about why the lights wouldn’t work. Rather than getting frustrated and impatient, I tried to answer his questions, but acted like it was a pioneer game we were playing or something.
We made exceptions to our house rules, like this power outage was a special treat. My husband called it “making lemonade out of lemons.” For example, I let my toddler put his clothes for the day over his pajamas in the morning. He thought this was so incredibly funny, but I was just looking for ways to keep him warm. Later that morning, while the baby took his morning nap swaddled by layers of fleece, the toddler and I snuggled under blankets in my bed trying to find Where’s Waldo. For dinner that night, my husband brought take out home with him so we got to have a super fun candlelit pizza picnic in the living room by the fireplace. And of course, desserts were permitted at every meal! For our family, we give thanks.
Our family, our lives, our home, our friends, our resources and God’s protection, that’s what we’re thankful for this year.
Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!
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