Friday, December 31, 2010

Funerals & Power Outages

I've decided that the common link between funerals and power outages is that it forces people to come together as a family...whether you want to or not.

Thursday morning I was late for work because I had to chip my car free from its encasement of ice and it took me longer than expected. Glare ice was the word of the day for traveling, and I had to take the long route just to be safe. After being there half a day, we were told to go home because of the blizzard conditions headed our way. So I chipped my car out again, and again, made the long drive home.

In North Dakota, we know how to be prepared for this sort of thing. I immediately made up a grocery list for my husband, since he has a large vehicle and even though he may not admit it, there is something that appeals to male primal urges to go out in severe weather and conquer it. Not to mention plow through it, drive over it and slide across it. He came home with sacks and sacks full of...junk food. It's the chance I take when I send him.

Shortly after supper was made and consumed, the power went out. I don't know what it is about the lights going out on their own vs. being shut off at bedtime that makes the kids so scared. Is it the idea that they don't have the ability to turn them back whenever they want to? They attached themselves to my hip as I rounded up candles and lit them. The blizzard raged outside with snow coming down and wind driving the snow that was already there into little "snow-nados." Usually, if the power goes out, they are good about having it back on again within the hour. Not so this time. Our neighbor phoned and let us know that it was going to be at least another two hours. This wasn't a good time, since it meant our heat would be off during one of the worse snowstorms of the year.

It was fun at first. We bundled the kids up in sweatshirts, two pairs of socks and stocking caps. Shawn found a propane lantern and I raided the "camping closet" for sleeping bags. Without TV or any of our other technical gadgets, we were forced to resort to the old fashioned meaning of family time. We drug out the bingo game, and when that got old, we got out the cards. We actually huddled in blankets and fluffy comforters, talked, laughed and had a great time. As the power company kept pushing back the time that the power would be restored, the house grew colder and colder and the family got closer and closer...literally. We snuggled on the couch reading books illuminated by flashlights. Realizing we weren't going to have heat any time soon, we piled every available blanket on our bed and settled in like a bunch of hibernating bears waiting for Spring. How did the pioneers do it? No video games, no computers, and no indoor plumbing. I fell asleep thinking we had all become a little soft in our modern day comforts.

The power came on at about 5:00 AM. Our house had reached a chilly 40 degrees. We were all so warm tucked in our blanket cocoon, that it was extremely difficult to force myself out of bed. Until someone passed gas, and it suddenly I couldn't get out fast enough. I got up and made coffee. It was so wonderful to be able to enjoy the conveniences of modern day, especially when it meant I would get my morning caffeine. I pealed off my layers of clothing and re-dressed for the day. The kids stumbled out with blankets wrapped around them. Kaiden said, "Wasn't that fun, mom? Playing cards and reading?" Why didn't they believe me when I've told them to turn the TV off and do something else over and over in the past? Shawn bundled up, started the snowblower and began the daunting task of clearing our driveway, and since he is how he is, he also cleared the neighbor's drive. I was amazed at the accumulation of snow. I listened to the weather on TV and shook my head at all those who had decided to drive and got stuck. There was a 100 car pile up just outside the city, and I was thankful we could get on with our day.

And then the power went out again. I called the power company and their automated system kindly informed me that most of the region was under extreme weather conditions (duh!) and the power would not be back on for another 14 hours. I nearly dropped my coffee cup. Okay, this was not fun any more. I looked for all my discarded clothing and donned as many layers as I could. I got the kids dressed warmly once again and told Shawn (who was still battling snowbanks) what was going on. I called my mother, who hearing the kids rummaging through the fridge, reminded me that we should keep the refrigerator door closed so the food wouldn't spoil. With the wonderful balmy temperature of -2 below zero, I didn't think that would be an issue. Once again the temperature started to drop. We phoned around to see if there was an available generator. We knew the second storm scheduled to hit our region would be here in about an hour, roads were being shut down and we had to act fast. Should we tough it out? Should we go stay in a Hotel? What if it got too cold and the water pipes froze? Even if we did manage to drive and pick up the generator from Shawn's brother, were there any gas stations open? Not to mention all we had to eat were cookies, chips, and salami. If we had to leave, we would have to leave soon or have no way out. We decided to stay.

I just about went nuts. The boys were going stir crazy, which means the noise level tends to get louder and louder and the fights become more frequent. We played more and more card games, drew pictures, and tried to keep warm. Yes, I could've cleaned house, but it's nearly impossible to move with long underwear, jeans, three shirts, scarf, hat and a big blanket tied around your waist like some hideous floor length skirt. I gave up trying to grasp anything with my bulky mittens. I finally ran out of things for them to do and gave in to letting them run, yell, tackle each other or do whatever would just keep them out of my hair for awhile while I curled up to read a book.

All in all, it was quite a little adventure. The power came back on at about 5 in the evening (to a loud chorus of 'hurrays' and jumping up and down - and that was just me). The second blizzard is now picking up steam but I feel a bit more comfortable.

Just like family functions where it's great to see everyone and interact, for better or for worse, and you think, "Why don't we do this more often.?" the power outage provided a lot of much needed face-to-face interaction. But I must say, it's nice to have the option to walk away from the 200th game of "Go Fish."


  1. Sounds like a few interesting days alright. Reminds of when I was a kid in Sweden and the electricity used to go all the time when large trees heavy with too much snow used to fall over the power lines. We were lucky enough that we still had the old open fireplace in the house so it was warm at least.

    Now in Dublin, inch of snow causes a stand-still in the whole place. Contrast. :)


  2. I miss fireplaces. The closest thing I have is a CD that my dad got me that shows fake flames on a TV screen. Not very warm.