Thirteen years ago, I sat in the kitchen floor crying because I couldn’t handle the heat, the dirt, a crying baby, and the aftermath of Hurricane Charly. I had no idea that two more hurricanes would hit in less than six weeks. Thirteen years ago, I was in a much different place than I am now. Thirteen years ago, I was a much different person than I am now. Thirteen years ago seems like a lifetime ago.
When Hurricane Charly hit in August 2004, I had a 13-month old baby and couldn’t handle the stresses of life after a natural disaster, and over the course of the past 13 years, I’ve learned very valuable lessons about myself, life, and a hurricane or four.
Hurricanes Charly, Francis, and Jeanne
These may seem completely crass, but at that point in my life, that was all I was capable of understanding. Thirteen years later, I can look back on it all and laugh–not because I’ve brushed off the experience, but because I understand so much more now.
- Spaghetti-Os straight out of a can aren’t so bad…with enough salt.
- After one hurricane, two more won’t hurt. There’s nothing left to blow away.
- When your husband won’t put up plywood for a hurricane, it’s up to you to stay awake all night to make sure the sliding glass doors don’t get sucked off of the house.
- Budweiser canned water isn’t meant for drinking. It’s a collectible.
- Campfires in August are completely stupid. The thermostat is already set at “hell.” Why add to the heat!?!?!
In 2009, I walked away from a bad marriage with a first grader and another 13-month old baby to start over and teach them what life should be like. I was single, in a strange town with no friends or family, with two small children, and on my own.
- Waking up safe in your own bed, in your own house, to silence is a beautiful thing.
- You don’t have to do everything by yourself. If people offer help, take it.
- There’s no shame in hiring a lawn service.
- Inflatable swimming pools are great entertainment.
- Trust your gut. When a man obsessed so obsessed with Disney that he moves to Orlando to be near Disney World and works from home so he can go to Disney anytime he wants, be careful. Be VERY careful and RUN.
Less than a year after my divorce, I remarried. I’d met a man who understood that I was a work-in-progress. He accepted my oddities and my kids, and together, we set off to tackle and live life to the absolute fullest.
- Laugh at life. You can’t get upset over every little thing that happens. Some people say, “Choose your battles.” I prefer to say, “Laugh at yourself;” you’d be surprised how your whole perspective can change.
- It’s okay to have a good cry. Sometimes, it’s better to just let it out and move on.
- You should really coordinate your bad days. Both of you having a bad day on the same day is scary.
- Apologize and mean it. Just uttering the words, “sorry” doesn’t cut it. If you truly meant it, then take the time to actually say, “I’M sorry.”
- Have a date night. You deserve it. You need it. Even if it’s a pizza and “Out of Africa” on a air mattress, have a date night…weekly!
Thirteen years after Charly, eight years into a new marriage, and a 14-year old & a 9-year old later, I’m NOT sitting on the kitchen floor crying. I’m sitting in the living room in my underwear, in front of a fan, because it’s so stinking hot and we’ve had another damn hurricane! However, that’s about the extent of my complaining, because I’ve learned a thing or two.
- There’s no sense in complaining. There are just some things you cannot fix. Yes, it’s hotter than hell, but you can’t change that. Getting worked up is only going to make you feel worse.
- Be grateful. You have no electricity, but the linemen are working nonstop to help you. You have no air conditioning, but at least you have a house. You don’t have ice, but at least you have water to drink and not water flowing through your living room.
- See the humor in as much as you can, and share it. Your lightheartedness will improve your mood, as well as others around you. Share your embarrassing moments & thoughts. It will lighten everyone’s day. #BoobSweatSucks
- Be prepared. Going into a hurricane preparing for the worse and being pleasantly surprised is far better than not preparing, expecting the best, and being severely disappointed. If you can’t save yourself, no one else should have to. This includes learning to cook, buying enough food, being resourceful with ice, generators, and water, having a plan for charging phones, and even lighting your world when it gets dark outside.
- Adjust. In tough times, you have to be flexible. Your Keurig is not going to work; you’re going to have to boil some water outside, bring it in, and French press your coffee. Gas is limited; you may have to drive a distance to get it and you’re going to have to sit in line.
- See the brighter side of everything. The day after Irma, there were 6.5 million people without electricity in Florida. You’re one of them. Woohoo!!!! You’re in the club!!
- Be understanding. The pharmacy tech you’re yelling at for NOT having your prescription ready the day before the storm is the same pharmacy tech who is trying to help you instead of preparing their own house. Oh, and it’s not the pharmacy tech’s fault that you ordered the prescription two weeks ago, never picked it up, and it was sold to someone else who needed it.
- Don’t underestimate the power of little things. A margarita and basket of chips & salsa from Chili’s is a beautiful thing. A huge coke slurpee can make you feel instantly better. A box of Mike & Ikes can seriously brighten your day. A walk around Walmart can make your life feel a little more normal.
- Make friends. Friends help friends, and after situations like this, those friends become family.
- Say Thank You. Don’t yell at the insurance agent on the phone; say thank you when she offers her condolences. When that volunteer gives you a box of snacks and a bottle of water, say thank you. Don’t criticize how the tarp was put on your roof, say thank you. When you start to go to bed, in your own bed, under your own roof, say thank you.