Alert, alert: off-the-chart parental stress detected. Seek Peanut Butter immediately.

Imagine a parental stress continuum. At one end is the mythical and totally unatainable smiling happy family lounging on a white couch.  At the other end: stress-eating peanut butter out of the jar at midnight.

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Folks, you can guess which end I’m at right now. (There may or may not be a sticky peanut butter spoon in the sink from last night.)

Ever since Irma decided to come to town –which I am now realizing was nearly three and a half weeks ago (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE)–life has been something, let me tell you. We had a lovely labor day where we were like, huh it looks like maybe a hurricane is forming or something, anyway, can you pass me some chips? And then Tuesday we we were like, huh, we should stock up on water shouldn’t we. Oh everyone is sold out? Cool, cool. From there it was off to the races.  Should we stay or should we go. Will there be enough gas to get us where we need to go. Will the sharknado destroy our house? (No, because there was no sharknado, sadly.) Will we all be stressed out and tired of living in a series of hotel rooms? YES YES WE WILL. Will daycare be closed a super long time? (OF COURSE IT WILL.)

And–this question needs no answer–will all this in some way impact my four year old??? 

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Why yes, all along this journey there was a bright-eyed and sensitive four-year old absorbing it all like a tiny little sponge. OH MY DEAR LITTLE SPONGE WHO NOW REFUSES TO SLEEP. And has been acting out, angry, defiant, and in one especially low moment spit her toothpaste foam onto my feet. 

It’s been a trying week to say the least. She hasn’t wanted to sleep, insisting that mama be with her. All week we were trying to solve the puzzle. What is UP with our kid? We asked her, are you scared to sleep? No. Are you afraid of monsters? No. (Spits on my feet.)

Meanwhile in adult-land, I’ve talked with several friends who agree with me that we (ADULTS) are just now starting to feel back to “normal” after Irma. By the way, you should get a load of my crazy kid, what on earth is up with her?!

Funny how hard it is to see what is often right in front of us.

And then, last night. Nearly midnight, I sat on my daughter’s bed with her, not saying much. Just chilling out. I’d finally surrendered to the situation. It was what it was. She wasn’t going to sleep, she wanted me with her, and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it.

Guess what happened. As she flipped through a book she started telling me that she’d been having nightmares. She couldn’t remember what exactly, but she was scared to go to sleep. Simply by being and letting her be she was able to let it out. Shake it off, shake it off (to quote the wise Taylor Swift). She went to sleep shortly after that.

Maybe she needed a week of letting off steam before she could reveal the fears underneath it all. Maybe I was too wrapped up in my own stress to be able to just sit and be with her until that point. It doesn’t matter in the end. We did what we had to do to get through it. We’re doing our best to get back to normal.

Regardless, I’m happy to report we’re no longer at peanut-butter-eating-out of the jar status. We have lowered several notches to the piled-up-laundry and copious-coffee-consumption levels–definitely an improvement, and definitely another inch closer to ‘normal.’ For that I’m grateful.


P.S. Shameless plug alert–  speaking of hurricanes, I’m donating 50% of the proceeds from Etsy shop sales through Sunday to support Puerto Rico recovery efforts. The funds will go to the Sierra Club’s Maria Fund that supports just and sustainable rebuilding for the most vulnerable communities in Puerto Rico. You can donate directly here as well.

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How to survive a hurricane 

I want to keep my hands busy and create something, anything. I want them to work like a spider creates a web and cast a net of protection across everyone I love. 

I’m safe and yet I can’t help but think of my neighbors, my friends, and even the strangers who sought water along with me at the Winn Dixie. I think of the habitats: my own–yes–but also the egrets’ and the spoonbills’. I think of the cardinals that visit my feeders. The turtles who laid eggs on the nearest beach.

I sit in my car 773 miles from home and I watch a Georgia peach sunset. So warm and giving and yet the same air that breathes a hurricane. 

All I can do is knit: Prayers, wishes, surrender. 

One yellow crate

Really, it is all I need other than my husband, daughter and dogs.

The crate contains my wedding album, a photo from my grandmother I never met of her on her wedding day, the rosary my mother held in her nerve-damaged hands as she witnessed my marriage, and a few other precious keepsakes.

As I surveyed my house, taking photos that will serve as the “before” pictures in case of damage from Irma’s rain and wind, I’m surprised to find myself strangely liberated. The end tables, the stacks of political memoirs and bird identification books and computer programming manuals, the shoes that should have been replaced long ago, it can all be replaced. We will be okay no matter what unfolds.

What would you bring if you had to evacuate?* Would it fit in one yellow crate? I think you’d be surprised to discover that it would.

(*We aren’t under mandatory evacuation but we are most definitely in the “cone of danger” as a Southwest Florida resident. Stay safe one and all. Thank you to all the fire fighters and rescue crews who are sticking around to help others. You are true heroes.)